Daily archives: June 8, 2009

Norwich North Starting Line

This really sounds interesting. According to tonight’s Norwich Evening News, my friend Rupert Read could be the Green candidate while fellow blogger “Norfolk Blogger” Nick Starling could be the Lib Dem candidate. New Labour still have to pick someone to come last.


Based on recent results in the constituency young financial services executive Chloe Smith must start the bookies’ favourite to win it for the Tories.

Here is her website.


I think we can win this one. A very high proportion of people seem to realise that just swapping New Labour for Tory isn’t going to make the changes this country needs.

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Jack Straw: Nothing To Do With Us Guv: We’ve Only Been In Power Twelve Years

Jack Straw just made a most hypocritical statement in parliament in which he nobly said “I accept full responsibility” and then proceeded to claim he and the government had been perfect, but a lot of other people had been useless.

He was talking of the brutal murders of French students Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez.


Now we will never stop all murder. The killers did it, not Jack Straw. We will never stop all crime. But, as with the case of Baby Peter, in this instance there had been frequent contacts with the authorities in which the authorities ought to have intervened. One of the killers, Sonix, should have been in jail for several different reasons, and was not in jail only because of an extraordinary string of institutional failures.

Except that Straw just explained the institutions did not fail at all. New Labour has been in power for twelve years, so there was “No problem of under-resourcing”. It was instead a catalogue of individual mistakes by everyone except New Labour. It was all due, said Straw, to “Poor judgement and poor management within the probation service and individual failures within the Metropolitan Police and Prosecution Service”.

Yep. Probation officers, policemen, prosecutors, completely useless, the lot of them. Jack Straw’s system is perfect. But you just can’t get the staff nowadays. But Jack told us he had already acted. He had sacked the head of the London Probation Service.

This is the antithesis of the doctrine of ministerial responsibility. You sack a middle level civil servant as a scapegoat and explain it was all their fault.

Straw went on to outline Gordon Borwn style lying statistics of the extra resources that had been put into the services involved. But everyone knows that “extra resources” in public service go into exercises to determine centrally ordered performance targets, which themselves change emphasis with the tabloid headlines. You then have to design all the forms to measure the targets and all the accountants to cost resource spend per target measure achieved. Often there are artificial internal market procedures to monitor and administer too. Loads of accountants for that. And the people at the sharp end find career progression much more dependant on internal form filling ability than on the activity where you interact with the real world you are meant to affect. Then there is the constant pressure not to put people in jail, the jails being too full – for the most part with non-violent offenders, mental health cases and drug addicts.

The serious point of all this is that New Labour continually takes it on itself to blame civil servants for system failings. New Labour did everything good, but are nothing to do with anything bad, as if they had not been in charge for the last twelve years.

Jack Straw’s “I accept responsibility” before going on to deny it ad nauseam was too sickening for words. New labour have become a parody of themselves.

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Truly Horrible

Here is a profile of the really appalling man who has been elected in Yorkshire and Humberside to be a MEP (hat-tip to Harry’s Place).


It is astonishing to me that some ten per cent of any British electorate could vote for this. It makes me truly, terribly sad. It is certainly true that New Labour neglected the interests of ordinary people they took for granted, and were seen to spend more public resources on immigrant communities. That is not an entirely false perception. But the answer is to enfranchise ignored estates and help bring them into the wider community, not to turn towards fascism.

Education is also a major part of the problem, with appalling standards in failed communities and an excessively dictated curriculum that has abandoned much of the traditional liberal curriculum.

New Labour has also overseen the fruition of effectively racially segregated state schools throughout Northern England.

I have not heard even one mention of that appalling fact in all the analysis of why the BNP is making progress. Separate Catholic and Protestant schools in Northern Ireland were a main cause of bonding apart separate communities and inculcating hatred of the “other”. Forcible racial mixing in education – “bussing” – was absolutely key to the eventual success of the civil rights movements in the US. This must be tackled here.

A note on Harry’s Place, through which I found the excellent article linked above. In the post below about the EDP, the proprietor of Harry’s Place posted unpleasant personal comments about my being a manic depressive and my wife an “ex sex-worker”, which description he then justifies by saying it includes belly dancers.

Harry’s Place is a website which has an openly avowed purpose of defending the interests of the State of Israel and of US policy in the Middle East. They have every right to do that, as I have a right to disagree.

But I would make a plea to them, faced with the real problem of this rise in support for the BNP. Concentrate your fire on people who are actual racists and anti-semites. This is really not the time to attack people like me – liberals who believe that Israel has cruelly mistreated the Palestinians. We need to fight the racists together.

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The Eastern Daily Press – known locally as the EDP – is one of Britain’s regional newspapers with surviving real influence. It is said to be still the highest selling newspaper in Norfolk. My grandparents had the EDP delivered every day, plus the North Norfolk News on Fridays (and the Pink’Un on Saturdays). They would never have dreamt of buying a national paper.

It was founded in the mid nineteenth century by the leading Norwich families – the Colemans (of mustard fame), Jarrolds (publishers and booksellers) and the Copemans. There was another family too but their name escapes me. What the Copemans did apart from the paper I am not sure, but they ran the paper literally for generations and produced at least one great editor, Tom Copeman, an inspirational man of a radical turn of mind, In the early 1970s, Tom retired to Sheringham, where he lived three streets from us.

I think I first got to meet the retired Tom at a Third World First meeting when I was about fourteen. He was, I think, quietly amused by my strong desire for justice allied to ignorance of – well, almost everything. We formed an unlikely friendship and I used to visit him on winter’s evenings, sit on his floor,and drink his coffee, chat and learn. I would meet people who to my small world seemed extraordinarily cosmopolitan. (You will laugh at me, but when I went to Chicago at the age of 20, I was asked if I wanted some pizza, and I had never heard the word before)!

I remember Tom telling me he had been sent to Arctic Russian – Murmansk I think – to link with the White Russians and fight the bolsheviks. It had been a complete shambles; they were not equipped properly for the Arctic and casualties had been very high, despite never really working out who they were meant to fight. The terrible futility and suffering of it all had convinced him that wars should only be fought in direct self-defence.

Tom left an imprint on my political thinking which undoubtedly helped me form the broadly liberal views I have stuck with since those days. If it were not for Tom and a few others like him, I would not have been the only person to quit the FCO or security services over what the government has finally admitted is a policy of using intelligence obtained by torture.


All of which I hope leads you to understand why I was a bit hurt to read this in the EDP today:

Mr Murray was appointed British ambassador to Uzbekistan at the relatively young age of 43, and was dismissed from the post in October 2004. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office denied any controversy and said it was for “operational reasons”.

He separated from his wife, with whom he has two children, after starting a relationship with an Uzbek woman whom he met while she was working as a belly dancer in a night club. She followed him when he left Uzbekistan and they married in May.


I do trust that, in the interests of balance, the EDP will publish a detailed history of the love lives of all the other candidates for the last seven years.

Sadly, the EDP has become perhaps the most rabidly Conservative paper in the UK. Its coverage of the largest political demonstration the UK has ever seen was, amazingly, even more biased than that of the Sun. The EDP ran an editorial denouncing the “ragbag coalition” of people it characterised as Marxists, supporters of dictatorship, pacifists and swampies. If there are over a million of those in the country, we are in trouble.

I hope the EDP has very deep pockets, because it employs as a columnist the well known libeller, Tory Iain Dale. Dale recently admitted guilt in libelling Tom Watson MP, and cost the Mail on Sunday 350,000 pounds including all costs. I have a notion of how I might find I am able to fund my Norwich campaign…

Iain Dale is of course all over the media nowadays and has become a political force to be reckoned with. In fact, through his EDP column, we can now see what psephologists are dubbing the “Iain Dale effect” for the Tories.

The “Iain Dale effect” can be seen most clearly in North Norfolk, where Iain Dale was the Tory parliamentary candidate at the last general election. Look at the council results last Thursday for North Norfolk.


Look at that map. You can immediately see Iain Dale’s constituency. Just join up those two big yellow blocks. Against the trend in the rest of Norfolk and the rest of the region, in North Norfolk there was a swing from the Tories to the Lib Dems of seven per cent and the Lib Dems had a net gain from the Tories of four seats.

That’s the Iain Dale effect.

The Tories of North Norfolk have sensibly dumped him in favour of some fat Norwich solicitor. I do hope he turns up in Norwich North to campaign against me. Could be just the boost I need.

I can’t let that map go without congratulating Brian Hannah on his victory in Sheringham. Brian’s father Joe was my grandfather Henry Grice’s best friend. Joe taught me to cut hay with a scythe, which is much harder than it looks. I shall stop before I drown in nostalgia.

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