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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sorry for the lack of posts. My Dad suffered a massive heart attack last Wednesday and sadly died last night.

I will be back in due course.

Rest in peace, Dad.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Arrogance - this government has it in bundles

When you are riding high in the polls, you can be forgiven for being arrogant. You think you can get anything through parliament and - in the end - the electorate will back you. At the next general election you will be returned back to power.

Countless governments over the years have fallen in to this trap. Margaret Thatcher thought she could get the community charge (poll tax) through parliament and still regain her popularity - as she saw it - will the electorate. She of course failed. The poll tax was one of the final nails in her coffin.

This current government is not popular. They know this. They know the Conservatives are coming after them and they also know - with things so tight - that the LibDems could pick up the scraps from the table. The Conservatives also know they may have to rely on the LibDems too after the next election. None of the main parties can rest on their laurels and all of them need to find policies that will connect with the public.

We all know this government has been in power too long, but the arrogance of them really knows no bounds. Watching Jacqui Smith justify further erosion of our liberties with the planned introduction of ID cards reminded me of the Captain of the Titanic. Watching our Foreign Secretary refuse point blankly to give us a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty, showed the self-delusion of this government. They still think they can con us by saying it is nothing like the previous treaty.

Week by week we witness the demise of this government and - week by week - they still come on to our television screens telling us they know better and - basically - lie to us, and they tell us those lies knowing full well we all know they are lying.

Yes, these things have always gone on and it is history repeating itself, however it is one of the surest signs that a government is past its sell-by-date and is about to be given the order of the boot.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jacqui Smith - just how poor is she?

I am watching 'Question Time' on BBC1 at the moment. After watching for twenty minutes, can anyone answer me the following question: How on earth did Jacqui Smith ever manage to be appointed to one of the great offices' of state?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Faulty goods

One of the things that is really annoying me at the moment is having to go back to endless shops and return faulty goods. We had a new standard lamp fall over once we had assembled it. It crashed in to the television and left scratches on the screen.

A CD tower has just toppled over on me after I carefully placed all the CDs in place. Glasses are chipped; the new oven had to be repaired; the new washer dryer needs to be seen to. The list goes on and on.

What does this say about manufactures today? I have come to the conclusion they are not bothered if something works or not. The problem with this approach is that you are the one who has to jump in the car and waste your time and fuel to sort these things out.

I am still glad though we are back home again though. I just wished things would work first time.

The smoking ban - another business closes.

One of the things I feared most when the smoking ban came into force was its effects on business. When it is summer and the weather is good, people don't mind standing outside whilst having a cigarette. Now we are in winter, the story is very different.

Inglemire Club in Hull has closed down; the bailiffs came in last weekend as the rent had not been paid. The owners of the club have blamed the smoking ban for their misfortune. The takings have been down massively over the Festive period, compared to previous years. Customers can buy three crates of beer from the supermarket for £20 and can have a drink and smoke in their own homes.

I have to admit that we haven't gone out very much either. We would rather share a bottle of wine at home, than go down to the local and have to get cold and wet to have a cigarette.

As the majority of the customers at the Inglemire club did not want the smoking ban, why was it forced on them? The President of the Licenced Victuallers Associations backs up the owners of the club and blames it both on cheap booze from the supermarkets and the smoking ban.

I would like to go in to a pub and smoke; so why can't the licensee hold a ballot and based on the result, allow smoking in their premises? Smoking may be bad for you, but when businesses are closing for something that was thrust on them, isn't this yet another example of how our freedoms are being taken away?

Monday, January 14, 2008

The battle for East Hull

There is nothing like a copper-bottomed rock-solid parliamentary seat. It gets politicians and would-be politicians racing in droves, telling party members how wonderful they would be and how hard they would work for their constituents. It is - after all - much better than working your socks off fighting a seat that is beyond your reach.

The East Hull Labour Party were entertaining 20 wanabee MPs at the weekend. There is a total of 37 who would like to succeed John Prescott. One of them - as I have mentioned before - is David Prescott, who is looking to keep things in the family. He said:

"Labour has achieved so much in the city over the years. But there is much more to do. I came back because I want to make a difference."

Of course he did; it has nothing to do with the muscle his father has after 38 years as Hull East's MP. He must think we think Prescott Snr will keep out of local party matters in his constituency.

Cllr Steve Brady, the chairman of East Hull Labour Party said:

"I believe we will get the candidate East Hull deserves and wants. Every one of the candidates has an equal chance."

The people of East Hull do not like to vote. Barely fifty percent of them can be bothered to vote; so perhaps they will, at least, get the MP they deserve.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blogging - is it worth it?

Yesterday I wasn't feeling at my best. When you look at how many hits you are getting on your blog and things aren't going as well as you would like, there is a tendency for despondency. I would like to thank those who have left comments encouraging me to continue. Dave wrote a comment that he reads the blog through my RSS feed every day and of course that doesn't come on to my site statistics. I don't know why I didn't realise this sooner as I read many blogs by this method too.

I may take a break from blogging for a little while or I may just post less frequently; I don't know, but I will keep on writing, I can assure you of that.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Crossroads

After looking at just how many people are reading my blog at the moment, I really don't see the point in continuing. I am averaging around 30 readers a day and most of them are people who have found me on a google search, look, and then never return.

I am not saying I will stop blogging, but at the moment I am feeling disillusioned.

Peter Hain - does he have any honour?

I have blogged before about honour. At one time this was important in politics. Since Labour got in to power in 1997 - claiming that they were going to be whiter than white - honour is something that government ministers have to consult their history books about.

Peter Hain may not have known that £100k in donations had not been declared. It may have been a surprise to him, but he is responsible. He should have made sure he looked at the accounts and checked that everything was in order. It is his political career that is on the line if something goes wrong. I know he is a busy man, but that does not excuse him. He has now issued a statement apologising and refuses to resign. I imagine that will be the end of it as far as Gordon Brown is concerned. Labour is not interested in standards in public life and please remember they latched on to everything that remotely smelled of sleaze in the Major government. New Labour - new depths to sink to.

Has Guiliani hit the buffers?

It looks like Guiliani is running out of dollars. His campaign staff have been asked to work without pay.

My hunch is that Guiliani will pull out of the race after Super Tuesday. It is much better to be trailing in the field and then come good when it matters, than to be leading for months and then running out of steam. I have said before that many Americans regard him first and foremost as a New York man. I think he would have made a good president - certainly better than Hilary could ever be - but my money is on McCain. If Guiliani does pull out, that should give McCain a free run at the nomination. Quite frankly the other Republican candidates just aren't credible, despite what Iowan republicans think.


Link: Britain and America

Prison

There are a number of reasons why - as a society - we send some of our citizens to prison. To protect us from dangerous criminals; to punish; to deter and to rehabilitate. Rehabilitation is important, as we want someone who is released from prison to lead a law-abiding life.

Now let's look at the life of Charles Bronson. No, not the actor, but the violent thug who goes by that name. He was first jailed for armed robbery in 1969. Since then he has hardly spent any time outside of prison. He was sentenced to life after he took a teacher hostage for 44 hours in Hull prison, in 1999. He burst into Phil Danielson's classroom, tied a skipping rope around his neck and dragged him around at knife point.

Bronson now wants to be released and says he is aware of the mistakes he has made in the past and is now ready to become a model citizen. Yeah! He has had many times in his life when he could have become a model citizen and every time he has chosen crime - and violent crime at that. Would you feel safe knowing this man was living in your area?

If you want to help him get his appeal heard though, you can buy his latest single. Yes, he has recorded his version of 'My Way' to raise some extra cash. No doubt his foray in to the music business has been funded by the taxpayer.

People like Bronson are - thankfully - very few and far between, however there is one thing they do have in common. They pose an unacceptable risk to society and society quite rightly expects the courts to keep them behind bars for the rest of their lives. No, I won't be downloading his song on to my iPod.



Link: Hull Daily Mail

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Education in Hull

Hull's schools are the second worst in the country. It's an improvement of one place. Before anyone jumps to conclusions and starts blaming teachers and politicians, I can assure you they are not at the root of the problem. I have been collating some thoughts together about the problems facing Hull, and when I get the time over the next few days, I will write them all down and publish them here. It's a good place to live - don't believe the television, however the people of Hull - friendly as they are - do not help themselves. More later.

It's a lovely day today.

The weather may be awful today; it is very windy and wet, but today is a great day. Becky passed her driving test on the first attempt this morning. She is thrilled and I am thrilled for her. It took me five attempts to pass my test, although I did pass all my instructor examinations first time. At least that makes me feel better.

Today our new bed arrived. Although that in itself is not normally a cause for jubilation, as we had disposed of the old beds, we have been waiting for this one to arrive so we can move back home. So now we can say we have finally moved in together in our home.

There is still so much work to be done. Much clearing out and I have to get off to the tip very shortly with a full car load of rubbish. Sitting here on the only seat available in the lounge and surrounded by bags and boxes, I know we are going to be kept busy over the next few days and weeks, however I couldn't be happier. You can see now why today is such a great day.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hull East

It seems that the front-runner to replace John Prescott as Hull East MP is no other than Christopher Leslie - lately the MP for Shipley.

He apparently has the unions behind him. Until recently it was rumoured Prescott Jnr was going to inherit his father's crown.


So, democracy is still alive and well in Labour. Nepotism or the Unions. Take your pick.

LibDem Resigns from Hull City Council Cabinet

At least one of my previous predictions may be coming true. I remember in the early 90s, the LibDems sweeping to power in Wear Valley. Within an short space of time they were fighting and four years later Labour was back in again.

Today Carl Minns - Leader of Hull City Council - is playing down rifts after Andy Sloan suddenly resigned from the cabinet; to spend more time on his PhD course. It makes a change from spending more time with your family!

The LibDems are not a party of government. In all my experiences of them, they have shot themselves in the foot and when one jumps ship, many usually follow.


Link: Hull Daily Mail

Monday, January 07, 2008

Boundary Commission

Conor Burns has written an article on Conservative Home. In it he gives advice to the Boundary Commission as to how they can address the fact that Labour seats have - on average - 6200 fewer voters than Conservative seats. Read it here.

Good news for Obama

Barack Obama has now rocketed past Hillary Clinton with a 10 point lead in New Hampshire, according to a new opinion poll. Oh dear, I do feel for her ;)


Link: Reuters

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Obama and Clinton - neck and neck

I have just seen the following on Reuters:

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama has pulled into a virtual dead heat with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire two days before the state's presidential nominating contest, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Sunday.

So much for my predictions over the last couple of days. Is it possible the wheels are coming off her campaign this early? I think by Super Tuesday, at the beginning of February, we will have that answer.

Blogroll Updates

I am still in the process of updating my blogroll. Today has been a busy day and I am about to call it a night. If you don't see your name on the blogroll, it doesn't mean I have forgotten about you. It means I haven't got round to adding you yet; although a gentle reminder in my e-mail would not be unwelcome.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Updating blogroll

I will be updating my blogroll shortly. If you link to me and I have overlooked you, please e-mail me and I will add you.

Iowa Caucus

Yesterday, I made a prediction about the US Presidential Election. I said the misguided Democrats would go for Hillary. I want to expand on this.

The win in Iowa for Barack Obama is significant. Thanks to Iain Dale, I discovered that there are less than 5% non-white voters in the state, and in a country where race still dominates the agenda, Obama couldn't have had a better start.

I have said before that Clinton is a divisive figure is US politics. She certainly doesn't have the charm of her husband, but with his support, backing and appeal, I think she will mount a revival in her fortunes. Without Bill, she is going nowhere. With Bill, she will win the nomination. For me, it's a simple as that.

Momentum is also with John McCain and I think he will keep it. Voters want a safe pair of hands in the White House, and McCain is certainly that. To many in the US, Giuliani is perceived as a New York man, and not a man for America.

So for me, it will be Clinton and McCain slugging it out later this year, and the latter will be inaugurated in January 2009.

Blogpower Resignation

It is with regret that I have tendered my resignation from Blogpower. I posted yesterday about ethics and integrity in blogging. Since then James Higham has had his moderator status revoked, sending him a clear message that he is not welcome in any admin role; even though recently the admins were happy for him to continue in an archivist role.

Blogpower does not resemble the group I joined over a year ago. It has saddened me the way it has developed.

NHS Shame

Tony Sharp has highlighted the case of Joan Hughes, a cancer patient let down by the NHS. Read about it here and sign the Downing Street petition by clicking here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Iowa Caucus

The results of Iowa caucus have been revealed. This is just the first step and history tells us the result here is not the final result.

I still think misguided Democrats will nominate Hilary. The Republicans will either go for Rudi or McCain. Either one of them will beat Hilary. They are my predictions.

Ethical Blogging - my response

There are many journalists who regard bloggers as - at best - second class writers. I can see where they are coming from on one hand, but on the other hand, I know they feel threatened.

There are many people who like the idea that their ramblings can be seen by a wider audience. You can publish anything you like and promote yourself. It is an exercise in vanity. It doesn't matter how badly you write; it doesn't matter if what you say is abusive or incorrect; you have managed to engage - if you want to call it that - with others, who may be taken in by what you say. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and if you want to say something that is libelous, then it is up to you, and you have to pay the price if any action is taken against you.

Journalists feel threatened by bloggers who write well and are popular. They don't like the fact an ordinary person who has insight and who researches well can reach an audience and in many ways influence public opinion. They also feel that if they 'nip blogging in the bud', they can remove the threat to their business. Unfortunately for them, they are too late. The way we communicate in the 21st Century is completely different to times past.

James Higham has written about the need for ethical blogging; and he is right. Those bloggers who think scurrilous blogs will just die away are missing the point. There has to be standards and unfortunately those standards are not being met. Just because anyone has the right to express their opinions doesn't mean I have to promote them. In Blogpower I am doing just that. Too many people are hiding behind their right to free speech and are not accepting their responsibilities; the responsibilities of presenting their case without the need for gratuitous abuse. They are not researching their facts or they are simply copying off other blogs and presenting this as their own work. Plagiarism is something that will get you kicked out of university before you know it.

I appeal to everyone in Blogpower to realise that standards are more important than simply promoting the blogosphere. We have to take blogging to the next level, where bloggers are regarded as trusted opinion makers; where facts have been researched; people you can quote with confidence.

James' suggestion is not snobby or unnecessary; far from it. If you are serious about blogging, read and digest what he has to say.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The cost of 'filling up.'

I filled my car up with diesel yesterday and paid £1.05 per litre. Also, yesterday, the price of crude oil rose to $100 a barrel for the first time.

I am not an economist, but I do know that when the cost of fuel is high, it puts inflationary pressure on the economy. I also know the chance of further reductions in interest rates are less likely as a result. I also know that the dollar has been weak against the pound for a few years now. Why is it then we have the highest fuel costs in western Europe?

I have said this before and will say it again: The government has to stop thinking about the short-term ringing of the cash registers at the Treasury and think of the long-term interests of the British economy. A reduction in fuel duty has to happen now; but I am not going to hold my breath.

How accountable is your Chief Constable?

How much does democracy mean to you? I don't just mean electing MPs and councillors. I mean true democracy. Do you think it's important?

I ask these questions in response to Sir Simon Milton, the Chairman of the Local Government Association. He thinks Town Halls should be able to hire and fire police chiefs. While his motives are genuine - I am sure he wants police chiefs to be more accountable - he is missing the point. Why shouldn't we be able to hire and fire police chiefs? What is wrong with senior police officers putting their plans directly to the voters and let them decide? After all, Sir Iain Blair is quite happy to enter the political fray whenever he feels, but doesn't have any accountability directly to the electorate.

Sir Simon's remarks have outraged the police. The thought of accountability has sent a shiver down their spines. It is this predictable response that makes the case for directly elected police chiefs more compelling.

Sir Simon also wants a US-style FBI police force to take over big investigations and counter-terrorism, to free local officers on the beat. This I would agree with, just like we should have a Department for Homeland Security, as in the US. The police - again predictably - are against this too.

When Superintendent Ray Mallon took over control of Middlesbrough Police a few years ago, he brought in a zero-tolerance approach to crime; and it worked. When Middlesbrough was allowed to elect its own mayor, Ray Mallon - now no longer in the police force - stood as an independent and won. The people trusted him as he had proved himself. He stood again and was re-elected. What if a senior police officer stood on a platform of zero-tolerance in your area and came up with a plan to police your streets and make them safer? He may not win, but at least you would have the chance to elect him.

Therefore, in answer to my opening question, democracy means a lot to me and I want to see more of it. More directly elected mayors, directly elected police chiefs and why not have a meeting of parents at the local school and let them decide on who is going to be the next headteacher? I am not afraid of democracy, but those who are in power will tell you that they are better at making decisions for you. Don't fall for it. They just want the power for themselves. Sharing has never been the strongest suit of politicians or bureaucrats.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

No extra cash for Hull's Roads

If you ever drive though Hull, the one thing you will have to prepared for is a bumpy ride. The city's streets are in a terrible state of repair. Roughly a quarter of the city is traffic calmed too. All in all, motor manufacturers should road test their cars here. The suspension will get a good test.

The government has a pot of £600 million set aside for road improvements for the next 25 years, through Private Finance Initiatives. If you live in York, Sheffield, Hounslow, Newcastle, Redbridge or the Isle of Wight, you are in luck. You may have to put up with road works for goodness knows how long, but you should be in for a smooth ride. Hull, on the other hand, will not receive a penny.

The city is in dire need of investment. The flooding last year only made things worse. The government will not reimburse Hull City Council properly for the costs they incurred during those floods and now they will not provide any extra cash for the road infrastructure either. The Leader of Hull City Council, Carl Minns, has described Hull as the forgotten city. It seems once again the city is going to be overlooked. The voters of the city have already given a resounding message to Labour at the ballot box, and I imagine at the local elections this May, Brown and Co will given another bloody nose.

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