Saturday, July 31, 2010
This poll is co-sponsored by Iain Dale, Liberal Democrat Voice and Labour List.
Here are the rules.
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and ranks them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.
I have already been pretty shameless in asking for your support, so I shall now emulate the dignity of Liberal England in saying that all votes for Caron's Musings will be gratefully received, especially as it's my birthday.
I thought she put her case very well when she responded to the editor:
"When the day comes that people stop resigning from high office, being disowned by their families, getting beaten up and in some instances committing suicide because of their sexuality, you may have a point.
This is not about me putting up with having the piss taken out of me, something I have been quite able to withstand, it is about you legitimising name calling. ‘Dyke’ is not shouted out in school playgrounds (or as I’ve had it at an airport) as a compliment, believe me.
It may be your job to defend your writer and your editorial team but if you really think that homophobia does not exist and was not demonstrated beyond being ‘the butt of a joke’ then we have a problem."Clare is right to take this further and I think she deserves our support.
I should not be in a state of high dudggeon writing an irate blog post about tax credit overpayments because the BBC can't get it right. They get it so wrong that they appear to have turned into the scaremongering Daily Fail.
The biggest mistake, which they don't correct, is that they report one struggling single parent's fears about being unable to pay her tax credit overpayment of £2000.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Terence Eden talks about how he nearly got sued by the BPI
Tom Harris' podcast with Doctor Who producer Steven Moffatt could just as easily be titled "Two smug boys on the Terrace". They are smugger than a cat who's managed to get the entire country's supply of cream but the podcast is very funny even if it doesn't tell you that much.
Spidey tackles Labour accusations that we've sold our soul to the devil.
Dib Lemming is sad that the press are making political capital out of the tragic suicide of Paul Reekie
Dom does a guest post at Kayleigh's bits and pieces about his first impressions of the US and seeing his idol Montoya race. I was so sad for him that the xenophobic crowd has put him off going to a future race. I like to do normal stuff like go to the supermarket in new places as well! This is such an honest and emotional account and I just love his sexy red rental car.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Early Learning Centre apologises and changes website in response to complaints about sexist language
I am delighted to report that, after Jennie, I and others encouraged our readers to complain to the Early Learning Centre regarding the wording on their website which suggested that girls should dress up in nurses' outfits while the doctors' ones were for boys, the relevant section has changed from this:
They have removed that language.
I'm speechless but thrilled that they have acted so quickly. I only boosted the signal raised by Jennie & others, as did Stephen.
I know that ELC received several complaints as a result of my post alone so their customer services Department must have been busy. Credit to them for taking such decisive action so quickly.
I'll update more fully when I can get back on the laptop. Thanks to all who raised this with ELC.
First up is Sara's Always win when you're singing blog. I first came across Sara Tustin as she then was when she was in SDP Students standing for the NUS Executive in the 1980s. I was much too scared to even dare speak to someone as important as she was way back then, but then in the 90s we were both involved in the first Liberal Democrat internet conferencing and got to know each other better then. She's solidly liberal, and someone who's instincts I trust. She is also the domestic goddess of the Liberal Democrats and in between baking up a storm to send to by-elections (an army marches on its stomach after all), she posts recipes as well as fantastically insightful political stuff. She has a good grip on real life as this piece in which she takes a London councillor and assembly member to task for thinking he's worth his massive salary.
I first came across Meemalee's Kitchen a few months ago during the finals of this year's Masterchef. MiMi is writing a Burmese cookbook and her food blog contains recipes, restaurant reviews and a lot of Masterchef stuff. She is hilarious and irreverent. She's also a great person to chat to on Twitter - and she likes Doctor Who. What's not to love? Now that Celebrity Masterchef is up and running, she is going to be unmissable.
Rocky Larusso spent a year as an intern in Willie Rennie's office in London a few years ago. He came up to visit the constituency office and was great fun. He recently starting blogging and his first posts have ranged from the re-opening of Kentish Town baths (saved from closure by a Lib Dem campaign), the AV referendum and his recent holiday in Stockholm, where he chatted with Swedish young people about state control of alcohol sales and its effect on binge drinking.
Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting, despite his move to London, remains one of the giants of the Scottish blogosphere. He's not tribal - in fact, he's not even that sure he believes in independence, but he's always interesting. He's a fair bit to the right of me both economically and socially and caused controversy the other week with this post suggesting that a ban on Islamic veil might be a good thing.
If you want a liberal slant on legal issues, then Jack of Kent is the best place to go. He doesn't always come up with the conclusions you want to hear, but he is always meticulously researched and writes in a much more readable and engaging style than you'd expect from a lawyer. He's been involved in a number of libel cases on a pro bono basis and has recently written on the decision not to prosecute Ian Tomlinson, the Gray/Hilton libel case which has significance for bloggers and the recent Twitterstorm surrounding Gillian McKeith. The one I'm choosing to link to is the post in which he defends Cllr John Dixon, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor who has been put up before the Standards people for calling scientology stupid.
Update: Do you know, some people! While I was actually writing this post Stephen produced a brilliant riposte in which he discussed how Labour are abandoning all their key principles and then backed it up with a personal example from West Lothian as to how Labour really care about keeping communities together.
2nd update: and still they keep on coming - although this from Cicero might well have been here earlier and I missed it. But it's good.
Here are some ideas I've come across that I think are worth considering:
A couple of weeks ago I had a prescription to pick up. I went to the pharmacy but was told I'd have to wait an hour or so because the locum pharmacist was on lunch. Fair enough. When I returned, the pharmacist had indeed returned from lunch, but had disappeared, nobody knew where, from the shop floor. They couldn't simply give me the medication which the pharmacist had made up and sealed because they weren't qualified to do so. When the pharmacist eventually re-appeared some 10 minutes later, the assistant behind the counter went and got my medicine and handed it to me. The pharmacist had no input into this transaction whatsoever. She could have given me anybody's medicine. Requiring the pharmacist to oversee all transactions seems to be one of these pieces of bureaucracy we could do without. I certainly wasn't any safer for his presence and it was time consuming and inconvenient. I wasn't surprised to see that someone else had already suggested repeal on Your Freedom.
Then there's this excellent contribution from Mike Brady of Baby Milk Action who calls for a simplification of the Infant Formula and Follow on Formula Regulations in order to bring it into line with the International Code on the Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes. This is long overdue. I am fed up of going into supermarkets and seeing promotions and displays of formula that I am fairly certain aren't legal and nothing can be done about. I was really annoyed a few years ago when Katie Price did an interview with OK Magazine which extolled the virtues of formula and around it were advertisements for the brand she was using but the Advertising Standards authority and Trading Standards between them didn't have enough power, and there were sufficient loopholes in the legislation so nothing was done. I felt that that formula manufacturer and the publisher were basically laughing at the Code.
Formula promotion undermines breastfeeding and Mike Brady's proposal shows how much money the NHS could save even if there was a modest increase in breastfeeding rates.
Imagine if you made some mistakes early in y our life which resulted in you getting a criminal record. You want to lead a law abiding life, but what chance do you have if potential employers reject you simply on the basis of you declaring your previous offences as you are required to do by law? This proposal suggests that employers should not be allowed to reject someone purely on the basis of their declared, unspent convictions. I'm not sure whether that would actually result in more ex offenders getting jobs, but I think it's worth looking at barriers to employment ex offenders face. It's a big success if someone is able to turn their life around and if we believe in rehabilitation, as I do, we have to help people get into work. Obviously there are some offences which would mean that it's not appropriate for someone to work with vulnerable people, whether children or the elderly, but this proposal is a good starting point to considering how we can help ex offenders re-establish themselves.
I include this idea on dealing with homophobic bullying at school to highlight the fact that the Coalition Agreement specifically includes help for schools to tackle this. This is something else that Liberal Democrats can be proud of because I doubt the Tories would have introduced this on their own.
The abolition of control orders is for me a must. Detention without trial or charge or even knowing why the order has been issued is so fundamentally unjust and this practice must be stopped.
A proposal for an evidence based drugs policy is exactly what we need. The alternative point of view has been failing for too long.
Ending 28 day detention without charge- which is, by the way, Liberal Democrat policy. This is as good a time as any to point out the excellent speech made by Julian Huppert, new Lib Dem MP for Cambridge on the subject a few weeks ago when he concluded:
"We do face a serious situation, and we do need to have the right tools to combat terrorism, but 28-day detention without trial is not the right one. It causes too much collateral damage in its effect on our civil liberties and the message that we send to others who might be considering such issues and those who look up to us from other countries. I urge hon. Members to reject 28 days."
The Government is currently reviewing this provision and should report back in the Autumn with future proposals.
I hope you've found this interesting and that it's encouraged and inspired you to put your ideas up on this site for discussion.
Elspeth is a long time fan of Wagamama and I've really enjoyed the meals I've had there but it was a new experience for Andrew and Stephen. I ended up mistakenly ordering a vegetarian dish, the yasai yaki soba, which had egg, beansprouts, peppers, onions and garlic with fried shallots, pickled ginger, sesame seeds and coriander vinegar. Despite the lack of chicken and shrimp, which Elspeth had, it was absolutely delicious - packed with very well balanced and individually defined flavours. I think I might even order that one again. Andrew and Stephen had the Katsu curry, which I'd tried before and liked - it's basically a big chicken nugget (or butternut squash and aubergine as Stephen had it) with curry sauce, a big pile of sticky rice and salad.
We'd ordered 3 side dishes, but ended up with 4 by mistake. Elspeth and Andrew weren't keen on the gyoza which, for their information, contained grilled chicken and vegetables, saying that they had a bit of a weird aftertaste. I have to say I've always had the deep fried duck version before so the softer, almost soft rubbery texture of the steamed ones was different. They didn't look very appetising to be honest - a bit like chyrsalises in a way, but they were fine to taste although by far the most bland dish of the night. We also had tori kara age - fried chicken with chilli and garlic and another delicious chicken dish from the specials menu that was packed with chilli and garlicky flavour. Our bonus prize was the ebi katsu - deep fried breaded prawns with a spicy chilli and garlic sauce. They really don't hold back on their garlic there - a practice I admire as I think there are some things you can never have too much of.
When it was time for pudding, I thought that I was going to be in for a difficult decision - I'd had the white chocolate and ginger cheesecake with the chilli and toffee sauce before and it was amazingly good. Vying for my attention, though, was chocolate cake with dark chocolate wasabi sauce which I'd also been very keen to try. Fortunately, my mind was made up for me because they'd run out of the chilli toffee sauce. The cake itself was soft and rich and topped with a thin layer of creamy frosting and while you got a kick from the sauce, the wasabi didn't overwhelm it.
All this was washed down by a lovely bottle of Pinot Grigio for the three non drivers. The company was excellent and lots of laughs were had. Mr Reeves only occasionally lets the world know on his blog what a smutty mind he has, but in real life that's very different.
It was the sort of night that makes you forget about the actual pain of turning 43 for a little while.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Anyway, last week I published a list of the top then most popular posts of the last year as determined by Google Analytics. Now, I thought I'd go back down memory lane to share some of my favourites which didn't make the top ten.
First up, there was my view of the intrusive, unnecessary and authoritarian Vetting and Barring scheme planned by the Labour Government to keep our children safe.
I wondered if I'd missed something when Labour were so opposed to the new Government's idea of when Parliament should be dissolved.
I was so angry when Gordon Brown outlined his plans to stigmatise teenage mothers because, you know, getting pregnant is all their fault.
I wrote several posts around the time the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdel Basset Mohmed al-Megrahi. I believed then, and still believe that it was the right thing to do on compassionate grounds. I don't for one moment think that Kenny MacAskill was inflluenced by BP or anyone else, although I had doubts about the process. This post sums up a lot of my thinking at the time.
I was pleased that this review of the Holyrood debate on Megrahi's release was praised by people from various sides as being fair. I do try.
When Nicola Sturgeon faced the wrath of the Scottish Parliament, I was concerned that constituency casewor was becoming a political football.
I celebrated Valentine's Day by looking back at how I met my husband - and it involved lentils.
This slightly tipsy post on Labour's new slogan earlier this year makes me happy because I think it was the first time the Lovely Elephant linked to me.
Talking of elephants, the march of the pregnant ones commenced in March - or, rather, here's my F1 season preview.
But that was after I'd had a whole litter of kittens in sheer excitement at the thought of Mr Schumacher's return.
It was the election and the aftermath that caused many emotional highs and lows. When you're a peace loving leftie liberal hippy, the idea of working with Tories does not come easy, to put it mildly, especially when you're completely exhausted and your emotions have been through the wringer after the worst election night ever. There was the wait for news, weighing up the options, watching it start to take shape with an eery feeling of surreality, seeing Nick enter Downing Street for the first time. Since then we've had my splitting of the Coalition Agreement into the good, the meh and the "lock me in a cupboard with the gin bottle", the relative high of the Queen's speech and the awfulness of the Budget, tempered by Danny Alexander rocking the Commons.
What's clear is that this rollercoaster still has some way to run - and I will be musing my way through the twists and turns, peaks and troughs of the Lib Dems' first experience of Government at Westminster in my lifetime.
While I'm coping with the slings and arrows of outraged Labourites, and alternating between feeling glad that Lib Dems are implementing Lib Dem policies and feeling faintly nauseous at some of the Tory stuff we're letting through, I shall continue to be distracted by trashy tv, not so trashy Doctor Who and lovely men on bikes. This blog is as much therapy as it is an meander round Liberal Democrat thinking.
So that's it for the nostalgia at the moment. I hope you've enjoyed this little retrospective and have found stuff you haven't read before. We're done with the navel gazing - until next year!
I wrote to them saying that I was horrified that they were marketing nurse outfits directed at girls and doctor outfits directed at boys. I think that limiting the ambitions of kids who are barely out of nappies is unacceptable and not appropriate for the 21st century.
Nor is it really appropriate to push girls to the passive and sparkly, leaving all the action of the pirate, superhero and cowboy to the boys.
My experience of providing a wide range of dressing up outfits is that both genders will wear just about anything. Both girls and boys will get in there with the cloppy shoes and the tutus as much as the Batman outfit or whatever. Each child is individual and what they like should be up to them. They should not be enslaved by the Early Learning Centre's narrow gender stereotyping.
Anyway, I had a reply saying:
Dear Ms Lindsay,
Apparently, according to research reported in today's Telegraph, they go for tall men. Men don't really come that much taller than Bob, who's 6 ft 4.
It's a shame, really, because there's not much we can do about it. It's not as if he can stop being tall.
They never used to bother me, but have started to in recent years, possibly because of all the weight I've piled on while being ill and not being able to exercise.
Sensibly, then, we've decided to go to Midge Den for our holidays - a cottage in the Highlands. That'll be fun. On the advice of a friend, who swears by it, I've bought some Avon Skin so Soft to see if that gets rid of them. I'll let you know if it works.
He's taken to disappearing as the sun goes down to take photos of clouds.
When he came back last night, he found me in a state of high dudgeon about this.
He couldn't calm me down with words, so he sent me this instead.
It was taken just up the road.
After 23 years, he seems to have worked out how to calm me down. I think it's a beautiful photo so thought I'd share it with you.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Then I looked at Jennie's blog, because I always hang on her every word and what I saw there made me very angry indeed.
She pointed out this on the Early Learning Centre website. It's their dressing up outfit page.
Who the mucky duck (rhyming slang, don't you know) do the Early Learning Centre think they are marketing their dressing up outfits in such an appallingly outdated and misogynistic way?
Conditioning 3 year olds into thinking that girls are nurses and boys are doctors is an absolute outrage. I kind of thought we'd moved on.
How very dare they try to limit the ambitions of girls and the expectations of boys who are barely out of nappies?
I showed it to Anna who commented that that "wasn't very nice." Although she does like cuddly, pink and sparkly things, she also loves Doctor Who, planets and dinosaurs.
If you are similarly outraged, please complain to them here. Please also join me in refusing to buy anything from them until they change that wording.
That common sense approach, of treating others in the way you would want to be treated has positive benefits for all of human relationships - with, some would say, one exception.
Regime orientated parenting methods, some of which have every minute of the day planned in excruciatingly unachievable detail, encourage parents to treat their tiny babies as if they are animals to be trained rather than little people to be nurtured. Gina Ford suggests that babies be put to sleep, alone, in rooms that have been completely blacked out and if they cry, then let them. There are other methods which discourage eye contact between mother and baby and not responding to baby's cries. Instinctively I feel that these methods are unbelievably cruel and I would never practice or advocate them, but do they actually cause harm?
Some new research has proven that babies who are shown affection by their mothers end up being better able to cope as adults in a range of situations - they are less prone to depression and better at dealing with stress, for a start. It seems so obvious, but it's good this now adds to the growing body of evidence that responsive parenting and gentle nurturing produce happier, better balanced adults who are more able to cope with the stresses life throws at them.
This sort of research is important because it gives mums the confidence to follow their own instincts with their babies rather than fear spoiling them by being over attentive. It's useful for them to have that sort of evidence to show family members who are doubtful about what they are doing.
I think the other thing that's good about this research is that it specifically states that it's the affection from the mother which makes the difference. I don't think that we value mothering or mothers nearly enough but this research shows how important that relationship is in determining our emotional wellbeing in later life. There's a really good book called What mothers do especially when it looks like nothing that has a look at what happens when you become a mother and how important it is to spend time building trust with the baby by responding to them. Our society is very quick to blame a mother when anything goes wrong with her child, but very slow to reward and give mothers credit for their phenomenal work raising the next generation.
I hope that research like this, showing unequivocally that being affectionate with and responsive to babies, finally discredits those who would undermine the mother/baby relationship. There are lots of complex inter-relationships between mother and baby, on a physical and emotional level, that we much about with at our peril.
As Dr Joanna Maselko, the lead author of the research says:
Under this proposal, if 10% of constituents expressed a wish for a recall election, it would be held.
Nick called for this last year - in fact it was one of a raft of proposals he wanted enacted over last Summer instead of MPs going on holiday. The other party leaders eventually came round to agreeing with him.
Other highlights of the session included:
- Nick being very passionate on meaningful devolution of power to the people, giving them real power on things like health and policing;
- David Blunkett making an idiot of himself by saying that nothing should be done as regards equal constituencies until 100% of people were on the electoral register. It was easy for Nick to compare Labour's inaction in 13 years on this with their assiduousness on it now.
- A Tory asking about the Great Repeal Bill and Nick answering by using our term for it, the Freedom Bill. I think our's sounds much better and more positive.
- Jack Straw prefacing a question about who's in charge of the Government during holidays with the phrase "assuming he and the Prime Minister aren't on holiday in Montana today." I suggest he reads Liberal England on this - and reflects on Jonathan's definition of ignorant which is utterly appropriate in this instance.
- A Labour MP made a futile attempt to make political capital by stating 150 Labour MPs voted against Iraq war and asking how many of Nick's coalition partners did. Nick dealt with that very effectively by praising the MPs who voted against.
This seems to me to be an extremely good idea. He is right that the formula milk industry claims that it's abiding by the code, while organisations like Baby Milk Action are continually finding evidence of breaches. There is nobody who looks at the evidence and ensures that the Code is enforced.
It's important that parents across the world are given accurate information about the choices they make with regard to how they feed their babies. It's in everybody's interests to ensure that the International Code is adhered to by formula manufacturers.
I hope that our guy in the Department of Health, Paul Burstow, pursues this. I also read this morning on Helen Duffett's Facebook page that Nick Clegg will be speaking on the Monday of our Conference because he's heading off to the UN. What a good opportunity that would be to pursue this with other Governments and save the 1.5 million lives that are lost every year through unsafe formula feeding across the World.
The first session was an hour before the Budget and I knew I was going to be writing about that all day so I very disloyally spent it out on a sunbed catching some rays. It was very unlike me to be so sensible and pace myself, but I think it did me some good.
Anyway, I'm really looking forward to watching today's session. I guess it's too much to hope that Labour MPs will be so excited by their upcoming holidays that they'll behave like human beings, but we'll see. I live in hope.
If you're around, I shall be tweeting my way through watching it on BBC Parliament.
Monday, July 26, 2010
First up, I was appalled that Bellgrove Belle was expected to sit on a cold floor to feed her baby.
Tracy Cheetham is a Labour tweeter and blogger. Here she outlines her experience of recovery from Cancer.
Lynne Featherstone, Equalities Minister, outlines how the Liberal Democrats' Body Confidence campaign will be carried through in Government.
Helen has news of the BOTYs
Mat is worried that a Creationist Zoo has won a Government backed award - and I can't say I blame him.
Stephen writes on the passing of Hurricane Higgins.
Finally, Cathode Ray Tube reviews the Doctor Who Prom
They try to say that there will be a free drop-off area at the long stay car park and people can get a bus to the airport.
Oh well, that's fine then.
Or at least it's fine if you're young, fit, male and flying without young children.
If you're disabled you might be able to struggle to get a bus in the Summer, assuming that they provide wheelchair accessible buses but what if you have to wait for ages in the cold and dark in the Winter?
Ditto if you're elderly.
If you're female, you may not want to stand potentially alone on a dark Winter's morning for safety reasons.
If you have young children, even if there are two of you, managing a toddler and a baby, plus car seat and buggy out of the car that drops you off and on to a bus is going to be a nightmare.
So it's those groups who will be paying the charge.
Your affluent professional worker travelling alone will be able to avoid this tax with ease.
That's why BAA's decision to make a fast buck out of people by imposing this charge is completely and utterly wrong. I'm glad to see that Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart and MSP Margaret Smith are campaigning against it.
If you agree with them, please join me in signing their petition here.
I wonder if this could possibly help Florence and Precious Mhango who are currently living in Glasgow. They have already in the past been detained and actually put on an aircraft for Malawi before being granted a last minute reprieve.
I am not an immigration legal expert, but I wonder if making sure everyone has the right to challenge removal orders will allow the Court to focus solely on Precious' wellbeing. I hope that is the case - although I would point out that Home Secretary Theresa May could end this now by using her discretion to allow them to stay here as so many in the local community want.
I was almost in tears last night when I read MSP Anne McLaughlin's latest impassioned blog posting. I know this situation is hardest for Florence and Precious, but don't under-estimate the effect on those who are trying to help them. I know what it's like to lose sleep over people's situations so I have huge amounts of empathy with Anne. Casework is not just a pile of paperwork a representative has to get through.. Each file represents a life in turmoil. I know that she has done and will continue to do everything she possibly can for Florence and Precious and for this deserves our respect, admiration and support.
18 hours from the end of the race has done nothing to dampen my fury at what happened 18 laps from the end of the race.
At this point, Brazilian driver Felipe Massa was in the lead. Not by much, but he had been leading the race from the start having taken advantage of an aggressive move by pole sitter Sebastian Vettel which took him and Alonso out of contention.
Massa has not had the best season, and is well behind in the World Drivers' Championship. On the other hand, Fernando Alonso badly needed a win to boost his challenge for this year's title. Yesterday he started out around 50 points adrift of leader Lewis Hamilton and the 25 points for victory put him a mere 34 points behind.
Alonso clearly wasn't chuffed about being stuck behind his team-mate as a team radio transmission of him saying "this is ridiculous" shows.
Ted Kravitz, the BBC's man in the pitlane told us that there seemed to be a robust discusssion going on at Ferrari.
Over team radio we heard Massa's engineer, Rob Smedley, tell him that he could win this.
Smedley and Massa have a really close and trusting working relationship. Rob Smedley has never been allowed to forget the radio call to a stressed Massa during the washout Malaysian grand prix last year in which he addresed him as "Felipe, baby." Massa has a whole load of trust and confidence in him in a relationship that's been built up over 5 years.
At 18 laps to go, with Alonso having failed to pass Massa on his own, Smedley said over the radio to Massa in a tone that implied that he was not happy about the task he'd been given:
"Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm that you've understood this message".
A few moments later, Massa slowed down and moved over so Alonso could pass him, depriving himself of a race victory.
Smedley then said to him. "Good lad, sorry"
To me that seems an utterly blatant breach of Article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations which states that
"Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited."
This isn't the first time that we've seen something like that this season - in Turkey Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button had a superb sparring session between them brought to a halt by their engineers telling them they had to save fuel, which effectively maintained Lewis' lead over Jenson in the race. Telling a driver not to attack, though is not the same as manipulating a result so that one driver gives his place to his team-mate.
Maximising points is important for teams, because their position in the Constructors' Championship impacts on the sponsorship they can attract. However, Ferrari is hardly short of a bob or two and they were heading for maximum points in the race regardless of the order in which their drivers finished.
After the race, Michael Schumacher eloquently and articulately presented the case for what Ferrari had done, saying that teams had to make decisions based on obtaining the best result for the team, and saying how those extra points for Alonso might be crucial if it came down to a close fight for the Drivers' title at the end of the season.
Schumi, of course, and Ferrari, was the reason the rule on team orders was introduced in the first place because of this incident:
At the time I was absolutely horrified to see Rubens Barrichello allow Michael Schumacher past him on the finish line, sacrificing his own well deserved victory at the request of his team. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now.
The video clip shows that Rubens pulled over after then Ferrari team boss Jean Todt handed then technical director Ross Brawn a note. Jean Todt is now head of the FIA, the body in charge of the sport. It reacted to this by fining Ferrari $100,000. To a team of great wealth, this is the equivalent of you or I having our Starbucks coffee money taken off us. They are being referred to the World Motorsport Council, but I won't hold my breath about anything coming out of that.
The recipient of the note in 2002, Ross Brawn, had to watch two of his drivers compete for the championship until the very last race of last season. He took the decision to let them fight it out amongst themselves with the proviso that they didn't take each other off. I think that promoted good relations across the whole team and was a highly sensible approach. In fact, having been beaten, Rubens Barrichello lent Jenson his private plane so he could stay a bit longer in Brazil and party after he won the championship there in the penultimate race of the season.
I always think that teams get the best out of drivers if they let them compete openly and don't try to manipulate things. Surely that's the way to better results. Much better to have two motivated drivers than one who's just there as the spare.
Christian Horner of Red Bull Racing would do well to follow Ross Brawn's example with his two drivers, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, either of whom could still win the championship. Twice this season the team has seemed to favour Vettel. The first time was in Turkey when Vettel pulled a daft move on Webber while they were 1st and 2nd and put himself out of the running and demoting Webber to 3rd where he finished. The team initially put the blame on Webber for this incident although they later retracted it. This didn't help when Mark Webber had his new upgraded front wing taken off him and given to Sebastian Vettel at Silverstone a few weeks later.
Now, I like both drivers - indeed they are together at 6 and 7 of my list of drivers. I think the Red Bull management has been shocking, though. The team has now come to an agreement that any upgrades will be given first to the driver in the leading position in the championship. As an aside, Eddie Jordan cheekily but cleverly asked Christian Horner on Saturday if this meant that there would be no upgrades available while Mark Webber was in top position. Undoubtedly, there has been a great deal of unpleasantness which, with a bit of better management, could have been avoided.
I should be thrilled to bits at a Ferrari 1-2 today, delighted to see both drivers on the podium. I feel flat, though, because victory for Felipe was taken off him. Alonso may well have managed to get past him on his own without manipulation of the situation. I'm not alone. Twitter has been alight with fans complaining about what happened. The crowd in Germany were virtually silent when Alonso and Massa were given their prizes on the podium before erupting in support for Vettel, who finished third.
Yesterday's events were all the more poignant given that it was a year to the day since Felipe Massa had had that horrific accident in Hungary which put him out for the remainder of last season with a serious head injury. At that time, the Ferrari mechanics made a sign which they displayed before the race on Sunday 26th July saying Forza Felipe, Siamo con te, or Strengh, Felipe, we are with you. Regrettably, Hockenheim yesterday proved that sentiment was conditional.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The two places about which there could be no doubt were first and last and that held true for the others, too with all of us having a common last place. My original list posted on Twitter didn't include Sakon Yamamoto but I guess he can't be blamed for all the musical cars at Hispania Racing so he's in this one.
So, here goes:
The Top Ten
1. Schumi - who else, really?
2. Rubens - the nicest guy in F1 ever
3 . Felipe Massa - Ferrari's finest and amazingly brave after horrible accident last year
4. Heikki Kovalainen - great to see him happy and settled at Lotus this year
5. Karun Chandhok - so courteous, takes everything in his stride, trainee Rubens
6. Mark Webber - fantastic driver, occasionally lets heart rule head but forgivably so
7 . Sebastian Vettel - incredibly talented and I find him impossible to dislike
8. Nico Rosberg - he's funny and has settled in well at Mercedes
9. Jarno Trulli - the Trains are bigger, but he's lovely and has a vineyard
10.Robert Kubica - conscientiously helping Renault get back on course to challenge for the top
11. Fernando Alonso - for talent alone. Not chuffed with some of moves he's pulled on people esp Massa
12. Kamui Kobayashi - so high cos of his brave overtaking moves
13. Nico Hulkenberg - nice guy & lucky to have Rubens as team mate
14. Jenson Button - higher than he would have been in last year's list cos of way he's settled at McLaren
15. Timo Glock - deserves a much better car than he has
16. Pedro De La Rosa - good to see him back
17. Jaime Alguesuari - hasn't set heather on fire but doing ok
18. Adrian Sutil - hasn't entirely lost his unfortunate habit of getting in people's way
The off-radar lot - I don't have anything against this lot but they just haven't drawn my attention that much
19. Tonio Liuzzi
20. Vitaly Petrov
21. Sebastian Buemi
22. Bruno Senna
23. Lucas Di Grassi
24. Sakon Yamomoto
And a long way further down in my estimation
25. Lewis Hamilton, who still shows no sign of being grateful for the opportunites life has thrown at him
Saturday, July 24, 2010
The highlights for me have been:
- Mark Cavendish's struggle to find early form and his return to win 4 stages despite the loss of his main lead out man Mark Renshaw.
- Renshaw's disqualification for headbutting one opponent and blocking another - which, to be honest, seemed a little harsh in the circumstances.
- Watching Lance Armstrong in his final Tour and reliving the moment when he ended up riding through a field on a previous tour. which was recreated on the same road this year
- Seeing British rider Geraint Thomas wear the white jersey for best young rider for the first week
It's amazing that so far the riders have completed around 3500 km - that's somewhere around 2200 miles in old money - and the cumulative time difference between the top 2 riders is 8 seconds. How closely matched can you get? It comes to less than a sixth of a minute after 88 hours of cycling.
It's taken me a while to get used to the Tour vernacular. It is a bit weird to hear a person being referred to as "the yellow jersey" and to get to grips with the protocols and unwritten rules of the cycling world.
One of those unwritten rules is that you don't take advantage of a rival's mechanical problem to further your cause. It appears that this is one of these rules that is honoured in the breach after Spain's Alberto Contador sped past Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, whose chain had fallen off. It took him a minute or so to sort that out but by then, even after he had stormed through the field, his 31 second lead had turned into an 8 second deficit and he had to hand his yellow jersey over to the Spaniard. The boos directed at Contador on the podium showed how the crowd felt.
This episode meant that Schleck had to attack on the last climb on Thursday. I watched that very scary climb up the Col de Tourmalet with my heart in my mouth and applauded both riders for the way they stuck to each other like glue. The Contador of last year would have shaken off Schleck, but he was not able to do so. He tried to attack and just couldn't get rid of him. Schleck won the stage by a whisker.
That epic climb is well worth watching:
One of the things that amazes me is how the riders can concentrate with spectators coming so close to them as well as motorbikes and cars which provide them with nourishment and support along the way. They are literally inches away from them. I'd be annoyed about people invading my personal space to that extent in real life, but in the middle of a race upon which my career depended it would be unbearable.
While you might think an 8 second deficit might be overcome easily in today's final time trial, most commentators seem to think that because Contador is a better time trialler, Schleck's chance has gone. I say that that seems so last year. It's clear to me that Schleck has had the better race and but for some mechanical misfortune would still be leading by a margin. To me, whatever happens today, he will be the real winner of the Tour de France 2010 - I hope he can find the form to be the actual one too.
I've loved the unpredictability of the race - all the jerseys have been fiercely contested and have changed hands several times. The scenery is absolutely amazing. It's made me want to visit France, which I've never done. Whether going through flat, forested areas, through vineyards and pretty towns, to mountain top villages with very scary drops, this Tour has showcased France beautifully.
I am looking forward to the climax of the sprinters' competition on the Champs Elysees tomorrow - with Mark Cavendish still in with a chance of winning.
Then it's a long wait to next year's start in La Vendee.