Thursday, January 31, 2013

Doctor Who 30 day fandom challenge - Day 29: Favourite guest star

Realistically, there can only be one answer to this. It really has to be Bernard Cribbins, who played the part of Wilfred Mott perfectly. He was funny, brilliant and who can forget the poignant way in which he sympathised with the Tenth Doctor as he talked about his impending death - and then discovered that he was the cause of it.

There are some honourable mentions to be handed out:  to Kylie Minogue as Astrid Peth in the Voyage of the Damned. The end bit was a bit mawkish and sad, but, let's face it, Kylie couldn't really spare the time to film a whole season, so she had to die really.

I wonder if we'll see Brian Williams, Rory's dad, played by the guy who played Arthur Weasley in Harry Potter, Mark Williams, again. It would be good to see him meet his granddaughter, after all. He was hilarious, it has to be said.

Doctor Who 30 day fandom challenge - Day 28: Favourite gif

You know, I really don't do this gif stuff. Maybe it's because I am forbidden from inhabiting the crazy world of Tumblr which Anna sees as her domain and does not want to run into her mother on it.

Anyway, I'm going to pass on this one. Anna has one in mind, which I quite like, and she will get it on here for me at some point. I actually have no idea how to do it.

I don't think I've ever felt quite so old.

Nick Clegg finds his way into Popbitch

You might not be surprised to find that I, with my trashy underbelly, subscribe to the salacious Popbitch email, but there's someone significantly classier on the Liberal Democrat Voice team who takes it as well. Well, we don't want to be caught napping if one of our lot is in it, do we?

And what do you mean, everyone on the Lib Dem Voice team is classier than I am? I'm truly hurt.

Anyway, our dear leader finds his way into its scandal ridden pages this week. This is the story.
lexie writes: "My friend was at Westminster with Nick Clegg and says the only thing remarkable about him was that he was always first in the lunch queue."
Given that he was competing for that position with similarly young, fit, hungry teenagers, I'd actually say that was pretty remarkable.

A disturbing experience....

As I left Wahaca, warm and replete the other night, I stopped to Foursquare in (you can't inside as it's in the basement). I heard  voice behind me asking if those were avocados in the window.

I turned to see a young man smoking a cigarette and carrying a rucksack. He told me he was on his way to see if he could get into the homeless shelter down the road. He was, he said, suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia and would probably be sectioned. He rolled up his sleeves to show me wounds on his arms. He had, he said, been begging outside one of London's top hotels that day and had made £18.

Over the next 20 minutes or so, in that dark street, he told me a lot of things about his life. Some made sense, others maybe less so. He told me his name but it wouldn't be fair to tell you what it is, or too many details about his life without his permission.

What was clear, though, was that this was an incredibly vulnerable young man. He should have decent help and support. He should have a guaranteed place to live. 

There's supposed to be a safety net for people in need. It doesn't catch everybody.

Countless times I've seen politicians outline what should happen at a hustings, for example. One which comes to mind was the SAMH hustings on mental health provision ahead of the 2011 Holyrood election. It soon became obvious that there was a monumental gap between what the politicians thought was happening and what people were experiencing on the ground. 

The young man I met the other night was very keen to make sure I got safely to the tube station. I just wish that there was something I could have done for him, to make sure he was safe.

When people are being left to sleep on the streets and are not given the medical care they clearly need, something is going wrong somewhere. 

So, about that fall in university applications from people from deprived areas...

You know Stephen Tall. He finds out a bit of information, he sticks it on a graph and here you go:

And then I nick it because I just can't handle artwork. I hope he doesn't mind.

What these figures show is that rather than the apocalyptic disaster Labour were predicting, people from disadvantaged areas have not been put off going to uni. In fact, more of them are applying than under Labour. It's still not good enough. But, let's face it, even up here where we have free tuition, not much more than 1 in 10 kids from the poorest communities get to go to university as this NUS report shows.

What these figures show is that there's nothing really to be proud of. More needs to be done to give the poorest kids an equal chance to go to uni both north and south of the Border. The maximum loan of £5570 a year for living costs won't go far.

Wahaca - smile inducing Mexican street food

Last week I read a mouthwatering review of the Mexican street food restaurant Wahaca over on Katy Riddle's Feel-good Foodbook blog. Her photos and write-up looked so enticing and as I had to go to London for FE on Monday, I decided I had to try it out.

Well, the first thing I have to say is that Katy can write a cracking review. She was bang on about the quality and flavour of the food. It was absolutely delicious. I went to the Covent Garden branch which is about 15 minutes' walk from Westminster. You can't book a table, but, although the restaurant was busy, I was served straight away and the staff were very friendly. Nobody looked at me oddly for being on my own.

After an interesting and intense 3 hour meeting, I wanted to relax with one of these:

 I think I must have been drinking the wrong kind of tequila before because this had a much richer flavour than any I'd had before.

I decided to order Chicken Taquitos - spicy chicken in deep fried tortillas with salsa, sour cream and cheese on top. It looked very pretty and, like everything else I ate, had an almost perfect balance of flavour and texture. The crunch of the tortilla, the spicy heat of the chicken with the sourness of the cheese and the coolness of the  cream with the crispness of the lettuce. It was the sort of food it made me happy to eat.

I'm not a huge lover of beans, but Katy had gone on so much about the Frijoles that I really had to try them. They gave a warm, carby hit that would keep me feeling full and satisfied for a good while and I loved how they looked when the cream was all marbled in with the beans.

I can't ever turn down guacamole. It's one of my favourite foods and I've tried many different versions over the years. Wahaca's stacked up both in looks and flavour. A good amount of spice with cool avocado, sour lime and flavoursome red onion.

After all that, I was quite full. But after a few minutes I decided I could fit in another dish Katy had recommended - the salted caramel ice cream. Again it was perfectly balanced. Often when I've had salted caramel stuff before it's been a bit too salty, but this left in a bit of balancing sweetness. I also liked the fact that they gave me a spoon that matched my Kindle. I doubt it was deliberate but it appealed to me.

 The decor kind of makes you feel like you're eating with the sun on your back. I liked the white brick walls, the metal shutters, the faux stone banquettes and the brightly coloured tiles.

The atmosphere was not a million miles away from the Zumba class I need to work this lot off. The music was loud enough to cheer but not too loud to inhibit conversation.

One thing that struck me was that children were clearly welcome - not just from the stack of high chairs which were not in use at 10pm on a Monday night.

 The menu marks off which dishes might be too spicy for kids and recommends you ask your server for advice. That was a good touch.

All of that  delicious food and drink cost me just £20, which for central London wasn't bad, I thought.

One thing I would have liked to have seen was a statement on tipping policy. There's no service charge if you're in a party of less than five, but I'd still like to know that any tip I give is going to go to the staff and not the pockets of the owners.

I'm half tempted to go the Canary Wharf branch next Monday night when I'm down again. Any of my London friends fancy coming with me?

Call Clegg 31 January: The return of #iagreewithnick

Nick Clegg's fourth Call Clegg phone-in on LBC has just finished. It's the first time I've been able to listen to all the way through. He took a huge range of questions, from David Ward's comments, which he handled sensitively, to marriage tax breaks to youth unemployment, to childcare, to whether he wanted to be PM and Lib Dem leader after the General Election (and he definitely did) to what he thought about MPs' pay. On that latter question, I was glad to hear him say, as I have always done, that MPs work very hard before he added that they needed to stay in keeping with what their constituents are getting in terms of pay rises.

What I like about him is his totally down to earth manner. When someone said that "I agree with Nick" he said "I haven't heard that for a while." He sounds like a normal human being, very natural. He had lots of empathy for the person who talked about Lewisham Hospital and managed to get across the complexity and difficulty of the decisions that have to be made in Government.

Anyway, here are my tweets from the occasion.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A sneak peek at a Scottish Lib Dem conference agenda full of controversy

The Agenda for this year's Scottish Conference will be sent to members tomorrow but I've had a bit of a sneak peek. I'd better not give you the full list of timings and the like because Scottish Conference Convener Sheila Thomson would spank me if I did, but I can tell you that there is plenty of scope for controversy and debate.

There are more policy debates than for some considerable time - 9 in total with 6 coming from local parties or members. Scottish Conference will get the chance to have its say on the controversial secret courts legislation. Should parents have the right to a defence of "reasonable chastisement?" Should we ban snaring? Liberal Youth Scotland thinks so, but some of our rural members may feel differently.
There's all sorts of controversy about the Scottish Constitution, but what about the rights of Orkney and Shetland within it?  A motion talking about the position of the northern isles in relation to the 1707 Act of Union, and supporting them in exercising their right to self determination of their own future is up for discussion.

The challenges facing young adults leaving care and a call for investment in talking therapies for mental health to mirror that introduced by Nick Clegg south of the border are another two issues up for discussion. The mental health motion also talks about tackling stigma and therapies for self-harm.
There will be keynote speeches from Nick Clegg, Willie Rennie, Mike Moore, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander, a packed fringe programme and policy development workshops and training. A dinner with John Thurso as guest speaker and Liberal Youth Scotland's legendary quiz are here for evening entertainment.

Conference is being held at West Park in Dundee from 15-17 March. For further information and to register, please contact Linda Wilson on or via 0131 337 2314.  If you register within the next 24 hours you will pay a discounted rate so get on with it!

Do you agree that the SNP should do what the Electoral Commission says?

See what I did there?

That headline is a bit of a leading question. It certainly isn't, in my view at least, neutral. It invites the reader  to answer "Yes." Had I said "Should the SNP do what the Electoral Commission says?" that would be a little more neutral.

We'll find out later what the Electoral Commission thinks about that when it rules on the SNP's chosen question for the Independence Referendum. They want to ask "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"

The Electoral Commission view is actually the only one that matters. If the Referendum is going to have any semblance of fairness, then it has to be overseen by this completely neutral body. This is what the Edinburgh Agreement between the two Governments has to say on the Electoral Commission's role:

The Electoral Commission is responsible for overseeing referendums held under PPERA. PPERA gives the Electoral Commission responsibility for:
• commenting on the wording of the referendum question;
• registration of campaigners;
• designating lead campaign organisations;
• regulating campaign spending and donations;
• giving grants to lead campaign organisations;
• publishing guidance for permitted participants;
• reporting on the referendum process;
• the conduct of the poll; and
• the announcement of the result.
13. The Electoral Commission was also given responsibility for promoting
public awareness for voters in the 2011 Welsh and UK referendums.
14. Both governments agree that the Electoral Commission should fulfil all
these functions in respect of the independence referendum

Nicola Sturgeon has been less certain than I would have liked about the Commission's role, merely saying that any government which didn't take their advice would have to explain why to Parliament, where they have a majority.

Whatever the Commission says today, I think we need a very quick commitment from the SNP Government to do what it says. Willie Rennie said yesterday that it would shatter confidence if they didn't:

Rejecting the considered word of the expert electoral commission would shatter confidence amongst those who seek a fair process in the independence referendum. Alex Salmond should keep the words of his nationalist colleague Blair Jenkins in mind and accept the guidance of the Electoral Commission on matters such as the wording of the referendum question and campaign spending levels.

My guess is that Nicola Sturgeon will do what the Electoral Commission says. The last thing the Scottish Government needs is 18 months of accusations that they are trying to rig the referendum on top of all the ducking and diving from them over the EU question. It would be very dangerous for them to disregard neutral advice from the body overseeing the referendum and to push their own alternative through the Parliament they control. My guess is that she's too sensible to let that happen, even if some of her colleagues might prefer a different route.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge - Day 27: Favourite interview

I could waste hours on You Tube trying to answer this one. Here's a selection of good stuff.

Tom Baker on Richard and Judy talking about Who, God and the pretty destructive relationship between his parents - when his autobiography was out, around the time I saw him at Cult TV.

And Jon Pertwee on Wogan - it must be from Comic Relief's first year in 1988.

And Matt and Clarkson on Top Gear

Saving the best till last.You know, I think I watched this interview with Tom and Lis live on Swap Shop in 1976..."I'll never see a psychiatrist, I've lived out all my fantasies" says Lis.

I could literally go on all day. Hope you've enjoyed this as much as I did.

Why is a Tory making all the running on opposing secret courts? #no2secretcourts

My feelings are a bit mixed, reading the Centre for Policy Studies report Neither Just nor Secure on the Justice and Security Bill, currently going through the House of Commons. Co-authored by Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, it says that the Amendments passed by the House of Lords are not sufficient.

The provisions to extend Closed Material Procedures (or secret courts) are not the only criticisms they make of the bill. They say that the Intelligence and Security Committee must have stronger scrutiny powers and the definition of sensitive information should have a tighter definition to stop Governments suppressing their own wrongdoing.

It annoys me that it's a Tory who's making all the running on this. If we were in opposition, there's no way on earth we would be backing it. Nick Clegg makes no more mistakes than you or I - but this one is a fairly major blooper and it's time for him to acknowledge that he was wrong to let this bill get as far as it has in the condition it has. It should be withdrawn and reconsidered.

However, although Andrew Tyrie has written the report, you don't have to look too far to find some Liberal Democrat names in the acknowledgements:

We would also like to thank a large number of people who have come forward over the years to help in efforts to discover the truth about – and bring to an end – Britain’s involvement in kidnap and torture. Among these are Joanne Clement, Derek Craig, Joe Cyr, Paul Dacam, Deba Das, Roger Gough, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Paul Lomas, Stuart McCracken, Jamie Potter, Timothy Pitt-Payne QC, Cordelia Rayner, Stuart Wheeler and Baroness Williams of Crosby.
We would like to thank David Anderson QC, Damian Hind, Ann Marsh, Ravi Mehta, Chris Mullin, Jesse Norman MP, Shane Sibel, Lindsay Symmes and Lord Tyler for their comments on various parts of this paper.
The changes Tyrie and his co-author Anthony Peto QC want to see are as follows:

CMPs must be a last resort; a judge should have to exhaust the possible use of “Public Interest Immunity”before considering the use of a CMP.
Even where a CMP is approved, the judge should be able to balance the interests of justice against those of national security in deciding if information should be disclosed.
Where CMP is used, summaries of the national security sensitive information should be provided to the excluded party and his or her legal representatives.
The definition of “sensitive information” to block application of Norwich Pharmacal disclosures should be narrowed.
Proposals to reform the ISC should be strengthened, and its Chairman should be elected, subject to safeguards, by secret ballot by Parliament, as recommended by the Wright Committee in 2009.
A five year sunset clause should be incorporated.
They say quite unequivocally that the Bill in its present form risks damaging Britain's open justice system.

If you agree that the relevant parts of this Bill should be withdrawn, please can you email any MPs of ours that you know and Nick Clegg asking them to think again. It dawns on me that maybe the Letter from the Leader on Saturday might give us an opportunity to get our point across in sufficient numbers. If you get this, and you want to see the Bill withdrawn, reply to it this coming Saturday and say, simply, "No to secret courts - please withdraw Liberal Democrat support from Part II of this Bill now as Conference requested last September." If The Powers That Be get a few hundred emails like that, then it would give them another sign that the Party is very unhappy with them on this. And that's the whole party, not just one particular group within it. Are you in?

How can Commonwealth Games be inclusive if we ban seekers of sanctuary from helping at them?

We all know how the Games Makers were such an important part of last year's triumphantly successful London Olympics. When Glasgow holds the Commonwealth Games next year, we would hope for a similar smash hit.

Sadly, though, the recruitment process for the volunteers who will help to run Glasgow's Games has been called into question by the Scottish Refugee Council. The Glaswegian reports that the Games Organising Committee have effectively excluded those who seek sanctuary in this country from applying as only those who are eligible to work in the UK can apply.

Now, the UK Borders Agency is, in my opinion, one of the most unfair and unpleasant organisations we have in this country. But even they allow seekers of sanctuary to volunteer.

I hope that this is just an oversight on the part of the Games Organising Committee and that they can be persuaded to relax the requirements to allow seekers of sanctuary the chance to apply for an unforgettable experience. Given that Glasgow has the second highest number of people who have fled to this country to escape persecution, we should include them in the life of our country.

I and others have raised this with Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore who, this morning, was supporting the volunteer project in Parliament. He's not in charge of this process - the Scottish Government is - but it would be good if he were able to politely ask the Games Organising Committee to think again.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge - Day 26: Favourite Doctor Gadget

Everyone will probably say the sonic screwdriver, although I'm not sure it's ever actually been used as a screwdriver. Yes, it's pretty versatile and useful, but it doesn't make me want one.

Some people might want to say the TARDIS, but, frankly, to do so after The Doctor's Wife would be so wrong.

I'm not sure that Bessie counts as a gadget, but it's too long since we've seen her and I'd like to see her brought back and given a bit of a 21st century update. That should be Moffatt's Mission for this anniversary year.

The most useful thing, of course, would be psychic paper, accompanied with the Doctor's seemingly endless capacity for bull***t.

It's a pity this is just Doctor's gadgets - and I'm not saying he couldn't use hallucinogenic lipstick, but it does belong to River. That would be pretty good to have in your back pocket, though. Not much use against the daleks, but if you can get an entire legion of Romans thinking you're Cleopatra, it must be worth having. And it even has its own thread on Tumblr.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge: Day 25: Favourite Doctor Who Catchphrase

Well, "Geronimo" and "Allons-y" are all very good - and it was fab to hear David Tennant say the latter in person at Starfury: Midnight last month, but, really, there is no substitute for Tom  Baker saying "Would you like a jelly baby?" with that big grin on his face.

Nick Clegg on Marr: My priority is creating a stronger economy in a fairer society

No time for analysis - rushing to catch a train to go to see the Strictly Come Dancing live tour in Glasgow, but here's what Nick Clegg said on Marr this morning.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

DoctorWho 30 Day Challenge...Day 24: Favourite quote

A selection of the finest:
There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace. We've got work to do. 7th Doctor, Survival. Last words of Classic Who on tv in 1989
Even then, even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away...and I'm dead. 10th Doctor talks poignantly on his impending death.
You're Scottish, fry something.  11 gets away with this purely because Moffat is Scottish.
 Have you noticed how people's intellectual curiosity begins to decline the moment they start waving guns about? 4 in the Horns of Nimon
I am a lizard woman from the dawn of time and this is my wife. Madam Vastra, The Snowmen, 2012

Friday, January 25, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge: Day 23: Favourite spin-off

There is no doubt here, even for a tiny little second. The Sarah Jane Adventures. A cool car, good writing, a super mix of characters even down to the bitching between Mr Smith and K9. Good villains like Androvax and the Trickster, and appearances by the 10th and 11th Doctors.

When we were at Starfury: Midnight in December, Gary Russell, the script editor for SJA said that when Matt Smith and David Tennant were on the SJA set, they gave total respect to Lis, as it was her show and they followed her leads.

My second choice would have been K9 and Company purely because it was a chance to see Sarah Jane again.

Now, Torchwood. Loved it despite the violence and strong thread of misogyny in the writing. Not even in the same sport, let alone the same league as SJA, though.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge...Day 22: Favourite friendship

I think probably the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith for its endurance across the years and its appeal to much of the fandom - so much so that it had its own successful spin-off, the Sarah Jane Adventures. And Sarah Jane was such a good role model for girls.

I've liked having the whole relationship between the Doctor and the Ponds explored - the effect he has on their day to day life and their feelings about it. 

And then of course there's the entirely freaky idea that your best friend that you grow up with could actually be your daughter. What does finding that out do to your head? If you remember kissogram Amy in the first Matt Smith episode, you can see where River got her sass from. Or did her morals and attitude from having to make her own life rub off on Amy? Nature or nurture? You could tie yourselves in all sorts of knots thinking about that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge...Day 21: Favourite Couple

So, we have 9 and Rose, 10 and Rose, 10.5 and Rose, Amy and Rory and Madam Vastra and Jenny. We could also include the Doctor and Idris, of course.

While our Silurian private detective and her wife are just brilliant and have so much more to give us, for me, the best couple has to be Amy and Rory. We've seen their relationship develop, it's a partnership of equals, they love each other incredibly and that love has been well and truly tested. I don't think for a moment, though, that they would have actually split up. They would surely have talked it through before it got to that stage. Even if Amy had thrown him out, Rory had the emotional intelligence to get to the bottom of it.

As for 10 and Rose, it was a really soppy love story but it was pretty one dimensional and only really there to make us cry when they were separated at the end of Season 2.

Good to see free NHS 111 number promoted

I was pleased  today to see Alex Neil  promoting that ringing NHS 24 is going to be free in a few months' time, using the NHS non emergency number 111.

This makes an awful lot more sense than the Police chief who suggested charging 50p for 999 calls as a deterrent to people who use it when there's not really an emergency.

Something the Health Secretary said, though, reminded me of something I've been banging on about for a long time - GP surgeries with 0844 numbers. Alex Neil said that a third of people with access only to a mobile phone were deterred from ringing NHS 24 because of the cost. This got me to thinking about the cost of dialling a surgery. Before these numbers were free on landlines, I once racked up £15 during a horrible month of quite serious illness in the household just calling the surgery. And my surgery can be a nightmare to get through to. You can be hanging on for 10 minutes and more after the call has been answered and then as soon as you get to the front of the queue you get cut off.

I contacted my MSP Angela Constance several years ago and she did a whole load of work on this, including raising it in Holyrood with then Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. My practice is still using an 0844 number and Angela said on Twitter today she'd look into it again for me. In 2010 it was only a very small number of practices, 4%, that were doing this, but if we can get rid of them all, that would make a difference. Let's face it, those on lower incomes are more likely to have to rely on mobiles to ring the doctor and they are likely to need to do so more often. It's not fair for GP practices to expect these patients to use premium rate numbers - free at the point of use and all that.

What rights could we lose in Cameron's EU gamble?

Well, if Liberal Democrat activists were feeling a bit lethargic and demotivated, David Cameron gave them lots to fight for today. We have got to do everything we possibly can to stop him getting an overall majority.

If you're not in UKIP or the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party, Cameron had very little to say to offer today.

Here's his plan. He's going to go to the EU if he gets a majority next time and throw his weight about a bit. He'll tell them that unless we get to opt out of things like the Social Chapter and the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Arrest Warrant and a whole host of things that the EU is actually useful for, he'll throw his toys out of the pram and hope that they hit the white cliffs of Dover. So, your hard won right to a decent working week, to paid leave, all those inconvenient employment rights that Tories hate so much could all be lost. So would the facility to get criminals back speedily - like the guy who ran off with that young girl last year.Let's not kid ourselves, that's what Cameron ideally wants.

The chances are that our European partners will tell him to go forth and multiply when he tries it on. And then the Daily Mail will be even more full of xenophobic drivel than usual. But, as Ming Campbell so cleverly put it today, if you have a choice of two approaches, trying to get everyone to work through issues together, or making it all about you, which do you think is going to be more effective? Presumably in that instance we get a choice between the status quo and leaving the EU. That's probably better than the alternative referendum.

But, just say the rest of the EU gives Cameron what he wants. What do we get then? The Status Quo isn't an option. We have a choice between losing things many of  us hold dear or leaving the EU altogether. The choice between bugger all and catastrophe.

I'm really all referndummed out already. We'll have had best part of 4 years of the Scottish referendum by 2014 and then we'll have another 3 and a bit of the EU caper. Yes, I know, we could vote yes to avoid it, but, really, sledgehammers and nuts come to mind. An independent Scotland's terms of joining the EU are far from certain and very likely to be much worse than we currently enjoy.

Willie Rennie compared the SNP and Conservatives today, talking about how they both put their obsessions above the national interest:

The Conservatives and the SNP are now both advocates of grinding uncertainty.

Our priority should be to build a stronger economy in a fairer society but the Conservative obsess about Europe and the SNP about independence.

Their obsessions are creating a grinding uncertainty which will hamper our efforts to restore the economy and deliver fairness.
By the way, I think we Lib Dems should take the phrase "stronger economy in a fairer society" out of any bingo style drinking games right now. Our livers just won't be able to hack the pace. Just remember that we'll be sick of it long before the electorate has even cottoned on to it. There's a long way to go and we'll hear it a lot.

We'll hear a lot about how we aren't letting the people have their say on Europe. This is complete nonsense and the sort of people who will throw that one at us are the sort of people who are opposed to giving people a say in electing the House of Lords. The SNP didn't get their majority up here because people were clamouring to get a referendum on independence. They got it because there was no decent opposition to them at the 2011 election. We were in a mess over the Coalition and are in a better place now and Labour were next to useless. Actually, no, they were useless.

I think Nick Clegg has said the right thing today  - that, of course, if there's a reason to have a referendum, like a major move of powers from the UK to Brussels, then we'll have one, but otherwise our priority should be about growing the economy. I  think he may have mentioned a stronger economy in a fairer society too.

But there is a third choice, thankfully - making sure the Tories don't get a majority. That means getting back out on to doorsteps  and campaigning for every Liberal Democrat vote we can possibly get in the Counties, local elections, Euros and finally in 2015. Let's get to it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge - Day 20: Favourite writer

This is pretty much impossible as there have been so many good writers in the history of Who.

I have never subscribed to the fashionable fandom trashing of Russell T Davies. He brought back my favourite programme and made it cool again. He gave my daughter the chance to enjoy it. For that I am extremely grateful. Oh, and Stolen Earth and Journey's End were brilliant. He deserves lots of credit.

Likewise Steven Moffat with his ever-so-complicated season long story arcs - heaven knows what he's up to with Miss Clara Oswin Oswald - and stories like Blink that make you wonder what the hell you just watched but when you've worked it out it's all very logical. He loses points for not quite getting the effect of long term kidnapping and having her baby stolen would have on a young woman.

Ben Aaronovitch wrote two of my favourite stories featuring the Seventh Doctor - Remembrance of the Daleks and Battlefield. In the former, the moment when Ace is horrified by the "no coloureds" sign in the B and B is a reminder of a time that's long gone, thankfully. It was a good touch to add in.

Robert Holmes was a huge influence on the series in my early years of watching it so he has to be in there.

Even if you have never watched Doctor Who, you are likely to know what a Dalek is. That's a testament to the work of Terry Nation who not only created them, but also wrote The Survivors which I was probably too young to watch at the time but I enjoyed anyway and created Blake's Seven.

And then there's Helen Raynor, the first woman to write on the modern series. She wrote the two parters involving the daleks in Manhattan and the Sontarans in seasons 3 and 4 respectively.

Terrance Dicks wrote the very first episode of Doctor Who I properly and deliberately watched - the first story with Tom Baker, Robot. And he's written for 8 televised doctors which is pretty impressive.

Tom MacRae wrote one of the best stories of the new series - The girl who waited - which features an older Amy. The story stands up as a good work in itself, but Karen Gillan playing both Amys definitely enhanced the production.

I would never have thought that Chris Chibnall would have managed to show his face in place like this. I will never forgive him for Cyberwoman and Countrycide  in Torchwood, but he's kind of redeemed himself but his contributions to Doctor Who in 2012 were pretty good. Not only did he give us dinosaurs on a spaceship, but he gave us Brian Williams as well and it's a pity he didn't get to film his PS to Amy and Rory's story.

Given that I'm such a bit softie, I loved Richard Curtis's Vincent and the Doctor and its sensitive exploration of depression and mental illness. Of course it was going to be a bit schmaltzy - but it wouldn't have been Curtis any other way.

It would be so wrong not to mention Neil Gaiman, too. A writer of his quality was always going to do good things with a Who script and The Doctor's Wife was inspired.

But who to pick as my favourite? I promise you this was not where this was going when I started to write  but for sheer imagination and diversity of good stuff over a long time, I'm going to have to go with Moffat. Ok,so he has a bit of a thing for people jumping off buildings and for flying aquarian mammals, but he has built probably the best set of characters in the new series from Madam Vastra to the Ponds to River Song to our intriguing new companion.

South Bronx is just as important as Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall

It is lovely to watch a US President taking the oath of office and not be scared. The feeling of dread I experienced in 1981 and 2001 when Reagan and the younger Bush took office was not pleasant. While Barack Obama has not been perfect, his heart is generally in the right place. His achievements in his first term are all the more remarkable when you consider that he faced a Congress full of some of the most right wing, conservative Republicans we've seen in our lifetimes whose sole aim was to thwart his every move.

Obama's inaugural speech was stirring and inspiring to liberal ears. His main theme was that every American should have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on which the nation was founded.
For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law  –-  -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.
He talked about how the "most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal....guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall." It's strange to think that a strong declaration in favour of gay rights by the "leader of the free world" is seen as remarkable. All of this is great stuff and he was right to mention those places were so pivotal in developing equal rights. There is another place beginning with S, though, which symbolises action required to tackle another great barrier to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. South Bronx is the poorest Congressional District in the US.

While I'm glad to hear politicians embrace the prospect of equal rights, they are relatively inexpensive for a Government or Parliament with a majority in favour to implement. Even David Cameron is in favour of equal civil marriage. Developing a strategy which will lift people from appalling poverty is so much harder because it involves a huge amount of political will to put the resources in to do it. The US and UK are, despite the talk of deficits and debts, among the most affluent countries in the world yet at the same time as Obama was speaking, the UK Parliament was debating a measure that will cut benefits for the poorest here.

To give Obama credit, he did recognise the need to tackle poverty:
 For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.

We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.  We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.  The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us.
But I found this line depressing:
We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else.
If you grow up cold, or hungry, in poor housing, you don't have the same life chances as everyone else. That's the simple truth. Why do we accept that people should be born into bleak poverty at all? While I  realise we can't change everything overnight, all politicians need to raise their sights and get more ambitious about eradicating poverty. For Liberal Democrats, this is a core part of our values. Our membership cards say that we seek to create a fair, free and open society where no-one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity. Obamacare across the Atlantic and raising the tax threshold and building more affordable housing here are good things but are nowhere near enough. The least we should be aiming for is that everyone has enough to eat and a warm home that meets their needs. Whilst it's fine to give ourselves a pat on the back for small successes along the way, we can't afford to lose a sense of urgency about the rest of the journey.

In which Grant Stott scares my daughter...

We've made it a bit of a thing to go to the pantomime at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh for the second last performance, the Sunday matinee, of its run. Normally, I don't bother booking until a couple of weeks before and end up with some awful seats in the gods that give poor Bob vertigo.

Last year, I decided I was going to book some decent seats in the stalls, so as soon as they went on general sale in February, I took the first row I could get three seats together in, which was Row C. So I assumed we'd be in the third row. Actually, no.We were in the very front row, right at the end, right next to where quite a bit of the action happens.

It was great to be so close - although I got to see up Allan Stewart's skirt a bit too often. The lady sitting next to us was at her third performance - she had two grandchildren dancing in the show.One of our reasons for choosing a performance on the last day was that by that time the cast are relaxing and having fun. She told us that the last evening performance has to stick rigidly to the script, so all the japing would be concentrated in this show.

Anna has a bit of a passion for ridiculous hats and she was wearing a tiger themed all-in-one hat, scarf and gloves thing. This attracted the attention of the cast and a few of them patted her on the head as they went by her on their way to the stage. Grant Stott, playing the Dolores Umbrage of villains, clad in a very pink and sparkly outfit, roared in her face at one point, simultaneously scaring the life out of her (and me) and delighting her. Grant was pretty brave himself, though, making  a couple of appearances on the hoist and wire, floating way above us. Mind you, the cute little baby goose had to do the same thing at the end. Inside said cute goose was a child of maybe 10 or 11, so I was very impressed with her courage.

I'd never seen Mother Goose nor was I even familiar with the story which was actually quite good - and unusual for a pantomime. I loved how, as ever, they had fitted in very up to the minute topical references to the script - from horse burgers to HMV.

Apart from the most irritating fairy in pantomime history, it was  very funny, lively show with the usual comforting panto cliches and double entendres. Tickets for next year's Peter Pan go on sale on 18th February so I'll be first in the queue to try to get the same seats again.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge - Day 19: Least favourite actress

If I had to pick anyone it would probably be Bonnie Langford. It's not her fault, but Mel was a bit too Violet Elizabeth Bott for my liking.

I was also a bit annoyed that they gave us Jenny, who was clearly alive and around, and then didn't do anything else with her, but that's not Georgia Moffett's fault.

Will you follow Maelo's example and keep your blinds closed as Commons votes on Welfare Uprating Bill?

We've become used to 13 year old Maelo Manning, who blogs as libdemchild, not only writing about her views, but actually taking action. Just last month, she spent a cold Saturday afternoon at the Indian High Commission conducting a vigil for the woman who died as the result of being gang raped.

Like me, Maelo is unhappy about the Welfare Uprating Bill which imposes a cut in income on people who are least able to cope with it. It's been cloaked in the guise of fairness, a similar rise to earnings, but benefits don't buy much, certainly not even the basics in food, heat and clothing. When they don't go as far, the implications are serious. People are left cold and hungry. The nurses and teachers who apparently find it unfair that people on benefits get a bigger percentage rise than they do are not likely to actually suffer that much.

The Welfare Uprating Bill clears its final stages in the Commons today. And it will pass, unless, as Maelo puts it, "the ghost of William Beveridge descends on Parliament." I hope those Liberal Democrats who voted against it at Second Reading, Sarah Teather, Julian Huppert, John Leech and David Ward, will do so again and will take some more with them. For the record, I don't see the point in formally abstaining, Mr Kennedy.

Maelo wants us to keep our blinds closed as a symbol of our opposition to the move. She tells us why here:
I know from experience that if your neighbour has their blinds closed it does not mean that they are on welfare and lazy. My neighbour works night shifts and when I go to school in the morning his blinds are closed. Ironically, the family on benefits who live on the other side have their blinds up quite early. Please click on this link for more options on why blinds could be closed. How can blinds define the deserving from the undeserving and the strivers from the skivers? I detest the fact that an ordinary household item like blinds is being used to demonise people on welfare.
She goes on to explain the suffering this will cause to children:
It is children and the disabled who will suffer from this politics of cruelty. According to The Children's Society, 11.6 million children will be affected by the 1% cap. As a specific example, a couple with two children, one earner who is a primary school teacher earning £600 per week will lose £424 a year by 2015. The Child Poverty Action Group states that the Up-Rating Bill will push 200, 000 more children into poverty. Accumulatively, the welfare cuts will push 1 MILLION more children into poverty by 2020.
Her idea is symbolic, but symbols can be very powerful. My blinds are staying shut today - and not just to stop me seeing the snow falling.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge - Day 18: Favourite actress

Lis Sladen would win this one hands down, but I've already written about her lots during the course of this challenge and elsewhere, so let's leave her out and look at the wider "whoniverse".

Alex Kingston has managed to get across the complex River Song very well - the vulnerablility, the sassiness, the courage of someone who has been kidnapped, abused, and still turns out all right in the end.

Sheila Hancock was fantastic as Margaret T  Helen A in the Happiness Patrol.

Angela Bruce got exactly what a Doctor Who brigadier should be about - bit of British stiff upper lip, but also open minded - in Battlefield.

Annette Badlands is brilliant as Margaret Slitheen - and also extremely pleasant in person. We met her at Starfury: Midnight in December.

Then there's Frances Barber's evil Madame Kovarian.

Sarah Lancashire as Miss Foster was conniving and easily able to share the stage with Tennant and Tate.

Jean Marsh's Morgaine from Battlefield was condescending, evil and funny.

And I know I said no companions, but I think a special mention of Karen Gillan's portrayal of the older Amy in The Girl who Waited is supreme. I just wish they'd had the imagination to let that character survive.

And, of course, little Caitlin Blackwood, who played the young Amelia Pond is just too cute, in every sense of the word.

Who to pick as favourite? I think it probably has to be Sheila Hancock. She really was supreme.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Doctor Who 30 Day Challenge - Day 17: Least favourite actor

I don't like these "least favouite" categories because they are so negative. There's so much good to celebrate about the series that concentrating on the weakest stuff isn't always productive.

I guess the two companions I never quite got to grips with were Adric and Turlough. Could they never have a nice ordinary lad accompanying the Doctor? Did they really have to be so arrogant and up themselves and super intelligent? That, I guess, is why I never quite appreciated Mark Strickson and Matthew Waterhouse as much as I should.

Then there was Mickey in the new series. I really didn't like the character and the way he treated Rose and his superficial attitude to life. I don't much take to the actor who plays him, Noel Clarke, either. Anyone who describes themselves as a "shagger" in their Twitter profile is never really going to win my respect. I knew I wouldn't have to look far down his timeline to find something that would make my stomach turn. His answer to the Jimmy Savile affair is positively medieval.

Maybe trying to change the misogynist culture that exists to this day in the media would be more effective. Just a suggestion. 

Caron in London - Kensington Palace

It's been a busy week! On Monday night I went to Edinburgh to interview a real live author for Liberal Democrat Voice. Then late on Tuesday night I headed south to London on the sleeper. It's the first time I've done the sleeper in that direction and I can tell you that leaving from Waverley is a much better experience than leaving from Euston. In London, if you have a standard class ticket, you can only use the horrible, freezing cold, uncomfortable Network Rail lounge with its vending machines. In Edinburgh, you get a lovely lounge with pink armchairs, the telly and free hot drinks. I had a hot chocolate, which was lovely.

I was also lucky enough to have a room to myself on the way down. It's not that I don't like sharing, and, to be honest, with my snoring, it's the person I share with who is most deserving of your sympathy. It's nice to have all the space to yourself, though.

I didn't rush off the sleeper when we arrived at 6:40 am. When I arrive in Edinburgh first thing, I normally just throw on my clothes and head for the train home. In London, I had to make a bit more effort to be presentable. When I was ready, I phoned home and then headed for AMT for a chilli hot chocolate. That's a treat I allow myself when it's cold, and Wednesday in London, at barely above zero, counted as cold.

One good thing about buying a travelcard with your train ticket is that it works on buses and tubes. I decided to take the bus because you see so much more. The meeting didn't start until 1:30 so I decided to head for Kensington Palace. I took a number 10 bus to Hammersmith, passing the house where Millicent Garrett Fawcett lived on the way. I noticed that it was a bit misty, but little did I know that just a few miles away, a helicopter had hit a crane in it. I was warned on Twitter to avoid the area, and shortly afterwards, Bob rang in a panic to make sure I was ok.

It took half an hour or so to get to Kensington Palace. It was such a beautiful morning that I went for a little walk first. I found this atmospheric tree.

Then I went looked at the swans and ducks.

Doesn't look like the middle of a city of 8 million people, does it?

Here are the famous golden gates of the Palace:

Queen Victoria guards the public entrance:

There are 3 exhibitions you can see inside and I had time for two of them. The most important for me was Victoria Revealed Ever since Edward VII was on when I was six, I've found that period of history fascinating. The social and political change that went on during the reign of Victoria interests me greatly. I was particularly keen to see the exhibition in the light of the documentaries about Victoria's relationship with her children which were shown over the New Year. The good thing about KP is that there are very knowledgeable explainers throughout the place. I met one in the room in which Queen Victoria gave birth to her first child. She was quick to speak up for the Queen, emphasising the isolation of her upbringing and how Albert had been quite controlling, separating her from the Baroness Lehzen, her governess who had practically brought her up and bringing her mother, with whom she didn't get on, back into her life.

It certainly must have been pretty scary to take the throne as a girl of 18. The dress she wore to her first Privy Council was on display in the room where it took place. I didn't see a copy of the Telegraph accusing Nick Clegg of snubbing her by not attending. I mean, from their point of view, it must have been a disourtesy not to have been born 130 years earlier.

There was a room dedicated to Victoria and Albert's courtship and early marriage, where the walls were inscribed with excerpts from their letters to and about each other. Victoria's wedding dress was on display, too.

The most fascinating room was the nursery where I'd met the guide. There was a touchscreen exhibition which showed sketches Victoria had done as a child along with cribs, toys and baby clothes. It struck me that the view from the window won't have changed that much in the intervening period,either.

The atmosphere, and decor, changed dramatically in the room where Albert died. The book from which his children read to him was displayed alongside a pretty harrowing account of his last moments written by the Queen herself.

The exhibition ended with film from Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Over the other side of the Palace, it was an earlier Royal Family who were the focus - William and Mary, who had come to take the throne away from the Catholic Stuarts in a bloodless revolution in 1688. The Queen's state apartments were full of modern packing crates as Mary of Modena's bed, where she gave birth to The Old Pretender, was being disassembled for removal to a new exhibition at Hampton Court Palace. The Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber opens in March.

There was a haunting display of the dreams of son of Queen Anne who died when he was 11. He described them to a governess who wrote them down for posterity.

I could have lost myself there all day and I didn't have time to explore the gardens or King's State Apartments so I'll be back.

I was heading for Lib Dem HQ in Westminster, so I decided to get a bus to Trafalgar Square and walk down Whitehall. Except I decided there must be a different route and if I just went down this particular path, I'd get there. Well, I was kind of right, but I didn't expect this spectacular view.

And I'd never seen Horseguards Parade before:

Nor could I hold my phone straight, but it was cold, I suppose.

And, finally, here's a gorgeous view of Buckingham Palace I'd never seen before. I'd seen photos of that view from that spot before but couldn't work out where they were taken.

It was a lovely relaxing morning and perfect preparation for an intense and interesting meeting.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Doctor Who 30 day challenge - Day 16: Favourite actor

Can't believe I'm into the second half of this already. We're on to favourite actor.

Now, I am going to exclude the actors who play the Doctor from these or I could go on all day and, actually, I think we need to honour those other talented people who made the show so special.

I thought Ian MacNeice made a fine Churchill in Victory of the Daleks, so he deserves a mention.

Arthur Darvill, as Rory, has died so many times and so well.

James Corden, father to Stormageddon, was brilliant.

But I'm damned if I'm going to get through this series without honouring the man who played one of the best and most constant characters in Who history, Nicholas Courtney.

His long association with the show, from the Troughton Years to the Sarah Jane Adventures, was fantastic and it was awful to lose both Nick and Lis Sladen within a couple of months of each other in 2011.

I still have fond memories of Battlefield and Sunday mornings spent watching the Pertwee years on UK Gold.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

30 Day Doctor Who challenge - Day 15: Most annoying character

Top of my list for this is Mickey Smith, Rose's selfish, unambitious, control freaky boyfriend. He does grow, admittedly, as the series develops, but he never gets to the point where I can say that he doesn't irritate me. He could cope with Rose going off with Nine but as soon as he realised, in Boom Town, that Captain Jack was in the TARDIS, he felt threatened. So we can add superficiality and shallowness to his qualities.

Speaking of Captain Jack, yes, I love him, and so does everyone else, but even his best friends would consider him annoying at times, wouldn't they? Smugger than smug, fickle, voraciously omnisexual, vain, but very funny, charming and unconventional.

Mel. Screaming. Need I say more?

Secret Courts motion submitted to Scottish Conference

I was flying a bit by the seat of my pants, giving myself just two days to gather signatures for a motion on secret courts to Scottish Conference, especially when most of that time was spent in London at my first proper Federal Executive meeting.

Fortunately, however, feeling on this issue is so strong in the party that it was relatively easy to acquire significantly more than the 25 signatures required - and, even past the deadline, they are still coming in. I submitted the motion this morning and I know it's been received.

What happens now is that the Scottish Conference Committee will decide on Saturday whether to include it in the Preliminary Agenda. Keep your fingers crossed - I'll let you know how that goes.

Thanks to everyone who signed up and helped spread the word.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

30 Day Doctor Who Challenge - Day 14: Character you like but everyone else hates

I guess River Song would have to come into that category. I think now her story is known she's better understood, but even when we didn't know who she was, I liked her. Yes, she was a bit full of herself, and it was annoying that she knew more about the Doctor than we did and wasn't backward about telling us so, but she was clearly clever, brave and loyal. That repeating, haunting "I'm sorry, my love" in the Big Bang shows us that her feelings for the Doctor are 100% genuine.And of course she had already sacrificed herself in the Library.

Ace irritates some - and, certainly, there are moments during Dragonfire when you just want to shake her. However, she too, is a feisty and brave girl, clearly deeply affected by a crap childhood.

The Sixth Doctor also gets a rough ride from many people. Yes, the outfit was god awful, he was loud, egotistical, volatile, but Colin Baker portrayed that character extremely well. He was still, despite all the bluster, at essence our Doctor. I really must get round to listening to some of his Big Finish stuff as apparently the influence of a good companion, Evelyn Smythe, makes him a bit less highly strung.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

30 Day Doctor Who challenge - Day 13: Favourite theme song

Well, the one that's always going to be special is the one you grew up with. This was MY theme.

I wasn't keen when it went all boingy and electronic in the 80s. Mind you, I liked the bit where Sylvester McCoy grinned and the melodic bit in the middle:

I was ok with the Eccleston and Tennant titles, but it was the Matt Smith ones in 2010 that really felt like proper Who.

And what of the new ones? Well, all very good, especially with that snippet of the Doctor's face, except they make me motion sick.

I also liked the first five episodes of series 7 having slightly different titles. I'm going to go with the 2010 Matt Smith original titles.

Will you support motion on secret courts to Scottish Conference?

Nothing like doing things at the last minute to get the adrenaline flowing.

As you may have been aware, I've been fairly vociferously opposed to the Coalition's plans to legislate for secret courts. As Liberty says:

Cabinet Minister Ken Clarke again insisted to Parliamentarians that the legislation was vital – to allow our spies to properly defend themselves and to protect relations with our US allies. These tired arguments would be somewhat more believable if all of this wasn’t coming so soon after a series of shameful events that expose the true motivation behind – and danger of – this Bill. Only last week the UK settled – for just over £2million – a claim brought by prominent Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi. In 2004 he was forced aboard a plane to Libya, in a joint UK-US-Libyan operation, where he and his young family were all imprisoned before al-Saadi was held and tortured for years. Naturally the Government will say it had to fork out because it couldn’t defend itself in open court without compromising state secrets. But this Bill isn’t really designed to prevent unjustified compensation. A case with no merit, or one too saturated with sensitive material, would never proceed under the current system. Either the court would throw it out, or the Government could apply to do so. Tellingly the UK has never opted to strike out any torture or rendition claim; but has instead now settled many of them for breathtakingly high sums. This alone suggests the cases had more than a little merit. Consider that alongside the state collusion in Pat Finucane’s murder, the Hillsborough police cover-up and the silence over the Jimmy Savile child sex allegations and phone-hacking, and it’s clear that the powerful always resist transparency.
I think it would be a good idea for Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference to debate this and propose submitting the following motion by the deadline on Thursday.

Secret Courts
Conference notes:
§  The motion “No Government Above the Law – the Justice and Security Bill” passed overwhelmingly at the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference in September 2012 called for:
§  Part II of the Justice and Security Bill to be withdrawn or defeated by Liberal Democrat parliamentarians; and
§  Public Interest Immunity to be put into legislation;
§  That the amendment calling for “CMPs to be used only as a last resort and in cases that would otherwise be incapable of being tried” was rejected overwhelmingly by the Liberal Democrat Conference;
§  That Liberal Democrat peers formed the majority of those voting in the Lords to remove secret courts from the Justice and Security Bill;
§  That, despite the above, the government’s intention as stated by Ken Clarke in the Commons on 18th December 2012 is to pursue enactment of Part II of the Justice and Security Bill including some, but not all, of the amendments proposed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Conference believes:
§  That the measures in Part II of the Justice and Security Bill will mean the courts system of the United Kingdom will provide neither justice nor security in cases involving allegations against the state of the most serious nature including torture, rendition, negligence of armed forces, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment;
§  That the proposals in the Justice and Security Bill are directly contradictory to the core values and stated purpose of the Liberal Democrat party as enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution, namely to “build and safeguard a fair, free and open society”;
§  That Part II of the Justice and Security Bill should be withdrawn immediately;

Conference calls for:
§  A pledge to repeal Part II of the Justice and Security Act (if so enacted) to be included in the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the next General Election.

 If you are a Scottish party member who would like to support this (and we don't have any of this voting rep business up here), please email me at caronsmusingsATgooglemailDOTcom with your name, local party and address or membership number as soon as possible. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Caron's Corkers Special - a bit of empathy and goodness from the internet

As I said yesterday, I wanted to throw a few posts filled with understanding and empathy in order to counteract the hate and negativity put out there by Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill.

And so, here is a selection of posts from the last few days.

First of all, the word "intersectionality" was being thrown around the place. If, like me, you were wondering what that's all about, Den of the Hyena explains it for us - and tells us why things that are different about us shouldn't divide us:
It is time for people to realise that there need be no conflict between recognition of social minority issues and of class issues, between fighting or social change and upholding liberal values. The belief that such a conflict is necessary has been a gift to the traditionalist right. It is not giving due consideration to intersectionality that divides us – it is getting into petty arguments over it. The way to avoid this is not to shut down minority voices but to listen, learn, and move on. To respect that those voices matter, that they are part of us. To show solidarity.
A brilliant piece from Girl on the net on "Julie Burchill, hatred and a massive crisis in empathy" just asking us to communicate with a bit more understanding and less insult throwing:

Sometimes I’ll say things you disagree with. Sometimes I’ll use words you don’t like. Sometimes (and this may be one of those times) you’ll want to hurl your laptop out of the window in frustration at the way I have callously dismissed or ignored something that’s precious to you.
But I promise you this: I will never deliberately say hateful, horrible things that ignore my privilege and make life harder for you. I will always try to empathise and – if you correct me – I’ll try to clarify what I’m saying, or apologise if I’m wrong. If you tell me about my mistakes I can correct and clarify. If you call me a hateful psycho bitch-whore, I’ll never fucking learn.
I’m just a girl, standing in front of an angry internet, asking you all to be a bit more understanding. That goes for the writers as well as the commenters and all of the people who retweet us and keep us afloat. 

Paris Lees wrote an open letter to Suzanne Moore, as a fan of hers,asking her to understand why so many trans people were angered by her comment. If I were Moore, I'd be mortified:
And you, Suzanne, are a very clever woman. You know about patriarchy, and rape culture, and racism, and capitalism and every other system of oppression, of signs and actions that contribute violence to the unlucky minorities they persecute. I don't think it is difficult for you to understand the frustration trans people feel from living in a culture that relentlessly ridicules them, at every level of society. I know you must feel the injustice of this. And I know you never set out to hurt anyone. It's been another long day for me. Once again I'm reminded of the wallpaper in my mind; that ever-present knowledge that trans people are objects of ridicule in public life, things to be referred to and smirked at, not real, valid living human beings with fears and weaknesses and hopes and dreams and all the other things that you and I and every one else on the planet feels. And I find I don't want to be angry; I don't want you to be just another person making off comments about trans people. I want you to be Suzanne Moore, my hero. You're so much better than the article Julie Burchill wrote in your defence. But I want people to stop ridiculing people like me - and I want today to be the day they stop.

30 Day Doctor Who Challenge - Day 12: Episode that scared you the most

Again this is another easy one. Scaring a bairn is one thing. Scaring a grown adult is quite another. The Vashta Nerada, the shadows that melt the flesh, as seen in The Silence in the Library and The Forest of the Dead.

Creatures that lurk in the shadows, disembodied people continuing to talk after death, all the haunting stuff that went on as you were trying to figure out about Cal, wondering who this bloody awful River woman was and whether she could be trusted. Then she goes and (as we later find out, again) sacrifices herself for the Doctor.

It was proper creepy and one that I have to be feeling very brave to watch.

Lynne Featherstone calls for Julie Burchill to be sacked for post attacking transgender people

As Equalities Minister, Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone put into place the Government's Transgender Action Plan. She will be acutely aware of the issues facing transgender people, particularly in relation to violence and discrimination. Hate crime towards that community has been rising as the Independent reported.

Yesterday, the Observer published a piece by controversial writer Julie Burchill which was peppered with hate filled language. Had the target of Burchill's invective been a particular ethnic group, and she had used similar language, then her piece would have found its way onto the editor's spike and she would most likely have been given her marching orders.

Lynne Featherstone took to Twitter last night to say that Burchill should be sacked for what she described as "a bigoted vomit".

There's no doubt that Lynne is going to take some pain for these comments. Already she has been accused of being illiberal and anti free speech. Surely she has the same right as everyone else to express her view on the matter. She is questioning the decision of a national newspaper to drum up some circulation for itself by allowing one of its columnists to pick on a particular group of people. Standing up to bullies is a very liberal thing to do.


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