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Brown one year on

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Gordon Brown

Letter from a “friend”.

Gordon Brown will have been Prime Minister for a full year next Friday, and under his leadership the Labour Party has seen it’s position in the polls plummet from an eleven point lead to a twenty two point deficit, with all indicators, economic and political, pointing towards a crushing general election defeat. I wonder how “the Broons” will be celebrating the anniversary?

One of the Prime Minister’s firmest supporters Jonathan Freedland was writing in The Guardian’s Comment is Free yesterday summarising the past twelve months, and coming to the conclusion that “we got Gordon wrong, he is simply not up to the job”. He laments Gordon Brown’s weaknesses and exposes the truth within the higher echelons of the party that the man is simply a very poor communicator with little empathy for the electorate.

A settled view, among the electorate as well as the commentariat has formed, one that will take an earthquake to shake. I can see its distortions and exaggerations and yet, no matter how much I would like to, I cannot depart from the substance of it. I find myself in sympathy with those who admired Brown through his 10 long years as chancellor and who keenly awaited his premiership, and yet now conclude that they got Brown wrong – that, on the current evidence, he is simply not up to the job.

At its most basic, he seems to lack the skills of a man who would lead a 21st-century nation. “He came in like an Oxford don, with a study full of files and papers on the floor,” laments one minister, who now regrets listening to the Brownites who persuaded him to back their man a year ago. “He’s a dinosaur,” the minister adds, lamenting Brown’s failure to delegate, his dithering, his days that start – or end – at 4am.

The most obvious skill gap is in communication – He does not seem able to deliver three or four plain, human sentences that anyone could understand. The result is an empathy gap: he does not seem able to show any to the electorate and so they don’t feel any for him.

Still, it wasn’t the eventual failure to call an election that did the damage. It was Brown’s presentation of it, the rictus smile as he insisted that the tightening opinion polls had nothing to do with his decision. Reporters told him to come off it, snorting their derision. It was like watching a teacher lose the discipline of his class – once gone, it can never be recovered. Brown could have survived ducking the election; his mistake was to be dishonest about it.

Even the prime minister’s closest allies say what has happened these past 12 months is “tragic”. It would take a Shakespeare to do justice to a story that combines the jealousy of Othello, the ambition of Macbeth and the indecision of Hamlet. Labour’s task is not simply to watch this saga play out to its bitter end, but to act – and to help this desperately flawed hero change his destiny.

Yet it is so difficult to see his flawed character being changed, he is now driven and buffeted by circumstances mainly of his own making during the time spent at the Treasury. He is plainly a man with insecurities who finds it difficult to delegate, and in the digital age of the internet his ability to appear warm, human, empathetic, and communicative is a major drawback in any attempt to get his message across.

With the Governor of the Bank of England telling his Chancellor that we face the most difficult economic challenges for the past two decades, and key economic indicators nearly all showing a poor long term record over the period of Labour’s stewardship, Brown will be aware that his anniversary party will not be the happiest of events.

Any further “letters of support” from his friends will surely cement his position as one of the most lamentable British Prime Ministers of the post war period!

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Written by curly

June 19, 2008 at 10:39 am

He’s behind you!

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David Miliband, Klingon

Capt. Jean Luc Picard to give South Shields lecture

South Shields MP and Foreign Secretary David Miliband has invited the actor, and lifelong Labour supporter Patrick Stewart to deliver the annual South Shields pantomime lecture in November, I can hear them shouting “he’s behind you” already!

Should we prepare a landing spot at the Mill Dam to enable them both to be beamed down, and have it heavily policed to avoid an attack by Klingons (or Trekkies)?

Does Miliband approach the Prime Minister at the Cabinet table and say “beam me up Scotty”?

Honestly I’m trying to take this seriously.

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Written by curly

June 16, 2008 at 9:53 am

Davis to fight for liberty!

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David Davis MPShadow Home Secretary resigns from Commons

I am shocked, stunned, surprised, and full of admiration for David Davis and his “bombshell” decision to resign his Commons seat and his position within the Shadow Cabinet. He intends to force a by-election in his Haltemprice and Howden constituency and it fight it purely on libertarian issues and attack the “slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government.”

His stance mirrors many of the issues highlighted in this blog such as the surveillance society, the database state, civil liberties, the 42 day detention issue, CCTV cameras and official snooping on citizens, and the over intrusive nature of the state in daily lives.

Three cheers to Mr. Davis, and to Nick Clegg for his decision not to field a Lib-Dem candidate in the by-election, he is fighting on issues that are common ground between the two parties anyway.

I think Jacqui Smith ought to follow suit and resign her seat too and test her beliefs with the electorate, do you?

It’s a far more important issue than Cllr. McAtominey’s drink drive charge.


The guys at Labour Home are in absolute knots over how to deal with this by-election.


New Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve has announced that the Conservatives will repeal the 42 day clause. David Davis has had some affect already!

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Written by curly

June 12, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Brown sells off liberty!

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Legacy of Magna Carta sold like a cheap commodity in Exchange and Mart

I am virtually incandescent with rage at the Prime Minister and the Democratic Unionists from Ulster this morning, the right to know why you are being locked up was enshrined in the Magna Carta and it looks as though it was traded like a cheap commodity in Exchange and Mart last night. Lib- Dem Leader Nick Clegg described the deal with the nine Ulster Unionist MPs as “pork barrel politics”.

Between them Gordon Brown and the DUP have brought shame on the House of Commons, trading hundreds of years of British liberty away in order to reinforce the authority of a man not fit to hold the office of Prime Minister and unable to command the wholehearted support of his own party. Without the support of nine MPs from Ulster his plans to summarily lock away people without charge for up to 42 days would have been wrecked along with his nosediving reputation. I fear for the people of South Shields, the UK, and our Muslim communities if this measure is forced through Parliament at the third reading, there can be no doubt that the fight to retain our liberties will go on, the House of Lords will maul the measure and force a battle with the government which could result in the use of the Parliament Act to force the measure through.

Last night’s decision was an utter travesty, some in the Labour Party didn’t want it, the Conservative Party didn’t want it, the Liberal Democrats didn’t want it, the SNP didn’t want it, Plaid Cymru didn’t want it. Only the foolhardy, including Tory rebel Ann Widdicombe and UKIP MP Bob Spink, along with nine grubby DUP members were prepared to support Brown’s hideous clause that would would put Magna Carta on a spike for ever!

One hopes and prays that if the odious retreat in the face of Al Qaeda threats is forced upon us, that the incoming Conservative government will repeal the measure within days of their arrival.

The biggest winner last night was not the people of Ulster, or the people of the UK, or the police, or the government – it was Osama Bin Laden!

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Written by curly

June 12, 2008 at 10:20 am

Defty divorces Alliance

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Cllr. Tom DeftyPredictions coming true

The news that South Tyneside councillor Tom Defty has left the Independent Alliance on our council comes as no surprise to me, I was predicting way back in February 2006 that solicitors would be preparing divorce papers, and there have been a few since then!

Tom Defty however makes a pertinent and serious point about the way that the Independent Alliance is now operating in the same manner as many other political parties. He reflects the views that I expressed in March of this year, and I think it’s time now that the main opposition group on South Tyneside Council legitimised their presence by registering themselves with the Electoral Commission, in exactly the same way as the smaller Progressive Association has done.

I think, now that they have grown in numbers (a little) we deserve to be offered full transparency about their assets, fund raising, expenditure, and accounts. They clearly print literature to a common standard (as political parties do), they clearly select candidates to a common purpose and standard (as political parties do), they clearly have some form of discipline within the council chamber (as political parties do), they have officers and a secretary (as political parties do) – in all respects they behave and look like a political party.

In the Shields Gazette article Cllr Jane Branley, the Leader of the Alliance said;

“Everyone’s got to find an excuse to leave a political party, and it seems that Coun Defty has found his.”

So there you are, he left a political party!

Would you agree It’s high time they owned up to the Electoral Commission?


Rossinisbird calls on the Alliance to “do the right thing“.

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Written by curly

June 11, 2008 at 7:55 pm

Tory EU sleaze

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Is this an inside job?

Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t see the stories about Conservative MEPs and their expenses being created by hordes of investigative journalists, neither does there seem much evidence that it’s an exercise created by NuLabour spin doctors (surely there are Labour MEPs with similar problems), Guido has pressed the Spellman and Dover angles but I’m not sure that he is the originator of the stories either (besides Conservative Central HQ has cut him and Tim Montgomerie off the mailing list for press releases – but that was after the stories broke).

No, I think this is an inside job.

I think that David Cameron and William Hague are planning a cull of Conservative MEPs who don’t happen to be sufficiently “Eurosceptic” and who can easily be replaced in time for the next election – besides there could be a huge political premium to be gained by appearing to sweep away those enjoying the largesse of Brussels all at our expense.

With more skeletons in the cupboard, – once it is emptied, it will be easy and fair game, for Cameron to have a right good go at the other parties for failing to be “proactive”.

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Written by curly

June 11, 2008 at 11:13 am

Hours to save liberty

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Labour MPs must decide what is more important, Gordon Brown or our liberty?

Prime Minister Gordon Brown faces a major test today as MPs take the first vote on his plans to increase detention without charge to 42 days, the latest “compromise” suggests paying innocent victims £3000 per day for being held without charge. It’s nothing short of bribery to bolster Brown’s position. I suspect that the vast majority of South Shields people support the government’s position and believe the guff about The War Against Terror (TWAT), but this issue goes far deeper than that and threatens traditional values and liberties that are enshrined as far back as the Magna Carta.

Some of us are finding it very difficult to believe that we are in a “war footing” that requires extreme measures restricting our freedoms and liberties, we see little difference between the current terrorist threat and that posed by the Provisional IRA in the 1970s, yet those problems were solved without resorting to such draconian Acts of Parliament in mainland Britain. So many experts in the role of prosecuting terrorist suspects have already voiced their opinions that the 42 day detention is not necessary to help them do their work, and that the measure will be seen to be aimed primarily at the followers of one religion in the UK. This will cause alienation and help to drive more younger men of the Muslim faith into the arms of the more extreme fundamentalist teachers. This is not what we need, we need to engage them more, we need to see more and more communities such as ours in South Shields, where religious and racial divides are not seen as barriers to community cohesiveness, developing throughout the rest of the UK.

I’m not one who regularly scours through the pages of The Guardian, but I see that Sir Michael White has joined the calls to respect habeas corpus introduced at Magna Carter by King John, and he warns Gordon Brown that doing the right thing may not be right;

Like the 10p tax row or the price of petrol, memories of faulty police or intelligence data are part of Brown’s accumulated legacy, which makes it harder for him to win. Even if he carries tonight’s vote, the Lords or courts may overturn him.

With polls now predicting he cannot win in 2010, some tell him: “Just do what you think is right.” If 42 days is an example, it’s not working yet.

On the letters page two caught my eye, one from Helen Kennedy, a criminal barrister wrongly painted as supporting Brown who writes;

It is with enormous sorrow that I must urge friends in the House of Commons to vote against the government’s proposal for 42-day pre-charge detention today. As a criminal barrister with many years’ experience of terror trials, I have no doubt that the provisions – even with the hopeless purported last-minute “concessions” – are wrong in principle, unnecessary and counter productive to the community cohesion that yields vital intelligence in these cases…..

The essential “safeguard” in a civilised legal system is that you are promptly informed of the accusation against you. As a long-standing member of the Labour party, I am also very worried about the political folly of this divisive policy. I had long hoped that my party could begin to win back the many members and voters alienated by the war on terror and war in Iraq. Voting against 42 days would be a good way to start.

The second from Professor Conor Gearty gets straight to the heart of the matter;

It is the usual practice of Labour MPs and cabinet ministers to recover their civil libertarian consciences once they have entered opposition. Let no Labour member who votes for 42-day detention seek in future to persuade us that they have refound their principles in this way. If they should try to do so, let them be laughed off all such platforms. The time for the courage of their convictions is now, not in a couple of years or so when some hard-right Tory home secretary is further eviscerating our freedom on exactly the same basis (an unknowable future) that the government relies on today.

That’s right, this measure creates the conditions for any future government of any colour to introduce far more drastic and totalitarian measures which could destroy centuries of British fair play before the Law. Isn’t this exactly what the terrorists would want? Their aims have always been to cow us into moral submission.

Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith appear so desperate to push these changes through that they have offered a plethora of wooly compromises to buy off their backbenchers, they have even gone so far as “sexing up” the case for 42 days as Shami Chakrabarti discloses today (and if ever anyone deserved a huge honour, medal, or some form of gratitude for fighting for our freedoms, this woman deserves the greatest possible for her fight against this measure.)

It is so easy for so many people to think that this is a straight forward fight against terrorist activity, but this is to ignore the far more important issues surrounding fairness, real justice, personal liberties and the responsibilities of the state and the control of it’s exercise of power. Every citizen should retain the right to know what they are accused of in order to prepare a right and proper defence. No other western European nation is proposing to take the draconian powers that Brown’s government is proposing and I appeal to all Parliamentarians who read this blog to heed their conscience and put aside the Prime Minister’s difficulties in deference to the freedoms and liberties that we have accumulated over centuries of British history.

I do not expect South Shields MP and Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who has been recalled from an oversees visit to attend tonight’s vote, to rebel against Brown (his track record shows that he has blind faith and has never voted against the government) but the borough’s other MP Stephen Hepburn is not shackled by the conventions of collective cabinet responsibility. If Hepburn had the will he could join others and strike a blow for freedom, but I suspect party loyalty will be far more important to him than realising how swiftly a 42 day detention will become the recruiting sergeant for terrorists.

Mr. Hepburn, there only a few hours left to save centuries of liberty!

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Written by curly

June 11, 2008 at 10:49 am

Miliband on Question Time

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David MilibandWith Labour’s stock falling pundits agree it was a poor performance.

I missed last week’s edition of Question Time on the BBC as we prepared for a long weekend away, but seeing that the stock in Gordon Brown and the Labour Party has fallen to new record lows, one might have thought that the programme offered the South Shields MP and Foreign Secretary a golden opportunity to shine and show his credentials as a potential leader.

However, as the following two video clips show, he suffered terribly at the hands of Daily Mail journalist Peter Hitchens, first by not being aware (along with the hapless Douglas Hurd) that the British government had bestowed a knighthood on the heinous Sir Robert Mugabe, nor being willing to commit to stripping the said knighthood from the African dictator. And secondly coming under a coruscating attack over the government’s determination to press ahead with the destruction of hundreds of years worth of hard fought and earned liberties in the UK with it’s plans to increase detention without charge to 42 days.

Justin at Chicken Yoghurt opined;

You read and listen to the political gossips touting Miliband as a future Labour leader and Prime Minister and you realise: Yes! It’s perfectly apparent that literally anybody could become Prime Minister.

Just what qualities mark Miliband as a leader, I’m not sure. Maybe he’s saving them for a rainy day, or at least for when it rains harder than it is right now. What does mark him as special though is his example. You watch him and it gives hope for us all. Who couldn’t be that feckless and inarticulate and evasive and mealy-mouthed and weaselly?

Biased BBC said Miliband was ill informed, The Telegraph question wether his officials at the Foreign Office were in denial about his appeal to voters, and The Spectator reckons he should check his facts and going on;

Last night was a stunning lack of form, on some fairly basic issues.

One hopes that his planned tour of the UK goes a bit better!

Here is the video clip relating to the Mugabe issue

[YouTube =]

and this video shows the biggest Hitchens’ attack on Miliband.

[YouTube =]

How do think Miliband performed? Does he look like a potential alternative to Gordon Brown?

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Written by curly

June 10, 2008 at 11:38 am

Good news day

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Sandhaven Beach, South ShieldsBlue Flag for Sandhaven Beach

Click thumbnail to enlarge

Good news on two fronts for the people of South Shields today, first our beaches have been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag once again for their cleanliness, water quality, and overall facilities. This is big plus as we seek visitors and tourists over the summer months looking for a safe place to bring their children.

Tracey Dixon, South Tyneside Council lead member for culture, said:

“It’s fantastic to see the Blue Flag flying at Sandhaven beach. We all know it’s a great place to be and I’m delighted that our efforts have been officially recognised once again.”

Secondly the Audit Commission has made it’s official announcement that it is awarding a two star status to South Tyneside Homes which will enable the ALMO to reap total investments of over £252m over the next five years. Whilst the organisation still has it’s detractors the new leadership under chairman Peter Davidson * and new chief executive Isobel Riley must be congratulated on the achievement and encouraged to press ahead with the programme to bring our social housing up to the Decent Homes Standard.

Acknowledging that I have been critical in the past, I hope that my observations have been constructive and objective rather than destructive and I now hope to see a much more responsive organisation meeting the needs of it’s clients in a new climate of change that will offer many benefits. I’m happy to offer congratulations and give credit where it’s due.

* Is this the same Peter Davidson who was a Progressive councillor many years ago?

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Written by curly

June 5, 2008 at 9:54 am

Miliband’s contrasts

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Like a two headed coin

Kevin Maguire tries to write warmly of South Shields MP and Foreign Secretary David Miliband today, but then goes and gives the game away by suggesting that he needs to meet 40m people personally to have any chance of being liked. I know where you are coming from Kevin (and we know you’ve shared a pint or two with the “Miliblogger”) as soon as you put a camera and a microphone in front of him the geek takes over and he talks all ‘policy wonk’. Seriously, he’s like a coin with two heads.

At a grassroots personal level he really is an easy bloke to get along with, but at policy level he’s way over everyone’s head! Letters from a Tory isn’t too impressed either after the burning down of a Danish Embassy, presumably as a result of those cartoons, and the killing of Tibetans by the Chinese, he just about calls for Miliband’s head on a plate.

MaCavaty? Surely not!

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Written by curly

June 4, 2008 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Miliband, politics

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