Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Lost Boys

One of the reasons I moved to Bensham in Gateshead was that it was a bit old-fashioned, and reminded me growing up in 1970s mid-Wales.

I didn't want to live in soul-less suburbia (Low Fell or Gosforth) nor the chattering class neighbourhood (Jesmond or Heaton). The local atmosphere of the last two also distorted somewhat by an over-concentration of students. But in Bensham people actually know each other, and chat on the street or gossip about local doctors (as a gaggle of old ladies were doing earlier this week at the bus stop). You get to know and chat with your local shop-keepers, as I did this morning with my local green-grocer and my local butcher.

I've launched into this paean of praise because the weather is improving, and it's the time of year when the kids of Bensham come out to play on the street. When I first came to look round here it was this that made Bensham feel different, more like where I grew up in Rhayader, and it struck me that I never saw kids out playing on the street in London or in the year I spent in Heaton.

So this morning I was set upon by two local boys - probably about 5 and 7 years old - hiding (badly) round the corner, lying in wait, and as I came up the bank they lept out and started shoooting with their plastic machine guns. And what did I do - I pretended I had a pump-action shot-gun and pretended to shot them in the face (with sound effects). More than once.

What are we teaching our children?!?


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Today's World at One

Typical caveat-ridden academic quote on the World at One today - 'it is more or less certain that it's probably the case...' Made me roll my eyes anyway.

He was talking about the Iranian hostages, and incidentally i don't really get how just giving coordinates where the soldiers were captured will increase pressure on Iran. They know where it was (they were there after all) and in any case I would have thought this was the absolute minimum you could do when another country has kidnapped your military personnel. Hardly ratcheting up pressure.


Thursday, March 22, 2007



The next Leader of the Free World (?!?)

There are rumours going round that John Edwards is going to pull out of the presidency campaign, possibly due to his wife's ill-health (she was very ill a few years ago but was thought to have recovered fully).

If so, who will that benefit? I reckon Barak Obama - Edwards' support would have been amongst those who were worried that an Ivy League North East female would fail to win support across the whole country. Also, as the front-runner Hilary would have benefited from a divided opposition - the more support coalesces around Obama the less impressive her lead begins to look. Even if Edwards supports Clinton (we'll see) I reckon it isn't particularly good news for her.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I told you so (well, no, not really)

Buggering hell - I knew Brown was going to cut taxes today. I told a friend that he was going to cut both income tax and corporation tax, and now he has - what easier step is there to shore up his new Labour credentials. Sadly I've been faffing around too much to write something on the blog, so now I have lost a golden opportunity to feel smug and self-important.

I have to say though, that it wasn't the most fluid delivery and he seemed to lose his place and trip over his words more than normal. Still much better than Cameron who was awfully vague and meandering.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Heaven's Waiting Room (although some of them are headed in the other direction)

So the House of Commons has backed a fully elected House of Lords. About bloody time too - and fair dos, kudos to Jack Straw for getting this through the chamber with some momentum behind it - something the late Robin Cook didn't manage.

I'm torn between whether to be optimistic about this or not. I support a fully elected chamber, so my ears picked up last night when I saw on the ten o'clock news headlines that MPs had backed 100% elected. Some of the gloss was taken off when i heard that some MPs voted for 100% to muddy the majority in favour of a 80% elected house: a childish tactic that does muddy the waters. However, there are other more significant hurdles, particularly the fact the Lords will support 100% appointed and the fact that there is no agreement over the electoral system to be used.

On balance I think I'm positive about reform, as the Commons has given a clear message that it wants 80% to be elected, and a result like that was necessary for reform to keep going forward. But it's a long road ahead and many things can go wrong, so I'll believe it when it happens.

Also, I had a quick look at Hansard to see how people voted. It's actually quite hard to work out people's motivations. Just as an example, if an MP backed 100% elected but not 80% elected was that because s/he was against any appointed members? Or is it down to playing parliamentary tactics? Or is it that they don't like hybrid chambers with appointed and elected members (as it involves two-tier membership)? Quite a few MPs did this, including my MP David Clelland. Deputy Leader candidate Hazel Blears did this as well, I think I'll email her to see what she says as her answer might affect my vote.

Incidentally, Tom Watson makes fun of Hazel Blears selling branded wall clocks on her website. Don't all rush at once...


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pride before a fall...

Wow. Bono's Red campaign turns out to be a huge disappointment.