Monday, November 26, 2007

Liberal In "BBC Liberal Bias" Shock

Okay, the title may be pushing it a bit (on both counts!) but I would like to register my protest at one piece of shameless BBC disparagement from today.

Not that I have any objection to the story itself; indeed, I quite agree with the members of Belford Piegeon Racing Club that they should be eligible for relief from rates on their premises as other sports are. What I object to is the sidebar listing a variety of activities that are eligible for the rate relief because they are registered with UK Sport.

It would be bad enough if that list only contained a bunch of merely non-sports, things requring the athletic ability of an arthritic ant. But it manages to not only lay into honourable British Isles sports such as shinty and hurling, it takes a pop at Korfball.

For those who have not encountered Korfball, it is an eight-a-side game reminiscent of Netball, but with significantly greater skill and physical requirements. It is also the world's only mixed team sport. It may not be especially common in Britain, but there's a thriving club and international scene and it just so happens to be my participation sport of choice.

So next time, Mr BBC, don't try and suggest that anyone who participates in any sporting activity with vigour and commitment is less worthy than any other; the only person it embarrasses is you.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Shuffling The Deckchairs On The S.S. Conservative

I’ve said before that as a blogger I actively strive not to be topical. Of course, there will always be things that you do want to comment on immediately, but I generally find that the hecticness (or in my case, the strange form of anti-hecticness I cultivate) of life will intervenes if you want it to.

Nevertheless I’m quite glad that the appearance of Liberal Conspiracy has brought the future of the left into the blogosphere. It’s a subject that had been playing on my mind in any case, inspired by Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank’s appearance on News 24’s Straight Talk. But through it all, I found myself asking one simple question;

Why on Earth would a lefty be most concerned about the realignment of the left?

As I’ve said before with reference to grammar schools, most questions can be considered from exactly the opposite directions. For all the stress on the left about the disunity of the left through the twentieth century, is it not more remarkable that the right stayed united during that period? That there was no response to the Conservative acceptance of the Attlee settlement in the 1950’s? That Thatcherism did not cause a more fundamental rift with the One Nationers in the 1980’s? That neither Goldsmith nor Farage have persuaded the Eurosceptics to jump ship in the Major/Hague/Duncan Smith/Howard/Cameron era?

In reality, few ideas have been more persistent in British politics than that of the Conservative Party as a natural home for people who can plug away diligently if boringly and eventually get made MPs when they reach a certain weight; a quick glance at the Tory back-benches during PMQ’s provides all the evidence one could need of the mass of mediocrity that approach has proudly produced for many years.

What both the liberals and, particularly, the “socialists” must now recognise is that we cannot wait around in the hope that the Tories will go ballistic and have a Lloyd George/Asquith style split. We have already had the Cuban Missile Crisis in that respect and, when given his moment of destiny, Michael Heseltine spectacularly failed to deliver the knockout blow to Thatcher over Westland.

So our answer to Liberal Conspiracy is a simple one; if you really want to realign British politics for the better, you are going to have to come over here and start listening on PR. We are different from you and we are different from them and you aren’t going to get anywhere until you stop fighting it and start embracing it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Manifest(o) Lack Of Surprise

I suppose that by this stage I shouldn't be surprised by Labour ditching a manifesto commitment. Even so, you have to tip your hat to a party with the gumption to abandon something after a trial in which a third of residents used the service with 90% user satisfaction...

Nevertheless, as trailed by Peter Black and Martin Tod earlier, the Home Office are abandoning the rollout of the 101 service and withdrawing funding from the trial areas (Cardiff, East Leicestershire and Rutland, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, Sheffield) in March.

Here in Cardiff the Liberal Democrats have been fighting for continued funding for the service for a while now, and you can support those campaigns through our Facebook group and our petition. I would urge everyone to show their support for a service that is making a real difference to the communities already trialling it and could work wonders across the country.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I Don't Fear Real Terrorists, Just Smart Ones

With its finger ever on the pulse of European news, the BBC Ten tonight reported the arrest in September(!) of a German convert to Islam on terror charges. But this was no ordinary arrest in the psyche of the War On Terror, because Fritz Gelowicz was the quarterback for the Ulm Barracudas. Between the home-grown element and the embracing of that quintessentially American sport, everyone appears to be thoroughly shocked.

I wish I was.

As a student with some peripheral involvement in student politics, I knew many people who spent their weekends trotting off to Fairford, Faslane or Fylingdales to chain themselves to a man in a plastic whale costume. This struck me as an awful lot of effort to get onto an American base, because I had a way into one anyway.

The Menwith Hill Patriots are one of the most successful baseball teams in Britain, which is perhaps unsurprising given that they are made up of American servicemen at the listening station there and thus might be considered to have an advantage. More importantly, their home field is ever so slightly at RAF Menwith Hill itself;

So I'm not in the least shocked that Islamist militants might be trying to get into American sports. If anything, I'm surprised it's taken them so long...