...a blog by Richard Flowers

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Day 2462: Mysteries of Doctor Who #12: Who sends the Doctor after the Key to Time.


One of Dr Who's MOST FAMOUSEST adventures is Mr Dr Tom's year-long QUEST to find the six pieces of the Key to Time. For this reason Doctor Who's sixteen season is often called "The Key to Time". Obviously.

This series has just come out new on DVD, for the first time (in Region Two anyway), in a spanking limited edition box set – and they are selling out FAST. My Daddies already have five! If they can find a sixth then the KEY TO TIME WILL BE OUUUUUURRRRRSSSSSS!!!!!!

That's what Daddy says, anyway.

The story begins when Dr Who's TARDIS is stopped in mind flight, apparently by the WHITE GUARDIAN, a personage of some importance who might just possibly be god. I say "apparently" because there's a bit of a question about this which I shall come to in a moment. Mr the Guardian asks Dr Who if he has heard of the Key to Time – which Dr Who HAS. The Guardian claims that the Key is needed because every now and again the universe needs to be stopped just for a short while so that the forces within it do not become unstable. There's a bit of a question about THAT too. He then proceeds to send Dr Who off to find the various bits (which like the TARDIS are disguised as other things), giving him a magic wand (the locator) and beautiful assistant (Ms Romana, before she got married to Mr Professor Richard). All in all, Mr the White Guardian is QUITE the CONJUROR.

Now the real question is who or what the White Guardian actually is because at the end of the quest the Black Hat turns up and he is OPPOSITE and more importantly EQUAL to the White – so even though he LOOKS a lot like god – kindly old man, white beard – he is certainly NOT the god that gets talked up in Sunday school.

Of course, he also looks a lot like the MAN from DEL MONTE, and anyway, "The Keeper of Traken" shows us another kindly old man who can take over the TARDIS in flight, and only has Tim-from-the-Goodies' chair and some swanky technology to rely on! So it's quite possible that the Guardian isn't ANY kind of higher order of being at all, just this bloke.

In which case, just who do these Guardians think they are?

Who died and put them in charge? Are they eternal, or do they get to retire and be replaced? Can you get to BECOME a Guardian? Is there an entrance exam? Or a test… like some form of QUEST, perhaps? Are there, in fact, only two of them…

DWM once introduced us to the Beige Guardian, but mainly in jest, while in books like (I'm sorry but it was dreadful) "The Quantum Archangel" it was suggested that there were SIX Guardians: black, white, gold, lavender, puce and stripy (NOT my horse). Or something like that. And that's just one of the LESSER reasons for not including "The Quantum Archangel" in the CANON!

…or only one? And what are they supposed to be GUARDING anyway?

You might think that they are the Guardians OF the Key. Since (if you are in "Mad Larry Mode") Time is something that was BUILT by the Time Lords, then the Key is probably some sort of remote control for the operating system they wired into the Universe. That would probably make the Guardians a couple of Rassilon's chums, appointed to keep an eye on things. The answer to what do they Guard is the Key itself – and that's not out of character: both "The Invasion of Time" and "The Five Doctors" give us a Rassilon who's a wee bit TRICKSY and not inclined to trust anyone with absolute power. On the other fluffy foot, why the Omega would Rassilon set up his security men as White and Black with opposing missions of Chaos and Order? Unless they've gone a bit STRANGE in the intervening Millenniums. And even so why does only Mr White have a handy segment locator?

Or does the Universe come pre-formatted with a pair of squabbling archetypes with optional avian headwear? And if so why can't they fetch their OWN Key?

Mind you this whole MISSION looks decidedly IFFY when you think about it. In the first place if the Key has been split into parts to stop anyone getting their UNWORTHY fluffy feet on it, how come the White Guardian has got a handy points-to-the-prize wand for finding it again? And given that he and the Black Guardian are supposed to exist by OPPOSING each other, why does he want to use the Key to restore the balance rather than to WIN outright? The Black Guardian certainly wants to win.

Then again, how exactly can the Universe be "approaching a time" when it might fly to bits? Dr Who has been all over time in his TARDIS and surely he'd have spotted the universe going pop somewhere in the middle as he went past! How can there be a time limit to finding the segments of the Key – surely that only depends on how early you choose to arrive in the TARDIS. For that matter, how can the locator take the TARDIS to different times – surely all six segments must exist simultaneously somewhere in the Universe in ANY given time zone!

Actually, that is another interesting aside – why don't all the stories take place in the same time zone?

It would make more sense if they did – and that would resolve the problem of the Universe "approaching" this crisis time, if they Key only becomes accessible shortly before each crisis for which it is needed. So COULD they be at about the same time?

Well, the first story is "The Boris Operation" (outsized conman with extravagant personality and dishevelled appearance tries to convince the Nasty Party of the Greater Cyrinnic Empire to buy his scheme and it ends badly for both of them, former left impecuniate and latter in tatters… could never happen). Although it takes place on a medieval pre-astronomy world, the world is being visited by people from said Interstellar Empire. One of the visitors, Mr Garron, though comes from Earth. That would suggest a future, or far future setting. However, Mr Garron talks about selling Sydney Harbour to an Arab who came after him with a machine gun, all of which sounds very CONTEMPORARY. So, it MIGHT just be possible to suggest that Mr Garron IS from late twentieth century Earth but – in best Douglas Adams fashion – has hitched a lift off-planet.

Story two is "The Parrot Planet" although it has disappointingly few parrots on it [A: parrots or pirates, it's only one. But you REALLY notice the one!]. We can't REALLY tell the time zone, although the Earth is THREATENED with being the next planet to get pirated, we don't go there and don't find out the Earth year. Everyone LOOKS very human, but that's just typical of this Universe so we can't for certain say that they are descendents of Earth either. In other words, we COULD again claim that this is set in the late twentieth century.

The third story is the EASIEST to set, because "The Staines of Blood" REALLY definitely IS set on Earth in what was then the present day.

Fourth in the season is "The Andrews of Tara". The planet Tara looks splendidly Ruritanian, with its European-esque nobility and robotic serfs. It is usually assumed to be a degenerate "lost colony" of Earth's from some time in the future – and because Dr Who happens to remark at one point "I've just travelled four hundred years (and twelve parsecs) to get here" it's assumed that he means "from 'The Staines of Blood'" and so this must be in the future. But Dr Who talks a lot of GUFF sometimes, and aside from one of his throwaway remarks is there anything that say that this MUST be an old Earth colony? No. With no DEFINITE connection to Earth, it's not too much of a fudge to say that this COULD take place at the time of the late twentieth century too.

And just skipping to the end, the same is true for the final part of the quest, "The Armagedding Out of Here Factor". This takes place on twin planets Atrios and Zeos that could be anywhere in the Universe. So they might as well be anywhere in the Universe circa 1978.

But it all falls to pieces with "The Power of Kroll" – and how many times do you hear THAT said? (No, no silly title, either; this one is silly enough on its own)

"Kroll" is set on a moon of Delta Magna with colonists and swampies and the mother of all calamari. But, and here's the clincher, the swampies are being provided with support and – allegedly, though in fact not – guns from a group called the "Sons of Earth". So the colonists are definitely from Earth and this is definitely the future, Earth Empire period at the very least.

So it's all nonsense and "The Andrews of Tara" probably IS a lost colony in the future and "The Boris Operation" could be anytime from now till Doomsday. (No, NOT the one in Torchwood Tower, 'cos THAT's in June 2007. Or 2010. Probably.)

Thus, the Key is scattered through Time and yet somehow a time of crisis is approaching. On the whole this suggests that Time behaves in, to say the least, a very peculiar way. It implies that, in a sense there, is an ABSOLUTE clock for the Universe, and that's the one that is ticking. The time that we experience in our own time zones is in some way flexible and permeable, but absolute time, Guardian Time, is solid and unbreakable. The logical inference is that this must be the fabled "Gallifreyan Mean Time" that keeps Time Lords from meeting in the wrong order. It's a timeline that exists outside the Universe's time and means that what we know as "history" can be changed from moment to moment from the Time Lords' point of view. Though they would rather it didn't.

Or, ALTERNATIVELY, the "mission" is a load of baloney and Mr White is a BIG FAT FIBSTER.

In other words, he's NOT Mr White AT ALL, but in fact Mr Black in DISGUISE.

This is a very POPULAR theory. When Mr Black turns up at the end of the sixth adventure, he twiddles the knobs on his telly and turns from Inverse Video into Valentine Dyall doing a not-too-convincing Looky-Likey of Mr White. So, goes the theory, what if it was him doing that (more convincingly) at the START of the story too.

This would in fact FIT and explain several inconsistencies. If Mr Black has only recently got his hands on the locator and finds that he needs a PATSY to go use it for him, then the Doctor would present himself as a very useful catspaw. Since Dr Who is – unknowst to him – already ON Mr Black's payroll, that would explain why Mr Black never uses his own (equal and opposite) TARDIS-stopping powers to simply put his rival out of the race. And if it was Mr Black all along, then the mission was a fraud and it doesn't matter that Dr Who scatters the Key segments again apparently before Mr White gets a chance to do his emergency spring clean and oil-change for the Universe.

(The alternative theories have it that EITHER the White Guardian is busily tidying up for the few minutes while Dr Who is having his cosy tête-à-tête with Mr Black, OR the Universe DOESN'T get fixed which is why "Logopolis" happens!)

Well, here's a completely different suggestion – do the Guardians even exist AT ALL? Let's put aside the duck-wearing, schoolboy-assassin-hiring giggle-maniac of season twenty, and his pasty opponent too, and reassemble the facts in a DIFFERENT picture.

At the start of the story NO ONE is present for Dr Who's meeting with the White Guardian apart from Dr Who himself.

At the end of the story, the Black Guardian appears ONLY on the TARDIS screen – a screen that we know is connected to the TARDIS's telepathic circuits, and ever since Mr Pat was Dr Who we've known that he can put stories and images up on the screen from his own mind.

The villainous "Shadow" in story six, is the ONLY other person to talk to the Black Guardian (at least until Turlough gets bopped on the noggin in 1983). But the "shadow" is famously a JUNGIAN ARCHETYPE: it is your own darker self, a shadowy reflection that mirrors your actions.

Is it possible that NONE OF THESE PEOPLE ARE REAL?

i.e. that the Guardians and their shadowy agent, ONLY EXIST IN THE DOCTOR'S HEAD!

Yes, yes the Shadow gets to move around and bully people – usually Ms Lalla Ward, which is telling – and go nyah ha ha ha haaaaa a lot like the great big ham he is… but we HAVE seen Time Lords create mental projections of themselves before (and indeed since) in stories from "Planet of the Spiders" to "Logopolis" to (arguably) "The Trial of a Time Lord".

Look at the KEY exchange between Mr White and Dr Who at the beginning of "The Boris Operation":

Dr Who: and what will happen to me if I don't volunteer?

Mr White: Nothing

Dr Who: What? Nothing will happen to me?

Mr White: Nothing at all. Ever.

One of Dr Who's two biggest fears – aside from Daleks, Cybermen and Yartek Leader of the Alien Voord with a big stick – is being BORED. So, on the one fluffy foot, this is a VERY EFFECTIVE threat from "nice" Mr White. But on the OTHER fluffy foot, PSYCHOLOGICALLY speaking, this could be Dr Who telling himself he won't have any more exciting adventures if he DOESN'T go on this quest he's subconsciously dreamed up

(His OTHER big fear is of turning BAD, as ultimately expressed in Mr the VALEYARD. This division into – boredom and badness – is another of the DUALITIES that litter the whole Guardian business. Good and Evil. Chaos and Order. Black and White. The series then producer Mr Graham Williams was interested in the idea that we, and by us here he means Dr Who, need to find a BALANCE. The Key is key to that balance, just as Mr White says. But you can only understand that by knowing which side – which colour – is which.)

Shortly before all this, Dr Who had returned to Gallifrey to claim his position as President of the High Council, an honour that sees him being granted full access to the Matrix, essentially a memory bank of all Time Lord knowledge. This gives him a noticeable FUNNY TURN (even on top of the faked lunacy that he is feigning to keep the Vardans from noticing that he's not really helping them to invade… look it’s a long story, written almost entirely at random on the night before recording because the story they were supposed to be doing fell though on a account of the one-hundred-thousand cat-monsters in Wembley Stadium proving a touch beyond the budget for filming.)

(We know that the Matrix – since we have seen it in "The Deadly Assassin" and again in "Trial of a Time Lord" – is a bit bonkers inside. Also, it has lots of dead Time Lord minds inside it. So, even if you’re not driven potty by the suddenly being well nigh omniscient or by the bizarre environment, there is always the possibility that someone a bit loopy might get at you in there!)

After the Vardan invasion turns out to be a front for a Sontaran invasion, Dr Who disappointingly builds the ultimate weapon and annihilates them, giving himself a SECOND funny turn into the bargain.

So how about this: the Key to Time IS a piece of Gallifreyan technology, which would hardly be surprising – though it would probably be properly called "The Total Controller of Time… of Rassilon" these days. [A: more in the '80s!] When Dr Who was connected up to the Matrix, he learned about it, maybe subconsciously, and then picked up the locator – FROM GALLIFREY – before he left. It was probably in a dusty display case like all the other relics.

The TARDIS does NOT stop in mid flight – Dr Who just has yet another funny turn. When his question "Who are you?" is answered with "Do you REALLY have to ask?" it isn't because Mr White is teasing us that he is god, but because Dr Who shouldn't REALLY have to ask who he's talking to when he's talking to HIMSELF! The little visit to Mr White's "realm" has a very dream-sequence-like quality. And in fact we don't see Dr Who return to the TARDIS; he's just suddenly back where he was with K-9. (Watch closely, though, and you will see that the TARDIS doors are just closing.)

Romana appears from inside the TARDIS. Like she's been there ALL ALONG. And she says that SHE was ordered to join Dr Who on this mission by the President of the High Council. But just who WAS the President of the High Council last time anyone was looking? Or rather just WHO was the President! Yes, could it be possible that Dr Who gave the orders commandeering Romana HIMSELF? If he sent a lackey then she might not realise it either. And it would explain why the Time Lords KNOW that Romana is with Dr Who when they come to want her back at the end of "Meglos".

And Romana starts off spending a LOT of time telling Dr Who that he is BONKERS IN THE NUT – maybe she is actually RIGHT!

In "The Invasion of Time" Dr Who started off on a terrible path: the madness of power might have been faked to begin with, but by the end of the story he is building AND USING the "Ultimate Weapon™".

Daddy Alex has said all along that "The Key to Time" is an attempt to put that right – to write a story where Dr Who assembles the Ultimate Power in the Universe… and then realises that ultimate power is always wrong, no matter who has it or what their motivations. And so he gets rid of it.

Having built and fired the D-Mat gun, betraying pretty much ALL of his principles, Dr Who is having a bit of a NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

So Mr White and Mr Black are the Guardian Angels of the Doctor's best and worst nature made manifest. They tempt him to go gallivanting about the Universe on a big grand quest but at the end he realises that actually to possess the Key give him too much power and too much temptation. Not the temptation to become Mr Black, but to become Mr White.

Because Mr Black is just BOREDOM – and Dr Who builds himself a RANDOMISER so that he won't know where he's going and so he won't get BORED. But Mr White is much, much worse. You can FIGHT against Chaos, you can make your own place in it, you can RAGE against it, you can even EMBRACE it. There can never be ABSOLUTE Chaos, because that would be a contradiction in terms – there are always new patterns, if there weren't then it wouldn't be chaotic. Chaos is change, it is endings but it is also beginnings, it is life.

But Absolute Order is a Universe of nothing happening to anyone ever forever. It is a Universe that is dead.

Who sends him looking for the Key? He does it to himself.

And, in a way, by breaking up the Key he puts himself back together.

Day 2461: In Praise of Working Together


This diary from Mr Fizzle is actually rather wonderful.

I am glad that we Liberal Democrats can all pull together rather than all pulling apart.


Just as I say this, news leaks that even Mr Balloon’s bestest chum Mr Gideon “Boy George” Oboe is trying to distance himself, and forging a split from the “uber-modernisers”.

Mr Balloon responds by promising a FLURRY of policies. Ooh, is it a McFLURRY, free with the HAPPY MEAL of Conservatory policy?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Day 2450: Suicide Boris Blunders In


We woke this morning to the sound of Mr Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson spluttering his way though an interview on the The Today Programme and denying that it was inevitable that he would be the Conservatory candidate for London Mayor.

Inevitably, he is.

I am not sure what was more alarming – the fact that he appeared to have done NO PREPARATION for the interview whatsoever, or the possiblity that this is what he is like when he HAS!

"Um um um um um," he said in reply to a question about terrorism. Terrifying indeed!

But I am getting ahead of myself. He had opened with the INTERESTING promise that he was both going to interfere less AND to put a stop to building "rabbit hutch dwellings" (or FLATS as most Londoners who have to live in them call them). Wasn't this a contradiction, he was asked by Today's Mr Naughty. Mr Boris explained – he wasn't in favour of affordable housing in new developments, but he did want new buyers to be able to afford houses.

"By day I like to worship the little baby Jesus, and at midnight I sacrifice a goat to Beelzebub and I see no contradiction in that," …is actually something Mr Jeremy Hardy once said while pretending to be Lord Blairimort, but the quotation seems apposite for some reason.

Clearly used to the dark art of "sexing up" a CV, Mr Boris then tried to make it look like he had the EXPERIENCE for the job by claiming to have run an eleven-million pound business. Now there're a number of things here – firstly, there IS a difference between a business with a TURNOVER of eleven million (like Boris's magazine) and controlling a BUDGET of eleven million. Someone with real experience would know that; if you don't, then confusing one with the other leads to making a LOSS.

But secondly, there is the question of what "running" the business actually means. Mr Boris's Beano, The Spectator, has an OWNER (at the moment it is the notorious Barclay Brothers) and a PUBLISHER (you will no doubt remember Ms Petrolpropeller Wyatt and her, er, friendship with suddenly-former Home Secretary, the very-generous-with-his-expenses Mr Bluntgit) – Mr Boris's title was "editor", wasn't it?

Isn't the editor USUALLY responsible for picking the writers, trimming their articles and supplying the leader column?

The person who actually RUNS the business has to get the sales, oversee production and publicity, pay the employees… you know, all the trivial but vital details of actual management.

So was Mr Boris actually doing any of that, or was his full time job just wining and dining the guest writers and then doing the tiniest touch of EXAGGERATION?

Actually, it would be interesting to know what Mr Boris thinks a FULL TIME job really IS.

At the moment he is doing quite a lot of MOONLIGHTING from his supposed occupation as representative for the people of Henley, earning AT A MINIMUM a-hundred-and-fifty-five thousand pounds from speaking and appearances (it could be up to two hundred and seventy-five thousand – there are twenty-four engagements earning him five to ten grand or ten to fifteen grand and so on), and that's WITHOUT the nearly quarter of a million that the Torygraph are paying him to work for them as a columnist.

It DOES all seem to cut into his time. He has only been able to speak in 16 debates this year, and only managed to turn up to vote 52% of the time, both well below average among MPs. It must be jolly inconvenient for him that all those after-dinner speeches and TV studio recordings clash with those boring old debates in the House of Commons that he is supposedly being paid to attend.

He didn't even seem sure whether he would give up his Westminster stipend if he actually (imaginary god help us) became Mayor of London, blustering about Mr Ken staying on as an MP before finishing with a grudging "oh well I suppose I would."

But then, of course, there was the terrorism question: was he SERIOUS enough, Mr Naughty wanted to know, to speak for London in the aftermath of an outrage like the July 7th bombings?

"Um um um um um," said Mr Boris.

Had it not even OCCURRED to him that this was a VERY OBVIOUS question to be asked? Did he just BUMBLE into Broadcasting House, fluffy head empty of any plan or thought, and just walk onto the punches as they came? Is this NUMBSKULL really, REALLY the best the Conservatories could put forward to run London? Had the "Have I Got News for You?" TUB OF LARD turned them down?

After his horrible rabbit in headlights moment, Mr Boris tried to recover by blethering on about uniting London people. Like people will be united by an elitist Old Etonian whose career reads like a catalogue of "It's WHO you know, not WHAT you know" (I mean WHO just goes from the Wolverhampton Express & Star, excellent organ though it doubtless is, to being Daily Torygraph leader writer?). It is important to distinguish the concepts of "popular TV personality" from "butt of a popular joke on TV".

Am I worried by Mr Boris? Yes, very worried – worried because people might think that it is FUNNY to vote for this gonk on the SPURIOUS basis that he is a "larger than life" personality. Well, so is Godzilla and just LOOK what a mess he made of Tokyo when he was Mayor there!

Mr Ken – no stranger to personality politics – has let down a lot of Londoners with his unaccountable antics and ignoring of the suburbs and we need a proper challenge to him, a challenge to him on POLICIES for London, not who has the silliest hair and voice.

Liberal Democrats have the policies and have the serious candidates. We've always said that we stand a BETTER chance than the Conservatories of beating Mr Ken in the run-off if only we can get into second place. If Suicide Boris continues to follow the Ealing Southall "Dave Balloon's Conservatories" trajectory – big name, big publicity, big launch, big splash, sinks without trace, big mistake – then this may turn out to be our best chance yet!

Day 2459: Cyber Cars and Homing Crocodiles


The people of Daventry in Northamptonshire are planning an experiment to cut congestion and pollution by introducing a fleet of ELECTRIC ROBOT TAXIS that will come at the push of a button and take you to your destination before finding their way home again.

Meanwhile in Australia, scientists are questioning the policy of shipping crocodiles off away from popular beaches to remote areas after discovering that the dinosaur-outliving reptiles can be taken to a remote destination before finding their way home again.

Saaaay, you don't think there's a CONNECTION do you?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Day 2458: Liberal Democrats are right… says the Labour!


DARINGLY, Mr Vince "Power" Cable and Mr David "He is the" Laws have SNEAKED into the Labour's Conference in Bournemouth. Either that or they've booked in REALLY, REALLY EARLY for our Conference there next year.

Whilst trying to fight their way out of Mr Frown's Big Top… sorry, Big Tent (NOT the one in Greenwich that ought to be named after me), Messrs Cable and Laws ran into Treasury Minister Ms Angel Eagle who was full of praises for the Liberal Democrats' tax plans.

In spite of our fundamental differences on the way that taxes should be SPENT – we say by giving it back to people locally; the Labour say by giving it to Mr Frown to approve each item personally – it is good that we can agree that there might be FAIRER ways to RAISE those taxes in the first place.

This of course is practically treason… unless Mr Frown is planning on nicking them in the next couple of weeks. Do not be surprised to see a 4p tax cut in the Labour's manifesto for this election that isn't going to happen!

Also learning lessons from the Liberal Democrats was Secretary of State for Places that Mr Frown Doesn't Run (Yet) Mr Millipede.

Although urging us to "move on" (not once but four times) from Lord Blairimort's foreign policy adventure was all too patronisingly familiar from Lord Blairimort's own many attempts to get us to "move on, move on, nothing to see here"… in fact a lot of the speech was… eerily reminiscent…

The short, clipped sentences… The lack of verbs… The vision… Thing. Ten years in government... New Labour Government… Moving on... And on... And on… Eyes-on-the-future stare; grip-on-power hands on the podium; I've-made-a-deal-with-Mr-Frown pledge card signed in back pocket…

Actually, does anyone know where Lord Blairimort IS this week? And has anyone checked Mr Millipede's head for zippers?

Mr Millipede was at least willing to concede that the biggest, most shockingly awful, total Horlicks of a Foreign Policy catastrophe since at least Suez and possibly since the DARDANELLES was a bit of a "scar".

"Good intentions are not enough," he said. "We need good institutions."

Obviously he means institutions like the European Union and the United Nations (though sticking Lord Blairimort in another kind of "institution" would also have helped). Throughout the CRISIS and DISASTER of the Middle Eastern invasion, the Liberal Democrats have appealed to the government to work WITH other countries, through the UN and the Union, and WITHIN the framework of INTERNATIONAL LAW. Only by working together and working to support the rules so that other people come to follow them too can we hope to make a SAFER WORLD.

There's the REAL lesson for you, Mr Millipede. Never mind your good intentions, listen to the WISDOM and EXPERIENCE of Sir Mr the Merciless.

Day 2457: THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES: Revenge of the Slitheen


We have done our best to check Mr Frown's pictures on the television, but we cannot be CERTAIN that there is not a zip-fastener under the fringe of his new hairdo, and an ageing Lady Thatcher on the inside!

We have, however, had MUCH more fun than watching Mr Frown's boring old speech to the Labour. No, we tuned in to CBBC1 instead.

Thanks to digital television, we have seen the WHOLE of Ms Sarah-Jane's first new adventure. Other viewers might beware of SPOILERS by not reading further!
Well, it is hardly a spoiler to mention that the Slitheen are back. They look a lot greener than they used to, and their feet seem a little different, more claws less hoofs, but for the most part they are the same giggling childish sociopathic entrepreneurs that we knew from "Aliens of London". Much of the upfront publicity mentioned the identity of the cross-over villains from TV's Doctor Who, no doubt with the best of intentions: to maximise the number of people who say, "hmmm, I might watch that".

And they got one-and-a-half million viewers, which doesn't sound a lot compared to the mighty Doctor's conquest of Saturday nights, but it was a substantial step up for CBBC on a Monday, so I hope that they're all pleased.

Crucially, the scripts play to the Slitheens' strengths: they're very, very funny. Martyn Ellis as Mr Blakeman, the headmaster, manages to be malicious and hilarious at the same time. He's not quite as loveable as David Verry's acting Prime Minister Joe Green, but he does a magnificent line in world-weary sneers, both at the "pitiful humans" and at his own bumbling semi-competent henchman Jeffrey.

They're also directed very nicely: a lot closer to Joe Ahearne than to Keith Boak. Again, recognising the successful bits, the exploding Slitheen/gunking is a welcome return, and the explosion effect deserved its several uses. The monster suits – three credits for the excellent Mr Casey this week! – in spite of the teeth and claws are obviously funny rather than sleek, so thankfully no ill-judged attempts to mix and match with fast moving CG Slitheen here.

The addition of a twelve-year-old Slitheen child was not quite as successful. Arguably, the Slitheen are big naughty children anyway, and funnier because it's grown ups who are farting and giggling and plotting ludicrous schemes, so a child Slitheen is redundant. Then there's the obvious need to gloss over the really horrible fact that poor portly schoolboy Carl must have been killed and eviscerated by or at least for this twelve-year-old. Finally, the ending misfires, just a little, by presenting us with a "difficult moral question" is it all right to let a murderer die even if they are twelve? Slightly out of keeping with the tone, I felt. But then Carl Slitheen is teleported to safety anyway, so we don't really get to know what Sarah's answer would have been (although it is just possible that Sarah used the sonic lipstick to activate the teleport, but it's not clear).

And although the "even your school friends could be Slitheen" idea is superficially a reasonable addition to the mix, do our plumper school kids really need another reason to get picked on? (See also "Harry Potter and the Fat Kids are Evil".)

There's a very – and I mean very – "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" vibe to the central characters: the new school, the fishes out of water, the "will I fit in?" angst. It helps that they've found a couple of very charming young actors to play Marcie and Luke. I'll reserve judgement on new new boy Clyde for the moment, as I thought that he was a little too forced at times, and the script wasn't quite sure whether he was Xander or Cordelia. (And given that they end up dating, that's quite scary.)

He did get possibly the most interesting scene of the episode, though, when he takes the opportunity to sneak up for a private root around Mr Smith – Sarah's awfully convenient computer system – and Mr Smith momentarily turns nasty on him. Hopefully that's being set up for a future story. (Remembering Harry Potter again, "don't trust anything that can talk if you can't see where it keeps its brains".)

And I did enjoy his look of embarrassment about the "Wolverine" deodorant (and the deodorant itself a joke that is funny in two different ways).

Luke's learning curve was good to watch too. Cleverly, the creators – TV's Gareth Roberts and the Russell fellow – have used key characteristics of the Doctor and split them between Sarah and son: she is brave and resourceful and has a sonic lipstick; he is brilliant at science and knows almost everything. Mind you, that used to be K-9's role – Luke even has some of the literalisms.

Despite being the title character and notionally the heart of the series, Sarah Jane herself was stepped slightly back from the limelight, concentrated as it was on the three juveniles. Perhaps that is inevitable in a CBBC-aimed series. On the other hand, it enables her to act much more as the Doctor by proxy, appearing when she needs to save the day rather than finding herself in Scooby Doo-esque peril all the time. Not that she wasn't back to hiding behind boxes a la "Robot", of course. Good to see Sarah working out a practical defence against the Slitheen on the hop, as it were. Lis Sladen was, as ever, marvellous, able to transition from mumsy to hard-as-nails and make it look entirely natural, wielding a sonic lipstick like she's been doing all her life.

The story itself – "Aliens of London" meets the shallower bits of "School Reunion" – was fairly thin, mainly an excuse to re-introduce us to Marcie and her rather strange friends and to run around chased by a Doctor Who monster. It was nice that it took the time for some proper character moments. And there were plenty of good gags too.

I might just say that I thought that the Slitheens' Earth-shattering plot was a little too big – switching off the sun is the sort of thing that ought to attract the attention of the Doctor even if building, what, over a hundred fake school technology blocks all around the globe hadn't given him time to blunder into them all on his own.

And of course it was as full of loopholes as the last time the Slitheen tried to destroy the world. Surely the technology to switch off a star is more valuable than the frozen rubble of the Earth might ever be? Revenge aside, why go to the trouble of obliterating an inhabited planet when there are at least two uninhabited ones right next door. (Saving the fact that, in the Doctor Who universe, selling off Mars means picking a fight with the Ice Warriors, of course.) If the inductor drains light and heat from candles and – from the Sun – why doesn’t it drain the heat from people. Or indeed Slitheen. And – I suppose I have to mention it – even if you could turn off the Sun, it would still be eight minutes before we noticed as the light and heat takes time to get here. And likewise when you turned it back on again.

Alex cogently suggests that it could it be that it just sucks the energy coming from the Sun, rather than the sun itself – hence switching off the Sun instantly from Earth's point of view. That would be in keeping with the rest of the plan, but isn't what the Sun turning blue special effect suggests.

Continuity references abound: from the blatant namedrops of the Blathereen (Doctor Who novel "The Monsters Inside"), Clom (Doctor Who episode "Love and Monsters"), the Judoon ("Smith and Jones") and "love to the Brig" (surely not still Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart!); to more subtle visual references to the Bane (Sarah Jane Adventures "Invasion of the Bane", obviously), Abbadon (Torchwood "End of Days") and a Jagaroth battlecruiser (Doctor Who "City of Death"). This isn't just fun in a trainspotter way of ticking all the fanboy boxes, but also helps to build a consistent universe for the Doctor and his friends' adventures – something that the whole time travel thing usually mitigates against. We've never entirely gained a picture of the Earth's place in the Universe at the beginning of the twenty-first century. While still unclear about the "big picture", it's interesting to get the idea that there is a kind of "galactic underworld" where Raxicoricofallapatorian mafia families vie for dominance while Judoon enforcers are employed – by whom? – to force them out of business.

Speaking of continuity, timewise it does not appear to be long after "Invasion of the Bane", as there are several references to Luke being "born yesterday". As it's the start of term – implicitly the start of the new school year – that means it is probably set in September 2008, about a year an a half after "School Reunion" (which fits with "Invasion of the Bane" too).

On the whole then, not quite as satisfying as the New Year's Day special – maybe I'm just missing a really meaty confrontation with the villain: Samantha Bond's Mrs Wormwood gave us that in spades; headmaster Blakeman doesn't quite get the same face off (except in the literal sense). Nevertheless, these were a hugely fun pair of episodes with a real vibe of old-school Doctor Who about them, not just Sarah but also that cliff-hanger halfway though – long live the cliff-hanger, I say! This one was not only quite a doozy, but also the triple-peril cliff-hanger of "Aliens of London" but done right. Shows what good direction can do.

Next time… Nuns!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Day 2456: A Seventh Day Sceptic Writes…


Do you believe that the Earth is a flat disc that sits on pillars in a bottomless ocean?

Do you think that the sky is a ginormous glass dome with stars stuck onto the outside? Do you think it rains for forty days and forty nights when the sky windows are opened?

Do you think that the sun goes around the Earth? Do you think it can stop?

Do you think that the ratio of the distance all round the outside of a circle to the distance across it, π, equals three? If you do, can you make a clock work?

Do you think that bats are birds? Do you think that rabbits chew the cud?

No, of course you do not. If you went round saying these things, people would LAUGH and POINT.

So why do people still get away with saying: "I believe the bible is LITERALLY true; I believe that the Earth was made in seven days"?

And ANYWAY, it is SIX days, you nincompoop!

Day 2455: If Voting Changed Anything, the Labour would Abolish It… Oh, they have!


Is there going to be a General Election this Autumn? No.

No, most of the evidence says not (unless the Darling Chancellor knows more about the economy than he is telling… but we can trust him, can't we?). That doesn't stop Mr Frown from having JOLLY FUN teasing us all along with his will-he won't- he act, though.

By now we are expecting him to appear on television during the middle of Mr Balloon's speech to the Conservatory Conference:

"Right, now that I've bug… jiggered Balloon's media coverage, I can tell you the answer is NO! ho ho!"

This would be PRETTY STUPID as the media would get quite cross and they'd still be able to play Mr Balloon's speech on the DVD recorder. But it would not be ENTIRELY untypical of saucy prankster Mr Frown's sense of humour: who can forget the JOLLY JAPE he played on Mr Balloon back in the budget – robbing from the poor to pay for a 2p tax cut for everyone else, and Mr Balloon falling right for it.

To an extent, of course, the media only have themselves to blame. If they are going to ask silly questions like "are you going to call an election this week" then OBVIOUSLY they can only expect Mr Frown to hem and haw. After all, if he said "no" then he'd be stuck answering the same question every week until June 3rd 2010. Or, actually, seven days before then (since if he's not called one before 26th May 2010 he's DEFINITELY got to call one in the next week).

This actually reminds me of an old PARADOX – Mr Frown promises that he will call a SURPRISE election one week sometime between now and the end of the Parliamentary Session. Well, that means that he could call it in ANY week… except the last one, because if it got to the last week then it would not be a surprise.

So, what he's ACTUALLY saying is he'll call a surprise election sometime between now and A WEEK BEFORE the end of the Parliamentary Session. Except that means he cannot call it in the last but one week either, since by then it would not be a surprise either.

So, what he's ACTUALLY actually saying is he'll call a surprise election sometime between now and TWO weeks before the end of the Parliamentary Session… and so on and so on… so in fact, he can't call a SURPRISE election in ANY week between now and the end of the Parliamentary Session… so he must call one right now!

But then that won't be a surprise either.

Anyway, unless the banking system really IS about to crash, every cow in the country about to turn up its toes and drop dead of Blue Tongue or the Unions are planning on shutting down everything from the London Tube to the Fourth Forth Rail Bridge Mr Frown is NO WAY NOT NEVER EVER going to call an election because the Labour are still too broke, the nights are drawing in and the weather getting worse, and Mr Frown hasn't yet had time to invade Iran perform a strategic withdrawal forwards out of Iraq.

Just because Mr Alexander Douglas Fir is saying "The Labour are ready," does not really mean that they ARE. It is just the latest phase of Mr Frown's plan to get Mr Balloon into a TOTAL TIZZ.

It's working, too.

He hardly needed a "great clunking fist"; it has taken barely a TAP to cause the wobbly wheels to come off of the Balloon Bandwagon. And if the Conservatories are this confounded after only a hundred days, what sort of a state are they going to be in in another six months after Mr Frown has had time to pick over their hastily launched policy review proposals? Just like with their political supporters, he will have picked out the best bits and ridiculed the rest.

Mr Hefferlump in the the Torygraph puts forward the idea that having wound everyone up to a FEVER PITCH, Mr Frown cannot back out of an election without looking a TWERP. However, anyone who remembers last year's "coup" against Lord Blairimort will know that winding people up to a fever pitch and then backing out is not something that Mr Frown hasn't done before. Mind you, Mr Hefferlump then goes on to suggest Mr Frown learn from the example of HITLER so it's possible that his historical analysis is a bit WONKY!

In fact, more convincing is the argument that – having learned from Mr Balloon's "PR stunts instead of policy" policy, Mr Frown has been OUT-STUNTING the Conservatories, but that the stunts cannot go on forever.

So Mr Frown's electoral calendar looks like this:

Next April, that 2p tax cut I mentioned will be jingling in wallets across key Conservatory/Labour marginals; next May Mr Boris will make an EMBARRASSING Old Etonian MESS of himself and the "Dave Balloon's Conservatories" brand in the London Mayoral Elections; next June, see if the sun is shining and call an election.

Meanwhile, he's just MIXING IT.

Oh yes, today's title – Mr Frown, our old friend the SECRET STALIN, has penned a little red piece of HILARIOUS Double-Think called "Extending and Renewing Party Democracy" or "Removing and Exterminating Party Democracy" as Marxism Today has wittily re-titled it.

The basic premise is this: in the olden days, the Labour used have their annual conference and the delegates would come and vote on what the Party Policy was supposed to be, a bit like our Liberal Conference Representatives still do to this day.

This meant that the delegates had a say in Party Policy and could vote against the Leadership.

A lot of people were unhappy about this. Well, by a "lot of people" actually I mean "Lord Blairimort and Mr Frown".

So Lord Blairimort got rid of most the voting on policy and replaced it with a National Policy Forum or "talking shop". Kindly he left the Annual Conference with a small sop called the "Contemporary Resolution", like what we call an Emergency Motion, that were still debated and voted on. Which meant the delegate might not have a say in Party Policy any more but they could still vote against the leadership.

Well that was just embarrassing. What is the point of participative democracy if you're not allowed to participate? So Mr Frown has made plans to restore democracy to his party by… er, it says here getting rid of the "Contemporary Resolutions" too.

Actually, he goes a lot further than that. The National Policy Forum is clearly still giving the members too much say, so there is to be a "Joint Policy Committee" (Mr Frown's hand-picked placemen) to take over the "executive function" of the Policy Forum, while the members participation in policy is to be "extended" by giving them a One Member One Vote decision on policy. Sounds good? Well, it will be a One Member One Vote referendum on the decided policy platform… all of it, all at once. An all or nothing vote. So, not exactly NUANCED, is it. Oh, and they get a to vote once a parliament. ONCE.

Funnily enough, I imagine that if they've just won an election, the members will be asked to approve the winning manifesto and please shut up for five years, and if they lose then the members won't get asked their opinion until just before the next election when it's too late to make any difference anyway. But perhaps I am just VERY CYNICAL.

Now, does ANY of this REALLY sound like the actions of a man who is going to trust his shiny new job to the choices of people?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Day 2454: Miranda Grell versus Witches


In Doctor Who there are a race of aliens called the Grell. Pottily convinced that knowledge really IS power, they roam the universe seeking to acquire information, which if true they chirpily label "Good Facts!"

The Labour's hopefully-very-soon-to-be-ex-councillor Ms Miranda Grell, though also obsessed with getting power, seems to have had the REVERSE fixation, as she has been found GUILTY of going around spreading BAD FACTS, very Bad Facts indeed.

The BBC says so.

The Times says so.

Lib Dem Voice says so.

And the Labour's Blogger Mr Chris Paul says, er, not, actually.

Mr Chrisp denounces the Times reporting as a LIE – which is fighting talk when you're defending a lady just convicted of, er, lying. Also, just possibly, a little unwise, especially just after admitting to neither being present in court nor having read any transcripts of the case.

I assume this means that Mr Chrisp JUST KNOWS that as a member of the Labour, Ms Grell CANNOT have done any wrong! This is called BLIND FAITH.

Certainly he seems to believe her "excuse", that is the excuse she offered when denying everything didn't work because, of dear, there were witnesses, including members of the Labour. (The "excuse" was that she had made a "mistake" about her victims boyfriend's age – because it so SOOOOOO easy to say "fourteen" when you meant to say "thirty-nine", isn't it!)

As the saying goes: there's none so blind as those who do not bother looking before egging someone on to sue a National Newspaper (or the Times) for "poor reporting".

Oddly enough, I think that this is why we HAVE courts – so that, when we haven't seen or heard the evidence we can RELY on an impartial system to tell us who is telling the truth and who is lying. But obviously that does not seem to be how at least a couple of speakers for the Labour see things.

Perhaps they just haven't got the memo from Mr Frown about restoring people's trust in politicians. Here are a couple of pointers: do not tell lies; if someone one your side DOES tell lies, tell them to stop; when they are CAUGHT AND CONVICTED of telling lies, do not try to SHIFT THE BLAME onto the VICTIM.

In the OLDEN DAYS, the Worst Accusation in the World™ used to be "WITCHCRAFT!"

You could stick the label on someone like it was the BLACK SPOT and all the other villagers would immediately be set against them, because witches are AUTOMATICALLY bad! And there was no defence – after all, witches lie and pretend to be good and godfearing so the more good and godfearing you are the more it is OBVIOUSLY a LIE and a COVER-UP! Once the cry of WITCH goes up, pretty soon it is time to start with the DUCKING STOOLS or gathering up the FAGGOTS for a BONFIRE.

(And yes, Daddy has told me that this is where that particularly HORRID pun comes from!)

"There is no smoke without a fire" goes the saying – yes, but LOOK who is starting the fires before you start gathering the lynch mob!

Nowadays it is not Witchcraft, but Child Abuse – but it is still the same old WITCHHUNT: pick on someone a bit different and start the name-calling. Do not worry about getting proof, because the HUE and CRY will bring them down even if the accusation is not true.

It used to be lonely old women and gay daddies who would get picked on; these days… not much has changed, actually.

I must put my fluffy foot up to a (slight) interest in the case, because my Daddy Alex was candidate to be MP for Leyton and Wanstead a couple of elections ago and so we know (slightly) some of the people involved. We know how hurt and traumatised and damaged they have been as a result of Ms Grell's NASTY and UNTRUE tale-telling.

More on the Labour and their nasty habit of dirty tricks here.

And indeed here.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Day 2453: Young Turkish Delight


Thursday was the BIG FINISH to our Conference, but before the main act, we had a warm up from Mr Clogg in the debate on the Surveillance Society.

This was another opportunity for him to show off his Civil Liberties credentials and charming smile at the same time.

Oddly, the media seem to have spent MOST of the week OBSESSING about whether Mr Clogg (or possibly Mr Hewn) was about to mount a leadership bid or whether Sir Mr the Merciless was going to banish him (or them) to the ICE MOON of FRIDGIA.

This may NOT be entirely BAD for the party.

I am not such a DUMB elephant as to think that ANY news is GOOD news – just ask poor Mr Charles (and the LEAST said about Mr Flaky Oaten Wheat the BETTER!) However, this story does have a number of, as the media themselves might put it, UP SIDES.

Firstly we get to keep three top Liberal Democrat faces in the news, instead of the usual just one. Secondly, Mr Clogg gets to look OPEN and HONEST by answering a question frankly but WITHOUT having to stab Sir Mr the Merciless in the back; at the same time, Mr Hewn gets to look LOYAL and STEADFAST by sticking to the "no vacancy" position when asked to comment on Mr Clogg. Thirdly, and this is the best bit, while the media might get HOOKED by the "human interest story" of "leadership rivals", they also get to carry along reports of Mr Clogg's liberal law and order stance, and Mr Hewn's "environment, action now" message.

As Mr Brilliant Brian had said at the Mayoral Hustings: if people actually get to HEAR our policies, then they realise how GOOD they are!

Sir Mr the Merciless helped it along too, talking UP the Young Turks – and Turkessess! – and saying he was a Young Turk once too. And even hinting that the next Dr Who might be a woman. Er…

It's a bit of a RISKY strategy, I would say, especially if Sir Mr the Merciless' BIG SPEECH had turned out to be PISH.

Fortunately, it wasn't – instead he blew our socks off. Not that I WEAR socks, but other people's footwear was EVERYWHERE!

Daddy Richard and I got to hear it LIVE in the Conference Hall, though Daddy Alex got himself TRAPPED in the upper gallery and he could not find Captain Paddy to help him ABSEIL down to us!

You have my attention, Sir Mr the Merciless
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A bit long, perhaps – or was he just proving that he COULD stand up there for an hour-and-a-half? – but with lots of good bits.

Excellent use of the Party's "Free, Green and Fair" slogan and the "one against two" – we need to push those MORE if they are to become our narrative.

It was good to hear him CONFRONTING the CONSENSUS between NuToryLabour on everything I have been telling you about for months: Iraq, Civil Liberties, the Environment, Nuclear Power, Council Tax, and student fees.

Personally, I was VERY PLEASED to see him open up a proper attack on Mr Frown for his record and his failure to take responsibility. And the joke about Suicide Boris was very funny!

Echoing the five giants of Mr William Beveridge, Sir Mr the Merciless listed his FIVE GREAT FREEDOMS for all: Opportunity, Security, Prosperity, Kate Aidee… no, that's not right… Health and the Environment.

When we all talked to him at the start of the week, Sir M had described himself as an OPTIMIST. Not for him the negative defeatism of Mr Balloon's "Anarchy in the UK", oh no. He saw the future as a place for us to do BETTER.

I think by the end of his speech, the rest of us thought that too!

Conference week over, Daddy Richard collapsed in a puddle and took the weekend off. I am a NICE elephant and so I have given him a short holiday. But now he must get back to work!

Type, Daddy, type!


Oooh, I got a namecheck in the Grauniad. Helloo Grauniad! Thank you for reading. I am glad that you were interested in what I had to say. Small note: Daddy Alex is not my OWNER! He is my DADDY! I do not HAVE an owner – I'm MINE!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Day 2452: It’s about Freedom; It’s about Trust


This morning we debated “By the People, for the People”, a wide-ranging policy paper that seeks to put the over-mighty government back in its box, covering the need for a convention to write a Written Constitution; to defend the Human Rights Act, and further to entrench it into that Constitution; to abolish the unfair and arbitrary powers of Royal Prerogative; for reform of the voting system to ensure everyone feels represented though bringing in single transferable vote; to further empower people though Citizens Juries and Petitions; and finally to finish replacing the House of Lords Club with an elected Senate.

Golly, what a busy paper. Obviously with so much to do, it all gets a bit WOOLLY about some of the details.

The whole business of the Constitutional Convention – Lord Goodhearted called it “the Magna Carta for the Twenty-first Century” – is expected to take five or six years, which does not seem like it will keep people INTERESTED in the process when they need to be CONNECTED to it.

Ms Diana Wallis, endorsed by Mr James, also pointed out the shortcomings in the idea of Citizens Petitions – I AGREE, a petition that ends up being considered by “a committee”, a committee that can just say “no, ta” is not going to make people feel very empowered. Apparently the European Constitution (remember that) would have offered the power of Citizens Initiatives, like a kind of Private Members Bill for citizens, that would initiate a proper legislative process rather than just referral to “t’committee”. (Guess what – the Conservatories specifically wrote that bit OUT of their redrafted treaty!) Mr James also called on the Federal Policy Committee to develop further the proposed “Citizens Juries”, rather than let them be Mr Frown-style glorified FOCUS GROUPS.

An intervention from the floor asked about the wisdom of making the senate terms twelve years long – a period that would leave any young person at a desperate disadvantage in getting a job afterwards, and therefore almost certainly guaranteeing a senate of people over fifty. (Mind you, the word “senate” IS related to the Latin word “senex” meaning “old man”.)

The “English Question” was skated over – saying it will be left to the convention to decide. A couple of speakers DID say that an English Parliament would be a BAAAAD thing, while another warned that if we don’t answer it, then the sleeping giant would wake up waving the flag of St George. “Fee fie foe fum, I smell the Blood of an Englishman,” indeed!

The paper DOES make good points, though without reaching a conclusion. Mr Balloon’s idea of English Votes for Ingsoc Laws (E.V.I.L) does not even begin to address the problem – an English Rump of Parliament won’t help when the problem is the lack of an English EXECUTIVE. The Westminster Government would still have to implement the Rump Parliament’s laws. Even if it was of a different Party. That way CHAOS lies. But giving England its own government would be even worse – that government would represent 90% of the population of Britain and the very first thing it would do would be to lay claim to tax raising powers. Which of course it the problem that the current devolution has too – the Scottish and Welsh authorities ability to raise taxes is a bit limited and most of their money is decided by the Barnet Formula (which was supposed to be a temporary measure until Scottish Devolution was settled by the referendum… in the 1970s!)

Lord Tyler had opened by dismissing the other Parties pathetic and feeble ideas for reform: Mr Frown’s idea of devolution is to give regional titles to Ministers; Mr Fatty Clarke’s democracy task force has gone as far as suggesting the merger of the Commons Modernisation Committee with the Commons Procedure Committee. Big fatty deal.

On the other fluffy foot, Lord Tyler’s early remark “Mrs the Queen might be placed in an invidious position” produced SOME scorn from my daddies. “There are more important things to worry about than embarrassing Mrs the Queen,” we thought!

Nevertheless, there was much that was good in the paper and the debate. Particularly our strong support for the Human Rights Act. Lord Goodhearted, again, referred to how dreadful it was that Lord Blairimort spent so much time trying to UNDO the one really good thing that he had done. Mr Martin Todd poured scorn on a government that talks of the “respect agenda” but has no respect for its own citizens. And Mr Jonathan Marks QC said it was “a disgrace that the Conservatory Leader should campaign to wreck the Human Rights Act just to appease the pig-headed bigotry of some of his followers.”

Mr Dr Crispin Allard put the case for voting reform: the government’s tinkering with voting methods – all postal voting, all text voting, all homing-pigeon voting – these are gimmicks that address the symptom without addressing the cause: people are not voting because they do not get representation! Not only would single transferable votes boost representation for all people, especially for minorities, it would also end the old party patronage of safe seats for the favoured place men.

Mr David Heath summed up the debate and finished it with a reminder to us that we ARE the Party that CARES about giving power back to the PEOPLE, not to unelected aristocrats or appointed quangos or the Prime Minister’s cronies. And we should be PROUD of that!

The motion was passed, unamended.

Further putting Liberal Democracy INTO ACTION, we held the important hustings to choose our candidate to beat Mr Ken in the London Mayoral election.

Obviously, I was in the audience…

an elephant at the hustings
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…to see the three candidates presentations because I am a LONDONER. Obviously, the most important question to ME is who will change the name of that big tent back to “Millennium Dome” like it should be, but there were other questions that are more important to other people too.

I have to say, it is a VERY difficult choice! All of our candidates were VERY GOOD. Unlike the Conservatories, our hustings were PACKED OUT and the reason is obvious – unlike the Conservatories we have three very excellent people all of who delivered excellent presentations. No one in the audience was left thinking: “oh dear, that one’s the Boris”.

Instead we had an impassioned address from Ms Chamali Fernando, emphasising her energy and how she would stand out against Mr Boris and Mr Ken. It was a hard act to follow, but follow it Mr Fiyaz Mughal did, and he had SO MANY IDEAS that he quite ran out of time! Finally came Mr Brilliant Paddock who opened with his delight to be able to say “fellow Liberal Democrats”, followed with a joke about being undercover in the Met for all those years – with a gold uniform under his blue uniform. Where Ms Chamali had impressed and won over people’s MINDS, Mr Paddock won over their hearts AND their minds.

There followed questions and answers, hosted by Ms Susan Kramer-vs-Kramer who did so brilliantly herself when she was our first Mayoral candidate.

all stars
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What clearly emerged from all the candidates was that what the Liberal Democrats want is a mayor who is mayor for ALL of Greater London, not just zone one, not just Mr Ken’s cronies. It is SHOCKING that after eight years there is still a borough that Mr Ken has not bothered to visit. We want proper policing solutions, different solutions, local solutions to deal with the different problems for all of London’s different and varied boroughs. We want to spread the benefits of the London Olympics to all Londoners, to the ones who put in their effort and passion as well as the ones who have the talent to qualify – and to make sure that we get proper value for money.

Perhaps the most difficult question was what to do in those wards and boroughs where Liberal Democrats are thin on the ground. Mr Paddock was the only one to answer (I think the others ran out of time again). He had already said that he was keen to to be a leader for the wider Liberal Party to gain as much strength on the London Assembly and raise our support across the capital, but reminded us that it was difficult and that we would have to reach out to those areas though the capital-wide and indeed nationwide media. Which, of course, he has already shown he is able to do.

The last “Questionable Time”-esque question was “You can’t fix everything, but what would you go to the barricades for?”

I think that Mr Fiyaz had saved his best performance for last, as he was very powerful in advocating his passion to defend our Civil Liberties, to oppose the government’s DNA database, and their police-state blanket stop and search laws, and their I.D.iot cards.

So, I am left with a VERY DIFFICULT choice: all three of our candidates are super. Ms Chamali has youth and passion and stands out from the crowd; Mr Fiyaz has seems to know EVERYTHING! And Mr Paddock is a media star who has experience and true Liberal HEART.

I have had a STICKY BUN and come to my decision. But (unlike Daddy Alex) I do not want a visit from Don Liberali’s men, so I am going to let you make up your own minds too!

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Day 2451: It’s about Freedom; It’s about Fairness


Daddy Alex managed to squeeze some time into his hectic schedule today to try to speak in the poverty debate this afternoon. Unfortunately he got bounced in favour of some LESS FAMOUS people like Mr Charles!

EVEN SO, this was a terrific debate, and made us all very pleased to be a part of the one true Liberal Party. Addressing the way that poverty wrecks freedom is an important part of our Liberal tradition, ever since Mr Squiffy and Mr Lloyd George brought in their People’s Budget at the start of the last Century.

The BIG debate was whether the minimum wage ought to apply the same to all people or whether there should be a lower rate to apply to young people.

Daddy had wanted to make an intervention as an OLD FOGEY: “kids today, eh?” he wanted to say. Other people my daddy’s age make EXCUSES for being UNFAIR like: they’ll only spend it on drugs or pints of binge or whatever it is that iPods are! But it is STILL being unfair. That is why daddy wanted to speak against this.

Well, in his absence, we had to make do with some terrific speeches from Ms Jo Swinson (MP and former McDrone) and a lady who fell into the “young people” category (at eighteen, she gained a pay rise for nothing, but still not as well paid as the person two years older who had just started). I must admit that they were VERY VERY good, but there were still, ONE OR TWO (LITERALLY, it was about two!) people who voted for option “A”; if only Daddy had been able to speak, I am sure he would have convinced them too!

The speech from Mr Charles was a highlight of the conference – not least because this year he was constrained to just four minutes so conference did not have time to get bored. Thus it was a powerhouse rallying cry, not just to accept our new policies – this morning’s tax and this afternoon’s on poverty – but to take them and take the fight TO the Conservatories and the Labour. WE are the party offering hope and opportunity to millions of people; they are the old fashioned stick-in-the-muds obsessing about bankrupt tax credits or twenty-pound marital aids. (What? WHAT? Mr David “I am the” Laws says they will cost four billion pounds and most people who get them won’t need them, don’t have children and have already split up anyway!) We need to tell people that WE are leading the charge; we need to go out and “be Liberal Democrats about it”.

Between them, Ms Lovely Burt and Ms Susan Kramer-vs-Kramer made the case for one amendment: to give ALL workers the right to ask for flexible working. Ms Susan, I think, made the key points – first it is only the right to ASK: if things are tight the business can say “sorry, no”; second, this right already exists for people with new babies and some people who have to care for relatives – this leads to a SUBTLE discrimination as businesses are just less likely to hire people in these categories because they have a right that might be a burden while other potential employees don’t. Making the right universal would eliminate that discrimination. These arguments clinched it and the amendment was accepted.

At the end of the debate, the conference was unanimous in voting for the new policy.

Later we got to see Mr Nick Clogg take charge… of a round table debate about Citizenship and Identity. (What did you THINK I was going to say?!)

It was an interesting event, probably worthy of a whole day in itself, with Mr Clogg’s round table just opening the day to get our brains moving. Each of his guests had six minutes of chat, with bonus minutes awarded for praising the new Immigration policy and for being controversial! For example, Liberal Democrat MEP Saj Karim talked about how he grew up with lots of different layers to his identity – British, Lancastrian, Asian, Liberal, Muslim – but now he felt like he was being SQUEEZED into one one-size-fits-all label “British Muslim”, and that this was sad, not just for him but for the next generation who won’t find it as easy to experience the diversity of identities that HE was able to discover.

Ms Rachel Briggs from the Demos group talked interestingly about her time researching among young Muslim women. She had been fearful of treading on cultural toes to begin with, but had been surprised to discover a group of strong-minded women who chose to wear the veil because they COULD choose to. Their aim of getting on to their mosque committee and bringing evolutionary change to their own community was one they recognised could only be achieved by knowing their own faith BETTER than their parents.

Mr Andrew Stunner, who is Shadow Secretary for Communities and That Sort of Thing, made four points: solutions need to be local (just because something works in Tower Hamlets does not mean that the government should roll it out to Stockport, Glasgow, Berkshire, and so on); some immigrants are “more British than we are” (in the way that they think of Britishness as meaning fair play, tolerance and opportunity; home-grown people, if they HAVE an opinion, tend to WAFFLE about Fish & Chips or Churchill); sometimes it is OKAY to live “parallel lives” (no one worries about Jehovah’s Witnesses not taking part in civic life); and some concern about “immigration” is no more than a front for old fashioned RACISM.

This got a big round of applause – and was immediately condemned as COMPLACENT, WOOLLY LIBERAL THINKING by Newsnight Review regular Mr Sarfraz Manzoor (you can see him again this Friday!) Mr Sarfraz had already spoken about how he’d gone back to his old Infant School intending to make a speech about “you can be anything you want to be” and had found himself looking out at six-hundred faces, all of them brown. His fear was that people are not so much leading “parallel lives” as “entirely separate ones”. How can we learn to have shared values if we never meet each other?

This tied in strongly with my own thoughts about FAITH SCHOOLS, and that they might be used by communities to close in on themselves. One of the panellists talked about meeting with religious community and hearing them suggesting that “twinning” schools of one faith with another might help since, dogma aside, they have SO MUCH in common. Well, pardon me for not being COMPLETELY enamoured of that idea – ooh, the priests and the vicars and the imams can work out together how to make sure no one is allowed to harbour doubts about the “existence” of the “g” person. I think we could do with a SLIGHTLY broader exchange of ideas than that.

Mr Sarfraz’s point was that most people form their ideas about “multiculturalism” or other cultural identities from generalities unless they actually have one-to-one experience of people FROM that culture. And it’s hard to break those fixed impressions in any way other than having people meet people.

He also said that his elderly mother’s one regret was that she had not been pushed harder to learn English. Her late husband had pooh-poohed the idea and so she had never done so, and now felt she had missed out on much that Britain could have offered her. Although we are wary of the word “compulsion” and of the justification “it’s for your own good”, it might have helped to overcome her husband’s reservations to have been a little tougher in pushing language lessons.

At the moment, of course, the government is actually making it HARDER to learn English by cutting funding for lessons, just at the time when they are expecting more from people moving here.

It was an INTERESTING discussion, well worth doing, even though it barely scraped the surface of a difficult subject. I suspect that Mr Sarfraz was a bit DISAPPOINTED with us, what with most of us being WOOLLY and LIBERAL, though maybe not SO complacent after this gave us some more things to think about.

One last thought: according to Mr Stunner, if we DID insist on everyone “going home”, the four million immigrants to Britain who we foolishly ejected would be replaced by the five-and-a-half million Britons who currently live abroad. And then the catering industry would collapse because it had no workers and the pension system would collapse because it couldn’t afford all those extra retired people back from Spain.

Later still, my daddies went out for Blogger Drinks – Mr Duncan expresses concern that I am “home alone”.

One thing Mr Duncan gets wrong, though, is to say I am only THREE in Human years. How RUDE! Elephants are quite grown up by the age of FOURTEEN, so seven years old [R: six] is actually at least EIGHT [R: nearly SEVEN] in human terms.

Anyway, it was okay, Mr Duncan, I had Lego Obi Wan and Lego Qui Gon as babysitters!

Day 2450: It’s about Freedom; It’s about Green Action


So here we all are, back in Brighton home of the LEGO SHOP for another Liberal Democrat Conference.

It almost seems BIZARRE to me that the newspaper and television coverage keeps asking the question “What are the Liberal Democrats for?” If any of them were paying any attention then it ought to be OBVIOUS.

Freedom to live: restoring Civil Liberties
Freedom to breathe: saving the Earth for the future
Freedom from poverty: making taxes and benefits fairer
Freedom to have your voice heard: returning power to the people

Do you detect a THEME developing?

Civil Liberties was the message of last night’s Conference Rally, where Sir Mr the Merciless’ guest was Ms Charming Chakrabati of Liberty

The centrepiece of our best ever GREEN AGENDA is “Zero Carbon Britain” – a really ambitious plan to make Great Britain carbon neutral by 2050.

Obviously, that doesn’t mean NO carbon at all – as Carbon Based Life Forms some of you might find that a bit difficult going! No, the plan is that Britain will use up as much Carbon Dioxide (by growing plants) as we put out by consumption.

This means a RADICAL look at out energy technologies, both big-scale generation like more wind and wave farms, and shifting cars away from the petrol engine, AND how we use electricity, which means more efficiency and more sharing in things like combined heat and power projects.

I could not be more excited about this paper. It does almost all of the green things that I have been saying and MOST IMPORTANTLY it says them in a positive and enthusiastic way.

Not only can we LEAD by example, but we can also LEARN new technologies and sell them to other people – BE the cheerleader; save the World!

Unfortunately, my Daddy Alex has been far too busy to keep up with his own diary. This is because last week he wrote a piece about a nice person call Mr Brilliant Paddock would make a good Mayor of London.

Next day, Mr Don Liberali’s men in trench coats came round again.

We has a message from the Don for Meester Brilliant,” they say and proceed to bundle up Daddy and take him away.

Well, thought I, that’s ANOTHER thousand Focuses to deliver, but no! In less than half an hour I get a phone call and it is Daddy Alex saying he is calling from a SECRET LOCATION (a.k.a. the Headquarters of Mr Paddock’s campaign) where he has been put in charge of THINKING.

So now Daddy has to rush round conference with nice Mr Paddock introducing him to everyone daddy knows. Which is everyone. So you can see that it is taking QUITE SOME TIME.

This meant that Daddy Alex had to miss seeing Sir Mr the Merciless and Ms Sandy Topsywig together in CABARET.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Day 2449: It should have been MEEEE… AGAIN!


STUFF being GROWN UP about it… Waaahhh! Boo hoo! boo hoo!

Okay, got that out of my system.

Congratulations to all the winners of the Blogger of the Year contest, and big hugs and thank yous to the judges for giving me the opportunity to be nonimated again next year!

six prizes, three winners, one, er, representative
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In a ceremony in Brighton’s GLAMOROUS seafront Holiday Inn, presented by Glamorous Mr Councillor Deputy Lord Stephen (frock by Dior) and Handsome Ms Lynne Featherweight (miffed about the frock) special guest Ms Ros-from-the-Grauniad presented the Big Prize to Mr James...

A kiss is just a kiss
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…and also a glass globe.

Then she RAN AWAY very quickly before she could be photographed with me!

I did manage to catch up with some of the REAL STARS though, the winners of the Blogs of the Year.

Special Hugs go to Mr Jonny for winning ONE-AND-A-HALF awards, with “Best Newcomer” and “Nearly Best Single Entry” prizes.

Hugging a hoodie
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And if there’s a SPECIAL AWARD for topping the BBC’s coverage, then Mr Jonny won that too!

DOUBLE Hugs to Mrs (former) Mayor Mary who won both the “Best Elected Diary” and “Best Liberal Democrat for going out and getting all their friends to Vote in the best traditions of the Party” prize.

She's a Lady
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If there was one thing that these prizes proved it was that you can write small and beautiful local diaries and be JUST AS IMPORTANT as the big bouncing barnstorming ones.

And COMMISERATING hugs with Mr Paul…

Brave smiles
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…who deserved to win ALMOST as much as ME!

I was lucky enough to be nonimated in TWO categories, this year: Best Diary and Most Humorous Diary (which is ODD because my flappy legs do not HAVE elbows!)

There are some VERY CYNICAL people who might think that a “Most Humorous” category was only made so that the judges would not have to give the BIG prize to a FLUFFY TOY. But that CANNOT be TRUE – because the eventual winner was Mr James!

fluffy winner... and friend
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I do have to admit that I was PLEASED not to win the prize as “Most Humorous”, though. NOT because I am afraid of that nice Mr Don Liberali. Oh no. He’s not getting ME anywhere near Mr Lembit’s helicopter. But because I think that my diary is far too SERIOUS.

Humour is probably the best weapon that we have got against the massed zombie armies of the Labour and the big bucks battalions of the Conservatories. We are the Party of humour.

The Labour HAVE no sense of humour – only a Party without IRONY would use the TERRORISM act to eject an old man from their conference for saying out loud what everyone else was thinking.

The Conservatories DO have a sense of humour – but usually they try to keep Mrs Anne Winterton QUIET about it. More recently, Mr Grant Mishapps has been EXPERIMENTING with more SOPHISTICATED types of comedy. With very little success. His comedy double act this summer (with Mr Dale Winton as his straight man) does not seem to have gone down well with Mr Balloon.

When Mr Rory Bremner dresses up as Mr Something of the Night and says “I’m not going to hurt you!” Conservatories throw things at the screen and send small children to bed (especially the ones who join in); when Mr Rory dresses as Captain Paddy and starts to sing “In the Lib Dems” we write down the words in order to SING ALONG!

The Liberal Democrats, then, are the Party who are FUNNY – from Mr John Cleese making Partly Political Broadsides for us in the 1980’s to Danish Netball’s answer to Tim Henman, Ms Sandy Topsywig, interviewing Sir Mr the Merciless live on the BBC Parliament channel and managing to pull!

Because – and this is why FUNNY is also VERY SERIOUS – when we make people laugh, then they might remember what it is that we have to say. The most difficult of ideas are sometimes easier to put over with a JOKE than with a LECTURE.

“Funny” according to TV’s Mr Steven Moffat is “when one person says something and the other person laughs”. So I would particularly like to say thank you to all of the people who, when I said something, DID laugh.

Now can anyone help get me out of this BRIDESMAID’s FROCK that Mr Lord Bonkers has got me stuffed into. I mean, cream-coloured crushed silk and a tiara, really!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Day 2448: Millennium Meets Sir Ming: the Interview


Off to conference, and as a SPECIAL PRIZE for being on the short-list for Liberal Democrat Diary of the Year (again!) my fellow diarists and I were invited to meet His Divine Imperial Supremacy, Ruler of the Universe (and environs), Grand Mugwump of the Muggles and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Mr the Merciless himself in person.

So there I was, fluffy baby elephant and there he was, party leader.

Gazing into those wise yet beady eyes, it is hard not to be INTIMIDATED… and yet, I thought Sir Mr the Merciless bore up very well.

(Particularly since I stayed hiding in a bag behind the sofa and made Daddy Richard ask the questions!)

In fact, because I am VERY BUSY there was only time for one question each before we had to send Sir M on his way (I have appointed him to deputise for me at certain ceremonies).

But he was very generous with his answers, making it clear that he wants to be open and transparent and that he thinks that the Wibbly Wobbly Web is one of the ways to reconnect with the up to 40% of people who seem to have given up on voting in elections. That is probably why he is appointing Mr Steve Wibbly Wobbly Webb to take over chairing the Federal Policy Committee for him in the run up to the General Election. Ahh, yes, it seems that Sir Mr the Merciless is taking the rumours of a snap Autumn election VERY SERIOUSLY.

Sir M was also honest when Mr Paul asked him about what he thought had been his MISTAKES in the first year of his leadership (one of the questions Daddy Alex had been thinking about asking). He said that he had underestimated just how much of his time would be taken up by party administration – that almost everything that is causing a problem for the Liberal Democrats finds its way across his desk sooner or later. (Hold that image when you next think of Mr Balloon and the problems HE causes!)

Being open and honest, Sir Mr the Merciless was keen to stress that the interview was all on the record, that there were no secrets. On the one fluffy foot, this was very commendable, but on the other it also made for his answers – and to an extent our questions – being tempered and “political”. It would have been nice to discuss what he felt about the squeeze that the two other parties are putting upon us. Since the last general election, the annunciation of Mr Balloon and then the ascension of Mr Frown have coincided with a decline in our opinion poll ratings from around 22% to around 16%. Now anyone has got to think that that is SOME kind of problem (although I am NOT one of those who immediately blame that on the leader – there are too many other factors).

Sir Mr the Merciless WAS able to HINT that he recognises the problem himself when he talked about the fact that we are coming under fire from both the Conservatories AND the Labour. In previous elections the Labour and the Liberal Democrats have seen a common enemy in the Conservatories. Now that has changed: with the possibility of a HUNG PARLIAMENT both of the other parties have decided that they cannot get enough votes from their own supporters and have set their sights on OURS. It is no longer two-against-one but now one-against-two.

But then they have always BOTH been the traditional enemy: they are both authoritarian, centralising, sectional interest parties and increasingly regional ones too, with the Labour falling back to the north and the Conservatories making no progress outside of the south. Only the Liberal Democrats remain a truly ONE NATION party!

We DO still need to find the “magic words” that will fix our message in people’s minds, focus their attention on the real choice between a Liberal future or the NuToryLAbour No Future.

Mr James had asked about this idea of a “narrative” – first brought up in the “Meeting the Challenge” debate that led to last year’s “Trust Making Britain Fairly Green for People”; and then Mr Clogg raising the idea again earlier this year. What IS the narrative then, Mr James wanted to know.

Although Sir Mr the Merciless talked about “Free Green and Fair”, not just a slogan but a manifesto, I felt that we were STILL SEARCHING for those words, that we haven’t found how to make the breakthrough.

It would be all too easy to let Liberalism become a conversation between academics and politicians. He wants FREEDOM to mean something to all the real people, too. This is TRUE and GOOD… but we’re not getting that message across and we need to work out why.

Daddy Alex developed this point further, linking the Party’s message and appeal to the Leader’s personal CHARISMA when he asked about people’s perception of Sir Mr the Merciless himself. For all the good things that he has done, getting the party over it’s “local difficulties”, sorting out the organisation and restoring the morale of the MPs, the point remains that out campaigning, people used to say “ooh, I like that Captain Paddy,” or “ooh, I like that Cheeky Charlie.” No one has yet to say “ooh, I like that Sir Mr the Merciless” – what is he going to do about that?

Of course I WANT people to like me,” said Sir Mr the Merciless, blasting Daddy Alex with force lightning from his fingertips. “But you need to compare like with like: at this point when they were leader, no one like Paddy or Charles either. I know I didn’t!

Sir M told Daddy that he is going to “take on” the “age issue” this week, and try to turn it around – like Mr Ronald Raygun, the senile doddery old actor who became President of America – he promises not to take advantage of the inexperience of the younger men. He will play up the benefits of maturity and experience, though. “If there’d been a few more people my age around Lord Blairimort’s Cabinet table,” he added, “we might not have had such a rush into war.

He wants to shift his own time into CAMPAIGNING, to getting out and meeting people. He was keen to stress how people, especially young people, have not lost interest in POLITICS, only in POLITICIANS. He gave the example of the political panels at the Edinburgh book festival, with Mr Andy Marr or Mr Jeremy Paxo or Mr Captain Paddy: they all sold out in minutes. Sir Mr the Merciless could only get into see Captain Paddy by agreeing to CHAIR the panel!

(We tempted him to comment on media cynicism. He said that that was always dangerous for politicians – just look at how over the top Lord Blairimort’s “Feral Beast” speech had been… but that didn’t mean that there wasn’t a kernel of truth in what the former Prime Monster had had to say too.)

And it’s important to remember, he reminded us, that unlike Mr Charles or Captain Paddy, Sir Mr the Merciless doesn’t have to be a “one man band”. He is right about that, and about the importance of him putting the “bright young people” – Ms Jo, Ms Lynne, Mr Danny, Mr David, Ms Julia and many others – in the “shop window”.

He will be also taking Mr Vince “Power” Cable off the leash – Mr Vince is VERY CROSS about Mr Balloon trying to claim he is the first politician ever to talk about the credit crisis, something Mr Vince has been talking about since before Mr Balloon was out of his Etonian short trousers. Voice quivering with RAGE, Mr Vince declaimed: “Ooh, the little blighter!

“Speaking of being a one-man band,” interjected Daddy Alex bravely (and still smouldering a little bit) “this European referendum: what did you think you were DOING?”

Sir Mr the Merciless explained that he was asked the question and, in his game, you don’t get to say “wait for the consultation session”, at least not if you don’t want to end up with Mr Balloon’s reputation for vacillation. Again referring to his openness, he said that he was the leader and, as he had in the nuclear weapons debate in Spring, he made his opinion clear and that he would never want the party not to know his position. That’s fair enough, but perhaps we could do with him EXPRESSING that a position is his opinion, because that is a SUBTLE difference that would be lost on most of the party and ALL of the media.

Mr Jonathan followed up with the final question, wanting to know what a European In/Out referendum would achieve. Sir M explained that he was an unabashed, wholly committed pro-European and that he wants the chance to MAKE that case, a case that has been let drift for ten years. Lord Blairimort never saw it as more than another photo opportunity while Mr Frown cannot get out of Brussels fast enough. He wants to lead the campaign and have the thought of Europe, the benefits and opportunities – all that stuff I explained the other day, in fact – bring that to the forefront of people’s minds so that they know what Europe is worth to them.

And then it was apologies but time to go, expressed with the hope that rather than a one-off, this might be the beginning of an ongoing conversation. I think that that would be rather a good idea (even hiding in a bag, I would say that). Assuming that an INCONVENIENT General Election does not get in the way, it would be nice for our brave panel of interviewers (in a bag, remember) to call back in a month or two and see if and how things have changed.

We will see if anything comes of it.

[*] Sunday morning, actually. Saturday was my Cousin Jamie’s birthday party. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMIE! We got him Star Wars Lego and Doctor Who DVDs. Who mentioned the Jesuits??!?!