...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Day 2096: Mr Balloon on the Gravy Boat


"A Gravy Boat: it's like a gravy train but bigger and slower with lots more gravy."

– Sir Humphrey Appleby

You can have Mr Balloon for DINNER if you want!

It will cost you, though. Ten THOUSAND pounds for a CHEAP seat (or up to FIFTY THOUSAND for a good one – one near the door, probably!)

Still, it would be a great opportunity to hear the THOUGHT of the great man himself Рhe could tell you all about how he wants to CLEAN UP POLITICS while he is counting your stack of used fifties into a black attach̩ case.

Mr Balloon is JUMPING THE GUN on his Democracy Task force again, but at least it is good that he is having some IDEAS. Maybe eventually he will have GOOD ideas!

Today, he is saying that he does not think that Parliament should decide their own pay.

On the surface, this SOUNDS like a good idea; after all it will stop GREEDY MPs from giving themselves MASSIVE pay rises, won't it? Millionaire Mr Balloon can look VERY frugal then!

But think about it: if not Parliament, then who should decide this?

If Parliament controls its own spending then Parliament retains some INDEPENDENCE. If you hand that power over to somebody else, then you are putting Parliament under somebody else's CONTROL – Mr Balloon wants Parliament to be controlled by an UNELECTED committee of Civil Servants.

Certainly, at the moment Parliament COULD vote itself a whopping pay rise: but if it DID, then all of those MPs would have to EXPLAIN themselves to their voters. Parliament is ACCOUNTABLE.

But who are Mr Balloon's committee going to be accountable to? How will the public get rid of them if they think they are paying the MPs too much?

Or on the other fluffy foot, suppose the committee decides it is going to start CUTTING MPs' pay if they do not BEHAVE. Either that puts the MPs under the thumb of this unelected committee – or whichever occupant of a famous London residence controls the committee – or they will have to do like Three Jobs Bob Neill…

[Woolf: Neill before Sutekh!]

Him again! Eeek!

Er, quiver, MPs might do like Mr Bob and get some outside work in when they should be looking after their constituents.

Mr Balloon is QUITE RIGHT when he says that the Prime Minister should not be the person to investigate if his Cabinet chums have broken the Cabinet code.

The Cabinet Code should be like the Da Vinci Code and have a special order of ALBINO MONKS to track down ministers who break it and give them a good TALKING TO!

"When ministers don't behave properly, we should have an independent system of looking at that," said Mr Balloon.

He is RIGHT… up to a point. That independent scrutiny should, OF COURSE, come from the people's representatives in Parliament.

What we want is a MORE powerful Parliament, one that is able to hold ministers and even Prime Ministers to account for their actions, one that can subpoena witnesses and where misbehaviour is dealt with as seriously as contempt of court, which in fact is what it is, and false testimony is treated as seriously as perjury.

We also need to make Parliament more independent by REDUCING the Prime Minister's powers of PATRONAGE. The party whips are able to control their members in a way that makes it all ridiculous.

And of course we need a FAIR VOTING system, where Lord Blairimort does not get 100% of the power from 35% of the votes. Because of our First-Pass-the-Port voting system, Lord Blairimort has been given ENORMOUS majorities in the Commons on the support of MINORITIES of the people.

This means that he has been able to IGNORE Parliament because he has enough robots on his benches to vote down any opposition to his IMPERIAL plans.

Furthermore, he also gets to control all of the Parliamentary committees that are supposed to keep an eye on him and overturn any questioning of his behaviour, no matter how MAD he goes!

And Mr Balloon's solution is to take MORE power away from Parliament?


Until he goes and learns that REAL LIBERALISM is about CURTAILING arbitrary power, then I think we all know how HOLLOW his "I'm a Liberal Conservatory" claim really is. He just wants to continue the "New Tory Labour" tradition of more power to the centre and make the unaccountable behind the scenes manipulators stronger at the expense of anyone who voters might be able to talk to.

Mr Balloon has SLAGGED OFF Mr Frown and Lord Blairimort:

The "SOAP OPERA" of Labour's leadership has diverted attention from more important matters and is "not good for the country", said Mr Balloon to Xfm, the MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT radio channel.

"How much time do you think these people, in the last few weeks, have spent worrying about our troops in Afghanistan, or the NHS, or the schools we send our children to," he asked.

("Remember the Children, the poor little children," he forgot to add.)

This is really VERY, VERY NASTY politics.

If Mr Balloon had bothered to listen to either Mr Frown or Lord Blairimort's speeches this week, I think he would know that they have in fact been thinking about those things rather a lot.

I do not think that Lord Blairimort or Mr Frown's solutions of targets and diktats and centralisation are the RIGHT solutions, but that does not mean I do not recognise that they are trying to the RIGHT THING.

Mr Balloon should NOT go around saying that other people in public life are only interested in themselves.

Casting ASPERSIONS like that undermines EVERYONE who is in public service.

He wants to see some responsibility rather than "Gordon slagging off Tony and Tony slagging off Gordon".

Well if anyone is slagging anyone off it is clearly Mr Balloon. And if anyone is showing responsibility HE is certainly NOT!

PACHYDERM HYPOCRISY ALERT: hark at me slagging off him for slagging of them for slagging off each other!

If you want to show us some RESPONSIBILITY, Mr Balloon, then stop chatting about the Labour soap opera and GIVE US SOME POLICIES.

Or are you too busy having dinner with your ULTRA-RICH chums?

Pass the gravy boat, old bean.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Day 2095: Who was the Braverest Prime Minister?


You learn about a PLOT to shoot the Prime Minister. Do you:

Say: let these people continue with their demonstration, removing them will only make us look bad and might provoke a worse threat.


Cower behind huge metal gates, throw up ugly great concrete fortifications around the House of Commons, install huge bullet-proof glass shields inside the House of Commons and ban all demonstrations within a mile of where you are standing quaking in your Prime Ministerial boots.

How you answered:

Mostly "A's": you are a good defender of Liberal Democracy. Have your Chancellor invent pensions, but don't let him start selling off the honours system! Watch out for that WORLD WAR!

Mostly "B's": you've probably run out of honours to sell by now; have you considered moving to a police state? Or possibly Florida? Watch out for that WORLD WAR!

Day 2094: Broken Record


The 2007 Guinness Book of Records apparently has listed as the World's Longest Running Science Fiction television series (consecutive)... STARGATE SG-1 for having reached its tenth anniversary and 203 episodes.

To add insult to injury, they say that it has taken this record from THE X-FLIES which had 202 episodes over nine years and was CANCELLED ages ago!

Now I may be a very backwards fluffy thing, but I think I can think of a television series that has been running for a bit longer than that. In actual fact, at about four DECADES, that's QUITE a bit longer than that.

Here is a clue: DOCTOR WHO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Ooh, that rhymes!)

Oh, it doesn't count, though, because it got stopped in 1989 when Mr Dr Sylv went off into the sunset to stop the tea getting cold.

Well, excuse me but wasn't that STILL some twenty-six years of being on the telly EVERY YEAR?

(I think I should WARN anyone approaching who is going to WHINGE about the eighteen month DOCTOR-IN-DISTRESS gap when Mr Dr Colin was almost cancelled from going to BLACKPOOL, that I am FULLY ready to give them a good thump with my big fluffy nose!)

I have made Daddy Richard get out the big book of Dr Who and do some counting up for me.

Doctor Who has 203 consecutive episodes running from "An Unearthly Child" to "The Fury from the Deep, episode six", almost without any breaks at all, and certainly shorter gaps than Stargate's annual summer holiday.

Doctor Who continues with ANOTHER 203 consecutive episodes from "The Wheel in Space, episode one" to "Planet of Evil, part one".

It then has a THIRD run of 203 consecutive episodes from "Planet of Evil part two" to "Warriors of the Deep, part one" "Frontios, part one" ("Shada"'s six episodes do not count!).

And then another 88 episodes until the end of "Survival, part three". Making 697!

Plus one episode in 1996. (Mr Paul McGann DOES count!)

And now another 21 episodes and counting!

In fact by 1989, Dr Who had accumulated of seventeen thousand screen minutes. And by now it is over EIGHTEEN! More than DOUBLE certain Vancouver based series.

It is simply DAFT to say that those first 203 episodes and the next 203 episodes and the next 203 episodes after that somehow stop being consecutive episodes just because of the SUBSEQUENT hiatus in 1986 or the post 1989 gap.

The argument appears to be that if Doctor Who had been CANCELLED in 1986 then it WOULD have a longer run than Stargate, but since it returned it somehow DOESN'T.

Maybe it is GALLIFREYAN maths!


Counting on my FLUFFY FEET...

I have tried counting in MINUTES too, because Stargate episodes are LONGER than Dr Who's episodes used to be.

Let us say that they are 45 minutes long (and that is being generous!): 203 times 45 is 9135 minutes of airtime.

But even by the end of Mr Dr Twerpee’s time Dr Who had already racked up 9217 minutes of airtime.

So it had actually already gone past Stargate’s ten-year total in eleven years.

During "Planet of the Spiders".

Episode Three.

About fifteen minutes in.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Day 2093: Hang On…


I wave a fluffy foot to "Halloo!" to two new diaries from my friends Mr Andy and Mr Theo.

Mr Andy has a piece talking about talking about a hung parliament. This is good because we cannot just keep DUCKING this question.

There are a lot of things to indicate that this might actually happen at the next election – although the Martin Baxter election predictor that all the journalists seem to use is NOT one of them: it always gets the number of seats wrong because it always underestimates the Liberal Democrats.

Nevertheless, the calculation goes something like this: the Labour are BOUND to lose seats; the Conservatories might gain some but since they still have fewer than 200 MP's (worse that the Labour's worst ever post-War result) it is too hard for them to gain a majority; now that the Liberal Democrats have a solid sixty seats in parliament they will always stand between the Conservatories and the door to Number Ten.

So it is certainly not IMPOSSIBLE that after the next election, no one will control a majority of the MPs in the House of Commons. (Mind you, the British public have an uncanny knack of avoiding that happening so do not bet your granny on it!)

This means that the media are more interested than ever in asking the Liberals who will you back – the Labour or the Conservatories.

Why should we not say: "back us and we will keep whoever wins honest"?

But wait! From whom does this sensible seeming suggestion come? None other than Master Matthew Plaster of Parris, arch Conservatory and high priestess of the Cult of Thatchianity.

This same Mr Plaster admits in the same article to FIBBING OUTRAGEOUSLY in order to steel votes from the Liberals.

Is it possible that he does not have our BEST INTERESTS at heart?

The trap here is that Mr Plaster invites us to say to Conservatory voters: your man cannot win here but vote for us and we'll stop the Labour left taking over; and to say to the Labour voters: your lady will come third here, but vote for us and we will stop those swivel-eyed Conservatories from wrecking nice Mr Balloon's plans.

Yes, he is suggesting that we say one thing in one place and the opposite thing in another.

Hmmm, THAT could never come back to haunt us!

It also presents the election as a FALSE CHOICE: nice, moderate, centrist policies from Mr Frown/Mr Balloon (delete as applicable) or nasty, extremist versions of the same.

(Did you spot the IMPLICIT endorsement of Mr Balloon's "I’m a Liberal Conservatory" pose?)

Funnily enough the Liberal Democrats exist because this is HOGWASH.

By the next election, Great Britain will have been run for THIRTY YEARS by "New Tory Labour", the AUTHORITARIAN party. The faces may have changed in 1997 but remarkably few of the policies did.

And to my FLUFFY ASTONISHMENT, Mr David Millipede actually ADMITTED as much on the Newsnight show. He said:

"You do have a choice between change and more of the same at the next election, and we will be the change."

So even Mr Millipede thinks that the Conservatories will just be MORE OF THE SAME!

We know that ALREADY one in five people are voting LIBERAL DEMOCRAT because they do not want MORE of the "New Tory Labour" Party's authoritarian policies – they want LIBERAL policies that are fair and local and green.

We also know that LOTS MORE people would vote for the Liberal Democrats if it were not for the unfair electoral system that gives them no choice but which face from the "New Tory Labour" Party they want to see gloating over them.

We are NOT standing just to get kinder gentler versions of "New Tory Labour" policies for centralisation and class division and stifling of opportunity and neglect of climate change.

We are standing to get OUR policies, our LIBERAL policies, into action.

So here is MY answer:

"No, we would not support the Labour if they no longer had a majority after the next election: the people would have spoken clearly that they wanted the Labour to go and it would not be up to us to prop up a discredited, unwanted government.

"But no, we would not support the Conservatories because Mr Balloon's warm words do not amount to a hill of beans, much less a policy for government, and all of his actions say that we could not support his kind of authoritarianism any more than we could support the other lot."

Mr Balloon has backed Lord Blairimort's government on schools and on civil liberties and on Iraq. Why should we not expect him to carry on like that after the next election?

"New Tory Labour" have been in power for LONG ENOUGH. It is time for a better answer.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Day 2092: Luntz and Future King


Good news! My fluffy friend Mr Frank Luntz has NOT been sacked from the Newsnight Show after all! He's back and cuddlier than ever.

Who would have thought that the DEADLY JAPANESE BLOWFISH could be made into a CUDDLY TOY! But back to Mr Luntz…

Many of you will remember how CLEVER Mr Frank got all the Conservatories to admit they were having THOUGHTS about Mr Balloon. This time around, he has set out to show the Labour that what they really want is FLUFFITY BUNNY Dr John "nice" Reid.

If Mr Frank was a MAGICIAN and not a RESPECTABLE POLLSTER this trick would be one done by DAVID BLAINE.

No, not the sitting in a glass box while the public throw post-sell-by-date FRUITS at you. (Although, that is a THOUGHT – perhaps Lord Blairimort could squeeze that into his farewell tour!)

What I mean is the sort of CLOSE UP street magic that looks impossible to fake!

So, first the GOOD NEWS: Mr Paxo introduced Mr Frank as "respected REPUBLICAN" which is GOOD as you will remember that I thought that people would be better informed if they knew Mr Frank's political leanings.

The segment was then directed to – it would appear – show as much of the process as possible by using SPEEDED UP film to whiz through the boring bits of handing out bits of paper and stuff.

Having said that, there is still some BAD NEWS. Mr Frank got to pick the list of candidates to be the leader after Lord Blairimort; Mr Frank got to pick the audience panel; and Mr Frank got to pick the clips of speeches and interviews that the panel were shown, of which as before we were only shown clips to illustrate Mr Frank's points.

Poor Mr Frank, he will think that there is not a lot that he can do to convince me.

The Candidates

Mr Frank had chosen six candidates to represent a possible contest to be the Labour's leader. They were Mr Frown (obviously) and Mr Dr Reid along with Mr MacDonald the left winger who has said that he will run (assuming he can get 44 of the Labour MPs to sign his nomination). The other three were Mr Alan Johnson, Mr Alan Milburn and Mr Alan David Millipede (though he will change his name to Alan if you want).

There is a certain amount of GUESSWORK and SELECTION involved in this list because – unlike the Conservatories last year – the Labour contest has not started yet. (Because Lord Blairimort is unwilling to fire the starting pistol unless he can point it at Mr Frown's head, it would seem.)

This means that possible candidates like Mr Hilary (remember who his daddy is?) Benn and Mr John (remember who he is at all?) Hutton were not on the list while on it were Mr "I've quit twice" Milburn who is a little past his sell by date, and Mr Millipede and Mr Dr Reid who have both said that they do not want the job. Honest. Cross their hearts and hope to die. Well, maybe not actually die… Okay, if you ask us nicely we will do the job…

For that matter why were there no WOMEN? Or genuine LEFT-WINGERS? Or genuine WOMEN LEFT-WINGERS even? Ms Diane Abbott or Ms Glenda Jackson or Ms Claire Snort all would have strong NAME RECOGNITION and might have impressed the panel. Of course you might say that it is not credible that they could gather the support within the Labour in parliament to mount a campaign – but then the question is what was the POINT of Mr Frank's panel? To choose between ACTUAL candidates (of whom there are NONE yet, see above for Lord Blairimort in the Labour headquarters with the starting pistol) or to examine the sort of leader that the Labour people really want?

Still, I am not going to blame Mr Frank for this. NOBODY believes Mr Dr Reid's declarations of non-interest (even if they are TRUE!) and Mr Alan Johnson is quite BORING enough to represent Mr Benn or Mr Hutton or indeed any number of other totally FORGETTABLE middle rank ministers.

I am not going to blame Mr Frank because it is simply not his FAULT – the years of the Labour rule, and Lord Blairimort appointing either his own yes-men or Mr Frown's yes-men, and the sacking of people with some independence because they might be a threat have all eroded the pool of talent available (and just the same thing happened to the Conservatories under Lady Thatcher – how else did Mr Minor rise to the top?).

So if you sit down and ask yourself the PRACTICAL QUESTION "if the next Prime Minister wasn't going to be Mr Frown who could it be?" you will quickly realise that (as of RIGHT NOW) Mr Dr Reid is actually the ONLY person on the list: he is the only politician from the Labour who has had any GOOD NEWS this year even if good news for Mr Dr Reid was horrible news for everybody else.

Also in political terms he is an ULTRA-LOYAL Blairite without the catastrophic disadvantage of LOOKING like an ultra-loyal Blairite (I am sorry Mr Hutton and Mr Milburn – you might as well have "hand built by robots" stamped onto your plastic bottoms).

To be quite honest, Mr Dr Reid looks like TAGGART. You know how it was: there would be dead bodies all over the floor, and bound to be lots more before the hour was up, but at least there was the STONY VISAGE of a thoroughly MISERABLE Mr Mark McMannus to REASSURE you that life would go on, probably in the same killingly depressing fashion.

Actually, Mr Dr Reid's not PROPER Taggart; he's more like that dough-faced cloud of glum they've got in at the moment to keep the franchise alive. Appropriately enough.

So anyway, the point is that Mr Frank has got to have a list that is Mr Frown and Mr Dr Reid and all the others are in there to make up numbers so that people think that they have a big field to choose from without actually being exciting enough for them to be chosen.

The Panel

Quite early on we were told that Mr Frank's panel were made up of ten Labour loyalists, ten Labour leaning voters and ten floating voters, who might have voted for the Conservatories or the Liberal Democrats in the past.

That means that straight off we know that Mr Frank has had to do some sort of SELECTION on the people who appear.

As always, I do hope no one thinks that this means DISHONESTY!

Picking a DEMOGRAPHIC sample is VERY TRICKY and usually you have to have a good thousand people to be considered representative, so Mr Frank was always going to be VERY LUCKY to get anything statistically meaningful out of a room of thirty people.

And the people on the panel can all HONESTLY hold their own opinions – they do not have to be patsies of Mr Frank.

Just remember that they were chosen to fit a demographic so that will affect the outcome.

If the people picked all had to be "readers of THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES" you would not be surprised if the answer to "what is your favourite colour?" turned out to be BLACK, would you?

I do wonder what this sort of mix was supposed to represent though. If you were asking "who would be best leader among the whole country?" you would surely want Liberal and Conservatory voters too; if you were asking "who will the Labour pick as their leader?" then you would only want the Labour members. Mixing up "Labour loyalists" and "floating voters" (how do you pick the number of Conservatories to Liberal Democrats?) seems strange. I am sure that there is a good explanation for this though.

Other things that we learned about this panel were that they were all from London and – in answer to one of Mr Frank's questions – that quite a lot of them, maybe about a third, were against Mr Frown for being SCOTTISH.

But Mr Dr Reid is Scottish too, you might very well say, but the point about the Scottish question is what it tells us about the SORT of Londoners who were on Mr Frank's panel.

London may be ten percent of the population of Britain, but it is not necessarily representative of the country as a whole and Mr Frank's choice of panel seems calculated likely to EXCLUDE one sort of voter. Let me just say that I do not think that there were very many LIBERALS in that room.

(Not NONE – you can trust Mr Frank to have made sure that there were AT LEAST one or two, it just seems that there might not have been many more.)

If you exclude small "L" liberals, then you are giving a big lift to the Home Secretary, WHOEVER he happens to be, just because he is Mr Law and Order.

And yet, across much of the North of England and in Scotland, the choice at elections is now between the Labour and the Liberal, and the big questions in politics at the moment are all about liberty versus authoritarianism. Has Mr Frank been UNLUCKY and missed something IMPORTANT?

Might Mr Frank have ACCIDENTALLY gotten his panel skewed towards working working class voters who vote for the Labour or are straight switchers between the Labour and the Conservatories (or the BNP if they are from the Dagenham area)?

And on that Scottish question, Mr Dr Reid is a DIFFERENT SORT of Scottish from Mr Frown. It is the difference between coming from Edinburgh and Glasgow; it is the difference between being a bank manager and a bouncer; it is the difference between, basically, being – or appearing – middle class and working class. Could there have been a "one of us" factor at work in Mr Frank's chosen audience?

Wouldn't it be a shame if Mr Frank's EXCITING result were only a result of the people that he picked rather than because of some wider truth?

The Presentation

Do you remember how I REMARKED on the fact that last year Mr Balloon's picture had the TOP LEFT position on Mr Frank's pin board? It is not a BIG thing, but it might help just a little bit to put that person in people's minds when they are later asked who do they think of first.

Well Mr Frown's was in that position this year, so he ought to have had the same advantage, do you not think. And last year, the Conservatories on the LOWER level did not do so well; but this year Mr Dr Reid was placed at the BOTTOM RIGHT, and yet he was very successful.

Does this mean that I was WRONG?

Well, maybe, because you should ALWAYS consider the possibility that I am talking out of my TRUNK!

On the other fluffy foot, this year we saw Mr Frank take the photographs out of their envelopes in front of the audience and ask them if they knew who they were before pinning them up on the board in order.

I THINK that they came out in ALPHABETICAL order this time, so it is just COINCIDENTAL that Mr Frown was first to appear and Mr Dr Reid was the last to appear.

(Entirely as an aside, have you noticed how in MOVIE TITLES, if you are not going to appear first then next best place to appear is LAST, because that way you are the one who is REMEMBERED by the people watching the film. "And Martin Sheen" or "And Max Von Sydow". You always remember those guys, don't you. Not that that has ANYTHING to do with THIS, of course!)

It would be interesting to know if Mr Frank did this last year. I seem to recall that the pin board was already set up with pictures last year, but that might just be because the Newsnight show edited the taking-them-out-of-envelopes bit out.

Asking the "do you know who they are" question is a BIT unfortunate because it is going to fix in people's heads who are the SOMEBODIES and who are the NOBODIES right from the get go.

Mr Frank then led a discussion about each candidate in turn. (By "led" I mean "facilitated", of course, because actually LEADING the panel would be BAD!) This was followed by written homework biographies of the six, as provided by DOWNING STREET to make sure it was IMPARTIAL. (Do not roll your eyes!) And finally onto Mr Frank's signature piece: the video clips with the popularity dials.

Here is a thought: perhaps those clips could all be put up on the Newsnight Show's website so that we could all see what the panel saw. (Although Daddy would probably have to go back to Brighton to use the wi-fi in order to watch them!)

As it was, we WERE able to tell that Mr Frown's clips included a bit of one of his droney speeches and his recent interview with Mr Andy Marr about how he had really, really, really, really, really not orchestrated the campaign to have Lord Blairimort assassinated. Really.

Funnily enough, the panel thought that he was the teensiest bit SHIFTY after that.

Mr Dr Reid got a clip of him telling the public how he had PERSONALLY wrestled Osama Bin Laden to the ground and BEATEN a confession out him, thus saving everyone IN THE WORLD from being exploded by BABY MILK on aeroplanes from Heathrow, Stanstead and Biggins Hill.

This went down quite well. Or rather, it was so popular that several of Mr Frank's dial machines EXPLODED themselves, so high was the approval rating.

For the interview bit, Mr Frank showed them the famous episode of the Newsnight Show when Mr Paxo VERY RUDELY called Mr Dr Reid an "attack dog" and Mr Dr Reid gently pointed out his error by biting his leg off and hitting him with the wet end. Until he cried.

To be honest, we were as surprised as Mr Frank that this didn't prove even more popular than Mr Dr Reid's "Mr Dr Reid is a JAMES BOND hero" speech.

Still, given the choice of those two, who do YOU think is the more exciting?

(Is it REALLY necessary to point out that all of the BORING people tested out as BORING?)

The Questions

So, as Dr Who says on "The Pirate Planet" what's it all for?

"Well, the simplest answer is the entertainment factor. "Front runner Mr Frown most popular to take over" – you could hardly get more "Dog Bites Man" in a headline, could you?

So OBVIOUSLY you want the story to be "Mr Frown suffers rejection BLOW" or "Mr Frown HUMILIATED" or "Lady McBlairimort STICKS KNIFE in Mr Frown". (Er, that's someone ELSE'S headline, actually.)

Politically, though, what's in it for Mr Frank? The respected Republican.

Well, it is ALMOST CERTAIN that Mr Frown is going to be the next leader of the Labour. If he ISN'T then Mr Dr Reid is really the only other possibility and if he should happen to get the job, Mr Frank looks like a GENIUS.

But assuming that Mr Frown DOES get to be leader, it is ALSO almost certain that he will get a drubbing from the electorate at the next general election. And then Mr Frank will be able to say "ah ha, but I told you they should have picked Mr Dr Reid".

(Mr Frown's best hope, incidentally, is to go for an election QUICKLY – that ol' HONEYMOON thang – but he is far too CAUTIOUS, and the Labour is far too BROKE to do that, so the election will still be two or three years away and people will hate him again by then.)

Then there is also the damage to Mr Frown's reputation that this result does. The media are building a myth that Mr Frown isn't really very popular. Mr Frown helps them out in this a LOT. This result will help to reinforce that myth, and that UNDERMINES Mr Frown's credibility even if he DOES get to be PM.

Who does this help?

(Clue: It’s Mr Balloon.)

Equally, talking up the more right-wing and authoritarian Mr Dr Reid furthers the Conservatory cause in two ways: it moves the centre of public debate further to the right without Mr Balloon having to edge further to the left; and it makes the Labour leadership be about being more authoritarian at a time when Mr Balloon is holding up shocked mittens and posing as a liberal conservatory.

So Mr Frank has several reasons to be VERY HAPPY with the outcome of his COMPLETELY IMPARTIAL experiment.

Mr Frown will NOT be so happy. Just think: someone on Mr Frank's panel called him "MACHIAVELLIAN"!

Ooh, my IRONY dial has exploded!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Day 2091: Resile! Resile!


We are listening to Lord Blairimort on the Andy Marr television show.

"What kind of a person USES this sort of language?" asks Daddy Alex.

"A twisty-turny weaselly one, OBVIOUSLY," I reply.

Mr Andy was trying to get Lord Blairimort to say whether he supported Mr Frown to be next leader of the Labour.

"No, Andy, of course I don't. Look… I hate Gordon… and… I always have… and, you know… he'll have to pry the leadership… from my… cold… dead… hands."

Is exactly what Lord Blairimort was NOT saying and NOT saying VERY CLEARLY.

So, instead of saying that, or even saying "Yes, I've said in the past that I back him, and I still do" (it COULD happen… maybe) Lord Blairimort kept repeating his new MANTRA: "I do not resile from anything that I have said in the past."

He doesn't WHAT?!?!?!

I have looked up the word "RESILE" in the dictionary, because even Daddy did not know what it meant!

There are three meanings given:

One is to recoil.

Another is to spring back into your original shape or position.

And only the third is to draw back from an agreement or statement.

So EITHER Lord Blairimort is saying that he is not REPUDIATING his statement of support for Mr Frown, OR he is saying that Mr Frown got him BENT OUT OF SHAPE but he's not going back to his original position (of "get stuffed Gordo!").

Why all the nods and winks? (And dead horses.) Lord Bairimort maybe CRAZY but he's not STUPID. He knows perfectly well that since making a GAME out of politics, saying that you refuse to play is just another TACTIC. By not openly backing Mr Frown, everyone just assumes this means he is against him. Who needs the less subtle HINTS dropped to the "News of the World"?

If Lord B TRULY wanted the Labour to stop squabbling over the leadership then he should say: "the next leader will be Gordon, we all know it. Now let's get on and let me finish my go."

Or he could say: "I don't think it should be Gordon, but he's got as much right to a crack at it as the next man, so there should be a proper contest."

But he doesn't do either of these OPEN and HONEST things. Instead he raises an EYEBROW, refuses to answer one way or the other and then talks about RESILING.

He might as well have had "I'm a shifty lawyer" tattooed on his shiny forehead!

The answer must lie in the peculiar dance that takes place between Lord Blairimort's desire to stay as long as possible and Mr Frown's ambition to see him gone. It would still be BETTER for Mr Frown for Lord B to take the blame for next year's anticipated electoral disasters, but that doesn't mean that Mr Frown won't topple him before then. So Lord Blairimort twists like a contortionist on a Twister board to avoid saying anything that ACTUALLY PROVABLY breaks any of the promises that he has made to Mr Frown.

Funnily enough, Daddy Alex and I were watching a DRAMA on BBC1 last week on the day that we got back from conference (Daddy Richard was HYPNOTISED by the Star Wars Lego Game, obviously). It was called ANCIENT ROME, and it was the story of the mad Roman Emperor ToNERO Blairius. This was a bit CONFUSING partly because ToNERO was played by the same actor who played Lord Blairimort in "The Deal", but mainly because he was playing ToNERO in EXACTLY the same way!

It was difficult to watch that manic grin, that twitching performance, not to mention all the STABBING in the back, without thinking it was a dramatisation of this year's Labour Conference.

This is not good news for CHERIE, by the way!

So all in all it was good to have a few words from HONEST Peter Mandelson.

"Gordon smells!" he said. "Let's get 'im!"

Incidentally, Daddy Alex was VERY DISAPPOINTED that he did not get to see Mr Andy at the Liberal Democrat conference: Daddy is a big fan of Mr Andy's staring starring role in Dr Who!

Day 2090: DOCTOR WHO: Quick Reads – I am A Dalek


It has been LOTS of politics for a while hasn't it?

Do not worry, ROBIN HOOD is on his way soon. Until then, I have kept Daddy Richard busy with another Dr Who book. Here is what he had to think:

Now, couldn't David Tennant have been given this to read? Okay, it would only have been a single CD but there would have been no need to abridge and it is leaps and bounds better than at least 66% of the Doctor's recent literary adventures.

Gareth Roberts has always been one of the Doctor Who books' brighter talents, ever since his debut in "The Highest Science" captured the form of a Douglas Adams science-comedy without falling into the usual trap of trying to imitate DNA's voice. He's been closely involved with the new TV series – he wrote the "red button" adventure "Attack of the Graske" for Christmas last year, and those fun little internet or telephone trailers called TARDISodes, as well as the highly readable novel "Only Human" for the ninth Doctor last year.

He doesn't disappoint here and, even though the format is supposedly even more trimmed back than the hard-backed full length tenth Doctor stories, this manages to be deeper both emotionally and plotwise.

The Doctor's planned golfing trip to the moon is interrupted by the discovery of a Dalek casing. Tampering with the shell causes a new Dalek mutant to be re-engineered and, as you would expect, it goes on the rampage. The Dalek action is excitingly written, and captures the feel of "Dalek" and it's ethos of let's remind people that these things are scary killer machines. Rose, separated from the Doctor (of course) has a different but related problem: GIRL X whose remarkable recovery from near death turns out to be a result of her Dalek engineered heritage. This provides for an emotional, even horrifying, core to the story as we get GIRL X's first person perspective as Dalek ideology begins to take over her personality. It is a clever device, because we all feel prejudice and anger and despite from time to time and GIRL X reminds us that we can all be a bit to close to Dalek thinking sometimes.

Thrilling and moving, then, there's only really one problem and that is one of continuity: the book has to take place between "The Parting of the Ways" and "Doomsday" for the very obvious reason that it starts the post "Parting of the Ways" tenth Doctor and the pre-"Doomsday" not-trapped-in-another-universe Rose. And a Dalek. But on the telly, Rose is appalled to meet the Daleks in "Doomsday" – appalled not in an "oh no not again" way, but in an "oh my god aren't you all supposed to be very dead" sort of way.

It's not a total contradiction, but having Rose and this Doctor encounter another Dalek survivor slightly undermines the TV stories. It would have been more in keeping with the Rose and ninth Doctor pairing, discovering another Dalek survivor of the Time War, one of a scattered few, like the one found by Van Statten in "Dalek".

"The Parting of the Ways" implies that Bad Wolf Rose wipes out all the remaining Daleks in the universe. The only way that the Black Dalek and his Cult of Skaro chums managed to survive was by hiding outside of the Universe itself. But if some random Dalek relic managed to survive by accident, then that changes the implication and means Bad Wolf Rose only destroyed those Daleks with the Emperor's fleet. And if one survived, why not a hundred? It lessens the impact of "Doomsday".

"I am a Dalek" is billed as a Quick Read, and it's not kidding. I devoured it in a single tube journey, but that was as much because I really wanted to find out what happened as because of the large type and short page-count.

This is a cracking piece of Doctor Who, and – continuity quibble aside – fits perfectly into the new series.

And so you'll be delighted to hear that Gareth has been given the ultimate reward of writing an episode for next year's Doctor Who.

Day 2089: Devolved Devalued


Mr Frown is setting out his stall to replace Lord Blairimort as the HUMPTY DUMPTY of British Politics. No, not by getting SMASHED.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less."

Today, Mr Frown is using the words "devolve power to the people" to mean "create a super new QUANGO".

(Microsoft's spill-chequer does not recognise the word "quango" which Daddy says means Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation. Microsoft suggests "guano". So maybe it DOES recognise the word after all!)

Mr Frown points to the success of the independent board of the Bank of England at setting interest rates. But this is simply not the same. We have to have an independent board to set interest rates because that stops the chancellor from playing with the levers of the economy like some sort of PINBALL MACHINE to get short term electoral advantage. (This used to happen when Mr Balloon was advising the then chancellor, the famous badger impersonator Mrs Norma Lamont.)

The chancellor – the ELECTED representative, the ACCOUNTABLE representative – still decides the POLICY: he just puts the Bank of England in charge of how to get there.

(For Mr Balloon's benefit: this is like you picking out what shoes you want to wear and then giving them to your chauffeur – it is up to him which way he drives them to the House of Commons.)

What Mr Frown is suggesting seems to be the EXACT OPPOSITE. He wants to create an UNACCOUNTABLE and APPOINTED body that sets the POLICY. (He suggests that ministers will set out GUIDELINES. How nice.)

How would this board be appointed, anyway? Would it be an exciting new tool of PATRONAGE for the Prime Minister with which to reward his cronies (whether or not the price was right)?

Or would Mr Frown create an appointments appointment board. And an appointments appointment board appointments board to decide who gets appointed to THAT. AND so on until the bureaucracy reaches INFINITY!

This is a WIN-WIN for Mr Frown, anyway: if it works he will take the credit; if it fails he will avoid the blame.

The people who are REALLY responsible for providing the service in the NHS are the DOCTORS and NURSES in surgeries and hospitals. Will Mr Frown's scheme make it any easier for them to get funds to the frontline if decisions are being made by Mr Frown's board of directors instead of the Health Secretary? No, it will be harder, because a board of appointees never has to come out of the bunker.

At the very least, an elected Health Secretary can be EMBARRASSED by the health workers – she's got to stick her head over the parapet sometime, because if she never appears in public she won't get re-elected!

Devolution means putting real decision making power in the hands of the local people, not paying handsome salaries into the hands of a dozen of your big business mates.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Day 2088: Ming, the Motionless Picture


Well, Conference is over and my fluffy feet have almost recovered from all the CLAPPING.

But it wouldn’t be the end of Conference without the big speech from the leader. This year opened with a series of slides: Sir Mr the Merciless STREAKING down the racetrack. And if that wasn’t enough to put you off your sticky buns, there was always the TOP GUN moment: Sir M in the role of TOM CRUISER. And Chucky Kennedy valiantly trying to look like Val Kilmer!

It is not often that I get to compare Sir Ming to JACKIE TYLER. But that is who I was reminded of by his Conference reception. No, I will EXPLAIN.

Earlier this year, before the latest series of DOCTOR WHO even, my daddies went to another sort of conference, one for Dr Who enthusiasts: the Liberal Democrats of the SCI-FI world!

At that conference, it was the first time that CAMILLE CODURI, the actress who plays Rose Tyler’s MUM, had been at one of these fan conventions. She was obviously VERY NERVOUS when she first got up on stage. As you would be with two hundred Dr Who fans braying in the audience. But as she answered the first couple of questions it gradually dawned upon her that the Dr Who fans LOVED HER. And with that, she BLOSSOMED!

It was quite similar for Sir Mr the Merciless. I am not saying that the conference LOVED him – I don’t think that either he or they are quite READY for that yet, maybe a brisk handshake or even a comradely slap on the shoulder, but NO HUGGING. But there was a palpable sense that Conference were willing him to success.

After all the kerfuffle at the start of the year, over Mr Charles and then the leadership election, and over Mr Gerbil and Mr Hugs making a general MESS of things, the Liberal Democrats have been doing PRETTY WELL to keep themselves together (not to mention giving a bloody nose each to Lord Blairimort and Mr Balloon in by-elections!). So it was frankly RUDE of the dead wood media to spend most of the run up to conference saying that it was do-or-die for Sir Mr the Merciless in spite of all the party’s hard work.

If there is one sure way to get a herd of Lib Dems to do something, it is to try and get them to do the opposite. Try and get them to have a big row, and the leadership will get their tax policy by two-to-one; say that they want Mr Charles back and Sir Mr the Merciless will be clutched to the collective BOSOM. (Well, hand firmly clasped, anyway, see above.)

So you can see why there was a sensation in the air that everyone in the hall for that speech was willing Sir Mr the Merciless on. That’s not to say that he could have just tottered to the front of the stage and fallen off the edge to rapturous applause. But it also meant that some opening nervousness was going to be overlooked. And as Sir M picked up on the fact that Conference DIDN’T want him to fall off the front of the stage, his performance strengthened notably.

The first jokes – the ones about the hymns for Lord Blairimort’s “Songs of Praise” were a BIT strained, but Conference was giving him credit for making jokes AT ALL at that point.

Then he was into his stride, and realising Conference was with him, he gave us what we wanted: tax policy and climate change, the big Liberal policy statements of the week – will we see anything like that at the other conferences? I do not think so!

Then a swipe at the Labour’s squandered years.

Next on to civil liberties: “terrorism thrives where civil liberties are denied”. This was the good stuff!

Time to play his JOKER: foreign policy – Britain’s tarnished international reputation: too soon into Iraq; too late to call for a ceasefire in Lebanon. The shame of Guantanamo and rendition. And the need to act and act now in Darfur.

And on Mr Balloon suddenly discovering he has RESERVATIONS about our foreign policy…

Where were you when what was needed was not reservations but votes?

I’ll tell you where you were:

You, Mr Balloon, were in the government lobby backing military action against Iraq.

Then on to tackle INEQUALITIES: the Diversity Fund to make the Liberal Democrats MORE representative (at least he MENTIONED homophobia in one paragraph, even if he forgot gay daddies again by the next), and a Commission on Public Services to widen the reach of opportunities for everyone, with principles of stability, local accountability and tailoring to the individual.

Time for the best joke of the speech:

“The Labour is like the hurricane that hit the Azores this week;
A great, grey depression that spins around sucking everything into its centre. And its name? Hurricane Gordon!

Into the home strait, and guaranteed applause by name-checking the Liberal Democrats ACTUALLY in ACTUAL government – Sheffield, Liverpool, Scotland – ten billion pounds being managed for seventeen million people with Liberal government, and our best chance yet to take the lead in the Scottish Parliament. And from Holyrood to Westminster.

Big finish, step out from behind podium to show that he CAN step out from behind podium – “My vision; your challenge; our future!” – and then all the CLAPPING. Nice choreography as first Lady the Merciless and then all the MPs stream onto the stage too with a sense of golly there are quite a few of them now!

It might not have been the most BRILLIANTEST of speeches, and there might have been just a few too many gaps where we were expected to put the clapping in, but it was the speech that Conference wanted and needed and it was the speech to shut the media up… at least until next week. And next week the Mr Frown show hits Manchester like one of those ASTEROIDS that Mr Lemming is so worried about.

So the next challenge really is… what next? There is a long gap in the political calendar until election season next year and the only danger for us now is falling off the radar. This is then going to be the REAL test. Good luck, Sir Mr the Merciless: it might be the only thing worse than being talked about.

I have rewarded Daddy Richard for taking us to conference by letting him play STAR WARS LEGO for the last two days, so obviously my diary has fallen behind again. I will try and make him catch up again soon!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Day 2087: Isn’t She Lovely


Today was the BEST day of Conference! My favouritest MP Sarah Teather was on stage TWICE! She opened the debate on headteachers and then had a speech all of her very own later on.

The story about HEADTEACHERS is very interesting: everybody remembers Sir Mr the Merciless’s first question at Prime Minister’s Punch Up Time.

Lord Blairimort said it WAS often difficult to find a leader for a failing organisation.

When we compare how EASY was the dignified search for a Liberal Democrat leader to all the DIFFICULTIES of the Labour scheming and spinning and backstabbing as people try to get their grubby fingers on the leadership of the Labour, I finally realise that Lord Blairimort was RIGHT!

My lovely Sarah spent much of her speech in giving the Labour a good old TELLING OFF for how very rubbish they have been!

In 1997 Lord Blairimort promised “education, education, education!” Instead it’s been meddle, meddle, meddle.

Nine white papers, nine green papers, eleven Education Bills.

No wonder our teachers are getting DEPRESSED, what with getting a new bit of guidance from the MINISTER every two-and-a-half-days:

Stand up!

Sit down!

Write a thesis on the Schleswig-Holstein question!

But rather than showing any initiative, Lord Blairimort’s “reforms” have been no more than a series of BLINGED UP Conservatory policies… and now, Mr Balloon has reduced the Conservatory response to “Me too!”

The Labour think that the answer to any problem is setting more TARGETS from the centre, but my Sarah does not think so:

One size does NOT fit all – I should know!” How I LOVE her!

Instead we should be investing in children from the early years – not locking up the money in a bank account for twenty years in order to give students a VERY SMALL cheque… that won’t go very far towards the Labour’s VERY LARGE student tuition fees.

Investment could be targeted on speaking and listening skills, a MISSED STEP in our drive to get children to read and write.

And (Sarah’s little joke) the Labour could probably benefit from some early years listening skills!

But we should also be looking to make the education system be about what the CHILDREN want and need, not about meeting some poorly perceived national target set by the centre. And we should be more FLEXIBLE, not forcing pupils of fourteen into one box marked “ACADEMIC” or another marked “VOCATIONAL”.

Sarah told us the story of her own trip to school to collect her GCSE results. It was NOT this year she laughed! In the car they listened to people saying that the results only showed that the exams were getting easier. And this was only the third year of the new exams!

This year we have had another Groundhog Results Day with the same soundbites from both sides: the government saying look how marvellous we have 102% pass rates in maths and kompleet sucksess in Inglich; the opposition saying things aren’t as good as they were in our day.

The real point is that we DO NOT KNOW, because unlike other countries we do not have small test groups of pupils tested with the SAME test from year to year in order to be able to COMPARE.

This seems such a good point I am surprised that it took someone of my Sarah’s GENIUS to point it out!

But the lovely Sarah was not the ONLY person making a speech today.

Our shadow chancellor Mr Vince “Power” Cable was also on the stage, presenting us a lecture with slides, and he has been very good enough to let me borrow one:

Mr Vince is very clever: you can tell how BIG his brain is from his VERY SHINY head. He has worked out that Mr Frown MIGHT be the next Prime Minister!

His speech was billed to us as BLISTERING ATTACK on Mr Frown, and it is TRUE, Mr Vince pulled no punches. He said:


Still, it is only fair to point out that when Mr Frown says he is the bestest Chancellor since America was run by King George (err…) that mainly this is because he did the Liberal Democrat policy of making the Bank of England independent. This has kept interest rates lower and the pound higher and so cheaper workers have come in to do the jobs we don’t want to which keeps costs down which keeps inflation down which keeps interest rates down…

Mr Vince said that this was a VIRTUOUS CIRCLE. Although it might just be more Labour SPIN!

Unfortunately it could all go BELLY UP! What with the entire nation being in hock to its eyebrows, one nasty oil shock and we’ll all be REPOSSESSED!

In the meantime, since he’s not been looking after the economy, Mr Frown has spent his time coming up with ever more COMPLICATED schemes for doing STUFF – like tax credits and private finance initiatives, strategic five year plans and replacing Lord Blairimort with himself.

All of which have kept Mr Frown out of the nation’s hair but cost a bit of a FORTUNE.

It was time for Mr Vince to put the nation’s economy on a proper footing. He wants to find Fifteen Billion pounds of savings. (Actually, we have now learned that you can save Eight Billion pounds by abolishing VAT fraud, so we are half way there already!)

Another speech billed as part of the attack on the failures of the Labour was that of Mr Simon Hugs. Unfortunately Mr Hugs’ speech was less about the Labour and more about how he was cross with us for not voting him first or second in the leadership election. Still, he has FORGIVEN us and will therefore consent to stand again as President of the party.

There were a lot of rumours that someone was going to stand against Mr Hugs for the role of President, but nothing appeared to come of this.

Now is the time for confession: I WAS going to stand as Party President, but unfortunately my campaign manager – that Pink Dog – got a bit OVER-EXCITED at the Blogger of the Year competition and filled out the WRONG FORMS for me. So now I am nominated to be President of Federated States of Micronesia. And even Mr Bartlet has trouble remembering where THEY are!

Mr Hugs went on to pay tribute to people who have given TREMENDOUS service to the party over MANY, MANY years: Lord Dohlakia who has been in the party for FIFTY years; Stan, the president of Mr Hugs own local association, who has seen SIXTY years in the party; and of course, Lord Bonkers whose EIGHTY years in the party have seen us out of power for almost three generations.

Mr Hugs promised he would follow their examples. Erm.

So it has been a great day for speeches!

Oh, and Daddy Alex has been getting lots of laughs by reading Sir Mr the Merciless’s new JOKE BOOK!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Day 2086: Coo!


It has been another exciting day here in Brighton, but this has been rather overshadowed by the news from Thailand.

It seems that some terrible right-wingers have parked their tanks on the lawn and started throwing their weight about. But as I said, this has been overshadowed by events in Thailand.

Dr John Reid has immediately rushed out a statement that he had no desire to be the next Thai Prime Minister. Unless, should he be called upon to serve, etc…

Speaking of deposed leaders, Mr CK1 Kennedy had the main hall packed out to hear him speak. He is almost as good as Daddy Alex at speaking, and managed to keep his twenty minute speech down to only forty minutes.

Looking well, speaking without notes, he ranged over a wide brief in his speech and flagged up a number of markers: he promised his LOYALTY to Sir Mr the Merciless (and a good thing too, with Sir M sat in the front row polishing his LASER DISINTEGRATOR) but clearly he also wants to let people know that he will be practicing CRITICAL FRIENDSHIP for the new leader.

Being free of the RESPONSIBILITY of being leader has let Mr Charles be MORE EMPHATIC about the KEY PRINCIPLES! He chose to pick on FOUR of them.

He began by calling on us to KEEP ALIVE the flame of electoral reform.

Reminding us that it is about time we had a proper elected upper chamber, he added a promise that he personally would amend any reform legislation in order to rename the upper house into something more democratic than the House of LORDS (sorry to my friends in the House of Lords club, there!)

Second he talked about the importance of REGIONALISM for England so that we can move to a FAIR and FEDERAL settlement for the whole of the country.

Then he talked about the VITAL importance of the ENVIRONMENT if any of us are to have a future.

Finally, he discussed INTERNATIONAL LAW, and how Lord Blairimort and the American Monkey-in-Chief have made the world a much more difficult and dangerous place.

Speaking of the USA, he urged us not to forget that being against the Neo-Cons is not the same as being against America. But he also reminded us of the importance of Russia, its resources and the impact it can have on the world and the world’s climate. And he spoke about Europe, urging us to be LOUDER about our support for Europe.

He talked briefly about the other parties, about the Labour he said:

Whom the gods destroy they first make mad!

He pitied poor Mr Frown the poison legacy of Lord Blairimort. And as for Mr Balloon, he had little time for empty promises. But he also gave us a warning to avoid the SIREN call of the HUNG PARLIAMENT and to keep our eyes on the REAL prize – more Liberal Democrat votes and more Liberal Democrat seats.

Getting Mr Kennedy’s backing was just the cap on what had already been a good day for Sir Mr the Merciless with his proposals for changing TAX being agreed by a good majority of the conference.

Before Lord Blairimort and Mr Frown came to power in 1997, the popular mood was that public services had been CUT and STARVED by the Conservatories for many years and it was time to accept a BIT MORE tax for a bit more spending.

But that was THEN. Now, Mr Frown has been raising taxes for quite some time, mostly by the back door, and people feel that the taxman has QUITE ENOUGH now, THANK YOU.

So it is quite right that we should not be taking MORE taxes, and instead just making the WAY we take taxes FAIRER and GREENER.

The people who wanted to keep the idea of a 50p top tax rate said that it was about SYMBOLISM: at the election last year we said that this was a simple and honest way to say look this is where the money COMES FROM.

But there is a PROBLEM now: the plans for cutting the basic rate and for raising the allowances to get a lot of people out of tax and a lot of other people out of higher rate tax cost MORE than the 50p rate would raise. A LOT more. So it turns out it would not be so HONEST to say that that was where the money was coming from, when REALLY it was coming from changing tax on wealth and from having top earners’ only get the same pension benefit as everyone else and – OF COURSE – from Green Tax.

There are people who like the 50p rate just as a SYMBOL that we want to raise tax on the rich in order to lower tax for the poor. But Liberals don’t believe in raising tax for its own sake, do we? It’s got to be FOR something, not just as a SHOW.

And another SYMBOLISM worries me too. I think that Mr Balloon would just spend all day and all night saying that it makes us a HIGH TAX PARTY just like the Labour. (Conservatories do that, you know.) It would have been a real shame to lose the SYMBOLISM of the GREEN TAX SWITCH like that.

But we had a good old debate about it – a debate of “substance and maturity”, Sir Mr the Merciless called it – and in the end the party voted and decided.


This is an example of PROPER DEMOCRACY – where the people REALLY get to make a decision that will make a DIFFERENCE. You might want to compare this with the latest DAMP SQUIB from Mr Balloon’s “Built Last Week”: 73% of Conservatories thought that this document was SO IMPORTANT that they could not be bothered to vote for it! Still, at least the Conservatories can look forward to their DRAGON’S DEN next week: that seems like a good way to make policy, doesn’t it – offering it up to a TINY group of ULTRA-RICH people in order to get their backing.

IRONICALLY, the new Liberal Tax Policy is one that can be envied by members of either of the other parties.

On the one fluffy foot, this policy aims to take two MILLION people out of taxation altogether and should benefit people in low and medium incomes. According to the independent IFS, all but the topmost ten percent of people would be BETTER OFF.

On the other fluffy foot, this shifts the basis of taxation away from penalising achievers and onto polluters, rewarding people for GOOD behaviour rather than COMPELLING them. Trusting people to make the choice of how their money is spent.

The press are, of course, DISAPPOINTED that we sorted out our policy in a sensible way so they are trying to pick holes in our plans. I know because I have been at more of our press briefings, and they keep asking the same question like it is somehow ORIGINAL again if someone different asks it.

If we are going to raise money from GREEN TAX, they say, doesn’t that mean that we won’t get enough when people CHANGE how they behave for the BETTER?

They do not seem to understand that our Shadow Chancellor Mr Vince Cable is a very clever man. He has done adding up and stuff! The numbers he has come up with already assume that LOTS of people WILL behave better and so avoid the green taxes. But no one (outside of the press, apparently) expects that suddenly EVERYBODY will start travelling by bicycle and holidaying in Brighton.

Some people would rather spend their Income Tax cut on a worse car or a holiday in the sun. Fair enough, that is their choice. They will be paying for the tax cut for everybody else.

Look at smoking: cigarette tax dissuades SOME people from smoking, but there are still smokers and their tax goes to pay for things for all of us.

In Denmark they have been very successful with Green Tax, succeeding in raising revenues AND cutting their emissions. That is what WE want to do too!

Plus my new friend Mr Andy Mayer has made me think about the benefits to be had if we improve the environment: fewer people getting asthma from smog; more people getting exercise so staying healthy; less damage to buildings and natural habitats. Thinking makes my fluffy head get dizzy, but good for him anyway!

In the end, even if more people than we can even hope for CHOOSE to do the good environmental thing, isn’t that BETTER for all of us, even if the taxman is short a few pennies? We ARE talking about SAVING THE WORLD here!

Liberal Democrat conference might sometimes seem very PAROCHIAL compared to a terrible military coup in another country, but Mr Charles reminded us and the Green Tax debate showed us that we are all a part of that big world and we all have our bit to do.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Day 2085: So what’s this conference all about?


As my prize for being not as good as Mr Councillor Stephen, the Liberal Democrats have allowed me in to their press briefings. The first one was yesterday, and there was another one this morning.

Yesterday our hosts were Mr Ed and Larry the Norman Lamb: is it any surprise that a fluffy elephant can get into the Blogger of the Year?

Mr Ed told us about the themes that hoped to be developed over the conference: Monday would be about DIVERSITY, Tuesday would be about the TAX ROW POLICY and Wednesday would be about FAIRNESS. The Liberal's GREEN credentials will be a thread throughout the week, from the party rally on Sunday evening through to the green tax switch tax changes to the leader’s speech at close of conference.

To promote Diversity, the Party will launch a Diversity Fund backed with an initial two hundred thousand pounds from the Rowntree Foundation. This will be money that can be spent to support the campaigning of women and ethnic minority candidates. Local parties can apply for some of the fund when they select a qualifying candidate.

To help show the party's commitment to diversity, the Monday press briefing had Mr Ed joined by Ms Jo Swinson MP who is a minority ethnic SCOTTISH person, and Mr Sajjid Karim MEP who is a woman.

(They had to hurry off to be photographed with the party's minority pensioner representative, Sir Mr the Merciless, so they didn’t get to say anything.)

It was a little bit of a shame that Mr Ed seemed to have forgotten to include one other minority as there was no sign of the Liberal Democrats only out gay daddy. This is a shame as there seem to be quite a LOT of gay daddies here in Brighton. I wonder if anyone has thought of organising some sort of DADDY PRIDE festival.

Another thing that challenges diversity is the Labour's desire to BAN EVERYTHING. Good news then that the Liberal Democrat’s Mr Clogg has used his Monday speech to launch a GREAT REPEAL ACT to make the law a lot less silly and complicated. This is a major policy announcement, and it is all very meaty stuff: most governments come in saying that they want to make LOTS of new laws that they think will fix everything (even though this usually only makes life a LOT more COMPLICATED for everyone instead). It is ABOUT TIME that someone came along promising to GET RID of a few.

Mr Ed wants to see this week as a HOTBED of policy formulation, to show that the Liberal Democrats are a party of THOUGHT and SUBSTANCE.

The Labour will be spending their conference in a kind of BALLET of DEATH, though less the Dying Swan and more the Lame Blairimort. Around him will swoop and whirl the FAIRY FIGURES of those seeking to replace him. This will hardly be a good place to discuss policy, much less the needs of the people of Britain. (Far be it for anyone to suggest that the Labour should be thinking about THEM! They’re only RUNNING the COUNRTY!)

The Conservatory Conference will, if you can possibly believe it, be even worse. There will be a string of "Balloonite" speeches full of words and empty of content. Mr Ed threw down the gauntlet to the Conservatories to try and at least KEEP UP with Liberal Democrat policy making.

The dead wood press, on the other fluffy foot have two main policy agenda for the week: is the party split on tax and is Sir Mr the Merciless leadership under threat.

No and no appear to have been ruled out as possible answers – so much for investigative journalism.

Sir Mr the Merciless knows that questions of leadership take TIME to settle. Just as he took many years to build up the Liberals in his own constituency until in the end he was able to take the seat, he knows that he needs to work ceaselessly until his competence and consistency convince people he IS the man for the job.

In the meantime, he has been on stage for a COZY FIRESIDE CHAT with Mr Michael White of the Grauniad. This was a format that the previous leader Mr CK1 Kennedy had come up with and it suited his famous CHATSHOW style. Perhaps Sir Mr the Merciless should have found a slightly different format that would have played up more his MAGISTERIAL nature and not made him and Mr White look like HISTORY TODAY.

Even so, the hugely packed audience were very appreciative.

He talked a lot about his background and his long commitment to Liberalism: how he used to answer Mr John Smith’s probing about why he wasn’t in the Labour with the simple but you would have thought OBVIOUS answer:

"John, I am not in the Labour Party because I am a Liberal."

The vital difference between the Labour and the Liberal Democrats is that the Labour believe that they have all the answers and should control people from the centre; the Liberal Democrats trust in people.

He was more scornful of the Conservatories under Mr Balloon: he thought that Mr Balloon's claim to be a "liberal Conservatory" is REALLY a ploy to appear as an "INNOFENSIVE Conservatory".

Asked whether he would be "sexing up" his image, Sir Mr the Merciless scoffed at the idea. People can see through artifice, he said, mentioning in passing Mr Frown's claim to listen to the Arctic Monkeys (Mr Frown thought that they meant the ORIGINAL Monkeys – get down with that Davy Jones, Gordon!)

This is unlikely to satisfy the press desire for FISTICUFFS, though. Fortunately, Mr Ed has arranged for Tuesday to be two HOT SPOTS for media FRENZY: the vote on the 50p tax rate and the return of Mr CK1 Kennedy. It’s almost like a SPECIAL EPISODE of Emmerdale, it is so exciting!

I think I may go PADDLING!

Sunday, September 17, 2006



Boo hoo! Boo hoo!

I did not win the LIBERAL DEMOCRAT BLOG OF THE YEAR contest.

On the other fluffy foot, Mr Councillor Stephen Tall did win like I said he should and I have shaken his hand to show that there is no hard feelings.

The winner (and friend)

The award was presented, in the presence of Mr Dale Winton, by the Queen of Bloggers – no, NOT daddy, Ms Lynne Featherweight. Then Daddy Alex made a big speech which got lots of laughs (I have a suspicion that he will want to tell you all about that himself!)

An audience with Daddy Alex

The best bit was afterwards when I got to meet lots of my new blogger friends and share a bottle of ginger pop! I have had my picture taken with lots of them and I will soon be VERY famous!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Day 2083: What's on the Telly?


Late at night, Daddy Richard consults the DIGITAL TV GUIDE.

"There's the ITV play on in a bit, something called 'the Mint'."

You can see the hope in his little eyes: ITV may be rubbish in the daytime, but now that it's after midnight they've commissioned a late night play to fill the small hours with a bit of class.

Daddy Alex groans.

"That's not the ITV Play," he says through gritted teeth, "that's ITV Play – one of those 0898 phone in quiz shows."

Daddy Richard, hopes dashed, buries his head in his hands…

See you all at CONFERENCE!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Day 2082: Clare Snort


The Minister for doing the things that Mr Prescott is being paid for not doing, Mrs Ruth Kelly, is required to practice GUILT, SELF-LOATHING and FLAGELLATION by her bizarre religious sect.

So what is Ms CLAIRE SNORT’s excuse?

She seems to have become UNABLE to say the word LIBERAL. Perhaps Lord Blairimort has put a CURSE on her!

Now she is quitting her job as an MP.

She says that one of her reasons is that "the rise of the third party…" (SEE, she cannot say the word!) "…means our electoral system is ever-more DISTORTED".

Daddy Alex actually agrees with Ms Snort! He says that ever since that third party got into Parliament in 1906 they have been trying to DISTORT democracy!

In a typical gesture, Ms Snort has made her announcement by writing to the newspapers, speaking on the radio and HANDCUFFING herself to a SPACE SATELLITE to broadcast it to the entire universe.

Unfortunately, this means she has ALSO been heard on the distant planet inhabited the Labour Party WHIPS. Their chief, Jacqui Smith, has said that Ms Snort may be EXPELLED!

"That would be FINE," replied Ms Snort, "FINE… DON’T make an issue of it!"

Lord Blairimort's CURSE has HAUNTED Ms Snort for some time now.

He knew that she would be willing to follow his orders in return for the KUDOS of a seat in the Cabinet, and on the basis that she did what she was told he was happy to tolerate her endless grumbling as she got on and did it.

This has given Ms Snort a VERY UNFAIR reputation for complaining all the time.

The curse of complaints had already eroded the value of anything that she might say, but the CAMEL-FLATTENING final straw was her abject acquiescence to principled stance over the Iraq invasion.

KINDLY Ms Snort could not bring herself to leave Lord Blairimort in the lurch, supported as he was by only most of Labour and Conservatory Parties. So, in spite of the fact that she had to abandon SAINTLY Robin Cook and devalue his noble gesture, she DID NOT resign then.

A couple of months later it suddenly turned out that Ms Snort had actually already resigned over the Iraq war ten years earlier.

To cover Lord Blairimort's embarrassment, Ms Snort GENEROUSLY came up with the excuse that she'd wanted a say in the way the occupation went and, SILLY HER, hadn't realised that the MASSIVE AMERICAN INVASION FORCE might get a little bit in the way.

But it is not ALL complaints!

Her article in the INDEPENDENT spends a lot of time CONGRATULATING HERSELF about all the good Labour things that Lord Blairimort's government got done, saying that they were all decided before he got there by Mr John Smith. I suppose this must make her feel better about being FORCED to serve Lord Blairimort.

She spreads more JOY and HAPPINESS with her praise for her own work at the Department of International Development. I am sure she would be EVEN MORE pleased if only her department had managed to raise Britain's level of overseas aid to the recommended UN level of 0.7% of GDP. (A Liberal Democrat promise for YONKS now.)

Isn't that NICE!

Looking to the future, she sees THREE things that need to be done:

  1. Get better public services
  2. Agree closer co-operation in Europe
  3. Protect the environment from climate change
Is it me, or does it seem like Ms Snort could do with some QUALITY TIME reading a Liberal Democrat MANIFESTO? If ONLY she could READ the word LIBERAL!

She says she wants to call for a HUNG PARLIAMENT; she has decided that the House of Commons should be shared out one third for the Labour, one third for the Conservatories and one third for (here comes that CURSE again) "Greens and OTHER parties". Which is VERY democratic of her: I'm so glad that we do not need to ask the ELECTORATE what they would like their parliament to look like. Ms Snort knows best.

Actually, that is just EXACTLY the "we know best" attitude of the REST of the Labour. Ms Snort's problem with Lord Blairimort turns out to be NOT that he wields unchecked arbitrary executive power – but that SHE doesn't!

Liberal Democrats find authority distinctly SUSPICIOUS, whoever has it.

Labour Ladies Mrs Ann Cryer (floral dress, pearls) and Ms Ann McKechin (power suit, Romulan haircut) have had their say on the Newsnight show.

"Clare has forgotten," said Mrs Cryer "that she had a cabinet seat but some of us have marginal seats. She should retract what she said, and with some luck that might save my job!"

Ms McKechin was more direct: "making direct attacks on people like this just proves that she smells."

With friend like THESE, what could Ms Snort have to fear?

Well, with an ENORMOUS swing in their favour at the last election, the INVISIBLE PARTY (that would be the Liberal Democrats) are already snapping at her heals in her Ladywood constituency. Could there be some question as to whether Ms Snort could even hold her own seat?

Some people might think that storming off in a HUFF and taking her toys away might be preferable to a HUMILIATING defeat.

No doubt Ms Snort though would be DELIGHTED to see all the things a Liberal Democrat government would do: increase overseas aid; act urgently to save the environment; improve relations with Europe; and bring in FAIR VOTING so that people could get proper representation and the power of the Prime Minister could be BALANCED by proper scrutiny.

She would be able to celebrate with a good old COMPLAIN!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Day 2081: A Shocking Affront


It is hard to decide what is more SHOCKING, isn't it: the terrible way that poor Lord Blairimort was treated by the Unions or the horrible breach of human rights that is Butlins Guantanamo.

The WHEELS of the LAW are said to grind EXCEEDING slow, but that does not matter because they can still outpace Britain's topmost legal mind, Lord Blairimort's chum Charlie the Lord Woolsack.

After only five years, he has come out against the practice of not giving people their human rights by hiding them in CUBA and saying "can't see them!"

Well spotted m'learned Lord.

Now for the next question, and take your time about this: how can you remain in a GOVERNMENT that continues to treat the people who do this as their BESTEST BUDDIES?

To help you, I suggest that you check your legal papers on SHARED CABINET RESPONSIBILITY. If you fundamentally disagree with your government's position – i.e. if you MEAN what you say about Camp X-Ray – then you have to RESIGN.

Shall we wait a while and see what happens?

I suspect that chum Charlie will prefer to have a Lord Blairimort style conversation about this. You know, one where Lord B does the talking and we sit quietly on our hands until it is time to start clapping. For 23 seconds.

It is FUNNY how Lord Blairimort's CHOICE AGENDA does not seen to extend as far as who the TUC are allowed to listen to.

"Look, it's me or no one!" he pretty much said.

This does raise the INTERESTING QUESTION of why should the TUC have to listen to the leader of Labour AT ALL. What if they want to listen to the leader of the Conservatories instead? Or even the leader of the Liberal Democrats?

It seems that Lord Blairimort takes the support of the Unions very much for granted. If he were NOT the Prime Minister (which he soon won't be) they would still have to negotiate with SOMEONE, even Mr Balloon or Sir Mr the Merciless. Some Unions might PREFER Liberal Policies – like on having more teachers or police officers and fewer tests or I.D.iot cards. Some might even prefer Conservatory policies. If they HAD any!

Of course it is more likely that the Union Brothers would just prefer someone ELSE from the Labour to Lord Blairimort.

Lord Blairimort's CONVICTION (no, not under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925, not yet anyway) his CONVICTION that he and he alone is right and always right can get just a bit WEARING sometimes. Even the Unions might think so.

Take this instance:

"You can hold up your posters about troops out but the reason troops are in is because the democratic governments of Iraq and Afghanistan need our troops to protect their people against the Taleban and al Qaeda."

Would someone GENTLY tell the Prime Minister that he has that BACKWARDS: there are elected governments in Iraq and Afghanistan BECAUSE of the troops being sent in, NOT the other way around.

And let's just not get into who is to BLAME for the fact that they NEED protecting from the Taleban and al Qaeda.

That there IS some democracy in Iraq is down to the BRAVERY of the Iraqi people and Lord Balirimort should not go claiming the CREDIT.

(He does THAT a lot too – last week he was trying to claim that he personally had cleared the Israeli blockade of the Lebanon.)

In another EERIE historical echo, Lord Blairimort gave the Unions NO ALTERNATIVE.

"…it is a darn sight better than wasting our time in opposition passing resolutions no-one ever listens to or can do anything about."

It is another FUNNY thing, but maybe the Unions would like to make up their own minds. Given the choice between a Labour opposition who CANNOT help them and a Labour government who WILL NOT help them, it might be an INTERESTING decision.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Day 2080: Shorts


Oooh! I have been put on the SHORT LIST of Liberal Democrat Bloggers.

This is because of all the Bloggers I am the SHORTEST!

It is a jolly good job that my FAVOURITEST MP Sarah Teather does not have a diary, though, or she would walk it!

Here are the other people listed:

Mr Andy Mayer

Mr Apollo 13

Mr Jonathan Calder

Mr Black Peter, self-assembly man

Mr Councillor Stephen Tall

Why is Mr Councillor TALL on the SHORT list? I think he should WIN because that would be IRONIC!

Day 2079: Oxy Moron


Could it possibly come as a surprise to ANYBODY that Mr Balloon has performed ANOTHER about-face and is a "liberal" conservatory again?

Billed as his "first speech on foreign affairs" (bit of an admission there that Lebanon passed him by) Mr Balloon has TACTFULLY chosen to commemorate the September terrorist attacks with a speech where he distances himself from the American Monkey-in-Chief by continuing to support 100% everything that the Monkey is doing.

There is probably something a bit IRONIC about him doing this in a speech addressed to a CIA funded front organisation!

The "British American Project for the Successor Generation" may SOUND sinister, but as it is designed to SUBVERT the thinking of Britain's liberal and left wing into support for US foreign policy, it really IS sinister. "Project for the New American Century" anyone?

So what does he ACTUALLY have to say?

Well, it is, as the OLD SAYING goes, a speech of two HALVES: home and away, you might say.

The first half of the speech is very much playing the Republicans' tune; halfway though he changes his horse (or his face) and starts singing from the Liberator Songbook.

So, in the second half he makes some good points that we could AGREE with:

First: terrorism comes from many different sources, all different CAUSES with different problems behind them.

Second: you cannot just add instant democracy; it takes a history of democratic culture and a basic rule of law for democracy to begin to develop. King Paddy of Bosnia has been saying this since the 1990's and it was the basis for his Liberal approach when he was High and Mighty Representative to that Balkan state.

Third: you cannot just use military action: bombing people into democracy, never a winner. Well dur!

Fourth: multilateralism is the key; we must make international institutions work.

(Now, actually he comes a BIT unstuck here because his Republican audience are NEVER going to buy this. He cannot say WE need to change OUR attitude to these institutions, i.e. if they say "No" we cannot ignore them, because the White House will run him out of town. Instead he talks about changing the INSTITUTIONS where they don't let us do what we want. Hmmm, VERY multi-lateral.

It is NOT that the UN and the G8 and the rest couldn't DO with some improvements, but we have FORFEITED any moral right to DICTATE what those changes should be by the act of IGNORING them when they were INCONVENIENT. This moral point is important because Mr Balloon raises it HIMSELF in a moment.)

Fifth: we have to be seen to occupy the moral high ground. (See!)

Again, true, but this is coming from a man who won't apologise for supporting an ILLEGAL WAR. That tends to leave you a bit COMPROMISED, Mr Balloon.

Quite right, we cannot have secret CIA prisons or special rendition flights or Guantanamo Butlins camp or Abu Grahib or ignoring the Security Council or forgetting to call for a ceasefire in Lebanon or derailing the road map or tolerating the Saudi Arabian Religious Police or supporting the President of Turkmenistan or imposing faith based AIDS prevention programs on Africa or any of a hundred other "little lapses".

Quite right but TOO LATE: you should have been condemning these things WHEN THEY HAPPENED. Barn door and bolting horse, spring to mind.

Mr Paul is no more impressed than I am: these warm words are hardly warm enough to threaten CLIMATE CHANGE.

If he REALLY meant to take up a SHOCKINGLY liberal position towards America, Mr Balloon would be calling upon the Monkey-in-Chief to SACK Donald Rumsfeld for ordering TORTURE, or to appoint a SPECIAL PROSECUTOR to investigate the BREAKING of the American Constitution by ordering illegal wiretaps, or FRANKLY just to RESIGN for lying to Congress in the State of the Union. He should be saying that the time has come for the Republican's one-party domination of the American state to END.

But he won't do ANY of these things because, as the FIRST half of the speech makes clear – the half for the "away" audience – Mr Balloon is JUST as lovey-dovey with the Monkey-in-Chief and his plutocratic party as ever Lord Blairimort is.

So here's what he said first.

After the usual guff praising his hosts and a vaguely threatening promise of "action to make our society stronger at home" the minute he gets into Downing Street (will someone PLEASE make him tell us what THAT policy entails), he begins by saying that foreign policy takes some care to prepare.

"It is not responsible to try and polarise debate through simplistic exercises in political positioning.

"If you question the approach of the US administration, you're "anti-American".

"If you support what the United States is doing, you're "America's poodle".

"If you care about civil liberties, you're "soft on terror". If you back an extension of our security laws, you're "building a police state".

"These are not mature contributions to debate."

No, he is quite right: those are NOT mature contributions. Those are a pre-emptive STRAW MAN attack on anyone who tries to criticise his vacillating position.

Rather than just dismissing them as "Oooh, you're immature, you are" Mr Balloon could try and make a case for WHY caring about civil liberties IS being tough on terror.

(In a soundbite: we defend our civil liberties because they are the very thing that the terrorist is trying to take away!)

But that might involve him having to pick one side or the other.

"Foreign policy decisions are not black and white, something which the public well understands," adds Mr Balloon, which is code for "Don't you worry your pretty little heads about them."

The roots of the current world situation, and indeed al-Qaeda's horrible attack, go back for MANY years and properly to understand them we need to look at a long history of Western foreign policy, our treatment of and exploitation of Middle Eastern and third world countries, our apparently wilful ignorance of the condition of their lives, our support for dictators and religious terror groups for geo-political reasons (i.e. "get the Soviets") and economic ones (i.e. "get the oil") and so on.

Or you can do like Mr Balloon and buy into the neo-con MYTH that the destruction of the World Trade Centre was an ENTIRELY UNPROVOKED turning point in the history of the world when suddenly "Islamic Terror" sprang full formed from its twisted birthplace. (Which is HANDY as it avoids mentioning that Osama was on George Bush Senior's payroll when he was running the CIA.)

"9/11 was a wake-up call indeed..." says Mr Balloon, "although with hindsight, the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993, the horrific bombings of US embassies in East Africa, and the assault on the USS Cole should have woken us up already."

So much for distancing himself from the Bush Administration: this is straight out of the Republican Party dictionary of "blame Clinton speak" (as perpetuated by the recent wildly misleading ABC drama "The Path to 9/11").

The true fact is that whatever President Clinton DID set up to try and stop Al-Qaeda President Bush sent them all off to sleep again. And then went on HOLIDAY.

Still, 9/11 has clarified one thing for Mr Balloon:

"This terrorist threat is clearly different from those we have faced before."

Well, in the first place it REALLY isn't: Osama has POLITICAL and TERRITORIAL motives just like the IRA or ETA or the Bolsheviks had. And al-Qaeda is at the VERY extreme end of a SPECTRUM of opinion, some of who DO want to talk. There is nothing SPECIAL or MAGICAL about a bunch of nutters with bombs who claim to have received the answer to everything.

But in the second place, saying they are "different" is the catch all EXCUSE for us not to live up to OUR OWN standards. It is the "nod and wink" to say you will go along with anything that the US Defence Department decides to do. Usually this will involve EXPLOSIONS!

Mr Balloon concludes this point with more Neo-Con language:

"This terrorism cannot be appeased - it has to be defeated."

Do you see how he has turned terrorISTS into terrorISM? Remember that later in this same speech he is going to point out the FALLACY of exactly this sort of CONFLATION.

There are lots of terrorISTS with different motives and causes. You can fight and defeat some of them, lots of them even, but you won't make terrorISM go away like that; you have to find some common ground – not in the sense of "appeasement" (giving them what they want for nothing) but in the sense of reaching a solution diplomatically that both sides can live with, and live BETTER with.

One thing that IS true about the September attacks: they make developing a liberal foreign policy very much harder. People in the West, and particularly in America, are now hugely motivate to respond to the Middle East either with VIOLENCE or by calling for DISENGAGEMENT. Too few want to find that way for BOTH sides to live BETTER.

Mr Balloon follows this homily with a list of events since 2001, some of them NICE and some of them NASTY, to show us that the world is still a difficult and scary place.

Again, you can see the Neo-Con brain programming at work from the way that his presentation SEEMS to say that the nice things are where our brave war on terror is succeeding and the nasty ones are the ones where the bad guys got around us.

He thinks that the only UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE of the war is "Anti-Americanism".

This is a not ENTIRELY right. To say that these are events that have JUST HAPPENED overlooks the rather more important admission that they have happened BECAUSE of our brave war on terror: what we did to make things better has gone horribly wrong.

Still, it lets Dave have a pop at "anti-Americans" (in case anyone is worried that HE might be in that category).

"Anti-Americanism represents an intellectual and moral surrender," he says. "It is a complacent cowardice born of resentment of success and a desire for the world's problems simply to go away."

Well, yes SOMETIMES it is, and sometimes people have other reasons and sometimes people are anti-America on some things and pro-America on others, and sometimes people are pro the IDEA of America and anti the practical application that the Monkey-in-Chief (and in fairness most Presidents for the last fifty years) have been imposing on the rest of us.

Just lumping all of these positions together as "Anti-Americanism" is not just lazy of Mr Balloon, it contradicts what he says about not making issues "black and white".

It is not responsible, HE MIGHT SAY, to try and polarise debate through simplistic exercises in political positioning.

"So when it comes to the special relationship with America, Conservatives feel it, understand it and believe in it.

"All Conservatives share this attitude.

"I cannot think of a single Conservative member of parliament who does not think the same way."

This INDIRECTLY draws the eye to the HEART of Mr Balloon's foreign policy problem.

This is supposed to be Mr Balloon's big foreign policy speech and it is ONLY about America. There is – if you will forgive me – an ELEPHANT in the room.

Britain cannot achieve its goals alone, he says, but we cannot always be junior partner to America either. So WHAT is the logical conclusion that you have to draw? What is the obvious international institution to further his call for MULTILATERAL solutions?

The answer that he cannot mention is EUROPE.

(Okay, he mentions Europe ONCE but then only as an aside about accession for Turkey.)

And that is the ultimate HOLLOWNESS. If you cannot even SAY Europe, say that Europe needs to be STRONGER to match America then the rest of this is just so much AIR!

So, what is Mr Balloon REALLY trying to do? Keep the CIA entertained for an hour before Penn & Teller start with the disappearing flag act?

No, it is another exercise in TRIANGULATION (copyright Lord Blairimort, naturally). Find the other guy's position and try and look like you are standing between there and the electorate. In this case, Lord Blairimort is close to President Monkey so try and look like you are closer to the British People while still being pro-Monkey.

You earn CHEAP headlines on the "man bites dog" principle. Everyone EXPECTS Mr Balloon to be totally in bed with the US of Bush, so he (pardon my FAUX-SURPRISE) stuns us all by merely loitering at the BOUDOIR DOORWAY.

And even if the story is "Conservatory leader less of a POODLE than Lord Blairimort" that still makes him look like he's being the more reasonable one. If you can get LORD TEBBIT to condemn you as a PINKO, even better!

(Actually, being less of a POODLE only makes Mr Balloon a LABRADOODLE.)

The game was really given away by the Republican commentator on the Today Program today. Asked who Mr Balloon most reminded him of he had to say:

"It's a speech that's trying to distance him from some extreme positions without actually defining himself, just like the way that GEORGE W BUSH tried to distance himself from Newt Gingrich without ever defining his own position."

The MARK of the TRUE Neo-Con is their DISGUISE. Caring Conservatory. Compassionate Conservatory. Liberal Conservatory.

Is this just sticking a NICE word with a NASTY one to make the medicine go down? Or is it hiding your real agenda under flowery words?

What does Liberal Conservatory MEAN anyway? Local Centraliser? Environmental Polluter? Radical Stick-in-the-Mud?

Would Mr Balloon actually DO anything different? That is the most important question.

He certainly didn't this summer when he had the chance to call for a ceasefire in Lebanon.

Judge him on his record and you will find Mr Balloon lacking: this is just another COLOUR-CHANGE exercise in finding the right – what did he call it? – political positioning.

As a WISE person once said:

"He's a BLUE toothbrush; he's a PINK toothbrush…"