...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day 2491: DOCTOR WHO: The Dalek Masterplan


We return to Portsmouth to see Mr Nick Scovell and his Interalia Theatre present their follow-up to last year's "The Evil of the Daleks".

GOOD NEWS! It was fantastic! BAD NEWS! It was their last ever Doctor Who production.

Originally starring the ORIGINAL Dr Who, Mr Billy Hartnell, "The Daleks' Master Plan" is (beaten only by the fourteen-part "Trial of a Time Lord") the second-longest story in Doctor Who history at thirteen episodes if you count the unique one-off one-week "Mission to the Unknown", which acted as a kind of twenty-five-minute trailer, staring none of the usual TARDIS crew, a month before the main action begins.

(The play clearly DOES count it this way, because it has got the character of Mr Marc Cory from "Mission to the Unknown" in it!)

Although previously having adapted missing stories from Mr Dr Pat's time for his own interpretation of the Doctor – "The Web of Fear", "Fury from the Deep" and, of course, "The Evil of the Daleks" – this time Mr Nick has gone with Mr Dr Billy's classic in order that they might go out on a REALLY high note.

Six-and–a-half hours of television obviously needs a bit of SQUEEZING to fit onto the stage at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, so there have been a few trims and changes.

This is another of the so-called LOST stories – well, so-called by the BBC… who are the ones who MADE them LOST in the first place! For those of you who do NOT know the story, I had better quickly run through the version that was broadcast in 1966…

The Daleks' Master Plan on Television
It is 4000 A.D. In "Mission to the Unknown", Space Special Security Agent Marc Cory discovers a Dalek plot to take over the Universe, only to get exterminated before he can tell anyone. "The Daleks' Master Plan" then begins (after Dr Who and chums have spent a month in ancient Troy) with another Space Special Security Agent, this time Bret Vyon, searching for Cory and instead finding Dr Who and the TARDIS on planet Kembel.

Dr Who insists on discovering the Daleks' plan and it's a DOOZEY! They have allied themselves with a bunch of weird-looking aliens from the outer galaxies and are planning to invade the Solar System, using their spanking new ultimate weapon, the Time Destructor. Aiding them in this villainy is Mr Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System and great big TRAITOR to humanity. He provides the Daleks with both some much needed CAMP and a full Emm of Taranium (short for Terry-Nation-ium) the most rare and powerful element in the magic toybox. (This year.)

Dr Who steals the Taranium and, cut off from the TARDIS, he and his friends Steven and Katarina along with butch Bret make their escape by stealing Mr Mavic's spaceship. The chase is ON! First to the prison planet Desperus, where innocent Trojan handmaiden Katarina sacrifices herself, then to Earth where poor old Bret is gunned down in cold blood, and then to distant planet Mira, where Dr Who manages to turn Bret's killer, Sara Kingdom, back to the light side before the Daleks capture them and drag them back to Kembel.

But that's not the end! Fooling them with a fake Taranium Core, Dr Who eludes the Daleks and escapes with Steven and Sara in his TARDIS. The chase is ON! Again! Hijinks in time and space ensue, not least in the notorious Christmas episode: "The Feast of Steven (no relation)". After stopping off on the planet Tigus, they arrive on an Ancient Egyptian building site – yes, it's the pyramids – where the Daleks finally get the Taranium back.

But that's not the end! By stealing the directional unit from the time machine of rival Time Lord mysterious alien of the same race as Dr Who though we do not know who they are yet, the Meddling Monk, Dr Who is able to chase the Daleks back to Kembel. There he discovers that the Daleks have (unsurprisingly) betrayed their alien allies, and that Mr Mavic has finally gone right round the twist. While the Daleks are busy exterminating the traitorous nut-job, Dr Who pinches their Time Destructor, inadvisably setting it off in the process. Sara comes from the TARDIS to try and save Dr Who, probably saving his life but ageing to death herself – Steven, seeing this, also comes to help and manages to reverse the weapon, so that the Daleks all age backwards into goo, while the surface of Kembel is reduced to dust.


The Dalek Masterplan on Stage
The two biggest changes [A: aside from the title's punctuation] are, first, to get rid of all the aliens (Daleks excepted) and replace the representatives of the outer galaxies with representatives of the "Seven Systems", the worlds colonised by humans; and, second, to do away with MOST of the chasing about in space and ALL of the chasing about in time.

The story opens with some of Interalia's trademark filmed inserts: some rather corking – if, like the music, heavily Babylon 5-influenced – computer generated spaceship shots with a voiceover giving a brief potted history of humans colonising the Seven Systems.

The Seven Systems has a suspiciously Blake's Seven-esque S7 logo… though that is fair enough as the Solar System of the "The Daleks' Master Plan" era is obviously a DRY RUN for Mr Nation's later series' Terran Federation. In fact, if you believe books like "Corpse Marker" and audios like "Kaldor City" (and why shouldn't you – they're ACE!) which imply that Blake's Seven takes place in the Doctor Who universe, then there's a good chance that it IS the (embryonic) Terran Federation.

Anyway, one of the seven systems is Kalastar wherein lies the planet Kembel, site of a human base. Marc Cory is working undercover there and on New Year's Eve 3999 is trying to get a message through to the Space Special Security Agency. Before he succeeds, Governor Zephon (a human and not a walking plant as on telly) shoots him and betrays the planet into the suckers of the Daleks.

In response to this, Guardian of the seven Systems, Mr Mavic Chen gathers the Executive… and promptly hands them over to the Daleks because he's a traitor too. Only representative Trantis comes over to his side, so the Daleks exterminate the rest of them – using Movie-like FIRE EXTINGUISHER blasts! So real, you MUST be there… and we WERE!

Fortunately, Dr Who was near enough to intercept Mr Marc's message, and arrives on Kembel. He rescues Mr Marc's girlfriend Katarina and a pilot called Steven. Here Steven and Katarina are brother and sister, rather than both friends of Dr Who who arrive with him at the start. They escape from the base in the TARDIS and meet up with Mr Marc's contact, Agent Bret Vyon. Together, they watch as the Daleks start to incinerate the vegetation on Kembel. Dr Who goes back to find out what the Daleks are up to. Inside, he sees Mr Mavic about to hand over the taranium – or t'RAN-ee-um rather than the TV pronunciation of t'RAY-ne-um – which he promptly thieves out of Mr Mavic's fingers.

Dr Who, Steven, Katarina and Bret all escape aboard Mr Mavic's crusier, but – as they are passing the planet Mira – the Daleks teleport one of their agents on board. They have used their genetic technology to make a DUPLICATE of Mr Marc. (Dalek Duplicates like this are a big part of the 1980's story "Resurrection of the Daleks" with Mr Dr Peter, BUT the Daleks ALSO made a duplicate of Dr Who himself in the 1960's story "The Chase", so this idea is not SO out of place after all.)

Although Katarina saves them from the duplicate Cory by sacrificing herself (like on telly), they still crash on the planet Mira… END OF PART ONE!

Intermission… time for ICE CREAM! I impress all the kiddies with Sonic Screwdrivers by brandishing my LASER Screwdriver. Hahahahahaaaaa

PART TWO! They crash on the planet Mira only to be rescued by Agent Sara Kingdom… except she's been sent there by Mr Mavic to recover the stolen taranium. She shoots Bret (like on telly) and then joins Dr Who and Steven in returning to Kembel.

Pretending to do a deal with Mr Mavic, Dr Who hands him a handy fake taranium, which he then goes and gives to the Daleks proving he is BAAAAAD. They plug it straight into the Time Destructor and test it… on HIM! So, on the one fluffy foot, the fake taranium saves him from being Time Destructed… on the other fluffy foot, this gets him EXTERMINATED instead.

Dr Who has worked out what the Time Destructor actually does – it uses DNA for targeting to destruct the time of one individual or species. He gives the Daleks the REAL taranium, telling them that he has wiped it clean of targeting DNA, so they cannot use it without destructing EVERYTHING… but, being Daleks, the Daleks go and use it anyway. Well, Dr Who expected that and REALLY put in some Dalek DNA so the Daleks end up time-destructing themselves.

But that's not the end! (See, you can do it on stage too!) The Dalek Supreme (played by Dalek Sec himself!) survives long enough to restart the Time Destructor so that it WILL destruct everything. So, Dr Who has to absorb the time energies himself (like in "The Parting of the Ways") even though it will kill him.

At the last moment, Sara comes out of the TARDIS and, because she absorbs some of the destruction, Dr Who is able to survive by regenerating… into Mr Nicholas Briggs!


So WHAT did we think of THAT?
Well, for a start it is a more COHERENT, a more FOCUSED story that the one that appeared on television. The original "The Daleks' Master Plan" has plot holes that arise from the struggle to get two different people (plus Mr Terry Nation) to write a continuous story that lasts a quarter of a year, often with no idea what was coming next or frequently before!

In practical terms, the TV version is really several stories, at least three and maybe four or five. It has to be, since they couldn't and didn't expect the audience to be following it religiously. Rather, viewers would drop in and out and pick up what was going on at the time. The play can do away with that, and the necessary redundancy of having to explain the exposition again every few weeks. It can also take advantage of the fact that it KNOWS where it's going to end up in order to make the story head towards that place rather than just arrive there.

On the whole, the editing works very well, scaling the story down to fit the ninety-minute format of a New Series two-parter (including exciting "Next time…" trailer at the interval!)

It does mean losing some of the MASSIVE SCOPE of the television version: galaxies become just star systems; weird aliens become ordinary humans; and the backdrop of a chase all across space and time is (necessarily) truncated.

Along the way, it fixes some of those problems with the original.

The TV story's biggest whoopsie is that the VITAL message recorded by Mr Marc Cory in "Mission to the Unknown"… ends up going nowhere; nothing is made of it at all. The play fixes that by having it be the "inciting incident" that draws Dr Who into the goings-on. (Of course, in the original, Dr Who had no power to control where his TARDIS took him – not until years later after his exile could he control the thing – so they couldn't have used it that way back then.)

Another thing wrong with the telly version is that no one is quite sure what the Time Destructor is actually FOR. On the television, it just accelerates time – ageing people to death. The Daleks don't mind that because they are designed to be practically immortal; it is only when it goes haywire and starts reversing time that they get their comeuppance. This makes it a powerful but FINITE weapon, not perhaps ultimate ENOUGH for the significance it is given by the plot. (Obviously it's MEANT to be a metaphor for the ATOM BOMB – a weapon so powerful that it stops a war just by existing. But then Daleks are not going to build a weapon for NOT using!)

The play makes the Time Destruction much, much more ultimate, having it do what a lot of people think that the D-Mat Gun (another "ultimate weapon") is supposed to do – namely blast you and everyone you know entirely out of time.

This makes the story a LOT MORE like "The Evil of the Daleks", in that not only are the Daleks completely wiped out (AGAIN!) but they are destroyed by their own amorality.

In fact, I remember that Mr Nick made a tweak to the story of "Evil…" too: where originally the Daleks' Dalek-ising machine didn't work on Mr Dr Pat just because he was an alien (which the Daleks didn't just KNOW but had made an important part of their plot!), in his version it was Dr Who's connection to his friends (when the Daleks REJECT friendship) that saves him and ultimately DOOMS them.

Also like the stage "Evil…", which had Mr Edward Waterfield turned into a doubting reverend, there are a lot of RELIGIOUS overtones added. Dr Who refers to the Daleks' own "GOSPEL" (destroy… everything!), and justifies their destruction – to himself – because they are "made things", artificial, not a "proper" part of creation. Daddy Alex thinks he recognises the signs of a CHURCH UPBRINGING!

This means not only that the Masterplan of the title is more than JUST the (mundane) invasion of the galaxy, but also that the conclusion is based around the MORALITY of their choice: would they rather let humans anyone else? exist or destroy everything, themselves included.

Unfortunately, this also leads to a logical error in the stage story. Dr Who tricks the Daleks into wiping themselves out by giving them a choice between using the Time Destructor when it will destruct EVERYTHING and not using it at all. Except, the Daleks really do have a "Plan B" at this point – their fleets have massed on the borders of human space and the human news are all saying that they think the Daleks will WIN. The Time Destructor ploy is to make it EASY for the Daleks, but it is not essential.

So, the choice that Dr Who gives them is a FALSE choice. Giving up using the Time Destructor is NOT the end of their invasion plans, and only a few minutes earlier they were getting ready to go ahead without it anyway! Besides, what is to stop them SHOOTING the irritating Time Lord, REMOVING the taranium from the machine and re-reprogramming it themselves?

It seems that the script is trying to reach the HIGHPOINT of Doctor Who MORAL PHILOSOPHY: "Genesis of the Daleks", a story that hangs entirely around two essential moral questions. The one everyone remembers is the Doctor's "Do I have that right?" speech when contemplating genocide of the nascent Dalek embryos. The other, though, is more relevant here. The Doctor, recognising that Davros while obviously obsessed with his creation is also highly intelligent, suggests to him a thought-experiment: "if you had created a virus in your laboratory, something contagious and infectious that killed on contact, a virus that would destroy all other forms of life – would you allow its use?"

SUPERFICIALLY this looks like a similar question to the one Dr Who offers the Daleks over their Time Destructor here. Change your mind or kill everything. Except it's NOT the same, because in "Genesis…" Dr Who is trying to make Davros see the dangers of creating a force of destruction that will not ever stop, he is trying to make Davros see reason and temper the Daleks. (Davros, of course, for all his genius, is also a NUTTER, so he doesn't see the downside.)

In this "Dalek Masterplan", Dr Who is playing HUSTLE: he is offering the Daleks a BOOBY TRAP but, like the long-con artists, has left them with an OUT.

When the Doctor asks the Daleks: will you give up and go home or blow up everything, he's ACTUALLY echoing Davros' offer at his "trial" in the Kaled bunker: here's a big "blow up everything" button – if you won't side with me, I dare you to use it!

In fact this ending is very much more "Remembrance of the Daleks", another story where the Doctor provokes the Daleks into using what THEY think is an ultimate weapon only to reveal that he has previously programmed it to BACKFIRE on them!

"I beg of you, Davros, do not use the Haaaaaand!"

Sorry, Doctor, but it IS still genocide even when you sucker the other side into pushing the button on themselves!

The script is consciously riffing on other Dalek stories too, both earlier and later ones in their chronology (plus mention of Sanctuary Base design from "The Impossible Planet" linked to the Scott-Bailey principle from "The Brain of Morbius" and one snuck in from "Revenge of the Cybermen": a reference to "phobic energy discharge" during teleportation). "Destiny" is casually mentioned – it's their second favourite word, says Dr Who dismissively. And Mr Mavic invites the members of the Executive to come and stand with him, a la Mr Davros in "Genesis of the Daleks", and then likewise tells them that he offered them power and they chose extermination.

When he immobilises a random Dalek grunt, Dr Who mentions doing something similar on Spiridon (the "Planet of the Daleks"). Mind you, THAT'S a line from "Remembrance…" as well!

Ideas from the New Series creep in as well. When the Doctor refers to the Daleks' gospel of hate, he says that all they desire is to be alone, the worst thing in the universe. It is a clear foreshadowing of the loneliness of the ninth and tenth Dr Whos. Likewise, the implication at the end, when Sara's sacrifice saves him, is that he survives BECAUSE he is not alone – it is a REITERATION of the idea from the stage version of "Evil…" that having FRIENDS is the key to salvation; that living depends on the OPPOSITE of being a Dalek.

And the Dalek Supreme's last line… "Emergency Temporal… Restart!" is surely a cheeky reference to the Cult of Skaro's getaway in "Doomsday".

Possibly the BEST lines though are from the original "The Daleks' Master Plan" on telly: "I'm a citizen of the Universe, and a gentleman to boot" and "Oh, it's New Year; am I too late to wish a Merry Christmas to everyone at home?" (Both of which, IRONICALLY, come from "The Feast of Steven"!)

Daddy Alex spotted another couple of other BLOOPERS that arose from the trims to the story.

The first is when Dr Who and his chums escape from the planet the first time. On the telly, it has been established that (a) the Daleks have found the TARDIS and (b) the flames of Operation Inferno have cut off Dr Who and so he cannot get back to his own ship. Under those circumstances, he takes the next best option and nicks Mr Mavic's Spar. By giving him more control of the TARDIS and having him still using it to bounce around Kembel, the play doesn't really HAVE a reason for escaping by spaceship rather than TARDIS.

(And, come to think of it, neither play NOR telly has a good explanation of WHY the Daleks decide to start flame-throwering the jungle. Apart from it looking REALLY COOL!)

The second booboo is when Agent Sara shoots Agent Bret, who it turns out is her brother, remember. She goes into shock at what she has done, and so when Dr Who puts himself in harm's way she cannot shoot him and essentially turns to his side. But then, shortly later, she has a go at Dr Who and Steven about them being the traitors and Dr Who has to talk her round to his side AGAIN.

Equally, from the original, Agent Bret meets a friend, Daskar, on Earth who accidentally gives away that he knows about the taranium – which must mean he is in with the traitorous Mr Mavic. So Bret shoots him. In the play, it is Sara who slips up and reveals her knowledge of the taranium so Bret realises she's not on his side… but he DOESN'T shoot her, or even draw his gun, which makes him look just a little bit STUPID when SHE shoots HIM five seconds later.

And it is a LITTLE BIT cheesy when the Dalek Supreme, who the Time Destructor is supposed to have wiped out of history, gets just… one… last… gasp… Still, that's villains for you.

The set is a return to the minimalist approach that worked so very well for "The Web of Fear": mainly an empty stage, with a raised platform to either side, with two large triangular columns – or giant Dalek Toblerones, as we called them – that move from the sides to the centre depending on where they are needed to change the dynamic of the stage. At the end, they rotate and come together – like a theatrical Transformer – to become the Time Destructor. (Not QUITE as cool as last year's Dalek Emperor reveal, though!) However, the best use of them is when they become the airlock of the stolen spaceship for the dramatic moment where Katarina, held hostage by Dalekised Mr Marc, ejects him and herself into space rather than surrender.

This is a CRUCIAL moment in the story – on stage as it was on television – because as "Dr Who's girl" Katarina ought to be death-proof. That she's NOT shows that the stakes are higher than EVER BEFORE. There were audible GASPS of HORROR from children in the audience when they realised what had happened!

The Daleks themselves are, always, a triumph of design. Here, as last year, they a in most part a curious blend of old-style Daleks, in silver with blue bumps, with added New Series ear-lights. Sadly we do NOT get to see Daleks equipped with PYROFLAMES for the Operation Inferno scene, though TECH OPS Daleks, with green and red highlighting and claw arms instead of suckers do turn up to operate the Time Destructor. A red Dalek Commander seems to rule the roost, until a VERY swish Black Dalek Supreme turns up to take over. This one is a PERFECT new series model, right down to the separately articulated mid-section (for final surprise EXTERMINATION!), painted Dalek name-tag under the eyestalk, and extraordinarily powerful blue light in the eye – particularly visible in the darkened scenes as an extra spotlight!

In fact, a LOT of the lighting is exceptionally clever, but never better than the moments where Dr Who, Steven, Katarina and Bret gaze out from one of the platforms over the burning jungles of Kembel – done entirely with flickering crimson light.

The acting was the usual mixed bag: Mr Nick (S) as Dr Who was as excellent, as ever as was Mr James George, last year's magnificent Theodore Maxtible, this year as Mr Mavic. (What a shame we won't get to see his Tobias Vaughn!) Ms Helen Stoddart playing Katarina was also terrific; but Laura Eggerton's Sara Kingdom was a bit drippy, unfortunately, especially compared to Ms Cathy-Gale-in-Space Jean Marsh. The boys were a bit wet too – and NOT in a moist way! – leaving us sorely missing a last outing for Mr John-Paul McCrohon as this Dr Who's Jamie. (And we were not QUITE sure why Steven said he just wanted to go home and then went and got into the TARDIS.) Mr Nick (B) was brilliant as the Daleks – in no less than four different voices – but, perhaps surprisingly, a bit too over-the-top as TV's Dr Who. We THINK he was trying to catch some of the adrenaline-rush-wacky that Mr David (and Mr John Simm as the Master, for that matter) got after regenerating. Except it's not ENTIRELY appropriate when the floor is covered in CORPSES. (At least Mr Christopher had had the GOOD TASTE to get aboard the TARDIS and get out of the Dalek Dust before HE exploded into Mr David!)

I have already mentioned the video inserts, presented in glorious back-projection. The CG stuff at the beginning was probably the best; the second half included faux-video footage of the cough-cough interstellar News Network, covering the accelerating Dalek crisis. It worked to raise the stakes and give us a sense of the threat involved, though it did look a little naff! On the other fluffy foot, the scrolling news-ticker at the bottom was a GREAT LAUGH: "Historians ask… where is the Doctor?" Better still was Dr Who's surprise phone call to Mr Mavic, which was charming and cheeky in equally generous measures.

It's the end, I suppose, and they prepared for it by rewriting the conclusion to have Dr Who regenerate, thus finally putting the role behind him for (a) Mr Nick. Actually, that isn't even THAT much of a change from the original, since the HURT that Mr Dr Billy takes from being Time Destructed is – you can make a case for saying – the beginning of what leads to his eventual regeneration. Aging him, draining him, in the end will leave "…this old body of mine getting a bit thin".

(Mind you, he lasts another eight adventures, which is almost as long as the whole of Mr Christopher's entire run! They bred Doctors stronger in them days, I reckon!)

And so an era ends: sad but strangely satisfying. Well done, Mr Dr Nick!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day 2489: On Message; Off Liberty - The Prime Monster Cross-Dresses


Today it was Mr Frown's turn to put on a borrowed LIBERAL FROCK.

(Being a SECRET STALIN, of course, he naturally leaked to the Grauniad first.)

But – and this is IMPORTANT – being a Liberal Fluffy Elephant, I say: if a man wants to dress up in a new frock… there is nothing wrong with that!

People have noticed that the Prime Monster seems clinically incapable of pronouncing the words "Liberal Democrats", always in the House of Commons referring to the third party as "The Liberal Party". Is it just possible that this is actually a sign of AWE and ADMIRATION rather than PIG-IGNORANCE that we have previously assumed?

Or is this new "liberal Labour" just another knock-off that Mr Frown has picked up along with all the other ideas that fell off the back of Mr Balloon's "liberal Conservatory" lorry?

Mr Frown draws an elegant argument for the essential need for a LIBERAL revolution in our country, both as a natural progression from history and as the only really workable alternative in the face of totalitarian terrorism.

The problem seems to be that, having done so, he then jumps to the non-sequitur conclusion that what we need is MORE trampling over our liberties.

Headlines may trumpet that "Secrecy is to be rolled back!" and "Protest curbs are to be reviewed" but looking at what Mr Frown actually has on offer, I would have to say I am DISAPPOINTED.

It was PRETTY CHEEKY of Mr Frown to call his speech "On Liberty" and then to only mention Mr John Stuart Mill only once, and Ms Harriet Taylor not at all. Particularly since he appears to have spectacularly missed the point.

You can read the full text of the Prime Monster's speech here.

His first half reads like a gallop though a liberal history that, based in a struggle for religious tolerance, has seen us slowly and haltingly widen emancipation and stand against discrimination. It can best be summed up in Mr Frown's own words when he says:

"My starting point is that from the time of Magna Carta, to the civil wars and revolutions of the 17th century, through to the liberalism of Victorian Britain and the widening and deepening of democracy and fundamental rights throughout the last century, there has been a British tradition of liberty - what one writer has called our 'gift to the world'."

Contrasting British Liberty with what he sees as an American obsession with the individual, he links it to the idea of civic virtues, something he then, and I think wrongly, expands as shared responsibilities. The idea of responsibilities leads to requirement and compulsion, and these are the very antithesis of "virtues", which you do because they are GOOD not because you have to.

In fact, I think that this is one of the problems that the authoritarian culture of both the Labour AND the Conservatories has created. With the Conservatories thumping on about the "Me Me ME!" ideology of Thatchianity and the Labour emphasising the GOVERNMENT as universal NANNY, at once the benefactor who will provide all solutions AND the punisher who defines what is "good", the two party twins have UNDERMINED the very necessary culture where people want to do (and be seen to do) not just the right thing but good things and generous things.

Oddly enough, Mr Frown almost seems to see this too, when he comes to criticism of the right for reducing liberty to libertarianism and criticism of the left for seeing equality as more important than liberty.

And his conclusion would appear to be one that I HEARTILY agree with:

"I am convinced that both to rebuild our constitution for the modern age and to unify the country to meet and master every challenge, we need to consciously and with determination found the next stage of constitutional development firmly on the story of British liberty."

But then we get to some proposals. And here I notice that the GOOD STUFF is all couched in the language of "reviews" and "investigations" and "if, but and maybes".

So, the right to protest outside of Parliament is to be "reviewed" – if we're good little serfs we might get it back, do you think? But if we're too rowdy, then we clearly will not deserve it. Mr Jack Man'O Straw will "investigate" the idea of a "freedom of expression" audit for future legislation – whatever that means – and the entirely-sympathetic-to-the Liberal-point-of-view newspaper editor Mr Paul Dacre will consider the "Thirty Year Rule" that protects government papers from being published in, er, newspapers.

(This last may look like a great step forward for freedom, but really will just serve to drop Queen Maggie's government in it ten years early while not affecting Lord Blairimort's time in office – because Lord Blairimort never kept anything on paper anyway!)

Genuinely good news is the announcement that there will be no tightening of the regulations on Freedom of Information. The Government had THREATENED to reduce the number of questions that bodies like the BBC or newspapers could ask of them because it was too much bother, er, money to find all the answers. I am glad that they have not gone down this route, though really they would have made themselves look VERY VERY bad by closing down the already small chinks into Freedom of Information that they have opened.

(Freedom of Information legislation is what allows us to discover the SHIFTY goings on of people in power, people like Sir John Bourn (again), now to be FORMER Head of the National Audit Office after his resignation, who we discovered had spent £336,000 on his expenses on 45 trips in three years. Two weeks ago the Liberal Democrats described his travel bills of £16,500 spent on trips between April and September, paid for by taxpayers, as "absolutely shocking".)

Greater openness on the Security Services is to be welcomed too, with publication of the Government's security strategy and Parliament to have a role in selecting members of the Intelligence and Security Select Committee (the one that is currently hand-picked by the Prime Monster and reports only to him – you know, the one that Lord Blairimort assures us cleared him of wrongdoing, though of course we have to take his word for it that that is what they said).

But things take a more SINISTER turn when Mr Frown starts to talk about simplification of the (many) laws governing right of forced entry to private homes for the police and other public bodies. While I suppose it is true that simpler laws are fairer because they are easier to understand, I am not sure that making it easier for the police, or for that matter the local food hygienist, to break your door down is a complete guarantee of LIBERTY.

Equally, I am most DUBIOUS about Mr Frown's idea of what "protecting data" means. He alleges that identity used to be "protected" by registering of births, marriages and deaths – but that's NONSENSE: that was how data was CONTROLLED, and how the church USED that data FOR control, you idiot.

Identity data, including DNA data, can, says Mr Frown, prove very useful to a number of Government agencies (I'll just BET it can!) and might offer the chance for simplifying services to people, like pensioners (play for the sympathy vote), if it was more widely available.

All of this is a CODED endorsement of the Government's identity database plan, the suspicious MASTER COMPUTER behind the I.D.iot cards scheme.

Even Mr Frown admits that it could be open to abuse (I'll just BET it can, encore!), so he and Mr Man'O Straw have "asked the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas and Doctor Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, to undertake a review of the framework for the use of information".

We will have to await the outcome of this review to see whether it turns out good or bad.

Definitely BAD though is Mr Frown's statement that he is "…in no doubt about the desirability of a debate over pre-charge detention."

How, after the fierce debate last year that saw the Government have to concede to a limit of 28 days (itself a doubling of the only recently extended limit of 14 days), it is possible to say that there is "no doubt" that reheating this argument is "desirable" is completely beyond my FLUFFY BRAIN to understand.

And trying to work out how LIBERTY is protected by TAKING IT AWAY on a whim for up to three months… it is likely to make my fluffy brain just EXPLODE!

Finally, more alarm bells sound when we hear that Mr Man'O Straw is apparently "signalling the start of a national consultation on the case for a new British Bill of Rights and Duties". Duties? I do NOT like the sound of THAT.

A PROPER Bill of Rights is an agreement that limits the powers of the Government to those that the people it serves will ALLOW. A "Bill of Rights and Duties" ought to be a contradiction in terms.

The Labour have NEVER really understood this – they have always seen "rights" as lucky charms that the Government in its INEFFABLE GOODNESS sees fit to visit upon an UNDESERVING PROLETARIAT. Duties, naturally, are owed to the Government, and this is just to underline the point.

In fact, it is just the old, old DIVINE RIGHT of KINGS rewritten in a glossy new cover, with THE PARTY replacing the old monarch in a modern FEUDALISM. LIBERTY has nothing to do with this.

Mr Michael Wills, Justice Minister says a referendum on a Bill Of Rights would be "inevitable".

Oh, but the Conservatories mock that, after the Government's failure to offer a referendum on the tinkering with Europe treaty. (That would be the treaty that Mr Balloon won't promise to offer a referendum on repealing either.)

Mr Frown is a phoney, says Mr Balloon. You can make you own JOKE up here, to be honest.

So, is this the dawning of a BRAVE NEW AGE OF FREEDOM under Mr Frown? No, not really. In the end, I think we have to judge the sly old Secret Stalin by his ACTIONS not just his WORDS.

By invoking the SPIRIT of British Liberty, Mr Frown has set himself a HIGH STANDARD to meet – so far, though, his record is one of falling rather short of the standards he sets himself, so I do not recommend anyone holding their breath waiting for the new liberal Labour to appear!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Day 2490: Who'd have Sonic?


I am the Leader MASTER of the Liberal Democrats…

Posted by Picasa

…and you will obey me! (Please!)


A Happy Anniversary to my Daddies Alex and Richard!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Day 2488: Mr Frown on the Naughty Step


Mr Frown is like one of those large, slightly shy kids who get teased and taunted by the pie-faced smart boy for weeks and months, and try to put up with it manfully until they cannot take any more and then punch their accuser in his mealy mouth, landing themselves in detention.

You have to have SOME sympathy. It is not like Mr Balloon doesn't deserve punching being called on his misleading statements.

But really it IS Mr Frown's own fault because he will keep on trying to be just as smart as his snake-oil salesman of an opponent.

Prime Monster's Questionable Time: Mr Balloon – who whines on and on like a BABY about the Labour steeling HIS tax-cut-for-corpses policy – opened the day by… stealing an issue that the Liberal Democrats have been doing all the work on.

Clawing back money that schools have kept in their piggy banks really is the STUPIDEST policy. Where is the incentive for the schools to plan their spending carefully if any pennies left over are going to be thieved by Mr Frown? The assumption that central government knows best how it should be spent is obviously ridiculous, anyway: if they DID know best, then why did they give the schools more money than "needed" in the first place?

Didn't we just get into a whole lot of financial trouble in the NHS for exactly the same reason? Trusts and hospitals were going into deficit because they were essentially rewarded for SPLURGING all of their budget, and penalised (by losing the money) if they did not spend it by the arbitrary end of year deadline.

Mr Frown says he's "considering the best thing to do."

Here's a CLUE for you Mr Frown – stop WASTING YOUR TIME! You should be busy running the country, not trying to MICROMANAGE the decisions of headmasters up and down the land!

But that WASN'T what landed Mr Frown in trouble. No, instead it was when Mr Balloon turned to the total Horlicks that the Scotland Office made of the Scottish Elections earlier this year.

Actually, if he had pointed out that MR Alexander Douglas-Fir had ALREADY apologised for his part in the mess Mr Frown would have made Mr Balloon look vindictive and petty. But that is not Mr Frown's way.

Of course, it helps that Mr Balloon is a master of TAKING ADVANTAGE, all the guile of an Old Etonian school bully coming to the fore – knowing how to spot the pressure points, the best places to stick in the stiletto, the ways of working on the weaknesses.

Mr Frown's weaknesses are an inability to admit when a mistake has been made, and an inability to keep control of his temper. Lord Blairimort never gave a STUFF about Prime Monster's Questions but Mr Frown cannot disguise the fact that he CARES.

What he OUGHT to do, is DISARM the taunting by saying:

"Well, you've made a good point and I shall raise it at Cabinet – the report DOES make some criticisms and we shall have to do better in future. I hope you will admit to the errors that your side made too."

Unfortunately, what he WANTS to do is have the upper-class twit across the despatch box sent to the Gulag.

Mr Dale Winton, posing as an impartial "observer of the political scene for a quarter of a century", talks a LOAD OF OLD NONSENSE about this in the Grauniad, starting from the ERRONEOUS assumption that performance in the BEAR PIT actually affects the REAL WORLD.

The truth is COMPLETELY the other way around. Mr Frown and Mr Balloon's performances rarely vary – Mr Balloon goes all pink and shouty; Mr Frown looks like he's been hit with a plank – but who LOOKS like the winner depends on OUTSIDE EVENTS. If Mr Frown is governing with CALM MAJESTY and dealing with all crises that arise, then Mr Balloon looks SILLY, ranting and carrying on. The newspapers will say that he looks either desperate or childish. But if Mr Frown has just jumped in a great big early-election-shaped COW PAT then Mr Balloon's antics are reported as clever and stinging.

This is where Conservatories like Mr Winton make a CATEGORY ERROR. They think that because the papers are saying Mr Balloon did well, that they are actually making some political progress. They couldn't be more wrong: doing well in Prime Monster's Questionable time is at best no more than a VICTORY LAP, and at worst damaging to your reputation.

Yes, that's right: damaging. Mr Kinnock-knock and Mr Vague had a lot of "reputation" as good at Prime Monster's Questions, but outside the House of Commons, they were thought of as a ginger windbag and the Mekon. Mr Balloon is REINFORCING people's opinion of him as a DEBATING CLUB PUBLIC SCHOOL BOY. And very much NOT a Prime Monster in waiting. Or indeed a serious politician at all.

The problem with Prime Monster's Questionable Time if you ARE the Prime Monster is that giving STRAIGHT ANSWERS often the issues are too complicated and NUANCED to explain easily and simply, especially in the face of a SHOUTING NINNY spitting accusations.

The problem with Prime Monster's Questionable Time if you are the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is that you ARE the SHOUTING NINNY.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day 2487: Mr Balloon's Appeal – More Appalling than Appealing


So, after his CORE-VOTE CONFERENCE, Mr Balloon is trying on his OTHER FACE again, and sniffing around Liberal voters.

"I think that the Conservatory Party under my leadership is a liberal Conservatory Party, will remain one and will campaign as one."

That would be the Conservatory Party that wants to cut taxes for DEAD MILLIONAIRES; increase global warming by building MORE AIRPORTS; SLASH BENEFITS for sick people; and declare war on EUROPE.

I think if I WANT Liberal Policies, Mr Balloon, I will vote for a party that has GOT Liberal Policies – the Liberal Democrats!

Mr Balloon's DOUBLE DEALING – on the one fluffy foot saying sweet nothings to the right, on the other fluffy foot, offering sweet… nothing to genuine liberals – is just another reason why you can't trust anything he says.

"Come and join us… to build a stronger country, get rid of a Labour government," is his siren song.

Well, if you REALLY want to get rid of the Labour, here is my CHALLENGE to you, Mr Balloon – will you stand down your candidates in the seats where a vote for the Conservatories is a vote to SUPPORT the Labour Government: the fifty seats where Liberal Democrats (not Conservatories) are second behind the Labour?

Exchanging seats between us and your Conservatories neither hurts nor helps the Labour, though it IS a big waste of your efforts, Mr Balloon, if you GENUINELY want MORE LIBERAL votes in parliament.

But actively campaigning to undermine Liberal Democrats who could reduce Mr Frown's majority – why Mr Balloon, if you do that surely you cannot be SERIOUS about wanting to change the government.

(And NO, merely exchanging your Old Etonian Bottoms on the Cabinet Chairs for those of Mr Frown and chums is NOT the same as actually CHANGING anything, not when all of your policies and all of their policies are decided by the same SAT NAV.)

Meanwhile, the Conservatories are also throwing their toys out of the pram over party funding.

They claim that the Labour have gone back on an agreement to negotiate about donations from the Unions. The Labour say that Union donations are REALLY just lots and lots of small individual donations added together. The Conservatories say that the proposed £50,000 limit on donations should apply to the whole Union.

(Though, of course, I would say: what about those Conservatory dinners where a hundred people pay a thousand pounds each to sit through three courses of rubber chicken and Mr Vague? Wouldn't that blow the £50,000 limit – and twice over? Oh, is that suddenly different, then?)

Mr "Buff" Hoon, former nobody in Lord Blairimort's cabinet, now demoted to forgotten nobody by Mr Frown, had sparked the row by wanting to put a stop to Conservatory Lord Ashcroft (famous for accepting a British peerage while simultaneously avoiding British taxes) running a £2 MILLION a year slush fund support for Conservatory marginal seats.

Auntie Maude went on the radio to claim that Lord Ashcroft's squillions were just to "level the playing field".

Well, if you REALLY want a level playing field, here is my CHALLENGE to you, Auntie Maude – will you GUARANTEE that not one penny of Lord Ashcroft's money is being spent in Liberal Democrat constituencies, or admit that that was a big fat FIB.

A rather BETTER use of great wodges of dosh is the FIFTY MILLION LOTTERY WIN up for grabs by one of four charities.

I admit I am very tempted by the idea of planting lots of tree in [woosh, ker-thunk] Robin Hood Land (where did that ARROW come from?)

But my vote will probably go to improving access to the national network of cycle lanes.

Day 2486: DOCTOR WHO: Wooden Heart


What with Daddy Alex being off to his local party AGM for sandwiches and gossip and, er, sneezing (and coming back with conference rep status), Daddy Richard and I have been left at home to read more Doctor Who.
After the excitement and energy of the excellent eco-fable that was "The Last Dodo", I'm afraid that this was disappointingly plodding and, well, wooden.

Martha and the Doctor discover a spaceship/station "The Castor" floating seemingly derelict in deep dark space. Investigating, they discover that not only was this a prison ship, but that everyone aboard appears to have died in sudden terror. Fairly typical Doctor Who fare. And then on the way back to the TARDIS they find themselves in a forest.

It's quite an extensive forest, surrounding a valley that contains a village and a lake with an island in the middle. The villagers, medieval rustic types represented in the main by village elder Petr and his estranged brother Saul the trapper, are plagued by the disappearances of several of their children and a doomy prophecy that if the children return it will be the end of the village. Which is actually also typical Doctor Who fare.

There ought to be some frisson of interest generated by the juxtaposition of two such traditional Who forms, but there really isn't. This ought to be a key mystery: how can something strange and wonderful – not to mention so large – be inside something so mundane and indeed small. (Well, actually "The Castor" is quite a big spaceship, but small compared to the village in its forest-shrouded valley.) Remind you of anything?

The Doctor doesn't seem very on form today. He dismisses out of hand Martha's suggested explanations (either virtual reality or they've stepped through a portal into another world), which is unusual as he's usually impressed when she uses her brains. Plus, she's essentially right: the village is artificial and it does exist in a convenient adjacent dimension.

The forest is stocked with the usual "monsters" – in fact they are the most literally "wandering monsters" yet done in Doctor Who, turning up in arbitrary fashion merely to be a threat, in fact one that can be overcome with violence. The lake too, as barrier to the "forbidden island" is inevitably full of shark-analogues, to be fought off in an attempted crossing towards the climax. The problem with these creatures – indeed with much of this world – is that they are described extensively but not in any way that strikes the visual imagination. It is all too much detail and not enough. For all their vertical jaws and insectile legs or three eyes and pug-like faces, they are still just dragon-things or shark-things. Similarly the mish-mash of architectural styles in the village or of flora in the forest, although these things are clues of a sort – that this world is put together by someone who doesn't really know how a real Earth village would look or work – they just aren't very important clues, certainly not as important as the weight the book starts off by giving them before lapsing back into treating them as "generic village" and "generic forest" and "generic monster". To be honest, it would have been much cleverer to let the reader fall into the trap of thinking of everything as a "generic", only for the Doctor to suddenly point out how unreal it actually made it all seem.

Further rudeness from the Doctor: he suggests to the locals that they're not real – or at least that they weren't half an hour ago. This develops into… well, if it was funny it would be a running joke, as all the villagers chide him for not believing in their objective reality and he keeps trying to explain that he didn't mean that they aren't real now, just that they were not there recently. His evidence suggests that their memories and history are not consistent with continuous existence.

Now you could actually make something out of that theme – do we, essentially, cease to exist when we go to sleep? That seems to be what happens to the village. The Doctor certainly takes the threat quite seriously when it occurs to him that Martha and he may find themselves back in the real universe outside "The Castor" by the several miles they have walked from where they entered the forest.

But the book just seems to lose interest in this promising thread. Similarly, early on Martha develops an ear infection that initially plays out as though it is going to be significant but is then forgotten. And the threat of the mysterious "dark angel" that appears on "the Castor" is played up heavily in the second half but ultimately goes nowhere.

Unfortunately those possible red herrings – something TARDIS-like waking and sleeping; an evolved space virus that may have killed the crew and now infected Martha (very Red Dwarf, that one) – they are more interesting than the actual explanation.

Almost perversely, the story eschews these questions and chooses to base the big climax around resolving the tension between Petr and Saul. The revelation of an adulterous affair and that Saul not Petr is the father of Petr's son Thom (who anyway is numbered among the lost children)… to be fair, there are one or two hints about this earlier but it does seriously feel as though the whole book has jumped a track.

Even more annoyingly, the whole struggle across the lake turns out to have been unnecessary, no more than a – potentially fatal – bonding exercise arranged by the local wise woman, the Dazai. You have to ask, with the village about to be annihilated, was this really the time? And since the delay means that Martha arrives at the centre just in time to meet the Doctor there, it does begin to look like padding.

In fact, what is going on turns out to be a crude "Mind of Evil" meets "Castrovalva": an interdimensional traveller has been captured by the humans and forced to try and cure criminals by sucking out their evil memories. Unable to cope with all that evil, it has created both the forest village as a kind of experiment to try and understand good and evil and also the "dark angel" creature that stalks the prison and is responsible for all the deaths.

(The Doctor's encounter with the "angel" leads to a series of mundane flashbacks to the life of murderer Ben Abbas which, once again, are less significant than they would appear. Actually, the only significance appears to be that Abbas was the last prisoner to die – maybe his memories are supposed to be nearest to the surface. But they do not inform the story, nor explain the behaviours of the "angel" or its imprisoned creator.)

The vanishing children it turns out are the creator creature's efforts to save energy – "The Castor's" drift into dark space has left it starved of the necessary power to maintain the simulation. Quite what the prophecy is meant to mean is unclear as it certainly doesn't come to pass.

And speaking of children, this book – like "Sting of the Zygons" – is afflicted with a child hero character in Jude the daughter of Saul. She's a likeable enough character but really has very little to do beyond stand in for Martha in the later chapters. Even the expected cliché of her being the one who can get past/save the Doctor from the "dark angel" is denied to her, as both she and the Doctor ultimately just pass through the creature together to reach the ship's core.

The resolution is no more satisfactory, I fear. The Doctor persuades the interdimensional alien to continue to maintain the village, and arranges to move "The Castor" close to a star to provide the necessary power – so exactly how does he fire up the engines on a ship that is close to running out of power entirely? Or does he tow it with the TARDIS? It is a lazy sort of writing that thinks that just explaining what is going on is the same as being able to resolve it.

Similarly, the creator alien is able to restore the lost children, and keep the village going until they reach this new star, because the Dazai somehow absorbs the "dark angel", thus lifting a weight from the creator's mind… except, the Dazai, like everything and everyone in the village, is just a creation of the creator's mind, so hasn't it just moved the "evil memories" from one externalised part of its subconscious to another? Although…

The biggest question that the book raises is: are the villagers real? Martha argues that they are; the Doctor seems to think that it is more complicated than that. But then, like so many things, the book doesn't have an answer. No, it's worse than that, the book just wanders away from the question. So we don't really know, by the end, if the alien actually has created independent sentient life (in which case, isn't it basically god?) or if the villagers are just aspects of its shattered mind.

Author Martin Day has come up with a huge number of startling concepts and situations for "Wooden Heart"; in a way it is almost an achievement to have done so little with them all. A writer like Lawrence Miles would have run riot with all of this originality; what we get is pedestrian, ambling away from anything interesting and finishing with a happy ending that essentially consists of the Doctor saying, well let's have a happy ending now.
Let's finish with a joke:

Daddy: what is wrong with a car with WOODEN wheels and WOODEN body and a WOODEN engine?

Millennium: it WOULDN' go!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day 2485: Poll of Poles


Bye bye "Law and Justice" in Poland.

Of course it is NOT "Anarchy in Poland", as Mr Balloon might say, but the election of a new Polish Government following the collapse of the right-wing coalition that has been in power and generally scaring everybody for the last two years.

In Polish, "Law and Justice" is "Prawo i Sprawiedliwość" or "PiS" for short, and who could take the... Mickey out of THAT?

Despite having roots in the Solidarity Trade Union from the Communist era, (or perhaps BECAUSE of their roots in the Solidarity) PiS policies are based heavily on CATHOLIC TEACHINGS and ANTI-COMMUNISM.

You might say that "Law and Justice" are about unjust laws. They are not just right-wing (which the new lot are, too), they are bullying, illiberal and authoritarian. And religious bigots to boot.

In fact, their agenda of cutting taxes whilst, increasing prison sentences, and blaming Europe for everything that has gone wrong sounds EERILY FAMILIAR from somewhere.

Of course, the main difference from Mr Balloon's Conservatories is in their attitude to GAY DADDIES – the PiS still say what they think; Mr Balloon likes to keep his lip buttoned about his voting record these days. As it happens, the logo of the PiS is an eagle with a crown on; while the logo of Mr Balloon is a TWO-FACED SNAKE-IN-THE-GRASS! [R: surely, mighty English Oak?!]

Polish soon-to-be-ex-Prime Monster Mr Jarosław Kaczyński has said:

"The affirmation of gay daddies will lead to the downfall of civilization. We can't agree to it!"

And if you think HE'S a fruit-loop, you should see his allies in the minority off-the-scale right-wing "League of Polish Families" party! Their youth movement the Hitler All-Polish Youth attended the Warsaw Gay Pride… in order to throw eggs and stones and bottles. The Warsaw Gay Prides was of course banned in 2005 by the then Mayor, none other than… Mr Coleslaw Kaczyński.

(I am not sure that linking the Polish Government to the Hitler Youth will go down TOO WELL – since Krazy Mr Coleslaw has also TASTEFULLY demanded extra votes in the EU because of all the Poles who were killed by the Germans in the World War part two.)

The big winners in the election were "Civic Platform" with 40% of the votes, compared to 32% for PiS.

"Civic Platform" aka "Platforma Obywatelska" or "PO" is a centre-right Telytubby party whose policies include flat taxes, Trade Union reform and privatisations, but also improved higher education, decentralisation to local government and independence for the Bank of Poland. Bizarrely they also want to swap a fair votes system for a "First Pass the Port" one.

Which looks a lot like what Mr Balloon would write if he was asked to write a manifesto for the Liberal Democrats. You know: nuts!

You may prefer the Democratic Party (PD) who are members of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. Their policies include flat taxes too, but also a concentration on improving education and job opportunities and expanding health care without privatisation.

On the other fluffy foot, they can only muster a tiny percentage of the popular vote; they contested the 2007 election as part of the "Left and Democrats" (Lewica i Demokraci) coalition, the grouping that came third, but will probably still be confined to opposition as the Civc Platform with 209 seats will only need the 31 seats of the Christian Democratic Polish Peoples Party to form a majority in parliament.

The European Union may decide to welcome this result as they will be relieved and grateful not to have to cope with an ARGUMENTATIVE and OBSTRUCTIONIST Prime Monster, demanding special treatment and exemptions in every treaty and threatening to use the veto. At least, not ANOTHER one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day 2484: Thunderballs Up


Today, children, "Sesame Street" was brought to you by the letters "W" and "W" and by the number "3".

Allegedly, when President Billary-Hillary's team left the White House in January 2001, they HILARIOUSLY sabotaged all of the keyboards, taking away the letter "W"s. Clearly, the current bunch have a similar jape in mind that will leave incoming President Hillary-Billary in need of "W"s in ABUNDANCE!

This is because the Monkey-in-Chief is now so CRAZED that he is threatening World War part Three against Iran.

This was supported by the ACTUAL President, Darth Cheney.

And Lord Blairimort was in town too, to deliver a WARNING from HISTORY: he compared today's events to the March of Fascism in the 1930's. Remember how a FAR-RIGHT ideology swept a DERANGED LUNATIC into power, allowing him to OVERTURN DEMOCRACY and, using an ALLEGED threat to his nation's SECURITY allied to RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY, started to INVADE OTHER COUNTRIES.

It is all so obvious! Finally, Lord Blairimort understands… hang on, he's talking about the OTHER SIDE!

The SERIOUS development over Iran's nuclear programme seem to be that the balance of power INSIDE Iran (by which I mean who is FLAVOUR of the MONTH with supreme religious authority Ayatollah Khammeni) has tipped further towards President Armageddon-jab, resulting in the resignation of Mr Ali Laryngitis.

Not that Mr Laryngitis could be described as a "MODERATE", but at least he could be described as "SANE", and – maybe even more importantly – willing to negotiate. You may remember that it was his intervention that led to the release of captured British sailors at Easter time.

The Iranians aren't STUPID. But they are ISOLATED and surrounded by – as they see it – dangerous and quite-possibly-nuclear-armed rivals backed by Western Powers (India, Israel and now Iraq, and that's just sticking to the "I"s on the list!) You can bet that the RELIGIOUS differences do not help either. This makes them – for all their POSTURING – frightened. And frightened people do silly and dangerous things. (e.g. the US Senate voting for the PATRIOT act!)

It is PROBABLY true that Iran is supporting TERRORISTS to try and drive America (oh, and Britain, as though we actually count) out of Iraq – just like America backed the Mujahideen in their fight to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan. And it is ALSO probably true that Iran would like to obtain "The Bomb" – on its own, the differential treatment meted out to Iraq and North Korea would make that look like an entirely sensible project!

Thanks to our own actions, we look HYPOCRITICAL when we condemn behaviour in Iran that we ourselves are either party to it, or overlook when our allies do it. (Has ANYONE said that Israel just randomly BLOWING UP bits of Syria might be, just might be, a bit wrong? Not that we want Syria to have atom bombs any more than we want Iran to, and I am sure we are all VERY GRATEFUL to the Israeli Air force for putting a stop to it, and hope that their bombs haven't scattered radioactive material all over the Middle East, but you can – I hope – see that by implicitly CONDONING that sort of thing, our protests to Iran about them giving IUD's to insurgents might sound a little bit HOLLOW.)

The government of Iran is neither particularly NICE nor particularly SAFE. We need to work hard to PERSUADE them that another path will be better for them as well as for us. But calling them "Nazis" is just childish. And threatening them with FIERY NUCLEAR APOCALYPSE is just downright BONKERS!

And anyway, it turns out that the Americans don't even know where their OWN nuclear weapons are!

This is the sort of thing that gets you SUED by Mr Kevin McClory! In developments sounding SUSPICIOUSLY SIMILAR to the plot of the 1965 James Bond film, armed nuclear weapons were loaded onto an American bomber and flown across the country by the unsuspecting crew. On landing, the removal of the payload was supervised by a gentleman seen stroking a white cat…

Day 2483: It's a Two Horse, One Elephant Race!


It looks very much like there will only be two MPs challenging me for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Hewn has launched his campaign and now Mr Clogg has launched his. They have gone "head-to-head" at the Southern Regional Conference and appeared side-by-side on Mr Andy Marrmite's BBC sofa.

It is a difficult thing to have to choose between them: brains and charm, beauty and the beast – and Mr Clogg is just as good!

Mr Nick Assinder wonders: Will We still be the "Lovely Party" at the end of the contest?

The answer is OF COURSE WE WILL. This is not going to cause a falling out: in fact there are hardly any policy differences between them. Though that is hardly surprising since both of them have spent much of the last two years putting these policies together under Sir Mr the Merciless.

(Though I was SLIGHTLY disappointed to hear that both of them agree with Sir Mr the Merciless' policy of not needing a referendum on the Reform Treaty. It would at least have made a way of choosing!)

There is certainly no room for a third candidate to squeeze through the middle… no matter how fluffy and squashy he might be!

The media seem universally agreed that the only choice has to be Mr Clogg. But in spite of that Mr Clogg has VERY MANY good points. However, there is NOTHING more guaranteed to make the Liberal Democrats get ORNERY than telling them they MUST do something, even when it is OBVIOUSLY in our best interest.

I cannot help but remember that the media are the ones who gave a VERY UNDESERVED pummelling to Sir Mr the Merciless. But do we want to risk slapping them in the face? If we choose Mr Clogg we will be pushing at an open door of media support.

But then, I cannot help but remember that the media also told us it had to be Sir Mr the Merciless in the first place. So it may do us not a jot of good anyway.

Mr Hewn seems like the outsider, the maverick, the underdog – all traits bound to appeal to a Liberal elephant's fluffy feelings. His background in economics may be just the thing that is needed to go toe-to-toe with HEAVYWEIGHT CHANCELLOR turned Prime Monster, Mr Frown. He also – and this counts for a lot with me – has the support of Ms Featherweight and Ms Kramer-vs-Kramer. And of course he was brave enough to stand in the last contest, and in many ways it was HIS policy package that won the arguments and transformed the party. His enthusiasm for taking the Green Environment brief is very encouraging too.

Mr Marrmite asked them both who their Liberal Heroes were, and I thought that their answers were very telling. Mr Hewn chose Mr Lloyd George (Liberal Superpower: World War Winner) – that is a BRAVE choice, because Mr Lloyd George is seen as a bit DIVISIVE by many party members. But Mr Hewn DEFENDED him, saying not only was he a GREAT Prime Monster during World War part One, he was also one of the few to really understand what was needed during the Great Depression.

This was telling because it was saying: "look, I am the economic brainiac".

Mr Clogg though trumped him by claiming as his Hero Mr Clarence Henry Willcock (NOT a relation of Daddy Alex, except in SPIRIT) (Liberal Superpower: not being invisible). Mr Wilcox back in 1950 was, as you very well know, the FIRST person to say "No2id". Ironically, there is some confusion over his IDENTITY: the Observer naming him as Trevor Wilcox while the, er, Grauniad has Clarence Willcock. Either way, it did my daddies no end of good to hear Mr Clogg choose HIM!

THAT was telling because it was saying: "I am the ordinary guy, the ordinary guy with the IMPLACABLE Liberal instinct.")

In fact Mr Clogg's answer to the first question was also very good, and in the same vein. "People call you Mr Balloon-lite," said Mr Marrmite. "What do you say to that?"

"Well the only REAL similarity is that we're about the same age," replied Mr Clogg, "which means that for both of us, our political opinions were formed during the era of Queen Maggie. Now I saw that heartless, desperate, soulless Conservatory vision and, where Mr Balloon chose to embrace it, I was appalled it. That made me a Liberal for life."

I thought that Mr Hewn got a slightly worse deal from Mr Marrmite, since he was asked fewer questions – even if one of those was an EASY one pitched by Mr Clogg. But he DID get to put forward his vision of us as the REAL RADICALS – unlike the "Tory Twins", the other two parties rushing to adopt identical positions. We are the ones who want to go beyond changing the Government and change the entire SYSTEM: give the power back to everyone.

Anyway, OBVIOUSLY all of the MPs actually wanted to nonimate ME, but I have persuaded them that at least a few of them ought to back Mr Hewn or Mr Clogg, so that – unlike the Labour – we can have a PROPER CONTEST.

And may the best FLUFFY ELEPHANT win, I say!


Mr Richard Huzzey on the Liberal Democrat Voice beat me to the use of my title!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Day 2482: "The Sun" commits Treason


Yes, I say that "The Sun" supports TREASON – or, if they're going to print a full page cartoon showing RAF Spitfires preparing to attack the Prime Monster's plane, is there some explanation that is not GLORIFYING TERRORISM?

Perhaps "The Sun says…" that a MILITARY COUP is FUNNY – perhaps they would like to say that to Ms Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan… though maybe not on a day when she's nearly been EXPLODED by (allegedly) FORMER GENERALS!

We SHOULD hold a referendum on the European Reform Treaty. We should vote YES.

But I'm not agreeing with "The Sun" here, you know. They are DEAD WRONG about Europe, and about the reasons for having a national vote on this treaty. We should have had a vote on the Single European Act; we should have had a vote on the Maastricht Treaty. We should have a vote at each and every step, not to make things DIFFICULT but because we're ALL Europeans and we all need to feel involved. Europe is for the PEOPLE not just some Euro-ELITE!

It's important to say that the Reform Treaty is NOT the Constitution in disguise – it doesn't go any where NEAR the much-needed "Reform of Institutions" and "Transparency and Openness" parts of the Constitution that we would like, concentrating instead on the "Making the Council Of Ministers Work" parts.

Mr Frown's opt-outs mean that – lucky us – we don't even get all the GOOD BITS.

(And we're certainly not getting a Euro-flag or Euro-national anthem. Or straight bananas, compulsory hard-hats for tightrope-walkers, or Emulsified High-Fat Offal Tubes. You should watch "QI", you know.)

And instead of replacing all the previous treaties with a single one-stop-shop document, the Reform Treaty chops bits out, tacks bits on and generally makes the legislations holding the Union together more of a crazy bird's-nest than ever.

It is ALSO important to say that strengthening the Union does NOT weaken Britain: au contraire – we can only gain from a Union that has a STRONG and CLEAR international voice, better able to negotiate in the World Trade Talks, more influential in the United Nations. And we can only gain from further expansion of the Union, impossible if we don't find a way to make the voting work, vital for spreading peace, prosperity and places we can sell our stuff.

It is LUDICROUS to say that agreeing with our neighbours is "selling out Britain".

The REAL sell-outs are newspapers like "The TRAITOROUS Sun" which toils tirelessly for the interests of its owner, an Australian/American/Tax Exile, and AGAINST the interests of the people of Britain, its own readers.

Of course, Mr Roger Stavro Moredick is NOT ALONE in manipulating politics using the media – think of Mr Berlusconi in Italy and all the trouble that HE caused. But it is large SUPRA-NATIONAL companies like his "NEWS" INTERNATIONAL that stand to lose out if the Union becomes stronger – strong enough to regulate HIM!

What, a TELEVISION company in need of regulation? How could THAT happen?! Again?!?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Day 2481: Mr Balloon's Poverty of Ideas


It is the duty of a party leader to ATTACK THE ENEMY! So here goes…

Oh very fluffy dear – the Conservatories are headed back to Mr Peter Lilley territory. Do you remember the nineteen-nineties when he "got a little list" (I THINK that that is not a EUPHEMISM)? He sang a little song before SLASHING benefits for single mothers?

Now, Mr Balloon announces that he will "Make Poverty History"… by SLASHING benefits for the long-term sick.

How the BLUE BLAZES is THAT going to help make poverty history… except in the sense of returning to HISTORICAL levels of poverty (Victorian, Mediaeval, Stone Age… pick your Conservatory target era)!

Copper creosoted creep Mr Peter Vain retorts with the frankly PATHETIC response that "there aren't enough sick people that you can force to work to pay for this scheme!"

MY response is: THIS IS A THUNDERINGLY IMMORAL IDEA – forcing the sick to work so that you can give tax cuts to the fit and well, that is DISGUSTING and you should be ASHAMED, Mr Balloon!

And so should you, Mr Vain! Talk about COSY CONSENSUS! The Labour would clearly STING THE SICK too, if they thought it was worth their while.

Presumably we can expect more of this sort of thing, along the lines of:
  • "Make the Trains Run on Time"… by turning the tracks into private motorways (for cars that carry shoes)
  • "Make Hospitals Free of Infection"… by turfing out all those sick patients
  • "Reintroduce Grandma Schools"… by sending all poor kids to the WORKHOUSE
  • "Give Peace a Chance"… by declaring WAR on France… no, hang on, that one might be POPULAR with Conservatory voters!
Mr Balloon claims he would lift 300,000 children out of poverty by increasing the working families' tax credit for couples so that it did not benefit them to live separately.

That would be the "clunking tax credit system" that HE says has "caused misery among the poorest and wasted billions in overpayments, error and fraud."

So Mr Balloon wants to INCREASE the misery, overpayments, error and fraud?!

Means-tested benefits, like the Tax Credits that Mr Balloon and Mr Frown both so admire, are complicated and demeaning and go wrong and do not reach the really needy.

The BEST benefits for reaching the people that need them are UNIVERSAL benefits. Certainly, that means there will be some NASTY people who take advantage – but you ACCEPT that because the benefit of the benefit outweighs the small cost.

But people do not like to feel they are being RIPPED OFF, they want VALUE for MONEY and that is why Mr Balloon turning the clock back to Mr Lilley strikes an unfortunate chord.

We currently have a HIGHEST EVER proportion of people IN WORK. We are raising record levels of tax. I think we should be PROUD that we can set aside some money to look after the less well off, rather than RESENTFUL of the cost.

But selfish Mr Balloon disagrees:

"We have to help the haves to have more so that the have-nots can have something," says Mr Balloon. Like that makes ANY kind of sense.

"If we do not succeed in that mission then I tell you frankly, that we will all be poorer."

Though obviously not in a FINANCIAL way.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Day 2480: While I do not seek the office, should my colleagues persuade me that that is the best way I can serve, I might reluctantly have to accept


Apparently, I already have a CAMPAIGN TEAM, running my LEADERSHIP BID.


I had better address the TROOPS…

Fluffy Friends,

Liberal Democrats are the FUTURE.

We already have BETTER ANSWERS: cut back the Labour's excessive and intrusive burden of laws (setting you FREE); reduce your Income Tax and abolish your Council Tax (making it FAIR); make the Green Tax Switch, invest in technology, and get the railways REALLY working (turning Britain GREEN).

But a NEW LEADER should bring a NEW VISION, so here is MINE: in 2012 there will be the London Olympics. Let that be our TARGET.

Let us try and get ZERO EMISSION CARS on the roads before then – let's try and make them the GREEN GAMES, and show the world our commitment to saving the planet.

And they shouldn't be JUST the London Olympics, they should be the BRITISH Olympics, and that means that EVERY ticket to the games should include FREE, yes FREE, railway (and tube) travel from ANYWHERE in Great Britain (and a Free Ferry if you live in Northern Ireland or the Scottish Isles or the Isle of Wight and so on).

And the Olympics should be the INSPIRATIONAL EVENT for a generation. That means they must be the Olympics for SCHOOLS – and not just the sporty kids: we should also invest in OLYMPIC SCIENCE and OLYMPIC ARTS prizes. That doesn't have to be nationwide: that can be LOCAL initiatives, down to communities what they want to do to reach for the Olympic Spirit. A Brass Band Competition or a Beach Clean-Up; Community Art Programmes or Local History Groups tracing their sporting family trees: let's really push that brand.

And what an opportunity to reach out to other nations across the world but especially in the European Community: exchange programmes – with added Olympic Tickets – so that the young people of our continent can mingle and learn from each other.

It's a campaign with several crucial steps along the way – the London Mayoral race next year, the European elections the year after, local elections and ultimately the General Election, whenever Mr Frown dares to call it.

My idea is for a campaign that BRINGS TOGETHER all parts of our Party, and reaches out to every region of our country. Together we can succeed! Together we can WIN!

This has been my SIX HUNDREDTH diary, brought to you by the miracle of FACEBOOK.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Day 2478: Postcode Lottery?


If people are going to sue the NHS for not offering them the treatments that they want, why does no one sue the CHURCH for not offering RESURRECTION on DEMAND?

It is there in ALL of their brochures, along with a SURE and CERTAIN promise of LIFE ETERNAL.

Don't people complain that it seems you have to live in the Galilee area to get this valuable service?

Day 2477: DOCTOR WHO: The Last Dodo


Everything has gotten MUDDLED UP this week, thanks to the big shock on Monday. So I have stuck Daddy's weekly Doctor Who nonsense up here.

Daddy Richard and Daddy Alex were ACTUALLY out on the town tonight – Happy Birthday to Mr David! – doing the dosie-doe and putting the lives of other dancers at risk! Amazingly they avoided tripping over any of the small children and so incurred NO time penalties.

I stayed safe sat at the side reading this book, but I will let Daddy Richard tell you about it…
I have, in the past, expressed some reservations about Jac Rayner and in particular her one-tone writing style, finding "wryly amused" to be an uncomfortable fit in situations of death and calamity. So it was with the usual cliché of trepidation that I approached her latest book for the BBC's continuing Doctor Who range.

Okay, I was wrong. "The Last Dodo" is a terrific read, and Jac manages to capture Martha Jones to a tee. The chapters are split between a first person account in Martha's voice and a third person narration that usually takes over halfway in. It shouldn't work, but it does. The first person parts read very much like a diary, quickly updated between the action scenes, and then cutting back to the action "live" reinforces this.

Wonder mixed with sarcasm – oh, all right, quite often wryly amused – is Martha's character and she really comes to life in this book. (This makes it either particularly good news that Freema Agyeman, Martha herself, is the narrator for the audiobook version, or particularly unlucky that she isn't going to be bringing her own quality performance to help realise the Martha in the other two books.)

It's a very well pitched story too. Martha, mortified at the Doctor's negative response to the idea of a zoo – and subsequently, a rare insight into the Doctor's point of view explains this with reference to his own incarceration on Earth – asks to be taken to see a dodo free in the wild. So obviously the TARDIS takes them to the ultimate zoo: the Museum of the Last Ones, where curator Eve and her teams gather the last example of every species from every planet and put them, suspended in stasis, on display.

Those who are quick-witted or readers of the back cover blurb will spot an obvious plot development at this point.

The opening chapters quickly fall into a jolly detective story, as the Doctor and Martha – in the most traditional way possible – are captured, accused of robbing the Museum, and quickly convince the staff that they are in fact undercover detectives sent to help. The action is very rapidly paced as we are introduced to, in quick succession, Eve's little helpers the "Earthers" (humanoid enough to pass as human but obviously not natives of Terra), and then a string of variously wicked and/or misguided people who have been buying up the unique animals stolen from among the Last Ones. Characterisation is generally limited to the two regulars, as all the "guest characters" are so reduced to ciphers that they may as well be described as scenery with dialogue. But it's all very colourful scenery and at the pace that this is going along that's exactly what you want.

In addition, each chapter ends with a page from the "I-Spyder Book of Earth" and a running total of the rare and endangered (or indeed extinct, give or take) creatures that Martha encounters over the course of the book. It makes the animals seem much more real and immediate; in fact, it makes them almost more real as characters than the people. Which may of course be the point. By setting the book maybe sixty years into the future, Jac gets to put in descriptions of several endangered as well as recently extinct species: the passenger pigeon and the black rhinoceros jostle along with the dodo within these pages. The idea is that you have to spot the creatures of Earth and score points for doing so; nine-million points and you get a certificate. The dodo is worth 800.

Of course, there is a massive cheat in order to complete the I-Spyder "game" by the end of the page count but in fact it's a rather touching one – Time Lord is counted as a native species due to several sightings of different examples. Or at least different-looking examples. The Doctor thinks this is an (understandable) error… but equally it could be telling him that he has a home after all, if only he'd realise it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The mystery of who is stealing the exhibit animals is in fact solved before the book is half-way over, quickly giving way to a central section that sees the Doctor himself in peril. Of course, it's the Doctor's Last of the Time Lords status that makes this place uniquely dangerous for him, and Eve finds him just irresistible. Charmingly, we get a chapter of Martha tagging along with one of the Earthers on a "usual mission" to rescue the Last of the Chinese Three-Stripe Box Turtles – it almost feels like an insight into how the Doctor and Martha spend their "normal" days, the ones between rampaging monsters and saving the universe. It's charming because the fact that the Doctor has just been sealed in stasis is telegraphed so blindingly obviously at the start and yet Martha still misses it. Ah, she's not quite Rose Tyler yet, is she.

The surprise twist is that, in fact, it doesn't take Martha long at all to rescue her companion, though unfortunately she accidentally beams all of the thought-to-be-extinct animals back to Earth in the process. Including the really very extinct ones: namely the dinosaurs.

Quick nod in passing to a nice little continuity reference to "Made of Steel" here as Martha several times reflects on her Jurassic experience and hopes not to repeat them. Oh well, better luck next time, Martha.

The book then takes a sharp left turn into an almost bizarre adventure involving rampaging sabre-toothed cats, also rampaging Megalosaurus, thousands of dodos and quite possibly the end of the world. In the midst of which, the Doctor gets to drive a fire engine, ringing the bell like a great big kid.

This is, of course, marvellous.

Whilst the plot has little or no depth and very little development, it is just bursting with colour and energy and imagination. It is joyfully filled with Martha's little observations – carrying what she thinks is the last dodo, who the Doctor has (inexplicably, to her) named Dorothea, reflecting that running away isn't so easy when you're holding a bird the size of a sheep.

It does have a deeper meaning. The Museum of the Last Ones, by its very existence, reminds us of the tragedies of evolution, and of our own unlovely hand in them. The dodo is not just a MacGuffin, it's an ironic emblem: because we remember that extinction but we forget all the rest. And the ending is moving and uplifting and still a little sad. But on the whole this is a happy book.

Timewise, apart from the aforementioned "later this century" dateline, this clearly takes place after "Made of Steel", since Martha remembers those events, but she hasn't been travelling with the Doctor for long. Martha is also described as wearing her red jacket – which causes all the same problems as in "The Infinite Quest", probably best to set it before that story and after Martha joins the TARDIS full time in "The Lazarus Experiment".

Spacewise, we never learn the location of the Museum, galaxy spanning teleports effectively making distance an irrelevance for the duration. It's a little bit naughty: Doctor Who usually tries to give the odd nod to real physics, even if it then blunders in and gets it all horribly wrong. Here, everything is just magic. But never mind because this is in many ways a fairy-tale adventure, and newfangled physics is definitely expected to take a back seat to old time natural history.

This was a good book. Not just exciting to read, but reading it makes you excited about the animals it describes – and yes, I started using the Wikipedia to look up the ones on Martha's list long before I finished reading the book. A genuine win for "inform and entertain". Excellent.

Day 2476: President Al and the Peace Prize


So it turns out that Mr Al Bore has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his film "An Inconvenient Truth". Which is nice. I am sure it will make a useful matching bookend to his Oscar.

(Factoid courtesy of Mr Jon Snomail of the Channel Four News: the only OTHER person to win both was Mr George Bernard Shaw, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Oscar Prize for the screenplay of the film Pygmalion. Coo!)

The "Inconvenient Truth" is that I have not seen the DVD yet, so I cannot comment on the alleged nine factual errors.

But at least it but CAN be shown to children.

Obviously this latest bout of post-political success has triggered a CAVALCADE of calls for Mr Bore to enter the 2008 Presidential Race as the only man capable of beating the Hillary-Billary Bandwagon [R: Republicans, surely?]

For the good of everyone, Mr Bore has now said "No, thank you."

Obviously this is because he sees his future as doing more good though his Climate Change Campaign than in another Presidential Bid, and has noting at all to do with the fact that even Mr Bore can see that jetting around the world meeting POP STARS is a whole lot more fun than the BURIAL IN GUANO that the Monkey-in-Chief made of the Presidency.

And DEFINITELY nothing to do with not wanting to tick off his old boss! [R: surely his old boss's WIFE?]

I know what I'm saying!

I am remembering the recent interview with President Billary-Hillary when he said he wouldn't mind accepting a job in Hillary-Billary's White House.

"But what would happen if you wanted to do one thing and she wanted to do another?"

"Well, haha haha, exactly the same as LAST time she was President, haha haha!"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Day 2479: The New Leader Speaks! aka So, Farewell then, Sir Mr the Merciless


I do not know what has left me more SHOCKED: the suddenness of Sir Mr the Merciless' departure, or the speed with which I have found myself being talked up as a potential PARTY LEADER alongside Mr Clogg and Mr Hewn.

(Within minutes of the announcement, Mr Kiss-me Guru-Murphy was trying to get me "live" on the Channel Four News, and know-nothing numbskull Mr Nick "Mate of Dave" Robinson wanted me on Parson's Green for the "Ten".)

But I have to ask: if 66 is too OLD to lead a political party, is 7 [R: 6] too YOUNG?

Personally, I almost fell off my sofa: I thought Sir Ming was In-Vince-ible… until Mr VINCE did him IN!

On the other fluffy foot, at least our very own TERRACOTTA WARRIOR Mr Hugs has agreed to be INTERRED with the Emperor Ming.

So, what WOULD I do if I really DID become Leader of the Liberal Democrats?

Well, it seems to me that there are several urgent tasks to get on with.

First things first, we MUST massively increase our public profile. Everyone seems to agree that Sir Mr the Merciless suffered DEATH BY MEDIA – his leadership ended up SUFFOCATED by lack of coverage. It is not IMMODEST to admit that I am very CUTE – and I am VERY good at sitting on my sofa, a large part of today's daytime media duties for the busy party leader – but there is only so far that a fluffy face will carry you in the world today.

We need a press team that can create a BUZZ, and that can BLITZ THE PRESS into attending OUR events, and covering them the way that they cover Mr Balloon's stunts. Not that we should DO stunts, as such, but we should plan to be more STARTLING: launch our Nuclear Policy from the Greenham Common Peace Camp or our prison plans from a young offenders institution; see lovely Sarah Teather and me climb to the top of a HUGE Wind Turbine in Scotland or watch me and Captain Ashdown parachute into Afghanistan with emergency medical supplies…

It would mean a larger team, and that means more volunteers, maybe some sort of INTERN scheme. With today's technology, a large team DON'T all have to be in Cowley Street: e-mail, instant messaging and telephone conferencing can all play their part in keeping people briefed.

But we need them to be chasing down the news – especially the BBC – when they don't give us coverage and when they get things wrong. And we want to be GOOD when they give us balanced coverage, reward them with the good interview, the interesting story. We want for them to be HAPPIEST when they just need to phone up the Liberal Democrats and we have the informed comment that they want.

What happens at the moment? Mr Frown fails to call an election, the Conservatories' polls go up and our polls go down. From THIS (39:33:19) to THIS (36:43:14).

Quite simply: THAT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. Good journalists shouldn't be satisfied with just reporting that, but we need to help them make the story.

The pat explanation that "it's a third party squeeze" is NOT an explanation at all: it is just DESCRIBING THE SYMPTOMS in a different way.

The Conservatories have announced ONE policy – a cut in Inheritance Tax. We announced LOTS of policies, but MOST IMPORTANTLY we announced a FOUR PENCE CUT IN INCOME TAX.

If people are switching their votes because of a TAX CUT then OURS is a LOT BETTER than theirs.

(Which would YOU rather have? More money maybe when Granny dies, if she's RICH, or 20% less Income Tax RIGHT NOW?)

Therefore the media's explanation for the poll shift is WRONG and we need to be challenging that.

What are the issues that are ACTUALLY of concern to people? Families that think they are being PENALISED by the benefits system just because they are MARRIED – do they KNOW that Liberal Democrat policy is to make sure everyone is treated fairly? No, of course not. We need people to know that we are the "fair deal" party. People who are too FRIGHTENED to go out on the streets – do they KNOW that Liberal Democrat Councils have a fantastic record of success in tackling anti-social behaviour. Do they know that we want to recruit thousands of extra police AND let them get on with their job, not fill in forms. No, of course not. We need people to know that we are the "freedom from fear" party.

We have a TERRIFIC policy platform, and when people ACTUALLY HEAR our policies lots of them realise that actually they are Liberals too. More than that, we have terrific strength right here in the Lib Dem blogosphere for forensic analysis, pithy comment and rapid response. Let's really USE that resource.

The important thing for us is to BE HEARD – get us a FAIR SHARE of coverage and we are halfway to victory.

But we mustn't forget the Party's most IMPORTANT asset: its members.

Sir Mr the Merciless has revitalised the party in Parliament, but I would want to get out there and re-energise the activists, meet with as many local parties as possible. After a second leadership challenge, I bet the party's loyal workers will be feeling a bit shell-shocked and a bit nervous about the future and a bit uncertain about this new fluffy elephant who has come from nowhere. So I will want to make sure that they know that THEY are the important ones, and that they are being LISTENED TOO, and that their new leader is NOT AFRAID of getting his big fluffy nose stuck in a few LETTERBOXES on the front lines with them.

Even with more than two years to the election, that's only a-hundred-and-some weeks, giving a good meeting to one local party a week is still only going to cover our top targets. We need to move from local campaigning to SMART campaigning – we need better lines of COMMUNICATION between the local parties and regions and the leaders office, so that we will make the best use of MY time and YOUR time.

I would want to use the tools of technology to give members a greater input into the party's national activities – the campaigns that we choose to press, the issues we support, even the questions at Prime Monster's Questionable Time.

Ah, yes, Prime Monster's Questionable Time – I am going to need some sort of GREEN LEATHER HIGH-CHAIR.

What we COULD do is set up greater feedback between the membership and the leader – they can raise the issues that they really want put to the Prime Monster; I can explain why I chose to go with one question rather than another, and what I thought of the Prime Monster's reply – if he actually gave one!

But Questionable Time is a bit of a JOKE really, a pantomime battle that usually only makes you look stupid. Sadly.

Many people think that the world made up its mind about Sir Mr the Merciless at that every first QT when he stumbled over a heckler. And while it is true that Questionable Time is not as important to real people as those watching would like to believe, it is ALSO true that first impressions last, especially among opinion formers like the sketch-writers. One important thing to remember is always to begin with offering CONDOLENCES to the families of soldiers lost in the wars. It is important that Parliament remember each week that people are dying because they voted for it.

I think that we should adopt Mr Jonny's idea: the Prime Monster should continue to have to answer questions from BACK-BENCHERS… but once a week, ON TELEVISION, he would sit down with Mr Balloon and me and we would ask him questions. (To be fair, Mr Frown should also be able to challenge us to say what we would do differently.) We ALL know the tricks that politicians can use to avoid answering tricky questions in an interview… which would mean that we can any of us point them out when they are used.

It might, just MIGHT, mean there was less posturing and shouting and more discussion of things that actually matter. When are our soldiers coming home? What are we doing about Foot and Mouth, and when will farmers be able to sell their sheeps and cows? What evidence is there – if any – that taking away our civil liberties has made ANY difference to the terror threat? How much have I.D.iot cards cost THIS WEEK?

If we can ask some questions about the issues, it could genuinely lead to a national debate, rather than a silly slanging match once a week and media interviews about personality rather than policy.

Because we need to reach out, way out, beyond our own comfort zones to the huge numbers of voters, often young voters, who don't vote.

If Mr Wedgy Benn, at the age of a-thousand-and-three, can fill a theatre for a talk about politics then so can I. I've got to! It's not that people out there aren't interested; it's just that they think we're not listening.

It's like Europe, and the new European Treaty. People WANT to join the debate – and fair enough it MAY just be to vote against Europe by proxy, but (and I've said this before) if we trust the people then sometimes we've just got to take it on the chin. We should SUPPORT calls for a referendum on the new treaty. And we should go out there and try to WIN the argument, not duck the fight.

You think that is an EASY WIN for Mr Balloon? Not a bit of it – we are united on Europe in a way that the Conservatories can NEVER be. The more we talk about Europe, the more opportunities they have to TEAR THEMSELVES TO PIECES. (You KNOW they're just gagging to do so!)

I think that Sir Mr the Merciless OUTSMARTED the Media in the end. Once those QUESTIONS of leadership have been raised, they tend to stick around like bad smells. Mr Balloon would do well to remember that – Mr Oboe may have covered them up with a WHOLE CAN of Ozone unfriendly AIR-FRESHENER (Inheritance Tax Lily Fragrance, naturally) but they will soon come back once his big poll lead dips again.

Sir M cut the Gordian Knot – or more appropriately the "Gordon" Knot – by going in his own time. Not a ditherer he. Like many other Liberal Democrats, I say we can be proud of his honour and dignity. Instead of letting them get ugly, he has left many of the papers IMPRESSED with his integrity. He has turned ADVERSITY into OPPORTUNITY!

Now we need to rally to a new leader, one who can reach out and grasp that opportunity with a FLUFFY FOOT!

With your support I will lead us into the next FIFTEEN general elections!

Vote early, vote often, vote elephant!

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