Set your phaser to kill, Mr Huhne

Tonight is, perhaps, one of the most important episodes of Question Time that has ever been broadcast. Every liberal in this land, I hope, is just waiting to watch the British National Party getting torn apart in a live debate. Let me get this out of the way immediately - the decision to allow Griffin to sit on the show was the right one. They let UKIP on and - as I have shown before - they have a very similar support base. Sadly, for all those who are anticipating a 40 minute long fight, Griffin will play it safe - a Farage clone who will spew meaningless words and attempt to, like so many far-right politicians before him, "hold his nose and enter the Reichstag".

Some are suggesting that the BBC are pandering to the BNP. I prefer to take the opposite view and point out exactly who will show up with the pitchforks and firebrands. No, not the crowd - although I would relish watching Griffin attempt to preach hatred to every single ethnic minority in London - but the panel. I'm afraid I don't know much about Greer or Warsai, but then you see Jack Straw. Now, Jack Straw is probably the most influential MP from the north west and one with an excellent record (unlike, for example, Kitty Ussher in Burnley) of fighting the BNP despite over 20% of his electorate being of South Asian origin. He's on the wrong side of the fence, but he's actually one of the few Labour MPs I do not actually dislike. In short, I suspect that Straw is going to be exceedingly effective in demolishing the BNP if Griffin makes a single mistake.

Now, onto Chris Huhne. Huhne has perhaps the easiest platform out of all the three party representatives. He's not the government, he's not anywhere near as easy a target as the Conservatives and because he's a Lib Dem the one that everybody knows will be utterly dogmatic and forceful in his anti-BNP arguments. In short, he could be entirely dull and uninteresting - by our standards - and still rip Griffin to shreds. But we don't want him to do that. If Huhne has ever wanted to prove his credentials as one of the brightest stars in our party, this is the day he can do it. We don't want Huhne the Lib Dem. We want Huhne the superhero, utterly demolishing not only the BNP's standpoint but exposing every single word that Griffin speaks for what it is - vacuous, racist nonsense.

PS: Here's a game - if you had an ideal panel of four to take on the BNP (one Labourite, one Tory, one Lib Dem and one other) on Question Time, who would you pick? I'd actually say that Straw would be on my list for Labour but for the Lib Dems I'm not sure - I would pay to see Paddy Ashdown simply bounce every single argument back at Griffin with added "I was a paratrooper, you were a National Front organiser" punch...

Politicians are people?

I'm a fresher, born and bread in a place that the Liberals forgot (Accrington). I came to Aberystwyth fully knowing that it was a LD seat with a sizable number of LD councillors placed all over Ceredigion. I am admit, however, that I hadn't quite grasped the concept in the title. To me, pre-Aber, politicians and especially elected officials were some form of superhero, held aloft on great wings made from ballot papers - a copy of On Liberty in one hand and their latest speech in the other.

The nice thing is, they're actually not.

I've met Mark Williams, MP for Ceredigion. He's a really enthusiastic guy with a lot of convictions and a really good speaker as well. On the Lib Dem social night on Wednesday I got to talk to, at great length, the mayor of Cardigan, Mark Cole (who has basically convinced me to go to Welsh Conference...) and discovered that he too is actually a human being. Looking back, I really wonder why, in over a year of talking on LDV to people from across the party, I hadn't grasped this concept earlier. I think I have one or two theories, and one of them is quite an important thought.

Firstly, you have the simple fact that I'm an idealist, and the fact that being in Accrington isolates you from politics all together like some black hole absorbing light means that that was exacerbated. But the most important theory is that it's to do with the media. We see politicians of all shapes and sizes - some writing articles, some on Question Time or Any Questions?, some talking to some random journalist about the latest scandal or development. You don't see on a regular basis, though, them going with a few friends for a pint, or talking about the latest football results or doing a whole manner of other things. That's why when we see, for example, Lembit Opik doing Bargain Hunt, we immediatly comment, despite the fact that hundreds of other well known faces and thousands of people have gone on the show.

What is the impact of this view that we appear to have grown that politicians are seperate, better, than the rest of us? Obviously, it is bad for candidate selection, but is it more than that? Perhaps as media coverage of politicians increase, people become switched off whilst jokes are made about politics being showbiz for ugly people. Perhaps we need to have a serious look at how we portray our representatives as a whole and convince society that these people are not superheros from another planet but actually just teachers or students who just decided to have a go.

PS: Apologies to the two Marks for singling you out!


I'm pretty sure that at Cameron Towers right about now there is a party going on, celebrating the fact that Murdoch has finally decided to throw his hat in the ring with the Tories. There's doubtlessly more optimism in the Conservative ranks, too. But the real question is whether to most voters the opinions of the press - and especially The Sun - actually matter on voting day.

Let's go back a little. "It was The Sun what won it" was one of the more popular theories why Labour won a landslide in '97. The theory went that due to the prelevence of the media in the way many ordinary people thought on important issues, the backing of said media towards one canidate must undoubtedly have impacted the vote. This theory, brought 12 years forward, is why this shift has been so exceedingly interpreted as a major event. The question is, is that right? Granted, The Sun has a huge readership, and alongside the rest of the Murdoch empire it has the capability to print as much propaganda as it likes. Also granted, assuming the so often held steriotype that voters are stupid, opinions in the press tend to leak out into public thought. But there are major problems with this issue if you factor in the twelve years since 1997. In 1997 there was no blogosphere, no Twitter or Facebook and indeed only the most rudimentary of forum software. Alongside that is the huge increase in the population of the 'net in those twelve years. Obama understood this in his campaigns to become the president of the US in an internet campaign that went beyond everything that had come before it. There is a general consensus that the position of the newspapers has gotten more and more untenable as not only people find their news on the internet they also now thanks to increased communication get their opinions from it as well. I'm somewhat guilty of lifing opinion straight off the internet - it's one of my fatal flaws - but I know I'm not alone in the matter. Overall, the impact of the Internet must have a lessening impact on the effect of Murdoch picking Cameron.

The Internet is not the only thing that has changed since 1997. For one, the economic circumstances are somewhat different. Major fought an election following several long and painful recessions, but Brown will be fighting after a very sharp shock of a recession. Unlike Labour in 1997, the Conservatives will have genuine problems finding a credible position to attack Labour's former economic policies on which engages voters. Major precided over a relatively poorly run and tired Tory party that couldn't agree on Europe. Brown precides over a tired Labour, but it is still New Labour - a party with a recorded history of well run campaigns. It is important to remember at this point that Brown has never actually lead Labour into an election, so we have no real idea how the 2010 campaign will be conducted.

To conclude this somewhat rambling monorail of thought, it is in my humble opinion that the impact of the swing of The Sun really cannot be considered to be the be all and end all of the week's news. The impact of The Sun itself is far less than it used to be, but more importantly in my mind is that we are looking at different times with different opinions. I'm not confident enough to predict that this is meaningless, but I'm relatively sure that it's not that large of a story.

Getting back into the mix

Well, I suppose because I am actually at university now I probably should blow the dust off this thing and get back to blogging about stuff again.

University is a weird place. It's especially weird for folks like me who are quite closed and not what you'd call fond of drinking, but there is something irrepressibly likeable about looking out a window and seeing academia. And alcohol. Boy is there a lot of alcohol. Aberystwyth has more pubs and clubs per square mile than anywhere else in the UK, and so far I've found that people tend to enjoy trying to get a drink as as many places as possible every evening. This could just be Freshers Week, of course. In other news, it hasn't rained – a miracle in Wales – and my flatmates are a great bunch.

Let's get off what I've been up to (that's for Twitter, if you're interested I'm there under Huw_Dawson) and onto politics, shall we?

The last few days have been full up with good blogging material that far better writers than I have gone over, but I'll just put my perspective on things. The conference – to me – looked like far more of a positive event than Mr Neil painted so energetically on the BBC coverage. Even the darkest cloud – that of the tuition fees argument – was happily blown away when nice old Mr Cameron decided to tell everyone that the Tories would cut loans and grants for everyone except the very poorest. I've talked to many History/InterPol students here and it looks like the the conference was a hit, especially the Mansion Tax. So go tell everyone who says differently to jump in the lake.

Expect daily updates from now on! I plan on writing a lot about what I've been reading about to do with my History and InterPol topics, so hopefully there'll be more interesting stuff here soon than me rabbiting on about not much.

It's a stunningly bad habit of mine to leave perfectly good projects to rot due to lack of interest. This probably would be one of them. What is clear, however, is that I've been away when things were interesting - now that we're back to boring day-to-day politics, lets make a post about directions.

My direction is Aberystwyth University to study History and International Politics. But whilst I'm there, and this is where the blog enters matters, I intend to update this thing on a far more professional basis. That's why, over the summer, I intend to have a little fun. Hence why I replied to Iain Dale, the only other blogger I know for their blogging, as such -

"Nom nom nom nom nom.

Tory tears taste so sweet."

This is the internet, after all, and I'm a child of it. Generally discussions rise far below the high water mark of stupidity here. There is something impeccably funny, however, of using such a netchild joke to describe what was, effectively, a knee-jerk Iain Dale comment to promote his own blog post. "Tears" posts are totally disarming - they're shaped in the fashion of "dragging them down and beating them with experience" and largely disregard proper debating arguments, although I fancy if Dale wanted proper debate he wouldn't be with a party such as the Tories.

Basically it was a joke. Knowing the handbag-waving tenancies of Dale (I'd describe anybody who walks out of Cabinet like that having a hissy-fit, personally!) I don't doubt he's chalked me up in some long, dreary list of people he'd like to slightly inconvenience at some point.

So, what's happened in the last month - Brown never went, Cameron goofed slightly and Clegg sort of sat around telling the press that he was cross. I can't help thinking that the recent local election results, purely down to a cataclysmic SW result, has winded some of our drive and vigor, and the prospect of another Brown Christmas doesn't really fill us with hope or glee.

ID cards are dead, Brown's trying to fake reform whilst placing the inevitable Iraq War inquiry into a position Cameron can't use to pummel Labour more and then call an election, and the Lib Dems are hoping for a good result in Norwich North.

As an aside, Liberal Youth are being charismatically silent and invisible. During the whole Brown crisis, there should have been something - anything - to drive forward the youth opinion that Brown must go. There was nothing - not even a witty slogan. Direction is what LDY needs - let's hope that I can do something about that with my free time at Aber.

Oh! Greg Pope, MP for Hyndburn, is stepping down at the next election. I curse my young years and tendencies to be in the middle of Wales at election time, because I'd really like to be at an opening meeting for the Lib Dem Hyndburn 2010 group, if it existed.

Statistics: BNP versus Lib Dems. Also, UKIP and BNP - the far right bedfellows

For my own personal amusement, I decided to feed the Guardian's statistics on the EU election votes into a spreadsheet and pull out some graphs.

The fuchsia line of best fit is of my own addition. Using the data, I also compared Conservative to BNP, Labour to BNP, UKIP to BNP and Greens to BNP:

Con vs BNP - weak negative correlation
Lab vs BNP - no correlation
UKIP vs BNP - strong positive correlation (We're talking a clear line - a strong BNP vote corresponded with a strong UKIP vote. It's even worth a graph to demonstrate)

Greens vs BNP - strong negative correlation

The graphs are not hard to make for yourself - they'll paste without any trouble into your Excel or Openoffice spreadsheet.

A Silly Thought

If any more ministers resign late at night, Nick Robinson will fall asleep on TV. I sort of want this to happen.

Props to the man for not allowing petty mortal things such as sleep to interrupt political news!

Labour's Angle of Attack - Crime

From Labour's Lancashire propaganda leaflet:

"It's hard to believe the Lib Dems are still sticking to their pledge to end jail sentences for drug possession, want to legalise the sale of cannabis, and would never lock up a young people who are convicted of an ASBO. But it's true."

I'm not sure if that actually IS true, actually, although to go through my own personal opinions...

1) Possession with intent to sell is a incarceration-worth crime - simple possession should lead to hefty fines.
2) I'm actually for legalising it and then placing heavy taxes on it. We make money of cigarette smokers, after all.
3) Throwing a child in prison will always be a stupid idea.

Anyway, it goes on. It's a crime swipe - apparently we're soft on crime, mostly around drugs, although I don't actually recall most of that being party policy. The attack vs the Tories is one of "They'll cut public services".

Let's be a little uncomplicated for a second. I don't actually know of many young people in Lancashire that would be switched off from voting for the Lib Dems because they want to legalise cannabis. In fact, quite the opposite!

Ah well. Labour have already sacrificed the youth vote many times over - no sense for them to appeal to them now!

Saving Our Internet - A Follow Up

I recently wrote an article for Lib Dem Voice about the new internet law ammendments heading though the EU parliament. I was against the proposals to allow ISPs to block internet access without legal action.

I would appear, however, that the parliament has ammended the legislation to fix this potentially catastrophic law. From the BBC:

I'm going to buy something to celebrate, I think!

The Beginning Of The End - The Pirate Bay Trial Draws to a Close

As you might be aware, there's been quite a large amount of problems with copyright over the last few years. Thanks to the relentless waves of new websites, faster connections and new technology, it gets easier and easier every day to get information (This time last year, for example, Twitter had not hit the headlines). This information, be it photographic, literary, audio or video - any of them can be copyrighted. The problem is, that copyright is an inherently awful system, and almost all liberals (big and little L) accept this. It badly needs universal reform as it protects businesses who otherwise would fail (Disney), can cause - along with Patent and IP laws, both of which also need reform - products of immense worth to never reach the market and can be used by an industry to control things. As liberals, we hold up the individual over the state and big business as a core value, and we were the first party to suggest a Freedom of Information act for the UK. We have a good background in this sort of thing.

I want you to consider what has happened to YouTube. Yesterday, I tried to find a copy of a new Green Day single. The first video I tried, YouTube had taken down for copyright infringement. Of course, there were hundreds of other videos with the song, and the song is now safely recorded via Audacity onto my hard drive so that I can convince myself to stump up £10 for the CD when it hits the market. Consider the contradiction - a company charges a high price for something but is wholly against free advertising. When copyright laws are swung around, stupidity enters the system.

Let us look at the recent development, one which, if upheld at appeal, will spell doom for the entirety of free sharing of information over the internet. The Pirate Bay founders have been found guilty of copyright infringement and their punishment is to be sent to jail for a year and pay a small amount of compensation - two point four million pounds. The commercial wing of the website in question sells t-shirts with it's own logo on the front, and a modicum of advertising. Nothing illegal there. What, thanks to this trial, may become illegal soon is providing the infrastructure to download copyright content. The Pirate Bay hosted Torrent Files, which are little pieces of code that tells another program what is in the files, along with little pieces of code to prevent corruption, and where the server that tells you where other people who have this file are so you can download the files from them. It's a fantastic system, as the entire shebang has to be maintained by it's own users. Now, if this is upheld, the infrastructure of this - if it allows the sharing of all files freely - is entirely illegal. This sounds pretty small - it only affects Torrent users. But in fact, because of how much the music and film industries screamed and shouted, this provides the legal precedent for any company to sue any organization which - in theory - has the ability to share it's copyright information. Like ISPs. If this case is upheld, ISPs will them be in the legal wrong for not stopping the illegal downloading of copyright - which means that they will have to impose measures to blacklist websites, prevent certain forms of file transfer and monitor customers so they can legally protect themselves.

Liberals of all shapes and sizes are against control of the internet, because it it by far the greatest liberalizing force in human history. Any legal president that can restrict freedom must be opposed. If we do not stand up and make a noise here, at this line in the sand, we are going to lose the internet to business.

Aberystwyth University and Life Goals

"Education, Education, Education", as Tony Blair said. Of course, Labour simply thought that meant increasing the budget and punching the teachers. But when he said that, a much smaller version of myself - a 6 year old, to be precise - was pottering about, sometimes being very difficult to all and country. I, and that of my entire generation, have lived through Blair's education system. It has given us more people passing GCSEs, A Levels and getting Degrees than ever before. Disregarding the fact that much of that improvement has been down to shoddy qualifications and my own dislike of pressuring the teachers, it was undoubtedly better than the Thatcherite model. But as I leave some small party of some of Labour's imprint - fortunatly not drastically harmed by the experience - and head onto university, I have to decide my goals, what I want to do with my life, and - most importantly - how politically active I should be.

Now, you're sitting there thinking "Uh-oh, personal blog post approaching." This is an entirely valid assumption, but if you'll allow me to indulge myself for a paragraph or two, there's a good political attack at the bottom.

I want to be a Liberal Democrat. I like the idea of long hours, low pay, continuous insults by association and job security relying on The Public. I like the idea of having to wheel and deal in Westminister to get anything done. I like the idea that, perhaps once or twice, an idea I agree with will get to become law, improving Britain for the better. That's why I'm going to Aberystwyth. That's why my primary focus of university will be to use it as a springboard into politics, stopping to slam Liberal Youth into a bucket of cold green goo a few times. That's why I've been writing this blog. That's why I've been attempting to learn policy, economics and history. That's why, of course, I'm writing this very post - I want to learn, to practice, to move forwards. I want to make my town a better place. I want to help the causes of all those who have mental conditions that make them, sometimes, socially awkward or plain incompetent.

The point of all this is that I'm heading to Aberystwyth University to do an International Politics and History course. But there is no doubt in my mind that, had factors been different, I could have ended up working in Tesco. Or, alternatively, I could be heading to Baliol College at Oxford, where the political elite go. That one might have happened if I'd been a harder worker and, perhaps, not have had 3 and a half years of shoddy Comprehensive education shoved upon me. The fact that this disparity exists, however, is my big bugbear. We've heard all the arguments for Comprehensives, National Curriculums, Diplomas, Tuition Fees, Foundation Degrees and Apprenticeships many times. We've seen Labour swinging from left to right to left over the issue, with the hypocricy of their own cabinet members sending their children private ringing true all the time. I have to face my life after Labour with the Liberal Democrats. However, what truely puts a great sadness on my face is simple - how many children "could have been"? How many young Bohrs or Obamas have been squandered because of this education system that is still just as class based as it was 20 years ago? Labour's education policy - like so much of their repetoir - is an illusion of numbers and lies.

With the Liberal Democrats, I hope that I'll be able to, eventually, work to prevent any more wasted children.

Somehow, calling for the spirit of Lenin is not a great idea...

I am getting very worried about Liberal Youth. In all honesty, looking in from the outside it almost seems like most of the people involved haven't got the foggiest idea what the hell they are doing. But the thing is, that's not always a bad thing. However, I have wonder of the rank and insultingly short sighted stupidity of certain rhetoric that a certain author of a certain piece in the new .pdf magazine distributed to all those on LY's mailing list. It is this:

So, let’s ditch Stalin and take on board some Lenin. We might not be communists, but we are (in our own
way) revolutionaries. As Lenin once put it, we must learn to have ‘the heart on fire, the brain on ice’. Both
are as important as each other.

I obviously agree with this. There is nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from a violent revolutionary that deposed a newly democratic Russian government and turned Russia into the USSR, that caused the deaths of quite a large amount of people over it's long, repressive and violent history. Whilst I can appreciate that this is a great example of foresight and a terrific use of writing technique, I could imagine that some people, in their ignorance, might just consider that drawing on one of the most illiberal people that ever lived as a call to arms to revolutionize a failing, increasingly arrogant and utterly divorced from reality organization would be a bad idea. In fact, some of them even have written lists of why this shambolic catastrophe of a magazine is so insulting to their inboxes. Such a list might look like the following:

1) Tienanmen Square on the front cover?
2) Shoddy layout that appears to suggest that the author(s) have never read a publication like Private Eye for clues as to how to create a quarterly magazine.
3) Microsoft Word font used for title...
4) Stupid name.
5) Appears to be filled with the pro-reformist agenda.

It's a strong argument, I agree. But I think that it's clear that the strengths of the document outweigh it's weaknesses:

1) LY have delivered a finished product.

Personally, I prefer Gorbachev.

Losing your mind, the technical way.

Captain's Log, stardate zero six zero three two zero zero nine.

It has been over a day since me and my crew began this mission, to install a working operating system onto a new computer, and I feel that success is only now drawing near...

I ruddy hate computers sometimes.

I somehow feel that I am not the only person in Britain that would like to kick George Pascoe-Watson in the groin. I cannot stand his newspaper, I cannot stand his political views and he as a person reminds me of all the worst aspects of the media hackery. When he was on Question Time last night, I became one of those people that needlessly shouted at the TV. One of those arguements I had with the TV on QT last night was the discussion about Royal Mail, with the Plaid MP making the point that Royal Mail made a £30m profit last year - this was diametrically opposed to Mr Pascoe-Watson's view that Privatisation is Good. What everybody on the panel appeared to have missed, however, is that putting the cart before the horse rarely accomplishes anything.

The Royal Mail is a nationalised company, which concerns itself with distributing parcels and letters across the nation (up winding roads and across rivers included) in an efficient and organised way. Royal Mail also provides hundreds of outlets for collecting a pension from (say) which provide a lifeline to quite a lot of old people. It pays it's large amount of staff a decent wage, it is heavily unionized, and, overall, is not as bad as some of us consider it to be. These are the facts of the matter. Three things stick out: one, the Royal Mail is already efficient - letters get collected processed, sent across the country and delivered within 1-4 days, depending on the stamp. That's quite a bit job, and Royal Mail are quite a bit more reliable about their job than, say, DHL. Secondly, Royal Mail provide an important public service, that if compromised would damage the infrastructure of the country. Thirdly, Royal Mail employs a vocal bunch of workers. This means that the Royal Mail is a quite important part of our lives.

Why does a firm that provides a vital public service to everybody need to be pushed so hard to drive for profit? Why does the Private Sector have a magic pill that generates more money without more costs? Why do we risk worse service, higher prices and more unemployed postmen in the quest for this higher profit? In this blogger's personal opinion, profit is superfluous to service. The Royal Mail is a vital provider of public goods, and as any economist will tell you public goods are undersupplied by the private sector, because the general benefits of a public good affect society as a whole, and do not count on the business sheets of corporations. Royal Mail cannot stop delivering post and parcels - their product is non-excludable. Royal Mail does not stop other people delivering mail - their product is non-rivalled. They are a public company, striving for a public service. Lining the profits of rich businesses and making The Sun happy is irrelevant in comparison.

Education, Education, Ed... errr...

Labour do appear to have forgotten that slogan.

I have to admit, I really like the new Education policy that the Lib Dem education people announced yesterday. For the uninitiated, in essence it promises to cut KS1 class sizes to 15ish, pump a vast amount of money into the school system, the creation of an independent standards authority, cutting the National Curriculum from 600 pages to 20 (hooray!) and give more powers to academies...

Oh bugger. It was going so well too. Let me discuss the major problem with the Academy system in this country. It doesn't work - in fact, it doesn't work at all. Academies are not something that spring up and make a failing school better - academies are there for the exploitation of by clever schools to secure more freedom and funding. They do not promote local business or specialist training, or all those other lovely things that we've heard they'll do over the course of the next few years. It takes a few months to sort out a school transferring from normal to Academy status - precious little of that is spent on the stuff academies are supposed to promote. In short, they're fake schools.

The Academy scheme ultimately ends up as the following. The school children have to buy a new uniform due to the school's name change. The headmaster and the teachers will get a slight pay rise, and precisely nothing will change in the school. In fact, I would go so far as for things to get worse at the school. The teachers rarely want the school to change for the fourth time in ten years. The pupils know that this is just a cheap attempt to get more funding. The parents are frustrated at having to get used to the new name and all the other hassles that are associated with Academy status, and still, despite all these problems, the school will decide to lower their science GCSE down to Single Award to try and save lesson time for useless Vocational Courses and Critical Thinking/General Studies; this will get them more GCSEs to put on the league tables (entirely true story, nearly happened to me).

The thing I really like about these proposals is the pledge to crank the funding of those children on Free School Meals (like I was) up to the same funding that the average private school attendant (like Clegg was) gets. In fact, out of all the areas of the country, including quagmires like Manchester and Liverpool, Lancashire would get the third highest payout (£53m), which itself is beaten by Kent (£55m) and utterly dwarfed by Birmingham (£112m). These are the sort of schemes that I like - a cold, hard cash injection to really hammer regeneration into a local area. I can see clouds, though. How will the money get through to the school as opposed to the council/LEA? How will it not be wasted by a school, or properly allocated to the schools that actually need it?

I like Cold Hard Cash policy. I like the fact that it is solely us, the Lib Dems, who are concentrating on Education even in a recession. One just hopes that the policy is not squandered, is paid attention to, and is rewarded by the public.

25 things you did not know about Artichokes

Wait. I don't know anything about artichokes. Ah well. Start again.

25 things you did not know about Huw Dawson (because, you know, I know quite a lot about that subject).

1) Despite viewing myself as a Lancastrian, I spent the first 12 years of my life in West Yorkshire.

2) Despite viewing myself as a Northener, my father is from a reasonably well off family from The South.

3) I spend a great deal of my time thinking up excellent posts for this blog, and then subsequently never putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard and writing them.

4) My father's a member of the evil Green Party.

5) I strongly suspect my mother votes Conservative.

6) I have 4 siblings - 2 older sisters, a twin sister, and a younger brother.

7) I'm Catholic, and go to church every Sunday.

8) Even though this blog is called Left Side Of Liberal, I don't consider myself in agreement to the Loony Left, although I have a habit of sympathising with the plight of said Loony Lefts if they actually have a clue what they're talking about pragmatically.

9) I have Asperger's Syndrome, although it's only a mild variation (some people refer to it as High Functioning Autism). If you were in conversation with me, you'd only spot it if you recognised the tell-tale signs of talking for 15 minutes far too quickly without once looking you in the eye. Or breathing.

10) I've always wanted to learn the electric guitar, but have never had the confidence to go out and buy one.

11) I've got several novels scetched out loosly, waiting to be written on a rainy day.

12) I've met Greg Pope, who is a nice enough chap if not a huge personality.

13) I have a profound anxiety on answering the phone if I don't know who's calling.

14) When I was younger, I was terrified of Black Holes as I thought they would eat me.

15) Despite being a big fan of sci-fi, I've never read any Douglas Adams book all the way through.

16) I can build, repair and mantain computers. This skill came from utterly destroying several family computers and learning where I went wrong.

17) Coke is better than Pepsi, but I personally prefer a cup of tea for refreshment.

UPDATE: Here's the final 8. :)

18) I am an avid player of online computer games. I've met a huge bunch of people by this method, engaged in a vast variety of discussions, and generally been a shining example of the benefits of Web 2.0. This is why I am such an avid defender of the internet - it is the greatest invention mankind has ever created, and should be free, liberal and open for all.

19) I also spend a great deal of time with little plastic minatures, making a fuss painting and organising them. I suspect that a small number of those imaginary readers I have also indulge in this pastime. I actually considered calling this blog "A Liberal on WAAAAAAAGH" but wimped out at the last minute. One day, I intend to make that blog, and you'll be able to see my little hobby in better detail.

20) I have an interesting habit, in that I generally only ever wear one coat or jacket, and wear it until it falls into ruin. A friend of mine refers to my exploits one summer by referring to me as Fisherman's Friend. I accept that a great quilted coat, designed to keep the hardiest Russian lumberjack warm in the winter, was perhaps not the wisest choice for attire in that especially hot summer of 2006.

The joke was on him when it rained, though.

21) I have an exceedingly bad habit of writing godawful articles on the spur of the moment, and posting them somewhere. I WILL return to the issue of university tution fees via an OpEd on LDV, but I will spend more than an hour typing up my cursory rant.

22) I and my siblings have gone to every form of schooling in this country - boarding school, normal private school, grammar school, state school and faith school. I have been both to a grammar and a state school, which explains my hatred of the state school system.

23) I used to want to be a military historian, until I discovered that it wasn't just about learning about the grim ways people killed each other.

24) I swell up like a melon if exposed to face paints.

25) I am terrible at making up big lists of interesting facts about myself without getting into a huge depressive dint over my relatively dull life. :)

Anyway, now that I've got my blog rolling again, I'm off to get some inspiration for tomorrow's post.

Heathrow 3rd Runway in, Labour MP for the Heathrow area OUT

Predictable uproar in the Commons on Hoon's promise breaking announcement today, as you can see via BBC Parliament. If you check the events at quarter to one, however, you will see the MP for the Heathrow area being suspended from the Commons for shouting out that it was an "insult to democracy" to not have a vote on the matter (unfortunately for him, no tellers were forthcoming for the division on the vote to suspend him, and they Ayes got their head). The justification from Hoon? The House does not vote on "Planning".

Hoon is the same person who informed Julia Goldsworthy on Question Time about his concerns that there are people out there who "want to blow up this country" as justification for increasingly despotic surveillance legislation. Evidently the same justification (we're right, you're not) is the sole answer that the millions of poor souls that are going to have to the impact on their quality of life.

You have to love the way the Government can circumvent the House, these days.

EDIT: Sorry for not updating when the BBC story was posted - Physics exams do that to activity. The MP was John Macdonald, and (I did not notice this at the time) he actually walked down - while shouting - and picked up the Mace. The man deserves a round of applause for risking embarrasment to make a point.

The BBC Slant

I'm not sure if you've noticed - perhaps you have far more important things to do in life than stare at websites all day - but the BBC appear to have a curious trend in the photographs of politicians of note. Whenever on picture accompanyments to stories on the BBC website you see more than the head of the politician in question, it becomes immediately clear that they are at an outrageous slant in relation to their backgrounds. Take, for example, the following picture of David Camperon:

See what I mean? Perhaps it's the photographer's idea of a joke on the political slant of a photographee. You see it all the time, especially on pictures of Cameron (as above) or of Clegg, who typically leans in the opposing direction. As the picture is of Clegg listing to the right whilst making a speech, he somehow reminds me of the O Rly owl.

Wanton Violence

The sound of war in the Middle East is not what I would call new. It is as old as the conflict between the Jews and Palestine in Biblical times. I've grown up surrounded by news of more deaths on both sides of the opressing concrete walls, each side shouting at the other - and often to themselves - about rights of occupation, borders, responsibilities and so on. You generally get used to it. But the problem is very real. Millions of people, split into two opposing camps, each wishing the other dead - which if anything sounds like the hook for a really bad reality TV show.

What I cannot abide with in the conflict is the constant inane loss of life. Every day, a few more people are blown up in air strikes or killed by suicide bombers, and each time this happens up to 30 families (or so) learn to hate the enemy. Both sides of the coin survive on this conflict - the Israeli government's voters are Jewish expansionists who want to squeeze Gaza and the West Bank, whilst Hamas survives on their flamboyant rocket attacks, more a weapon of mass harassment than destruction. If you removed the conflict, sought a solution that dished the blows both ways, both of these governments would collapse. This is the evil of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and it has been documented many times before.

Perhaps Gordon Brown should learn a little of Israel's proactivity. Israel has an election coming up in the next few weeks. The Jewish settlers are getting a bit uneasy. What's the solution? Take it out on your resident punch bag, contained in it's own concrete cage. Wars are popular things (ask Thatcher) and taking such proactive measures such as blowing up over 100 innocent Palestinians to show your power to this electorate is a great way of gaining endorsement. Of course, when the International Community comes a-knocking, you can pretend it was all about protecting your civilians (I believe that the current ratio of Israel:Palestinian deaths is something akin to 1:100) and delivering punishment to Hamas. What an excellent election strategy.

This is politics gone hideously astray. The rocket attacks are meaningless harassment, affecting a tiny minority of Israel's civilian population. In a big to ensure retaining office, we get to enjoy the sound of gunfire and explosions further ruining any hope of building a Palestinian state. Israel has already given Gaza the Escape From New York treatment. Now comes the Independence Day treatment, making sure to cover their own backs with grandoise excuses and a fawning electorate. The violence needs to stop, now.