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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Top of the Blogs:

We sometimes wonder if blog readers get a bit fed up with hearing about what has been going in Bristol all the time. So from now on, we will be sharing with you our pick of what's going on in the papers and on the blogs. Top of the blogs, if you like. You'll still get the usual updates on Bristol issues, but interspersed with selections from blogs, the papers and other websites. Enjoy!

Webcameron: David Cameron’s speech on demographic change

Coffee House: Matthew D’Ancona on ‘Gove skewers Gordan’

Platform 10: Michael Lynas on ‘The Littlest things’

Conservativehome: Poll in Independent gives Conservatives a two seat majority in an election.

Daily Telegraph: Michael Gove on ‘What has Ed Balls got against excellence?’

Spectator: Fraser Neslon on ‘Cameron means business on welfare…’

Platform 10: ‘Today has been cancelled!’

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The sun always shines on Chooseday

Well, it did today, anyway. This morning, on a gloriously sunny day, I hopped on the bus into the centre of town, to support the launch of Chooseday.

Chooseday was the brain child of a team including Joshua Hart and Chris Sunderland (pictured here with me). The idea is simple: On Tuesday ( see what they've done?! Chooseday?!) leave your car at home. Do something different to help the environment.

I think the idea is a winner. There are few things more depressing for an aspirant Green than standing at the bottom of the mountain of the 'Green Ideal', in a state of repentant despair because you suspect you will never ascend to the saintly heights of those who have thrown away the car keys, live in a solar-powered eco-hut, eat nothing but the produce of their back garden, and power their carbon-light lives by their own waste products. And the product of that kind of despair born of a sense of hopeless inadequacy, is to feel that you are an irredeemable Green-sinner and not to do anything green at all.

But Chooseday doesn't ask too much. It only asks that you change your way of life in some small but significant way, one day a week. It's ok, say the organisers of Chooseday, if you have to use your car occasionally. ( Not ideal, but don't get het up about it.) Just do what you can each Tuesday. And if everyone does the same, we will all see just how much difference a collective effort can make. Imagine a Bristol of no cars, just one day a week. Great things start with small steps. So go to their website and learn how you can help make a difference.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Pub on the Common: Inn on the Green

The Inn on the Green, on the Filton Road (at the Gloucester Road end) boasts an enormous array of good English beers. You can just about see the extent of the choice in the number of taps in the background here.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a pint of beer or a glass of wine in the evening. As long as you're not driving, and as long as that pint or glass of vino isn't followed by six more. And it's also a good excuse to support one of England's great traditional products - ale and proper beer, which is being replaced little by little by lager imports which are usually much stronger.

Here, I'm about to enjoy a 'Peat Porter', as my tasteful beer mustache reveals. My companions enjoyed a pint of the unfussily named " Beer!" and Butcombe Bitter respectively. We also enjoyed three packets of very exotically flavoured crisps. ( Sweet Chilli and Lemon, Bloody Mary - with a mysterious exclamation mark after it on the packet - and real parsnip crisps. I mean they are made out of real parsnips. ) As below.

For three pints of real ale and some packets of crisps, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Inn on the Green. It's been completely transformed recently into a really nice place to enjoy a great variety of British beverage. (In moderation, and responsibly, of course.)

potatoes don't get more exotic than this...

Monday, 22 October 2007

Horfield Youth Center's bloomin' lovely

I dropped in on the hard work going on at Horfield Youth Club, this afternoon. All sorts of impressive looking gardening tools were being wielded by youth club members, under the watchful eye of Pete Hockett who runs the club, and Becky and Pete from 'Grounds 4 Change'.

The Grounds4Change programme helps young people brighten up their area. Over the summer a patch of rubbish-strewn weeds next to Horfield Youth Club has been transformed into a wood-chippings flower bed. But it is about more than simply spade-work. Becky was giving youth club members instructions about what was and was not weeds, and I found out there was to be a test on Latin names of plants when all the hard work was done. I used to do Latin at university. I made myself scarce before anyone found out...

Lockleaze Litter Pick ( or, why my blog has been neglected)

"Eleven Days since your last blog post!!! " emailed my trusty blog monitor, this morning. "Well, if you will spend all your time rotting in front of a computer..." I moaned. And began to defend my blog-negligence.

Here is me, not blogging, this morning. I was with the Lockleaze "Feeling Good, Feeling Safe" group, which was doing a litter pick. There was also a stall with information for residents how best to recycle their litter. Everyone had worked very hard in organising the day and it was a real success. It struck me how far we have come on in recycling over recent years. A couple of young children came to look at the stall and play some of the recycling games - they knew all about recycling and what went in which bin. It bodes well for greener generation to come.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Give us a Referendum!

So we're not to have a referendum. Even though we were promised a referendum on the E.U. Constitution in Labour's election Manifesto. Even though Gordon Brown told the BBC, a week before taking over as PM, that sticking to the Manifesto was a matter of trust between him and the British people.

Even though the Spanish, French, German ,Finnish Governments and the European Commission all agree that the new 'Treaty' is the same in content as the old 'Constitution'. Even though the only point of dissent seems to be whether the E.U. Treaty is 90% the same as the old Constitution as the Irish Prime Minister says, or 98% the same, as the Spanish Foreign Minister says.

Even though the Constitution, sorry, I mean Treaty, means fundamental changes to the powers of our Nation State. Even though it opens the flood gates for Brussels to give itself extra powers without even undergoing the rigors of parliamentary debate. Even though it hands even more power over to Europe on criminal justice and asylum.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for sensible and constructive collaboration and involvement in Europe. And I do not think that I am alone. So why is Gordon Brown so reluctant 1. To give us a clear guide of what's actually in the Treaty? 2. To give us a say on what we think about it?

If you want a readable guide to what the Treaty is all about, read the 'Treaty in Plain English'
Then realise why Brown doesn't want a referendum.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

David Cameron Vs. Gordon Brown

David Cameron shows the nation what Gordon Brown is really all about, at the dispatch box in PMQs yesterday. Impressive.


Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Fresher faced politics

Who says young people aren't political? The idea that anyone below 25 is necessarily apathetic and apolitical is one of the biggest myths out there.

Last night I met up with freshers and students from Bristol University, partly (I admit) to take a trip down memory lane and pretend I was young and care-free again. But also to talk about politics in general. Here I am with members of Bristol University Conservative Association, at their first social event of the year.

Today's students come from a generation that has been 'sold at' in more ways than perhaps any previous generation. The result? They are a highly discerning consumer group, who are not impressed by cheap gimmickry. Perhaps that's why they sometimes stay clear of the less edifying aspects of party politics. But as I discovered last night, when it comes to talking about things that matter, students are energetic in their views. Bristol University students care so much about issues around them that last year they put in around 100,000 hours of community service in Bristol. That may not be 'party political', but it's exactly the kind of attitude that politics needs.

Saturday, 6 October 2007



Friday, 5 October 2007

Listen Gordon; Democracy is The Opposition

I was struck by an assumption made by someone posting a reply on 'rare steak, about to get rarer?' on this blog. They assumed that I would not print their reply because they made a case (a very reasonable case) against what I had to say.

Underlying this assumption was an expectation that all politicians have a yearning to eradicate any opposition to their point of view. To create an Orwellian 1984 where opposition is either distorted to agreement, or wiped out completely. Where all that is left of democracy is a rather pathetic and unsubstantiated conviction, held by a systematically brainwashed population who are pelted with a shower of meaningless language, that they are living in one.

When I was at the Conservative Conference, I asked a journalist ( who was definitely NOT a Tory) what the Labour party conference was like. I was amazed at his reply.
" It was sinister". He said.
" For the first time I heard a politician say he wanted to annihilate the opposition completely." He was referring to Gordon Brown saying that he wanted to wipe out the Conservative Party once and for all.

That is much more significant than just saying you want to win an election and beat the others. That is not saying you think you are the best party to run the country. That is saying you want power above all else. That is saying that Power for the Labour Party is more important than democracy. By implication, that is tantamount to a dictatorship.

I do not think that power for any party is more important than democracy. Annoying as it might be for a candidate, I am pleased that I have opposition candidates to compete with, and in the interests of democracy, I would never wish to see any party (except those inciting prejudiced hatred) 'wiped out'.

But that is why Gordon Brown rearranged his visit to Iraq - to 'annihilate' all coverage of his opponents' party conference. That is also why he made announcements on the NHS early. To drown out the voice of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

At the end of his conference speech, Gordon Brown said ' I will not let you down'. Remember, at a Party Conference, the leader is not addressing the country, (s)he is addressing his party. Gordon Brown was not promising to serve his country, but promising his party that he would give them unopposed power.

That marks a fundamental shift in the aims of our Government.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day, so I couldn't resist having a small splurge. Below is one of my favourites. 'Nothing to be said' by Philip Larkin. With apologies for any morbidity.

I like this because in politics everyone always has so MUCH to say. All the time. And everybody charges around saying that they are more right than everyone else. But there are some things that really do leave nothing to be said, and this poem (and often poetry in general) gives a voice to this.

And perhaps the reason we all (politicians and non-politicians included) rush around so much, saying so much, so quickly and so loudly, pushing out newspapers and blogs like this one, is to make sure there is no empty space to think too hard about That which leaves Nothing To Be Said.

So thanks to poets like Larkin for some space to think in a frenetic world.

Nothing to be said
(Philip Larkin)

For nations vague as weed,
For nomads among stones,
Small-statured cross-faced tribes
And cobble-close families
In mill-towns on dark mornings
Life is slow dying.

So are their separate ways
Of building, benediction,
Measuring love and money
Ways of slowly dying.
The day spent hunting pig
Or holding a garden-party,

Hours giving evidence
Or birth, advance
On death equally slowly.
And saying so to some
Means nothing; others it leaves
Nothing to be said.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Blackpool Rocks

This year it was the 50th Anniversary of 'Crossbow', the magazine I edit for the Conservative think tank The Bow Group. So what better way to celebrate than with tasteful sticks of luminous blue Blackpool Rock?

Here we see myself and Boris anticipating the joys of Blackpool rock outside the conference venue.

If I can work out how to put PDFs on my blog, you can also read the 50th Anniversary magazine. I got Geoffrey Howe and Jilly Cooper writing in the same publication. That must be a first.

There's still some rock and a few magazines left, so if you'd like a souvenir from Blackpool, drop me a line.

Rock on.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Speaking at Conference

I don't know if anyone heard Iain Duncan Smith's speech at the Conference about fixing social breakdown? It was nothing short of inspired. I had the unenviable task of following on from that speech, with a speech of my own from the floor.

I spoke about boys - how the under-achievement of our young men is one of the main underlying factors behind the so-called 'broken society'. Over a quarter of boys don't get a single good GCSE, a fifth of them will have a reading age of half their years by the time they are 14, 80% of all expusions are of boys- and they will make up some of the 30,000 children who don't even get to take their GCSEs in an average year.

I called for a real technical, practical, manual curriculum for those who want it, so they can access good levels of literacy and numeracy through more hands-on means. I called for an unwrapping of the cotton-wool culture of health and safety from our school, I called for real competition to be allowed on the sports field and in the classroom.

I also pointed out the good work that Avonmouth National Smelting Boxing Club does in providing an alternative to hanging around on the street for young men in Bristol. I told the Conference they are in need of funds to expand - so let's hope that there were some rich donors in the audience who had not fallen asleep by the end of my speech...