Saturday, November 01, 2003


Just had a thought - I'm not normally one to give advice to Labour, but why not take a leaf from The Australian for your next member's magazine. Just fill the cover with a picture of Michael Howard and the headline Is That All You've Got?

(of course, anyone reading this in Cowley Street can feel free to use the idea as well)

Strange Bedfellows

Norman Tebbit writes for the Guardian, warning Michael Howard to beware of the Conservative Party's modernisers.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Not quite a coronation

Ananova reports that Michael Howard will still have to be approved by a ballot of the Conservative Party membership, even if he is the sole candidate for the leadership.

Of course, it only needs an MP to get two backers to stand against him, and this report from the Guardian points out one of the worries:
Some MPs fear that a rightwing populist colleague - not John Redwood, who has ruled himself out - might declare his candidacy five minutes before next Thursday's deadline, knowing that party activists, not MPs, would then chose between just two runners. They want an emergency candidate, if needed, to thwart any such plot.
I suspect, though, that this explains Michael Ancram's support of Howard 'if he remains the single candidate'. Should another candidate suddenly emerge, Ancram will stand, get enough votes to come second so he and Howard will go forward to the party membership, and then withdraw, or perhaps remain a candidate and not campaign if his withdrawal would put the 'rightwing populist' on the ballot in his place.

As for who that candidate might be, while Redwood has seemingly ruled himself out, the name of Eric Forth is conspicuously absent from this list of MPs backing Howard.


On the subject of game shows, I finally sent off my application form for that new Channel 4 show (that I've seen variously named as either Exhausted or Shattered). Unfortunately, I didn't send it off until Wednesday, so I'm doubtful it will have got to an address in London before the deadline today.

The Crying Game Show

I have to admit that I find the idea of this new dating/reality TV show quite amusing. It's like that Joe Millionaire show - the programme itself is probably quite boring, but it's just the prospect of how the contestants expectations are being played with that makes it funny. What also makes it fun is when you read this: It was filmed in Ibiza over the summer and the seven men - all aged 20-35 and described as "lively and outgoing" and you can picture just what the contestants are like (especially as it's going to be on Sky One) and what their reaction might be to discovering that the woman in the show has a bit more in her past than they might be expecting.

Update: Changed the title of this post as I suddenly realised a perfect new one. Also, the contestants are threatening to sue Sky over this, for reasons I can't quite understand though I suspect their lawsuit would be easier if 'trying to make me look gay in front of my mates' was a crime. I never thought I'd be taking Sky's side in an argument.

Up-update: Sky are now reported to have pulled the show.

1667 words a day

Is how much you'd need to write to take part in National Novel Writing Month. Which is nothing really, when you consider that Anthony Trollope supposedly wrote 250 words every quarter hour (and averaged over 1000 words a day for his entire life) or that Stephen King reputedly wrote The Running Man in 72 hours - though admittedly that was when he was drinking Milwaukee and snorting Bogota every night.

However, I've only just discovered this, and found that the month in question in November, so I won't be able to take part. Even in the best of circumstances, doing 50,000 words in a month would be a big commitment and I've got enough on in the next month to realise that I probably wouldn't manage it. Plus, I'm already working on a book, and this would just be another distraction. Feel free to remind me of it next year, though.

Thanks to that Dustbinman for the link, who may well be taking part. Go on Dan, you know you want to!

Lyra's Oxford

Lyra's Oxford, a short story by Philip Pullman that's a sort-of sequel to His Dark Materials is published next week, and Amazon currently have it available at half-price (£4.99) - so click here if you want to get it cheaply.

While I was stumbling round the Amazon website, I also discovered something else that looks quite interesting: The Science of His Dark Materials by John & Mary Gribbin. It's not published for a couple of weeks, so I'll wait to see some reviews before buying it.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Confession time

I now want George Bush to be re-elected next year. Why? On tonight's Question Time, Gerald Kaufman has said he hopes Bush will be defeated and as one of my defining principles is that 'everything Gerald Kaufman says is likely to be wrong, so it's best to assume the opposite position' I must now support Bush. It's either that or admit to agreeing with Gerald Kaufman. It's like some kind of political Zen koan.

Update: Oh, so that's Tim Collins. I wonder if Chris Brooke was watching it?

Separated at birth (certificate)

A blogging first?

It seems that Atrios is has been threatened with being sued over a recent post he made referring to this blog as the 'Diary of a Stalker' because of its author's obsession with Paul Krugman. There's been enough commentary from others not to need me to add to it, except to say that it's all pretty damn weird.

Update: OK, it's late, so I didn't quite get all the details...except that the person behind the threats is actually a Contributing Editor to National Review Online with his own 'Krugman Truth Squad'. But 33 articles from the 'Truth Squad' in 7 months isn't stalking, oh no. He wrote at least 6 articles that weren't about Krugman in the same time...unfortunately the one headed 'We Stalked. He Balked.' wasn't one of them.

You can't hide...

Unsurprisingly, the Back IDS website has now gone blank. Unless you click here, of course. Or here. Or here. Or here. Just taking down the front page doesn't mean you're stopping anyone getting to the rest of the website, you know.

And if someone susses that out between the time I write this and the time you read it...nothing escapes Google.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

IDS' parting shot

Watching IDS' statement to the press this evening, there was one section at the end that seemed quite interesting, and in the light of this evening's post-vote developments is even more interesting. He said:
It has been an immense honour to lead this great party – and to be the first leader elected by its membership. I profoundly hope that the next leader to be elected in that way will also be the next Prime Minister. (emphasis added)
Now, with tonight's momentum seeming to point towards a 'coronation' of Michael Howard, with no need for the party as a whole to have a vote and choose the leader themselves, as they did with IDS. I find it interesting that IDS felt it necessary to make the reference to the next leader being elected 'in that way' - is it a coded warning that the Parliamentary Conservative Party should not take the voluntary Party for granted? There already seem to be some pre-emptive grumblings from party members with one interviewed on Newsnight saying that a general vote was necessary for the new leader to have any respect from the party. One wonders if this story is an isolated report, or more indicative of the mood of the party as a whole.

Those IDS predictions

Just checking through the predictions you all made in the IDS sweepstake and it would appear that Matthew Turner is the winner, having guessed 67 for, 90 against and 8 abstentions - he was exactly right on the no votes and the closest on the number of yes votes. I don't think anyone expected no abstentions, which means we can now all speculate about which way Michael Portillo voted.

Despite his efforts, Matthew was not able to save IDS, but maybe he can consider this a consolation prize - and he gets to keep the Jimmy Nail CD he donated as a prize.

IDS - the result

Five Live are currently shuttling back and forth between their Westminster studio, Committee Room 14 and Conservative Central Office. We're promised the result soon, but I'm wondering if it's going to be like Brent East when we were constantly promised the result 'in fifteen minutes'...

Here we go...

Yes: 75
No: 90

(no abstentions!)

They have no confidence in him as leader - he's gone. Nominations for leader close next Thursday at noon, first ballot on the Tuesday after. There are already reports that Howard, Davis and Yeo will announce campaigns tonight.

Unlikely comebacks

Just to prove that it's not over till it's over (and maybe IDS can take hope from it) - Paul Gascoigne will be playing for Wolves' reserve side tonight.

Everybody must get stoned

MPs have voted to downgrade cannabis to Class C. However, the change in the law doesn't come into effect until January, so IDS can't conclude his concession/victory (delete as appropriate after 7pm) speech by saying 'I'm off to get totally baked'.

Leader of the umm, ahh, Opposition, you know

Boris for leader! With policies like this, you know it makes sense!

Europe and the Tories

For those of you interested, I've just posted a piece on A Fistful of Euros about the current Tory/IDS situation, and the irony that they seem to be following the lead of several European political parties.

Blogger League Cup

What with Wolves beating Burnley 2-0 this evening, I've realized that we're starting to develop a trend of beating sides supported by other bloggers. Harry's side tonight, 4 Glengate's beloved Leicester last Saturday and Jackie D's Man City a couple of weeks before that. So, any Middlesbrough fans out there, or are we doomed to defeat on Saturday?

Meanwhile, the struggle at the top of the UK Bloggers Fantasy League continues. Jez remains on top, but it's all closing up with Real Politik just four points behind and even Spartak Brockley Whins in 6th place are just 60 points behind - one good or bad week for someone could change the whole table very quickly.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

You knew it was coming

OK, let's have the first Tory leadership sweepstake. It's quite simple - tomorrow, 165 Conservative MPs have the right to vote in the IDS confidence vote - but what will the result be? Add your guess in the comments as to how many will say Yes (keep IDS), how many will vote No (drop IDS) and how many will abstain. The prize is a rollover from the Brent East sweepstake - the winner gets the right to say 'No, Mr Turner, keep your Simply Red CD away from me'.

Runners and riders

William Hill have the odds on the next Tory leader. Some selections from the field and current price:

Michael Howard 11/10
David Davis 7/2
Michael Portillo 7/1
Olive Letwin 10/1
Ken Clarke 10/1
Tim Yeo 16/1 (quick Tim! get your money on!)
Theresa May 16/1
William Hague 33/1
Bernard Jenkin 50/1 (my nearest Tory MP)
Eric Forth 100/1 (used to be my MP, until I left Redditch, then he disappeared to Bromley)
Boris Johnson 100/1

Here we go...

That's not bad - I was away from news for just a few hours and suddenly there are 25 Conservative MPs wishing to see the end of IDS. While Blunt, Conway and Maude were publically putting in letters, it seems that at least 22 others were just quietly putting their letters in - I wonder if their names will ever be leaked?

Nice quick confidence vote tomorrow, though - now it gets interesting, though it all means that the Save IDS blog is going to be dead one way or another by 7pm tomorrow.

Very Blue Peter

Peter Duncan's Doomsday Diary - not some attempt at a 'Protect and Survive' film from mid-80s Blue Peter, but a Conservative MP's prediction of what will happen if IDS is removed. (via Mr Spin)

Monday, October 27, 2003

The Mandelson Factor

Just been listening to Andrew Marr interviewing IDS on Five Live (quite a good interview, to be honest) but one part brought up an interesting thought. When Marr asked him if he would fight a no confidence vote should once be called, IDS responded along the lines of 'I've always fought for what I believe in' and seemed to be very close to saying 'I'm a fighter, not a quitter' before hastily steering away. Maybe I was hearing between the lines, but it seemed to me that the phrase has floated across his mind, but he suddenly realised that saying that would bring comparisons (welcome or unwelcome) with Mandelson's speech in Hartlepool at the 2001 General Election. The question is, could any British politician use that phrase in the near future without people thinking of Mandy?

This is not a scam. Honest.

There've been a few online banking and other financial scams recently, normally based on the scammers sending out emails that purport to come from a bank, or setting up a website that looks like it's the bank's official one, with the aim of getting bank account and/or credit card details from individuals.

Now, I'm all for banks taking steps to combat this and to warn their customers. However, my bank's efforts to do this make me wonder if they have thought this through properly.

This afternoon I got an email. In Outlook Express, the sender was displayed as 'Online Email Invest...' with the subject line 'IMPORTANT MESSAGE'. I don't think I'm alone in seeing a message with a sender like that and a subject line in ALL CAPS and thinking 'hmm, that looks like spam' but as it came through to an email address that's pretty-much spam free, I opened it up:

A number of fraudulent emails are currently circulating in the UK encouraging bank customers to visit a website where personal card or internet security details are then requested.

Please note that we would never send emails that ask you for confidential or personal security information.

If you are a Halifax or Bank of Scotland customer and you have already received, or receive such an email in the future, please forward this to i've changed the email address to stop and then delete it immediately without responding or visiting any site it details.

If you are concerned that you may have divulged any personal or security details please call our Helpdesk on 0845 602 0000.
Now, I'm pretty clued up on some business news (especially when it affects me), so I know that Halifax and Bank of Scotland have merged to create a corporate entity called HBOS but when I deal with my bank it's through the address (and I presume Bank of Scotland customers do it through is the legitimate address for HBOS as a corporation, but I've never dealt with the bank through that address and I wonder just how many people may have deleted this email, thinking it's a scam and will have contacted the bank to tell them of a new scam? It's a sad sign of just how cynical we've become, I suppose, but surely one should expect a bank to think more about how they warn their customers of this? A notice in with a statement or something else that's incontrovertibly from my bank would probably be a lot more effective.
Tom Watson is worried that this device might cause chaos on British roads. I'm not entirely sure, but I don't think it will be that effective here as the technology it exploits - a system that allows police to remotely affect traffic lights - is not installed at most junctions in Britain, as far as I'm aware. There are some places that have it - there's talk about it being installed in a junction up the road from me - but it's actually been installed for buses, to allow them to move through bus lanes at junctions easily, rather than for police cars.

LIke I said, I don't really know, but there are some people out there who know more about this thing than me - they've even been known to read the riveting (but not yet featured on Have I Got News For You?, as far as I know) Traffic Technology International magazine.

The England XVI, or Rugby a Seize

Just when you think England made it look slightly too hard to beat Samoa yesterday, it turns out that it took 16 of them to do it. Of course, it's interesting to note that amongst all the criticism or 'is that all you've got?'-type commentary about England, there's a distinct silence from anyone South African...who still have to play Samoa this weekend.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Blogger: The Musical

OK, here's a bit of fun. What songs would you associate with particular bloggers?

I'm asking because I was listening to Beth Orton this afternoon and during the song 'Stolen Car' there's the line 'Somebody singing the wrong words to the wrong melody, it's little things like this that matter to me.' which made me think of Green Fairy, so I thought I'd see if I could find any others that had any blogger connections.

Of course, some people make it all too easy to work out what their 'theme song' might be, but what about others? While I hunt through my CD collection looking for inspiration, please put forward your suggestions in the comments box.

Out of darkness cometh light

0-3 down at half-time, 4-3 winners at full time. Can we stop the season now? I don't think it'll get better than this.