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Showing posts from May, 2006

Home is the Hunter

After a fantastic break in Japan, once again I am greeted by the flickering screen and some time to fill it. As a trip, I think it would be hard to match Japan for the variety of things to see and do. The temples of Kyoto or Nikko truly are serene and beautiful. The gentle shrines of the nature worshipping Shinto faith contrast with the astonishingly ugly urban sprwal of the major cities. Tokyo was a far more pleasant city than I had imagined- its many attractive parks providing relief from the dramatically urban skyline of Shinjuku or the Ginza. The different districts of the city: Akasusa, Ueno, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi, the Ginza and so on provide contrasts, so that Tokyo is not a uniform urban environment but, rather like London, it is a fusion of different villages. Osaka was more uniform and therefore less interesting. The style of the Japanese was an unexpected surprise. The, almost Italian, sense of the bella figura was remarkable- well dressed and elegant, the look of the


The political air has been filled with the braying of Tory triumphalists since last Thursday, and to be fair it is probably their best result for years, even decades. The rush to bury the Lib Dems is, however, somewhat premature. The mixed results that the Lib Dems have had mask the fact that while in some areas, like Islington and Winchester (OK, a local factor there, we all know) , in several other places, like Brent, we did unexpectedly well, and ultimately the party has ended up gaining councils. Also the way in which the Tories are so keen to bury Menzies Campbell I, personally, find rather telling. The fact is that the attempts to paint Ming as "too old" are a function of the fact that their leader is "too young", and with several unexplained and questionable episodes in his recent past. Over the weekend a senior journalist I know suggested a level of scandal about various senior Conservatives that I do not feel at liberty to repeat, but which, if true and if

Shock! Horror! Probe... [yawn]

Mildly amused to see Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes offering up a new title in the Money for Old Rope category of British publishing. Their "Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze" really goes for the heart of the scandals of this government and will shake the establishment to its foundations- Yours for £7.99. Err.. NO Their definition of Labour scandals is just the tittle-tattle. The REAL Scandals are things that the News of the World would never write about, because their readership don't care and it takes too many pages of newsprint to explain the scope of the crime. But then Iain Dale, like the NOTW , is not really interested in politics these days. As a fully paid up media tart, he has entered the Queen Mother branch of show biz. Anyway, he is getting lazy: having authored the country finest toilet reading: "Thatch: a tribute in words and pictures", now Iain can not even be bothered to write himself. His latest wheeze is that his next magnum opus in the Reader&#

Went the day well?

After nearly six hours in an airless sports hall, as the officials struggled with the new automatic counting machines, the results were... well, "as you were". Looking across the country it is hard to avoid feeling a bit flat. Certainly not much really bad news- though losing Islington was a disappointment clearly- on the other hand, holding Kingston and Sutton, taking Richmond and making overall progress is not too bad. Knocking the government into third place in the national share of the vote is also reasonable. Labour, however did not melt down- though they had a pretty horrid night over all, it was just about as bad as expected, but not worse. The Conservatives will be obviously happier, but 40% in the locals still does not look a government forming vote, at a General election, and they missed as many targets as they hit. There must be a slight sense of unease that, aside from London, their performance in the metropolitan boroughs was generally poor. From a personal persp

Vote early...

I have done my civic duty in Westminster, voting in the city council elections. I really quite enjoy the ritual of going into the polling place and casting my vote. The Liberal Democrats made the ward I live in into a target ward, and a huge amount of effort has gone in. Tens of thousands of leaflets and letters, canvassing, calling, fund raising- all for today. Over the past two years there have been over twenty Lib Dem leaflets in the ward, with the Conservatives sending out three and Labour none. If it was just a question of rewarding the efforts of the parties, then Sue Baring, Martin Thompson and Ben Way would be elected to the council with handsome majorities. As we go through this process I reflect on some of the arguments about making voting compulsory. Personally I am very strongly against. Although I enjoy the ritual of voting, I am quite happy to listen to people who have different view. The fact is that our voting system is very imperfect. Votes are not all equal but depend

Abroad thoughts from home

A sunny Aberdeenshire- a sight guaranteed to gladden almost any heart. A pleasure to be amongst "ma ain folk"- and my cousin is now well and truly married. The weather was so good, that we were able to hold the ceremony outside- and it almost felt like Benachie was a guest at the wedding. Arriving at Dyce, the previous day, I found Donald Trump's rather knackered looking 727 business jet parked across the runway- a big deal, apparently, but given his track record of considerable failure, as well as his talent for vulgarity, I am somewhat cautious as to the real chances of his bloated golf course project for Balmedie. Since he has not even submitted even an outline for planning permission, and his project may conflict with the planned off-shore wind farm in the same area, there may be trouble ahead Still, at least it is ambitious, and I do detect a spring in the step of many people in the North East. In the clear, bright light that seems unique to Aberdeenshire, it seems a