This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Purnell in Islington

My ward, Highbury East, in Islington North, held a fundraising dinner last Friday for the London Assembly elections with James Purnell, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

We managed to attract lots of young new faces eager to play a role in the local party as well as raising nearly £200 for the election campaign and that's just in our ward! A real success I think. Events like this are an excellent way of generating interest in the local party and motivating people to get involved. I hope its the beginning of change in Islington North.

James talked about reform of the public services and how we motivate the Labour vote to come out on Election Day. I was really impressed with him. He has the right ideas about reforming the public services and the benefit system and he seems an ordinary, nice bloke.

Future leadership material I think.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Giggles on Radio 4

Only the other day, my mum commented on how soothing the voices on Radio 4 were. Well, this morning, I woke up to hear Charlotte Green (the newsreader on the Today show) descend into a fit of giggles after she reported on a news item about the first recording of a human voice. Follow the link to hear it. It made me laugh so much - what a nice way to start the day!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Ice cool Sarkozy

Is it just me or do other people actually really like Nicolas Sarkozy? I know this might be deeply unfashionable but I actually think he is quite cool. Apart from being one of the most "unique" leaders in the world right now, he also seems to be making all the right sounds when it comes to Britain, the US and Europe. And he approaches everything with this amazing energy and drama which makes him quite exciting to watch.

Seriously, I think his idea of a stronger European defence pillar within NATO is perfectly sound. I wish Blair had been able or willing to make more headway on this after he signed the 1999 St. Malo agreement with Chirac. Alas, it seems nothing else much happened between the two countries but I hope now we can begin to beef this up a bit. Gordon Brown should agree to Sarkozy's policies on this in return for some reform of the Common Agricultural Policy or the speeding up of the Lisbon Agenda. I hope France re-joins NATO's command structure too.

It remains to be seen though, how much he can reform France. While he says the right things about reform, it still seems to be painfully slow. I will give "cool" Mr. Sarkozy the benefit of the doubt for a bit longer.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Clinton casual with the truth (again).

Brown seems to have taken my advice and opted for a compromise on the forthcoming Embryo Bill. He is going to allow a free vote on some of the most controversial aspects of the Bill while imposing a three line whip on the second and third reading. This seems a neat compromise and entirely sensible. It is right to respect the consciences of MPs and it avoids the Tories using the issue as a way of embarrassing the government.

Across the Atlantic, Hillary Clinton has yet again demonstrated how casual she is with the truth. Hillary had claimed that she was greeted by sniper fire when she arrived in Bosnia as First Lady in the late 1990s. However, TV images of her arrival show that instead of being greeted by rebels with guns, she was in fact met by school children and local villagers. You cannot believe anything this woman says - she is so unauthentic. Further evidence of her unsuitability for the Presidency.

Meanwhile, the latest Gallup poll in America shows that after Barack Obama's sensational race speech last week (it is one of my favourite videos - see below) he has gone up in the polls. You can read the results here. He is on 47% compared to Clinton's 45%. Although, it is only by 2 points and well within the margin of error it shows that the pastor row has not damaged him too much. If you haven't seen his speech yet, you should. It was a brilliant speech that managed to turn a damaging news story into a broader story about race relations in America. Beautifully written, delivered with conviction and passion and most importantly authentic.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

All Change at Downing Street

Good news from Downing Street. After months of bad PR, Stephen Carter (the PM's new Director of Strategy and Chief Advisor) finally seems to be getting to grips with the government's media strategy.

Old members of Brown's cabal are leaving and the Downing Street team is getting re-organised and streamlined.

This is good news. After the disaster of the non-election, it seemed odd to me that Brown was relying on the advice of some people who were clearly not up to the job. Whoever is in charge needs people in Downing Street that are loyal, competent and able to plan strategically for the long term. Some of Brown's acolytes couldn't think beyond the next headline.

His team is also full of policy wonks, intellectuals and bright young things - people who are on a mission to change the country. Great in itself.

But what is missing is someone to sell Brown plc. Carter's background and experience in PR should help to fill a massive hole and provide the government with the sort of communications and strategic planning that is sorely missing.

Brown's team desperately needs more women too. Sue Nye (Director of Government Relations) is a rare example. A more diverse team, with a range of different backgrounds and professional experiences would provide better, more thought through advice. It might also help to undermine the macho political team that Brown has built up around himself over the last twenty years.

A better team and more sophisticated communications will help convey the government's good policies and positive message to the electorate.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Brown must have free vote

It is a tradition in British politics that when it comes to difficult, moral issues political parties usually allow their MPs a free vote. This makes it strange then that Gordon Brown won't allow a free vote for next weeks Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill.

It is rumoured that one Cabinet Minister, Paul Murphy, the Welsh Secretary, is ready to resign if he is denied a free vote while Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, is another Minister who is rumoured to have reservations and wants to abstain.

The bill would allow medical research to be carried out on human-animal embryos that could help combat life-threatening diseases.

It would be an open goal for the Tories if the PM allowed his Cabinet to become publicly divided on the issue and worse if one of its members actually resigned.

He should allow a free vote on the Bill and avoid giving the opposition the chance to portray the government as weak and divided.