Sunday, 31 August 2008

Donate to NO2ID and Have Your Money Doubled!

From 1st September 2008, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd has generously agreed to match, pound for pound, any *new* income that NO2ID receives. Which means that for every pound you give from 1st September NO2ID will receive TWO pounds to spend campaigning against the ID scheme and database state.

Please send your donation by cheque to our office (please mark your envelope 'JRRT'):

The NO2ID Campaign
Box 412
19-21 Crawford Street
London W1H 1PJ

Or you can donate by credit card or via PayPal using the 'Donate' button on our website, http://www.no2id.net (left hand column)

Double your money offers like this don't come along very often so please, dig deep - encourage your friends, family and colleagues to make a donation. With your help we can stop this.

While you're at it, why not join the campaign, join a local group and take the NO2ID Pledge?

This is a direct repost (with permission) from the journal of superactivist "diffrentcolours"

Saturday, 30 August 2008

The more I read about Sarah Palin...

...the more I wish I'd remained in the blissful state of never having heard of her. Being pro-life is one thing, and it's something that would colour my judgment of her rather unfavourably on its own, but I accept that's not everyone's view. But to be anti-abortion and a lifetime member of the NRA and a supporter of the death penalty? I think it would be a gross misnomer to call that pro-life. That's pro-death and anti-choice.

Is her selection as McCain's running mate *really* meant to be an enticement to disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters to vote Republican? If so I'd be flabbergasted if it worked.

I find it hard to agree with Heresy Corner's fascinating opinion that there are some Clinton fans out there who may vote for this team on the slightly tasteless basis that should flabby aging skin-cancer-victim McCain die mid-term, there would be a woman at the helm.

Why?

You only need look at the On The Issues page for Sarah Palin, alongside the one for Hillary (comparisons of which, by the way, show at a glance just how inexperienced the GOP's choice of VP candidate is, too - all those comments that Obama isn't very experienced seem a bit limp now, huh?) to find a whole list of reasons she shouldn't be attractive to any of the same voters. It's hard to find a single policy area where they aren't completely opposed in their views and records.

I would love to see a good woman in charge at the White House. But if I were an American, I wouldn't vote for a ticket that included Palin any more than I would have voted for Thatcher had I been old enough to when she became Prime Minister.

Being a feminist means, among other things, believing that the quality of a person's character isn't dictated by the content of their pants. To paraphrase Elayne Boosler, Palin is only a person trapped in a woman's body. And frankly, when it comes to comparing people, not genitals, any sane Clinton voter would have to accept that Obama and Biden are much better people for them than McCain and Palin.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Perspective.

It's an important thing.

Today marks the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr changing the world with what was arguably the most famous speech of the 20th century. The speech that contains the immortal words "I Have a Dream". If you've never heard the whole thing, it is on Youtube here and I urge you to watch and shiver with admiration. What a day in history. Martin Luther King Jr was just 34 years old when he delivered that speech, demanding the same rights for black men as white - I believe he is still the youngest person ever to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and it was so well-deserved.

Today also sees the publication of Total Politics/Iain Dale's list of the top 50 Liberal Democrat bloggers. It would be churlish of me not to thank the people who voted for this blog, enabling it to feature at number 19 on that list (and number 16 on the list of Welsh political blogs) but at the same time I feel sad that there is someone who evidently took the whole business so seriously that after alienating many people (including me) who previously considered her a friend with pre-emptive bitterness and spite in the weeks running up to this, she's finally deleted her blog in a fit of pique, despite reaching number 27 herself. Jo - you have so much potential, you are so bright, you could do so much. Is your dream, on today of all days, really just to win a blog award? Because to me, when you compare the two events that August 28th 2008 could signify, the popularity contest over on the tory windbox's page frankly means about as much as this list, also out today.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Are you ready for YOUR cash bribe from Labour next month?

My day job involves (among other things) administrating the payroll process for a small-to-medium sized business. I'm well grumpy with it today.

I've just received (at work) my instruction from the government to raise everyone's tax threshold by £600 on the first pay date after the 7th of September.

No doubt Gordon and Alisdair will be wondering why I am so pissed about this - they has 'fixed' the 10p tax débacle, no? Er, no. No Gordon and Ali, you haven't. You have just given EVERYONE, INCLUDING the people who benefited from the shift of the taxation burden more onto the poor than the rich, a wodge of money to shut them up. I'M JUST AS BEHIND EVERYONE ELSE AS I WAS BEFORE, IDIOTS! And what's *worse* is that the public purse is now missing a great big huge amount of money to pay for this largesse. More, in fact, than you were aiming to save with your monumentally stupid plan to scrap the 10p tax band.

Bravo.

Monday, 25 August 2008

The Blue Terror

Oh, if there is one thing I don't like about human nature, it is tribalism. I try to avoid it where it exists in politics: red, yellow, blue, or green; dogged loyalty and occasionally the sort of blind hate for 'the other side' that one would more usually associate with football hooligans.

And yet, and yet. I am getting the fear about David Cameron in a big way. I tell myself that anyone who goes into politics has to be doing it motivated by something good and laudable - a desire to fix something broken. After all, that is how politics has been sold to us ever since I've been old enough to take any notice - the age-old technique of creating a problem and offering a solution, from advertising geniuses to masters of spin in a generation. Maybe I'm being naive in swallowing it. Maybe not everyone in the game has altruistic motives.

Johann Hari is using his column in the Independent this week to give us some chilling pointers about the current Conservative leader's attitude, drawn from that series of interviews published recently by the editor of GQ magazine. And when you consider that this book is clearly meant to be a wholly positive portrait of a great social reformer, who in his own words "ought to be Prime Minister", it's disturbing to see that even here, if you're looking as hard as Hari is, you can see the cracks in Cameron's caring, sharing facade.

What cracks they are, too. Cameron's desired image to "be as radical a social reformer as Mrs Thatcher was an economic reformer" is like crazy paving. Most people who have seen the breaking story have noted the cynical hypocrisy in his holidaying habits this summer: inviting the media to watch him treat his family to a traditional holiday in Cornwall to show solidarity with hard-pressed 'ordinary' folks, then slyly swanning off to a luxury yachting trip on the Turkish riviera. But how many have picked up on the things he has said publicly that show what a huge sham his 'liberal Conservative' ethos really is?

Some excerpts from Johann's column:

    He would stop the £40-a-week given to poor students to stay on to sixth form.

    He will whittle down services largely for the children of single parents – SureStart, Family Credit – to pay for tax breaks for wealthier married couples. He is, Jones notes, a "huge fan" of the Wisconsin model of welfare reform, which cuts off single mothers from benefits for life after two years – whether they are prepared to work or not.


Hardly the model of social conscience there, David.

    He tells Jones he first became alerted to the urgency of [global warming] by Margaret Thatcher in 1989. But why then was he silent about it for the next 16 years, except to mock wind farms as "giant bird-blenders" and demand "a massive road-building program?"

    He delivers a Clarkson-style rant against the pedestrianisation of city centres.


What happened to "Vote Blue, Go Green"?

Almost three years ago, just two days after Cameron became leader of the Conservative party, Johann Hari wrote a compelling piece for political history buffs, in which he asserted that although David Cameron was using Disraeli's rhetoric of One Nation Conservatism, he was actually more in the mould of Lord Sainsbury, the man who "made the Conservatives into a tireless defender of the overdog". I don't think much has changed, but unfortunately I don't share Hari's optimism. This week's column is titled "Cameron is wily but he's beatable". I fear that because of the woefully unhelpful two-party mentality that this country wallows in, Cameron is destined to become Prime Minister at the next general election simply because they are seen as the people to beat the Labour party that the electorate are so tired of. And it scares me.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Shattering Sexuality Myths.

Last month, Penny Red posted about her bisexuality, and how it relates to her politics. Today, Jennie Rigg has taken that ball and run with it, adding her thoughts on the lack of accurate terminology surrounding 'open' relationships.

I'm just going to give a quick précis of what my sexuality IS and IS NOT.

I am bisexual.

This DOES NOT mean:

1) That I am eyeing up you/your girlfriend/your daughter/your sister/your mum.
Actually, and you may be surprised to hear this, I am only as likely to be doing that as a heterosexual man would be, perhaps less. I do not leer at people, I do not make advances to people who would clearly be uncomfortable with it, and I wish that people finding out I am not 100% heterosexual didn't lead so often to them feeling creeped out.

2) That I will join/invite you for a threesome. Group sex makes me feel really uncomfortable. The same goes for people who like to greet any two women who are introduced to them as a couple with "woah, can I watch?" - most people who come out with that little gem wouldn't *dare* say it to a woman and her boyfriend, so what makes them think that it's ok to say it to a girl they have previously identified as straight, who is stepping out with her girlfriend? Sex, for me, is a private thing and an emotional thing, and what I share with sexual partners is not for sale or show-and-tell.

3) That I am greedy/am not fussy. These things are often said to me as a joke, even by people who are very close to me. And they are more hurtful than I let on. I have in the past attempted to laugh along, and I probably will again, when it inevitably happens again. But what you're essentially saying there is that I am a slag. Cheers for that. For the record I am only ever attracted to people who are special to me in some way. And even then it's a rare, rare event. And if my completely unwarranted reputation as someone who will shag anything precedes me, there's a good chance all you jokey, having-a-laugh friends and family will cause problems for me in the relationships I build with those people who are so special to me.

4) That I am going through a phase and will grow out of it/That I am experimenting and don't know my sexuality Grrrrrr. This is the one that really makes me angry. How much more patronising can you GET than to tell someone they don't know their own hormonal urges? Seriously, if you've ever said this to anyone, you SUCK. I trust people to know their own minds and do not assume that other adults want me to patronise them with my opinion on things about them I have never experienced and do not understand. I often ask questions of people about their experiences if they are different from me in some way, so I can better understand their point of view. I do not mentally stick a big label on them saying "categorised" and "I know better than you, what you are and what you want", and reject their story. I would appreciate the same in return. I realise I'm not always going to get it, more's the pity.

5) That I am amoral. Couldn't be further from the truth. I have some very, very strict rules about how I live my life, and my moral code has absolutely sod all to do with what's in the pants of my past sexual partners.

6) That I am also polyamorous. Now here's the part where I think the word itself - 'bisexuality' - can be a bit misleading. It implies I like both, two. Twosexual. I am much more of a Onesexual person in this sense though: I've only really ever had one relationship at a time. Just as you might like tea and coffee, but not make yourself a mug of each every time you brew up so you can sit there sipping at both; I don't feel the need to have sex with men and women at the same time to be sated, nor can I particularly begin to get my head around how much more organised I would have to be to have more than one relationship on the go. So, being bisexual doesn't mean you can't stick to one relationship. Even for life. Sex is sex, as I said before it's a private and an emotional thing whoever it's with, one's desires can be sated without specific body parts being present, and I think there's something a bit suspect about the assumption I must 'miss' the other gender when I'm in a monogamous relationship. Having said all that I have quite a few polyamorous friends, who do a very good job of all the organisation, are happy, and enjoy themselves. I admire that. I think if you're finding yourself strongly attracted to other people outside the relationship you're in, it's well worth talking about some form of mutually consensual non-monogamy as an option rather than the alternatives of breaking up something that makes you happy for something else you want as well, or being dishonest and having an affair.

This DOES mean:

1) That when I am looking for a partner, I do not restrict my options to any one particular gender.
That is all.



I've had to steel myself to do this, not least because I am quite a private person and talking about something so personal, when not just joshing around, is quite frightening for me somehow. Also because I don't want to become defined by my sexuality - it is just one tiny aspect of who I am, and is about as relevant as my hair colour, my height or what I had for breakfast in making any assessment of my character. I want to express my thanks to Jennie and to Penny Red for giving me the guts to get this out in the open though, because if I spell things out here, hopefully all it can do is help me. I am sick to death of running up against the same tired bullshit and I wanted to spell a couple of things out. I know that many people may think that sexuality is 'nobody else's business' and I feel some of that sentiment too, but it hasn't worked out too well for me using that attitude. It has not been helpful to let people assume that I am straight, until told otherwise - that route causes more problems than it solves, believe me. And more importantly if someone as gutsy as me can hide all of this away and let people make their own assumptions about me based on who they see me with, what hope is there for bisexuality to shake off its near-invisibility? We can't expect the broader "LGBT" lobby to fight for bisexuals that well, because frankly bisexuals come in for as much if not more vehement prejudice and ill-treatment from gay and lesbian activists than they do from the heterosexual majority. We have to do it for ourselves.

ETA:You'll find me personning the DELGA stall at Bournemouth. If you're not already a member, please consider signing up.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Rebuttal.

It's not fair! Nobody ever nominates ME for ANY awards. Can't they see how brilliant I am? I have been in the Golden Dozen five times! And there are a whole heap of other posts I wrote that are far more brilliant than the ones that actually got in the Golden Dozen for those weeks. I am clearly better than anyone else who ever wrote a blog anyway, because I have a degree in creative writing and I have worked for a Lib Dem MP. Nominate me! There is nothing more important in life than blog contests, and all those other people don't even take the Lib Dem Blog of the Year awards or Iain Dale's Popularity Pantomime seriously. One of them even invented their own jokey awards to run alongside them, which is clearly blasphemous. It's not fair if they get nominated for Lib Dem Best New Blog and just have fun on the night instead of glowing with smugness like I would, if I even bothered to go to conference to pick up the award I would inevitably win. I probably won't go though, because I don't like conferences. The people getting on and having fun together there make me feel so alienated, because I'm not the centre of attention.

Everyone thinks I am being bitter and paranoid when I accuse the entire of the rest of the party of nepotism and that's not fair either. It's clearly true that the only people who get anywhere have got there by being related to or having sex with someone more important than them. I've paid my dues to this party and been in it for years. I might not get half the facts before I write blog posts but I'm a school governor and (did I mention?) I worked for an MP, and a council group. People are taking more of a shine to other new bloggers who have only been in the party five minutes. It can't be because they like their blogs better because look at me, I'm perfect, apart from accusing them all of boffing each other which they can't possibly take offense at because they are, aren't they? Yes, all of them!

While I'm here I'd like to point out that I'm really just about sick of people coming to my blog and commenting with a different point of view to mine - sometimes I allow the comments when moderating them, and then go back and delete them (though of course I leave up the ones where they are agreeing with me). Why should I answer constructive criticism? Why can't you all post nice, agreeable, sycophantic comments to my posts? After all, I'm nice to you. I write at least one post a week which basically consists of a list of questions just to get you to talk to me. I've had to resort to posting anonymous comments to my own blog just to get some of the praise I deserve. You will all be so sorry when I grow up. I'm going to be a real writer. Then you'll wish you could say "well, I was her greatest fan back when she just kept a basic blogger site".

You all suck! Love me! You disgust me, the lot of you! Talk to me! You're all having it off with each other and that's the only reason any of you get any recognition! Nominate me for an award!

apologies to anyone who may not have a clue what I am posting about here, normal service will be resumed as soon as a certain other blogger grows up.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

I don't normally mark new additions to my blogroll with a post, but...

... this is already shaping up to be essential reading for anyone who is even vaguely interested in the workings of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Don't bother if you don't actively like a controversial tone and a liberal peppering of swear words.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Free Prescriptions are Making Wales Sick

You've got to love lazy journalism. In this piece about the news today of a 5% rise in prescriptions since they became free, on Wales Online, it is claimed that doctors said the 2007-08 increases were in line with previous year-on-year rises in prescriptions in Wales. I'd like to know who these doctors are, since a specific source isn't named. I'd like to know if they even exist, or whether they were invented by the author to avoid shrieking by Labour and make a feeble attempt to lend some balance to a story which was always going to make the government look bad.

Even if you believe that the three million extra items prescribed in the last year are only a result of an ongoing trend, there is no doubt that free prescriptions have been responsible for negligible benefits at a huge cost. I would feel differently if it had been the case that people were going untreated because they could not afford to pay for their medications before, but that was never so. Just as is still the case in England, prescription charges were means-tested, so people who could not afford to pay the charge still got their medications for free. Is it really worth thirty million pounds per year to save better-off people a few quid? It's misguided socialism at its worst.

This government is full of grand ideas that are obviously going to go horribly wrong: take free parking at hospitals, another Welsh Assembly Government ruling. The idea was to alleviate a problem for low-income people who needed to go to appointments or to visit relatives -- very laudable, if more than a bit dubious because it took away discretionary funding from hospitals. As they could have foreseen if they had just used their heads or heaven forbid listened to the concerns of the opposition, they have taken away that discretionary funding without even achieving their ideal. Over the last few months anecdotal evidence is rife that nowadays hospital parking, which was difficult to find before, has become impossible as NHS car parks fill up with people who pop next door to the retail park when they're done with the doctor.

The rise in prescription claims should come as no surprise. After all, who doesn't take something when it's free? Even for concerned and ethical people, it isn't always easy to stop and think that something is only ever free because other people are paying for it. To be honest, I am surprised the rise is only five per cent. And year on year, the cost of this policy, the cost of Welsh Labour's posturing and crowing about returning to Bevan's view of a truly free National Health Service, will only go up and up. Meanwhile, their precious free National Health Service is looking sicker and sicker: waiting lists to get a place on an NHS dentist's patient list stand at eighteen months or more in many parts of Wales. I wonder how many dentists you could buy for thirty million? And if people taking their own teeth out or relying as I do on over-the-counter temporary filling kits isn't enough to get you going, how about people who are dying of cancer? Many of them are being refused life-saving treatments with a variety of excuses, but most likely for the reason that there simply isn't the money in the budget. It's all gone on Nicorette gum and gym memberships for people who could afford to provide them for themselves, but quite humanly think "why should I pay for it when my GP will give it to me for nothing?".

Sunday, 17 August 2008

I Answer to Nobody

Except Jo.

1. Who has inspired you the most in the Lib Dem Party?

Really tricky to say. This might seem like a weasely preamble to an answer, but I admire different people I know (or pretend to know while looking up to) for different things: I've met diligent councillors and parliamentarians who work for such hours that in some cases their allowances put them well below the minimum wage, and they do it all with a smile and never forget to have time for anyone who speaks to them; I've met dedicated and tenacious party activists who will go for months without any meaningful form of contact from the party and then turn out to deliver leaflets for hours in stacks 1500 high without a word of complaint; in training sessions I've encountered innovative and talented people who have a knack for getting the best out of everyone.

But overall, without question, my Lib Dem hero is Jo Swinson. She's the same age as me, the youngest member of Parliament, and she has suffered some outrageous prejudice to blaze a trail for young women to follow within the party. She handles her Women and Equality portfolio with aplomb and was the founder of the Campaign for Gender Balance, which works within the party to improve the confidence and skills of female members with the aim of increasing the number of women candidates in the pool available to the party. And she didn't do all this from a position of unusual privilege, she wasn't parachuted in to a safe seat because she was a darling of the party and related to someone higher up within. No, she stood for parliament for the first time at the age of just 21, and before her eventual election in 2005 she gave up her job and lived with her parents so she could work like a donkey to bring about a Lib Dem majority of 4061 to her newly-created home constituency. She has a certain attitude which I am certain is a trait that will remain with her for decades yet and is not just a facet of her youth: she has humility and comes across as always interested to learn what a new situation or a previously unknown person will teach her. She's very special and when I grow up I want to be like her.

A special mention must go to the close runner-up, Kirsty Williams. She's got fire.

2. What has been your biggest challenge in politics?

Realising that even as a lowly local party officer in a quiet area of the country, the opposition are watching what you say and it's all too easy to find yourself the centre of an adverse news story if you don't take great care with what you say. And dealing with the fallout when it happened to me just a couple of weeks after I started this blog.

It was a double whammy, really. Thankfully I had the help of the media guy at Cardiff HQ in releasing statements to the press and to the BBC, who featured the story on their Radio Wales phone-in show. That was actually kind of fun in a way, certainly gave me something to talk about! But afterwards I had to reassess all sorts of public aspects of myself. I deleted my personal blog just in case it was found by similarly opportunist oppositionists, as with five years of my personal life and commentary on all sorts of news stories that I couldn't even remember, it was too risky to have it all there. That was hard. And I censor myself in other ways, too. I dress more conservatively and have stopped dyeing my hair bright colours, because no matter how much we liberals would love to have it any other way, the way you look, especially as a woman, plays a big part in how seriously people will take you.


3. What do you know now that you wish you had known before?

Ah, since there is no set definition of 'before' I must present you with a slightly trick answer.

I wish I had known ten years before I joined the Liberal Democrats how easy it was to really get your teeth into campaigning and feeling like a part of things once you are a member. I went out with a lad who joined the resurgent and young and trendy Labour party in 1996 under the special £1 student subs deal. All he got was a membership card. I turned my nose up at that anyway, I never have been a fan of Blairism, but it did colour my perceptions of what joining a party was all about. If I had known how much fun I could have with being a Liberal Democrat, I would have joined like a shot when I was 16 or 17.

As a matter of fact, when I was 17 and studying Government and Politics at sixth form college, I enlisted the help of my tutor in setting up a mock election for all those students who, like me, would be too young to vote in the real thing. I set up the entirely non-affiliated Ashton-Under-Lyne Sixth Form College Liberal Democrats and gleefully ran around for six weeks explaining the real Lib Dem policies of the real campaign to baffled teenagers. There were student volunteers to act as returning officers and poll station staff (sitting by the ballot box in the student centre and taking it in turns to nip outside for a cig). The turnout was immense and if I remember correctly I came second behind a socialist candidate, in part due to having some three whole ballot papers spoiled by people ticking me and writing shall we say complimentary things by my name. Hee hee.

4. Who are you jealous of and why?

Nobody. I truly feel like nobody has better or worse opportunities than I do in this party, and I can get to where anybody else is if I'm prepared to put in the work. It's a good feeling.

The closest I come to envy is when childless friends of mine in the party invite me along to things (like by-election campaigns, holidays to Latvia - cheers Mark!) that I can't possibly justify the time away from home for. I sit at home pouting because I want to be there, but I know my daughter will only be five for one year and if I'm not here she can't just bring me crudely-drawn felt-tip pictures of dinosaurs at a later date when I've got the time for her. If I'm honest it costs me a lot emotionally to go to conference. That's why I didn't make it to Liverpool in the Spring, over and above financial concerns.


5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

With a much stronger membership in the local party and a correspondingly better representation on Pembrokeshire County Council. Still proud to be a Lib Dem. Less frightened of speaking into a microphone. Earning a decent bloody living. Dragging my ten-year-old to enough protests and by-elections and action days that she is put off politics for life.

The Price of Welsh Lib Dem AMs

I'm not generally given to denigrating our AMs, because I'm well aware of the massive workload they have and how much they punch above their weight in the chamber.

However, this report from the BBC earlier this week makes sickening reading. The hysteria over politicians' allowances travelled quickly from London to Wales, as the view that the Assembly is a 'waste of money' is unfortunately prevalent among members of the public across the principality. Indeed, it's a telling fact that before the 2007 elections, ITV carted out that smug moo Sian Lloyd and got her to present a series of programmes entitled What Has The Assembly Ever Done For Us? - this is how much the Assembly as an institution is resented. The Beeb put in a Freedom of Information request to get the detailed expenses breakdown for each AM, and I have to say I'm shocked at the results.

Conservative AMs: Total claimed: £93,730. Average claimed: £7,810
Labour AMs: Total claimed: £121,977. Average claim: £4,691
Lib Dems AMs: Total claimed: £55,321. Average claim: £9,220
Plaid Cymru AMs: Total claim: £129,936. Average claim: £8,662
Source: Assembly Commission figures for 2007-2008

Mike German was even named as one of the highest claimants, despite the fact he lives only seventeen miles from the Senedd. For heaven's sake, Mike! How many people in the region you represent do you suppose are commuting into Cardiff and claiming at most a measly mileage allowance and more often nothing at all from their employers for doing so? You aren't doing yourself or the rest of us campaigning for the party in Wales ANY favours electorally by feathering your nest this way. We are meant to be the champions of fairness, and this is patently unfair. We're meant to be the party most in favour of devolution, but this will deepen the negative feelings toward another expensive level of government. We, the party activists, are meant to be able to go out and tell people on the doorstep in 2011 (and before) that our AMs will be the ones sticking up best for the good taxpayers of Wales, and YOU ARE RIPPING THEM OFF!

I have to say I've agonised and bitten my nails before posting this, and waited for some kind of mitigation or response to come from our people for a few days, but it won't wait any longer. There hasn't even been anything from Peter Black since his swipe at the Tories when they published their (almost as ludicrous) expenses claims in full a week before the report came out - though he as ever is the most open of our AMs and had already published a defence of his use of the allowance three weeks ago. I'm angry, and I want answers - why are our AMs claiming so much more public money than those from other parties?

edited at 17:26pm to include information submitted in the comments

The lines are getting blurred terribly, here.

I have this blog, the public one, the one you're reading right now (hello mum!). And I have another one, in which I write stuff that is too personal/boring/risky to broadcast quite so publicly. Sex definitely falls into at least one of those categories. I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to decide which.

However, I am presented with a quandary by this little boost to my ego:


Because, you know, if people might possibly be voting for me as the female blogger they would most like to do sticky body parts stuff with in a very prestigious and entirely serious blog awards, there are a couple of things I would like to point out first. Which kind of seems like talking about sex. On this blog here. (Mum, if you're still reading could you just click away to somewhere else, this is all going to be decidedly too much information for you.)

You see, the thing is, you could vote for me, but I just feel it's fair to let you know first:

1) You may want to have sexual intercourse with me on the basis of reading my inane witterings, but I will very probably not want to have it with you in return. Sorry. It's nothing personal, just that I've always worked on a highly whimsical crush-matrix based in part on the way people smell and a certain capacity to be extremely expressive and comical with facial expressions.

2) Even if you did want to have sex with me and I wanted to have sex with you right back, it's got to be at least 5000/1 against that ever actually taking place. Yeaaaahhhh, a boring old monogamist is pretty much what I am. How very 20th century of me, I know.

3) Even if you wanted to have sex with me, I wanted to have sex with you, and some bizarre sequence of events led to this happening, in real life, you would be SORELY disappointed. Honestly, you would. I am possibly the world's most selfish and lazy lover.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Stream of consciousness wittering by overexcited conference bunny who has her final agenda .pdfs

Well, that's going to be a limited amount of fun... just checked out the floorplan for the exhibition at Bournemouth. DELGA (the LGBT concerned association within the party, for which I have volunteered my stall-manning services) is sandwiched between the Citizen's Advice Bureau and the Federation of Small Businesses, facing the wall, at just about the furthest point possible from the auditorium. Mind, it is also close enough to the Campaign for Gender Balance that I will have opportunities to fangirl at Jo Swinson if she makes an appearance there. One of my DELGA-mates has just pointed out - "I note we're not next to Lib Dem Christian Forum like we normally are". I dunno, I noticed that the Lib Dem Friends of Palestine aren't right next to the Lib Dem Friends of Israel either. Was someone with a less wicked sense of humour allocating stalls this year, then?

In happier news about conference:

-- I have a lift to and from Swansea courtesy of the fabulous Peter Black who made great company when he drove me to and from Llandudno, so I'm looking forward to that.

-- I am sharing a reasonably priced twin room with a friend from Manchester who has known me for about ten years, so the woes of my Brighton experience, in a cramped crash above a noisy club with five (very nice) strangers, is not to be repeated. I'm even sure to get breakfast that is significantly more nourishing than a Mars bar and a can of Red Bull!

-- The very old picture of my mate Ian Walton on p2 of the agenda is making me giggle. And the GLA bit on the inside front cover is giving me geeky favourite-font glee. Gill sans is awesome.

-- I love the 'Giving Citizens a Voice in Parliament' motion so much I could bounce on my chair. James Graham, I bow to thee for your association with this. Real petitions to parliament instead of ones that produce no further discussion than a glib response from Downing Street! A guarantee of a second reading for the favourite bills of the people, decided by petition! A people's veto where we the public can overturn really dreadful legislation if we protest in great enough numbers! The perennial please-give-us-STV slipped in there sneakily! It's a bloody masterpiece, is what it is.

-- Tim Farron (who represents where I holidayed as a teenager and is an utter sweetie besides) is hosting the rally, and there are free drinks to boot!

-- Brian Paddick's motion on crime policy. How could anyone accuse the Lib Dems of being rubbish on crime when we have such an aptly experienced and smart guy on top of it?

-- Q&A with Uncle Vince!

-- I'm really not sure what to do with my Tuesday lunchtime because I could go and see a league table of all 63 of our MPs ranked from least to most liberal at one fringe event, or a could go and bask in the warm glow of Uncle Vince talking sense about the economy. This is not the only time when I'd like to be in two places at once.

-- CGB are running a training event on building a development seat from scratch, for women only. I do hope I won't be the only person there! They're also running one in the same room, directly afterwards, on Making A Speech At Conference, with Jo Swinson in charge. That finishes an hour or two before the debate begins on that brilliant policy motion I was just squealing about a few points back. Hmmmm. I might well actually dare myself to speak. At federal conference. Apologies in advance if I make it up there and throw up on the podium from nerves à la Stan-from-South-Park.

-- I notice Winning In The Last Week training has been renamed Winning in The Last 72 Hours. Blimey. They'll have us moving quite literally at the double!


Basically.....


I'm VERY excited! Eeeeeeee!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Photography in Public Places.

Bit of a dry topic, but it's one that comes up a fair bit when you have a child.

At my daughter's school, there is, as far as I know, no draconian policy banning photographs at school plays and sports days. On these occasions there are usually many camera-toting parents and relatives present. In fact, the staff regularly take photographs of the children doing the cool things that the under-tens get to do all day while the rest of us are out working, and sometimes offer copies of them to parents. This makes me and my daughter the lucky ones, because as I have found out from discussions with other parents, most schools these days have a blanket ban on all cameras within school property.

And it doesn't stop there. I've heard of various friends over the last few years being stopped and questioned by police or other public officials (wardens at events, PCSOs etc) just because they were carrying a camera. We're all so paranoid because of this climate of suspicion: one of my friends once took pictures of people celebrating the Chinese New Year and put them online, only to be quizzed by his friends as to the wisdom of doing so - what if the parents of the children who are featured in the pictures find them and ascribe sinister motives to him?

I believe the justification is some combination of fear of paedophiles (oh please! my daughter doesn't go out looking sexualised, I like it when strangers comment on how sweet she is, and it saddens me that due to media hysteria parents have become so hyperprotective) and fear of terrorists. Call me crazy, but if I was a terrorist or some other criminal kook I wouldn't be wandering about in full view with a shiny camera, I'd be using some kind of surreptitious filming.

Now, I was sure I remembered something about British law stating that you do not own your own image, in contrast to the USA where one regularly sees faces blanked out of photographs and video shot in public, because their permission hasn't been sought. Actually I must make a geeky admission: I know this because there's a scene in one of the Star Trek movies where Chekhov is asking passers-by the way to a place and I was told the producers had to track down every one of those impromptu 'extras' and ask them for their permission to be used in the final cut. Anyway...

I was getting a little concerned about this, because I have found myself censoring where I do and don't take photos, angling my camera away from other people's children despite the fact that all I am is a mum who wants a record for her daughter's memories. I keep a moblog for occasional things I see while I have my phone to hand. I publish albums on Facebook of snaps I have taken at Alex's birthday celebrations or similar. And I don't want to think I'm breaking the law by doing these innocent things. To think of the bigger picture - I don't want this country to become one where we are so cowed and restricted in our everyday activities. Our civil freedom is going backwards!

I found after a little searching that the reliable El Reg has covered the topic admirably, and quite recently too. I was right! We *are* allowed to take photographs of innocent things happening in public places! Now to print off that page and carry it with me at all times to back me up, just in case someone decides to try to pressure me into giving up my humble point-and-click box. I suggest any of my friends who are more serious photographers take note of the pointers there, too, and continue to assert their rights, rather than unwittingly lose them by not standing up to the people who assume they don't exist.

Happy snapping, everyone!

Friday, 8 August 2008

That Explains the Déjà Vu!

I knew I'd heard that slogan somewhere before... How strange that a bank seemingly has the same message to get across as Nick Clegg!

Well, I wouldn't go THAT far!

Hello to the person who came to my blog while searching for "Lembit's best friend". Not me, sorry! You could try asking around in the Grapes pub in Newport, allegedly.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

I Love Lembit

I do, he's been great to me. And I warn you now though I hope I don't have to, ANY comments along the lines of "yeah it's just because you're a young woman", either online or in person, will take you down like a lead weight in my estimation.

I can be a very stubborn and forthright girl. Some might even say arrogant and belligerent. I find it gets me taken seriously in spite of my age and gender, so I cultivate it. My deep-thinking introverted caring-sharing half is, when occasion demands it, locked in a special box until a nasty situation is dealt with. I find myself in just such a nasty situation about now.

Last week I was very pleased to be included in the Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen. I was much LESS pleased to find I was sharing places on a list of seven most popular posts, by click-through from the Lib Dem blog aggregator, with no less than THREE posts about Lembit, and none of them particularly positive. In at number one we had a cheap dig from Martin Land. At number two, a rather more sober but still miserable post from Nich Starling, who as I recall hasn't been the only person over the last few months to moan publicly about the fact that media coverage of Lembit's personal life detracts from the party's real messages. And at number three, ironically enough it was a post from Femme de Resistance pointing readers to the latest News of the World story about the man's lovelife. The really sad thing is, this rash of popularly read Lembit blog posts aren't even all related to one specific event -- the buzz about him is constant, ever since I joined the party I've heard enough of it to last me a lifetime in any given month.

Now, call me odd if you like, but it makes me deeply uncomfortable to see someone I'm meant to be on the same side as held up as a subject for a cheap joke, a bitter moan or a point and stare session. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I don't like to see anyone receiving that kind of treatment. I'd go even further: I am exactly the sort of girl who will hear gossip and rumour about a person and rather than take it on board, will go and make a point of scratching the slate clean in her head and making her own decision about the person. I've met some of my best friends that way. I've also come to love Lembit in the handful of occasions I've spoken to him.

It might help you out, if you're wondering why I'd have occasion to get to know him at all if I tell you exactly how and when these meetings occurred. Give you some background. And I hope it will give you a different view of him if you see him through my eyes.

The first time I was in the same place as him was at the very fraught and emotionally charged Special Conference held by the Welsh Liberal Democrats last year (was it only that long ago?) to debate whether or not to go into a rainbow coalition against Labour in the Assembly. That's the thing about being in the Welsh party specifically - it's quite a tight "family" and you'll get to see Lembit, if you're a particular fan, more often than you would elsewhere because of his role in the regional party. I was in fact sitting behind him and a handful of our AMs, keeping my head down as I was very new to the whole situation and more than a little intimidated by the roomful of huge characters I've since come to regard as friends. The only time I spoke inside that room was to dress down the stranger sitting next to me (who if I remember correctly was this gentleman who I must be quick to say has been much more pleasant on every occasion since that I've seen him) whose ire got out of control and led to him leaning forward and verbally attacking Eleanor Burnham to the point where she looked quite shaken... I noticed some of the 'grandees' on the seats in front of me looked round but hardly imagined that they would register who I was or what was happening - there was a lot going on in that room and well, I *thought* I was being fairly subtle. As a brick, as it turned out.

Obviously the circumstances were not the usual ones under which large groups of Lib Dems get together in a hotel, and I didn't have time for chit-chat with anyone as it was straight home to Pembrokeshire afterwards. However, a few months later I found myself quite unexpectedly at the big party conference in Brighton. Federal conference all on my own was a huge experience and worthy of a big flashback blog post all of its own, but the bit I want to concentrate on is the part where I walked into the conference hotel on the second night. Casting my eyes nervously over the room for one of the half dozen people I knew and finding none, buzzing faintly with tiredness and the exhilaration of being at large in a seaside town full of Liberal Democrats, I spied someone beckoning me over and calling to me. Lembit was busy and surrounded by people, but he'd recognised me and wanted to know how I was getting on, expressed that he was pleased to see me there at conference. We had a nice chat. I told him about the fact that I'm terrified of public speaking, and he grinned a big warm grin and told me he knew just how to cure me of that and made me promise to come to his training session on the Tuesday.

I never made it to that training session. It's a long story but suffice it to say here, and let it serve as a warning to any first-time conference goers who may be reading, that conference is incredibly exhausting, and if you try to do everything that looks like you need to join in with, you WILL burn yourself out by the last day and be good for not much. Unless of course you're a better person than me, and my ego doubts that highly. Lembit caught me (I think in the auditorium) later on and said it was fine, and he didn't need any excuses, and not to worry about it.

I don't do starstruck. I'll talk to anyone as I would any other human being. That said, I *do* do respect for boundaries, and I quite understand that the party's parliamentarians and high profile figures may not be able to be as warm with every lowly member as they would like to be, because they are so pressured, so I won't go out of my way to talk to them unless I have something specific I want to talk to them about and don't have someone less busy to talk to about it instead. So it's nice, and really noted, when they make the time to come and find me to chat to me. It doesn't necessarily mean I'm special - it means the person has a way of making everyone feel special. Some of our AMs are really good at that. Lembit is good at it too. Even at last year's Welsh autumn conference, where I only managed to attend for a few hours, and he was insanely busy and surrounded by cameras on account of being accompanied by Gabriela, he made sure he picked me out for a mouthed greeting and friendly eye contact.

Then there was Llandudno this spring. I finally made it to the public speaking training, just nearly six months late! I understand this is a professional calling for Lembit, encouraging and teaching people to be better at presenting themselves and their ideas. In fact I understand he can command hefty fees for doing it professionally should he wish to. But for anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of going to his training, he is really special at it. He makes you laugh, inspires you, and once again, makes you feel special. He not only gave me that bit more confidence I desperately need to speak into a microphone, he found me later in the day to give me specific constructive comments after I had summoned the courage to speak, and we chatted about friends of mine who had been close to his brother - he told me to set up an SAO (for the uninitiated that's an organisation within the party) called Lib Dem Friends of Goths and promised to join when I do it.

Here's the thing: Lembit is really human. And from the limited amount I know, he's also quite vulnerable as humans go. He's been through a lot over the last few years, and never once shirked his responsibilities as a result. He's also really bloody good at his job - I defy anyone not to pay attention when he's speaking, or to pick flaws in the way he handles his portfolios. We can have the tired debate about whether he asks for the negative media coverage when he courts the positive with regard to his private life. We can disagree about whether it is better to have a member of the party making the news in unusual places, connecting with people who are normally switched off by politicians, or whether we would rather have a dry policy-mad suit on our front benches in his place (I wouldn't). But you all know it's indefensible to snipe and gossip about your friends, I hope. And I hope you consider members of the party to be your friends. I do. So please, please, stop with the Lembit bashing, the News of the World devouring, and the moaning. Consider his feelings, or if you can't do that, consider mine and those of anyone else who is personally fond of him.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

I'm stuck. Choose what YOU want me to post.

I've not posted for a few days. I wouldn't be so self-aggrandising as to say I have writers' block, because by anybody's standards, I'm not a writer so much as someone who regularly gets things off her chest through a keyboard and onto a screen. However, I will say I'm stuck. It's not so much a case of having nothing to write about as having FAR TOO MUCH and not nearly enough time.

I have several ideas which have been bouncing around in my head for some time, and they all deserve a good bit of thinking about and phrasing. No doubt they will all come out eventually but I'd really appreciate it if someone could help me ease the current bottleneck by saying which of the following top 3 they would like to see first (the most votes by 7pm will follow later in the evening):

1. I Love Lembit - an antidote to the ubiquitous bitching about one of my favourite public figures.

2. Red Flags - a reaction to the news item I caught yesterday about the 'warning signs' of potentially abusive partners.

3. Bitch and Dogsbody - a very careful review of my current role within my own local party.