Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Arsenal 2 - 2 Barcelona

Walcott scores ... and a broken leg for Fabregas?

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Time is running out for Cameron

The polls should be a continuing worry to David Cameron, says Norman Tebbit in his Telegraph blog today. Although the election is far from decided, there is no sign of the 10 per cent plus that he needs to gain a working majority. The commentators are now talking about a repeat of 1992, when John Major’s government snatched an unlikely victory from Neil Kinnock.

That comparison is entirely false. The Major government had a credible record in its first two years and the benefit of the Thatcherite legacy of the previous eleven. There was no sense of finacial crisis. On the other hand Neil Kinnock was seen as a vacuous, loud-mouthed nobody, even by many Labour supporters. Not even Cameron’s detractors would put him in the same category as the geat windbag. As for Brown, who would rate his record above that of Major’s?

Read the full Telegraph article here.

The choice is this

The much anticipated Chancellors Debate and the announcement that Ricky Martin is gay - one of these events was interesting ...

... even if we did know all along.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Labour plans to give football back to the fans

The government is to unveil radical proposals that would give football fans first option to buy their clubs when they were put up for sale and require clubs to hand over a stake of up to 25% to supporters' groups.

The ideas, due to be included in the Labour manifesto with a promise of action in the first year of a new government, are designed to give fans a far greater say in how their football clubs are run and overhaul the way the game is governed. It is believed that No 10, which has been working secretly on the plans for weeks, has resolved to deliver concrete proposals to tackle growing public disquiet at the level of debt carried by some clubs, the ownership model of others and the dysfunctional structure of the Football Association.

The plans include:
• Requiring clubs to hand a stake of up to 25% to fans in recognition of their links with their local community.
• Implementing a change-of-control clause that would allow fans a window to put together a takeover of their club if it was up for sale or went into administration.
• Giving the football authorities a deadline to reform the FA and remove "vested interests" from the board, and streamline decision making.
• Introducing a unified system of governance that co-ordinates issues such as club ownership and youth development.
• Allowing professional leagues and the FA additional oversight of club takeovers.

Read the full Guardian article here.


Sunday, 28 March 2010

Dr Martens at 50: The Making of an Icon

From policemen to punks and favourable flights of fancy to unmistakable fashion faux pas, Doc Martens have experienced various transitions across the decades. Northampton Museum and Art Gallery celebrates the 50th anniversary of the iconic footwear with an exhibition displaying material from the museum's own collection as well as artefacts from Dr Martens' own archive. 

Dr Martens at 50: The Making of an Icon tells the story of the boots from their first hop off the production line in East Northamptonshire, to their current cult status among youth culture. Klaus Martëns, a German doctor during World War II, developed the shoe after discovering his army boots gave no support to an ankle injury caused after a skiing accident in Bavaria. Soft leather and air-padded soles were the answers to his ailments, and in 1947 he convinced an old university friend, Dr Herbert Funck, to venture into business with him, selling the new design.

Admission free. Lunchtime talk in the Gallery at 1pm, April 13. Call 01604 838 111 for more details.

In addition, to celebrate the 50th anniversary, Dr. Martens have asked ten bands/musicians to record their version of cult classics that represent the spirit of over the past five decades. The first three will be released on 1st April 2010:
  • Noisettes - Ever Fallen In Love With Someone?  (Buzzcocks)
  • Dam-Funk - The Things Dreams are Made of  (Human League)
  • The Duke Spirit - If The Kids are United  (Sham 69)
Further information at

George Osborne, you are the weakest link!

Labour vowed last night to target the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, as the strategic "weak link" in the Conservatives' bid for power. Party sources told the Observer that a decision had been taken to focus on Osborne as the prime target throughout the campaign, because the future stewardship of the economy is the issue that most concerns voters.

They said there was "strong evidence" from their own focus groups that people regard Osborne as "shrill, immature and lightweight", and that the Tories are already being harmed in the polls because of doubts about their economic policies.

Read the full Observer article here.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Labour unveils key election pledges

Gordon Brown today unveils Labour's key election pledges, promising that a re-elected Labour government, which would retain Alistair Darling as chancellor, would help create a million skilled jobs, a state-funded citizens' right to take antisocial offenders to court, and "the largest set of constitutional reforms this country has ever seen".

Speaking just 11 days before he is expected to go to Buckingham Palace to call the election, Brown says he will offer the nation "more fairness, more responsibility from vested interests, a greater sense that people have more control over their lives. That is basically a New Labour agenda."

Insisting that Labour can still win the election without the need of Liberal Democrat support, he argues: "This is a progressive moment," claiming "there is no rebellion against collectivism in the country" akin to the late 70s.

Gordon Brown: "I am impatient … as charged"

In an interview for today's Guardian, Gordon Bown says the Conservatives are stumbling. "The one thing we have learned from the start of the year is that this policy-a-day blitz from the Conservative party has ended up with us having the Conservatives literally publish their manifesto in separate sections and no new policy has resulted.

"Show me a soldier who has made no mistakes and I will show you a soldier who has won no battles."

"What is this big idea of the Conservative party? It seems to be inheritance tax cuts, it seems to be anti-European and it seems to reject the big reforms we need in economic policy, it seems to be opposing what we did over the recession. I have yet to see this case for change based on new ideas."

Read the full Guardian article here.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The Tories are paying the price for Osborne’s mercurial political instincts

The Spectator is unhappy at Osborne's performance recently: "I’m at a loss," writes David Blackburn. "How can a government that will raise the national debt to £1.4 trillion be trusted to run the economy? The Daily Politics/Com Res poll shows that Labour is more trusted on the economy than the Tories; it indicts George Osborne’s political performance."

Shadow puppet, George Osborne 

"As Fraser noted, Osborne blew an unprecedented opportunity on yesterday's Today programme. The danger inherent in a £1.4 trillion national debt is not a difficult argument to make. Tax hikes, inflation and soaring interest rates will be the progeny of Brown’s continued borrowing binge. Yet Osborne confined his attack to valid but esoteric points about credit ratings and a list of acronyms. Ken Clarke would not have made such an elementary political mistake. This has nothing to do with Osborne’s youth or alleged naïveté – Osborne’s broad case about the nation’s finances would be unanswerable if he stated it clearly. When he was clear, the Tories led by 18 points."

"Osborne deserves credit for David Cameron’s leadership election, for averting the Election That Never Was, for re-branding the Tory party and his response to the 2008 pre-budget report. Against those are the Corfu scandal, which displayed staggering bad judgement, and his currently opaque economic message, which enables Brown to choose his ground. Osborne’s political instincts are mercurial. Yet he is the Tories' campaign manager, whilst Labour’s is Mandelson."

Tories call in Saatchi

David Cameron has turned to Lord Saatchi, one of the brains behind Margaret Thatcher's 1979 election win, to bolster the Tory campaign amid growing fears that victory is slipping from their hands.

It is understood that Saatchi, the Conservative chairman during the last election, is planning to ram home the Tories' central line of attack with a dramatic flourish. A poster showing 365 pictures of Gordon Brown will carry a strapline with words which are expected to ask: "Could you really bear another year of this?"

Read the full Guardian article here.

I certainly got it wrong, says Geoff Hoon

Geoff Hoon today admitted he had been wrong to meet what he believed to be a lobbying firm and apologised "unreservedly" for the damage he has caused.

"I certainly got it wrong," he said. "I have paid a considerable price [Nato's dropped him] since then for the mistake I made in agreeing to what I thought was a private conversation. I obviously didn't know that private conversation was being filmed and recorded for broadcast, and I shouldn't have said some of the things that I did say. I recognise that I was guilty of ... [acting like a right cunt] 'showing off' I think is the best expression that I could use. I was trying to impress, I was trying to demonstrate my [sexual prowess] knowledge and experience, background in a particular sector."

Read the full Guardian article here.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Netherlands' largest cannabis-selling coffee shop fined 10m euros

Owner Meddie Willemsen, who was tried along with 15 staff of the Checkpoint coffee shop in Terneuzen, was also sentenced to a 16-week prison term. He was convicted for keeping more than the maximum tolerated amount of 500g (18oz) of drugs at the cafe.

Checkpoint served up to 3,000 people a day before being closed last year. On a couple of occasions, police found 200kg (440lb) of cannabis when they raided the coffee house. Willemsen was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison, but was released as he had already spent the time in jail ahead of the trial. He and his staff were convicted of breaking drugs laws, exporting drugs and membership of a criminal organisation.
Dutch tolerance of cannabis
So-called because the use, possession or sale of cannabis has never been legalised in the Netherlands. Possession and production for personal use are considered misdemeanours. However, possession of cannabis for personal use is not prosecuted up to five grammes or five cannabis plants. Coffee shops are allowed to stock a maximum of 500 grammes of cannabis. Large-scale production, export or import of cannabis is illegal, and should always be prosecuted. In other words: coffee shop owners can legally sell cannabis but they cannot legally buy it.

Pope accused of failing to act on sex abuse case

Pope Benedict XVI failed to act over complaints during the 1990s about a priest in the US who is thought to have abused some 200 deaf boys, victims say. As head of the Vatican office dealing with sex abuses, the then Cardinal Ratzinger allegedly did not respond to letters from an archbishop on the case.

Pick meeeeee

A Church trial of the priest was halted after he wrote to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger pleading ill health. The Vatican newspaper said the claims were an "ignoble" smear attempt.

Read the full BBC News article here.

Tories hit by poll blow as IFS gives qualified backing to Darling's Budget

The Tories struggled to land a killer blow against Alistair Darling's pre-election Budget today as two opinion polls suggested that Labour could yet scrape a fourth term in power.

He also won qualified praise from the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies, which congratulated Mr Darling in its post-Budget analysis for having spurned pre-election giveaways – although it questioned some of his claims on future government cost savings and warned that future spending cuts would have to be drastic.

Read the full Times article here.

Alexander Lebedev buys The Independent for £1

The Russian oligarch bought the loss-making paper from Irish company Independent News & Media (INM) for £1, the cost of one daily edition of the newspaper. As part of the deal, INM agreed to pay Mr Lebedev's Independent Print Limited (IPL) £9.25m over the next 10 months to cover "all future trading liabilities and obligations".

Speaking to the AFP news agency in Moscow shortly before the deal was announced, Mr Lebedev said, "I do not treat newspapers as business. I treat them as my responsibility. I think newspapers are the only instrument which, through investigative reporting, can ferret out everything about international corruption." As a result of the sale, which is expected to be completed in May, INM UK head Ivan Fallon has retired from the group.

The National Union of Journalists said it had "no concerns about [Mr Lebedev's] editorial influence. "We would like to think Mr Lebedev has an imaginative plan with good editorial investment in journalism, and a good distribution plan to maintain and increase the circulation of the paper. We would also like to see all the speculation about editorship resolved quickly.

Budget 2010: keep calm and carry on

Seeking to create political dividing lines with the Conservatives by making a case for intervention, the Chancellor provided only a small lift to a struggling economy over the coming year through a phased increase in fuel duties and a two-year stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers paid for by a 5% "mansion tax" on property sales of more than £1m.

  • Deficit not as big as predicted
  • First time buyers stamp duty cut
  • Planned petrol duty rise staggered
  • 20,000 university places pledged
  • Force state banks to lend more
  • Crackdown on tax evasion
  • Tax hike on strong cider
  • Growth package to boost jobs
  • Bank accounts for all citizens
  • Green investment fund
Meanwhile in a YouGov poll for the Sun published last night the Conservative lead over Labour had fallen to two points from four earlier in the week, with the Tories at 36%, Labour at 34% and the Liberal Democrats at 17%.

Read the full Guardian article here.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Some like it hot

Eleven photos, previously unseen, are about to go on sale at an auction of showbiz memorabilia in Las Vegas.  The pictures come from a set of slides taken on location in Florida, during the filming of 'Some Like it Hot' in July 1962.

Marilyn Monroe was captured in a photo session for Life magazine by photographer Allan Grant. The sale is being organised at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on 25th June by American specialist Julien's Auctions.

Newspaper of the Year

The Daily Telegraph has picked up a string of honours including newspaper of the year at the British Press Awards after its stories on MPs' expenses.

Group editor Will Lewis was journalist of the year, Robert Winnett was top political journalist and the paper won best scoop and best special supplement. Expenses row campaigner Heather Brooke won a special award and reporter of the year went to the Guardian's Paul Lewis.

Other winners included former England cricket captain Mike Atherton, who took sports journalist of the year for his work in the Times, and the Daily Mail's political sketch writer Quentin Letts, who was named critic of the year for his theatre reviews, which are carried in the same newspaper.

Deutsche Bank, BNP and Moore Capital staff in FSA raid

Their employees are among six arrested under suspicion of taking part in a long-running insider-dealing scheme. The investigation is a joint venture between the FSA - the City's watchdog - and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

SOCA punch

The investigation is a joint venture between the FSA - the City's watchdog - and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The operation, which began in 2007, is the FSA's biggest operation against insider dealing. It is also the first run between the two agencies. Investigators raided 16 addresses in London, the South East and Oxfordshire, seizing documents and computers. The FSA is probing private dealings by the traders, rather than trades for the firm. The firms say they are co-operating with the investigation.

Read the full BBC News article here.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

I remember ...

Labour's plan to introduce fixed-term Parliament in exchange for Lib Dem support

The plan was revealed in an interview with The Independent by Peter Hain, the Welsh Secretary, who said: "Labour being prepared to deliver fixed-term parliaments as part of a negotiation to sustain a government in power is attractive, whether we have a majority or are just short of a majority."

Peter Hain reflects on life after 'Sale of the Century"

"What the country needs is some certainty in the aftermath of the banking crisis to secure recovery. A fixed term would also give the markets the stability and certainty they crave," he said.

Read the full Independent article here.

Three former cabinet ministers suspended from Labour party over lobbying allegations

Three former cabinet ministers, Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon [pictured below], were suspended from the Parliamentary Labour party last night in an unprecedented crack down on sleaze.

"The Labour Party expects the highest standards of its representatives and believes that they have a duty to be transparent and accountable servants to their constituents at all times."

The move was implemented by the party's chief whip, Nick Brown, and fuelled by backbench revulsion at claims that the trio had been using their ministerial experience to seek profitable lobbying consultancies. The decision was taken by Number 10 after party officials watched a Channel 4 programme which secretly recorded the former ministers expressing a desire to work for a consultancy firm at a fee of up to £5,000 a day. Byers, the former cabinet minister, described himself as a "cab for hire". Later, a Labour party spokesman said that Margaret Moran, the MP for Luton South, had also been suspended after featuring in the Dispatches programme.

Read the full Guardian article here.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Tory 'Cash Gordon' web campaign backfires

The Conservatives' official blog yesterday revealed the Cash Gordon campaign attacking the Prime Minister's links to the Unite union and encouraging supporters to earn 'action points' by reading, donating or tweeting about the campaign.

But if this all seems a little too slick - it is probably because the site is based on an off-the-shelf template developed by a US anti-healthcare lobbyist.

And ... has been taken down. It now redirects back to But only after mischief-makers discovered not only that Tweets were unmoderated but the page was accepting code that let the page be hacked and redirected. Remarkably, the site stayed up long enough for the situation to escalate from uncomplementary tweets and very naughty language to an amusing picture of 'Dave' Cameron and eventually the inevitable Rickroll/porn hack. As well as a redirect to the Labour Party site.

Bet you won't see an unmoderated hashtag on for a while.

Read the full Guardian article here

Harry Carpenter dies in his sleep, aged 84

Carpenter was the BBC's voice of boxing for almost half a century after joining the corporation in 1949, when he first began commentating on the sport.

Known for his double act with British boxing great Frank Bruno, Carpenter also presented Sportsnight, Grandstand and Sports Personality of the Year. He retired in 1994 and died in his sleep at King's College Hospital in London in the early hours of Saturday.

Read the full BBC News article here

House of Representatives passes key healthcare reform

The US House of Representatives has narrowly voted to pass a landmark healthcare reform bill at the heart of President Barack Obama's agenda. The bill was passed by 219 votes to 212, with no Republican backing, after hours of fierce argument and debate.

The bill extends coverage to 32 million more Americans, and marks the biggest change to the US healthcare system in decades. "We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things," Mr Obama said in remarks after the vote. "This legislation will not fix everything that ails our healthcare system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction," he said. Mr Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law shortly.

Read the full BBC article here along with a video of Obama's speech folllowing passage of the bill.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

mea culpa, mea culpa, mea minima culpa

Treasury calls in Vince Cable

Vince Cable has held unprecedented and detailed talks with the top official at the Treasury about the Liberal Democrats' economic policies – and declared himself willing to serve as chancellor after the next election.

As Whitehall gears up for a possible hung parliament, Cable told the Observer that he had been questioned by Nicholas Macpherson, the Treasury's permanent secretary, about what the Lib Dems' demands would be in a coalition with Labour or the Tories. Cable was unaware of such meetings having taken place with Lib Dem shadow chancellors before previous general elections. The talks were a sign that the Treasury was "taking seriously" the prospect of his party playing a leading role in economic policy in what could be the first hung parliament since 1974.

"He wanted to know what we attached priority to. He wanted to know what we felt strongly about," Cable said, adding that his ideas on tax and spending were well received. He didn't say to me: 'Yes, minister, but you can't do that'." Cable, whose credibility has grown throughout the economic crisis, made clear that, if he was to be offered the chancellorship in a hung parliament, he would jump at the chance. He did not want to be "the most unpopular person in Britain" as public spending is slashed, he said, but added: "I wouldn't be in this business if I wasn't willing to take the responsibility if it was to come my way."

Cable made clear he would have serious reservations about working with either Labour or the Conservatives. "I'm worried about both," he said. "If either of them came back, Gordon, given his history, will be in denial about difficult decisions, and the Tories are in danger of doing foolish, precipitate things that could make the situation a lot worse." Cable was noticeably more critical of the Conservatives' response to the financial crisis, saying that they should score "nul points" for failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation. "They haven't done anything to attract praise, because they completely and totally misunderstood the problems."
Read the full Observer article here

Oor Wullie

For rough and ready Wullie is just the lad for me,
He minds me o' the happy times I spent when I was wee.

When Wullie starts the day afresh, he's fu' o' wild ideas,
The hobbed-nail boots and hair spiked oot, he dons his dungarees.
Then from his pail he saunters tae view the world anew,
Tae meet Fat Bob and Soutar Tam and maybe Wee Eck too.

The Charge of the Trolley Brigade

British Airways is no longer the "world's favourite" carrier it once was. BA's combative boss, Willie Walsh, himself a union poacher turned tough gamekeeper at Aer Lingus, knows that better than most. That is why he is determined to cut staff costs in pursuit of a tie-up with Iberia. So BA's strategy of enforced merger from a position of weakness is one thing it has in common with Unite.

But unless its well-prepared confrontation comes unstuck – have all 1,000 would-be strikebreakers been properly trained, let alone vetted? – BA's hand is much stronger than Unite's. Is this Walsh's Murdoch-at-Wapping moment? If so, cabin crew are engaged in a modern Charge of the Trolley Brigade at 30,000 feet, workers who know that changes in the form of lower pay and worse conditions are coming.

If they were steelworkers in post-industrial, consumerist Britain, most people might simply shrug. But with an election approaching, the primary impact is political. "This a getting serious for Labour," insiders concede. BA is promising to deliver most of its passengers. But footage of Easter chaos at Heathrow is both cheaper and politically more effective than Cameron's "we can't go on like this" posters. After yesterday's news that signal staff belonging to the militant RMT transport union have joined maintenance staff in voting for strike action, possibly over Easter too, ministers must have hung their heads in despair.

White-collar staff in the TSSA union have also voted to help disrupt the railways, although they lack a pantomine villain like the RMT's shaven-headed leader, Bob Crow. Famous enough to be booed on Have I Got News For You, he relishes confrontation. It is easy to imagine Crow endorsing what is said to have been Willie Walsh's motto at the pilots' union: "A reasonable negotiator never gets anywhere." The irony is not lost on old Labour hands. State-owned air and rail industries have been privatised and the government's role marginalised. The unions have been weakened and it is unfettered capital that now throws its weight around.

Yet when it suits an anti-union Conservative party and de-unionised newspapers to demonise enfeebled Unite and Bob Crow they do not hesitate. The way things are looking this weekend it might even work too, although it remains a risk.
Michael White, the Guardian

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The All New Tory Freakshow

The Guardian today publishes an audio slideshow of David Cameron's new generation of Conservative candidates; from a black farmer to a chick-lit writer, they describe their motivations and ambitions alongside portraits by Nadav Kander.  Warning: it ain't pretty!

Watch Freakshow here

Friday, 19 March 2010

Ken and Pam get married

Ken Andrew, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, and Pamela [?] married on 19th September and they would like to share some of the wonderful moments with everyone in the constituency.  How kind.

The theme of the reception was of a garden with lots of flowers. People came from many parts of the world and from around the UK to be at the wedding. Thrilling.

'Gay Dutch soldiers caused Srebrenica massacre'

A retired US general's claim that gay Dutch soldiers were partly to blame for allowing the Srebrenica massacre has sparked outrage in the Netherlands.

John Sheehan, a former Nato commander who retired from the military in 1997, told a Senate armed services committee hearing in Washington yesterday that gay soldiers weakened the Dutch army, which failed to prevent Serb forces from massacring some 8,000 Muslim men in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995.
Read the full Guardian article here

BA cabin crew to strike as talks collapse

A strike by British Airways cabin crew will go ahead after talks between the airline and the Unite union collapsed. The first three-day strike begins on Saturday, with a second scheduled for 27 March.

"BA does not want to negotiate and ultimately wants to go to war with this union," Unite's joint general secretary Tony Woodley said. The airline's chief executive Willie Walsh said the strike was "deeply regrettable. Tens of thousands of BA people stand ready to serve our passengers and BA will be flying and will continue to fly through these periods of industrial action," Mr Walsh said. He added he remained available for talks on reaching a "sensible" agreement, but said that BA must cut costs.
Read BBC Breaking News here

Vatican ends "wall of silence" over child abuse scandal

The Vatican is breaking its silence on the previously taboo subject of paedophilia, following allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Germany. As the Pope has now become embroiled in the scandal, the BBC's David Willey [sic] questions whether he has been doing his job properly.

"During four decades of reporting from the Vatican, I have never seen a graver crisis affecting the very credibility of the leadership of the world's longest surviving international organisation, the Roman Catholic Church."
BBC Radio 4 'From Our Own Correspondent'

Ashcroft's lawyers silence 'Panorama'

The BBC has shelved a Panorama documentary about the business affairs of the Tory billionaire Lord Ashcroft, because of a threat of legal action. The Corporation has received what one insider described as "several very heavy letters" from Lord Ashcroft's lawyers. There is now little or no prospect of the investigation being broadcast before the general election, if it goes out at all.

The hold-up will delight David Cameron's campaign team, who had been trying to pressure the BBC into delaying the programme until after the general election. But sources inside the Corporation firmly deny that political pressure played a part in keeping the programme off the air, attributing the delay solely to the risk of legal action.
Read the full Independent article here

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The George Cross: Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid and Staff Sergeant Kim Hughes

Two Army bomb disposal experts have been awarded the George Cross for their heroics in Afghanistan. A posthumous honour goes to Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, 30, who made safe 64 devices before his death in October while defusing a bomb near Sangin. The GC, one of the UK's highest awards for gallantry, was also presented to his comrade in the Royal Logistic Corps, Staff Sergeant Kim Hughes.

Miles Amoore of the Sunday Times spoke to Schmid shortly before his death and asked him why he’d nicknamed the team he commanded Rainbow. “It’s because we’re the only all-gay counter-IED team in Helmand,” he joked, a grin spreading across his face. “We named ourselves after Zippy, Bungle and George. It was good for morale. When we’re out on a job people always ask us why we’re called Team Rainbow. We could joke about it. Our team mascot is a duck. We call him Corporal Quackers.”

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Lamb's liver with whiskey cream sauce

Serves 4
1lb / 500g lamb's liver, membrane removed, sliced crosswise into 1/4-in / 6mm slices
2 cups / 475ml milk
½ cup / 125g butter
1 onion, minced
2 tbsp Irish whiskey
½ cup / 120ml heavy cream
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

Put the liver into a shallow dish large enough to hold it in a single layer; then cover with the milk and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Rinse the lamb's liver, discarding the milk, and pat dry with paper towels. Melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until soft and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the onions from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside. Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet and, working in batches, sear the liver over high heat for about 1½ minutes on each side. As the liver is done, transfer to a plate and set aside.

Pour the whiskey into the pan, warm it for about a minute, then carefully ignite it with a kitchen match. When the flames die down, stir in the cream and mustard, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, then return the onions and liver to the skillet, along with any juices that may have accumulated.

Stir well, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the liver is heated through. Garnish with the chives.

Mandelson pledges action over mephedrone drug

The legality of the drug mephedrone will be examined "very speedily, very carefully" following the deaths of two teenagers, Lord Mandelson said. The business secretary said the government would take "any action that is justified to deal with this". Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, died in Scunthorpe on Monday after taking the drug. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) says a ban of the substance should be considered. Lord Mandelson said the government would "take any action that is needed... to avert such tragic consequences occurring in the future".

Mephedrone Mandy says: Say no to drugs, boys, or you'll end up in prostitution.  Oh, wait ...

Mephedrone Facts
Recreational drug with effects similar to amphetamines and ecstasy
Sold as a white powder, also found in capsules and pills or can be dissolved in a liquid
Often sold online as plant food marked "not for human consumption"
Completely different drug to methadone, which is a pharmaceutical drug typically used as a very strong painkiller or to treat heroin addicts
Reported side-effects include headaches, palpitations, nausea, cold or blue fingers
Long-term effect of taking drug unknown
Currently legal to buy and be in possession of the powder, but against the law to sell, supply or advertise the powder for human consumption under the Medicines Act
Already illegal in Israel, Denmark, Norway and Sweden
Source BBC

Unite calls in the cavalry

All strikes are political, but some are more political than others. This weekend's British Airways strike has been hyped far beyond its industrial significance. No government money or national interest is at stake. There are plenty of competitors for BA in the supply of airline services, and 80% of air travel is for leisure and tourism.

What draws headlines is that the union involved, the Unite conglomerate, has given the Labour party £11m over the past two years. It is far more important to Labour in the coming election than Lord Ashcroft is to the Tories. In a bizarre, traditional abuse of parliament, it is also allowed to have 100 MPs on its books and wields half the union votes in Labour's electoral college. Ministers are understandably concerned.
Read Simon Jenkins' article for the Guardian here
British Airways passengers face the threat of disruption on both sides of the Atlantic after the Teamsters, the powerful US trade union, confirmed it would meet Unite representatives in Washington today to discuss supporting a looming cabin crew strike. "We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at Unite who are fighting for a fair contract at British Airways," said the Teamsters in a statement. "The Teamsters are an active member of the International Transport Workers Federation. ITF affiliates around the world are mobilising to support British Airways workers in their fight for passenger safety and worker respect."

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


by Carol Ann Duffy

Myth's river - where his mother dipped him, fished him, a slippery golden boy flowed on, his name on its lips.
Without him, it was prophesised, they would not take Troy.
Women hid him, concealed him in girls' sarongs; days of sweetmeats, spices, silver songs...

But when Odysseus came, with an athlete's build, a sword and a shield, he followed him to the battlefield, the crowd's roar,
And it was sport, not war, his charmed foot on the ball...
But then his heel, his heel, his heel...

Pope Benedict XVI confirms dates of UK tour

Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed the dates of a visit to the UK this year. The pontiff will visit the country from 16 to 19 September, in what will be the first papal UK visit since that of John Paul II in 1982. The Pope will start his trip in Edinburgh, where he will be received by the Queen at Holyrood House. He will beatify 19th Century theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman, visit the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace and pray at Westminster Abbey.

See you there, arsehole.
The Pope will travel to Coventry airport for the beatification of Cardinal Newman, a convert to Catholicism. This will bring the cleric a step closer to becoming the first non-martyred English saint since the Reformation. His itinerary will also include a giant open-air Mass in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park, a prayer vigil in London and an event focusing on education. He will give a "major speech" at Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament, it was announced at a news conference at the Foreign Office. The theme of the visit will be relations between the Christian Churches and the major faiths.

Liam Fox loses appeal against ruling to pay back £22,500 in expenses

The shadow defence secretary, Liam Fox, today lost his appeal against a ruling that he should pay back £22,500 of expenses. Fox had repaid the cash, by far the highest amount in the shadow cabinet, before the decision. The contentious claim, for £22,476.03, related to his decision to remortgage his second home to pay for redecorations and claim the higher interest repayments on his expenses. He said his claims represented value for money because he could have charged the taxpayer for the decorating bills directly.

The millionaire claims he is 'out of pocket' as a result of the ruling

But Sir Paul Kennedy, the former high court judge hearing MPs' appeals against orders to pay back expenses claims, dismissed Fox's appeal. "What you claimed was not recoverable under the rules then in force," Kennedy said. "I entirely accept that, like many others, you could have made other claims if the fees office had rejected your claims for mortgage interest, and that you may well have spent some of what you raised by increasing your mortgage on your constituency home, but the evidence is imprecise, and my terms of reference only allow me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment, either at all or at the level recommended."

Commenting on Kennedy's ruling, Fox said: "When Sir Thomas Legg said that the fees office had overpaid my mortgage interest over six years I immediately repaid the money as I never wanted to have any funds I was not entitled to. I am delighted that Sir Paul Kennedy has acknowledged that had the fees office rejected this at the outset, I would have been able to claim directly for work carried out on my property. While out of pocket as a result, I feel vindicated that I acted at all times in good faith."

Aswell as being an MP, Liam Fox is also a lecturer for the medical educational firm Arrest Ltd, for which he earns £25,000 for 14 days' work; he has an estimated wealth of £1m.

Conservatives 'to outline cuts after Budget'

The Conservatives are preparing to outline spending cuts they would make in this financial year if they are elected, the BBC has been told. BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the party was waiting for next week's Budget before unveiling more details. Earlier shadow chancellor George Osborne called the PM 'dishonest' over the need for urgent spending cuts. But Labour's Liam Byrne said Mr Osborne needed to be 'honest about the cuts he intends to make to frontline services'. Conservative leader David Cameron told the BBC on Monday: 'We've got to be straight with people about what needs to be done... we have always said more than the government and we will go on saying more.'

Honestly, George.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Voting record on gay rights

Lib Dem Spring Conference

Bunday, the Times

Rowson, the Guardian

Pressure on Labour over cost of poll promises

Labour wants to promise five guarantees in its manifesto aimed at winning over a sceptical electorate in the post-expenses world. The party hopes to tackle voter mistrust with new legally binding rights on public services, jobs and Britain’s deficit. This is part of a “personal offer” designed to rebuild confidence with the electorate and accountability in government.

The guarantees are at the core of a document drawn up last week by Ed Miliband [pictured above, with 'a friend'], the Cabinet minister charged with writing the draft manifesto. There are fears that he may come under union pressure to make impossible spending commitments. Union leaders want to add promises to protect public sector pensions, cut taxes for the lower paid and end the privatisation of the welfare state. Whitehall sources say that the manifesto cannot be “signed off” until after the Budget next week, which will set out some of the spending constraints for the Government. Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, is determined to remove any uncosted pledges in the manifesto that might undermine the Government’s credibility on cutting the deficit.

Read the full Times Online article here

Cardinal Brady will not resign over abuse 'cover-up'

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland says he will only resign over claims he helped cover up sex abuse if he is asked to do so by the Pope. Cardinal Sean Brady was at meetings in the 1970s where two abused teenagers signed vows of silence over their complaints against Fr Brendan Smyth. Fr Smyth was a notorious sex offender jailed in the 1990s for child abuse.

"There was no cover up, I believed those people. I brought what I heard to the bishop," Cardinal Brady said. The complaints of abuse were investigated by Cardinal Brady in his capacity as secretary to the bishop of Kilmore in 1975. Cardinal Brady said he had been following his bishop's orders and there were no guidelines for dealing with such investigations at that time. "Now I know with hindsight that I should have done more. I thought at that time I was doing what I was required to do, and not just that, but most effectively. I acted with great urgency to get that evidence and produce it. I believed in doing so, I was following the most effective route to get this stopped. That is my concern and always was - the safety of children." He said his actions were part of a process that removed the shamed cleric's licence to act as a priest. He said he did not believe this was a resigning matter.

So what the fuck is?!

Read the full BBC News article here

No World Cup for Beckham

David Beckham's dream of playing in a fourth World Cup looks over after he tore an Achilles tendon in AC Milan's 1-0 win over Chievo on Sunday. Beckham was unchallenged when he suffered the injury and hobbled off in pain before being stretchered away. The 34-year-old was hoping to be part of England's World Cup squad in June, but instead will fly to Finland on Monday for specialist surgery.

 "A rupture of the Achilles tendon is suspected," said an AC Milan statement. Beckham, who is in his second loan stint with Milan from the Los Angeles Galaxy, will now almost certainly not be fit for the World Cup in South Africa which starts on 11 June. AC Milan team-mate Ignazio Abate said the England star was inconsolable. "He's not doing well. He was in tears in the dressing room, he wasn't saying a lot. This has affected us all," said Abate.

Former Manchester United star Beckham, England's most capped outfield player with 115 appearances, was bidding to become the first England player to feature in four successive World Cup finals. He shares the record of three with Bobby Moore and Peter Shilton.