Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Simon says "my list is bigger than your list"

Simon is claiming over 1000 supporters, while Ming is fast approaching 900.
But it has come to my attention that the names on Simon's list might not be as reliable as expected. There is at least one name on Simon's that appears on Ming's, and I know that they pledged to Ming, but not Simon, and definitely didn't give permission to use their name.
There are also curiosities like Ray Perrybar and Karen Perrybar. I could be wrong, and apologies to the Perrybars, but I suspect they actually mean Cllr Ray Hassall and Cllr Karen Hamilton, from Perry Barr.

How long can you "pencil in" the Millenium Stadium for?

If Wembley is only "70%" likely to be ready for the FA cup final, how long can they keep the cardiff millenium stadium provisionally booked for? Although if the FA cancel, I can't see there being some other competing event that would be a sell out on that Saturday in May!

Tax Codes, PAYE and the Inland Revenue

PayAsYouEarn should be so simple. Anyone who pays income tax through their payroll should have a NI number, and what you pay should be spotted by the Inland Revenue.
This appears to be OK in the majority of simple cases. But it all seems to fall apart when you complicate matters by having a second job. Logic suggests that the IR knows that my NI number in 2004/05 has paid a certain amount of tax, some through a normal tax code, and some at the basic rate, and for the following tax year they should amend my tax code for 05/06 to adjust for any under of over payment.
But no. They didn't have an inclining that I might have not been paying the right amount until I went in to see them. My one bit of praise for the IR is that they manage walk-in enquiries quite well.
Having done a bit of research, it turns out that I may not be the only person to have under or over-paid my tax for 2004/05, and that the PAYE system isn't reliable enough to talk to itself, yet alone other systems (the IR doesn't deal with NICs, and you have to submit claims to a completely different office in Newcastle).
So when you look at your pay slip at the end of the month, just double check your tax code...

Embarrasing Problems

The Telegraph pocket cartoon by Matt is one of the few pocket cartoons that makes me laugh out loud more often than not. Saturday's is a particularly good one.
The punch line could have been tinkered for a more LibDem audience, as many of us find LVT far more boring than PR and STV, you can normally find someone in a bar at conference to bore for hours on the subject of alternative taxation.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ming's Week

David Walter's summary of Ming's week of campaigning reads like the hectic campaigning that took place during the GE, only we should have 3 potential leaders dashing around the country for 5 weeks, rather than just the one. Hopefully we'll be getting a visit to Birmingham by at least one of the candidates.
Ming's list of supporters has also grown to 752, which includes 4 more MPs, including the West Midlands MP Paul Keetch.

Hughes (re)launch no 2

Simon Hughes has had another (re)launch of his campaign yesterday. Technically it was his first launch since the close of nominations, but his campaign is not having the best of starts. His campaign has also relaunched their website at a new address, hardly a steady start to a campaign.

An apology...

To anyone who has got here through doing a search on google for "mark oaten coprophilia" or degradation or "unspeakable act", I'm sorry.
Unfortunately I've got no further details for you here!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

BA Plagiarism Studies

[From the Laurie Taylor column in the Times Higher Education Supplement] - Of interest to those who write Focus, or resignation speeches...

University of Poppleton: BA in plagiarism studies
Following the increased attention being accorded to the question of plagiarism in higher education, we are pleased to announce the launch of a new degree in plagiarism studies. Following the increased attention being accorded to the question of plagiarism in higher education, we are pleased to announce the launch of a new degree in plagiarism studies.
Graduates from this course may look forward to obtaining well-paid employment in many of the sectors of commerce that currently place a heavy reliance on plagiarism: daytime tv (presenting and producing); takeaway pizza advertising; the preparation of political manifestos; writing chancellors' degree-day speeches; devising "family and children" statements for discredited politicians; and the compilation of mantras and litanies.
All students will be required to take compulsory courses in the following subject areas; constructive photocopying; intermediate and advanced cut-and-paste techniques; disguising critical sources; counterfeiting names and dates; evading electronic detection tools; bypassing attributions; wholesale downloading; dubious citations; makey-uppy quotations; intermediate and advanced paraphrasing; general principles of collusion; and submitting other peoples work: theory and practice.
Students on this course will be examined by tutoes who are specially trained in the detection of originality. Any sign of such a characteristic in submitted work will attract serious penalties. In the words of our chief external examiner: "Graduates from this course will not be expected to have a single original idea in their heads."
Successful undergraduate students may consider applying for a place on our newly founded postgraduate course in advanced and contagious plagiarism: MPhil bubonic plagiarism.
We look forward to hearing from you. We look forward to hearing from you.

Vote twice, vote often

David Walker has built an online STV poll of the leadership election. This gives a different result to the poll being conducted by Colin Ross, which is just a FPTP poll.
If only the Eurovision song contest was scored by STV...

Simon says...

Nothing that comes as a surprise to most of us who have been involved in the party. Surely the big yellow taxi gives away the fact that he's a Lib Dem.

578 and growing

The number of Campbell supporters appears to be the largest, and its still growing. And yes, my name is there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tour de Londres

London has won the chance to be the opening "prologue" stage for the 2007 tour de france. This is great news, but scuppers my dreams of getting Birmingham to have the prologue within a reasonable timescale (OK it doesn't quite have the same tourist spots/buildings, but could make a "good" course. And then the first stage proper could be a Birmingham/London stage.)
2007 should see a great battle between a drugs free David Millar and Bradley Wiggins. I'll definitely be there to watch it.

Don't wait for the ballot papers, vote now!

Colin Ross has revised his previous leadership poll, and now just features the 3 declared candidates: Campbell, Hughes and Huhne.
Vote early, vote often...


As with many defections over the years, there has been a lot of questions, many of which are "who"?
Interestingly, I can't find it on the bbc or guardian.
What I find extraordinary is his claim that the timing was coincidental, and that he'd made up his mind in December ("just ask my local party officers" I think was how he put it on Today). There would have been nothing coincidental about the timing, and he would have been stored up by Tory Central Office waiting for the most damaging time to jump.
Will he be followed by a handful of MPs and other "activists"? I don't think so. And on balance there appears to be a net flow to the LibDems anyway.

UPDATE: The BBC have mentioned it in an article about noms closing for the leadership.

Is Google good or evil?

On the one hand they have stood up to the Bush administration and refused to provide data about searches to the Dept of Justice.
On the other, they are introducing a service for Chinese users that has built in censorship.
In both cases I see the hand of business: the reasons stated for refusing to hand over data is about not handing over trade related matters. While in China they want to penetrate the huge market, so are willing to provide a service, but at the price of censorship.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Isn't rail travel great!

The weekend was fairly hectic (and offline). Friday night was spent celebrating Lara's birthday in Primitivo's off Colmore Row. Craig managed to kill the sound system by slicing the phono lead from the CD to amp. Fortunately it was almost closing time, so no harm donw, and not quite enough time for me to patch the lead back together (those years on the UMIST Ents crew weren't wasted...).
After a few hours sleep, it was up early for a trip down to London for an Agents & Organisers Assoc exec meeting, followed by a trip up to Cambridge.
The AOA meeting was held in Sarah Teather's Brent office. A new experience for me as I failed to make it down to Brent during the by-election... The meeting was productive, and I avoided too many actions (although in the post meeting pub session I may have agreed to be membership sec from May after the current occupant leaves the country).
Cambridge was its usual good self, I caught up with my old friend Simon who started his university admin career in Birmingham. Coincidentally there was a CAMRA festival taking place, with a winter beers theme. So a few spicy ales were consumed.
The return journey was amusing for its predictability. Why can't Central Trains write a contract that gets enables them to have train drivers on a Sunday? This meant that it turned out to be quicker (but more expensive) to travel back via London as the service I intended to get was cancelled (and has apparently not run for well over a month!). So far so good.
The service out of Euston was absolutely jam packed, with nearly every seat reserved, and those holding expensive walk on tickets (such as myself) had no guarantee of a seat, unless they upgraded to 1st class for an additional £10 and as much coffee as you could drink in 2hrs. And now they're talking about getting rid of saver tickets! I think there'll be a "fare" number of people opposed to that.

The last person I'd have expected

Well, i never expected the revelations about oatcake in the Screws. There remain 2 questions: what was the "unspeakable act of degradation"? Surely there is nothing too shocking for readers of the Screws, especially as the paper should only have been sold to over 15's as it contained the 15 cert film Highlander.
Maybe the act involved repeatedly saying "you will never lead the party"?
And which football club's strip? David Mellor is well known for his Chelsea replica antics. Which football club will be proverbially dragged through the mud?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

And then there were only 3

Oatbun is reportedly on the verge of pulling out. Although you may have heard it here or here first.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lib Dems Split on smoking but so are all the others...!

This would be much more of a headline if the proposed bill was whipped by all political parties, and for some reason certain members of the LD parliamentary party were opposed to the party whip. In my opinion you can apply the classic JS Mill test, and that on balance smoking should be banned in public places because of the harm caused to others. This is not denying the right of people to smoke and cause harm to themselves, but in a private place.
The significant policy differences in the debate appeared to be over approaches to the public sector.
To claim differences on things like how many seats we should target, versus how many we need to enter power in our own right is a nonsense.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

How local news works 2

Once your interview goes out other media outlets (BRMB) then use directory enquiries to hunt you down to then provide a comment that they can use (which means that they monitor WM for their news output).
Unfortunately was out doing what any good LibDem should be doing on a Saturday and at a local action day.

oatcake about to bite the dust?

Rumours have reached me that Oaten may withdraw over this weekend. It appears that he's having issues about collecting 200 signatures, as well as getting 7 MPs who genuinely support him, rather support his right to stand.
Various activists around the country, who wouldn't dream of describing themselves as of the right, or even centre, have had calls from Oatcakes office to canvas them to obtain nomination signatures.
I'd suggest the fact that Oatbiscuit has a downloadable nominations form is a small sign of desperation.

The Bomb Squad and How Local News Works

I'd just started writing this and got interrupted to do a recorded soundbite for Radio WM...
Anyway, yesterday evening got home from work and saw that the road was blocked off by the Royal Logistics Bomb Squad van! (And a HAZMAT ambulance and a number of police officers milling about.
The fuss was related to an arms cache found in someones backgarden while they were digging it up. Initial reports were that it was a WW2 bomb, but if it had been then we would've been being put up in the local school before you could get a good novel to read (currently reading Das Boot...). I presume it was a box of "goodies" brought back from some long forgotten foreign adventure. Apparently the Council's emergency action plan was initiated just in case.
As the evening wore on I started to get calls from various local news people. Apparently they'd googled "Regent St Stirchley", or similar, and it turns out that my address is on a number of sites, as well as my home phone number.
First off the blocks were Saga Radio, followed by BBC Midlands Today, and BBC news online (and this morning BBC Radio WM). Its obviously quicker to call someone in the area, than actually send a reporter out from the news desk, and the tool of choice is Google.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Leadership & footballers

After making a comment on Liberal England its got me thinking about the leadership contenders and which footballers they are analogous to.
Starting with Chris Huhne: Owen Hargreaves - has an established European career, with occasional run outs in the national side. Bit of an unknown quantity as the scouts don't see his play very often, and those who do can never agree on whether he is brilliant or a bit of a P Neville. Despite appearances plays quite a good game down the green left wing.
Simon Hughes: Probably best summed up by the recent whole England team performance against NI. Disorganised, despite being full of talented players, with no one taking a leadership role to pull them together.
Mark Oaten: A whole hearted right winger, who is now telling the manager that he's also got a useful left foot. But no one believes him. (A bit like Gerrard when playing for England as he ends up on the left because of all the great players there are on the right).
Ming Campbell: A solid centre back or holding midfield player. Sol Campbell (no relation) and Roy Keane spring to mind.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

If it could be anyone...

Colin Ross is running a poll on his site. "Which of the Lib Dem MPs would you like to see as Leader?". Annette Brook got off to a fast start, but Lorely Burt is running neck & neck with Campbell, Davey & Huhne.

I'm backing Ming, quite literally

During the GE the leaders tour/bandwagon stopped off in Hodge Hill. As CK's wife was expecting to deliver within the next 24-48hrs we had Ming instead.
As you can see from the photo, I'm literally behind Ming [I'm the black clad bloke on the right]
I think this clearly demonstrates how to carry a super diamond (unlike the Selly Oak parly candidate just behind Ming's right shoulder) by ensuring the message is loud and clear, rather than getting my face onto local TV!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

sudoku, killer & kakuro

I've finally succumbed and purchased a book of kakuro.
I manage to get a daily fix of killer from The Times, and also a couple of sudoku although I don't always bother unless I'm really too quick on the killer. But finding a daily fix of kakuro is still challenging, without forking out for the print version of the Grauniad.
I actually find kakuro the most stimulating of the number puzzles now as I haven't quite mastered all the logic rules to speed it up. I can complete most of them - eventually. But they require more than just the knowledge that 24 in 3 cells can only be 9/8/7, instead you have to work up to 5 and 6 cells (35, and 39 are what I'd call the reverse triangle numbers for 5 & 6 respectively). You also need to know about the (reverse) triangle numbers +/-1 have only 1 solution eg 4(2) [total of 4 in 2 cells] = 3/1, 7(3)=4/2/1, 11(4)=5/3/2/1 23(3)=9/8/6, 29(4)=9/8/7/5 etc.

Oaten's launch

Oaten's campaign launch sounds like it was dreamed up late at night. With lots of inspiration from the way the tories launched their leadership bids (a bevy of supporters surrounding the latest contender).
Simon Hoggart, in the Grauniad, describes the scene well. Oaten-Opik does sound like a health food brand.
"I believe I am a 21st century Liberal, and I am determined to lead a 21st century Liberal party," he added, which translates as: "Ming is 64, and past it, whereas I sound like a first-rate, hi-fibre health food."

There are also a number of phrases that could make a Colmanballs column in the Eye.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Raddlebarn School centenary

Yesterday was the final day of one of our local School's centenary. Today it is 101 yrs old!
The end of years worth of celebrations was marked by the unveiling/ribbon cutting by the Lord Mayor of a set of gates leading out onto Muntz park.
Where the gates our used to be a toilet block, and wall blocking off the park completely. Now the park can be accessed from the School, and they can see out onto the green space as well.
The gates incorporate small bits of design by the kids, as well as a piece of Muntz metal. (For it was the Muntz family who donated the land for the School and the park that carries their name after making their money from metals. Also was an MP for Birmingham - some confusion over whether it was George or Philip, one of them was a Liberal MP)

Thurso for leader?

A hat nod to James over at Quaequam for the link to the most unlikely of bids to establish a new leader and PM.
I met Thurso during the Hodge Hill by-election, a most unlikely figure to be out canvassing in almost any part of the constituency! I was the recipient of lunchtime leftovers after he'd ordered a "double sausage and chips" from the magnificent eatery next door to the HQ. Little did he expect to receive two portions of a sausage and chips.

Monday, January 09, 2006

I'm a Minger, are you?

Just about everyone who is anybody has come out to announce their support for Sir Menzies. That includes Paddy. His interview on Today this morning was one with few key messages. I lost count of the number of times he mentioned unity, or that the LibDems are good at elections!
I hope there is a contest with at least two candidates. That way we can question the candidates on their positions. As many have said, Ming hasn't much on record of his domestic thoughts. But at the end of the day, it is the party that drives much of its policy thinking, and not the leader.
I've heard, from a "constitutional expert", that the whole thing could be wrapped up in time for the Spring conference in Harrogate. Unveiling the new leader on the Saturday of the conference would provide quite a nice bit of positive coverage of an event that is normally lacking.

Grauniad Balls

Nick Clegg's future has been ordained by the Guardian:
Nick Clegg (38)
Shrewd, multilingual former MEP who is regarded as a potential former leader. Has declared his support for Sir Menzies this time around.

UPDATE: Credit to the Guardian. They've amended their online version and re-entered the current time/space continuem. Clegg is now a potential future leader.
Still no mention of Hemming though. Think he deserves at least a mention in any list of likely runners & riders.

Monday, January 02, 2006

New year

The new year was celebrated by a v.pleasant gathering of friends at no 46 Regent St. THis meant that I had to tidy for the previous 2 days to ensure there was room for people, and no council papers for people to slip over on!
Part of the preparations were "paid" for by stripping with Colin. Several friends have said I need a cleaner, but actually what I need is for the Council to stop sending endless bits of paper, much of which is pointless for members, and that multiple items get sent by first class post! Failing that a secretary to file at home would be perfect, or an office in the council house (so would have to be a cabinet member, or committee chair, and not planning on that for a while...)

Back online at last

After several days of enforced offline life, I've now solved my broadband problems. For some reason wanadoo have altered the login usernames, but failed to tell us users. It took a short bit of browsing to find the right bit of help on their web, but i haven't had to phone their 24/7 national rate help line.
So despite concerns over the health of my wireless router, all it took was a username change. Now have a spare adsl wireless router...