Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Apparently I should really live 'Down Under'

And so far as I am concerned there could very certainly be worse fates than to go live in the self-styled 'Lucky Country', although splitting my time between the UK and Spain will suit me just fine, too.
Which country should you REALLY be living in?


G'day Mate! You're a yokker. A true Aussie. You love the beach and barbies, as well as sport and sex. Life couldn't get any simpler, and thats the way it should be. C'mon Aussie, C'mon!

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
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(thru Gavin Ayling)
- and PS, I just got back from Spain today, where I had a great and productive time. More in due course.

Friday, 26 May 2006

Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain and other stories

One of the books I've started to read since I've been in Spain is one I picked up here, published to coincide with the recent movie 'Brokeback Mountain' - as well as the short story on which the movie is based it [Close Range Brokeback Mountain And Other Stories] also includes numerous others all set mainly in Wyoming or a few of the surrounding States. I wrote a while back my very brief review of the movie itself - as I said then it left me feeling quite 'angry' and I remember the first time I saw it I walked out of the cinema feeling somewhat stunned, not quite ready to cry, but those feelings were definitely welling up inside of me; it was only when I reached home and began to think about what I had seen that the 'anger' kicked in.

Anyway, I´ve now read the story itself and most of the other stories, too, and they all seem to paint the same kind of picture of a very tough set of circumstances that many rural dwellers in Wyoming (and no doubt many of the other high prairie States) must live with. A few of the stories are so bleak that one wonders why most people don't simply leave for places such as California, Florida or Texas where the climate in winter is not so tough and perhaps people are less at the mercy of the elements (although with Florida's reputation for hurricanes that wouldn't necessarily be perfect either), or indeed why many don't simply slit their wrists - or perhaps they do.

The other factor which strikes me having read Annie Proulx's own words is just how riveting I find her style of writing. A brutal clarity and a way of discussing matters relating to sexual matters, specially those affecting men (hetero- and homo-sexual, both) which I find particularly startling coming from the pen of a woman - I can only imagine that she must have grown up in a family with brothers or possibly has sons of her own, although I tend to think it must be the former because I can hardly believe her own sons would have expressed themselves so explicitly in front of their mother for her to gather the material and thought-processes she needed to write the way she does. The nearest I think I've heard a woman discussing sexual matters so openly before is watching ´the dog woman' doing dog training on television (I don't remember her name I'm afraid) and of course some of my female ´horsey´ friends who certainly talk about sexual matters, breeding, etc. in a fairly uninhibited way - but only so far as it affects animals. I've never before heard/read a woman discussing human male sexual matters in a way that I think captures quite closely the way a man might think privately about such things. That's what's so clever about Annie Proulx's style of writing - completely straightforward and seemingly very authentic.

Now apart from such diversions, I've also spent a couple of days lying on an almost deserted beach in a quiet cove under a palm tree, not far from where I'm staying, taking an occasional cooling dip in the water - apart from one day when I had to ask for help to pull my car out of sand as the beach is down a graded track with only a smallish area of hard graded area near to the sea to park on. As well as doing more practical things such as applying for my 'NIE' (foreigners' identity number), making a Spanish will, renting a mail box, opening a bank account, etc; just a few of the things I will need to get done in the run-up to my little house here being built and handed over. I'm planning to come back here again next winter for about three months and have already arranged to rent a property for that visit, although as I'm planning to bring the dog will be taking the Rosyth/Zeebrugge ferry and travelling down via south Holland where I have marriage relatives. My short visit this time is almost over, though, as I'll be travelling back on Monday reaching home on Tuesday. Salud para el momento!

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Hola! from Spain

Arrived safely last night, after quite a lengthy and tiring day. However, now just about to go for lunch then potter around on the patio for the rest of the afternoon. My Spanish mobile works fine, luckily, but unfortunately reception is very, i.e. very, poor at the house, so I need to travel up the road a couple of 'clicks' to get a halfway decent signal. However, this is a minor detail as apart from a few administrative tasks in Spain I don't have a great deal of need to be in touch with many people on the 'phone for the next few weeks.

I raise a glass of vino tinto to you all!

Sunday, 14 May 2006

Away in Spain

As usual I find I have run out of time to post anything substantive prior to leaving for Spain tomorrow morning - I'll be back at the end of the month, although may post a few snippets during my time out there - assuming I have taken the necessary passwords with me.

Meantime if you have a moment you may care to visit some of the fine blogs in my blogroll at left. Have fun!

Friday, 12 May 2006

New temporary blog header banner

You may notice, next time you refresh your browser when you visit this blog, that I have replaced the header banner with a different version. This will be in place for the next few weeks whilst I am away in Spain as the background photograph is of the view from where my holiday home there is being built, whereas the typeface colours reflect those of the Spanish national flag.

Once I am safely back in Scotland I shall be putting back the banner I've used for the last nine months or so, whose colours are supposed to reflect the heathery hues prevalent here. I am still in Nairn for the next few days, but won't have much time for more blogging before I leave on Monday, possibly this evening or on Sunday. Tomorrow I am visiting the Hydroponicum at Achiltibuie, north of Ullapool on the west coast of Scotland, a place I have wanted to visit for some years but never got around to - hydroponics, in case you are not familiar with the term, is plant cultivation without soil.

Now, however, I really must go and get lunch. I have been delayed even more than usual from fulfilling this basic requirement because I have been struggling with print-feed problems. For many years I have printed out contact lists (addresses, telephone numbers, etc) onto filofax size paper as this makes a convenient way of carrying an up-to-date address book with me. However, the printer I use at present is somewhat idiosynchratic, added to which the gauge of the filofax paper I have seems to have reduced in recent years and is now too light to feed properly through my printer (grrrrr!!), so I have had to re-format all the report formats I use to print these things out from my database to A4 size - not quite so easy to carry around, but it'll have to do until I get a better solution! Right, oh where was I (?) ... lunch.

Thursday, 11 May 2006

BNP Councillor - "It was an art film ... it was not [...] porn"

Richard Barnbrook, recent winner of a council seat for the BNP in Barking and Dagenham clarified (and I use that term loosely!):

HMS Discovery: A Love Story

"It was an art film, end of story. It was not a bloody porn film.

"The only nudity in it is a couple of guys running in a river. It is not about homosexuality. It is about sexuality.

"This was done when I was a student. It was part of my extra education, part of my studies and that was it.

"This was sometime back in the mid-80s."

OK, OK Mr Barnbrook, we believe you - thousands wouldn't! Specially when the film apparently includes: "long scenes of men undressing and fondling each other, including full-frontal nudity, and a naked man apparently performing a sex act on another, according to the London Evening Standard. There are also repeated scenes of flagellation in which a group of semi-naked men apparently whip a fourth semi-naked man, the paper reported."

For the sake of good order, and to clarify exactly where the Party Mr Barnbrook represents in Barking and Dagenham Council on behalf of those who elected him, I had wanted to examine exactly what the BNP website had to say on the subject of homosexuality before publishing this article last night. However, despite diligent searching on their website, at great cost to my moral equilibrium I might add ('pretentious git' - Ed.), I was completely unable to find a mention of the topic; I do recall that there used to be some pretty specific information against [the practice of] homosexuality, but currently all I can find vaguely relating to the subject of sexuality is a strong condemnation of paedophilia in the section on 'Education'. However, the Mirror has this quote on the reaction of the BNP to the Barnbrook movie revelations:

"Barnbrook is not a queer. The film is not pornographic. It is what is called an arty farty film."

- which is kind of reassuring, in a sick sort of way, that some things in this world do day, basically, just the same. One is left wondering whether the good Mr Barnbrook, with his student 'art movie' background, is not just too much of an intellectual for the BNP for which even such, in his words "extra education", is too arty farty. Whatever it is that he is, Mr Barnbrook does not, presumably, preen himself in front of his bathroom mirror whilst humming along to the tune of 'I am what I am ...'.

Helpline for gays launched in China

Volunteers in in Guangzhou and Shanghai are jointly setting up a helpline to provide help and advice to gays and lesbians (China Daily report) on a variety of subjects of interest to them as a community. The helpline is under the auspices of Hong Kong-based Chi Heng Foundation whose representative Hu Zhijun said:

"On the mainland, being homosexual is still very hard. Under pressure from families and society, most homosexual people dare not reveal their sexual orientation and have to get married to someone of the opposite sex."

- the nationwide hotline is available on 800-988-1929. The very fact that an article like this, on a service for the lesbigay community, can be published in China in a publication such as China Daily shows just how much China is changing, even if many of these changes probably remain somewhat superficial so far as the bulk of the population is concerned.

Wednesday, 10 May 2006

Doctors oppose right-to-die law

Well whatever the Royal College of Physicians may say, I shall take good care to make my own arrangements when the time comes, thank you very much. If necessary I shall be in touch with the good folks of Dignitas. I think it is quite wrong for the police to have questioned a young man for having assisted his mother to end her life in her own way, even if I understand that the loss may be very difficult for her sister to bear. Personally I would hope that my own relatives would try to force me to stay alive if I were in extreme pain and had myself made the decision to end this defintively.

Having said all of this I may be conflict with some of the policies of the Samaritans, for which I was a volunteer for a number of years, both here in the UK and abroad - see also Befrienders Worldwide. Not that I ever felt, whilst a volunteer, any difficulty whatsoever in reconciling my own strong views on the right to choice of an individual to determine his or her own fate with a desire to provide a listening ear for however long it took for a person to reach their own conclusions about what was best for them, even if my hope (as a volunteer) was always to encourage people to see their situation clearly and rationally and hopefully to reach the conclusion that continued life was preferrable, if not always easy. But ultimately individual choice is key.

"I won`t allow gay men in my team!"

... so says Carlos Alberto Parreira, manager of the Brazilian national footbal team, in advance of the upcoming World Cup in Germany; naturally the idiot denies being 'homophobic' in these weasel words:

"Please, do not misunderstand. I have nothing against gay people at all. People’s sexual orientation is no one’s business but their own. But I don’t think gay people can adapt in football, and it would be better for anyone for them to stay out of this game."

- you're either a liar, Mr Perreira, or a completely deluded fool! What you may be trying to say, in your clumsy way (I suppose) is that some of the bigots in and around the Brazilian team and football generally, such as yourself and most probably some of your 'star' players, are unwilling to adapt to the presence of a few queers in first class football!

Now, readers of this blog will probably have gleaned from my occasional mention of football that I find it a game that is tedious in the extreme - booorrrriiiinnngggg!!! However, to end this narky post in a somewhat lighter vein, I was very intrigued yesterday to see televised interviews with the latest addition to the England national football team for the World Cup, the 17-year old Theo Walcott - now there is one good-looking young man who actually sounded quite articulate and commendably level-headed during his interview; I would be highly-surprised if he is in any way 'gay', but it does make a pleasant change from the too usual foul-mouthed and/or foul-behaved football player, aka 'yobbo' - no I'm not thinking exclusively of Wayne Rooney, although he certainly figures in that halcyon group of 'heroes'.

Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Gay surrogate father fights throat cancer

One of the gay couple, Tony Drewitt-Barlow, who a few years ago succeeded along with partner Barrie Drewitt-Barlow in adopting two children born of surrogate mothers in the US, is reportedly fighting throat cancer. The comfortably-off Essex couple featured in a couple of televised documentaries a while back about the process they went through to adopt their children Aspen and Saffron and it is very sad that their future happiness has been threatened by an illness at such a young age - I wish him a healthy outcome after the chemotherapy and radiotherapy he has undergone.

Anglicans to appoint committee on its 'gay crisis'

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is to appoint a team to advise how best to resolve the 'homosexuality crisis' affecting the Anglican Church.

This is likely to be an ongoing debate and comes in the wake of the decision a few days ago, effectively, to 'blackball' the three openly-homosexual candidates for the Bishopric of California, out of a pool of seven candidates, most probalby to avoid an immediate schism in the Anglican Communion, a move which had been threatened by 'traditionalists' in various parts of the world. It strikes me that the electors for the California Bishopric have exercised considerable restraint and either wisdom or cowardice (depending on how you view the matter) in their desire to avoid being the catalyst for schism; it now behooves the Anglican Communion to show a similar level of restraint and maturity in bringing itself more into line with how the world now is, not how they might wish it had remained and by accepting good people, whatever their sexuality, fully into their Communion.

Friday, 5 May 2006

Banker with HSBC 'not sacked for being gay', but ...

He had received less favourable treatment because of his sexual orientation, an employment tribunal ruled on Friday. Reuters report that "The tribunal criticised HSBC's initial investigation of allegations against Peter Lewis and upheld four out of his 16 claims against HSBC, the world's third largest bank."

The Tribunal said, in its 68-page judgement on a complaint brought by former-HSBC employee and global equity trading business:

"We have decided that there are facts from which the tribunal could conclude ... less favourable treatment on the grounds of sexual orientation but ... the decision to dismiss was not in fact influenced by ... sexual orientation."

The bank said that whilst it was pleased that the Tribunal had rejected [what it described as] the main points of the claim, it is quoted as saying that it was "disappointed and surprised by the adverse findings of the tribunal on four of the sixteen points of Mr Lewis's claim". A similar report to the Reuters report I refer to above is here from the BBC, although the quotes they attribute to the Tribunal give a slightly different 'flavour':

"The decision to dismiss is wholly attributable to a genuine and legitimate conclusion that (he) was guilty of the gross misconduct alleged."

But it concluded that there had been four counts of "unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation" in the way his dismissal had been handled. This included his treatment from an HR manager and a separate "hearsay" allegation made against him.

I surmise that the Tribunal has probably reached a fair and balanced judgement, and that all parties (including HSBC) will just have to live with this and learn the lessons for the future.

Labour's Scottish flavour in Government accentuated

Whatever one might think of the development, it is undeniable that our 'United Kingdom' Government has taken on even more of a Scottish tone (to coin a phrase - geddit?) than it had before:

- Tony Blair himself - PM - depending how you look at it;

- John Prescott - Deputy PM. A good solid Englishman, but he loses all departmental responsibility, in the wake of the humiliating revelations about his personal life (quite apart from being useless at any of the departmental tasks he has been given);

- Margaret Beckett - the first female Foreign Secretary (well done!) and a good solid Englishwoman (I am trying to be positive here);

- John Reid - but at least the Home Office remains in the 'safe' hands of a former Marxist;

- Des Brown - och, we all know 'the jocks' are best when it comes to fightin' ye ken (irony alert, to a certain extent - Ed)

- Alan Johnson - Education. Not bad for a former postman (even if he was educated at the very swanky-sounding "Sloane Grammar School, Chelsea") - a true Englishman;

- Alistair Darling - Trade. Let's hope the spirit of Adam Smith lives on in his psyche!

- Douglas Alexander - Transport and Scotland. (Might come in useful come the revolution, if the voters ever decide to send him packing back up the A1! To be fair, he is a bright individual - through gritted teeth)

- David Miliband - DEFRA. A true Englishman and academically a bright individual. Sometimes spoken of as a future PM - gawd help us!

And of course there's Gordon Brown, Lord Falconer and Ian McCartney, all in senior positions - just how senior in the case of McCartney is questionnable, though.

Read the complete picture here.

Summary - quite obviously I have no objection whatsoever to so many fellow-Scots being in senior Government positions, so far as it goes. I do wonder, though, just how sensible this is politically for the future stability of the 'United Kingdom', over 90 per cent of whose residents reside in a little corner called 'England', even if by no means all of those residents might absolutely classify themselves as sons and daughters of that particular patch of soil. Just sayin' ...

Will Tony still be PM this time next year?

Gay teen shot in Iraq ...

... and, reports Ali Hili, an exiled gay Iraqi who is Middle East Affairs spokesperson for the London-based gay human rights group OutRage!:

"According to a neighbour, who witnessed Ahmed's execution from his bedroom window, four uniformed police officers arrived at Ahmed's house in a four-wheel-drive police pick-up truck."

"The neighbour saw the police drag Ahmed out of the house and shoot him at point-blank range, pumping two bullets into his head and several more bullets into the rest of his body."

If this is true, and the claims of Rainbow for Life, an Iraqi gay group, are borne out:
"[it] has blamed the killing spree on the Badr Corps, the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's most powerful Shiite group."
- it will indeed be a very worrying sign that a new element has been added to the already very worrying security situation in Iraq.

Cabinet reshuffle - John Reid becomes Home Secretary

Just announced. My insincts were correct! - I need to get myself a job as a political pundit - ha, ha.

Now folks, I've gotta go and pick up some Euros from the bank - all part of my plan to escape this wonderful country for a few weeks mid-month - more on that later. No doubt I'll do a summary on all the cabinet and government reshuffles later today once the overall picture becomes clearer. What I really want to know is when the organ-grinder, Prime Minister Tony Blair, will reshuffle himself out of this sorry excuse for a Government!

Labour reshuffle - Margaret Beckett to become Foreign Secretary

The caravanning 'guru' is to become Foreign Secretary - just announced on BBC News24.

Incidentally, I am just listening to Charles Clarke making a statement on his departure from the Home Office - sad for him, of course, but he had to go.

Labour reshuffle - John Prescott remains Deputy PM

BBC News 24 are announcing as I write that Prescott will retain the title of 'Deputy Prime Minister' - but is to lose his departmental role - hurray! He is to keep (and add to) his chairmanship of various cabinet committees, it seems.

Ther real significance of this is probably internal to the Labour Party - his departure as DPM would trigger a re-election, something Blair obviously wishes to avoid.

Labour Government reshuffle - Jack Straw leaves Foreign Office

Jack Straw is leaving the Foreign Office to become Leader of the House of Commons, replacing Geoff Hoon, who in his turn becomes 'Secretary of State for Europe' within the Foreign Office; this is a new post and Hoon will retain his cabinet rank.

NB/(10.42 BST)The link above has changed in the few moments since I linked to it and now points to the Charles Clarke story - not yet replaced by a correct link in the BBC server so far as I can trace.

Labour Government reshuffle - Clarke leaving Home Office!

BBC News24 are just announcing that Charles Clarke is leaving the Home Office! - and is to return to the back benches!

Great news!

Now we just wait to see who replaces him - my own instinsts tell me (without any sort of evidence to back it up) that it may be Scottish 'hard man' John Reid, but we'll all know soon, I expect.

Catherine Deneuve to attend gay event

The French actress is to attend the 'Life Ball' in Austria this month, to raise funds for thjose living with HIV or AIDS; the event is apparently Europe’s largest annual AIDS charity event.

Now I don't normally write about such 'media' events, even when they are in such a good cause, but the simple reason why I do so now is that I have always had a 'thing' for Catherine Deneuve and am pleased that my 'devotion' to her acting over the years is in a sense 'rewarded'. Merci!

Muslim Council of Britain rejects talks with gay organisations

In this Guardian article by Peter Tatchell, it is reported that "Inayat Bunglawala, media spokesperson for the MCB, has disowned the MCB's advisor on equality issues, Muhammed Aziz", the latter having endorsed such a dialogue during recent 'round-table' talks which included gay lobby group Stonewall. In terms, Mr Bunglawala is reported to have stated, pretty bluntly:

"There are no talks with any gay groups anywhere."

"We do not believe that it (same-sex love) is in any way equal with marriage between man and wife. We do not accept the idea of gay adoption; we believe it is completely wrong."

None of this is any surprise, given the recent comments of the leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacrani, even if what I would classify as purely tactical considerations decided some Muslim organisations to support other religious groups in their opposing religious hatred laws, when the implications for their own community of such legislation became clear to them.

Gay couple weds in Brisbane's British consulate

Sharon Dane and Elaine Crump, a lesbian couple, are to 'wed' this afternoon in Brisbane's British consulate. The pair hold dual Australian-British nationality, but their civil partnership will have no validity in Australia itself.

The move flouts the wishes of Australia's Federal Government - I wrote about that here.

Thursday, 4 May 2006

Is the independence of the Scottish judiciary in jeopardy?

I have until now been completely unaware of the radical change planned by the Scottish Executive in the way the judiciary in Scotland is organised. However the ever-excellent Joshua Rozenberg has an article on just this topic in today's Telegraph in which he writes that the plans involve giving:

"Scotland a unified judiciary appointed by a statutory board"
"amalgamating [the] four existing court structures: the High Court, which hears criminal cases and appeals; the Court of Session, which decides civil claims and appeals; the sheriff courts, which have criminal and civil jurisdiction; and the district courts, which are broadly similar to magistrates' courts in England and Wales."

To an amateur eye (such as mine) that does not sound unduly troubling in itself, but other parts of the plans would involve changes to the way in which the whole structure is managed and the way in which those selected to manage that changed structure would be chosen, as Scottish ministers will (as reported in Joshua Rozenberg's article):

"be able to issue "guidance" to the board [*] on, for example, encouraging diversity. And who will appoint the members of [the] board? 'All appointments will be made by Scottish Ministers,' the consultation paper says."

[*] - a new 'independent' appointments board

I don't pretend to understand all the ramifications of what is being proposed, but Roy Martin, QC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh (equivalent to chairman of the Bar in England and Wales), seems to have a number of concerns:

"If you concentrate power at the top of the pyramid in the office of the Lord President, while at the same time the administration which serves the Lord President is not sufficiently independent of the executive, then the risk is that the absence of the perception of independence thereby affects the courts at all levels."

These changes now seem to take on a whole new and potentially sinister aspect. As Rozenberg says in his final paragraph:

"So what are the chances that Scottish judges will be as independent this time next year as they are now? Don't hold your breath."

The authoritarian instinct seems to guide our Labour-dominated Scottish Executive just as much as it is clear it always has the Labour Government in Westminster. Sigh.

Anglicans may suffer new threat to unity ...

... and once again it's because (whisper it quietly!) of the possibility of another openly-gay minister being elected a Bishop within the US Episcopalian Church, in this case Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe of San Francisco, Very Rev. Robert Taylor of Seattle and Rev. Bonnie Perry of Chicago, who are all being considered for the post of Bishop of California to replace Rev. William Swing, who is retiring. Frankly I think there are more relevant things for the social conservatives to worry about, both in the US itself and elsewhere throughout the world - poverty, hunger and the scourge of childhood diseases in many parts of the world, just for starters. Surely if it is about anything at all, those and similar issues are what Christianity should stand for. And the Anglican Communion would presumably claim to espouse the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, one supposes.
(The LA Times article on this subject is here.)

'Covering their backs' - tales of bueaucracy in action

Sir Richard Mottram, the government's security and intelligence co-ordinator, has opined that:

"It would be unreasonable to expect that the security authorities could ever offer absolute protection from the terrorist threat we face."

- now I may be wrong, but I do not recall that this is a charge that has ever seriously been made and is certainly not a view I hold.

I am forced to wonder if the sub-text to this statement before the House of Commons transport committee is not some form of attempt at implicit justification for the shooting of an innocent man, Jean-Charles de Menezes, by our security services in the heightened climate of fear of terrorism in the wake of the bombings of 7th July 2005 (how I feel about that is encapsulated here), and in support of the many anti-democratic measures which this Government has brought into law (or is seeking to pass into law) in apparent furtherance of its very justified public aim of combatting the threat which that terrorism poses to our society. Measures which seek to change fundamentally how we live as a democratic society, whatever outrages may be visited upon us, are not part of the solution - they are part of the problem.

Clarke prisoner release scandal

One of the persons released after having served his sentences for "serious offences including murder, rape, manslaughter and child sex offences", and who is "classed as one of the most dangerous foreign offenders to have been freed mistakenly by the Home Office in recent years" has been arrested in Aberdeenshire by Grampian Police.

The latest proposals outlined before the House of Commons yesterday by Charles Clarke for new primary legislation to "enable us to detain an individual pending consideration of whether they should be deported or removed as a result of their criminal conviction", and amendments to existing primary legislation so that "deportation appeals, save for those raising asylum or human rights issues that are not clearly unfounded, are heard after the individual has been deported from the UK" may sound superficially good when delivered in the faux-magisterial tones of the Home Secretary, but it is not clear why the proper application of existing legislation, rather than yet more unnecessarily and dangerously authoritarian law-making, is not considered a simpler and more effective option by this spin-obsessed Government. Oh, sorry, my own rhetorical question is answered by the final part of the previous sentence!

'Abolition of Parliament' Bill to be amended ...

... to take account of the many criticisms made of the original version of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, says Cabinet Office Minister Jim Murphy; speaking of the changes, he said:

"We have tabled amendments that put beyond doubt that this bill will deliver our better regulation agenda and nothing else.

"The time has come for those who claim they want to tackle bureaucracy to show they mean what they say, and let the government get on with the crucial task of cutting unnecessary red tape."

- I have not yet been able to trace an online version of these amendments, although the comments by CBI deputy director John Cridland seem to indicate that these amendments are in the right direction (although it is not explicitly stated that he has seen the text of the latest amendments either!).

The online versions of this bill which I have been able to trace so far are as follows:

- original text of the bill as published on 11 January 2006, this was the subject of a post entitled 'Dictatorship Britain' in the making?, published in this blog on 15 February 2006;

- amended text of the bill as published on 9 March 2006, based on the deliberations of Standing Committee A in the House of Commons. Explanatory notes to explain the differences between this latest text and the version originally printed are here (but as the notes themselves declare: "They have been prepared by the Cabinet Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament."). The full text of the Standing Committee proceedings which led to this amended version is here.

I go into this in some detail because it is not until I have seen with my own eyes precisely what the latest amendments tabled by Cabinet Office Minister Jim Murphy contain that I will be convinced that the meaning he seeks to give to them is fully justified. I don't of course for one moment doubt what he says, but I have come to realise that it is necessary to analyse very carefully anything that this Government says.

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Podcast - 3 MAY 2006

A new podcast is up today - to listen, click on the 'Podcast' link under Blog Links at right. It is about five and a half minutes long (if you still see a link to the previous podcast at right, you may need to refresh your browser).

This time I have devoted the programme to two broad areas as a continuation of a post I wrote about a week ago:
- Home Secretary Charles Clarke and his alleged incompetence, particularly in connection with his lack of effective management of the activities of the Home Office in the light of recent revelations that over a thousand foreign criminals were released back into the community on completing their sentences, rather than deportation having been considered in most cases;
- the general public hilarity surrounding the extra-marital affair(s) of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and the way this issue, rather than the Home Office's failings seem to have become the focus of more criticism in the lead-up to this week's local government election in England.

As ever, if you have comments on today's podcast (clarity, content, etc), do let me know.

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Cryptic comment - it appears my little blog is read ...

... and credited with rather greater influence in some quarters than I had ever imagined or, frankly, think is justified. Free speech can cut both ways of course, but I have gone into my blogging activity with pretty open eyes. And that is all I am going to write on this topic - so don't bother asking for clarification.

This rather cryptic little note has nothing whatever to do with the paucity of my recent blogging activity - I will be discussing that particular issue in a new Podcast, which I hope to put up in the next day or so.