Archive for April, 2010

Nick Clegg disappoints the Xbox 360 vote

Wednesday 28 April 2010

When I read Nick Clegg’s interview in the Evening Standard on Monday, my eyes leapt to the end of the piece. Sam Leith writes of the Lib Dem battlebus:

“Inside it’s very plush and new: comfy sofas of pale leather; flat-screen tellies. The snacks are appropriately austere: a bowl of fruit and a big basket of individual pots of jam. There’s Molton Brown liquid handwash at the sink. Copies of two magazines: Harper’s Bazaar and Food and Travel. On the table is the controller for an Xbox 360.”

Could it be true? Could Clegg be the first leader of a political party to play Microsoft’s best-selling Xbox 360 games console, titles for which include the equally best-selling (and mildly controversial) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2?

As an Xbox gamer myself, I couldn’t resist asking. But no. Nick Clegg’s spokesman says: “I can confirm that he doesn’t play Xbox. It just came with the bus.” Some journalists have played football games on it, he added.

Maybe it’s just as well. Some prople have reported adverse reactions to using Xboxes of the sort that would not become a potential Westminster kingmaker.

If Clegg ever gets the urge to have a go, the Tribune office recommends Tropico 3, Halo 3 and, of course, Modern Warfare 2.

(from the Tribune blog)


Shadow cabinet minister: Lib Dem-Tory coalition “extremely improbable”

Tuesday 27 April 2010

On the campaign trail in Watford yesterday I bumped into Conservative Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve, who was out helping their candidate Richard Harrington in his bid to topple incumbent and junior minister Claire Ward (notional majority: 1,151).
Asked about the weekend’s newspaper headlines, which report Nick Clegg as saying he would back the Tories in the event of a hung parliament, Grieve all but rubbished the idea:”I think a coalition is extremely improbable”, adding: “On the face of it, the most likely outcome of voting Liberal is to shore up the Government, not us.”
None of this means that discussions between the parties on a coalition are not underway, but Grieve doesn’t sound very keen on cosying up to Nick Clegg and his policies, does he? It raises an interesting question which I’m totally unable to answer: we’ve heard a lot about Labour cabinet views on working with the Lib Dems, but what about the Shadow Cabinet?
Meanwhile, as The Guardian reported yesterday, Clegg has re-finessed his position by saying that we would be prepared to work with Labour as well (but not Brown).

(from the Tribune blog)

Power grab in the Unite election?

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Retired members in the former Amicus side of Unite are up in arms after Unite’s executive council voted at their meeting this month to exclude them from regional council elections – and, from what I can tell, the general secretary election too.

This could have a profound impact on the outcome of the election, due to take place after that other election you may have heard about.

Retired members from the former T&G side of Unite do not have a vote; so in depriving the Amicus members, the executive was harmonising the two sides as the merger process rolls on and the union slims down its structures.

But some people are unhappy that they didn’t decide to just give the T&G side a vote. Actually, unhappy is probably an understatement: one has spoken of the union “taking our money and then crapping on us from a great height”. The counter-argument is that with the GS election and the regional elections coming up, there wasn’t time.

Anyway, what does it mean? Well, if retired members were to vote along membership lines, i.e. for a candidate for the Amicus side, as some no doubt will, then taking their votes away puts those candidates at a disadvantage to the T&G candidate, Len McCluskey, supported by Tony Woodley. It would also hamstring any candidate who’s been campaigning among retired members.

It may be a coincidence, but I am told that Woodley supported this decision.

This one will probably run and run…

‘Big gay flashmob’ hits Tories

Sunday 11 April 2010

“Grayling out!” The sound of people  – especially young people, which at least half of them were – chanting for the sacking of the Shadow Home Secretary right outside Conservative Campaign Headquarters in Millbank Tower this afternoon suggests that old-fashioned issue-based gay rights activism is not dead. And beyond that, it raises a question: how successful have the Tories been at decontaminating their brand?

First what happened today. Over 200 people* gathered to protest today over the twin trigger events of Chris Grayling’s remarks about gay couples and David Cameron’s difficult Gay Times interview, which have both unexpectedly thrust LGBT rights into the spotlight of election campaign. But talking to the protesters, their concerns went to the heart of Conservative policy, or lack of it as they see it.

The protest took the form of a “kiss mob” – i.e. a flash mob where people kiss each other. As well as “Grayling out”, there were repeated chants of “I’m never voting Tory” and “come out David” (not that he was in the building; he was in Birmingham on campaign). One o the speakers was Anastasia Beaumont-Bott, founder of a Conservative gay rights group, who’s gone from Cameron torchbearer to (literally) shrieking denouncer of him in a short space of time.

One young lady who took part told me: “I was brought up Tory. I would’ve voted Conservative but they have no policies [on gay rights]. He’s just stuttered on every single policy.” Her kissing partner, who voted Conservative in the 2005 election, said: “The fact they don’t have any Conservative Party line as to how people should vote is a huge problem. David Cameron’s voting record is a huge problem.”

This last comment refers to the vote in the European Parliament censuring Lithuania over a Section 28-style law, which Tory MEPs refused to support – leading to the tricky interview above.

Complaints over lack of policies came back again and again. One protester and blogger, Scott from Vauxhall, south London, says: “They need to set out some actual things rather than be vague. Having some action and saying ‘this is what we’re going to do’. Another, one of those behind an anti-Tory Twitter and Facebook campaign, complains of what he calls the Tories’ associations with hard-right parties in the European Parliament and that vote. “What would change his mind? “If they actually come up with actual policies to support what they’re saying in the press.” He also said he wasn’t seeking to support any other party through the campaign.

Veteran gay rights protester Peter Tatchell went in search of the policies – he was invited to a meeting this morning with shadow chancellor George Osborne, shadow womens’ minister Theresa May and shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert. He was not impressed: “We couldn’t get any clear commitment”. Asked about allowing gay marriage, he sys Osborne offered to look at it, but stopped short of promising a formal review. This isn’t a party political point: Labour has also refused to change the law to allow it, as he pointed out. Osborne also stuck close to Labour in refusing to comment on the National Blood Service ban on gays giving blood.

The Tories did offer a commitment to tackle homophobic bullying in schools and to quash some convictions under repealed sexual offences laws. But Tatchell said these were “vague promises” and didn’t go far enough.

What’s interesting about this protest – apart from that it seems to have got a few young people interested in politics – is that it suggests David Cameron’s attempt to purge the Conservatives of their ‘nasty party’ image hasn’t entirely worked. Even one of their latest policies, tax breaks for married couples (and civil partnerships) was seen as discriminatory because it doesn’t apply to everyone else. Could it be, more than anything else, a testament to the power of the Internet to channel information (Grayling’s comments, Cameron’s Gay Times interview), radically reshape opinion, and be used as a campaigning tool? If so, this election campaign is getting very slippery. And we’re only on day six.

*Full disclosure: Including two friends of mine – three if you count Peter Tatchell. I didn’t interview the other two.


Friday 2 April 2010

I haven’t been posting this week as I’ve been on holiday, and I’m on holiday next week too so don’t think I’ll be blogging. However, given that nobody seems to read a fucking word I write (regardless of how many stories I break or how under-reported industrial affairs are), what difference does that make?