Friday, 22 August 2014

Police Commissioner voting farce

BBC reports that the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner by-election has been won by Labour's David Jamieson on a 10.4% turnout:

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Meteorology and the causes of war

I posted last year about Lewis Fry Richardson, the Quaker mathematician and scientist whose development of Bjerknes's work on weather-forecasting was ahead of its time. It needed the advances in computer technology which occurred after his death to put his techniques into practice. It appears from this recent article that his final work, on predicting conflict, is also going to yield to state-of-the-art IT.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Pauline Pearce

What a pity Grace Dent did not carry out some research before writing for yesterday's Indy. If she had looked at the Hackney LibDem website she would have seen that Pauline Pearce remains a local spokesperson , with the very visible support of Nick Clegg. She is also on the Federal Conference Committee as a result of Kelly-Marie Blundell's resignation.

So far from "only Yes men and those with squeaky clean histories [being] permitted to hold the reins" all the remaining presidential candidates are female. All the candidates submitted to a Q&A from Mark Pack. The last question was as to whom the respondent would endorse as party leader. The only person who gave a ringing endorsement to Nick Clegg - so a "yes-woman"? - was: Pauline Pearce!

I can also confirm that as soon as Miss Pearce's video appeared on social media, sympathisers in the party asked for contact details so that they could reassure her. I'm glad to see that she has no intention of leaving, but I have to admit that too few people in the party outside the capital were aware of the role she played during the 2011 London riots. If nothing else, her entering the presidential race and then spectacularly leaving it has corrected that. I will be surprised if she is not elected to at least one party committee in her own right in the next round of elections, rather than having to rely on appointment as runner-up to fill a vacancy.

It is also unfair to criticise a party which put Navnit Dholakia (a former party president!), Kishwer Falkner and Floella Benjamin in the House of Lords for lack of diversity. Incidentally, the first non-white MP was a Liberal: Dadabhai Naoroji.  At the end of the nineteenth century, he represented Finsbury - another North London constituency.

[Posting updated at 11:45]

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A law unto themselves

I have just listened to Helena Kennedy's interview of Eva Joly on Radio 4. It brought out a sobering account of big business stealing public money, not only in France and Francophone Africa, but also on a global scale. Having successfully prosecuted corrupt politicians and business people in France, she went on to investigate what happened to aid money in Afghanistan and found that less than 20% found its way to the citizens it was intended to help. Most was diverted to bank accounts in Dubai where the authorities have resisted forensic attempts to obtain further information.

Joly made the point that she was able to succeed in France because investigating judge is a career path one can embark on, and be trained for, from an early stage there. (The option also enables more women to enter the ranks of the judiciary than over here.) She also asserted that, because so much detailed investigative work could be cleared beforehand, trials were shorter and the outcome more certain than under a common law system like that of England and Wales.

That cannot be the whole story. It is surely significant that Eva Joly was an outsider, brought up in a Nordic country where public morality is ingrained and the Gallic shrug is abhorrent. Moreover, one has not seen high-profile prosecution of financial miscreants in Scotland, which has a basically similar judicial process as France. Remember the Royal Bank of Scotland, headquartered in Edinburgh?

She is surely right in calling for action on a global scale, though, and expansion of the anti-corruption network, sharing information, which she assisted in creating.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Normalising relations with Cuba

Some MEPs are trumpeting EU moves towards Cuba. However, I believe that the EPRS document is wrong to criticise the US, when the Obama administration is taking the same line.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Conservatives and "boots on the ground"

Thanks to Liberal Democrat Voice, I now know that the dialogue I quoted a few days ago was from a Larry King interview. The full transcript is here. My eye was caught by the interchange which preceded the Facebook clip, because I remember a "Letter from America" which recalled the same whistle-stop campaign.

KING: Have you always been politically motivated?

BACALL: I have. I have. I come from a...

KING: You go back -- In fact, I saw you.

BACALL: I saw you?

KING: I saw you speak for Adlai Stevenson.

BACALL: You did?

KING: In New York. I believe bogey was with you.


KING: In '52.

BACALL: '52. That's when my -- two of my greatest friendships began with Arthur Schlesinger and Alistair Cooke, 1952.

KING: And what a man Stevenson was.

BACALL: Oh, what a great man. (INAUDIBLE) you see this country. Please. Don't get me started, as they say.

KING: So we missed a good opportunity. I think, even his critic was say that Adlai Stevenson was a great...

BACALL: He was a brilliant, brilliant man. But no one had heard anyone except Roosevelt speak with wit. You know, they couldn't figure out what that was all about. Couldn't be serious.

If I recall correctly, Alistair Cooke's piece was part of a memorial to Adlai Stevenson, the last presidential candidate who Cooke so closely involved himself with. After that, he maintained a studious distance, though from time to time in the "Letters" he sought to correct what he saw as British misconceptions about such figures as Barry Goldwater and LBJ. What stuck in Cooke's memory was that while the Stevenson party was relaxing on the train the news came through of a speech by Eisenhower in which he promised to bring "our boys" back from Korea. At that point, they all realised that the election was lost for Stevenson - but he conceded that a liberal Democrat could never with credibility have made the same pledge.

It always seems to be conservatives - like Nixon, GW Bush and David Cameron - who gain kudos from withdrawing troops from foreign theatres of war. Contrariwise, they have - Churchill and Thatcher apart - managed to avoid committing fighting men. It was Truman who took US into the Korean War, Kennedy & LBJ who took up where the French left off in Vietnam, and of course Tony Blair's ventures remain fresh in the memory.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Metropole Orchestra

Dolf van der Linden is a name I used to roll around my tongue in childhood. It seems that the Metropole Orchestra was always around on the Light Programme. I'm surprised that it has taken so long to bring the current incarnation to the Proms - perhaps too "light music" for earlier Proms controllers - but its straddling of the worlds of jazz and symphonic music seems just right for today's Proms. Next Tuesday's concert featuring Laura Mvula should be something special.