Thursday, 31 May 2012

Its raining in Waterford.....

Its been a heck of a week! Campaigning in Ireland with Nikki Sinclaire and the team, putting the argument for a "NO" vote for today's referendum on the Fiscal Treaty.

Dundalk, Dublin, Kildaire, Cork, and a host of villages in between. Last night we arrived in Waterford, which is a highlight for me - my maternal Grandfather was from Co. Kilkenny - and what a beautiful place it is.
It didn't look so nice at 7am this morning though, doing the last minute leafleting in the pouring rain!

The best bit however has been the reception we have received from the Irish people. Popular opinion is clearly against the treaty, but many feel bullied into voting "YES", and so they are pleased to debate with us and have a host of questions for us. Lets hope that we have managed to reassure at least some of them that the world will not end if they reject the treaty.

At the moment, the gap is a narrow one, and a collapse in support for Labour - who are taking a lead in the yes campaign - might throw up an unexpected result. Let us hope........ 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A 98th Birthday Party....!

My very good friend Glynne celebrated his 98th bithday some days ago. We had a lovely gathering - Champagne, Welsh Cakes, too much chocolate cake, and we told jokes and sang a bit as we always do. I cannot claim to be a Welsh speaker, but thanks to all those lovely Friday lunches with Glynne, I am getting the hang of Ar Hyd y Nos.

Glynne is a former soldier with  the London Welsh. He is a Normandy Veteran, and was one of the troops who liberated Brussels from the Germans in 1944. He retains his Welsh accent despite having lived for decades here in Brussels. He married a very pretty girl here, and raised his family. But now he is alone, but with many good friends.

He is a lovely gentleman, with a keen mind and a great love of literature. Our mutual friend Norman, an ex Royal Navy man from Northern Irelend was there with us, along with good folk from all parts of the UK and Belgium.

In 1939, Glynne served as an Ack Ack gunner at RAF Wattisham. I was there myself as a young airman from 1979-1983. We also have a colleague here in Brussels, Julia, who spent time at the base herself. There is a corner of a Belgian bar that is forever RAF Wattisham.......


This week we realised a long standing ambition when we held the inaugural meeting of the EP's informal intergroup on Classical Music.

Dmytro Sukhovienko, an esteemed concert pianist and a good friend of mine was there, as was Tom Wise, former MEP, who did good work on supporting the cause of classical music. All in all, a good meeting and one that generated some good ideas and proposals.

Monday, 7 May 2012

This Time Next Year, Rodders, We'll All Be Millionaires!

 Having occasionally paid attention to my lecturers, I can tell you that Psephology is the study of election results - it comes from the Greek word Psepho, which means 'pebble'. The ancient Greeks used to cast their votes by placing a pebble in a jar.

As election results go, it doesn't require the wisdom of Pericles to work out what happened at last week's local elections in the UK.

The Lib Dems were punished severely for being totally ineffectual, and Labour benefited from the predictable mid-term expression of disatisfaction with the government. The Leveson enquiry hasn't helped the Tories of course - let's be honest, we are all absolutely convinced that they offered support for Murdoch's BSkyB takeover bid in return for editorial support. Skinner was right - the posh boys are in trouble, and their underlings are being thrown to the wolves in order to protect them. I suspect they may run out of underlings before this one reaches its conclusion....

But what about UKIP? The party has never done well at local elections - it is a 'top-down' party, with little serious effort or investment at the local level. One might have expected, however, something more than a zero net gain, and a wipe-out in London.

The latter disappointed me somewhat, having done a lot of work on the ground there up until 2004. I had fully expected UKIP to win at least one seat on the London Assembly, but no, it was, as wipeouts go, total. Of course, we are talking about a party that could not even manage to present itself correctly on the ballot paper, and ended up with a derisory 1.96%. Who the bloody hell was responsible for that, I wonder? Only the BNP did worse - and not much worse either

The local manifesto was totally unsuited for local elections (nothing new there).How many times are wind farms mentioned in this piece of political illiteracy? In fact, opposition to renewable energy per se literally jumps out of the pages here. In a YouGov poll last year, 56% of those asked supported more wind power "than at present". So that's 56% of the electorate scared off straight away. How can any party possibly hope to form a majority even at local level when it is trying to appeal to 44% of the population at best? This is madness. Note that the Greens did marginally better than at the previous local elections, and managed third place in the London Mayoral election.

It is worth noting that in the same poll, 76% were in favour of more solar energy. UKIP does not touch this at all in its manifesto, instead it just keeps recycling the same lines about wind energy. I wonder why that is? In fact, UKIP's energy and environment policy has not been updated since 2008, and even then what is on the party website is a misrepresentation of the paper produced by the relevant policy committee.

I am told that the person responsible for the local manifesto is actually employed by a member of another political  party. That might sound impossible in any other context, but remember - UKIP is the party whose leader actually donned a Tory rosette and urged voters to reject his own candidates at the last general election.

UKIP has been boasting that it is replacing the Lib Dems as the third party. To get this into perspective, UKIP has 9 councillors, and the Lib Dems - who suffered their worst results ever last week, have 431.

But if the party's maths are as good as its policy formulation, then what the hell!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Country Sports - A New Sector?

I always enjoyed shooting - I was at Bisley a couple of times in the late 70s as a cadet in the Air Training Corps - and I carried on during my time in the RAF. Mostly full bore, but some .22 and pistol  shooting. Its a great sport. I still love guns, and I still shoot. The thought of hunting never really appealed to me though- I don't see how it can be considered fun to shoot a living creature, unless they are IRA, in which case that's something of a public service, of course.

So there I was, just a few short days ago, driving through Yorkshire and admiring the scenery, when a fantastic idea occurred to me. Country sports are often considered to be somewhat exclusive, and inaccessible to many. So it occurred to me that it would be a good thing to 'democratise' the concept, and to make it more accessible by opening up what seems to me to be a whole new sector in field sports.

Hunting sheep.

Think about it - there are hundreds of thousands of them on the Yorksire dales. They don't actually do anything except chew cud or whatever, and they are slow movers, so hunting sheep would be a great way of getting into the sport. Even an Afghan on poppy seeds couldn't miss one of those.

This idea could even be extended to include a whole new concept in hunting - the machine gun. If you were a sheep, what would you prefer, being electrocuted, then hung up by the hind legs and slaughtered in front of all your pals, or would you rather take a couple of rounds of 7.62 in the side of the head whilst peacefully gazing across the moors?

Think how much money this would inject into the subsidy industry (or farming, as it used to be called).

I don't really understand sheep. But it occurred to me as I was wistfully watching them and considering the best angle to go for a head shot, that these animals are sadly unaware of their purpose in life. Think about it - of all the zillions of sheep that ever lived, not a single one of them ever had any idea of how nice they taste.