Saturday, January 14, 2006

Not so gorgeous George

They say George Galloway is a hit with the women, not sure they'll be so keen after seeing this

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Lib Dems at a crossroads

With Charles Kennedy gone, the race is on to find a replacement, and it looks like being a bitter contest between the economic liberals on one side and the beard and sandals brigade on the other.

Two recent articles by Stephen Pollard, written before Charles Kennedy's resignation, sum up the predicament the Lib Dems find themselves in.

The first article suggests the death knell for Charles Kennedy's leadership was David Cameron's election to the leadership of the Tory party.

The second is even more to the point, the real problem isn't Charles Kennedy, it's the party.

All the resignation has done is to bring forward the inevitable, the fact that the Lib Dems have to find a purpose. Unfortunately, it seems to me they're damned either way. If they vote for 'Ming' Campbell, they face the prospect of chasing votes in an already crowded political centre. And if they choose to move leftwards under Simon Hughes, they may pick up the dissaffected Labour voters, but voters in the Tory marginals will be scared off in droves.

The Lib Dems have always seemed to me like something of a fantasy party. As the Paddy Ashdown character on Spitting Image used to say: "Neither Left nor Right, but somewhere in between". The Lib Dems would do British voters a big favour if they dissolved their party and redistributed their MPs among the Tories and Labour instead. 'Ming' Campbell and Mark Oaten could join the Tories, Simon Hughes could join Labour. The Lib Dems have some fine MPs, this way their wasted talent might be put to good use, they may even breathe some life back into British politics.

A final thought regarding Christmas

The long Christmas break is finally over, and I've been gathering together all my old Christmas cards which I plan to recycle. Looking through the various cards I received this year, I noticed that one card was from a Hindu client, and several were from Jewish clients, despite the fact that I'm Jewish.

And that really sums up the spirit of Christmas. Despite the well intentioned efforts of the "do gooders" to play down the festival, non-Christians enjoy this time of year because of the sprit of goodwill that comes with it, and not because of any imposed religious beliefs.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater

Lately, David Cameron has been looking rather pleased with himself. First he announced the National Health Service would remain free for all, then he hired Bob Geldof to advise on reducing global poverty, and shortly after that he renounced Thatcherism. In fact, the way things are going, he might as well close shop and dissolve the Conservative party.

That would no doubt please many of those praising him such as Polly Toynbee, but it may be time to ask whether he's gone a little too far.

In fact, David Cameron could learn a thing or two from the Church of England. Once upon a time, the Church was known as "the Tory Party at Prayer", very establishment, and a little staid. But by the 1980s, the Church was losing a substantial number of worshippers, and in a desperate bid to staunch the flow, decided it was time to "get with the project" and be more relevant. Over the last 20 years, the Church has jumped on the bandwagon of every liberal cause imaginable, and where did that get them? Fewer members, poorer finances and an ever wider split between traditionalists and liberalisers over the issue of the ordination of women and gay priests.

By contrast, the Catholic Church has grown in members and stature the world over, despite their "doctrinaire, authoritarian" theology, because they have little interest in what the Liberal establishment think of them. They're not expecting the Guardian's editorial team to fill the pews, they're appealling to the masses. Many of those following the Pope may not follow the message, but at least they know where the Messenger stands.

The lesson to learn is that there is little to gain from appealing to those you are never going to win over in the first place. The average voter it's true has little interest in ideology, but at the same time, they'll vote for any party that gives them a better quality of life. Which means they'll be right wing on some issues (such as locking up more criminals) and left wing on others (such as keeping the NHS free).

David Cameron may be enjoying his honeymoon period, but when it comes to 2009, he'll have to announce what policies he actually believes in. The way he's going, there won't be any left.

The Lib Dems don't get off the hook that easily!

Finally, after months of speculation, Charles Kennedy has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats. That he decided to stand down is of no surprise, that he took as long as he did to do so is a scandal.

Charles Kennedy should be given credit where credit is due, he gave a better speech on his departure than during his entire career as leader, which begs the question, why did the Lib Dems let such a lacklustre figure run the show in the first place? Well, you only have to look at the 2005 election results to see why. With one of their best opportunities in decades, they weren't going to spoil the fun and dump their leader at such a crucial moment, but sooner or later, you have to face reality, and as the old saying goes, "you can fool some people some of the time but you can't fool all the people all the time".

Unfortunately, reality isn't something the Lib Dems excel at. Whilst lecturing us that the government lied about Iraq, they have spent the last six years lying about the competence of their leader to head a government. But their lack of reality doesn't stop there, it also extends to their policies. Whilst mainstream politics has long drifted towards the centre, the Liberal Dems have lurched to the left, with policies such as big government, higher taxation, exiting Iraq, and more power to the EU. As long as they were a protest party, the Lib Dems have been able to sweep their own policies under the carpet, whilst providing an outlet for voters to register their discontent with mainstream politics. Now the public have seen the state of their leader, the Lib Dems can no longer play at that game. It has given the electorate a long overdue opportunity to examine the merits of the Lib Dems and consider...what if they ever got elected?!

Louis Jacobs: Anglo Jewry's great lost opportunity

Congratulations are in order for Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs, recently voted by the Jewish Chronicle as Anglo Jewry's greatest Jew. He is also in many ways Anglo Jewry's greatest tragedy.

As a result of the scandal surrounding his book We have reason to believe, his appointment as head of Jews College, the London based rabbinic training school, was blocked. Under his leadership, the now defunct Jews College may well have become a world renowned centre of rabbinic excellence. Instead it was reduced to little more than a provincial college. And as a result, we have been reduced to importing our Rabbis from overseas or from Chabad.

Louis Jacobs represents a lost opportunity for Anglo Jewry, a community which doesn't appear to believe in itself.