Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Letter to East Kent Gazette

'It is interesting to see each week in the letters page that the election is under way with the Conservatives, Labour and even UKIP having an enjoyable time attacking each other. But I hope the voters won’t forget the Liberal Democrats.

'I agree with Roger Truelove, the Labour chairman, that we should have a positive debate about national and local issues and how we should approach the challenges facing us – and we look forward to that debate during the campaign. But the bottom line is that the Labour government has failed and is now drifting through its last days of power.

'Meanwhile, the Conservatives concentrate on negative attacks to disguise their lack of ideas and vision in the assumption that they only have to turn up to win. To be fair, they may well be right.

'Only the Liberal Democrats have a positive agenda for change with tax cuts, a green economy, genuine political reform and an ambitious programme for education investment – and that’s just for starters.

'I hope those who do not want to see Gordon Henderson sitting on the Tory benches as our next MP will consider the only real alternative.

Letter in Sunday Telegraph - 16 August

'Daniel Hannan is right to praise the use of an open primary in Totnes but forgets to state that, even if all MPs were selected this way, the end result would remain an unrepresentative parliament, still disproportionate to the voters wishes.

'The best answer is to adopt an electoral system known as Single Transferable Voting (STV). This is a method of large constituences with a number of MPs and allows voters to choose the individuals they want, rather than parties. A Tory voter would be able to choose from more than one candidate (as Mr Hannan encourages).

'An advantage would be that voters could vote against their MP (if angry over his/her expenses) but still vote for someone from that party, which they can't do at present.

'This is a more flexible and democratic process and the end result, although not exactly proportional representation, would be a far more representative parliament than is currently the case. I would encourage our politicians to back this method.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The debate to have a debate

At every election, the topic arises of a US-style debate between the leaders, and you can’t beat the cut and thrust of a good verbal battle of ideas and propositions.

However debates can be blamed for losing elections but never credited for winning. Nixon’s performance against Kennedy in 1960 and Ford’s Poland gaffe in 1976 are just two examples. For this reason we are, alas, unlikely to ever see them here. It is usually the one who is behind in the polls who is keen for it to happen – hence Labour’s current interest.

For our part, we should not, of course, fear a debate on financial issues. Vince Cable should be able to comfortably wipe the floor with Alastair Darling and George Osborne. It is sad that the most able candidate for Chancellor is the least likely to get it – but such is life. Indeed I myself have been turned down for jobs in favour of less able candidates - some of whom then leave within two years.

At the last election Tony Blair argued that the leaders debate every week in the Commons – but the yah boo session whereby both leaders shout abuse at it other roared on by 300 rabble rousers is hardly the same as a civilised discussion.

Parliament has of course seen many great debaters over the years. Recent examples include Michael Foot, Enoch Powell and Tony Benn. You would take these guys on at your peril. But now leading politicians often avoid a proper debate like the plague.

In Sittingbourne, the Conservative candidate, Gordon Henderson, is a virtual dead-cert to win the seat. Would he have a public debate with the other candidates during the campaign next year? Perhaps not, but I might ask him nearer the time.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Kick off is nearly with us

Today is the first of August and that means one thing - yes, the start of the football season is soon upon us. I've got my FourFourTwo season preview so am almost ready for the kick off. The first live TV game is on Thursday on ITV4 in a game where Fulham are already three up against some team from Lithuania - but a drought is a drought.

My earlier grumble about Sky/ESPN/Setanta etc seems to have nearly reached a solution with ESPN possibly being available on Freeview. Hopefully they will sort this out before the Premiership starts. ESPN is showing the beautiful game from England, Scotland, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Russia (!) and the USA. That's a lot of footy.

This season, for a change, I think I will follow League One (what we used to call the third division). Not only does this appear to be the most competitive of the four divisions (can you guess the top four so easily) but, by co-incidence it contains my team (Norwich City), my local team (Gillingham), the local team of where I grew up (Wycombe) as well as the teams of some friends of mine (Leeds, Southampton, Charlton). Piece of luck eh?

And of course any mention of football must make us think of Sir Bobby Robson who I am sure will get a deserved minute's applause at many of the first games. He was responsible for Ipswich Town being a decent team, and gave us Paul Gascoigne and Jose Mourinho - but let's not hold that against him. He was a jolly good chap and our second best England manager. Rest in Peace Sir Bobby.