Archive for September, 2010

September 30, 2010

>X-Factor final 12-SPOILER

>Now, VN was a big fan of Must be the Music, but decided to take a peak at Simon Cowell’s shenanigans this year. Not much to impress it must be said, and with just 3 weeks to go until the X-Factor live shows begin the names of the final 12 contestants have been leaked. 

Cheryl Cole’s 3 girls are: Cher Lloyd, Katie Waissel and Rebecca Ferguson
Danni Minogue’s 3 boys are: Aiden Grimshaw, Matt Cardle and Nicolo Festa
Simon Cowell’s 3 groups are: F.Y.D and the newly formed girl group Belle Amie, and boy group 1 Direction.
Poor old Louis got stuck with the over 28s  and has chosen John Adeleye, Mary Byrne and Storm Lee, just to irritate Simon Cowell.

September 30, 2010

>Champions League review 30.9.10


It has been a successful week in the Champions League for all the British teams: 

Debutants Tottenham Hotspur kicked off their home campaign proper with a crazy 4-1 win over Dutch side FC. They were awarded 3 penalties, 2 of which were scored by Russian forward Roman Pavlyuchenko, and one that was missed be Rafa Van Der Vaart. Van Der Vaart did though score a magnificent volley, before being sent off for 2 rather unnecessary bookings. Tom Huddlestone was lucky not to have seen red earlier, as TV replays clearly show him swinging his arm into a Twente player’s jaw. Gareth Bale scored the 4th on the break.

Manchester United new boy Hernadez’s magnificent finish saw them take 3 point away from Valencia. No easy feat giving the fortress like status of the Mestaille stadium. Unsurprisingly the game was close affair, but the young attacking duo of Macheda and Hernadez had enough quality to make the one decisive breakthrough. After a disappointing home draw with Rangers, Manchester United will feel there campaign is truly under way.

The night before Chelsea had cruised to victory against Didier Deschamps’ Marseille side. They won 2-0, the first a near post flick from skipper John Terry, the second an outrageously cool penalty from Nicholas Anelka. Arsenal beat 10 man Partisan Belgrade 1-3, in a game that also saw multiple penalties. Their goals game from Arshavin, Chamakh, and Squillaci. Partisan scored a penalty, but also had one saved by Lukasz Fabianski. Andrey Arshavin also missed a penalty.

Apart from all the British teams winning, even Rangers got in on the act by beating Bursaspor 1-0, it was noticeable the number of penalties awarded. The extra officials seems to mean that more in-the-box incidents get noticed, and more penalties awarded. It will be interesting to see if these continues. 

Tonight Manchester City and Liverpool are in the Europa league, against Juventus and FC Utrecht respectively. 

September 29, 2010

>David Miliband walks away from Labour front bench

>David Miliband has this evening walked away from front line politics, and the Labour front bench led by his brother. The former Foreign Secretary say he needs to “recharge his batteries”. He also said that he feared “perpetual, distracting and destructive attempts to find division where there is none and splits where they don’t exist”.

It seems quite bizarre that a leading party figure, who received more support from MPs/MEPS and members than the winner, now feels unable to be a lead figure in the Shadow Cabinet. All the other leadership candidates, including Diane Abbot, have put their names on the ballot to make up the 19 person team.

David may claim that he gets the ‘nice bonus’ of being able to spend more time with his family, surely the coalition is now the biggest winner of the Labour leadership contest.

September 29, 2010

>Fox is no Ashdown, but he is still too experienced to leak private letter

>A leaked letter from Defence Secretary Dr. Liam Fox to David Cameron is causing chaos in Whitehall, as MOD police  search cupboards and computers to try and work out how it became public in the Daily Telegraph. The letter, marked ‘For the Prime Minister’s eyes only’, detailed Dr Fox’s fears that “this process [the strategic defence spending review,] is looking less and less defensible as a proper SDSR and more like a “super CSR” (comprehensive spending review).”

Many were hoping that the much respected former marine, and former Lib Dem Leader, Lord Ashdown would have some formal role to play in the coalition government’s defence team. Liam Fox has though been relatively strong in the role, although he is under increasing pressure on finances, Afghanistan, and the renewal of Trident. He is said to be furious that this letter has come out. 

The Defence Secretary’s fears at the outcome of the spending review are well known around Westminster but, as the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson points out, he is far too an experienced front bench politician, holding far too an important role, to pull such a stunt. Could it be a member of his staff, thinking they had a wink and a nod form their boss? Possibly. Could it be a member of the Prime Minister’s staff trying to outflank the MoD? Very unlikely. But the number people who previously knew the letter existed must be very small. The leaker needs to be weeded out.

September 29, 2010

>What is David Miliband thinking this morning?


Photo of UK government minister David Miliband...Image via Wikipedia

David Miliband will have woken up in London (not Manchester,) this morning and wondered where on Earth it all went wrong. Blair, Brown, David. That was the Labour line of succession. But no, like something out of a Disney movie the chipper younger brother has stepped up to steal the crown. Of course it could all have been different. He could have shown  the same courage his brother has by removing Brown and becoming Labour leader. He could possibly even be the Prime Minister now. He thought he was being honourable, be wakes up this morning defeated, with his career in the balance.

There are very strong rumours that come 5pm his name will not be on the ballot for the Shadow Cabinet, and that he will in fact step away from politics. There are undoubtedly many in the private sector and in Europe who would love to snap him up. Would this mean stepping down as an MP and forcing a by-election, just as the bruises are fading from the General Election campaign?

It must be said David has behaved impeccably in defeat. He couldn’t resist going full pelt in his speech to conference, showing them what they had missed, but what should he? Most people in that hall already knew what they had missed out on as leader. However, the Iraq/Harriet Harman moment managed to take some of the gloss of brother Ed’s speech. While most people would like the Labour party to apologise for the terrible mistake that was the Iraq war, David Miliband seems to have become the sole scapegoat still standing. As Stephan Tall points out today, Ed’s record on Iraq is hardly as pristine as he likes to claim either… We shouldn’t though be surprised by yet another deathbed conversion after his neat little about turn on tuition fees.

David will announce his intentions for the future later. It does though seems increasingly that the disappointment of falling at the final hurdle has proved to much, and that David Miliband is going to ride of into the political sunset.

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September 28, 2010

>Labour looking to stick to their promise on AV

>There was rightly a lot of anger when it looked like Labour where going to back out of their manifesto commitment to support the introduction of the Alternative Vote for elections to the House of Commons. However,  there seems to be more positive noise coming out of the Labour conference, and Ed Miliband’s leader’s speech laid out that he would back both the introduction of AV, and a fully elected House of Lords. Both these things Labour failed to implement in 13 years of government. 

They had  previously tried to duck out of a key part of the coalitions political reform agenda, by claiming that the boundary review that is part of the same legislation is gerrymandering. However, at a recent event for youth political organisations in the US Embassy Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, debating with Labour’s Chris Bryant MP: highlighted what a nonsense this argument is:

JB: “I’ve got 82,000 constituents in my constituency, how many have you got in yours?”
CB: “52,000”

Says it all.

One of the best thing Ed Miliband could do would be to make the Labour party formally support fairer votes, and end this opposition for oppositions sake.

September 28, 2010

>Ed Miliband’s confused message

>Ed Miliband took to the stage properly as leader of the Labour party for the first time, and delivered a populist speech that seemed to forget that only a matter of months ago he had written a manifesto that led to the Labour party’s biggest defeat since Michael Foot. Not to worry thought the packed crowd, the preacher was on stage, and he was flanked by ‘the new generation’ of kids, who said politely behind him.

He started almost apologetically, referencing his defeated brother David almost immediately by praising his speech and telling stories of their childhood. He was actually even funny – ‘I took David’s football once, so he nationalised my train set’. A hackish joke, yes, but a Labour leader that smiles without making you want to vomit has got to be a start. 

A very noticeable thing about the speech was that it didn’t seem to have an overall theme or flow. He talked a lot about the past, and Labour’s (many) failings. It seemed to be in direct contrast to Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg’s constant references to the future. Then later, Ed got stuck in the future, demanding optimism, and finished by being two word shy of stealing Clegg’s ‘together we will can change Britain for good’ line. Overall, it was rambling and unfocussed, repeatedly declaring ‘I tell you this…’ forgetting that it was constantly telling us what to do that resulted in Labour being booted out in May.

It also took Ed Miliband 25 minutes to remember he may one day be Prime Minister. No matter, as by that point most neutral viewers had probably already discounted the notion. So, in attempts to appease the centre ground, he said he wouldn’t attack the coalition for the sake of it, and that he wouldn’t support irresponsible trade union strikes. On foreign policy he criticised the war in Iraq. He was greeted by stoney faced, unclapping union officials at one, and a stoney faced, unclapping brother at the other. Much fun lies ahead on those fronts…

Ed Miliband has a difficult task. While his comrades may hate the government, most people do not. The public understand the need for the actions the coalition are taking, and are bored of the brazen partisanship its formation seemed to end. Miliband’s commitment to a living wage is laudable, and he even made a half decent attempt at setting out an alternative economic vision, but after 13 years of failure it was all pretty hard to take seriously. 

It was a speech delivered in the shadow of his brother, the man who would be (should be?) King. It was a speech delivered to try and recapture the centre ground. It was a speech delivered to try and make Ed Miliband look like a credible Prime Minister. He can claim that he understands, that he gets it. However, it is going to take a lot of work to wipe out the unlucky 13, Labour’s record in government that Ed has to both defend, and move on from.

September 27, 2010

>Getting Virtually Naked with… Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP

>Unless you have been transported to another planet over the last few weeks you will know the Nick Clegg is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the current coalition government. On the eve of the start of Liberal Democrat conference, he agreed to sit down with a collection of Liberal Democrat bloggers and have a chat on a wide range of issues. The answers tie in a lot with the themes that were to emerge at the conference itself.

The discussion started topically when Lib Dem Voice Blog of the Year winner Millennium Elephant asked Clegg about the Popes visit. The Deputy PMs approach to religion is probably most fairly represented as agnostic, in his reply he noted that he didn’t know whether or not there was a God, but that he personally had great admiration for those people who did have faith. It was pleasing to see that Clegg expressed a level of dissapointment at the type of the coverage the Papal visit had got. He quite rightly pointed out that while a liberal, tolerant society could rightly ask questions and dislike elements of the Catholic Church, those that followed and led the faith should be treated with respect.

When moving on to political reform, Clegg strongly defended the Governments position on the reduction of MPs. He points out that the Conservatives wanted to reduce the number of MPs further than the Lib Dems would accept, and a compromise of 600 was made.  He also said that the decision to accept a referendum on AV, not full proportional representation was a decision on which ‘idealism and pragmatism came up against each other’. ‘No other party is prepared to go further than AV’ he rightly pointed out. Clegg also reiterated that the upcoming legislation, as it was in the coalition agreement, will be whipped and will ultimately be passed.

Of course the economy had to come up, and Clegg put forward a solid and oft repeated case when asked by VN what difference Lib Dems in the Treasury and Cabinet had made. He cited the examples of the raise in capital gains tax and the income tax threshold, as well as the introduction of a triple lock system. Furthermore, he said the emphasis on alleviating child poverty would not have been there, before looking to the future and to a greener economy. He did though  express frustration that people were forgetting that many apparently Conservative economic policies that have since been introduce in government, were in fact supported by the Liberal Democrats too when in opposition.

Overall Clegg seemed fairly buoyant, despited clear frustration with the current media narrative of him as a sell out. What came across the most, and was later reflected at conference, was how naturally he grasps coalition politics. From declaring that every decision wasn’t a battle, to his belief that the openness with which he and Cameron embrace their differences mean that they can find a solution more easily, he gets it instinctively. In fact, there was a genuine sense of frustration at people (read media,) who don’t get it. Clegg may still eventually pay for people being behind the narrative, but  ultimately will be their loss not his. 

Oh, and if you are wondering about the art in the background of the pictures…it’s  Peter Mandelsons’….

September 27, 2010

>Danny Byrd releases ‘Ill Behaviour’


Danny Byrd has done it once again, releasing another barnstorming single on Hospital Records. This one is called ‘Ill Behaviour’ and it is out today, available on iTunes. Featuring a hook that will embed itself into your brain, backed up by a top quality drum line this tune will cause chaos on dance floors across the country. As with most Hospital releases, it also has immense crossover appeal, and will no doubt worm its way into the mainstream.

If you buy the full EP you also get Moowalker ‘on the flip side’, if such a thing still exists in the digital era. The tracks certainly got VN warmed up for the full album, which will follow shortly.
September 27, 2010

>Mike Hancock MP facing police investigation


Picture courtesy of the Press Association

Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South Mike Hancock is facing a police probe into allegations that he used his position to take advantage of a vulnerable constituent who came to him for help. The lady, who has not been named, claims that the MP took her to dinner at the House of Commons and showered her with gifts, including clothes, perfume, and a teddy bear he named after himself. Mike Hancock is also said to have sent the constituent intimate text messages after she came to his surgeries to discuss noisy neighbours, and the inadequate care she was receiving for mental health problems. 

Hancock denies all the charges, a spokesman for the MP said: “All Mike Hancock did was offer help and support to this woman. Mike Hancock has not been contacted by Hampshire Police or been informed of any formal allegations or investigation. He will of course cooperate with the police if they ever contact him.”

The story was reported originally in the Sunday Times, in which Mr Hancock stated that “under no circumstances” had any sexual activity taken place between  him and his constituent, and that he had taken her out to dinner at the House of Commons and bought her the gifts “to cheer her up”. 

Mike Hancock sits on numerous defence committees. He also recently voted against the VAT rise in the budget, along with fellow Lib Dem MP Bob Russell. The allegations were made to the police on September 24th, and the investigation continues.

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