Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Gurkha justice - the right result, credit for the Lib Dems and humiliation for Brown

I'm delighted that the gurkhas have won their court case and all will have the right to remain in the UK when they finish their service, including those who left the army before 1997.

I have been present at a number of events (sadly not outside the court today) where the gurkhas have sought to highlight their plight. Fundamentally it is about this country doing the right thing for those who serve it.

Credit must go as well to Nick Clegg and Ming Campbell before him who have backed the gurkhas to the hilt. Whilst some saw this as a fringe issue and not one to be bothering with, but Ming and Nick have given up a lot of time (including at PMQs) for a cause that they believe is so obviously one of justice.

Congratulations too the Peter Carroll, Lib Dem PPC for Maidstone (and Folkestone before that) who has been behind this campaign and has helped the gurkhas to this magnificent victory.

But what a humiliation for Gordon Brown. He refused point blank to meet the gurkhas and refused to even accept a token medal when they wanted to hand them back in protest. Why on earth he thought it was the right decision to deny the right of about 2000 former British Army soldiers to settle here I do not know. Well he has got his comeuppance.

Post Office admits consultation failings, but there's nothing anyone can do to stop closures

The Post Office will get away with its sham consultation on the closure of 48 branches in Cornwall, the downgrading of others and the ending of a number of mobile services.

Cornwall County Council has had to withdraw its judicial review application after lawyers told them they had little chance of winning in court.

This is in spite of admissions by the Post Office that:

- they got Cornwall's population wrong in their consultation document;
- they have no idea how their plan for an outreach service in Altarnun will work;
- their facts and figures for the mobile service serving villages in East Cornwall are based on a period when it was not able to offer anything like the full range of services;
- representatives at meetings with residents had no idea about local services and situations.

If the Post Office can get away with such a sham consultation, quite frankly, what is the point?

Europe - saving the UK from over-regulation

A little known ruling from Europe is actually cutting the amount of pointless regulation in the UK.

Ever wondered why bread only comes in loaves of 400 or 800 grammes? It's because the 'Assize of Bread and Ale Act' of 1266 stipulated that all bread other than 'small buns and morning pastries' must be sold in weights of 400gm or multiples thereof (I'm guessing that it wasn't grammes when the law was originally passed).

So every bakery and supermarket you ever go to will sell loaves in these weights and nothing else.

Until now. The European Commission - that bastion of zealous regulation - has told the UK to repeal this Act and allow bakers to sell their wares in whatever weights they want.

Hooray for liberal Europe and a bit of a dilemma for the anti-Europeans.

The Cameron gambit

Step one: Offer to work on a cross-party basis with the Government to help turn round the economy. Gain credit from public for such selflessness when in fact you don't have a clue what you are doing.

Step two: Work with Government but establish clear dividing line so that they will not sign up to 'your rescue idea'.

Step three: Pull the plug at the last minute claiming that Labour are a bunch of incompetents.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Nationalisation of failing businesses

A private business which is part of the community and on which many tens or hundreds of thousands of people rely is suffering a very poor run. The people are concerned. If this business fails then, apart from the job losses, there will be a loss of confidence in the rest of the industry. The owners and directors, who have been accused of mismanagement by some, are keen to sell. But there is no white knight willing to ride to the rescue. Potential suitors are worried about what they might uncover when they arrive and what the costs of turning around the operation might be.

So is the answer to nationalise Newcastle United?

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The perils of settling for AV

Next Left, via Jonathan Calder reports a fringe meting at the Labour conference at which Norman Lamb said that the Lib Dems would settle for AV if offered by Labour.

Here is why Norman, and anyone else who takes the same view is wrong.

Let's face it, the Lib Dems are unlikely to be in a position of overall majority after the next election. So any electoral reform is going to come about either because of Labour deciding to do the right thing or because they are forced to do so as the price of co-operation with the Lib Dems after the next election.

We might, of course, be in the same position with David Cameron in which case I think we can rule out the principled decision option.

But I think we can also rule out the principled route with Labour as well. There is enough visceral hatred of both electoral reform and the Lib Dems within the Labour ranks that the likes of Peter Hain (who genuinely wants AV) will not rule the day. So change will only happen as a result of the Lib Dems setting it as a pre-condition of co-operation.

As the Scottish Lib Dems discovered when doing a deal in 1999, the junior partner has the right to make 3-4 demands. They must accept the manifesto of the larger party on all other matters. And the larger party can expect to get its way on most things, but has to give ground on three to four key issues. Labour will force the Lib Dems to use up one of these bargaining points on electoral reform. We cannot expect them to throw it in for free both because enough are opposed to change and because they would like, for tactical reasons, to restrict the number of other demands that the Lib Dems can make.

I have long argued that such demands as the Lib Dems might be able to make should be focussed more on systemic change rather than policies. That is because once made, constitutional changes such as the voting system are far harder to unpick. They result in a genuine change of culture which, in turn, results in it being easier to produce sensible policies. Policy changes in themselves may result in fairer and better services, but time moves on and there will be a need for new legislation in these same areas within the a few years and so it is easy to unpick any advances that have been made. If you want to have lasting impact as a junior partner then the changes you demand must be far-reaching. (Having said that, if I were involved in coalition talks then scrapping ID cards would have to be on my shopping list.)

Based solely on history, the UK only experiences a period of minority or coalition government once every thirty or so years. So those who argue for the incremental change model (take AV now and people will soon realise that proper reform - STV - is a logical step), are accepting that it will be another generation before we get where we want to be.

So if the Lib Dems find themselves in a position of strength, it would be lunacy for any who genuinely want fairer votes to accept the compromise of AV.

But there is another reason why neither Norman Lamb nor anyone else should not be seeking to make agreement on AV now. That is the tactical one. Labour has a history of reneging on deals over PR. The Cook Maclennan talks in the mid 90s produced an agreement over a referendum on PR. Labour carried this into their 97 manifesto. The Jenkins Commission duly reported recommending a complete mish mash of a system. Labour forgot to hold the promised referendum on change. They again made a promise in their 2001 manifesto but again failed to deliver. So the Lib Dems need to go into any talks with as strong a bargaining hand as possible. If you have strength you do not concede any advantage. If the only deal that can be done is for AV then we would have to take that, but as a straight change within a 5 year Parliament announced in the first Queen's Speech. Giving any sort of ground now would mean having to concede in talks to a referendum and to delay that would mean that change did not happen until after the next election (and therefore possibly never).

If, like Lembit and others, you genuinely favour AV, then feel free to discuss it. But bear in mind that you do not represent the Party or the majority of its members and that you are talking yourself into a weaker negotiating position even for that which you want.

Brown - no boom, no bust

Just listened to the PM being interviewed by James Naughtie on the Today Programme. Put to him that Labour's (his) promise of ending the cycle of boom and but, Brown denied that we were in such a situation. The guy is clearly either in denial or lying through his teeth.

His answer included the claim that the UK had enjoyed periods of high growth despite recession in other countries.

Does he not understand that massive growth is part and parcel of the culture of boom and bust? If you truly want to end boom and bust then you need to accept as a consequence that growth will be severely limited.

Oh and he also claimed that Ruth Kelly had resigned for purely family reasons. So that cannot be the real reason then.

The endlessly cheery Richard Mackenzie (you know, that bloke who stood for Labour in Henley)

Via Jane Griffiths and her wondrous anti-Salter campaign, comes this video of Richard Mackenzie, last seen coming fifth behind the BNP in the Henley by-election. To all those who came across him there... enjoy

Kelly resigns to spend more time with her family... Yeah right

So Ruth Kelly is to leave her job as Transport Secretary. She claims it is to spend more time with her family. Of course, she has four young children and she will no doubt want to spend time with them. She is clearly not one of those who has children simply as props (hello Dave) or to abandon to her constituency so that she can claim to live there (hello Caroline) But she seems to have managed to cope with a Cabinet job and the kids for some time now.

Perhaps the real reason, as the Beeb claims, is her opposition to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Clearly she objects to it on religious grounds, but wouldn't she have gone now if that had been the reason?

What about her demotion from Communities to the graveyard of Transport? Perhaps Gordon told her she was not being promoted next time?

Perhaps she thought Brown was a gonner and would be out soon, but his speech being good enough to save him for the moment she thought she was better out than in?

Or even that she simply cannot stand the infighting and wanted out of it?

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Norman Fowler really does have a lot to answer for!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

What to do with an old Ford Capri... Stock Car racing

This afternoon we went to the stock car racing at United Downs near Redruth. We've been to a few meetings recently at a variety of tracks in Devon and Cornwall. This is by far the most professional set up with a permanent track (rather than simply half a field), banking all round so you get a decent view and enough drivers in each class that all the races are competitive, even towards the end of the day when some drivers have dropped out.

Stock car racing at United Downs breaks down into four classes:

There are the stock rods which are small production cars souped up for the track - basically Fiestas, Corsas and Novas with no glass and garish paintjobs.

There are Ministox which are old style minis driven by juniors aged 11-15. At previous meetings the junior classes have all been non-contact (ok there are some crashes and certainly some 'rubbing' but no deliberate hitting). Here, the rules are different. Front and back collisions are allowed and the cars have bull bars to make this safe.

The fastest cars are the stock cars. These are hot rods with huge spoilers to make sure they don't flip. They ran the opposite way to the other races but managed to fit 20 cars onto a 385 metre track so there was action all the time.

Finally there were the bangers. These are the full contact cars with random bits of bodywork hanging off them. At the end of the day some were entered for the demolition derby - last car capable of moving wins. This is where the Ford Capri of the title comes in. One fine specimen failed to finish every heat (they ran four times in the afternoon) but was dutifully hammered out and repaired each time.

At a previous event in Devon the safety barrier consisted of a roughly ploughed field which would stop a careering car before it reached the spectators (probably). Here the barrier was a permanent wall as well as a stout fence.

I have no idea why, but many people seem to have a thing against stock car racing. I know that it is noisy, but tracks such as United Downs are a decent distance from any houses and the racing itself takes place on only about a dozen days a year. For the spectator, it's lots of fun and, so long as you obey the safety instructions and go to a well managed track, there is no real risk.

A word of warning however, as with speedway, sitting at the ends of the track is not the place to be unless you enjoy being caked in dust and dirt!

Pics: A mass of bangers heads for the bend; Vauxhall Nova stock rod; Ministox; Formula 2 Stock car; An old Capri lives out its days as the centre of attention; A junior climbs out after rolling his mini.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Europe sucks

Hadron Collider broken.

Ryder Cup going to the US.

Channel Tunnel on reduced service.

Airlines going bust.

Riots in the streets.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Warning - Labour hypocrisy alert

I used to like John Denham. Of all the Labour MPs I had met and worked with, he was one of the nicer ones. He seemed to be a man of principle - resigning over Iraq - and someone who actually cared about doing things for the right reason. We worked together on electoral reform campaigns and he really seemed to get it rather than simply playing politics.

So I am really disappointed to see his comment in the Telegraph about a possible Lib Dem change of stance on tuition fees.

According to the Jonathan Isaby article, Stephen Williams has hinted that the Lib Dems might change their policy on tuition fees at Spring Conference. I hope very much that they don't as I think the charges are absolutely wrong and our opposition both principled and electorally popular (in that order).

Responding to the news, John Denham, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, has reacted angrily, saying that "students will never trust a Lib Dem candidate again".

Excuse me!

This from a man who stood under a Labour manifesto which said that they would not introduce top-up fees and 'had legislated to prevent them'. The same Government (including Denham) which then announced within 5 years that this had been an outright lie and they promptly introduced the fees.

Debate on the merits of such a change is all very well, but not from Government Ministers and Labour MPs who have lied to their constituents and the country on this very subject.

Still busy

As well as uploading the best conference pics to Flickr, I have also been busy with more work.

Yesterday I was in Watford to take pictures of a visit by Nick Clegg and Sal Brinton to a Citizens Advice Bureau in Abbotts Langley. As you will be aware, the Conservative Candidate in Watford recently pleaded guilty to a huge number of acts of criminal damage as part of a smear campiagn against Sal and the local Lib Dems. He was due to be sentenced on Tuesday but the judge deferred the case until mid October as reports were not yet complete.

Despite the problems with the Conservative, Sal's hugely energetic campaign to snatch the seat from Labour's Clare Ward is non-stop.

And today I was helping Adam Symons, our candidate in Torridge and West Devon. Adam was visiting a local day centre for older people in Holsworthy where he enjoyed chatting over lunch with the service users and the volunteers who make the place run smoothly.

After lunch, it was off to see what is left to do in the construction of the Ruby Way, an ambitious plan to create a 70 mile cycle way from Ilfracombe in North Devon to Bude in Cornwall. Adam is a keen cyclist but I think he might have trouble getting along this section! But, if all goes to plan, this particular stretch will start construction in December.

Conference pics now all on Flickr

I've just finished uploading a wide selection of the the best of my conference pics to the Lib Dem Flickr account (see link below). Local parties and candidates are free to use them for campaigning purposes. Anyone else who wants to use a pic should contact me on the email or phone number given

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Nick's speech pics added to Flickr

I've uploaded a selection of my pictures from Nick's speech to the Lib Dem Flickr account. These are free for activists and local parties to use in literature, on websites and in general to promote the party.

You can find the Lib Dem Flickr photostream here. These pictures are stored in the Conference folder.

I'll upload more photos of conference to the stream over the next few days but please be patient as there a few (thousand) to go through.

Clegg Speech in pictures

Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam arrive at the Conference Hall for his speech to conference.

Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable was described by Nick as being the only one who could steer the UK economy out of recession.

Nick described the Labour Party as the Zombie Party - a cross between Shaun of the Dead and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.

Nick said that children in the UK were among the world's most unhappiest and that we needed to give them hope for the future.

Nick said that David Cameron was like the puppy in the Andrex adverts - they might be cuddly but they are completely irrelevant to the product they were selling.

Nick and Miriam after the speech.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

How Liberal are the Liberal Democrats

Mark Littlewood, former Head of Press for the Party, knows how to create a story. His new venture, the think tank Liberal Vision, has produced two reports recently. Yesterday saw the launch of 'The Cameron Effect' which looked at how many MPs might be under threat from the resurgent Conservative Party. This apparently provoked and altercation in the bar last night between Mark and Torbay MP Adrian Sanders. It resulted in Mark ending up on his back in a bush.

Today, the organisation released the results of a report looking at how liberal the Lib Dem MPs are. Also at the fringe was MP Malcolm Bruce. Liberal Vision deliberately ignored economic liberalism which, in Mark's words, has moved a long way since the adoption of the Make it Happen document yesterday. It also ignored the issue of civil liberties where the Party is, in Mark's words, 'pretty near impeccable'.

Instead, they looked at the personal freedoms strand of liberalism and made their judgment based on votes in Parliament and the signing of various EDMs. This was perhaps a flawed and limited basis, but still provided interesting reading.

The results of the survey showed Lembit Opik as the most liberal MP with a score of 55%. Second was David Laws with 50% and then Paul Keetch on 45%. There were then a host of MPs on 35-44%. At the bottom of the pile was John Leech on 22.2% - he was the only MP to sign an EDM calling for the re-classification oif cannabis. Above him came Mike Hancock and Vince Cable on 22.5%.

Well done Wolverhampton

Congratulations to Colin Ross and all at Wolverhampton South West local party who won the Penhaligon Award for increasing and looking after membership. The Penhaligon Award is named after the late David Penhaligon, MP for Truro and the man who inspired me to join the Party.

Nick takes control of the knives

This morning Nick went to visit the Bournemouth and Poole College and met catering students on their first day in the kitchen. Offered the chance to chop an onion, he perhaps wisely declined and opted instead for a stick of celery before chatting to the students and chef Dave Boland.

A visionary and radical idea from Lembit Opik

It's just the kind of radical thinking that the Party needs according the Lembit.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Sunday at conference

A busy day at conference.

First up, Nick and his wife Miriam went for a walk on the beach. Thanks to Jayne Martin-Kaye for the pic.

In the afternoon, he had a question and answer session with Steve Richards of the Independent.

Perhaps more interesting was a fringe meeting held jointly by Centre Forum and the Fabian Society. As well as Lib Dem favourite Vince Cable and Bristol West MP Stephen Williams, we heard from former Home Secretary and Gordon Brown favourite Charles Clarke alongside Labour Minister David Lammy. The room was packed well before the meeting started and it all started off in a consensual manner. Williams and Lammy proclaimed the shared philosophy of the two parties on many issues before stressing where the many differences lay. Vince Cable, himself a former Labour member, said that his personal political heroes were Tony Crosland and John Smith and went on to say that he thought there was still a lot of work that could be done between Labour and the Lib Dems.

But Charles Clarke broke the mood by trying to hammer what he called the inadequacies of the Lib Dems on issues of policy, philosophy and personality. He claimed that Labour had been a great success in Government and that the Lib Dems would just wreck it. Perhaps that is just his job?

The curse of Football Sponsorship

First XL holidays goes bust (the people who sponsor the West Ham shirts), now it looks like AIG might go the same way and they sponsor Man U


Lovely moment overheard yesterday. The Unlock Democracy crew were handing out flyers for their fringe meeting today...

Leafleter: Will you come to a meeting with Ros Scott?
Conference Rep: Who is she?
Leafleter: Baroness Ros Scott
Conference Rep: Sorry, never heard of her
Leafleter: She's the one on the badge you are wearing!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Congratulations Alix

Alix Mortimer swept the board at the Blog of the Year awards last night. So, to avoid her getting too excited, here is an unflattering picture of her.

And so the rally

The rally itself was hosted by the effervescent Tim Farron, MP for Westmoreland and Lonsdale. Tim was his usual funny self and praised Leader Nick Clegg for his fertility amongst other things. After Time came Dorothy Thornhill, re-elected Mayor of Watford. After Dorothy came journalist Henry Porter who has been writing about privacy issues for many years. And finally the Leader who gave a very upbeat speech and described the Labour Party as being in perhaps terminal decline. Maybe, maybe not, but what is certain is that Labour has massive problems and the Lib Dems are placed to capitalise by providing substantive answers rather than blue spin.

Dancing for joy

In a fit of Hughesian impetuousness, Lib Dem President Simon Hughes arranged for a young dance troup from Grimsby to come to Bournemouth to perform at the Conference. Both Simon and Nick Clegg had seen the troup rehearsing during campaign visits to North East Lincolnshire earlier this year.

No 12 year old hippos here, the performance brought a deserved standing ovation. Here are a couple of pics.

Conference Time

And welcome to Bournemouth for the lovely Lib Dem conference and so lots of pictures.

I say lovely because it's sunny here at the moment. Expect mood to change on Monday according to the weathermen.

Here are my first few images:

Nick chatting to delegates in the bar last night, Campaigners for Votes at 16 outside the conference centre. The people in the costumes are demonstrating some of the things you can do at 16 despite not being able to vote, MPs David Howarth, Jo Swinson and John Leech with Henry Vann, the Lib Dems' youngest PPC.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Gordon hits Birmingham again?

As mentioned below, I'm in Birmingham at a trade show this week. Traditionally, they have a very complex but smooth procedure to allow all the stand holders to break down their stands and get out of here as quickly as possible after things finish at 4pm. It revolves around people being able to put their vans into place around the complex from the middle of the penultimate day. But, just as the queuing system for vans yesterday was kicking in, the whole system was put on hold. Because of unspecified 'security reasons' they were not allowing any movement of cars or vans too close to the entire NEC complex until after the 4pm show closure.

So hundreds of businesses are going to have to try to break down and get out of here at the same time - instead of having the procedure staggered. Everyone is going to be late and lots of one person operations are worried because they will have to leave all their stock unattended while they go to fetch their vehicles - a procedure which will take up to an hour.

The NEC staff are unable to give any more details about the reasons for the change and are having to deal with lots of unhappy traders.

This morning the rumour went round that the reason is that Gordon is coming back again for a visit to the show. If true I don't think he's likely to get a very favourable reception having cost those present time and money.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Oh Bugger Basildon - it's the nation's arsehole, don't you know

I was with the mighty All Blacks on Saturday for their first league game of the season away to Southend - the land of the personalised numberplate. We stayed the night before in the Holiday Inn at Basildon which is in the Festival Leaisure Park - an area known locally as 'Bas Vegas'. It certainly lived down to all my expectations and definitely fulfilled the words of the Glee Club song mentioned in the title of this post.

My favourite quote came from the receptionist talking to a customer:

Customer: "We're off on holiday next week to the West Country."

Receptionist: "Where's the West County?"

Customer: "West"


Despite the gale force wind and two yellow cards in the first half, the game went according to plan for the Blacks as we won 30-23 and secured the bonus point. On course for promotion!

Hadron Collider - it's crazy science

Hey I'm not worried. It's only a one in 50,000 chance that they will destroy the world. And the machine operator says it's crazy science.

So, see you all tomorrow... or not

Monday, 8 September 2008

Just how much is Brown's away day costing us?

I'm in Birmingham to help my brother at a trade show. Last night we went to a rather fine Indian restaurant off Broad St and passed the ICC - the convention centre. There were rather a lot of Police outside.

Although I haven't seen it reported anywhere (mind you I haven't been looking that hard), I'm guessing that this must be the venue for today's 'historic first cabinet meeting outside London since Lloyd George'.

The ICC looked completely empty as we passed and I'm guessing that 'for security reasons' it had been closed for a while to allow every one of its many meeting rooms and halls to be security swept.

Which begs the question... just how much is this junket costing? I assume that, for security reasons, they don't want anyone else using the centre whilst the Cabinet is there. So we, the taxpayer, must have hired the whole thing. And then there is all the additional police work to manage 23 ministers at the cabinet meeting and all their visits in the West Mids today.

There is a reason that the cabinet meets in London all the time. It's because it is cheap and convenient and doesn't end up costing the people of the West Midlands millions.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The thrilling world of messy spectral data

I'm working in Nottingham this week taking photos at the conference of the Royal Statistical Society.

So there are presentations with thrilling titles such as:

'Asymptotic behaviour of blinking (stochastically switched) dynamical systems'


' A spatiotemporal auto-regressive moving average model for solar radiation'

But actually, I'm following much of what is being said in most of the sessions (I'm definitely no mathematician). I'm treating it like one of those Dostoyevsky novels with improbably long Russian names and just mentally bleeping over the bits I don't understand or can't pronounce. In most cases, what remains is actually quite interesting for an anorak such as myself. This morning there was a session on criminal law and forensic science with stuff about how dodgy DNA evidence can be. Later we had a session with examples including lottery numbers and football results showing what random really means. Apparently statisticians would expect the longest sequence of lottery draws with one number not being chosen to be around 73 draws. Sure enough, the record is 72 (number 17 for those who are interested).

And then there was the one about how journalists often misinterpret statistics by focusing on the headline number and statisticians are often too weak to correct them (that came from a non-stato and really went down well with the audience).

My favourite moment from the week so far came when someone nudged me and said 'That's Frank Duckworth', indicating a small bespectacled man. Who the heck? I replied. 'You know, the Frank Duckworth', said my companion. I still looked blank. 'As in the Duckworth Lewis method for rain shortened cricket matches' I was told. My companion was visibly in awe of the man. I got chatting to Mr Duckworth later and he's actually very nice. So if any reader has a question I'd be delighted to put it to him for you.

New award to be added to LDV roster

The organisers of this year's Lib Dem Blog of the Year Awards have made a late addition to the line up of gongs. There will now be an additional prize in the category of 'taking yourself far too seriously except when someone criticises you when you claim to be trying to be funny'.

Congratulations to Nick and Miriam

Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam have announced that they are expecting their third child in February. Congratulations to the whole family.

Let's hope that he doesn't do a press conference on Local Income Tax the day after the birth eh?

Monday, 1 September 2008

Stephen and Julia get married (and a bit of Lembit dancing)

I was lucky enough to be in Plymouth on Saturday for the wedding of Stephen Kearney, the Lib Dem candidate in Henley, and Julia Ohlsen. Best man was the irrepressible Lembit Opik.

Despite what I said in an earlier post, it was fine and sunny for the important part of the day and there was a fantastic setting for the reception at the Mount Batten Sailing Centre. Stephen and Julia now divide their time between their home in Henley and their boat in Plymouth and couldn't have picked a nicer setting (ok - it was also a lot easier for me to get to than Henley, so I liked it for that reason too).

There was a great band playing in the courtyard after the meal and both Stephen and Lembit took a turn performing. The dancing, however, was little... enthusiastic.

Anyway, enjoy some photos of the events.

Merde, il pleut

So September is starting as August finished - with rain in Cornwall. I noticed only a single day in August when we had no rain in Lanson. Remind me, when is summer starting?

Palin's 17 year old daughter will marry father of her unborn child

So day one of the Republican convention brings the first tabloid expose. It appears that the daughter of Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, is pregnant. The scandal is that she is 17 and not married to the father.

In the normal course of events, so what. But this is republican politics and Sarah Palin is an arch social Conservative.

So Palin has announced that her daughter Bristol will be marrying the father. Doesn't sound to me as though he (or she) had much of a say in the matter.