Daily Archives: 14 May 2006

The People’s Petition

Today is clearly a day for me spotting online petitions. This one has been signed by Tony Blair and has provoked the following response from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection:

“This petition is being run by an extremist group of vested interests representing a very narrow area of medical research.

“They want to see the UK continue with an outdated method of research as opposed to taking up more advanced, non-animal scientific methods.”

Extremists? This is what the petition actually says (my emphasis):

I believe that medical research is essential for developing new medical and veterinary treatments. I understand that finding safe and effective treatments and medicines requires some studies using animals.

I believe that medical research using animals, carried out to the highest standards of care and welfare, and where there is no alternative available, should continue in the UK.

I believe that people involved in medical research using animals have a right to work and live without fear of intimidation or attack.

If BUAV really believe that is “extremism” then their condemnation of anti-vivisectionist terrorism is meaningless. I have no problem whatsoever signing up to the People’s Petition – even if it is endorsed by Blair – and I suggest you do too. For the sake of balance however, I do recommend this article.

The evils of liberalism

I’ve blogged about this before and I’m sure I will again, but what is Nick Cohen’s problem with liberalism? He has never spelt it out beyond complaining that reality rarely meets the ideal, but that is true of all ideologies, and yet he returns to the subject again and again.

This week, Kate Winslet’s Number One Fan is attacking “Europe” (whatever that is…) for not being as liberal as it claims to be. In doing so, he cites Simon Jenkins – an arch Tory – and Franco Frattini – Sylvio Berlusconi’s personal appointee to the European Commission. He laments the prohibition of Holocaust denial and laws to prevent criticism of religion, both of which are predominently advocated by socialist parties. He suggests at the end that the people of Europe are becoming contemptuous of hypocritical politicians who espouse liberal ideals yet fail to observe them in practice, yet that is an argument for more liberalism, not less.

More to the point, this Euston Manifesto supporter fails to come up with something even vaguely resembling a leftist alternative. Indeed, that manifesto includes plenty of exhortations to freedom which, last time I looked, was the alpha and omega of liberalism. Euston can be read as a wholesale surrender of the left to come up with a better model for society than liberalism after two centuries of wasted effort. Yet for Cohen, it continues to be the root of all evil.

I should probably stop reading these columns as Cohen has become so idiosyncratic now that they are seldom worth the time. But one day I would love to see him attempt to come up with answers. Polly Toynbee may be consistently wrong, but at least she tries. The polemicist schtick has got old, Nick.

One Seat To Rule Them All

Simon Wright links to a cross-EU campaign that people of all political opinions can, surely, unite behind? A petition to scrap the monthly EU Parliament sojourn to Strasbourg.

Having worked for an MEP, I know how disruptive this ridiculous system is, and quite how much unneccessary stress it causes. It is bad enough for MEPs who attempt to spend as much time in the UK as possible and it has a palpable effect on the quality of debate: full plenary is restricted to a full week in Strasbourg and half a week in Brussels once a month which means that the debates are truncated to the point of meaninglessness and the votes are all taken in large blocks. You might just as well get rid of the Parliament altogether and have MEPs email their votes in.

So, add your name to this and publicise it widely.

Tom Watson and BUTT SEX

Comment spam is getting to be increasingly bizarre, with these two gems among the latest dross I’m having to delete:

Tim suggests that what’s special about Tom Watson’s blog is that he’s the first politician to use a blog to tell us what he really thinks instead of just telling us what’s in his diary.

It’s hard to know these things, because NO ONE TALKS ABOUT BUTT SEX. Ever.

Perhaps Tom Watson ought to talk more about butt sex. It’s just an idea.

21 months

Simon Hughes has been President of the Liberal Democrats for 21 months. I mention this because he seems to believe we should set arbitrary dates after which a politician should be assessed.

Can anyone name a single innovation that he has introduced in that time? More specifically, can anyone name a single innovation that he has introduced aimed at achieving his election pledge of the Lib Dems’ membership exceeding Labour’s by the end of his tenure this year?

Many of the problems we currently face as a party are rooted in the party’s Federal Executive, the way Hughes chairs it and the way it has ceased to be the co-ordinating body it needs to be. In that respect, the phrase “dismal failure” springs to mind when thinking of Hughes, something not exactly confounded when he gives dumb interviews like this.