Friday, October 10, 2003

Steyn smearjob full of holes and distortions.

Mark Steyn is quite a stylish writer. He uses the skill to distort, mislead and smear. Take his piece in this weeks' Spectator on the CIA leak scandal that surrounds the Whitehouse.

It’s so full of holes and smears that when I tried to go through it, I was at six pages of text before I knew it. I won’t bore you with that, so here are some edited highlights.

Mr Steyn writes this article with a purpose. His aim is to show that there is no real story around the leaking of the name of a CIA agent by administration officials, that the original report by ambassador Wilson was flawed, possibly because it was nepotistic. That, combined with the charge that the CIA is ideologically opposed to the President, will lead to the conclusionthat the CIA should be treated as biased and that the entire agency needs to be reformed.

He faces a few problems in making that case.
First: the leaking of a CIA agents name is a federal offence with a tariff of up to ten years in jail.
Second: Ambassador Wilson’s report was correct and the Whitehouse has already been forced to concede that it got it wrong when it contradicted his report. It was also not the only report to reach the same conclusion.
Third: The CIA is not often regarded as a haven for mushy liberal types.

Still, Mr Steyn goes at with gusto.

I fear that he buries his lead though. Mr Steyn informs us 2/3rds of the way through his article that:

“It doesn’t really matter which version (of the reason for the mission) you believe, because the end result’s the same: an agency (the CIA) known to be opposed to war in Iraq sent an employee’s spouse also known to be opposed to war in Iraq on a perfunctory joke mission.”

Hold on. The CIA was opposed to the war in Iraq? The CIA? The Central Intelligence Agency? Opposed the war in Iraq?

I missed that part in the run up to war. CIA OPPOSES WAR IN IRAQ. No, I’m sure that’s a new one on me.

Still, let’s go back to the mission itself. Mr Steyn is clearly suggests that Ambassador Wilson’s mission to Niger was a result of nepotism.

Mr Steyn neglects to mention an alternate rationale for Ambassador Wilson’s trip to Niger. Wilson was a former charge d’affaires in Iraq, a former diplomat in Niger, Ambassador to Gabon (Another Uranium mining country in West Africa) and National security Advisor on African affairs. Now, I’d at least consider the slight possibility that if you wanted to check out a story about Uranium, Iraq and Africa a CV like that might interest you. It clearly doesn’t interest Mr Steyn.

But why should it? Mr Steyn knows that Ambassador Wilson isn’t to be trusted.

“Wilson comes over like a total flake — not a sober striped-pants diplomat but a shaggy-maned ideologically driven kook whose hippie-lyric quotes make a lot more sense than his neocon-bashing diatribes for leftie dronefests like the Nation.”

Damning stuff.

You wouldn’t think that Robert Novak would say this about the same man:-

“His first public notice had come in 1991 after 15 years as a Foreign Service officer when, as U.S. charge in Baghdad, he risked his life to shelter in the embassy some 800 Americans from Saddam Hussein's wrath. My partner Rowland Evans reported from the Iraqi capital in our column that Wilson showed "the stuff of heroism." “

Or that President G W H Bush would have told him: "What you are doing day in and day out under the most trying conditions is truly inspiring. Keep fighting the good fight”.

But then Mr Steyn, like me, sits at a keyboard, typing stuff. We know flakes and kooks when we see ‘em.

Exposing a kook being entrusted with a mission of vital national security interest is pretty important. Especially when after all,

“……Quite what Ms Plame does for the CIA remains unclear.”

This might possibly be because she’s a CIA agent, and revealing what she did is a criminal offense and an ”act of insidious treason” (President George HW Bush again),

We now know a little about what she works on, as her name is out in public after a major newspaper columnist was told it by a very important person in the Bush administration.

“ Valerie Plame ... works at the agency [CIA] on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity." Newsday.

Well, at least it’s nothing important. It’s not as if the leak compromises intelligence on a vital issue of global security.

So Mr Steyn has established that Wilson is a kook and his wife an employee of an agency opposed to war. But he can’t understand why you’d leak her name

“… By revealing the fact that Mrs Wilson is a cool blonde CIA agent, all you do is give her husband a credibility lacking in almost every aspect of his speech, mien and coiffure”

I can help him here. This is what is known as a smear. Mr Wilson is smeared because the implication was he was not really a serious investigator but a retired hubby on a jolly arranged by the missus. Oddly enough, even then there is no reason to mention her name. You might want to do it if your aim was not only to discredit the story but to discredit the source and discourage othes from crossing you.

"We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him!" Karl Rove, overheard in the Whitehouse apropos a matter unrelated.

Clearly, this is not an administration that would ever consider acting in such a way.

Anyway, I’ve got pages more of this. Distorted quotes, important yet strangely missing context. Misrepresentation. There’s too much for one blog. Let me know if you need more..

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Thursday, October 09, 2003

A poem for the politicians.

Since this is national Poetry day I thought I would channel the spirit of Kipling and give his lyrical advice to today's politicians. As ever, Kipling's world view is a little high Tory... so let it never be said that this site is merely a piece of partisan hackery. Just on the good days.

Voter and Politician

"MY son," said the old politician, "I am dying, and you will be heir
To that small district that I went to, who backed me ev’ry four year.
We conquered the country this time, and a damn fine handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it, I want you to understand this:--

"The voter is not like us grandees. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,' my son, leave the voter alone.

"You can whip your slower backbenchers, bully constituency chairs;
But don't try that game on the voter; you'll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old fart in the country to the poor wee sods on new deal
They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

"But first you must master their language, their dialect, proverbs and songs.
Don't trust any journo to interpret when they come with the tale of their wrongs.
Let them know that you know what they're saying; let them feel that you know what to say.
Yes, even when you want to go mental, hear 'em out if it takes you all day.

"They'll whine every hour of the daylight and complain every hour of the dark.
It's fair dealing, not warm words they’re after (for words are just your sweet lark).
Don't cheat after saying you’ll change things, That's stupid as well as unkind,
For the hard-bitten, constant complainer will make the loyalist voter you’ll find.

"Appear with your wife and the children at their weddings and funerals and feasts.
Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish priests.
Say 'we', 'us' and 'ours' when you're talking, instead of 'you fellows' and 'I.'
Dont' ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell 'em a lie!"

Nicked from, I mean inspired by Norman and Saxon

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Not giving Jackie a roasting..

Sorry, couldn't resist the title.

Jackie over at Au Currant is spot on on the "who are these evil roasters" debate currently surging through our tabloids. I too always heard of it as spit-roasting, which a) Makes more sense (think about it) and b) is quite funny.

"the fact that what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms is their business and no one else's, this refusal to even consider that some women's sexual desires may not be in keeping with our ideas of what a "true lady" would find appealing is pretty 1950s kind of stuff. (And, of course, if "roasting" wasn't regarded as such a filthy, unladylike act, its appeal for both female and male participants would be greatly reduced)"

I have to admit, I feel the same way about pretty much every consensual sexual activity. Heck, on this one I'm with the libertarians. Keep the Government out of my bedroom. Apart from the more attractive Ministers. They're more than welcome.

As long as they don't forget the baby oil this time.

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The Tory Challenge.

Its rather amusing that while I’ve been trying to talk about Tory asylum and home affairs policy, the press has focussed on process and polls.

As I write, Sky news is talking to a body language expert. I feel betrayed. I’m supposed to talk about the intricacies of plots and spin while the media talk about the weighty issues. I don’t know when we stepped through the mirror, but I suppose I should at least try and sink to the gutter level of the mainstream media.

First of all, the mechanics are simple. Think California, without Arnie. If 25 Tory MP’s sign letters requesting it, the Parliamentary Conservative party has a recall election. If 50% of the MP’s vote for Yes, IDS is out and a second ballot is held to replace him.

IDS will almost certainly lose such a ballot because he only got 51 Tory MP’s to vote for him when he stood for leader. To win convincingly, he’d need about another 50 (technically only 30, but he has to win by a margin). That’s a tall order, especially without the kind of patronage the possibility of power provides.

So, the question is, will it happen? We’ve heard the stories so often- that the plotters are about to strike, that IDS is on the ropes, and then IDS comes through. I’ve fallen for it before, back in November.

Well, is it any worse this time? Only in that the car is driving faster to the precipice.

I fail to understand why plotters make the Leaders speech a test for IDS. If there is one event that the Leader’s team can manipulate to their advantage it is a Leader’s speech. The audience that wants it to succeed, your staffers can place themselves in convenient places, you get to talk, uninterrupted for an hour or so, you get to set up with the video’s and endorsements you want and you can pump the auditorium full of a nerve agent that makes the audience susceptible to suggestion. OK, I made that one up, but you get the picture.

So, IDS will survive. The standing ovations will count, the swinging attack on Blair will enhance his standing with the base.

On the other hand, he’s had to go back and secure his base, so that means another opportunity to reach out to the rest of the country.

Frankly, if the plotters have got 25 names, they should just get on with it. What’s the worse that could happen to them? They won’t be appointed shadow under-secretary of state for paperclips, they might be deselected if they fail?

If the chief plotter wants to get the plot going, he should take away the secrecy. He should send his list of names secretly to the Chief whip., so that they know they’re finished unless IDS really does go. If the whips are really thick, they’ll leak the list, and flush out the plot. If there’s more than 15 of them, they should be able to stand together and get the 10 extra names they need.

Just get it over with.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Tory Conference Broadcast is on their website.

It's worth a look, if only because it is a sustained, direct attack on Tony Blair personally. Basically it paints The PM as a liar, a failure and a cheat in the great tradition of US attack ads.

I couldn't hear or see a single mention of the words Conservative, Iain, Duncan, Smith, Tory, Policy, We, Will or any reference to the Conservative party at all.

So it's reassuring to know the people at CCO are listening to my old mucker Tim Collins

"So let the message go forth to every Conservative, however eminent, senior or self-important - if you can't say anything positive about your party, kindly don't say anything at all."


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Oliver’s island.

Now I see why Oliver Letwin briefed this story about a Sheriff for Norfolk (and Cumbria, as Nick Barlow points out,) it was intended to stop the media going mental over his offshore island and asylum cap plans.

So what does Oliver (nice liberal, humane, reasonable, academic Oliver) intend to do?

First off, there will be a cap of 20,000 places a year for asylum seekers. So if, god forbid, a fascist regime started persecuting its population (Say in Zimbabwe, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Iraq or Kosovo or Turkmenistan or Germany) we’d only take 20,000 of the blighters.

Say this nightmare happens, (wait, it already has been happening. That’s what Kosovo was all about. It's why people seek asylum all the time), Nice Reasonable Oliver will turn the 20,001ist refugee away. Doesn’t matter what torture he faces, Oliver will tell him or her that the UK is full.

Now, Nice Reasonable Oliver might point out that other countries might take the victim, but If the UK has a policy of 20,000 a year, why shouldn’t Sweden have a quota of 2,000? Where that takes us is a fixed number of the persecuted given refuge.

Now Oliver has floated the before. The Telegraph reports on the 18th of June that he proposed the same plan to the Home Affairs select committee.

The details have not progressed much since then (though Oliver is now definite that he wants to send the asylum seekers to an island. Albania clearly wasn’t up to snuff). He also said that the quota would be flexible enough to deal with crises. However, if Kosovo, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan don't qualify as crisis conditions, which they clearly don't, I'm unclear what does.

Of course, there’s another point. If turning away someone who is seeking asylum is immoral during a crisis, why is it fair when times are quieter? I’m sure makes sense to the chap in the corner with the red hot pokers on his feet. He’ll have to wait for “a crisis”.

But Nice reasonable Oliver isn’t finished yet, Those lucky 20,000 don’t get to come the UK just yet. They have to go to an offshore processing centre. Now I could criticise this on grounds of practicality. Oliver has signally failed to suggest anywhere that might be prepared to take a camp for 20,000 people. Which would presumable involve an airport, massive building projects, a police, army and government presence. He’s only provided the briefest outline, but let’s not hold that against him. After all, he's only proposing to ship 20,000 people a year to another country and keep them there for months on end. Why quibble on the details?

No, what I like about this plan is it’s complete cravenness. Why not build a massive great big camp in Kent, just outside Dover. Let’s call it Sangatte II? Because the good citizens of the Medway might object to a vast gulag for 20,000 in their midst. So we have to sweep the problem away. To Madagascar say. Or the Falklands. Hey, are the Americans using their Japanese internment camps?

The Tories are proposing an offshore Island for one reason only. So that no opponent can claim that a vote for the Tories is a vote for more Asylum centres in their local area. After all, look at the reception to the idea of a single processing centre in the shires (this was the previous Tory policy). That was for 750 peole. Oliver would need to build 30 more of them just to deal with his 20,000. I can’t imagine a Tory candidate in Bicester, Throckmorton or Rushcliffe looking forward to a campaign for more asylum centres.

So a ludicrous policy is cobbled together to avoid a real policy choice. Oliver doesn’t have an Island in mind, he doesn’t have a cost, he doesn’t have a plan. He just has an answer for nervous candidates to get away with on the doorstep.

Pathetic. I hope all those commentators who have been talking Oliver up as the next reasonable Tory leader call him on this made up lunacy.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

So where are the Sheriffs?

Oliver Letwin’s proposal to introduce directly elected Sheriff’s has got great play. I’m interested in Letwin because he strikes me as the most credible NTL*. However, I’m scratching my head on this one, mostly because I can’t see where the Tories are proposing Sheriffs..

The consultation paper excludes London. So no change there.

The paper then says:

“Where a force is co-terminus with a single (emphasis mine) existing local authority, two options present themselves for a directly elected police authority:..”

I can’t think of any other single authority that makes up an entire constabulary. There are a couple of counties with no unitaries (Suffolk?), but there are district councils there, anyway. So no sheriff’s there. In any case, even if this is what they mean, “elected Sheriff’s for Suffolk and Norfolk subject to a referendum” is not that big a deal.

In other places the Tories propose “Where there is no precise correlation between a single local authority and a single police force a single purpose, directly elected police authority would be created. This would reflect the local authority and geographical make-up of the force area.”

So really the Tories are proposing an elected council for the police on a sub-regional/multi-council basis (99% of existing councils are too small to have their own- apart perhaps from Brum). It’s not a terrible idea, In fact the closest parallel I can think of is the ILEA.

Remember the ILEA? It was a directly elected local authority that existed to direct education in Inner London. Lot’s of local councillors getting involved in the management of a single service. The Tories abolished it because it was politicising education and inefficient.

Sometimes you just got to scratch your head.

* Next Tory Leader

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The Labour Conference in Review

Funny how long ago it all seems. Gordon’s speech, The feverish talk about disunity. The Unions ganging up, the big block of Union delegates, the welcome given to Tony. The speech.

Politics is fast and unforgiving, but already the Labour conference triumphs seem dated, while the minor divisions still remain. It’s not that it was a bad conference: - it wasn’t, it went well, it’s just that it was a transitory one. A conference to get through.

Still, compared to the media expectations, it was a triumph. Journalists are stupid, are they not? They breathlessly hike up the expectations of division, then have to shuffle their feet in embarrassment when it doesn’t happen. When will they learn? Wait until there is a real crisis, then create a sense of tension and panic by bombarding those at the centre with questions they cannot possibly answer on incredibly short time-scales. That’s the way to create the impression of confusion, panic and chaos. See foot and mouth/Fuel protests for textbook examples.

The atmosphere inside the conference was generally good, despite the clear tensions between the union leadership and party. This is not a party anywhere close to fratricidal. Nick Robinson puts it well in the Times as he betrays the media’s agenda for the week (Incidentally, Isn’t there a conflict of interest here as Nick is the ITN chief political corespondent. Should he betaking money from one of his main rivals? I only ask):

“Listen to the conference previews and you’d think it would be a doddle to get a handful of delegates to stare down our TV lens and attack the war on Iraq or the Prime Minister. Far from it. “You in the media think you can tell us what we’re annoyed about” was the constant refrain. Ever so politely, party activist after party activist told me that we in the media were getting it — getting them — wrong. They were determined to prove us wrong. “

Nick, does not consider the possibility that he was in fact, wrong, of course, merely suggesting that the oiks don’t like the clever chaps in the media being so smart, so they should not let on what their agenda is.

Since the delegates wouldn’t play ball by attacking the Leadership, the alleged splits between Gordon and Tony got intensive media coverage. Now, I generally rail against this sort of thing, as it’s tedious non-relevant, inside the beltway rubbish. Even inside the beltway, very few people paid any attention to this article by Nick Brown, former Chief whip and now Gordon’s apostle to the backbenchers, which I regard as the definitive statement of Brownite intent.

The money quotes are “So what's going wrong? Even when the Labour party was in the depths of its unpopularity, the electorate still trusted us in two fundamental areas: health and education. And now they don't.” and “What sort of a journey have we travelled that leaves us in danger of appearing as arrogant, as remote and as downright nasty as the people we replaced? This is about more than the issue of the war itself. It's about trust.”.

Personally, I don’t understand why Gordon is (allegedly) so frustrated. He will, barring a personal tragedy, be the next leader of the Labour party. He dominates the party like no non-leader figure before him. His links with the unions are second to none. His profile in the constituencies is better than any other plausible candidate and as the prohibitive favourite, the MP’s will back him. Try and construct a Labour leadership contest in which Gordon Brown is not elected. You need something like a great depression or a world war.

Incidentally, I thought Gordon’s speech was superb. Tony’s was too. There you go.

The briefing does happen. I was shocked to hear a Labour MP belittle the PM’s speech to a journalist. Not so much that he did it, after all, why not, but that he knows me, knows my loyalty and still felt it would be OK to do it. It was the blatancy.

All of this is very interesting to me.

But not to anyone else.

In the end this was the strange feeling I had about the conference.

We were totally in the bubble, locked into our own private world. We were intent on proving to the media that we were united, the media were determined to prove us wrong.

The rest of the world saw two cats clawing each other and moved on.

Now maybe this is just stupid, but even when the unions decided they didn’t want to debate Iraq (and trust me, if they’d wanted to they could), there was a lot of meat out there. Manufacturing, Pensions, employment. Yes, there was stage management, but there were also real debates, real interests. The only one to get any attention? Foundation Hospitals, and that through the prism of a smack for the leadership.

So sadly the conference felt like a good result on it’s own terms, but a sideshow in the great political debate. Maybe we should have stage-managed a massive controversy on pensions, on Council Tax, on Asylum. Maybe we should have made those debates vicious and catty and dirty and angry. Maybe that’s the only way to get the idea’s up there.

Until we can try and talk about ideas again, the standard of our political debates will just depress me.

Oh, and I see that the Tories are doing no better. Well, at least I can take partisan glee in that.

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Monday, October 06, 2003

Unintentional Brilliance award

Andy Sullivan explains why talking about Bill Clinton and sex is Good but talking about Arnie and Sex is bad.

"Item six: all of Arnold's incidents were one-off."

D'oh. Well, as long as all of my burglaries were one-off, I guess that doesn't make me a serial burglar...

What do I think of it all over in distant California?

The Evening Standard ran a 1,678 word, 2 page spread on the Schwarzenegger candidacy, in which the only mention of policy, proposals, issues or you know, what a Governor is supposed to do were the following:

"All they and many Californians want is change, preferably delivered by an "independent" politician who can stand up to special interest groups that have pillaged the state's coffers. .... Arnold (said) the style of low-spending government he wants in California will mean that special interest groups will try to push him around. "But," he added, "I vill push back."

“this election has been about the lack of leadership of Governor Davis, a career Democrat politician who has somehow managed to bungle the finances of the Californian state - which has the fifth largest GNP in the world - from a $12billion surplus to a $38 billion budget deficit “*

“Certainly, he (Schwarzenegger) understands money.”

Well, if that's the standard of political debate things are screwed up. Now William Cash is a terrible reporter, and this was a colour piece, and not genuine US coverage, but even so.

This isn't a debate, it's not politics, it's something ugly and ignorant and creepy. An election about groping, about bad puns and issues that don't even get soundbite status, while the horserace and the process are frontpage. It's not Arnold's fault, nor Clinton's, nor Bush' or Ventura's. If there's a crisis you kick the bum out, but don't worry about the solution because a salesman with a neatline and an easy charm will be there to talk you into backing them.

There used to be a name for this sort of thing. We called it populism. It flourished amongst ignorant, insecure voters. it led to colourful, charming, charismatic leaders who were never quite clear about what they stood for but made sure you knew what they were against. They had Pitchforks, or brooms, or dusters or travelling roadshows with country music bands. Sometimes they even had their own radio shows.

Trouble was, you never knew what was inside the package. You might be lucky and get a Huey Long. You might Get a Pappy O'Daniel or a Ben Tillman. You probably got a guy who knew how to pander to what you currently believe- but not much ability to do anything positive.

I think this might be where we're heading.

That matters more than sex, whether it's Clinton, Schwarzenegger, Mellor or JFK. End of story.

*Insert your own George Bush parallel here.

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More random and unconnected thoughts about the Tory conference.

BBC parliament has a really odd camera angle on the main floor.

Interestingly, the first three speakers are 20-30-40ish reasonably attractive women. One was a Nigella-like and is candidate for Romsey. I fear the Blue rinse brigade will have their zimmer frames snatched away from them if they try and reach the podium in this debate.

I wonder what Peter Cuthbertson thinks of this blatant discrimination. Maybe he'll be allowed to speak though.

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A few random and unconnected thoughts on the Tory Conference

Well, I don't like the set, but it's better than the huge withered arm of last year. stuff of nightmares, that one.

Theresa May's speech seems to be saying look how nice we are now, thanks to me. Seems lie a tepid response, except for the rather brutal attack on hte Lib-Dems, but I'm watching out of the corner of my eye, so might be wrong.

The lighting makes Theresa May and the conference chair look like vampires with an interest in accountancy.

The age of the audience is startling.

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Another Benn in the Cabinet

Hilary Benn has been promoted to the Cabinet as International Development Secretary. Baroness Amos moves to House of Lords. Hilary Benn's rise must be one of the quickest ever recorded as he only entered parliament just over 4 years ago.

Of course, some of you might be familiar with his father. Or his grandfather.

Hilary has absolutely no political presence or followers of his own, but is regarded as a pleasant, decent, competent minister. As such, all power to him.

It's also good that the International Development Department Cabinet minister is in the Commons, not the Lords.

Update: I forgot to mention that Hilary Benn is a former Special Advisor to David Blunkett. For those of you interested in such things, that has implications in any future leadership tussles. Benn's appointment also raises the number of former bag- carriers/advisers around the cabinet table (Straw- Castle, Hewitt, Clarke, Reid- Kinnock, Beckett- Hart, Benn-Blunkett). This number will rise in future as Miliband, Balls, move on up. It's an interesting trend.

Oh, and this is surely the first time there have been two Hilary's round the cabinet table.

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I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack..

After a week amongst the fleshpots of Labour conference (and what pots they are) I return chastened and sleep-deprived. Some quick and random points, before a longer series of posts on the serious politics of it all.

1. I was amazed at how Tory boy Labour conference has become. Wandering through the Conference Hotel late at night, one could not move for clearly affluent young people in suits and lean and hungry aspiring hacks. Personally, it made my stomach turn, until I realised that I was indistinguishable from the aforementioned hacks.

2. I gave away my real identity by mistake at conference. Fortunately, I don’t think the person in question noticed. Phew.

3. If there is one thing that will make me feel sorry for Iain Duncan Smith it is the use of unfair, misleading polls to humiliate him. Look the guy is an incompetent and extreme politician. That should be enough to pile ignominy upon him. The fact that core Labour voters regard the Lib-Dems as a more effective opposition (see the Indy and sky news today) is neither important nor relevant, and to try and parlay that into a front page story about the Lib-Dems “emerging as the new opposition” is funadmentally dishonest. I think that the SWP are a more effective opposition than the Tories, but I’m a hard core Labour member, supporter and activist. IDS doesn’t care what I think, so why should the Independent?

4. The conference set really was good this year. The Video wall thing really worked. Even if a few hung-over delegates wanted it to stop moving.

5. The singing of the red flag was surprisingly muted, considering how often and how passionately it had been called for. Perhaps it was the mumbling we all do when confronted by someone who can really sing.

6. Bournemouth is by miles the nicest of the three venues.

7. There really has been a major shift in the party. Every other Labour government has seen big unions holding the line against radical constituencies. When that compact collapsed (as it did in 68 and 78), there was near fatal trouble for Labour. Now it’s the other way round. The CLp’s regularly vote with the leadership, but the Unions vote against en-bloc. This was true last year and this and now seems to be a regular trend. The political, organisational, personal and philosophical reasons for this transformation would make an excellent subject for a Sunday newspaper piece- or a piece in the new Statesman or Tribune, if they weren’t so crap.

8. Most conference sessions are deadly dull. Even the ones where something important is being decided. Even the controversial ones. This is because hearing a succession of 3 minute speeches is not exciting and motivational. I liked it when they mixed these things up with Q&A’a etc etc.

9. That means that the interestng stuff happens elsewhere in conference. The big questions appear to be a) where? and b) How can I make it look like I know all about it? Of course the people who really know aren't going to be in the bar, they're in a dank meeting room drinking flat water and sucking on those boiled sweets you find only in hotel meeting rooms.

10. Many, many journalists, politicians and aspiring members of both classes are actually pretty annoying and self-centred. Many of them need to get out more and think less about their own place in the world. Conference is possibly the worst place in the world for these people as their most irritiating factors become advantages (total myopia about outside world, incredible focus, lack of scruple about blatantly running own agenda, willingness to work into ground, need to be in every conversation, plot and word.) No, this is not a dig at Gordon. it's a comment on the whole class.

More serious stuff to come.

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