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24 Dec 2005 08:29:14

Christmas Eve 2005

Happychristmas_1James Jones, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool:

"God knows we need saving - from ourselves, from what we're doing to the planet, from what we're doing to each other. Salvation is God's gift, but it is a bitter-sweet experience for a human race that prides itself on progress. It is a blow to our natural pride to have to confess that "there is no health in us" and that we need both forgiveness and help.  These are God's gifts at Christmas. They should be celebrated with all the relief and gratitude of a drowning man rescued from a treacherous sea.  The coming of the Prince of Peace can take on a greater personal significance as we turn the carols of the angels into the prayers of our heart:

"O holy Child of Bethlehem
descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in.
Be born in us today."

Times leader: "For Christians there is good news. Attendance at church has begun to rise again. Clergy have discovered new ways to inspire, new venues in which to worship, new examples to prove the durability of faith. Who can ignore the extraordinary Christian forgiveness voiced by the mother of Anthony Walker, the black student murdered by two racists in Liverpool? Who can forget the spontaneous outpouring of emotion that accompanied the funeral of Pope John Paul II this year? Around the globe and across religious divides, he was seen as a man of towering faith and inspiring example. Even those who opposed his often uncompromising stance on doctrine and authority recognised in him an example to all of humanity. The Christmas message is one of spiritual renewal. It is a message understood by all those of faith, everywhere in the land."


"Vigilant" on The Platform: David Cameron does not look like a small government conservative


Scotsman: "David Cameron has moved to distance himself from remarks by Oliver Letwin, his newly-appointed policy chief, who yesterday appeared to attack Tony Blair from the left by calling for greater redistribution of wealth in society."

Simon Heffer in The Telegraph: "In an interview with my colleague Rachel Sylvester, Ollie decided to give millions of people the reason they have been searching for not to vote Conservative. He told them that his masterplan is to take the money they strive to earn by hard work and ingenuity, and that is already in the view of many of them incontinently taxed as it is, and give it away to others.  Big mistake, Ollie. We would, I am sure, and not just at this time of goodwill to all persons, like to see the gap narrowed between rich and poor.  Yet there is more than one way of doing this. In the prosperous, liberal society that we should aspire to be, the rich get richer and the poor get richer, too, as the wealth of the most successful trickles down through society."

The Guardian: "Oliver Letwin's promise that a future Conservative government will redistribute wealth to help close the gap between rich and poor won mixed reviews from fellow Tories yesterday - and a demand from Labour that he stop opposing their own efforts."

The Mirror on 'Oliver Leftwing': "Tory Howard Flight, axed at the election for hinting at major tax cuts, said any suggestion of a rise in the top rate of income tax would trigger a "great debate".  Labour mocked Mr Letwin's attempts to portray Tories as friends of the poor.  Cabinet Office Minister Jim Murphy said: "It is Labour that has taken a million children and a million pensioners out of poverty. The Tories opposed all the tough decisions that we took to do it."


Western Mail: "New Tory leader David Cameron has finally made his first policy pronouncement - and it's to vote against the Government of Wales Bill. It's the latest twist in the curious tale of the Tories and Welsh devolution, but, as with all Mr Cameron's spontaneous decisions, a lot of thought had gone into it.  The Conservatives think the Bill - which will give the Assembly the power to make its own laws, subject to being rubber-stamped in Westminster - is flawed, and will block it. They are unhappy that the changes will not be subject to a referendum, and they disagree with changes to the voting system."


The Independent reports a row over job losses amongst Labour party staff.

Blair_downing_streetTHE END OF TONY BLAIR?

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Guardian: "There is a simple defence of Tony Blair. He is no man of the left, radical or true reformer, but then these are not radical times. He is a politician more from an earlier age than the 20th century, a "ministry man" who believes that the queen's government must go on; his is a consolidating government, giving the voters a kinder, gentler version of Thatcherism. Maybe that was what we wanted or deserved, but it is a very long way from the new dawn of 1905 or 1945."

Matthew Parris, The Times: "Mr Blair’s reign is coming to an end. He has lost his future, lost his army and lost his grip. My colleague Peter Riddell reports the Prime Minister’s remarkably “determined” frame of mind. But determined on what — what that is achievable? I saw an old man on Victoria Street this week pushing a shopping trolley full of tattered plastic bags. He too had a most determined expression on his face.  Soon our delusional PM will be gone. And a solid successor is ready. Why then is there so little buzz of hopeful expectation among Labour MPs awaiting the long-delayed arrival of Mr Brown? Because, deep in its collective gut, the suspicion gnaws new Labour that for England the answer to a new Conservative Leader is not a grumpy old stick-in-the-mud from Scotland."


The Guardian: "Research that gave hope to millions of people with incurable diseases has been put "back on the starting line" by one of the worst cases of scientific fraud, experts and patients groups warned yesterday.  Dr Woo-suk Hwang was forced to quit his post at South Korea's leading academic institution, Seoul National University, following an investigation into his apparently pioneering work on human cloning."

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23 Dec 2005 07:53:10

Friday 23rd December 2005


Letwin_1ToryDiary: Letwin - Tories should redistribute


Mcletchie_1The Scotsman: "David McLetchie, the former [Scottish] Tory leader, yesterday admitted claiming almost £300 in travel expenses to which he was not entitled.  Mr McLetchie published a list of the journeys he has taken over the past five years for which he should not have claimed expenses, and paid back the £293.74 to the parliament.  Among the trips made "in error" were 11 visits to his dentist in Montgomery Street, two trips to see his doctor and six party functions, including one in Perth and one in Glasgow."

Martin Kettle in The Guardian warns Labour against the traps set by David Cameron:

"The Labour party is in danger of sleepwalking into a trap set by David Cameron... Cameron has twin tactics for making the Conservatives electable. The first is to move the Tory party from the right to the centre. This week's Guardian poll shows just how well that is going. The key here is not the Tories' single-point lead over Labour. It's the fact that half of Liberal Democrat voters and more than a third of Labour voters said that Cameron "is someone I could vote for"... Cameron's second tactic is equally simple. It is to get Blair out as soon as possible. Early days these may be, but those Cameronian embraces of Blair have a cold logic. The aim - aided and abetted by the Daily Telegraph's rediscovered bias - is to divide Blair from his party in the hope that a Labour revolt will clear the Tories' most formidable foe from their path. If Blair is forced out, Cameron will paint Labour as the enemy of change and reform. He will say that the Tories are the party that can achieve what Blair failed to do..."

_41145154_cameroncard203BBCi's Jackie Storer analyses the Christmas card designs of political leaders.


Telegraph: "Prescott gives EU stars the same status as Union flag."


Barrie_churchinbox_1A report in The Times (on the back of a Daily Mail story) provides a warning of how political correctness may be driving the church underground within Britain:

"Police questioned a retired couple for 80 minutes about their “homophobic” views after they asked their local council if they could display their Christian literature next to gay rights leaflets, it was reported last night.  Joe and Helen Roberts said that police officers warned them that their actions “were close to a hate crime” after they complained to Wyre Borough Council about its gay rights policies.  The couple claimed that the police told them they were “walking on eggshells...

Mr Roberts, 73, told the Daily Mail: “I told him I was offended. I asked him if I could put Christian literature on display alongside the gay material. He said I couldn’t because it would offend gay people.  I said we had no objection to gay people, but we thought that homosexual practice was wrong and we were offended by the gay culture which the council is promoting.  They warned me that being discriminatory and homophobic is in line with hate crime. The phrase they used was that we were ‘walking on eggshells’. I asked the officer, if I phoned the police with a complaint that the council were discriminating against Christians would he go to interview them?”"


Jonah Goldberg ( on nuke-hungry Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map: "The world has responded with only slightly more outrage than it would if he'd called for trade barriers on pistachios. It's time to wake up."

Ben Macintyre, The Times: "Decentralised, informal and versatile, blogs offer a potential for secrecy, anonymity and evasion unthinkable in a hierarchical, paper-based information system. A blogger may be arrested, but once his words are out there and replicable, they are effectively immortal and invulnerable. The bloggers have proved so wily and hard to censor that the Government has even considered removing Iran from the internet entirely, by creating a national intranet that would seal off Iranians from the contaminating freedom of the world wide web.  If the Iranian Government succeeds in crushing the blogs, other intolerant regimes will take heart; but if the Iranian blogosphere continues to expand, nascent networks of free thought will follow elsewhere. Already US policymakers are exploring ways of nurturing home-grown Arabic language blogs in the Middle East to spread democratic ideals and increase pressure for change."


The Times reflects on Kofi Annan's repeated failure to answer a reporter's question about his purchase of a Mercedes.

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22 Dec 2005 07:42:28

Thursday 22nd December 2005


Ian Swanson in Edinburgh's Evening News:

"David Cameron scored quite a publicity coup on his first visit to Scotland since being elected the new leader of the Tory Party.  He cheekily billed his meeting with First Minister Jack McConnell on Tuesday as a discussion of future relations in the event of a Conservative government at Westminster.  He described the meeting as "friendly" and claimed it had established "an understanding between the two of us" about the need for protocols in such an event.  Having agreed to the meeting for fear of being accused of a snub, Mr McConnell's advisers wisely insisted the content of the conversation should remain private. But the very fact such a meeting took place was notched up as a success by Tory organisers and seems to have caused some consternation in Labour circles down south."


ToryDiary: Is David Cameron a 9/11 person?

Spectator blog: Christmas reading for political junkies


Peggy Noonan on National Review Online: "JPII helped change the map of the world by standing firm for Christianity, by embodying the Christian spirit within the Warsaw Pact countries. He ventured into the world as the pope as a paradox: He was the Great Opposer of the ugly isms (fascism, communism, materialism) and the Great Asserter of God, Faith, Religion. He was a giant."


Telegraph: "Charles Kennedy's woes deepened last night with the launch of a website campaign urging him to stand down."

Elletson_defectsA former Tory MP for Blackpool - Harold Elletson - who defected to the LibDems in 2002 writes for today's Times about the significance of David Cameron's overtures to his new party:

"Mr Cameron has made clear that he intends to move the Conservatives back on to the middle ground. If he has his way, the new conservatism will be very different to the brutal realism of Thatcherite “shock therapy”. It will be what most of Middle Britain wants the Conservative Party to be: compassionate, caring and competent. The party’s priorities, such as concern for the environment, will be similar to those of many Liberal Democrats."

A Scottish LibDem reacts angrily (in The Herald) to David Cameron's invitation of yesterday to join the Conservative Party:

"Time will tell if Dave's strategy of presenting the Tories as cute and cuddly succeeds, but history does him few favours. When he worked for Chancellor Norman Lamont, he succeeded in costing the country £8bn in a single day. When he wrote Tory policies, their environmental record was woeful. In his four years in the Commons, he enthusiastically supported Labour's unjustified and illegal war in Iraq and their expensive, dangerous and illiberal ID cards scheme. He was the principal author of Michael Howard's election manifesto and campaign, which was the most anti-immigrant platform of a major party in British electoral history. And his only substantive policy during his leadership campaign was to withdraw his party's MEPs from the progressive European People's Party and throw in his lot with the wide-eyed fascists."


Howarth_gerald_1Gerald Howarth MP, Shadow Procurement Minister, welcomed a £20bn sale of Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia:

"The decision by the Saudi Government to purchase the Typhoon is welcome news for the UK defence industry and demonstrates the enduring relationship between Saudi Arabia and the UK.  The UK defence industry continues to be at the forefront of cutting edge defence technology.  The Typhoon is a truly world class aircraft and today's announcement confirms the esteem in which UK equipment is held worldwide."


Ashcroft_michael_5Lord Ashcroft has been appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for Conservative Future, opinion research and target seats (Telegraph).  During the last Parliament he operated outside of CCHQ and administered his own target seats funding system.  Michael Ashcroft recently called for political parties to be able to "accept financial support — cash, benefits in kind and credit — from whomsoever they choose and without financial limit".  Richard Spring MP and Michael Spencer (of ICAP) will co-chair the party's City Circle.  Gary Streeter MP will oversee Conservatives Abroad as well as continuing as chairman of the party's international office and its human rights committee.

Telegraph: "Blair appeals for party support to fight challenge of resurgent Tories."

The Guardian publishes a transcript of Mr Mandelson's interview on the Today programme.


Tom Utley, The Telegraph: "The state has an obvious interest in keeping parents together. The evidence is now overwhelming that stable marriages offer the best conditions for bringing up the children that this kingdom so desperately needs. But I cannot see what possible difference it will make to the well-being of society whether Sir Elton and his partner stay together or not.  The sentimentalist in me rejoices at Sir Elton's happiness. The dyed-in-the-wool bigot says that I will never approve wholly of civil partnerships until inheritance tax is abolished for everyone - including my sisters."

Times leader: "The point of civil partnerships is both to allow homosexuals to secure legal rights over property or pensions and to symbolise a degree of commitment to each other. It is not a threat to heterosexual couples strolling down the aisle in a formal religious ceremony."


Daniel J Mitchell, Washington Post: "In recent years President Bush has praised Russia's flat tax. He even said during a visit to Slovakia that it was his dream to have a flat tax in the United States. Let's hope that dream becomes a reality. America and the West may have won the Cold War, but if we continue to be burdened by the internal revenue code, the former communist nations may get the last laugh."


Michael Fumento,

"Turns out, though, there’s little distinction between those who ratified [Kyoto] and those who didn’t. Of the original 15 European Union ratifiers of Kyoto, at best four are on course to meet the treaty’s target of an 8% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2008-2012 from the 1990 base-year level... But this becomes less disappointing once you learn Kyoto’s dirty little secret. Even supporters concede that if all countries complied the amount of warming prevented by 2100 would be at most 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, except that 0.2 degrees is unmeasurable. Certainly it won’t save a single polar bear."

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21 Dec 2005 08:28:47

Wednesday 21st December 2005

4pm update on the ToryDiary: Where's the clear blue water between Blair and Cameron?


Bernardjenkin_1Bernard Jenkin MP responds to your objections to an 'A-List' for parliamentary candidates on the GoldList blog.

ToryDiary reflects on David Cameron's visit to the Edinburgh Parliament and asks: "Should Scotland become a low tax haven?"


Telegraph: "Tensions between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown intensified last night as the Treasury disclosed that within five years the deal to surrender part of the EU rebate would cost the taxpayer almost double what the Prime Minister claimed... The Treasury said that by 2010-11 the agreement struck by EU leaders last weekend would be costing taxpayers £1.9 billion a year."


Matthew d'Ancona in The Daily Telegraph:

"Like Mr Blair before him, Mr Cameron has realised that, in modern politics, power will elude those who cannot master the vast middle ground of contemporary British culture, and appear at ease on this terrain. A prospective prime minister must understand Live8 as well as the G8, eBay as well as the EU, The X Factor as well as the Exchequer...

During the leadership contest, Mr Cameron was chased by a Newsnight reporter asking him to do a Vicky Pollard impersonation: wisely, he declined. But he also signalled that he knew what the reporter was talking about: no less important. A modern political leader has to be not only a policy-maker, party manager and prospective global statesman, but an instinctive thespian who knows precisely when to perform, and when not to...

The reactionary Right wants the British to be angry, pessimistic and snobbish. But they are not. Mr Cameron has grasped this."

Scottish_parliamentScotsman: "Jack McConnell triggered a damaging rift with his colleagues in London yesterday when he held a ground-breaking meeting with David Cameron to discuss how his Labour-led Executive would work with a Tory government at Westminster."

The Independent: "David Cameron has already put a revived Conservative Party on course to secure a hung parliament at the next general election, a study indicates.  John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who has analysed the "Cameron effect," said the election of the new Tory leader has harmed Labour more than the Liberal Democrats, despite their wobble over Charles Kennedy's leadership."

Letter in today's Guardian from Simon Gamble of Poole, Dorset: "Your graphic accompanying the latest opinion poll shows Labour and Tories in differing shades of red. Would it not be more appropriate to show them in differing shades of blue?"

David Cameron's "I have got a sense of direction, and I'm going to take that sense of direction all over the country" wins Simon Hoggart's "blathering blather" award in The Guardian.

Guardian: "Monaco has declared Sir Mark Thatcher persona non grata because Prince Albert wants to shake off its reputation as a haven for shady businessmen.  Margaret Thatcher's 52-year-old son has fallen victim to the attempts by the mini-state's authorities to put "ethics at the centre of life" there and has been asked to leave when his temporary residency card expires in just over six months' time."


52% of voters want new leader for LibDems - Guardian


Guardian: "Forget about the conventional wisdom that parents influence the way their children vote. A new paper by two British academics yesterday upturned a longstanding western idea to suggest that it was the other way around. What's more, daughters make families vote Labour or Lib Dem."


Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian: "As The Economist reported recently, Islamist carnage in cities from Istanbul to Casablanca, Riyadh to Jordan, is alienating the people jihadists claim to be fighting for. Indeed, after the suicide attacks on three hotels in the Jordanian capital, Amman, the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who masterminded the attacks, is fast losing Arab street cred. In a poll taken a week after the November 9 attacks, 60 per cent of Jordanians said their views of al-Qa'ida had changed for the worse."

Stars_stripesUS NEWS & COMMENT

Telegraph: "Arnold Schwarzenegger has severed ties with his home town in Austria after local politicians criticised the California governor for allowing an execution."

Noemie Emery in The Weekly Standard reflects on how George W Bush is using domestic security concerns to rebuild his public standing. "Why are things the way they are, politically speaking? Why are the Republicans' most effective ads straightforward clips of Democrats contradicting themselves? Why are conservative pundits so frequently flanking their liberal counterparts? Why is the left-of-center blogosphere moving their party away from the Democrats’ historic base while the right-of-center is co-opting libertarians and moderates?"

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