The Thick of It


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How many more?

So even Patricia Hewitt has admitted to smoking pot. Does anyone really care about this any longer?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Numbers game

Just a thought, but while people were being unecessarily shot in Virginia -according to the editor of a gun magazine in the US on Radio Five Live - because the other students didn't have guns to "protect themselves" - 140 people died in a market bombing in Baghdad.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Swim across the Atlantic Ocean

A bit of fun, go to and click "directions". Enter New York as your starting point and Paris as your destination. It tells you it takes 29 days and instructs you to "Swim across the Atlantic Ocean." Genius.

Re-nationalise the railways?

This morning's Times carried claims that Labour want to join track and trains and re-nationalise the railways, with Scotland a test case. The Government via Network Rail or a publicly owned not for profit operator would take over the Scotrail franchise and operate under a unified management system with track and train reunited. I have long since thought this to be a good idea (taking over the franchises). One could argue that a trick was missed when Connex were stripped of the South Eastern franchsie for poor performance and Department for Transport took it over. South Eastern went from the pooerst poerfoming franchise to the best.

However, the South East isn't really the place to start messing with the structure of the railways. Scotland provides a good test case because the network there is self-contained. I'm interested to see what industry expert Christian Wolmar has to say about this.

One of the stated aims of privatisation was to releive the burden on the Treasury, however, with rail now receiving far more subsidy than under the British Rail days, that aim has clearly failed. With this level of subsidy and strong element of public control already it would make sense to make the railways less bureaucratic, confusing and wasteful.

Alan Milburn

So Alan Milburn says he "won't be seduced" into standing for the Labour leadership. Don't flatter yourself Alan. I'd like to know who exactly it is that is trying to encourage him other than his own ego.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bloggers4Labour's dead socialist watch

I noted from the excellent though slightly morbid feature on Bloggers4Labour of "Dead Socialists Watch." For those of us who like to read leftie British political history and biography (or Goldsmiths students and alumni),historian Ben Pimlott passed away three years ago yesterday. His work guided me through much of my "Labour education" with excellent biographies of Hugh Dalton and Harold Wilson. I heartily recommend it to you, especially the Wilson book.

Read his Wikipedia entry.

The feature gives a few good reminders of former greats in the Labour Movement. The zealots among us can slave over this sort of thing for hours...

No go areas for Lib Dems?

According to Kerron Cross, "Labour's number one blogger" - we should all be putting his "No Lib Dems" logo in our windows. This is exactly what Islington needs. However, my own personal preference is to ensure that Labour activists waste as much of their resources as possible. That means making sure we always take up our opponents' time and material wherever possible.

In the local elections last year I always used to put my campaign literature through the door of my known opponents once I had finished a round of campaigning. Or even if I hadn't. Just so that they would think I'd done more than I had. I'd be interested in more seasoned campaigners views on this strategy as it has pitfalls - namely in giving the oppo the incentive to campaign more. Do we opt for secrecy or tomfoolery?

As an aside, my recent post about Lib Dem Ming claiming to be in favour of sustainable communities was published in the Islington Tribune just over a week ago.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Is London the best city in the world?

I sometimes think so, having spent virtually my whole life here. I love it here.

However, the overcrowding, cost of living and disparity of wealth mean that it doesn't offer the highest quality of life. For that one would have to look to Switzerland, with Zurich and Geneva topping the charts. Mercer have just published their latest survey, ranking world cities for overall quality of life against 39 different criteria. London languishes in 39th place, six behind Paris, but nine ahead of New York. Baghdad comes bottom.

The measurement was against the following criteria:

Political: political stability, leadership, crime
Economic: currency, banking
Socio cultural: censorship, limits to personal freedom
Health and sanitation
Schools and education
Public services and transport: provision of services and congestion
Recreation: restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sport
Availability of consumer goods
Natural environment: climate, record of natural disasters

London rates only 63rd for health and sanitation, however, I don't think this survey takes into account that here one doesn't have to pay to see a doctor, but you do everywhere else. I like reading these surveys but I did note that the "fun" factor wasn't taken into account. Geneva is lovely but is it as fun to live there as it is in London, Paris or Chicago?

The top 50:

2007 Rank City
1 Zurich
2 Geneva
3 Vancouver
3 Vienna
5 Auckland
5 Düsseldorf
7 Frankfurt
8 Munich
9 Bern
9 Sydney
11 Copenhagen
12 Wellington
13 Amsterdam
14 Brussels
15 Toronto
16 Berlin
17 Melbourne
18 Luxembourg
18 Ottawa
20 Stockholm
21 Perth
22 Montreal
23 Nürnberg
24 Calgary
24 Hamburg
26 Oslo
27 Dublin
27 Honolulu
29 San Francisco
30 Adelaide
30 Helsinki
32 Brisbane
33 Paris
34 Singapore
35 Tokyo
36 Lyon
36 Boston
38 Yokohama
39 London
40 Kobe
41 Barcelona
42 Madrid
42 Osaka
44 Washington DC
44 Chicago
46 Portland
47 Lisbon
48 New York City
49 Milan
49 Seattle