The Thick of It


Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I've been away on my holidays having been to Amsterdam and the Lowlands festival. Having previously been to Benicassim in Spain (just four times) I was interested to see what the Dutch would make of the music festival. It had no beach but it had real toilets, free saunas, showers and no mud. And the Dutch who are the most easy going people I've ever seen at a festival. No pushing or shoving, fantastic - unlike Benicassim which has now been taken over by us Brits.

Is Lowlands the world’s most easy going festival? Dubbed “A camping flight to Lowlands paradise” and with a line up to match any UK festival it is hard to disagree. In it’s 15th year, Lowlands attracted top billing from The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, Arcade Fire, Interpol, Editors, Motorhead and Tool. The 55000 sell out crowd were treated to superb acts at a festival so well organised it puts the British mud-baths to shame.

Substitute portaloos with real toilets, mud with proper drainage, poor sound with fantastic sound, dirt with real showers and queues with the easy going Dutch. Lowlands is a music lovers’ paradise.

All the things that annoy me about festivals don’t apply here. Did I mention free laundry and saunas and that returning ten beer cups gets you a free drink?

The Killers rocked Friday to the rafters of the vast Alpha tent with a superb hit-laden set. Pure energy from start to finish, revellers were treated to Brandon Flowers at his best, stomping across the stage in a silver suit and pumping his arms to tune.

Calvin Harris played his first overseas festival date and proved that he has what it takes to continue exciting fans with his 80s fun pop. Fans packed in to see West Londoner Jamie T though I left feeling a little short changed from his set.

Saturday saw a fine display of powerful post-punk from moody New Yorker’s Interpol who delivered the good for me as a big fan. They had a great light show and played all their best songs, which helps. Kaiser Chiefs naturally lived up to expectations and had the whole festival pogoing away on Saturday night. They really do sound more and more like Blur.

With the sun blazing down on the lakeside site, on Sunday Kings of Leon finally lived up to their hype - the fourth time I've seen them now - and delivered the perfect prelude to godfathers of grunge, Sonic Youth.

I signed off the weekend with Canadian art-rockers Arcade Fire, ten on stage and I was in thrall thrall as the festival drew to a close, with a string of storming tracks from recent album Neon Bible and against a stunning backdrop including a church organ, screens and all sorts.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy holidays

This blogger goes to the Lowlands festival tomorrow morning so nothing will be written for a week. I'm going to see Sonic Youth, Arcade Fire, CSS, Interpol, Motorhead and more. Report to follow.

Lib Dem councillor and a stripper rolls on

The Bideford councillors who resigned from the Lib Dems after discovering that a fellow representative was a stripper have written to their local rag the North Devon Gazette to put their side of the story. Now that the tabloids have moved on, the three councillors claim they quit because Cllr Myrna Bushell's extra curricular work could be distressing to some. Perhaps this is a fair point, but I'm keen to know the Lib Dem Party line on this as they clearly sided with the stripper not the Bideford Three.

Did somebody ask how Mark Oaten is?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Oi Redwood! No!

Just a quick message to John Redwood and Cameron: I'd like to keep my guaranteed four weeks of holiday. So I really don't think reducing people's holiday entitlement will really be that popular, especially when we already work the longest hours in Europe. This is another challenge to Cameron to show if the Tories want to stay camped firmly on the right or if they are prepared to compromise and move to the centre ground. He has so far failed to align too closely with Redwood's review, but if he doesn't back it why set it up in the first place? My suspicion is that Cameron does back most of these proposals. We'll see very shortly.

Highbury Garage could re-open

According the Graun, the Highbury Garage has been sold along with several other London music venues. The venue was an important part in growing up in London as a music loving teenager and walking past it every day since it closed last year has always saddened me. I had assumed that it would be sold for housing but it looks like it will remain a music venue. The staff at the Garage had all been told it was closing for "refurbishment" but the venue closed and has stood empty since. To upgrade it will require a lot of work as it was quite run down, but I hope this will happen now it has been bought by entertainment group Mama.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Too much red tape for employers?

John Redwood seems to have devoted his career to reducing government's influence and cutting red tape. He must have been like a kid in a sweet shop when Cameron offered him the chance to prepare a policy paper for the Conservative Party on economic competitiveness.

However, the widely reported recommendations look to be ill thought out, such as opting out from the working time directive - which isn't possible - or just unnecessary, like making it easier to make staff redundant. Britain currently has one of the most successful labour markets in the EU so why change? Especially when employers aren't even asking for change.

I was heartened to read in Personnel Today that employers' lobbyist David Yeandle of the EEF (representative body for manufacturers) said "there is no great demand to get rid of existing employment legislation."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Britain backing Brown

So the polls show Labour still in the lead and the public backing Brown as the best leader by far. This makes great Saturday morning reading.

Cameron needs to respond and offer leadership and an eye catching policy that will attract voters. I'm still not convinced he has what it takes to haul the Tories out of their malaise. Tax cuts? Give me a break. Not a tax one though. Though this seems to be what he thinks will get Britain back on the Tories' side. I'm just waiting for a backlash in the Tory Party about Europe then the set will be complete, tax cuts and Europe. Will they ever learn that repeatedly beating the same drum in 1997, 2001, 2005 and now 2007 might not work?

£21bn of public service cuts would be a disaster at a time when investment is finally bringing services up to scratch. John Redwood's policy review claims that together with tax and regulation, poor infrastructure is a problem in the UK. How does he propose that we invest in new infrastructure with less tax revenue when what we have isn't enough?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Labour gears up for election

Following my last post, there just seems to be more and more coverage pointing to Labour getting ready for a general election fight. We appointed a new election chief yesterday and are now choosing our ad agency. Appointing Experian to manage the voter database, hopefully this means that a significant upgrade to will have a real effect.

The only counter to all this is Labour's financial position. We are in massive debt and the Tories seem to be on a decent financial footing. The longer we wait the better our finances will be but by then the Tories will probably have raised more so the gap will be the same - unless of course even more of their recent donors give them up.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Highbury, Corbyn and the general election date

I spent the morning canvassing with Jeremy Corbyn under a blazing sun. Our discussions turned to whether Labour will hold an election in May and we thought yes - Gordon Brown hasn't dampened the speculation which he would have done had May 2008 not been the plan. This will also be a problem for the Tories as it doesn't give them much time to actually come up with some proper policies. The next few months could be very interesting indeed.

It being Highbury, we also bumped into Nigel Slater. Awesome.


Cracking interview with Denis Healy in today's Graun. I always sigh with despair when I think back to what might have been had he become leader of the Labour Party and what was instead.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Spoof party political broadcasts

I've updated my links on here and while having a think about what I read online, I found the link to some spoof party poltical broadcasts from 2005. They are made to be what the two main partys and the Liberal Democrats would have made had there been no restrictions.

The Labour one shows a woman waking up with a posh Tory after a one night stand, but she can't get rid of him. He suggests going to Heathrow to 'test all the foreigners for AIDs.' Priceless.

The Tory advert shows a dirty Britian of anti-social behaviour and vandalism. It doens't seem very spoof, it is alarmingly realistic.

The Lib Dems 'portray' themselves as the caring independent arbiter for those sick of Labour and the Tories bickering. Of course, us Islington residents know that they are far from caring.

Am I really that good?

Yesterday I got a real boost as this blog was listed as one of the top 20 political blogs by highly rated sjhoward. Top Tory blogger Iain Dale has requested that people submit their top 20 and mine got submitted. I encourage you to submit your own list and please put me on there too!

I'm having a think about mine and will be posting it soon.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Lord Baden-Powell arrested!

On this centenary celebration day for the Scouting movement, I thought it pertinent to raise the thought of what might have been. I can recall reading in William L Shirer's excellent The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as a youngster that had Operation Sealion been successful, Lord Baden Powell would have been arrested. Did the Nazis really think that the scout movement was a threat?