Saturday, September 30, 2006

Not good,not good

Those wonderful signs and hopes of recovery which followed last weeks defeat of Birmingham has dissipated just as quickly as Leeds lost 4-2 this afternoon to West Brom. To add insult to injury West Brom were down to ten men after 32 minutes. Healy took the resulting penalty and missed and West Brom took advantage by taking the lead in the 40th minute. They then proceeded to bang in two more goals before Leeds fought back through a goal from Geoff Horsfield in the 82nd Minute with Stone adding a second in the 88th minute. West Brom added a fourth in the final minute to add to Leeds humiliation.

Thailand reshuffle

The BBC reports on the annual military reshuffle in Thailand here. It appears that officers who were believed to be allies of the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been sidelined. Meanwhile a new Prime Minister has yet to be appointed although there is a strong hint that it will be a former army chief. Probably not the best to move to reassure people that there will be a swift return to democracy.

Back from Amsterdam

We returned yesterday from Amsterdam having had a great week. The weather was brilliant and I had no real need for the coat I took with me. Here are some photos of Amsterdam showing Anne Franks house. Herengracht bridge, The Rijksmuseum and a canal view

© Pictures of Amsterdam courtesy of

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Great day for Leeds and Reading

After sacking their manager on Wednesday Leeds showed what they were made of yesterday under acting manager John Carver beating table topping Birmingham 3-2. Yes the defence was clearly dodgy from the reports that I have read and some serious work will need to be done is this area but the Leeds spirit appears to have returned and they were playing more of an attacking game and getting the ball in the box more often. The Observer report can be found here

Meanwhile Reading entertained Manchester United in the League for the first time ever in their 135 year history. I am sure Alex Ferguson must have had this penciled in for three points. Reading fought hard from the off and were determined not to be outplayed. Manchester United probably had the best of the game just but they couldn't break Reading down. Reading took the lead early in the second half from what at the time seemed a slightly controversial penalty which Doyle dispatched for his third goal of the season. Not bad for 78,000 pounds from Cork City. Having seen it again on Match of the Day though it did look as if Neville deliberately handballed. Manchester United eventually went 4-2-4 and played well in patches with a lot of their attacks going through Ronaldo(who was booed every time he touched the ball). Ronaldo finally beat Murty and struck a beautiful shot across the face of the goal and into the far corner for the equaliser. Reading gritted their teeth and went slightly more defensive to hang on for the point.

The Observer report form the game can be found here

It was noticeable that Coppell was still trying to keep the players feet on the ground after the game saying "We had nothing to lose from today. I was thinking before the game that whatever happens we couldn't lose and to get a point is a small gift as well so we have got to be pleased with it. But I have said to the players we don't want the highlight of our season to be a Saturday evening in September. We have got a long way to go and we can't pat ourselves on the back."

Meanwhile Ferguson was quoted as saying "Last Sunday (when ManUnited lost to Arsenal) was a disappointing performance but not today." That alone shows how far Reading have come. They have already amassed ten points after six games. I don't want to tempt fate but it is interesting to note that no promoted club that has amassed at least ten points after ten games has ever been relegated.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

King gives formal backing to coup

According to the BBC here the leaders of the military coup in Thailand have been given formal backing by King Bhumibol Adulyadej via a formal decree of assent. This confirms what was already apparent in that the coup leaders have at least the tacit consent of the King. Interesting that there were a couple of limited pro democracy protests in Bangkok which I would not have expected given the intervention by the King.

There was also an interesting piece on BBC online on Coup leaders' addiction to power. For what it is worth I think that the chances are that this time the military will stick to their word and hand power back once the constitution has been rewritten. Of course the rewriting of that constitution will be where the sticking points lie. Doubtless the generals will want a constitution which makes it difficult for the Thai Rak Thai party in general and Thaksin Shinawatra in particular to win the next set of elections

Friday, September 22, 2006

Lib Dem video now working

I have got the Lib Dem video working on my blog now. It is in the sidebar just below the Lib Dem Blogs Button. Easy to do and in my opinion looks great. Thanks to Martin Tod for doing this - anyone else who wants to put it on their site should click here for the instructions.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Companies catch on to bloggers

Great piece from Tuesdays Guardian which can be found here. Companies are beginning to realise the power that bloggers have and the speed with which "issues" can be common knowledge through the power of the internet. The piece also has some links to some of the interesting sites which focus their attention on the failings of one company

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

King supports coup leader

According to the BBC here King Bhumibol Adulyadej has given his backing to the coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin. A statement attributed to him said he has appointed the General as head of a new executive body. The bad news is this means that the military coup will probably succeed. The good news is that it also probably means that the chances of the coup turning violent are greatly reduced.

On Monday I asked for Mr Blackwell to go and on Wednesday my wish is granted

Two days ago I blogged here asking for Kevin Blackwell to be sacked. And only this morning I was pondering here about how long it would be before Mr Blackwell was sacked. Thank you Mr Bates for realising the seriousness of the situation and acting. The official club statement is here. Now if I could just have the second part of my request fulfilled I would be delighted. Come on Mr Curbishley - rescue this great club.

New PM, New Constitution and New Elections for Thailand

That is the order in which events will follow at least according to General Sonthi Boonyaratglin who has told a news conference that new elections will take place in a year's time once a new constitution had been written and put in place. We will see. Thailand clearly needed to have its constitution amended having seen the chaos which followed the boycott of the last election by most of the opposition parties. It is certainly vital there are new democratic elections - these were scheduled to take place in October but will now be delayed. The only bit I have a problem with is the need for a new Prime Minister. It is clear that many people in Thailand object to Thaksin Shinawatra remaining as Prime Minister but this is not a justification for a military coup. If it was we could expect to see tanks outside 10 Downing Street imminently. Thaksin Shinawatra was elected by the people of Thailand and there are many people who wish to see him remain as Prime Minister despite his alleged failings. These people voted for him and his party and he achieved a significant majority mainly because the opposition parties refused to stand.

News from Brighton - where is it?

I am not sure why the news from the Liberal Democrat conference at Brighton seems so limited. Sure there is plenty of comment from Liberal Democrat Bloggers and if you want to keep track of what they are saying then you can click here. The BBC also has some limited coverage which can be seen here. What has really disappointed me is the coverage from the party itself. The news from the conference button which I display on this blog takes me here. Not very informative I am afraid especially with regard to what is going on, what is being said, what policies motions are being passed etc. Even clicking on the latest news link just takes one here which is also very thin on action from the conference. If we don't blow our own trumpet then we cannot complain when the media fails to report what is going on.

Thailand military coup update

The Thai military has declared today to be a national holiday and called top civil servants and foreign diplomats to a meeting at military headquarters to update them on the situation. Apparently they have declared "a holiday for government, banks and the stock exchange in order to quickly restore law and order," according to their statement.

As I said in my previous post the position of the King will be critical. Will he intervene and if so on which side? Sky News reported last night that the King never intervenes in Thai politics. This is not so. He very rarely intervenes but he did so back in April to get the constitutional court judges to meet to attempt to resolve the crisis.

The other issue which may be critical is the make up of the Thai Army. This is an area I have no knowledge of so if anyone can shed any light I would be most grateful. If the Thai army is structured like UK forces then it is possible that many units will be regional in origin. If so this may cause a divide within the army and units which are derived from rural areas may be opposed to the coup.

Meanwhile the Foreign Office has issued the following advice for travellers - "On 19 September 2006 the Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, declared a state of emergency in Bangkok. There have been reports of tanks taking up positions around the Thai government headquarters in Bangkok and blocking traffic. The British Embassy in Bangkok is closely monitoring the situation. If you are currently in Bangkok, you should stay put and avoid moving around the city. If you intend to travel to, or are currently in Bangkok, you should monitor all available information on the local situation and keep in contact with your tour operator. You should also avoid any demonstrations and large crowds. Movements around government buildings and in public may be restricted until the situation becomes clearer" We are due to travel to Thailand in January but unless things take a significant turn for the worse we will still be going.

The latest from the BBC can be found here

and details of the coup leader can be found here

Some relief at last

Ok so it is only lowly Barnet but a 3-1 victory is a) a victory and b) a game in which Leeds managed to score a goal. Even better Ian Moore got himself on the scoresheet twice and one can hope that this will have given him some confidence. In the last game I saw against Wolves he looked as if he was capable of playing reasonably well but was just not putting the ball in the back of the net - bit of a problem for a striker! The crowd of only 7,000 odd will have been very disappointing to Ken Bates and I wonder how long it will be before he decides to make a change of manager particularly if the next few league games do not go too well. I hope they do go well. I really do, but I fear that Blackwell has lost the plot. It goes without saying that I would be delighted to be proved wrong.

Meanwhile Reading Reserves (with Coppell making 10 changes to the starting line up) were held 3-3 by Darlington and finally went through 4-3 on penalties

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Coup in Thailand

See this link from the BBC. Martial Law has been imposed in Thailand and the Prime Ministers office has been surrounded by tanks.

All troops have been told to report to barracks and no troop movements are allowed unless they have been authorised by the coup leaders. The armed forces are claiming that the takeover is only temporary and that power will be handed back to the people. The army say that it is necessary because Thaksin Shinawatras government has divided the country and corruption is rife.

Elections were due later in the year following the failed elections earlier this year and the military appear to have taken the chance to act whilst Thaksin Shinawatra is out of the country at the United Nations in New York.

The military state that the Council of Political Reform has taken over with the King as head of state. The position of the king in all of this will be absolutely critical to the success or otherwise of the coup.

Sadly I predicted here that the military might take matters into their own hands. However, I also predicted that the stance of King Bhumibol would be critical and I stand by that judgement now.

Gordon Brown A-Z - brilliant

This piece in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday was highly amusing and very appropriate.

I particularly liked -

C is for Chinese Whispers.

People sometimes suggest I don't know how to have fun. But my colleagues and I regularly enjoy a relaxing game of Chinese whispers. It keeps us all highly amused. I might begin a round by saying: "Tony Blair's adored" and it'll somehow end up in the press – don't ask me how – as "Tony Blair's a fraud".

D is for Disco Dancing.

The electorate has probably come to think of me as someone who is stuck behind his desk all day, doing a tremendous amount of hard work on behalf of this country. But I fully understand that people also want to know what makes me tick.
My departmental press officer was kind enough to remind me that I thoroughly enjoy disco dancing in the style of John Travolta. During my busy working life, I make a point of setting aside five or 10 minutes in every hour to jive to one of the great tracks on the Saturday Night Fever album.


M is for Musical Chairs.

A great favourite of myself and my good friend Tony. He has decided, of his own accord, and I fully agree with his decision, which was his alone, to retire from the game as early as possible next year. If, for any reason he decides not to, we will be forced to remove his chair from under him, for his own good.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blackwell out - Please

Leeds have now plummeted from mid table to 23rd within the space of a couple of weeks. We do not seem to be able to hit a barn door and the players appear to have lost all faith and confidence in their manager. I know that removing Kevin Blackwell will not provide an instant fix and certainly I can understand that Bates will not want to find himself funding another ex managers wages. But if Blackwell has really lost the dressing room he should go and soon. Mr Curbishley would be my favoured replacement.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gobsmacked to be in at number 20!!

I have been away for a couple of days and just got back to discover that Iain Dale has done a list of the top 100 Lib Dem Bloggers and I am in at number 20!. The piece on his blog can be found here.

I am extremely flattered especially as my blog frequently consists of ranting about football or drooling over motorbikes with occasional forays into politics in Thailand and other sundry issues.

This is part of his production of a guide to Political Blogging in the UK which will contain details of 400 political blogs and will be published next week.

Cheers Iain - made my day

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Not looking good

The calls for Blackwell to depart will increase following last nights 3-0 surrender to Sunderland. For the official site report click here. Where has the spirit of the team gone since last season. Think back to the Southampton match where we came back from 3-0 down to win 4-3. That battling spirit seems to have disappeared even though in some games there have been some positive signs. Reports from the game on WACCOE seem to indicate that some of the players may have given and that they have certainly given up listening to the manager.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Royals get another 3 points - 6 from 4 now

I would say that this comes into the category of a good start to the season for Premiership new boys Reading. They beat Manchester City 1-0 last night at the Madejski Stadium. They now have 6 points from their first four games and sit in eigth place.

They travel to Sheffield United on Saturday and will be hopeful of getting at least a point.

City may be a little disappointed to leave with nothing to show for their efforts but they just did not have their shooting boots on. Meanwhile Reading battled hard and fought together a unit without ever really showing their creativity and flair - there is still much better to come from them.

Ivar Ingimarsson scored the only goal and was nearly knocked out in the process. City had Dabo sent off late on for using his elbow against Sidwell.

A good nights work and 15% of the way to the 40 points mark

Monday, September 11, 2006

No points but no debt either

The least said about Sundays 1-0 defeat to Wolves the better really - I would have thought that a draw would have been a fair result but yet again a late goal conceded has cost us dearly. On a brighter note is this piece from BBC Online stating that Leeds may be debt free (well almost debt free) by the end of the season. From a club that owed well over £100 million only just over two years ago that is no mean achievement. Whatever people think of Mr Bates they should take their hat off to him on this front at least. However on the pitch things are not going too well although from what I have seen so far this seasons there is a fair amount of potential there. Low gates will not help either with yesterday seeing a mere 16,268 at Elland Road. Bates may be starting to worry about attendances - his pricing policy has not helped but the results are not helping either and the pressure on Blackwell must be growing.

The legacy of 11th September 2001

The bitter legacy of 9/11 as published here in todays Independent just about sums it up. I make no apologies for repeating it in full below - makes you think doesn't it?

  • 2,973 Total number of people killed (excluding the 19 hijackers) in the September 11, 2001 attacks
  • 72,000 Estimated number of civilians killed worldwide since September 11, 2001 as a result of the war on terror
  • 2 Number of years since US intelligence had any credible lead to Osama bin Laden's whereabouts
  • 2,932 Total number of US servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 2001
  • 1,248 Number of published books relating to the September 11 attacks
  • $119m Ticket sales for anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11
  • $40bn Airline industry losses since September 2001
  • 2009 Date when the official memorial will open at the World Trade Centre site
  • 0 Hours of intelligence training provided to new FBI agents before 9/11. Now they get 24.
  • 91 per cent Terror cases from FBI and others that US Justice Dept declined to prosecute in first eight months of 2006
  • 11 Weeks the 9/11 commission's final report was top of New York Times' non-fiction best-seller list
  • 117 Number of UK service personnel killed in Iraq since invasion
  • 40 Number of UK personnel killed in Afghanistan since invasion
  • 7 per cent People in UK who think US-led war on terror is being won, according to YouGov
  • 1 Those charged in US with a crime in connection with 9/11
  • 455 Number of detainees at Guantanamo Bay
  • 77 per cent Percentage of people in the UK who believe Tony Blair's Middle East policy has made Britain a terrorist target (YouGov)
  • 4,000 Number of UK troops left in Iraq after British-controlled provinceshanded back to Baghdad
  • 18 The number of times that undercover investigators with fake IDs have breezed through US border checkpoints in a test by the Government Accountability Office
  • $8bn The amount the US will spend this year on hunting Bin Laden and other terrorists

Are we sending the right message

Apparently we are urging people to think red and vote yellow according to this piece in The Times - but are we really sending the correct message? According to this piece Sir Menzies ensured that the policy review was refocused to make tackling poverty and unfairness core policy themes. An aim which I would entirely support. However, at the same time we have proposals from the tax commission going to the annual conference which drop the commitment to a 50p rate of tax. I understand the argument that there are better and fairer ways technically of making the wealthier pay more. What concerns me is whether or not we will be able to sell that on the doorstep having made a commitment to redistribution and then promptly given up the 50p rate

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Hats off to the youth of today.

Some criticise the youth of today but in my experience there are a lot of very good young people out there who are willing to put something back into society.

Take Alex Tucker for instance. This young man lives just down the road from me. His grandmother died not long ago and was looked after by The Duchess of Kent Hospice which is run by The Duchess of Kent House Trust. He decided that he wanted to give something back to the charity and so he organised a Charity Football Match which took place yesterday at Padworth Village Hall.

He set this up in his own time. The players were sponsored and there was a barbecue and a raffle at the village hall for the spectators. This household had a vested interest as we directly or indirectly supplied four of the players in the yellow team and scored 5 goals as the yellow team ran out 8-1 winners.

It looks like the event has raised approximately £1,000 the Duchess of Kent House Trust. Well done Alex.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Looks like the trigger has finally been pulled

The trigger has finally been pulled on the assassination/starting gun and the in fighting within the Labour Party of the last few days, weeks and dare one say years had finally exploded.

Blair has been forced into making a statement later on today on his timetable for departure after seven junior members of the government resigned having signed a letter calling on Blair to go.

Speculation is rife in the media as to what he will actually say.

Will he go now? And if he does will this leave Brown with blood on his hands? Remember Heseltine never inherited the Tory crown.

Will he go in March as some suggest and bequeath the new leader a honeymoon period which may help Labour in next Mays elections?

Will he wait until May when he has been in office for 10 years?

Or will he as his friends seem to be saying stay on until July or possibly even later.

Today will be fascinating to see what Blair has to say about the timetable for his departure. But the following days and weeks will be just as fascinating as we all watch to see whether or not Blair can stick (or will be allowed to stick) to the timetable he has outlined.

Unless he plans to go by Christmas and says so publicly the danger for the Labour Party is that the internecine warfare will continue as the factions fight over both the timing off Blairs departure and the future direction of the party under the next leader.

Meanwhile don't expect to see much sign of sensible government over the coming months.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Alternative work experience scheme - suggestions wanted

I did like this post from Peter Black about government ministers going out into the community and doing real jobs to re-engage with real working people. This got me thinking as to what jobs we could send various ministers to do so as to best deploy their talents or so as to help educate them about the realities of life. Perhaps Margaret Becket could become a Caravan Salesperson or Tessa Jowell could spend some time as a Tax Inspector

If anyone has some other suggestions do please post them here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Knight in shining armour

A very old picture from The Super Rally 2003 which was held in the southern Czech town of Ceske Budejovice on the old military airfield. This guy was amazing bombing around the airfield in a full suit of armour!! It was the first rally we went to and I came across the photos and thought that some of them would be worth putting up here. Admittedly we cheated as the Fatboy went on a van but we did have an excuse as were taking a whole load of stuff for my step son and his wife (who happens to be from Ceske Budejovice). It is a beautiful part of the world and I can recommend a visit. Anyone who want to know more about Ceske Budejovice should click here for photos or here and here for more general tourist information. I may post some more pictures from the rally later on.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ferrets in a sack

It certainly makes great entertainment as we watch the Labour party self destruct from within. According to the BBC piece here the rift within the Labour Party is deepening as Blair refuses to say when he will go and a number of MP's are openly talking about getting enough signatures to trigger a leadership election. I guess that view would be supported by Peter Black who writes here about the unrest amongst Labour Party MP's and AM's in Wales. Meanwhile Ed Balls has gone public in today's Observer and dismissed calls for a wide ranging policy debate before Blair departs. Doubtless he wishes his lord and master to take office unencumbered by any nuisance policy decisions. One particular bit had me rolling in the aisles when he says "Today's Labour party, by contrast, is not ideologically split or fundamentally divided on principles." Hmm I think not Mr Balls - tell that to the "Old Labour" MPs', Councillors and activists who know that they sold their soul for a chance at power and are now very unhappy with what they got. Finally The Observer Leader here says that Blair must stay on the grounds that this will allow a proper contest to ensue. I must admit to mixed feelings - the longer he stays the more damage the Labour Party will do to itself - on the other hand the sooner he goes the more likely it is that Brown is installed as the next PM. I may be wrong but I think Brown will find it very hard to disassociate himself from the current government and consequently I think he will find it harder to achieve a Labour majority at the next general election

Friday, September 01, 2006

Final shot from Bisley

I couldn't resist this shot of one womans tank from the Harley Davidson rally at Bisley. Apparently these were her grandchildren. What great artwork - a lot of time and effort has gone into this machine.

This won a prize at Bisley for the best bike from a member of Ladies of Harley