Tuesday, 31 May 2005

No Really, Do Please Call

If anyone out there would like to offer me a job, please contact me at tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk.

I am increasingly eager to find employment!

I Love To Say I Told You So

‘Finally, Make Poverty History wants us all to wear white armbands. If a movement has a ribbon or an armband, that is always a bad sign.’ (Tommy G, 19 April 2005.)

‘White wristbands sold by the Make Poverty History coalition were made in Chinese factories accused of using forced labour, it has been disclosed.’ (The Independent, 30 May 2005.)

Express Yourself

As the battle for the future of the Conservative Party rages on, my friends at Conservative Home have launched an online survey.

This is a highly commendable enterprise. The membership – at large and in Parliament – has been asked to swallow some pretty unsavoury things recently. This is an opportunity for anyone with an interest to express themselves. Other parts of the Conservative Home website provide similar opportunities. This is already the best forum out there for the heart and soul of British conservatism/Conservatism to have its say. Please have a really good look – even and perhaps particularly if you do not consider yourself a Tory.

Meanwhile, I have to think long and hard about my own answers to this survey. For example, my response to the Howard Flight question is probably yes, Michael Howard should have been ABLE to deselect Flight, but he emphatically SHOULD NOT HAVE DONE IT. By the way, full marks to Flight for his exceptionally gracious conduct when asked about this issue on Election night.

Monday, 30 May 2005

And Another Thing …

It looks like the next post is going to be about politics after all!

It is increasingly fashionable in Tory circles to deprecate Michael Howard for frequently branding Tony Blair a ‘liar’ during the recent General Election. I think we need to be a little bit more reflective.

Childish playground politics are indeed tiresome and unappealing. But Howard would have been heavily criticised if he had NOT mentioned Blair’s demonstrable mendacity during the last Election - and rightly so.

Let’s not forget that Blair’s basic platform in 1997 was that his administration would be ‘whiter-than-white’ and contrast favourably with the sleaze-ridden Tory government that had gone before. In reality, this government has taken deception and dissembling to a whole new level. With New Labour wholesale mendacity it is a system of government, not merely a product of government. Remember, anyone who doubts this can purchase a copy of Peter Oborne’s The Rise of Political Lying, for which I was a researcher!!!

Howard would have been remiss if he had not drawn attention to the Prime Minister’s dishonesty over Iraq, fiddling of statistics, triple-counting in spending plans, support for dishonest ministers, and general contempt for the truth.

The new Party Leader should of course be civilised, decent and proportionate in debate. But they should not let this bunch of charlatans proceed as normal. HM Opposition has a duty to hold the Government to account. And if the Tories want to usurp Labour, they must tell it like it is.

Apparently the Modernisers don’t agree with this. Even if Blair is a liar (like there’s any doubt!), they say, calling a politician a liar is counter-productive, as it seems boorish. Michael Portillo has said that it increases the likelihood that the public will think ALL politicians are liars – which suggests that he has a spectacularly dim view of Joe Public’s IQ.

Other difficult issues to be ignored or approached from the Left in order to appease The Guardian and place us on the so-called ‘centre-ground of politics’ include drugs, the sexualisation of children, taxation, the family, the rapacious greed and irresponsibility of housebuilders and the airline industry, the reform of public services, euroscepticism and the decision about whether or not to wear a tie.

There is, as Keith Joseph pointed out, a huge difference between the centre-ground of politics – which is nothing more than the mid-point along the political spectrum – and the common ground. The latter is where the Tories should seek to pitch their Big Tent. People don’t vote because they don’t think politicians represent their concerns. So why on Earth would you calibrate your position to slap-bang in the middle of the political status-quo to win them over?!

Of course we also need to win over people who do vote, but who vote for other parties. But while there are lots of people who don’t vote for us who would like to do so, very few of them are Lefties.

It’s little wonder that the metropolitan elite think that the disillusioned are all socially liberal lovers of the NHS. These people live in the non-academic equivalent of an ivory tower. They need to get wise to the fact that – for example – lots of working class people are getting more and more RIGHT wing. Their votes count too you know.

I have traditionally been against human cloning, but maybe I need to reassess my position. Several Tory MPs would benefit from being given a backbone.

Lowbrow and Proud

Richard told me off this weekend for not having posted enough on politics recently. I suppose I ought to, except I can’t really think of anything to say.

A more conscientious political blogger would doubtless have insightful observations regarding the upcoming referendum on the EU Constitution in France, the new Tory Leadership rules, or Bush’s UN Ambassador nominee John Bolton. But I just can’t be bothered right now.

I care passionately about the EU, but I hardly ever read articles about it (yes, that does invite the remark that there is a causal connection between my being uninformed and being anti-EU). But why would I bother wading through 27,000 words on duck eggs when I know what I think? Britain should remove herself from political union with the EU - which is a racist, backwards, perverted and decidedly uncool organisation. All EU legislation is illegitimate, so I don’t care about the details. And anyway, Bill Cash will read it all for me.

I’m still undecided about the Conservative Leadership rules. I have hitherto been an opponent of greater Party democracy, but Tim Montgomerie and co. are making some cogent points on Conservative Home, and I need to reflect further on this. So I can’t post on it yet.

As for John Bolton, I need to read up about him. But given that he seems to despise the UN, I trust that the Americans will have the good sense to choose him. And that may be all there is to say.

There we are Richard. 250 words on politics; sort of. Now I’m going to write about what really captivated me this weekend. Soon I must write something about Liverpool’s magnificent triumph, and the ghastly people on Big Brother. So the politics is going to have to wait for a little while yet.

I had another delightful weekend. It began in Oxford, where I was due to meet up with one of my greatest buddies, Leigh. Leigh is a Canuck, married to the wonderful Kari, who is Norwegian, and they and their son Torr have just moved back to Norway.

Leigh is a tonic in human corporeal form. Every time I see him my spirits soar. He is highly infectious. But despite that, I still enjoy being around him. Arf arf. Serrrrrrrriously, he has a knack for infusing one with hope and happiness, without ever being tiresome. He is a constant reminder that while life will throw sadness and disappointment the way of everyone at times, a concerted effort to be positive and to seize the day can make a huge difference.

I didn’t enjoy my first year at Oxford much. I was rather depressed, and although I made some good friends, I didn’t get involved in enough activities. Then Leigh bounded in, and soon I was debating, singing, murder mysterying and dining in style; often at Leigh’s expense, it must be said – for he is also a thoroughly generous cove. He’s a pal for life.

After we went punting with his hugely likeable buddy Thierry, we went back to our alma mater – Trinity – for a cavalcade. We saw a number of plays, orchestral pieces, songs and skits, and the sun beamed down on the college, which I thought looked particularly beautiful. The gardens are heavenly, and that is where we were entertained. It always saddened me that Oxford largely failed to move me romantically when I was there. But I will always be glad I went, and as you are always of it once you’ve been there, I have until the day I die to get to love it more.

Seeing as I was going into town, I speculatively texted Elly, who has just embarked on a year’s run-up to Finals. I love hanging out with her – she’s quite adorable – and we began in a rough-as-old-arseholes pub. There are a handful of advantages to looking like a football hooligan. The best one is that people tend not to hassle you or your friends. Nonetheless, we soon hotfooted it to Old Orleans to lunch, where they cut a pig’s throat, smothered the corpse in barbecue sauce, and served it to us.

Most interesting of all, however, was our shopping excursion. Elly’s boyfriend Bob called during lunch to tell Elly that they’d been invited to a black-tie do. This necessitated the purchasing of a dress. The process was not what I had expected. I had assumed that such a project would take at least two hours to execute. But Elly got the dress in the second place we visited, and without much drama. I do hope that she didn’t rush on my account. It was a very nice one though.

There’s a Steven Segal movie on now, so my reflections on Oliver’s 8th birthday party will come next. Given that he’s your son, Richard, I think you’ll agree they are rather more important than some waffle about the PSBR.

Friday, 27 May 2005

Enjoy The Silence

I am not going to be able to post on Friday or Saturday I'm afraid. But how about checking out some of the sites I link to? There's a world of fun to be had.

I'm looking forward to getting my head down tonight - I think I'm still tired from last week's shenanigans.

Thursday, 26 May 2005

The Second Columnist

As I have said before, Tommy G welcomes submissions. And not just submissions from WWE wrestlers, shrieking with pain as I twist their arms like spaghetti. Nope, I also like to read and share pieces written by others.

James St. John Smythe works for a Republican in DC. He recently contacted me to ask if he might post here. He certainly may, and is most welcome. I hope that this excellent guest post will be the first of many. Prepare yourself for some improving observations.

Situation Comity
May 26, 2005

The notion that the filibuster compromise negotiated by the Group of 14 is going to settle the bitter dispute over the confirmation of Bush's judicial nominees to the federal bench is simply preposterous. It's a punt at best. (Perhaps Tom can explain to the Brits what a punt is in American Football terms. Basically, when the offensive team knows it can't progress past a certain point, it kicks the ball down the field to the defense rather than risk turning over the ball to the defense where the ball is at the moment.)

It became painfully evident Wednesday that the "compromise" was an abject failure when Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen was confirmed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 55 to 43. Sure, she was confirmed by a decent margin. But only two Democrat parties to the compromise, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Rome) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), voted for confirmation. (If you don't understand the reference to Sen. Byrd being the senator from Rome, one only has to do a Google search to discover his painful floor speeches referencing precedents from the Roman Senate.)

Not that the compromise suggested that these Democrats would definitely vote to confirm the judges they so graciously let come to an up or down vote (only three of the five nominees who led to the heated dispute), but at the press conference announcing the compromise they certainly left everyone with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Somehow, Democrats have used a Jedi mind trick to fool a lot of people. Sure, filibusters are never referenced in the Constitution. Sure, filibusters were never implemented until decades into our great nation's existence – and then very, very rarely. And sure some of the parties to this compromise were actively involved in lowering the threshold for cloture -- the vote to end debate on a measure in the Senate (read: Sen. Byrd. He was Senate Majority Whip in 1975 when the number of votes required for cloture was reduced from 67 to 60 by way of a change in Senate rules that he crafted.) These are all just pesky details.

To hear Democrats tell it, filibusters are enshrined in the Constitution. They were envisioned by the Founding Fathers as a way to protect the rights of the minority – the very raison d'etre of the Senate. And this age old constitutional custom has never been changed for fear of violating this tradition. Never. As Dr. Evil would say:riiiiiiight.

The Senate is structured the way it is to balance the power that large states would have in the House of Representatives, and so that the federal legislature would have an internal check on power, as each branch of federal government has a check on the others. The Founding Fathers didn't talk of creating the Senate to protect the rights of minority ideological views.

The sad fact of this episode is that it reveals that Republicans simply can't govern. We now have a 55 to 45 seat majority in the Senate. We have a 232 to 202 seat majority in the House. We won the White House – without dispute this time. And what do we Republicans do: we make awkward changes to House ethics rules, spend months in vain trying to explain them, and then roll them back. We make grand claims that we'll eliminate the scourge of judicial activism by appointing strict constructionist judges to the federal bench, and then spend months developing a method to do so and attempting in vain to apply that method, only to punt – at best – to delay addressing the real issue until it will be absolutely impossible to deal with: when we must replace a William Rehnquist or other Supreme Court justice.

We are always a better minority party. Better to not have to keep your hands on the wheels of government – much easier to stand on the sidelines and be a critic. (Kind of like being a columnist, professor, or blogger perhaps.)

I'm not convinced that the filibuster is a totally bad thing. Republican hands certainly aren't clean on the issue of confirming judges. We were just smart enough under Clinton to use silent holds to block judicial appointments. (If you're curious about holds, please ask Tom to ask me to explain. Holds are one of the fascinating mysteries of the U.S. Senate.)

What I am convinced of is that the Senate is a loathsome institution; Republican majorities in the Senate are even more loathsome. What is the purpose?

Required reading: For an interesting take on filibusters, read
this piece by Slate's Timothy Noah.

Next Episode: We're All Just Adult Embryos

I for one can’t wait for the next episode. Keep ‘em coming James. And yes – please tell us what ‘holds’ are. I assume that this also is not exclusively a wrestling term.

Wednesday, 25 May 2005


Terrific, amazing, fabulous news. I have received an email informing me that I have suddenly become very wealthy. Here is an edited version of this gift from the gods that appeared in my inbox:


Date: Tues, 25 May 2005


This is to inform you of the release of the E-MAIL LOTTERY BALLOT INTERNATIONAL/ WORLD GAMING BOARD held on the 24th of May, 2005.Your name attached to ticket number xxx with serial number xxx drew the lucky numbers of xxx which consequently won the lottery in the 1st category.

You have therefore been approved for a lump sum payout of 1,500,000:00 Only ( ONE MILLION FIVE HUNDREND THOUSAND EUROS) in cash which is deposited with a Finance & Security Company in your favour as beneficiary and covered with HIGH INSURANCE POLICY

Due to mix up of some numbers and names, we ask that you keep your winning information confidential until your claims has been processed and your money remitted to you. This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by some participants.All participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from only Microsoft users from over 90,000.00 companies and 12,000,000 individual email addresses and names from all over the world.

Please note in order to avoid unnecessary delays and complications please remember to quote your reference number and batch numbers in all correspondence.

Congratulations once more from our members of staff and thank you for being part of our promotional program.Please, provide the following to our agent:

1. Full Name
2. Your Telephone Number and Fax Number
3. Your Contact Address.

Note: Anybody under the age of 18 is automatically disqualified.

Yours Sincerely,

Mrs. Marina van os

The funny thing is that I have no memory of entering this lottery, but I suppose I must have done, as I hardly think they would send me the money for no reason. It says something about a computer ballot, so maybe they do it automatically somehow.

Whatever, I am now pretty damn well off. I will henceforth be calling off the recruitment agencies, booking a very expensive holiday, and telling everyone EXACTLY what I think of them. I can afford to offend anyone now that money is no object. Oh man – it’s going to be sooooo cool! I’ve already bought a Ferrari, and I am going to Saville Row tomorrow for a suit fitting.

It also means I can finally send some money to that Nigerian guy who keeps emailing me. He is actually very well off himself, but he needs a short-term loan due to being temporarily unable to access his bank account. I don’t actually remember meeting him, which is slightly awkward, but I must have given him my email address at some point. Seems like a nice guy, so I’ll be happy to help now that I have ONE MILLION FIVE HUNDREND THOUSAND EUROS to my name.

Monday, 23 May 2005

JK Steps Up To The Plate

JK has joined us, and his blog - JK's Southern Style - sits proudly among my links. Check it out - it's going to be great.

I had an extraordinary weekend. The hours of midnight to 4am on Sunday were spent in Southampton's A and E Department. Mercifully, I was not the one requiring medical attention. We rose early to go and play five-a-side football (well not that early, but when you get to sleep at 4.45 in the morning a 10.30 start is pretty hardcore), and to my horror my eye stung like Hell and went bloodshot as soon as I put my right contact lens in. I seem to be allergic to the new solution I've been using, AND to the stuff my optician gave me to replace it.

After some deliberation, and getting him to throw me an empty water bottle to see if I could catch it, I decided to take Tom's advice and try to play semi-blind. The results were creditable. I made quite a few good saves, and even scored a goal from a smart drive during a sojourn out on pitch. My new gloves, given a run-out at last, were OUTSTANDING. The astroturf chewed them up pretty well, but that can actually enhance their performance, apparently.

Tom had a further, equally bright idea when he suggested we round things off with a penalty competition. The spot is HIDEOUSLY close to the goal, but the taker is only allowed one step. However, this is a mixed blessing, as you get less time to assess where he is going to plant his non-kicking foot. You need to do that because to have much hope of saving a penalty from anyone who's any good (and everyone yesterday was at least pretty good), you have to guess which way to dive.

My best save came from James, who is a sublime footballer, and who had slotted his first penalty past me by waiting for me to dive. But on his next effort I feinted left, dived right, and got a hand to the ball. I couldn't save any of Mark's penalties though - all of which were placed right in the corner. And Tom wrong footed me by sidefooting his first one to my left, when I was expecting him to blast it to my right. But he redeemed himself as far as I was concerned by Chris Waddling his next one.

The time I spent on pitch was less successful, aside from the goal. I thought I'd made greater strides in getting fit than I appear to have done, and although I'm still fast, I am not quick off the mark, which effectively means that I am slow in five-a-side terms. I also have an abominable first touch. But I still love playing between the sticks, and I see no reason why I can't be better than ever with a bit of time and effort.

Football is a magnificent sport. I'm going to start playing a LOT more, and I plan to make thousands of saves in the years to come. Mind you, I'll doubtless throw in a few goals as well.

Friday, 20 May 2005

Thought For The Day

Ronald Reagan’s 1986 State of the Union address:

‘These children, over tenfold the number of Americans lost in all our nation’s wars, will never laugh, never sing, never experience the joy of human love; nor will they strive to heal the sick, or feed the poor, or make peace among nations. Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights, and we are infinitely poorer for their loss.’

That says it all for me. Maybe there’s more to be said, and certainly more has been said. But Reagan, as ever, distils the potentially complex and fraught into the straightforward and true.

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

New Kids On The Blogs

One of my fellow Republicans has just joined the blogosphere. Mike is venting his spleen via http://thepungentpamphleteer.blogspot.com. Well worth a look, and welcome aboard. Michael shares my love of writing, and I am sure we will all come to enjoy his blog a great deal.

JK is soon to join us as well, and will certainly be linked to from here. His blog will be a rollercoaster ride and no mistake. One of my ambitions is to play football on the same team as JK, or ‘soccer’ as he would incorrectly call it. He and I have already fought side by side in the trenches of South Carolina, and it was a fine experience. Plus I can show him my new Reusch goalkeeping gloves, which I am trying for the first time this weekend, and which have the South Carolina flag printed on them, along with my name. They are cool as steel.

Sorry for the wholly unoriginal pun in the title of this post.

Sometimes You Want To Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Apologies for the lack of posts in recent days. I have been busy with interviews and my social life. As regards the former, I am hoping that I have made some excellent progress. As regards the latter, a distinct lack of progress has been thoroughly heartening.

On Friday night I hosted a Balderdash evening chez moi. Balderdash is basically a board game variety of Call My Bluff, and a few of us have been playing it for years. Tom, Paul and Mark were all in attendance, as was the splendid Andrew, whom I had not seen for years. He is about to return to Blighty, after performing surgery on children in Australia (perfectly respectably - he is a surgeon, not a maniac).

On Saturday I travelled into London for Dave’s thirtieth birthday, and saw a whole host of friends from Oxford, some of whom I hadn’t spoken to for years. It was a terrific time, with the exception of having to wait in central London for over an hour trying to get a cab. The driver said that he was happy to take us to our destination, implying that there were several that he would have refused to drive to. Little did he know that I would probably have Dennis Wised him if he’d declined. (Not REALLY, but it was the middle of the night and we were getting pretty fed up.)

The lack of progress to which I referred is a slightly misleading way of saying how FANTASTIC it is to have old friends with whom banter, discussion and nostalgia endure. There IS progress of course – we have gone on from school and university into the world of work, some of us have got married, a very few of us have kids, and we have developed new interests and concerns that enter into our discussions. But we are also able to take up where we last left off, even if there has been an intervening period of several years. I suppose it could be claustrophobic to always be the guy they knew at school, but I don’t find that at all.

I love meeting new people. I know for a fact that I haven’t met my future wife yet, so that’s part of it, but I also enjoy making all sorts of new friends. And part of it probably is that you can – subtly – reinvent yourself with new people, change emphasis, bury old insecurities, and become the person you really want to be. But constancy matters as well, and it means a lot to me to have friends I have known since we were infants.

Needless to say, it helps that my friends are all splendid people. Not everyone gets that at school, and although most of us get it at university, even that can be hit and miss. It’s just dumb luck that I struck gold. And obviously in no small measure a handsome endorsement of my own fabulousness. We are also lucky to have a very agreeable local in my village. I will be quizzing there tonight. I have no doubt there will be uproarious laughter, mutual mockery and insightful debate, as always.

In a future post, I will regale you with what we throw at Tom, who has a hilarious surname. He doubtless lives in hope that one day we will cease. We will NEVER cease. It is our special way of showing him our affection.

Monday, 16 May 2005

Going Loco

James O’Shaughnessy, erstwhile colleague and lifetime pal, has sent me the following email about localism. James works for Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank that promotes this theory. I have made my opposition to it plain in a recent post.

My eyes are killing me today, so I’m going to spend as much time as possible away from the computer. A response to James will appear in due course. I think I’m allergic to my new brand of saline solution. My eyeballs have literally turned pink through being so bloodshot.

James writes:

I agree with you re 'markets where possible', and there is no reason why anything other than the funding of, say, education should be controlled by Government (local or central), but to try and run for example the entire police network from Whitehall has been demonstrably shown to fail. The key point about local delivery and control is not that it will produce wildly different results to people who don't want that - after all, one of the few things that councils have complete control over is waste collection and they all do it in a remarkably similar way - but that the very nature of the pluralistic distribution of power means that (a) innovation is far more likely and (b) smaller units compete with one another to produce better outcomes for a cheaper price.

One of the best examples of this is Switzerland, which is highly federalist with the local councils able to set and vary even income taxes. The competion that arises between these areas, which amounts to councils effectively bidding for people to come and live in their areas by providing the highest standard of services at the lowest cost, has led to one of the highest standards of living in the world at one of the lowest overall tax burdens in a mature economy. These services are of course subtly different from each other but don't vary hugely.

The problem with centralisation is that it creates the tyranny of the single idea. When Conservatives are in charge this may be all well and good, but it leaves an apparatus that enables socialists to inflict far more damage when they are in power. The liberal dissolution of power around the country enhances competition and actually makes it far easier for people's natural conservatism to shine through because they are able to express their preferences by moving to areas that provide good services at a lower cost. My own home council, Wandsworth, is a very good example of this.

Friday, 13 May 2005

Guest Spot

The Tommy G blog welcomes contributions from readers, and the following is one of these. I have also received two excellent challenges to my recent post on the future of the Tory Party, and I would be eager to post those too. Contributions can be anonymous or not so; it’s entirely up to the would-be poster. I won’t post anything emailed to me unless it is made explicit that it can be so posted.

Here then, is a piece by Richard Bailey:

I endured yesterday’s news item on yobs with an ever-increasing sense of anger. Anger at the poverty and simplicity of the policy and campaign itself and anger at the failure of all commentators and opposition parties to get the point.

This second stream of anger is the most common in my world - politicians and the media so often miss the point that one starts to think they are doing it deliberately. In the case of the BBC I believe that to be wholly true, but that would be the subject of another essay entirely.

My anger grew so strong that I fired off a late letter to the Telegraph, only to discover this morning that I had entered the email address wrongly! So when speaking to the fabulous Big Tommy G this morning, I unburdened myself of this anger and he invited me to submit a short article for his Blog. Well actually he said 700 words, but I don’t do 700 words. Some of us have jobs you know!!
My aspiring letter read thus:

In 1997 Tony Blair won office predominantly on the promise of "Education, Education, Education.” Eight years later he commences his "historic" third term with a promise to solve the problem of yobs and youth intimidation. Even my maths is good enough to know that the subjects of his first term's priority are now the subjects of his third term's priority. He has failed these young people once and I suggest that most people believe he will fail them again. Could there possibly be a more stark demonstration of failure? An entire generation has now matured under this Government and it does Tony Blair the honour of reflecting his leadership. Veiled, deceitful, arrogant, rude, disrespectful, directionless, obsessed with money and image and with a desire to record everything they do on camera ("happy slapping" I think the yobs call it, or is that just what Prescott does??). Mr Blair, I suggest you should quit before anyone else notices.

I could now spend endless words explaining what I mean, but frankly it is obvious. This government is now going to spend its third term clearing up the mess of its failed first term. I am an ex Army officer. I have seen leadership of all shapes and sizes, but one thing stands out above all else. Eventually the behaviour of the led reflects the qualities of the leader.

So next time you cross the street to avoid an unpleasant looking crowd of youths or find your freedom in any way narrowed by the existence of yobbish or intimidating behaviour, remember where they get it from and ask yourself why their behaviour reflects Mr Blair's leadership. The lies, the shallowness of his policy stunts, the year upon year of headline catching ideas that never lasted more than a day, the deliberate undermining of respect for institutions like the police, the vandalism of constitutional structures, the evasion, the spin.

When my eldest son Oliver, now nearly 8, was just one year old, I saw him drop a toy, pause a moment and then hit the wall with his hand. I suddenly realised that he was copying me and that he believed that what he saw his parents do was what he should do. It woke me up very sharply indeed and I have watched and examined leaders in a different way ever since. Tony Blair preyed upon the Labour Party's desperation for power to enable him to achieve an unassailable position but his shallow pursuit of power simply for the sake of it has made him without question the worst leader I have ever known and large elements of this country now reflects him in everything it does.

My grateful thanks to the Big Man for allowing me some space on his blog.

P.S. I have narrowed my selection of leader to one of David Cameron, David Davis or William Hague (as I still believe he may be persuaded to return).

Yours aye,

Richard Bailey (former Conservative Central Office press officer 2001)

A Period Of Silence Would Be Welcome

No posts today (other than this one) or over the weekend.

The powerlifting is going well. Best current lifts are Squat: 150 kg (330 lbs, 23.6 stone); Bench Press: 110kg (242 lbs, 17.3 stone) and Deadlift 180 kilos (396 lbs, 28.3 stone). This is a grand three-lift total of 440kg (968 pounds, 69.1 stone).

I'm pretty pleased with this. For someone my size it's very modest in competition terms, but I have only been training in earnest since mid-February. I reckon that I could lift at least 10 - 20 kg more in the squat, and none of the three lifts have been done with the aid of a belt or a lifting suit.

The most encouraging thing is the progress in the bench press. I had hoped to bench 120 kg (264 lbs) by September's charity competition. That looks eminently achievable now.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

All To Play For

The previous post on the future of the Conservative Party should not be interpreted as a veiled attack on, or a veiled endorsement of, any of the likely Leadership candidates. Big Tommy G is not yet throwing his substantial weight behind any of the possible contenders. The only one I would strenuously object to is Ken Clarke. His europhilia would be guaranteed to split the Party horribly and therefore every Tory – no matter what their personal stance on the EU – should consider him untouchable. A very eurosceptic Leader might split the Party too, but only a much smaller piece would break off.

Full marks to Tim Yeo for deciding to focus on the way forward. I worked for Tim for some time when I was at CCO, and found it a thoroughly rewarding experience. He has much to recommend him. So too does Alan Duncan, who is one of the brighter sparks in the Party, and whose views cannot accurately be characterised as madly libertarian. He is much more sophisticated than that.

Liam Fox, for whom I also worked, is talented and pretty sound. David Cameron and George Osborne are both impressive, and will be there or thereabouts one day, possibly even soon. David Davis obviously has an appeal too. I don’t really see Malcolm Rifkind as The One, but you never know. And I’ve always had a soft spot for John Redwood.

Ultimately, each candidate should be judged on what it is they would hope to achieve as Prime Minister. Personal qualities matter as well, but there should be a careful analysis of the direction each wannabe wishes to take us. I’m confident that Tim Yeo and Alan Duncan will start the ball rolling with some very insightful observations. Don’t hold your breath, but this just might be an illuminative and worthwhile process.

By the way, my spellcheck suggests ‘necrophilia’ as an alternative to ‘europhilia’. I consider both equally unpalatable (i.e. very).

Monday, 9 May 2005

If We Can Keep Our Heads …

The debate about the future of the Conservative Party is now in full flow, and may soon turn a little ugly. However, almost all of its participants do at least have one thing in common: they are far more distinguished than me. I have tried to come up with a good argument as to why anyone should listen to the opinions of this erstwhile Conservative Central Office researcher. Unfortunately, the only one I can offer is that I think I’m right – which will hardly serve to allay suspicions that I’m being dreadfully self-indulgent. But, well, here goes anyway. As the Americans say, what follows is just my two cents.

Fortunately, young people are beginning to assume most-favoured status in the Conservative Party, so maybe someone important will listen to me after all. Associations throughout the country are supposedly crying out for younger blood. The next Leader may well be young, and those who surround them will certainly be so. There are many who hope that this will lead to a shift in attitudes and policies, which in turn will finally make us electable. We should proceed with caution.

On the one hand, it will certainly be welcome if the Young Turks persuade the Party to embrace more issues. A concern about the environment is of course not exclusive to younger people, but there is much evidence that it matters to them a great deal. It should matter to all Conservatives. We should care passionately about the implications of climate change and of waste, about the erosion of the green belt, and about the degradation of our cities. At the risk of sounding fatuous, it is not a coincidence that the words ‘conservative’ and ‘conservation’ are spelt so similarly. If we can establish that connection in a tangible way, whilst talking more broadly about quality of life issues, we can get whole swathes of people to vote for us who have not done so recently.

But there will be a cost. The Party will have to engage in some pretty serious expectation management. If we are genuine about wanting to protect our environment, we will have to get serious about air travel and housebuilding. This would inevitably involve price rises. Equally inevitably, that would upset a lot of voters, particularly young ones, but there is no way out. Because – and here’s the rub – the Conservative Party cannot be all things to all people.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the matter of Britain’s relations with the European Union. The Tory Party has attempted to tread a fine line between europhiles and eurosceptics for several elections. The conventional wisdom is that under Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard we have done that successfully, and many MPs have been hugely relieved that there has been far less internal squabbling on the subject. Their contentment is misplaced.

Ultimately the two sides of this divide cannot reach an accommodation. Either the UK is to be a sovereign nation, or it is not. Either we are to lock ourselves into a federal polity with a group of countries that do not make natural allies, or we are not. Either we are to regress further into the failed economic theories of social democracy, or we are going to pursue a low tax economy and free trade agreements with nations all over the globe. Sooner or later, there has to be a final reckoning.

It should come now. There is no question about which vision more accurately reflects the core values of the Conservative Party, nor about which vision the more Tory MPs and activists subscribe to. And happily, it is also perfectly clear which approach is the more electorally profitable. The largely hidden story from the recent General Election is the huge number of seats in which the Conservative candidate would have won had they been the beneficiary of votes cast for UKIP.

Euro enthusiasts, whether in the Conservative Party or outside it, like to think of themselves as more urbane, progressive and modern than those of us who dislike the European Union. Let them think it. The public knows better than that, and a majority of them are crying out for us to say the same. Of course we shouldn’t be looking to shed supporters. But if a few Europhile activists leave the Conservatives – even a few MPs past or present – that will still be a price worth paying.

With this confidence in mind, whoever wins the Tory crown should be cynical about some of the more extreme pleas for ‘modernisation’. I am not talking about acknowledging and respecting the fact that some people are homosexual. Nor am I denying that we need more top-class female and ethnic minority MPs – although I would resist calls to gerrymander the selection process in order to achieve those goals at all costs. And of course our spokesmen should pay attention to what they wear, and how they phrase their arguments. I am instead talking about - and rejecting - the claim that the Conservatives should extend as far as possible the social liberalisation that began in the 1960s.

Younger MPs and officials are particularly eager that the Conservative Party should become ultra-libertarian. There are many who would cheerfully see, for example, prostitution and all drugs legalised. They recoil in horror if a Christian MP expresses distaste for abortion, and they would have contraception handed out to minors in schools on a massive scale. These polices would be complimented by tax cuts and the slashing of central government.

This would be utterly wrong-headed. It would constitute a grotesque betrayal of the most vulnerable in society. It is almost universally accepted that the legalisation of drugs would lead to greater drug use. Therefore we would see a huge increase in mental health problems and personal tragedy, and watch burglary and robbery shoot through the roof. Just because the vendor was no longer a criminal does not mean that the user would stop his criminal ways. People with hardcore heroin habits do not hold down well-paid jobs (unless they are pop stars).

Prostitutes are less likely to be self-confident middle-class women who love sex than the drug-addicted victims of childhood abuse. Meanwhile, handing out condoms to 12 year olds is not merely a response to reality, it helps to shape it. Abortion is always likely to remain a matter of personal conscience for an MP, and there are no signs that abortion is going to be completely outlawed in this country any time soon. As such, no-one should get their knickers in a twist if an individual MP is pro-life.

There are some in the Party who privately have comparatively little sympathy for libertarianism, but who feel we must go down that route to win votes. Nonsense. Most people do not lie awake at night worrying about the fact that it is illegal to use hookers. Nor is a libertarian approach the way to convince middle class types who want ‘moral permission’ to vote Conservative. The Thatcherite age was unfairly maligned as heartless and cruel. The best way to convince the doubters that this image of the Tory Party is accurate is to declare that government will take no interest if you want to descend into decadence and despair, and does not recognise that when an individual does so descend, he rarely hurts only himself.

That is not to say that government has all the answers, or that government is always the panacea. The National Health Service is over half-a-century old. Labour and the Lib Dems are going to accuse the Conservatives of wanting to wreck healthcare whatever we propose. We may as well bite the bullet and instigate essential root and branch reform. Only ardent lefties think that the NHS itself has some inherent moral value. These people are never going to vote for us, or endorse us in their newspaper columns.

We should resist the promised land of localism. This is the theory that much of what central government does should be done instead by local councils and authorities. It is a crazy notion, simply involving the replacement of one bureaucratic mess with another. Many things should not be done by the state at all, and we should look much more carefully at how the private and voluntary sector can take over, or at least help with, certain services. Tim Montgomerie, a former Central Office official who is now working with the Centre for Social Justice, is a leading figure in this exploration.

Those areas that do need some state involvement usually require the firm guiding hand of Whitehall. The state normally has a role when everyone benefits equally from provision (such as with defence) or when it is impossible to predict who will benefit most (such as with healthcare and education). There is no evidence that Britons want these services to vary wildly from county to county. It just isn’t true that people in Yorkshire want a healthcare or police service that is profoundly different to what is wanted in Oxfordshire. Innovation should be left to experts in the field, not to councillors - too many of which are corrupt or halfwitted. At a time when the Conservative Party is booming at local government level, this argument may not go down well. But it is right.

The new generation of Conservatives, among which I have only a very humble place, risks becoming consumed by its own self-importance (he says, in an article telling the Party what to believe and how to act!). Largely cocooned in the Westminster Village, it has made assumptions about the values of its peers and of the rest of the nation that are horribly distorted. Instead of simply looking through the prism of the young and wealthy metropolitan class, the next Tory Leader should also be informed by those enduring conservative values that have been proven over time.

The Tory Party is at its best when it does two things. First it recognises the merits of established British institutions, of national sovereignty, of free trade, and of a human being’s inherent worth. Then it starts from these core principles to adapt to the changing times; no-one serious would suggest the Party should not change at all. But now is not the time to lose our nerve. The country is fed up with Labour. It is crying out for a decent but unapologetic Conservative Party. If the new Leader offers them that, they will take it.

Saturday, 7 May 2005

It’s Not Funny

So, the big story from Election Night is … the complete failure of the Monster Raving Loony Party to make a breakthrough. Yet again they have comprehensively failed to raise more than a snigger.

I was struck watching the TV coverage until the small hours of Friday morning at just how crap our satirists are. Politicians could never say so of course, because they would be accused of sour grapes. And needless to say it’s good that we live in a country where you can mock the leader without being shot and where we are not excessively deferent and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. BUT …

Lots of MPs are - quite rightly - held to be smug and self-satisfied. But I’d like to see a little bit more criticism of the critics, and in particular the so-called comedians. They enjoy a remarkable privilege – hours of airtime to poke fun at politicians with little or no comeback. And the ones who get the most play, and (presumably) the most money, just aren’t very good.

Rory Bremner, who is the de facto head of the crop, is appalling. His shows have descended into one long political broadcast for the anti-Blair liberal left, and are quite insufferable. If I wanted to endure a lengthy lecture spouting all the same tired prejudices of the Wrong Wing, I’d watch Channel Four news. Bird and Fortune are also desperately unfunny. Bremner is at least (and at most) a gifted impressionist, but his Tony Blair is hopelessly inaccurate, and I can’t understand how he can be paid to perform it.

No-one can do the Prime Minister. He is always aped in a staccato, Received Pronunciation voice. In fact there is a strong trace of a Scottish accent in Blair’s speech, which all these so-called geniuses miss. (Listen out for Blair saying ‘million’ or ‘billion’, and you should see what I mean). Jon Culshaw can be quite amusing, but his Blair is equally lame. His Bush is technically pretty good, yet it is a very unsophisticated caricature, and it seems to me that Culshaw is politically illiterate.

Gerald Scarfe was on ITV, commissioned to draw cartoons. He seemed very keen to portray Michael Howard as a murderous vampire, which is scarcely original, and pretty damn offensive. Jonathan Dimbleby nervously assured the audience that Howard would probably love to get his hands on Scarfe’s pictures. I doubt it. Anyway, once you’ve seen one Gerald Scarfe picture, you’ve seen them all.

At least I didn’t have to endure Mark Arsehole Steel, ‘comedian’ (sic) and Independent columnist. I have hated him ever since I saw him on Have I Got News for You, when he kept interrupting Ian Hislop’s perfectly sensible remarks about EU corruption with exclamations such as ‘Yeah, and they all wear onions round their necks and eat baguettes’. Hislop took him apart, which was a joy to see. Steel parades himself as a working class hero, and his series of lectures were designed to make history more accessible, which might have been a good idea if Mark Steel wasn’t as thick as pig shit.

Hislop is the only one worth listening to. But he too is profoundly smug, and people like him have played their part in convincing us that all politicians are slimeballs. In truth - in this country - very few of them are, and most of them are deeply committed to improving life. We should expect that, and we shouldn’t be excessively grateful, but we should acknowledge it a little more.

Tom Lehrer announced that satire was dead when Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. In the same vein, I say sack Bremner and Culshaw, hang Steel, and give Hislop a bit more of his own medicine. All you need to do to get a few belly laughs is watch John Prescott trying to string a few coherent sentences together. He will fail miserably, because he is an out-and-out moron, and the effects will be delicious.

Oh, there is one satirist I like. Matt, who does the Telegraph cartoons, is fantastic. No trace of a partisan agenda there, just a neverending stream of brilliantly funny stuff. He gets to live.

More on the Election itself soon.

Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Oh What a Night

I enjoyed a great sporting occasion last night. 22-year-old Shaun Murphy defeated Matthew Stevens 18-16 in the final of the World Snooker Championship.

Murphy is not the youngest champion; that distinction belongs to Stephen Hendry, who took his first (of seven) titles at the ripe old age of 21. But he is the first person since 1979 to win having first had to take part in a qualifying stage, and was a 150-1 outsider. He began the tournament ranked 48th in the world.

There are a handful of major sporting contests that I love to watch for a specific reason. That reason is as follows. I am fascinated to watch a sportsman or woman at the moment of victory. It’s mesmerising to see, as they tangibly change. I get when I watch a US President sworn in as well. (I kind of wish that the Queen’s appointment of the Prime Minister was public too.) Wimbledon, Olympic athletic events and certain football matches also provide this drama. Seeing someone go from not having achieved their dream to having done so in a moment is very profound. When they are as gracious as Shaun Murphy was last night, it is doubly pleasing.

It was a great final. 18-16 is almost as close as it can get, and although Murphy seemed to have the momentum in the latter stages – having looked a likely loser before then – Stevens remained a threat. The Welshman also appears to be a splendid fellow, and I hope that one day he can secure a world title. Murphy played with awesome elegance, and Steve Davis said that Murphy strikes a ball perhaps better than anyone else in history. WOW. That means that all his contemporaries are in big trouble.

This was the last Championship sponsored by Embassy, and the commentator (I think it was Clive Everton), was utterly fulsome in his praise of their commitment to the sport. This was hilarious because: a) Embassy is a tobacco company, and therefore it was wildly un-PC; and b) the BBC has very strict guidelines about advertising – i.e. don’t do it. It was actually a very refreshing break from broadcasting orthodoxy.

A change of sponsor is evidently being widely seen as an end of an era in the sport, and there was a roll call of champions on the final night (which I annoyingly missed). It’s not even as though the Championship is going to leave Sheffield - at least for the next few years - either. I just hope that snooker doesn’t lose income from the ban on tobacco advertising. For all that I dislike cigarette smoking, I can’t really see a good case for such comprehensive restrictions on the advertising of a legal product.

Sport is great. Nothing else tests character in the same way. War (to which sport is often compared) and other periods of extreme threat test character, of course, but in a funny way perhaps it sometimes EASIER to keep going when you have no choice. That is not to say that the sportsman is more admirable than the Victoria Cross winner. But we should value our sporting stars. Through hard work, courage, skill, hard work and more hard work, they achieve things that most of us only dream about, if we dare to dream at all.

Moreover, sport is altogether more pleasant than war, which is why the two men were able to chat so good-naturedly after their battle. It really does seem to be the case that some sports are populated with more nice people than is the case with other sports. Maybe the organisers set a good example in snooker. Food for thought for the FA. I love football, and hate people who don’t, but I am increasingly conscious of just how ghastly lots of players are.

Well done Shaun Murphy. Big Tommy G salutes you.

Sunday, 1 May 2005

Vote Between 7am and 10pm, Vote Once

It’s time. Big Tommy G’s overall endorsement for the General Election may be both highly predictable and hugely uninfluential, and it comes from a man who is only voting by proxy for someone who actually got round to registering, but here goes anyway. I urge all my eligible loyal readers to vote Conservative.

First of all, I don’t have any time for the smaller parties. In the case of the racist and the socialist parties, they are loathsome. In the case of RESPECT and some of the single-issue, single-candidate parties, they are preposterous. The wildly unreliable Who You Should Vote for site suggests I vote UKIP. As they are the only other party who might be expected to get my support, let me explain why I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole.

I remain utterly committed to British withdrawal from the European Union. I consider the EU to be undemocratic, unaccountable, sclerotic, economically backwards, and racist. I believe our relationship with the EU to be perhaps the most important issue facing this country, because it is about who we want to govern us, which is the first question any voter should ask. I absolutely prioritise the reclamation of British sovereignty as a political goal. Which is why I wouldn’t dream of voting UKIP.

I DID vote UKIP once, in the European elections of 1999 (a few months later I saw the error of my ways, and joined the Tories). Although the senior UKIP figures that I met were insufferably smug, and madly optimistic about their party’s prospects, I wanted to send a message that the three main parties were wet on the EU. UKIP did well in those elections, and returned a handful of MEPs. What have they achieved? Sweet FA, that’s what.

They have voted either capriciously or not at all in the European Parliament. And by challenging Eurosceptic Conservatives in General Elections, they threaten to do nothing more than facilitate the election of a Lib Dem or Labour MP, who will almost invariably be slavish in their devotion to the EU.

UKIP’s support for withdrawal is commendable. But they show no signs of knowing how best to make it happen, and have failed to deliver anything for Britain. Their other policies, such as hostility to free trade, are unappealing, they are largely staffed by ghastly people, and they are irresponsible, self-indulgent loons.

So that leaves us with the three main parties. What of the Lib Dems, or ‘Liberals’ as we must learn to call them (because it annoys them)? Well, as I’ve said before, they’re neither liberal nor democratic. They favour high taxes at a time when the country is crying out for lower ones. They would make Parliament even more subservient to the UN and the EU. They are soft on crime. They are soft on drugs, when a softer drugs policy would betray thousands of vulnerable people, and would lead to the rest of us being even greater targets for burglary and assault. And they are unbearably preachy, and deeply tiresome, and crap at running councils.

The Prime Minister is hoping make history by winning a historic third term for Labour. He will almost certainly achieve it. He doesn’t deserve to. Tony Blair has lied to us with abandon ever since he became Labour Party leader. Anyone who doubts that he is a chronic, demonstrable liar should purchase The Rise of Political Lying, a very fine and elegantly researched work written by Peter Oborne.

Under Blair, taxes have gone up. The public services remain largely unreformed and at the mercy of centralised targets. People are dying, as hospitals feel compelled to treat the easiest cases before the most medically urgent ones - in order to keep waiting lists down. Oh, and Labour have made a complete hash of the cultural life of the nation as well.

I supported the Iraq war, but Blair’s mendacity has ensured that the next Prime Minister will likely hesitate before leading this country into battle, even if such action is merited.

And who is to be the next Prime Minister? Well, we seem to be expected to accept that Gordon Brown will be crowned some time in the next Parliament. Oh great. Then Britain will go the whole hog and become a country absolutely red in tooth and claw. The public services will be completely buggered, as will the bank balances of anyone earning enough to run a small car, and Mr Brown will allow MPs to determine whether we should take military action, so we may as well give up on our national security.

Labour has taken the piss out of us for eight years. If, as a nation, we reward them with another term then, as a nation, we are credulous fools.

Only one Party has a hope of overthrowing Blair, of course. This alone makes them worthy of success, but the Conservatives have a greater claim than that. The Conservatives’ commitment to institutions that have served us well down the years, their scepticism about supra-national bodies, their belief in low taxation and limited government, and their unabashed pride in Britishness, have all served to make the Tories one of the greatest political movements the world has ever known. We’ve taken a battering in recent years, and we have often been the authors of our own misfortune. But we are still the best.

Public service reform, controlled immigration, opposition to European federalism, global free trade and tax cuts are what we need. Only the Tories have any meaningful appreciation of this. Michael Howard has annoyed me at times, and has treated some of our (now deselected) candidates very badly. But he would make a much better Prime Minister than Tony Blair. Howard has a magnificent record as a former Home Secretary. His instincts are usually correct, he has a formidable brain, and he is at bottom a decent and honourable man. Next Thursday he and his colleagues deserve your vote.

Only Connect

As promised, I've made a few changes to my links. Those websites that do not have a permanent link to me have been removed, unless they are sites that do not link at all. A special pass has been granted to Venusberg, who has promised to get round to adding a link to Big Tommy G asap! Apologies to the authors of those removed blogs that have made reference to me in the past - you can have your link back if you link to me!

Please let me know if you link to me and I have not returned the compliment. I can be emailed at tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk. Only under exceptional circumstances will I not link to a blog that links to here.

I'm still keen to receive comments on the blog (although not on this linking policy, which is non-negotiable). The only reason I don't have a permanent comments facility is that I am worried about having to monitor libellous remarks. I will post interesting comments sent to me via email.

I squatted 150 kg with ease the other day. 200 kg by the end of the year, I hope.
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