Ian Dale's Diary, picked-up, I assume, from the Total Politics blog-directory. While I can never hope to compete with 'Labour's 99th most popular blogger', Lord Nottingham of Northwood, who has been uncharacteristically quiet of late, I'll settle for a mention in dispatches!
Some of you may have watched the excellent BBC2 documentary on Lawrence of Arabia, last night, to be concluded next weekend. As readers may recall, I'm a bit of a Lawrence fan, having tracked his progress across the wastes of Arabia and so I was fascinated to see Rory Stewart, sharing my interest with the character and his influence on current American military thinking in the Middle-east and Afghanistan. Apparently Lawrence's experience figure as an important part of the training of their officers as do the lessons of Arab history and yet, Foreign Office diplomat, Stewart, appeared strangely quiet on whether the Seven Pillars of Wisdom figures to any significance in or own military curriculum:
"Some Englishmen, of whom Kitchener was chief, believed that a rebellion of Arabs against Turks would enable England, while fighting Germany, simultaneously to defeat Turkey.
Their knowledge of the nature and power and country of the Arabic-speaking peoples made them think that the issue of such a rebellion would be happy: and indicated its character and method.
So they allowed it to begin..."
Watching the BBC's 'Politics Show' at lunchtime today, I caught by UKIP's Nigel Farage telling John Soper they were a symbol of an "increasingly divided Britain"; revealing that a ban on the burkha may be a part of the party's manifesto in the coming General Election, following the example set by France. I suspect that all the main parties, with the exception of the BNP, have good reason to be worried by this, as essentially it would, in principle, be delivering a single-issue referendum question to the British public on multiculturalism and the influence of Islam. Labour's Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, was caught a little off guard when he was asked if his party would consider the same and he replied with a 'personal' view that it would be quite inappropriate for any government to dictate what people could and could not wear in public, remarking, it was "not British" to tell people what to wear in the street, and accused UKIP of indulging in "unpleasant politics". Farage raised an interesting argument for debate, when he said one can't wear a crash helmet in a bank or a balaclava on the London underground and so why should the burkha be exempt at a time when, as a society at war, we are obsessed with the threat of Islamic terrorism? I'm sure readers will have their own thoughts on the subject.
Back to the Ed Balls interview where, like the LibDems, he launched a withering attack on David Cameron's proposal that the institution of marriage should enjoy a tax concession, given that there is overwhelming statistical evidence that nuclear families are of greater benefit to children's development than a single-parent environment. Ed Balls insisted that this discriminates against single-mothers but I'm not sure this is the point we should be considering and neither did the BBC's John Soper, who launched into Labour's abysmal track record on remedying inequality and child poverty. The core of the argument is that marriage offers a proven benefit to both children and society at large and a decade of Labour's social-engineering has demonstrated the consequences of a tax and benefits system encouraging partnerships. How the genie is returned to the bottle without one group or another being unfairly discriminated against I don't quite know but clearly Labour plan to make this a pillar of their own pre-election campaign in tandem with the predictable resurrection of the familiar class-war spectre, as revealed by communities secretary, John Denham, in his "target class, not race" speech of last week.
Back to local matters and it was only recently that I supported the putting-green in Westgate's St Mildred's Bay, to be opened to the public, off-season. It's popular with dog-walkers when the tide is in, me included and today I see its rapidly becoming a veritable dog-toilet, even though there is a green disposal bin at the entrance. To be honest, I despair. Yesterday I watched one man let his dog perform right in front of him and walk past the mess. Catching-up, I said, "I've a spare bag if you would like it?" and he was shamed into returning to collect the mess. I'm tempted to ask the council if they would close the green off again to let the grass recover but everywhere I walk, I'm seeing a chronic problem with people simply not clearing up after their dogs; normally the larger breeds. I'm sure the PCSOs and wardens have better things to do than try and follow 'dodgy' dog owners around Westgate, hiding in the bushes in the hope of fining them in the act and even then, when a penalty is issued, the type of character being fined is more likely to be at a much higher probability of defaulting on the fine.
Don't forget, there's a community safety PACT meeting at the St Johns Ambulance hall in Cuthbert Rd at 7pm on the 19th. I hope to see some of you there.