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Jute bags, green taxes, and Liberal Democrats

Menzies CampbellAt this year’s Liberal Democrat conference, delegates have been provided with environmentally friendly jute conference bags. They will be expected to use them again next year, rather than being issued with new ones. But reflecting a theme at this year’s conference, the bag scheme has something of a hole. If the Lib Dems are serious about increasing their popularity, surely lots of new people will be at conference next year – without this year’s jute bag. It’s an idea that looks good in principle, but flaws are found with barely five seconds of armchair thought.

In this way, it’s quite similar to “green taxes”, which the Liberal Democrats have voted in favour of today. The first big test of Sir Campbell’s leadership may have been passed with flying colours, but the first big test of logic is failed. Green taxes place the tax burden on polluting activities to discourage them. Yet the moment Green Taxes work, they fail: That is, the moment people are discouraged from polluting activities, there is no tax revenue for public services.

So, effectively, the Green Taxes either have to be stupidly low, so they don’t discourage people, or stupidly high, so that a few pay a lot for a little pollution – which hardly fairly distributes the tax burden, since those who can’t switch to expensive renewable energy sources (the lower socioeconomic classes) pay more. It’s easy for CEO to buy a new non-polluting car, it’s harder for Unemployed Joe who’s driven the same old polluting banger for the last twenty-five years. If anything, it’s the reverse of a LibDem policy.

I was going to write about Charles Kennedy at this point, but I’ve just fallen off my chair with shock. Tony Blair acutally features on the Labour homepage. Admittedly, he’s tiny (much smaller than “Dave the Chameleon”), but it’s a step forward. I think this might be the first time since before the last election. Sadly, nothing to rival the LibDems’ MingCast, but I can dream.

This 967th post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

Better than Jeffrey Archer

The bookIain Dale has just finished his latest book, Guide to Political Blogging in the UK (buy here, or download here). It’s a good read, with contributions from Francis Maude (Tory Chairman), Adam Boulton (Sky’s political editor), David Milliband (uber-loyal Blairite minister), and the political editor of the Daily Mail to name but a few. As well as being released to the general public, it’s also going to be distributed at the party conferences to raise awareness of blogs amongst politicians.

In one section of the guide, Iain rates the Top 100 Non-Aligned Political Blogs. As you’d expect, Guido quite rightly claims the number one spot. More surprisingly, I’ve somehow parked up at number 29.

Just to put that in context, ex-politician and author Jeffrey Archer is at 68, the Daily Mail’s star columnist Melanie Phillips is at 69, and The Times’ David Aaronovitch is at 80. I’m at 29. That’s five places down from the BBC’s Political Editor, Nick Robinson. How the heck did that happen?

As if that wasn’t enough, I feature at number 69 in the overall list of political blogs. The 69th best political blog in the country. I think that’s pretty impressive for a medical student with zero political experience writing on a blog where a high proportion of the posts are not remotely related to politics.

So thank you, Iain, for your support. 🙂

This 966th post was filed under: Blogging, Book Club, Site Updates.

Why won’t Newcastle smile? The Results

On Tuesday, a friend and I were stuck in Newcastle, and were rather bored.  Having been to get some lunch, and having whacked seemingly thousands of moles on Holey Moley on the nearest iPlus Point, we decided to conduct a highly unscientific experiment. 

Over the course of a couple of weeks, we’d noticed that people on the Tyne and Wear Metro look, almost without exception, unhappy.  We determined to walk through the city smiling at people, to see how many would smile back.  After about two-and-a-half hours of experimentation, we had counted five smiles.  And some of those were questionable.

So: Why don’t the people of Newcastle smile?

It could, of course, be that two people suddenly smiling at you whilst walking along is more than a little unnerving, but that’s a boring explanation, and I want to think a little deeper.  It sounds a perfect challenge for the people of the interweb – and where better to challenge them than the all-new Yahoo Answers?

Expect an update in three days’ time (I’ll bump the post up, too).

The Results: 17th September 2006
The definitive answer, according to the Yahoo community, is

Sorry, which Newcastle Upon Tyne is this then?? It is a far cry from the Newcastle that I love!! The people there are lovely and have a fab sense of humour. I work in Longbenton, Newcastle Upon Tyne and I love my job to bits!!! Maybe they sensed that you and your friend didn’t like their beloved City!!!

That’s a little unfortunate, becuase it implies I don’t like Newcastle which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a great city, with great people, and that’s why I was surprised enough to make the post in the first place. But hey ho.

Other notable contributions included these gems:

Because they are always drunk on Newcastle Beer.

They are depressed and you would be too if you had to live there.

Take a look in the mirror. I have never found this.

Don’t ever conduct your survey were I live they would probably thump you first then ask you why you smiled next

It’s called stress, anxiety, and all the other things that make up life in 21st century England, its wiped the smile off our faces.

Coz you should be in the Aussie Newcastle. Even with their problems with unemployment and what not, they still have a great football team (rugby league) and one of the prettiest women ever to win a beauty pagent (Jennifer Hawkins Miss Universe 2004).

Lots of food for thought, and most of all lots of fun.

Thanks to all who contributed.

This 965th post was filed under: Miscellaneous, University.

Cultural barometer reads low for Labour?

Guido reckons it’s a tipping point. Maybe he’s right. Today’s Popbitch tagline:

Like Labour, but popular

Does this mean it’s all over?

This 964th post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.


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