Friday, March 30, 2007

Great Open Primary - & polls

No date yet for the wedding though it might be on Midsummer's Day (24 June) which is of course when Aragorn wedded Arwen: associations with Tolkien and Shakespeare and (arguably) science. We'll see - hope to know Mon/Tues.

Went to the fascinating Hammersmith Open Primary last night with four v good candidates competing to be the Conservative candidate for the new constituency. I was amazed and delighted to find Shaun Bailey on the list, whose work I have admired greatly ever since I first read one of his articles. He was even better that I had expected, honest, intelligent, down-to-earth, forthright, caring. He also knows exactly how to be interviewed (lots of media experience): short straight answers with no digressions which may be taken down and used as evidence against you. I'd be amazed if he wasn't a Minister in 10 years time and he could be a future PM. Wife and new baby also extremely charming.

Helen Grant was very impressive and will make an outstanding MP, was my 2nd choice and the Conservatives would be mad not to pick her for another constintuency. So in her way was Kedra Goodall, very fluent and charming but too inexperienced - she is about to qualify as a barrister and really needs another 4-5 years before she should be an MP. Can't help feeling a bit sorry for the final candidate: local activist, City banker, white middle aged man and exactly the sort of person the conservatives would have automatically selected in the past. He'd have been a good MP : sadly probably the only candidate who could have lost the seat. He made it through to the 2nd round but Shaun is the candidate. WOW!!

PS According to the 2 most popular politicians in the UK are David Cameron (23%) and William Hague (20%) (Blair and Brown come 3rd & 4th on 19.9% and 18% resp). When you net off the % of people who have negative feelings about them (33%, 21%, 54% and 53%) the results are that Hague -1%, Cameron -10%, Blair -34% Braown -35%. Net-net William is the most popular, or least unpopular, politician in Britain.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Amazing few days

Amazing few days. Delightful friend M over from California stayed with us Thurs/Fri. On Fri Elder Daughter rang to say that she and her boyfriend (B) were in town and could they drop in for tea. I was suspicious (and tried to ring C on her mobile but it was off). Sure enough B asked for permission to marry her - they are engaged! C then rings to say she and M are in Harvey Nichols and.. "come home now, B & ED are here" ... but we thought we might - "no, come home immediately!" -- aah! Much celebration all round, M C and I had tickets for Cabaret and were then going to Dover St Cafe afterwards so B and ED join us at the Cafe and after awful loud band comes off we dance to Disco.

B and ED stay night - then on Sat am they go just as Son, Wife & Grandchildren arrive - S&W off to a wedding we have the Grandchildren. They all stay for lunch and now I'm getting ready for 20mi run.

Dawkins's Defenders are trying to get my list of FRSs with public religious stances deleted on Wikipedia - and may well succeed. What does this desire to supress the truth say about their "faith" I wonder? Amusing letter to The Guardian: "It is extraordinary in this day and age that anyone can still believe in such a cruel, heartless and frankly improbable figure as Richard Dawkins. Surely the sooner we stop taking this ancient, harsh and unforgiving idol seriously, dictating to us what we should and should not believe, and condemning blameless, hard-working women as having a "stupid face" for failing to think as he does, the sooner we can regard ourselves as a civilised and grown-up culture. " by one Charlie Gere of Lancaster University. He will go far.

Cabaret BTW v good though enough full nudity (M & F) that "unsuitable for under 12s is putting it mildly". Should be an 18.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

1st Birthday, NHS and Boeing 747 Gambit debates

Lovely first birthday party for our grand-daughter yesterday. Son had been (with one grandson) on the demonstration by junior doctors in London. Apparently Cameron was brilliant and really "gets it". The picture in this article is telling! And The Guardian features the latest Kings' Fund report. Spoke to a Civil Service high flyer yesterday who thinks the NHS is going well for the Government - though even he admits that the National Programme for IT is a disaster.

Reading The Rationality of Theism which is excellent, also started John Polkinghorne's latest book. Lively AfD debate in Wikipedia on my article on Dawkins's "Ultimate Boeing 747 Gambit" which Dawkins's defenders want deleted but I don't because the more his "philosophical" ideas are exposed to rational scrutiny the better.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Malinson, Feinnes, Brown, Darfur

Finished the latest Alan Malinson - v good as usual. Welcome diversion from rather active debates on WikiPedia about deleting article on a rather poor argument of Dawkins which I think should be exposed to philosophical scrutiny, though some others disagree - perhaps to save Dawkins from embarassment?

Many voices calling for someone to run against Brown as Labour Leader (Matthew Paris v good as ususal) but I doubt it.

Situation re Darfur continues to be depressing, but it does seem to reveal the true nature of much of Islamic thinking, even though it seems to be against the teachnigs of Mohammed.

Went to the excellent Moonbeam Trust show on Weds and bought another watercolour by our brillianst friend Susannah Feinnes.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Polls and Paradigms

Polls are now consistently showing increasing Conservative leads (weighted moving average now 39:31:19). It'll be very interesting to see what happens when Gordon Brown becomes PM

Article about a PhD student who has been "outed" as a young-earth creationist - should he be allowed to be a scientist. A feedback commentator blathers on about "provable posits of theory" that support evolution against ID But the basic beliefs of a worldview are by definition not "provable". Materialists cannot prove that nothing exists except matter and energy - and for people who believe in God He is a basic belief that, however much justification can be given, cannot be proven - just like any other basic belief. Attempts at religious persecution are wholly misguided, and in this case based on fundamental philosophical mistakes.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tempest, Liz Handy, Books

To the RSC Tempest on Sat which was brilliant - though the siting of the Island in the Arctic is perverse, as was admitted by the assistant producer at the discussion afterwards.

18 Mile run this morning and then visited the brilliant exhibition of our friend Liz Handy. Really inspiring talk by the Vicar at our church - outlining some of the great work the church is doing in Hammersmith and beyond. Very courageous girl going to Kandahar to work for a reconstruction agency.

Reading the fascinating Why does anyone believe in God? and also updating the article on What the Bible really Teaches. Also started the latest Alan Mallinson.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Boeing Boeing and WP

Went to Boeing Boeing last night - a delightful romp where all the cast were excellent, esp perhaps Francis de la Tour and Michelle Gomez (another Green Wing alumna - perhaps we must get the DVDs of this). Lots of Wikipedia work gently spreading truth and understanding, or trying to. I've now made about 1,800 edits since I started, for my sins.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Elected Independent Peers

Charity dinner at House of Lords on Fri with excellent short talk by the Earl of Erroll. Tour beforehand allowed us to see the statue of Maggie - pointing her finger at Lloyd George across the lobby. An argument between those two would have been fascinating!

Sat and Sun did 10 and 17 mi runs, forgot that would need recovery run on Tues not full on. Still not on track, just 3:57 PMT so I may have to abandon all hope of 3:45 and go for 3:59 Marathon.

It is perhaps depressingly predictable that elected politicians might prefer to give a monopoly of the Upper House to their own kind. But it is imperative that we retain the wisdom and independence of the cross-benchers and that they are not replaced by party hacks. Voters should have the opportunity to vote for independent peers in addition to (or instead of) those proposed by the political parties. If this resulted in an elected house composed largely of cross-benchers, so much the better.

One way of doing this might be
  1. Divide the country into say a dozen regions of appx equal population.
  2. Have 70 National Independent Candidate Peers and 30 Regional ICPs, so that each elector had 100 ICPs to choose from. An elector could write the reference number of the ICP they wished to vote for in the ballot form, in addition to any party vote they cast.
  3. ICPs would have to be non-party-political and to stand you need to be approved by the Indepenent Peers in the House of Lords. ICPs could indicate whether they wanted to be National or Regional and if there were more candidates than places the IPs would vote and the ICPs with the largest number of votes would become ICPs.
  4. People could stand as an IP ex-officio. So The Archbishop of Canterbury could stand (as distinct from Dr Rowan Williams) or The President of the Royal Society. If an ex-officio IP was elected then when (s)he was succeeded in office their successor would take their place as an IP until the next election and may then stand for re-election. There should be a convention that Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops who wished to stand should do so ex-officio and would be approved as National/Regional ICPs. Whether they became IPs would be up to the electorate.
  5. We'll assume that elections are every 5 years and peers serve a non-renewable 15 year term and that there are about 480 Peers, there would be 160 Peers elected at any one time.
  6. Ideally at least 51% of the peers would be independent of the government of the day and since no party or governing coalition is likely to get more than 60% of the vote it would be OK to have a minimum of 20% of the peers elected (32) being IPs. This would mean that the top 2 Regional CIPs and the top 8 National CIPs would be guaranteed to be elected.
  7. Subject to this the balance between Political Peers and Independent Peers should be in proportion to the votes of the Electors, ie if the number of people who voted for PPs/IPs is vPP/vIP and the number of PPs/IPs elected is nPP/nIP then nPP:nIP = vPP:vIP. Analagous formulae could be devised to share this out between regional and national Peers.
A scheme like this would give the best of both worlds: an elected Upper House with a strong independent element. What do people think?

Friday, March 02, 2007

LeFanu, Darwin, and Modernising Medical Careers

To the Purcell Room last night for concert in celebration of Elizabeth Maconchy and her daughter Nicola LeFanu (to whom I was introduced - I how many other mothers and daughters have become celebrated composers I wonder?). My friend Carola Darwin was singing and I found that sitting behind me was her sister Emma whom I had met at the Society of Authors. Emma is very pleased that Tesco is going to stock her novel when it comes out in paperback next week. The LeFanu and Maconchy peices were a real find. Maconchy's 5th string quartet did indeed sound as though it was written by an Irish female contemporay of Shostakovich, and her works from the 70s were more engaging, with Sun Moon and Stars (1977) for Sop and Piano, with words by Thomas Traherne, delightful.

On the way back I found a young man engrossed in The Dawkins Delusion?.

Telegraph has broken the story of the utter mess that the Govt is making of Doctors' careers. And Private Eye carried a devastating and accurate report of the £12bn+ shambles of the DH "National Programme for Information Technology". It takes a really special kind of incompetence to drive the NHS into bankrupcy whilst incrtesing its budget from £60bn to nearly £100bn. But this lot have it in spades!