Archive for the 'General' Category

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Our thoughts this morning are with the people of Nice after another terrifying attack in France

Friday, July 15th, 2016



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Coinciding with the traditional Boxing Day meets the traditional Boxing Day fox hunting poll

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

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There doesn’t seem much support for a change in the law



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StJohn returns with his annual Christmas Day Crossword

Friday, December 25th, 2015

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A welcome return to what was a PB Christmas Day tradition

There was a time when Christmas Day on PB wasn’t Christmas Day without the annual crossword by St John. We’ll this year he’s back and here it is. Enjoy and have a great day.

Thanks to everybody who had made the site what it is. To my son Robert whose hobby since for nearly 12 years had been keeping the technical infrastructure working a big thanks. Also to TSE who’s my stand-in and let’s me have regular holidays as well as providing regular insights from his Conservative campaigner perspective.

Since the general election I’ve sought to extend the range of regular contributors to join Harry Hayfield who does the local by-elections and David Herdson who has been contributing here the longest.

We’ve now got the pollster Keiran Pedley with the excellent PB/Polling Matters podcasts; my former BBC news colleague Don Brind, Alistair Meeks, formerly Antifrank, as well as many others.

A thank you to Mark Hopkins of Nojam for the excellent competition widgets and also, of course, the many commenters on the site who regularly share their views, insights and occasionally betting tips that prove to be winners.

Finally there’s the moderation team who are there to keep me out of the law courts and to try to ensure the conversation remains civilised.

Everybody works on a voluntary basis.

I should add that I’m hoping that we’ll see the return of Marf in the New Year.

Happy Christmas to everybody.

Mike Smithson

Xword

Across

1 Former parliamentarian attends Point to Point as Prime Minister (10)

6 Preserves King out East (4)

8 State banks are broken (8)

9 VW reportedly hid a carbon problem ultimately abhorrent to nature (6)

10 Prime Minister briefly identified with his opponent’s wife (4)

11 Red Queen is a female chess piece (4,6)

12 Michael Collins was one revolutionary leader eliminated over a Union (10)

14 With old age society decreases (5)

17 Condition of second philanthropist (5)

19 Writer is a woman’s MP (9)

22 Liberal Democrat leader, surprisingly sure at replacing Left, is of

variable quality (7,3)

23 Collaborators in a Northumberland village (4)

24 Intellectual Prime Minister nearly retired holding a speciality (6)

25 Reagan’s campaign message was characteristically negative (8)

26 Blooming short Prime Minister (4)

27 Governing while wearing political colours is Panglossian (4-6)

Down

1 Right wing was caught up in dodgy conflicts (5,4)

2 Pitched battles over Clause Four in the past? (3,4)

3 Franklin Island or resort (8)

4 Republican Cat supports a pair of Democrats in America (8,7)

5 Whitehouse fought for this intern (6)

6 Rebel leader was a cabinet minister (4,5)

7 Chancellor said to be overly sentimental (7)

13 After retreating President Kennedy withdrew (9)

15 Disengaged and rejected Healey embraced idle action (9)

16 Tony Benn’s time as the most divisive figure (8)

18 Tory leader insulting to the French Prime Minister (7)

20 On course to overtake and expose Left wing extremist (7)

21 No single lover was once an MP (6)



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A big thank you to whoever sent me the mystery bottle of Dom Perigon 2004

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Merry Christmas to him/her and to all PBers

Amidst all the online deliveries to my home this week there was one package for which I have been unable to trace the source. It contained a bottle of vintage champagne- a Dom Perigon 2004 which, as a quick Google search discovered, costs quite a lot of money. Unfortunately there was no card or other means to identify the sender so I am unable to say thank you directly.

It was addressed to “Mike Smithson” and clearly was from someone who knew where I lived. I checked back with the shipper and all I have discovered is that it originated at Bancroft Wines of London Bridge – a firm that I have never had any dealings with.

So whoever sent it a big thank you. We will use it to toast Christmas tomorrow.

On the the site tomorrow I am delighted to report that we have Christmas Crossword compiled for us by StJohn who used to do these every year and has been a regular attender of PB events.

Christmas cheer to you all.

Mike Smithson





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How Corbyn compares with Trump on the betting markets & other Saturday afternoon points

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Next President & next PM betting

IDS’s and JC’s leadership elections

ComRes favourability numbers coming up but where’s Nigel?

Now they’re polling on whether Corby will be ousted



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Time to face facts: The ‘War on Terror’ is here to stay and we need to take it seriously

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Friday’s attacks on Paris show that the terror threat remains. It’s time to fight back with every means at our disposal and take the fight to ISIS writes Keiran Pedley. But do we have the stomach for it?

I thought quite hard before writing this piece. I wasn’t sure whether or not it was too soon. To those that think it is I say fair enough. However, having had some (limited) time to think I wanted to post my initial reaction.

First things first, solidarity with France and with Parisians in particular. They are our friends, our brothers and sisters. With Paris but two hours from London by train, it is hard not to feel these attacks a little stronger than others. At the time of writing the shocking death toll is at least 128 according to the BBC. It will only rise. I am supposed to be going there with my wife and her parents in a couple of weeks. I would love to say that we definitely still will but I just don’t know yet.

What happens next?

Once the dust settles and life returns to ‘normal’ (as it must) thoughts will inevitably turn to what comes next and how the West responds. I say ‘the West’ because, as President Obama said with his typical eloquence on Friday night, this really is an attack on all of us rather than just France.

This is more than just rhetoric. We all know deep down that this will be London one day. It is just a matter of time. As someone that lives in London, works in Canary Wharf and regularly visits the capital’s pubs, restaurants and cinemas I feel this only too well. The point is that when we are attacked, we will expect the international community to unite in response and so we must unite with France today. It’s what friends do. But what does ‘unite’ mean? What should Britain actually do? There are no easy answers but three points immediately come to mind.

Stick together

The first point is that is we must stick together, with our allies and amongst ourselves as a country. People will use these attacks to further their own political causes and we must not let them. We must resist blaming the migrant crisis. After all, it is exactly this sort of violence (and worse) that these people are fleeing from in the first place. We must also resist suspicious glances at Muslims in general, 99.9% of whom deplore such actions as the Muslim Council of Britain has made clear. We must even resist the temptation to lapse into the lazy assumption that this is all Blair and Bush’s fault. Debates about EU borders and Jeremy Corbyn’s fitness for the office of Prime Minister can also wait too. Of course the media has a responsibility here in how it reports events but we won’t hold our breath there.

The long war

 Secondly, we have to prepare ourselves for the ‘long war’. By this I do not strictly mean military action alone but the less ‘Hollywood’ but arguably more practical steps we can take to fight back day to day. This will be hard. It means being simultaneously vigilant and empowering our security services to keep us safe without sacrificing our civil liberties or alienating vulnerable young Muslim men and women in the process. Nevertheless, we cannot fight this war with one hand tied behind our backs. We are going to have to accept some degree of empowering the security services in ways we might not like to keep us safe. After all, this is governments’ first responsibility. We are also going to have to look very closely at where ISIS gets it’s money from and follow those conversations wherever they lead.

Military action

And finally comes the hard bit. The military solution. I accept that this will upset many. Military action in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan has not made us safer people will cry and look at the human cost of those conflicts. I have a degree of sympathy here. Saddam’s fabled WMD are already etched into British political history and it is hard not to look at the death tolls (and injuries) in Iraq and Afghanistan without asking ‘is it all worth it’?

But here’s the thing we must remember. We didn’t create ISIS and we didn’t create Al Qaeda. They are the result of a poisonous ideology that pollutes one of the world great (peaceful) religions. To these people there will always be a reason to attack us. When we intervene our troops are on Muslim lands and must be expelled. When we don’t we are enslaving Muslims by propping up corrupt tyrants. We are the evil West and it is always our fault. Sadly many in the British left agree.

However, what has changed since Friday is that it is fast becoming clear that this isn’t going away. Any hope that if we simply ignore ISIS and withdraw from the Middle East then we will be safe seems hopelessly naive. Perhaps it always was but with every attack this becomes more and more painfully clear.

Britain has to get over its Iraq hangover and reengage with the world properly. Right now we feel very hesitant and half-hearted.  If, as I mention above, you accept Friday’s attacks are on all of us and that inaction doesn’t make the problem go away, then the West has to start contemplating the military option and Britain must play its part. This does not mean we can bomb our way to peace but that our response cannot include allowing ISIS to solidify its position in Syria and Iraq.

In all honesty Britain’s military policy in the Middle East is an embarrassment at the moment. Bombing ISIS in Iraq but not across the now largely artificial Iraqi / Syrian border makes no sense.  It is why we had to rely on the U.S. to deal with the so-called ‘Jihadi John’ this week. The Prime Minister is going to have to put intervention in Syria back on the table. If it requires a fight with (and within) Labour then so be it.

‘Boots on the ground’?

The problem is I have a feeling that bombing alone won’t be enough. We may end up facing the real prospect of British ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria and Iraq as part of a UN peace-keeping force (backed by NATO) designed to uphold any regional political settlement the international community arrives at. This won’t happen overnight – it may never happen at all – but if it does we must be prepared to play our part; however tough that might be for us to accept.

And perhaps here is the real question – do we have the stomach for it? We are fighting an inter-generational conflict that won’t be over any time soon. It will take significant resources, time and human cost before it is over. It is no wonder that we want to believe that if we look the other way then it won’t concern us, that if we ignore it then it will go away. However, events this weekend suggest such a belief is woefully misplaced. This fight is with us whether we like it or not. It is now up to us how we respond. There are no easy answers. There is no one solution. Cool heads must prevail but nothing must be off the table.

Keiran Pedley

You can follow Keiran at @keirapedley



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Confidence, resilience, determination: the necessary response to the Paris attacks

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

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It is time to reaffirm and protect Europe’s values

The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens. In that duty, France failed yesterday, as all states do from time to time because that duty can never be held to be absolute. It is impossible to protect against every threat every time, and any attempt to do so would impinge so heavily on other rights and values that it would in itself be an attack on the citizens. Yet the French state still failed, grossly.

It could have been still worse. The suicide bombers at the Stade de France could have killed far more had they detonated their bombs while the crowd was leaving the stadium. Why they didn’t, we’ll probably never know. We should be thankful for small mercies at a time like this.

But while we must pause to remember the lives stolen by the terrorists, both in deaths yesterday and in futures immeasurably altered, governments and nations must also think about how to respond. There will be voices stating that the best response is to carry on as normal; that the aim of terrorism is to affect a change in behaviour, both from the people and from their leaders, and so the only legitimate response is not to allow that to happen. Those voices have a point but of itself their case is far too passive.

The attacks are an assault not just on people but on a way of life. The response must be in kind. As with any military action, the West’s core values must be defended and promoted; victory can only come when the assault on them from those who would expunge the liberty that shines pre-eminently in France’s ancient mission statement is vanquished.

One casualty of this war – and it is a war, as France’s former PM and potential presidential candidate, Francois Fillon has said – must be cultural relativism. The West’s values of liberty, of freedom of speech, thought and association, of secularity, of democracy are innately superior to any alternatives. We must not be afraid of saying so. To be afraid, either out of intimidation from those who would destroy them or from a cringing fear of causing offence, is halfway to losing them. That those values are not universally applicable in a practical sense is beside the point: it is not the West’s fault that not every country in the world is mature and civilized enough to handle them. Nor is it racist to say so: no truth ever is.

Simply reaffirming that is a start. It renews confidence in what we stand for. That for all the differences between Cameron and Corbyn, or unionists and nationalists in Scotland, or even between the DUP and Sinn Fein, we recognise a common basic framework for society; a framework that while not perfect and is in places contradictory, is still better than anything else.

But reaffirming it is not enough: warm words butter no parsnips. Nor is continuing to live out those values; continuing to speak out, to socialise at cafes, to go to football matches and concerts and the like. The West – and the U.S., Britain and France in particular – need to sort out their objectives in relation to Islamic terrorism and the Middle East, and then work from there to a strategy to deliver those objectives, and to the practical policies and resources necessary. At the moment, they are simply poking the hornets’ nest. One option is to withdraw away, in the hope that the terrorists will leave us alone, despite the knowledge that they despise us. The other is to deal with them properly. But as the West doesn’t have the capacity or will to do it directly then the only option is to work through, and in support of, middle men – and the only one available in Syria is Assad. A brutal dictatorship is better than either chaos or a militant and crusading theocracy. Supporting dictators has a long and ignoble history but in this case his primary interests mesh with ours and that is enough given the lack of alternatives. However, if the U.S. is not prepared to take that action then Britain and France, in the front line against attacks like this, must act with Russia instead to the same end.

Then there is the problem in Europe. Germany alone expects (or expected – this was before yesterday’s attacks) almost a million migrants to arrive in the last quarter of the year alone. These were people let into the continent, unchecked and largely unhindered, mostly from areas where crusading Islamists are active. The risks were self-evident even before Paris. Marine le Pen has no need to say ‘I told you so’. Yet still they come and still they will continue to unless the policy changes. So the policy must change, up to and including forced deportations if necessary, though whether Germany, with all its historic baggage, is prepared to go that far remains to be seen: after all, Germany isn’t the one under attack.

There will be more, much more, that needs to be done and the joy of living in a democracy is that we can and should debate vigorously what those actions are. France too has to engage in such a debate, not just in the heat of the aftermath of the attacks but in the 18 months through to the presidential and parliamentary elections in Spring 2017. For that presidential election, Le Pen is already polling about 30% of the first round vote and outpolls Hollande in a head-to-head second round (though little second-round polling seems to have happened for months). The mainstream politicians must act now, and act decisively. If they do not, they too, and what they claim to stand for, will be casualties.

David Herdson



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Paris is just a 2 hour train ride from the centre of London

Saturday, November 14th, 2015