Al Jazeera for the People, the Beeb for Chavez

Hugo Chavez, Livingstone's favourite Marxist leader, has been up to his old tricks: threatening his political opponents and attempting to close down debate and democracy. This time, he has ordered the closure of the independent TV channel, Radio Caracas Television (RCT), which was founded in 1953.

Attacking RCT's coverage and protests opposed to its closure, Chavez warned:

"Enemies of the homeland, particularly those behind the scenes, I will give you a name: Globovision. Greetings, gentlemen of Globovision, you should watch where you are going... I recommend you take a tranquiliser and get into gear, because if not, I am going to do what is necessary."

Reading the story on the Beeb's website was rather like reading a press release from the old Commie himself. In contrast, Al Jazeera's coverage focused on what's actually happening -thousands of people, mainly students, risking their lives by standing up for basic human rights in the face of Communist attacks.

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right," US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said. "It's an essential element of democracy anywhere in the world." Quite so.

Perhaps when Livingstone is turfed out in May, he will get a plum job at Beeb and tell us how democracy and debate are flourishing in places like Venezuela?

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Lib Dem Voice is to wind down on June 19. Hunter, unlike some Conservative colleagues, is delighted by this news. The site was negative, engaged in personal smears on Conservative and Labour campaigners, produced dodgy stats and generally contained fibs. The comments section was so tightly monitored that they would have made North Korea's Kim Jong II wince!

It's time to pull the plug on Russia and treat the country for what it is: a dictatorship

Controversial I know, but Gordon Broon's first act should be to pull the financial plug on Russia. So, too, should our European and American allies. Now, where to start to support this call?

The imprisonment and murder of opposition activists and politicians?

The restrictions on the media?

The killing of thousands of innocent Chechens?

Meddling in elections of sovereign countries (e.g. Ukraine)?

Holding neighbouring countries to ransom over gas supplies?

Poisoning British citizens via the SSB?

Supporting brutal dictatorships around the globe?

Banning peaceful protests?

Allowing fascists a 'right to roam' which is detrimental to minority groups?

The list is endless. Putin is a dictator and Russia is rapidly slipping into a dictatorship. He is supposed to step down in the Spring of next year - can't see him doing that, can you? Russia, like North Korea, should be internationally isolated. Let's start by cancelling Britain's annual aid budget - it's about time we adopted some ethical foreign policies (remember them?). Or will Gord turn out to be another Chamberlain?

The nightmare that is London transport

Hunter spent yesterday evening with Micheal, an ex, in Clapham, south London. Six pounds to get into the Two Brewers (affectionately known in that part of town as the "Two Sewers"). Do check out their website - it's really cool. Pam Ann was good, as was Sandra and Dave Lynne. The place was packed to the rafters, had there been a fire, well I dread to think...

Left the venue after 11pm and, would you believe it, missed the last tube train. An hour waiting in the cold and rain eating a wet McDonald's cheeseburger - not a nice experience. Finally took a bus from Clapham to Liverpool Street and another bus back to Tottenham. Didn't get through the door until gone 2am. Not sure it was worth it, but there were some very friendly and interesting people there and a cute couple from Crouch End! Also quite enjoyed bopping along to this song. Couldn't, though, do the dance routine for Scooch's Flying the Flag.

Now, why is it not possible to have the tubes running for twenty-four hours at weekends and public holidays as they do in cities like Berlin? Why are our night buses so infrequent and badly routed? From Clapham, there are plenty of night buses going to Dulwich and Peckham but not Trafalgar Square. It really is dreadful - no doubt Livingstone is partly to blame for this mess. What must tourists think of our chaotic and expensive transport system?

Save the Pope!

News reaches Hunter that the Lib Dems are about to effectively de-select Geoff Pope, one of their members on the London Assembly. This, in Hunter's view, is a big mistake.

Geoff really knows his field (transport), is hard-working and has name recognition outside of City Hall. He also helped Hunter with a local transport matter when members of his own party ran for cover and hid. Don't know what he has done, if anything, to upset so many London Lib Dems. If you're a Lib Dem member reading this blog, please ensure Geoff gets your first preference vote. He'd be a tremendous loss to the Assembly and to London in general.

Are gay football fans guilt-ridden?

Hunter has been wondering why some gay men are obsessed with football. Take, for example, Iain Dale who is a massive fan of the “Hammers (West Ham). Do they think they have to watch footie to ‘fit in’ or is the answer the obvious one: they like watching fit young men running around in shorts? Most gay men I know absolutely loathe the sport. Hunter’s hypothesis is that many gay men feel slightly guilty and embarrassed by their sexuality, fear rejection and want to fit in and be 'one of the lads'. Do you know if any studies have been carried out on gay men and football? If so, email Hunter at the usual address.

Vote David Lammy

Iain Dale is running a poll on Labour's most incompetent minister since 1997. John Prescott and Patricia Hewitt are, unsurprisingly, fighting it out for first place, but Hunter voted for his local MP, the hapless David Lammy. Can anyone remember his dreadful handling of the Mental Incapacity Bill when he was at Constitutional Affairs?

Click here to make your choice. This is the first and last time that Hunter urges you to vote Lammy!


From today's Guardian:

Hats off, finally, to the ever-alert Lib Dems, who yesterday protested against post office closures outside the post office at 238 Essex Road, Islington, currently threatened with closure because it and 221 other fine properties across the borough have been put up for sale by Islington's Lib Dem-controlled council. Brilliant.

Brilliant indeed!

A black day for Parliament, Democracy & FoI

510, yes I'll say that again, 510 MPs did not turn-up in parliament to express an opinion on David McLean's bill to hide information from the public. The fact that David Cameron and his chums on the front bench did not turn up to vote against this appalling bill troubles me. David Cameron tasked Ken Clarke to report back on strengthening democracy, Parliament and trust in politics yet neither of these men bothered to oppose the bill. And, despite the Lib Dems' Norman Baker hopping up and down in rage, only 10 out of his 57 colleagues supported him. We all know that the vast majority of Labour MPs are spineless cowards, so we can't be too surprised to note that only a couple opposed the move. In short, a plague on all their houses!

Lib Dem snouts in Labour trough

After complaining bitterly and voting against Labour's massive councillors' pay hike, Hunter can reveal that every single Liberal Democrat councillor in Haringey has claimed the extra cash. Yet another example of Haringey Fib Dems saying one thing in public, and doing another in private...

Hornsey & Wood Green's CLP selection news

Given that Nilgun Canver only stayed on as Labour's Lead Member on Community Safety by a tiny one-vote majority, it seems her attempt to replace Lynne Featherstone as Hornsey and Wood Green's next MP is dead in the water.

Hunter is informed that the early favourite is photogenic Cllr. Catherine West, Opposition Leader on Islington Council. To be fair to her, she led her party out of the wilderness in Islington in a year which was universally considered dire for Labour in London. Many Labour members think they'll lose the next election nationally but win locally. Hunter is of the view that Hornsey and Wood Green couldn't do any worse than Lynne Featherstone...

Peter Drusiotis, the former councillor for Alexandra ward, is reported to have torn-up his Labour membership card after they imposed an all-women shortlist. He had made big donations before the AWS was introduced (clearly hoping for 'dividends'). Ouch!

More Lib Dem hyprocrisy?

The Head Teacher and his governors at Fortismere School want to opt-out of local authority - i.e. Haringey - control. Hunter fully understands and supports them. Lynne Featherstone and her Dim Leb colleagues are, behind all their silly calls for 'proper' consultations, opposed to the move, but one of the school's governors is Cllr. Matt Davies (Lib Dem, Fortis Green). Does he support the Head and co-governors or does he support his party's statist line? Either way, he should tell us - and resign from either the Lib Dems or the Governing Council.

Could local Labour branches end Lammy's career?

Hunter has been told that Tottenham hapless MP David Lammy may not automatically be re-selected as Labour's parliamentary candidate for the next General Election. This could lead to him being booted out. Ward branches are allegedly meeting and voting to decide his future.

If this rumour is true and Lammy indeed fails to secure enough support to continue taking people for granted, sorry representing Tottenham, than Hunter's view of Tottenham Labour Party members will rocket.

'Changing deckchairs on the Titanic' - Haringey Labour's AGM update

At Haringey Labour's Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday, May 15th, a number of councillors swapped around their deckchairs, sorry Council Executive, positions.

Once again Labour has shown it has nothing new to offer the people of Haringey. After this AGM, it's a case of the same bums - but on different seats. But the same old failing policies carry on, regardless of which executive member is tasked with implementing them - they still cannot see the icebergs ahead.

Hunter is particularly scornful of two appointments - that of Cllr. Dhiren Basu, now Lead Member for Leisure and Culture and Cllr. Sheila Peacock, now Deputy Chief Whip and Lead Member for Sinking, sorry, Planning.

No-one on Haringey Council is ever held to account for their failures – they remain in office and get given new jobs or promotions, even when they are up to their necks in water.

For example, Councillor Basu was responsible for the £15m overspend on the TechFresh iT budget. In any normal organisation, he would have been sacked. But in dysfunctional Haringey he gets promoted - he should have been booted out ages ago.

Another example is Councillor Sheila Peacock. She has been 'had up' before the Chief Whip and reported to the Standards Board of England & Wales on a number of occasions. Yet she is allowed to remain Lead Member for Planning even though her conduct in that very role (her handling of a planning application from property developer Paul Simon) has been the subject of the latest Standards Board investigation into her own conduct.

Councillors John Beavan, Toni Mallett, Eddie Giffiths and Bernice Vanier were all drowned. Cllr. Canver managed to keep her lifejacket - by just one vote!

Welcome to HinchTown and view the 'other' Hunter

Welcome to HinchTown

View the other Hunter

It's amazing what one can find - simply by doing a Google search on one's self!

Despite rows on grammar schools, it's a good week to be a Conservative

Two Liberal Democrat councillors on Oxford City Council have this week joined David Cameron's Conservatives. No Tory has sat on Oxford since 2002, so this is a massive coup.

Meanwhile, Matthew Green, the former Lib Dem MP for Ludlow, has announced that he is to stand down as the party's parliamentary candidate with immediate effect. And the left-wing, but popular Lib Dem MP for Harrogate, Phil Willis, is also retiring. Both will have had thousands of 'personal votes' between them which the Lib Dems can now kiss goodbye. Looks like we're returning to two-party politics - at last!

Lammy - patronising, wrong and panicked

Hunter has seen an article in this month's New Nation newspaper in which Tottenham hapless MP David Lammy is calling for Labour to adopt black-only shortlists for Westminster elections.

How patronising! How wrong!

No-one should expect to succeed in life based upon their skin colour - or creed, religion, gender, sexuality for that matter.

The ONLY thing that should count is ability to do a job well.

Hunter has already been in touch with various reporters to tell them that, not only is the idea wrong in principle but that it is proof that Labour is now panicking: after the next general election, there will be more BME MPs from the Conservative benches than Labour. And all of OURS will have been selected on merit alone!

Hunter not happy with DW

Hunter isn't at all pleased with David Willett's statement on grammar schools - and has told him so! All this talk about "not enough" children receiving free school meals at our remaining grammar schools is complete tosh. They couldn’t, as the Head Teacher of the King Edward the Sixth Grammar School in Birmingham pointed out this morning, be any more diverse than they already are. You, Mr. Willets, benefited from the very same system that you now seek to deny others. Why should we sit back and stomach this nonsense? Hunter heard the shadow Education spokesman on BBC4's Today programme and assumed he was a Respect spokesman. John Major, a fine man and a brilliant Prime Minister, said that he wanted a grammar school is every town - why isn't that still party policy?

Hunter is a moderniser in the Conservative Party, but Willets' statement is simply one step too far. We are a modern liberal party which supports opportunity for all, not a pale and diluted version of NuLabour!

What was wrong with Scootch?

Why did we do so badly in the Eurovision song contest? Hunter has been listening to our entry, Flying The Flag by Scootch, and dosen't think it's was bad at all. It's catchy, camp and fun! What do you think was so wrong with it?

Did Norman give Sarah one too many?

From today's Guardian Diary:

"That nice Sarah Teather MP (Brent East, Lib Dem) fell down the escalators at Westminster tube one evening last week. Bruised, bleeding but thankfully not too badly hurt, she called for help - to her party's health spokesman, Norman Lamb MP, with whom, most fortuitously, she had been dining minutes earlier. Demonstrating a grasp of his portfolio few shadow spokesman could match, the gallant Norm, we hear, sprang expertly to her rescue. Fine work indeed!"

Hunter wonders if Mr. Lamb had been plying the little pumpkin with too much mint sauce?

The Guilty One?

Is this the Guilty One in Featherstone's office who spent £22,000 on stationary in a single month? Cllr. Butcher is Head of the MP's office, so Hunter is guessing it's him...

If it isn't him, then who is the guilty face? The truth will out!

Labour's AGM - the night of the long knives

Tonight is the Annual General Meeting of the Haringey Labour Group. Hunter's spies tell him that it will end in acrimony. The local Labour Party is split into two camps: those who are behind Council Leader George Meehan and those who wish to overthrow him for, well, anyone but George. As usual, Cllr. Peacock has been meddling, plotting and backstabbing. Hunter thinks Meehan is long past his sell-by-date but the alternatives are equally as dire. Their AGM won't end until late this evening -Hunter will dissect the new Executive in the morning.

At The Lib Dems' AGM, held last week, Neil "Humourless" Williams fought off a challenge from Cllr. Wayne Hoban. New, and younger, councillors were brought in and Saddo Aitken was dumped after his miserable performance in the Scottish elections --taking a huge pay cut in the process!

Local Conservatives will be having their AGM in Green Lanes in June. Hunter hopes to be re-elected Chairman (Hunter is both popular and hard working locally), although a challenge is always welcome. New faces will ensure that the 2007/08 Team will be stronger than ever - whoever wins.

Hit by a giant mungbean, Hunter's little eco-warrior is still alive (just!)

Remember this story?

Although she has not blogged since February, Hunter is now in a position to update you on little Emma's whereabouts. Seems she's been casting for the role of "Ugly Betty", getting pissed and, just as she thought things couldn't get any worse, was hit by a giant mung bean which had been circulating around the orbit.

Get well soon, my favourite little eco-warrior.

What Hunter sang at his Haringey primary school

This song at every weekly school assembly. It's bloody true! Bet it would be considered "racist" in this day and age. The Wiggles didn't exist in the early eighties, so we had to make do with Y-Bird on Playdays. Anyone remember her?

End "aid" to China now

A couple of days ago, Hunter posted a question to Andrew Mitchell, MP and Shadow International Development Secretary, over at ConservativeHome. Hunter asked why China receives aid from Britain when they, together with Russia, are happy to shaft us on the international stage. Mitchell informed us that China in fact receives £75m from the British taxpayer each year, despite a trade surplus of $23.8bn in February 2007. Astonishing, isn't it?

Hunter would stop "aid" to China, India, Pakistan and Russia. And strict conditions would have to be adhered to - e.g. a commitment to democracy, justice and the rule of law - before we handed a single penny to tin pot dictatorships like Zimbabwe. In typical Ellee mould, do you agree? Do you have any countries to add to the Hunter's list of shame?

You shameless reptile

As Iain Dale points out, Labour are claiming credit for the peace process in Northern Ireland. As readers will be aware, it was JOHN MAJOR who initiated the process, which led to the first ceasefires. Sir John Major is a decent guy - something that can never be said of Blair. Iain also notes that Sir John hasn't even received an invitation for today's historic swearing-in ceremony at Storemont. Northern Ireland, Mr. Blair, isn't your greatest legacy - the disastrous Iraqi invasion is!

Cartoon of the month - # 1

Shamelessly stolen from Guido's blog.

Hunter 2, Lib Dems 0

The Postage Queen of SW1A has been attracting less than welcome attention in
her local rag, the Ham & High:

MP's expenses claim leaves a long paper trail - politician runs up a £22,000 bill in just one month by Marijke Peters

MP Lynne Featherstone has been forced to apologise after running up a massive bill for a month's worth of House of Commons stationery just before new restrictions were introduced.

The staggering £22,000 order was revealed in an email exchange between parliamentary officials, who were concerned at spiralling costs before a ban on unlimited stationery claims was introduced last month.

The Hornsey & Wood Green MP was among those named in an email which said: "Stationery expenditure for the month was up nearly 100 per cent at over £126,000, with postage at £370,000 against a normal monthly total of around £200,000.

"It's quite alarming when you see that Lynne Featherstone spent over £22,000 in one month - the equivalent to three years of the new capped rate."

A cap on spending for stationery was approved last month, limiting MPs' allowances to £7,000 a year, with an extra £10,000 for newsletters and websites.

The decision was taken to try to stop them from using the free postal system to send party political propaganda to voters, in breach of Commons rules.

The Labour MP Siobhan McDonagh was accused of spending £50,000 on stamps and stationery last year and Commons sources claimed others used pre-paid envelopes - worth £1 each - to write their shopping lists on.

Ms Featherstone, one of the wealthiest MPs in Parliament, said a member of her staff ordered the stationery by mistake and she has now returned all of the excess.

She said, "I didn't know about this. Stationery is one thing I don't have to sign for and there are no prices on the order form.

"A member of my staff thought he was doing a good thing in getting some stationery before the rules changed and clearly had no idea.

"When you see my expenses at the end of the year they should be normal. I'm not someone who pushes the boundaries."

Last year Ms Featherstone was embroiled in another scandal after telling female councillors that one of the biggest perks of the job was being able to pay for a cleaner from their MP allowances.

Justin Hinchcliffe, spokesman for Haringey Tories, said: "She's been caught out and her excuse is lame. It's staggering how she admits she didn't know about this.

"This is appalling behaviour and she should know better.

"She has a terrible reputation for getting back to constituents when they write to her, so where did all this stationery go?"

Hunter 1, Lib Dems 0

There isn't much to say about the results, other than we did brilliantly, Labour did badly and the Fib Dums' performance was disastrous. For them, though, they seem relaxed about their 250 losses, so that should be good enough for us.

Hunter spent the last couple on months helping in a ward called Takeley and the Canfields in Uttlesford, Essex. It is the village where Dr. James grew up and where the in-laws still live today. Always considered safe, the Lib Dems snatched a seat from us at the last election. Incidentally, the Liberal victor was a retired local headmaster at Takeley Primary School for 22 years and taught James and his siblings (he banned sports day because he didn't want anyone to lose!)

We canvassed, delivered and ran a fantastic operation on polling day. Hunter spent the day cycling, overtaking tractors and knocking up on pig farms and mansions with huge drives. Met Sir Alan Haselhurst, the local MP and a Deputy Commons Speaker, who is a splendid chap.

The result:

Jackie Cheetham, Conservatives 766 (elected)

Richard Harris, Liberal Democrat 372

Derek Jones, Conservatives 647 (elected)

Paul Westlake, Liberal Democrat 222

We knew we would get Jackie in, a wonderful and energetic woman who is a friend of the family, but we thought it might be 'touch and go' for Derek. In the end, of course, he won comfortably. We gained 12 seats in Uttlesford (Takeley recording the biggest Liberal-to-Conservative swing!) and took control of Uttlesford District Council.

Just been looking at various Lib Dem blogs and websites - they'd certainly give "Chemical Ali" a run for his money... (see the bizarre spin Lynne Featherstone's puts on the results, if you fancy a laugh! The Postage Queen of SW1A 0AA has been taking masterclasses from Dr Pangloss)

Scottish elections update: 1st Dim Leb admits defeat, 2nd doesn't want to be an MSP

Saddo Ron Aitken (the Conservative-turned-SNP-turned-Conservative-turned-Independent-turned-Pro-Life-turned-Ulster Unionist-turned-Conservative-turned-Lib Dem member for Crouch End)has admitted that he cannot win tomorrow's election. In an interview with the The Tottenham Journal he effectively says that the election in his Kilmarnock & Loudoun seat is a 'two-horse race' between the SNP and Labour. He's also doubtful that he'll be elected on the List system.

Meanwhile, Robert Gorrie, a Dim Leb coucncillor for Hornsey, admits that he is only standing in the Airdrie and Shotts constituency to please his father and has no desire to become an MSP.

So a Lib Dem vote is a wasted for - straight from the horse's mouth!

Don't be too surprised if Mark Packaging doesn't use this story on Lib Dem Voice...

Poor show, David

For the second week running, Hunter has been disappointed with David Cameron's performance at PMQs. His questions were obscure and weak. And they give Blair the opportunity to hit back, talk up his record and attack us. Hunter blames the useless kids at CCHQ - devoid of any real life experiences and political campaigning skills on the ground. Ignore them, David. Be yourself! Had Hunter been giving David advice, bin collections, or lack or them, would have been one to go for (especially on the eve of polling day for the council elections!).

Blair was brilliant - a real master of the black arts. Ming Campbell doesn't even warrant a comment. But one MP stood out - dear Richard Younger-Ross (Lib Dem). He made a real fool of himself - just where do the Lib Dems find these people?

An open bar @ Stringfellows

Hunter had a most enjoyable night at The Wardour, a Stringfellow's bar, courtesy of the Young Britons' Foundation. The organisation was established in July 2003 to help develop the talents of young conservative-minded political activists in Britain. They help to identify, recruit, train and then place "small 'c'" conservatives within the public policy process.

Their aim is to help to train the next generation of candidates, for all levels of public office, as well as those interested in working in the media and public life generally. They want to ensure firstly that there will be a next generation of conservatives, and secondly that they are equipped with the skills and the knowledge to be able to articulate a centre-right alternative.

So, the YBF's May Day Bash (to celebrate capitalism!), was sponsored by the great man himself - Peter Stringfellow.

The venue was stylish, the girls charming and the drinks were flowing. Hunter could not have asked for better company and fellow quests included: Guido Fawkes (whom Hunter had a long chat with), The Croydonian, The Darker Side of Bridget Jones, Tom Mason and a host of other familiar faces.

The guest speakers were Jonathan Isaby from the Daily Telegraph's Spy column, Shipley MP Philip Davies and the night's host, PF.

A special thank you to Shane Greer (a Tottenham member!), his colleagues at the FBF and to Mr. Stringfellow - a good loyal Conservative - for a delightful evening. Those chilled G&T's were perfect!

Simply wonderful!

Watch this

Hunter's appointment at 2pm - goodbye George

Very sad to report that, at 2pm today, Hunter, along with James, will be going to say "Goodbye" to George, our pet guinea pig. George, only two, was taken to a vet in Crouch End on Friday afternoon, as he wasn't eating anything - following a small operation under local anaesthetic to clip his teeth, which were overgrown. Despite the vet's best efforts, he hasn't recovered. He still isn't eating anything, has lost weight, not passed any stalls or urine for two days and is now having problems with his respiratory system.

He's a very cute and friendly little boy and we shall miss him enormously. Rest in peace, my little sweetheart.

Ten years of Blair today - his real legacies

Not reforming our ailing public services, despite large parliamentary majorities and three mandates from the British electorate, is his number one 'claim to fame'. Even now he admits that he wished he had gone further and faster at reforming, especially in education and heath. He used to say that the Conservatives starved schools and hospitals of cash and all they needed was a few more pounds and everything would be hunkey doorey. How wrong he was! Mrs. Thatcher spent eleven years in Downing Street, and like or loathe her, made changes; when she was elected in 1979, Britain was seen as the "Sick Man of Europe". That was not the case when we left office in 1997. We handed Blair and Brown a fantastic economy, our pensions system was recognised as one of the best in the western world, schools and hospitals had real powers and freedoms and we were respected on the international stage.

The Iraq war and the bogus 45 minute claim. He lied to Parliament and to the British people. "Regime change" was not the reason for going into war, as he now claims. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqis have lost their lives, as have thousands of coalition troops. Our boys were ill-equipped and the country is now at civil war. Blair has blood on his hands - he should be impeached, tried and punished.

Democracy and the Constitution. Selling peerages and rewarding his Labour cronies, signing up to the EU Constitution without a referendum, introducing compulsory postal voting (which is open to widespread fraud and abuse), and by-passing his own Cabinet and Parliament when taking and announcing important decisions.

In 1997, people had high hopes of this Messiah, sorry, Leader. He let us down and let us down badly. The history books, quite rightly, will not be kind to him. If there is a Hell, he almost certainly has a reserved space waiting for him.