Evidence: Me running into the Atlantic on Christmas Day with 500-odd other people

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It was the Mike Moyle Memorial Annual Christmas Day Sponsored Swim at Crooklets Beach, Bude. I am among the 500 people charging into the sea in the YouTube vid below. Mad or what?

I also have the tee shirt!

Nick Clegg's New Year message

Dear Paul,

This time last year I spoke about how the most important job for Liberal Democrats was dealing with the economic problems we inherited. 12 months on, that task remains the number one priority for our party and the Coalition.

We have had to make some very difficult decisions, but they’ve been the right ones for the long term good of our country.

But that economic rescue mission is not over yet. That’s why, thanks to the Liberal Democrats, the Coalition has been helping people get through these difficult times with measures to make life fairer and easier.

2011 was the year we lifted nearly a million low paid workers out of paying income tax altogether and cut taxes for 23m people – because I believe putting money back into peoples pockets makes all the difference.

It was the year more than a million children got a fairer start in life, with extra support at school through our Pupil Premium and free early years education for toddlers – because I believe that helping the youngest take their first steps in life makes all the difference.

It was the year we guaranteed pensioners a decent increase in their pension – because I believe dignity in retirement makes all the difference.

Throughout, we have taken big long-term decisions that will change the way our economy works for the better – rebalancing it away from the City of London towards stronger, more sustainable growth.

And next year we will do more. The world’s first Green Investment Bank putting millions into green jobs and growth; our youth contract to get every young person out of work earning or learning;  more apprenticeships than this country has ever had before; and we will take further steps to make our tax system fairer too.

What we’re doing as a party, and as a Coalition, it’s not easy, but it’s right. We are putting the interests of the country first, and we have taken the first steps towards building a fairer, greener and more liberal country.

The next year will be one that poses many great challenges for everyone in Britain, but I know we must continue to do what’s right for our country.

And with that, I wish you all a very happy New Year.

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister

Why does Radio One suspend its normal music policy for 1/12th of the year?

Radio One has an enviable reputation for new music. Rightly so. “In new music we trust” is their motto. Great. Well done BBC!

They play the odd recent oldie. That is, the occasional record which is about five years old. Otherwise, it’s all new stuff.

It is therefore a little weird that they abandon their normal music policy for 1/12th of the year. December, that is.

So, whereas normally you would hardly hear anything more than ten years old, suddenly you hear tracks which are 66 years old or 53 years old.

Suddenly, for December, they repeatedly play a track which is 38 years old.

Don’t believe me?

OK. This morning at 5.30am, as I was up due to a restless dog, DJ Dev played “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee, which was recorded in 1958. It’s older than me!

Yesterday at 6.50pm, Scott Mills played “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!” (so good they named it thrice) by Bing Crosby which was written in 1945. It was recorded by Crosby in 1956.

Last weekend, within 24 hours, I heard Radio One play “Merry Christmas Everybody” by Slade (from 1973) three times.

….All a bit of contrast to Radio One’s normal fare of Rizzlekicks, Pulled apart by horses , Bombay Bicycle Club etc – eh?

OK, those old Christmas records are mostly good ones. But why the mass oldie hysteria amongst Radio One producers in December?

To put it in perspective, wouldn’t it be strange if, in August, Radio One played “Sweet Nothin’s” by Brenda Lee or Bing Crosby’s “Pistol Packin’ Mama” or Slade’s “Mama weer all crazee now”? And yet, those songs are just as old as the ancient Christmas records they haul out year after year.


DPMQs: LibDem MPs enjoy untroubled post-questions lunch

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Cross-posted from Liberal Democrat Voice

Time was when Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions was the closest you got to bloodsports in the House of Commons. The DPM would be tethered, red-faced and growling, to the dispatch box, as Labour MPs taunted him and propelled all sorts of bile at him, augmented by the odd tactical nuclear missile rear-launched by the Tory swivel-eyes.

We’ve come a long way in a few months. Now, DPMQs are relatively sedate affairs. The DPM is well in control and there is little mischief from the Labour benches. Well, none that would spoil LibDem MPs’ lunches.

Indeed, at least four MPs found it difficult to summon enthusiasm for DPMQs this time. Unusually, that number tabled questions but couldn’t be bothered to turn up to ask them.

In response to a question from John Pugh (LibDem), Nick Clegg announced that the Joint Committee of both houses on House of Lords reform will report by 27th March 2012.

In answer to Sadiq Khan (Lab), the DPM was, again very clear about reform:

Yes, of course…I support a fully elected second Chamber. The right hon. Gentleman’s party achieved precisely 0% of election to the other Chamber. I modestly suggest that if we achieve 80%, that will be better than 0%.

It is often assumed that Tory backbenchers are opposed to House of Lords reform. However, this session demonstrated that, on this subject, there is a nexus of sensible Tory MPs, particularly in the East of England. Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) and Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) both asked questions which were solidly supportive to reform. In fact, I detected much less Tory anti-reform noise than has previously been the case. Perhaps the whips have dusted off their old files.

About the most unsedate that the session got was when Sadiq Khan goaded Nick Clegg about a series of alleged LibDem failures to influence the government. Nick Clegg fired back, saying the government are “clearing up the mess” left behind by Labour and that Labour have nothing to say on the economy.

LibDem question of the week

Duncan Hames asked an excellent question highlighting that Labour councillors in Manchester have voted to reject the pupil premium to help children from the most challenging backgrounds.

Hold the front page

Labour’s Mike Gapes tried to suggest that it was some sort of evidence of a major rift in the coalition that Nick Clegg and William Hague met the German foreign minister this week in separate meetings.

Career limiting question

Peter Bone (Con – Swivel-eyed) is obsessed with who will takeover as Prime Minister if David Cameron dies. He’s asked the question several times now – almost as often as he reads out dispatches from “Mrs Bone” – and asked again at this DPMQs. Bear in mind that the last British Prime Minister to die in office was Palmerston in 1865. No surprise, then, that Nick Clegg got a big laugh when he retorted:

I must say…that his morbid fascination with the premature death of his own party leader is a subject not for me, but for the Chief Whip.

Other subjects covered were:

-Armed Forces electoral registration
-The Electoral Register
-Electoral Participation
-The Boundary Commission proposals
-Topical issues

Nick Clegg photo credit: Some rights reserved by Cabinet Office

Menzies Campbell listed amongst politicians who excelled at sport

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In the wake of Kim Jong-il’s alleged eleven hole-in-ones, Yahoo lists famous politicians who excelled at sport. Menzies Campbell is in illustrious, if occasionally dubious, company:

Idi Amin – boxing

Dwight D Eisenhower – American Football

Boyko Borisov (Bulgarian Prime Minister)- Karate

Mary, Queen of Scots – billiards

Gerald Ford – American football

Menzies Campbell – Athletics

Oswald Mosley – Fencing

Colin Moynihan – Rowing

Ronald Reagan – American Football and swimming

Jeffrey Archer – Athletics

Menzies Campbell – Athletics

The former Liberal Democrat leader has been MP for North East Fife for nearly a quarter of a century, but before he moved into politics he was one of Britain’s greatest sprinters.

He held the British 100m record for seven years, and represented Britain at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo as well as captaining both the British athletics teams in 1965 and 1966 and leading the Scottish Commonwealth Games team in Jamaica in 1966.

Sir Menzies Campbell photo credit: Some rights reserved by Martin Tod

Guardian corrects 37 stories at once – is this a record?

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An extraordinary “bulk buy” correction and clarification this morning from the Guardian:

On 13 December the following clarification was published: “An article about the investigation into the abduction and death of Milly Dowler (News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone during police hunt, 5 July, page 1) stated that voicemail ‘messages were deleted by [News of the World] journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance in order to free up space for more messages. As a result friends and relatives of Milly concluded wrongly that she might still be alive.’ Since this story was published new evidence – as reported in the Guardian of 10 December – has led the Metropolitan police to believe that this was unlikely to have been correct and that while the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone the newspaper is unlikely to have been responsible for the deletion of a set of voicemails from the phone that caused her parents to have false hopes that she was alive, according to a Metropolitan police statement made to the Leveson inquiry on 12 December.” To make this clear we have – since that item appeared on 13 December – appended a footnote to the following 37 stories below that contain either the error or a reference to it.
Missing Milly Dowler’s voicemail was hacked by News of the World, 4 July
Milly Dowler phone hacking: Family shocked by NoW revelations, 4 July
Politics live blog, 5 July
Rebekah Brooks: ‘It’s inconceivable I knew of Milly Dowler phone hacking’, 5 July
Miliband says Brooks must consider her position over phone hacking, 5 July
Milly Dowler phone hacking pressures News of the World to come clean, 5 July
News International: Hacking away at the truth, 5 July
News of the World phone hacking: Police review all child abduction cases, 5 July
Warm glow of BSkyB deal subsides as Brooks feels chill of wind reality, 6 July
News of the World: Murdoch takes the initiative, but will it end the crisis?, 7 July
Over more than three decades, no one dared question the perversion of politics by and for Rupert Murdoch, 10 July
Milly Dowler’s family call for Rebekah Brooks to resign, 11 July
News Corp BskyB U-turn a victory for the public, says Dowler family lawyer, 13 July
Rupert Murdoch gives up BskyB takeover bid, 14 July
Phone hacking fall out: ten days that shook Britain, 15 July
Rupert Murdoch apology to Milly Dowler family was sincere, says lawyer, 15 July
News Corp must now face greater scrutiny in the US, 20 July
Murdochs in line for multimillion dollar bonuses despite phone-hacking crisis, 26 July
News of the World targeted phone of Sarah Payne’s mother, 28 July
Sunday Times bans use of subterfuge, 5 August
Milly Dowler phone hackers ‘used more than one voicemail’, 20 August
Phone hacking: Milly Dowler’s family offered £2m-plus settlement, 19 September
News International offers Milly Dowler’s family £3m settlement, 20 September
Milly Dowler’s family urges Cameron to rethink legal reforms, 22 September
Phone hacking: NI confirms £2m for Dowlers and £1m charity donation, 21 October
Leveson inquiry: Dowlers believe phone hacking intruded into ‘private grief’, 16 November
Leveson inquiry told hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone ‘despicable’, 16 November
Leveson inquiry: Hugh Grant and Dowlers to give evidence, 18 November
Phone hacking: Steve Coogan compares NI to a ‘protection racket’, 18 November
Milly Dowler’s parents to testify at Leveson inquiry, 20 November
Leveson inquiry into phone hacking: first witnesses – profiles, 21 November
Leveson inquiry: phone hacking ‘made Dowlers think Milly was alive’, 21 November
News blog: Leveson inquiry: Hugh Grant and the Dowlers give evidence, 21 November
Hugh Grant accuses Mail on Sunday of phone hacking, 21 November
Phone-hacking victims take chance to tell their own story, 22 November
The Leveson inquiry witnesses are collateral damage, 27 November
Leveson inquiry: why journalists should cry – and visit the prayer room, 28 November
The following Press Association articles on the Guardian’s website have also been footnoted:
Milly Dowler phone hacking claim, 4 July
Dowlers ‘suing paper over hacking’, 5 July
Charity to benefit from Dowler deal, 20 September
Dowlers’ ‘euphoria’ over voicemails, 16 November
Dowlers to give evidence to inquiry, 20 November
Milly’s parents attend press probe, 21 November
Grant’s suspicions over burglary, 21 November
Milly’s parents attend press probe, 21 November
Dowlers to give evidence to inquiry, 21 November
Milly phone hack ‘gave false hope’, 21 November
Hugh Grant: Non-Murdoch tabloid hacked me in 2007, 22 November

Guardian image credit: Some rights reserved by gwire

Only actor in both BBC priestly comedies from the last 20 years?

There may be another actor I haven’t spotted, but I think Simon McBurney is the only actor who has the distinction of having been in both Vicar of Dibley and in Rev.

He plays Archdeacon Robert in Rev. In Vicar of Dibley he played a rather madcap choirmaster and Cecil. He particularly stood out at the wedding of Alice.

Top: Simon McBurney (rt) with Tom Hollander (lft) in Rev. Above: Simon McBurney in Vicar of Dibley

'Nick Clegg sneers at Mr and Mrs Britain'

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So read the headline on Page 2 of the Sunday Express today. I saw it laid out on my father-in-law’s table as we fetched him for his 89th birthday lunch at the wonderful Queen Victoria pub at Hare Hatch.  (Special thanks to landlady Chrissie who made us feel a million dollars. When was the last time the landlady of a pub opened the door especially to you and welcomed you in? Well it happened to us today – thank you Chrissie.)

The article is a particularly venomous, twisted take on a speech which Nick Clegg is yet to make. The BBC has a more sensible report here.

Basically, Nick’s point was repeatedly made by the LibDems during the last general election campaign. It is not the place of the tax system to “reward” a particular lifestyle. Right wingers are often complaining about the “nanny state”. There is nothing more “nanny state” about trying to engineer or reward people’s personal lifestyle choices through the tax system.

I emphasise “try”. Is a few quid a week likely to persuade people to get married who otherwise would not get married? Is it likely to persuade people who would otherwise seperate to stay together in marriage? I think the answer is “no” in both cases.

But let us just suppose, for a moment, that the answer is “yes”. What sort of marriage is it that comes about because the partners decide to get married to receive a few extra quid a week? What sort of marriage is it when the partners stay together because they don’t want to lose their tax benefit?

No, there is absolutely no point in tax breaks for married couples. There is no good reason why it should be in place. It is a simple bribe to one part of the electorate. A patronising bribe which makes some of the recipients and/or donors (decision makers who put it in place) feel smug.

Why reward countless unhappy marriages (yes, they exist) while not rewarding countless stable and happy partnerships and different family models?

Back to the Sunday Express.

How can Nick Clegg sneer at himself? He has made the lifestyle choice of marriage.

NICK CLEGG will risk a new Coalition split tomorrow with a sneering attack on marriage and traditional family life.

No. He’ll say there is no place in the tax system for rewarding a particular lifestyle choice. That is different, Sunday Express.

Marriage ring photo credit: Some rights reserved by jcoterhals