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October 25, 2001
[politics] You can’t beat a bit of bullying — more on the way the way a Labour Whip dealt with an awkward MP over government policy in Afghanistan. ‘…they found it impossible to stick to the argument. Within minutes they had moved from the issue of loyalty to attendance records to trust (Marsden: “It would help if your deputy didn’t send me snotty letters”), to the question of war as a matter of conscience, to risible fibs about telephone messages (“Er, perhaps I got the wrong number”), to appeasement “Don’t you dare!”), to the pressing question of which of the two was the more northern (Marsden: “Do you mind? I spent four years at Teesside Polytechnic”).’
October 23, 2001
[politics] ‘Those that are not with us are against us’ — interesting transcript of a conversation between the Labour MP for Shrewsbury Paul Marsden and the Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong about UK Government policy over Afghanistan…

‘HA: In fact we may well hold a vote, but if we do, it will be whipped. PM: That is outrageous. You won’t even give us a free vote on whether we go to war – it is an issue which should be a matter of conscience. HA: War is not a matter of conscience. Abortion and embryo research are matters of conscience, but not wars. PM: Are you seriously saying blowing people up and killing people is not a moral issue? HA: It is government policy that we are at war. You astound me.’

October 12, 2001
[politics] Political cartoonist Steve Bell visited all the Labour, Tory and Lib-Dem Party Conferences …. ‘Theresa May has a strange simpering manner and a magnificent nose, along with bags under her eyes that suggest a wealth of experience, though not in transport, local government and the regions.’ [Related: Archive of Steve Bell Cartoons]
October 10, 2001
[politics] A right pair of Dolly Partons — Simon Hoggart on the Tory Party Conference … ‘Then there was a stir. “Welcome,” said the chairman (a woman), “a very special guest. The Rt Hon William Hague!” At this point the conference sprang to life and stood. Noises emerged. IDS accompanied him onto the platform. It was a fantastic, surreal sight. They looked like two boiled eggs in blue eggcups. Their pates gleamed in unison. I gazed from the balcony in awe. If you’d stuck a few sequins on their heads they’d have looked like Dolly Parton’s cleavage. Then Hague separated from his twin and stood at the front. The conference applauded wildly. Margaret Thatcher (three victories) got little more applause than William Hague (one landslide defeat). It was mad. They were cheering the albatross!’
October 6, 2001
[politics] Presiminister Exits as Old Conflicts Rumble On … Simon Hoggart on Blair’s performance on Thursday. ‘The prime minister did not try to save the world again; he did that earlier this week. Instead this was his seventh day. For a moment he could rest, with a rapt House of Commons listening carefully and silently to everything. He gave a cool and precise survey of what is being done and what is being planned. As for the most sensitive evidence, “I enter a major caveat”, he said, unlike UBL himself, who has no doubt recently entered a major cave.’
October 4, 2001
[politics] Steve Bell in Brighton — Tuesday and Wednesday‘Blair sweeps in, looking serious, determined, resolved and orange. It’s been niggling in the back of my mind as to why everybody on stage at this conference seems to be orange. It must be a combination of the lighting effects and the backdrop. Or perhaps they’ve all been inoculated against chemical attack with Sunny Delight.’ [Related: Archive of Steve Bell Cartoons]
October 3, 2001
[politics] Full Text of Tony Blair’s Conference Speech [Part 1 | Part 2]

‘Just two weeks ago, in New York, after the church service I met some of the families of the British victims. It was in many ways a very British occasion. Tea and biscuits. It was raining outside. Around the edge of the room, strangers making small talk, trying to be normal people in an abnormal situation. And as you crossed the room, you felt the longing and sadness; hands clutching photos of sons and daughters, wives and husbands; imploring you to believe them when they said there was still an outside chance of their loved ones being found alive, when you knew in truth that all hope was gone. And then a middle-aged mother looks you in the eyes and tells you her only son has died, and asks you: why? I tell you: you do not feel like the most powerful person in the country at times like that. Because there is no answer. There is no justification for their pain. Their son did nothing wrong. The woman, seven months pregnant, whose child will never know its father, did nothing wrong. They don’t want revenge. They want something better in memory of their loved ones.’

[politics] Field-marshal Blair rallies the troops for war – on socialism … Simon Hoggart on Blair’s Conference Speech. ‘Throughout this conference, Mr Blair has scarcely shown his face on the platform. Instead we are allowed to imagine him in the ops room, or at least the Metropole hotel, with an open scrambler to George Bush, dispatching ships, planes, tanks and men to the most hostile terrain on the planet. Or possibly watching This Morning with Twiggy. Not that it matters. There are times when leadership means staying out of the way.’
October 2, 2001
[politics] Steve Bell in Brighton … Britain’s finest political cartoonist visits the Labour Party Conference. ‘To Brighton, storm-lashed and ready for war. It’s also where I live, so, as a ratepayer paying for this steel-ringed, machine gun-equipped securityfest, I am already irate.’ [Related: Archive of Steve Bell Cartoons]
September 9, 2001
[politics] Tories’ leap of faith — intriguing profile Of Ian Duncan Smith‘This is what comes up most often when you talk to those who know him (along with his genuine ease as a family man: he likes to change nappies, and makes a mean pasta); principle, unshakeability, and loyalty to his friends, one of whom said, rather ludicrously: “He’s someone you’d go tiger-shooting with.”‘
August 23, 2001
[politics] Anne Widdecombe? The voice of reason?! ‘Lady Thatcher became prime minister 21 years ago. It is time to move on.’
August 17, 2001
[politics] Are you a Woolly Liberal? ‘Walking home late at night, a man accosts you and snatches your wallet. Later, you fantasise about: Ann Widdecombe in Downing Street working to put more bobbies on the beat.’ [via Meg]
[not so random image] Christopher Walken -- 'You get me in a vendetta kind of mood, you tell the angels in heaven you never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you. My name is Vincent Coccotti.'[politics] Me? A member of the liberal elite? — The Guardian tries to find some members of the Liberal Elite … ‘”A Home Office minister said to me,” says John Wadham, the Liberty chairman, sitting by a fan in his windowless office, “that the more we complain about civil liberties disappearing, the more the government like it, because it plays well with the Daily Mail.” He does not even bother to look disappointed. In his scuffed Doctor Martens shoes and small rimless glasses, he could pass for a defeated radical activist from the early 80s. It is probably just as well that his office does not have a view. Within sight of the Liberty headquarters, there are at least two CCTV cameras.’
August 13, 2001
[random image] Back of a beermat -- because sometimes LMG needs a picture and to remind me of a weird Saturday...[theroux] ‘The girl is hallucinating or it is a fabrication’ … Christine Hamilton: No, I only know what a swingers’ party is because I recently met Mr Louis Theroux who made a programme about them and I understand from him that a swingers’ party is a wife or husband-swapping party.
July 31, 2001
[politics] Extreme? I’ll tell you what’s extreme… — Profile of Iain Duncan Smith in the Independent … ‘The latest polls reflect Mr Duncan Smith’s strong appeal to the Tory core. But Mr Clarke is still more highly rated by non-activist Tories, and still more so by the electorate at large. Taunted as “William Hague’s dad”, Iain Duncan Smith comes across as a tribute to the ordered, proscriptive world of 1950s Britain.’
July 27, 2001
[politics] Time to reveal my “other” website: Darius Von Daniken Shrubsole says “I’m proud to be a Tory!” ‘If you are a conservative and you like my page, maybe we can be friends! Why not email me with your personal details. We can correspond about anything – I’m interested in more than politics. I like listening to Music (particularly Radio 2) and shopping for fashionable clothes at the Lakeside Shopping Center, which also has some marvellous architectural features. Of course I’ll only respond if you are voting for William on June 7th!.’ [via Clog]
July 25, 2001
[intersection] Journey’s End — was Michael Portillo’s political career ruined by Big Brother? ‘”Michael was very struck by Big Brother,” reveals a Tory frontbencher who supported his bid for the party leadership. “We discussed it at length. His whole speech to last year’s Tory party conference was inspired by it. “The thing about that programme was the people. Young people, easy-going in their attitudes. They seemed to be the face of apolitical modern Britain. Michael knew immediately that we had to reach out to people like that. Britain isn’t reactionary any more.” Maybe. But large sections of the Tory party are.’
July 24, 2001
[linkage] I’ve just noticed that the Sunday Times has finally put articles from it’s glossy magazine on the website… Bullitt over Broadway [Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3] Brief study of Steve McQueen… ‘He grew more insecure with each film. “He wasn”t sure of what he was doing – and he wanted to do a really good job. He wanted order. If a director showed weakness, he would be replaced. And he was very possessive,” remembers Claxton. “He was like a child – at lunch he would order way over what he needed: two cheeseburgers, three chocolate milkshakes, two bags of fries. His attitude was, “Get it while you can, before they take it away from you.” He purposely didn’t carry any money around; he was very tight. He wouldn’t even tip baggage handlers at airports. He’d say, “No – they need to learn that life is tough.” ‘ The Hot Ticket [Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3] Article about Tony Blair just before the last election… ‘Flying back from the Labour party spring conference in Glasgow, I am seated next to Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, almost entirely deaf. He holds his nose and blows hard, instructing me to follow his step-by-step example. ‘No, no, no, not like that, like this.’I fear bursting an eardrum. He shrugs; his view is that unless you push on with a project it’s hardly worth bothering.’ The Talented Mr Ridley [Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3] Interview with Ridley Scott… ‘He had not won the Oscar for best director. That had gone to Steven Soderbergh for Traffic. Ridley had been there before, with Thelma & Louise, losing on that occasion to Jonathan Demme, the director of The Silence of the Lambs. This time, he said, he had two flash moments, the first being relief that he would not have to do his acceptance speech, the second disappointment at having come so close again. Then he thought, oh bugger, he’d have a vodka instead.’
July 23, 2001
[politics] And Mother Makes Two — Old, slightly revealing interview of Ann Widdecombe by Gyles Brandreth… ‘Let’s face it, we are not a happier society as a result of the liberalisation of the Seventies. We have record rates of divorce, record rates of suicide, record rates of teenage pregnancy, record rates of youth crime, record rates of underage sex. We should invite people to recognise that the Great Experiment has failed. You cannot have happiness without restraint.’ [via Blogadoon]
July 22, 2001
[politics] The Undoing of a Bold Pretender — a postmortem on Michael Portillo’s Tory leadership campaign… ‘…after the final ballot last Tuesday, when most of the other MPs had gone to crack open Champagne or commiserate with colleagues, one senior figure in the party hung back. “The thing about Portillo is that he is arrogant, politically ambivalent and unaware of what the Conservatives really wanted or needed,” he said, a smile playing around his lips. Around the corner a new entrant to the Commons at the last election was not so sure. “We may have made the worst mistake this party has ever made,” he said, staring woefully at the floor. “And I didn’t even support Portillo.”‘
July 20, 2001
[politics] A On-line Petition: To Mr Big, Please make Lord Archer your Bitch. ‘Who’s the Daddy Now?’ [via Haddock]
[politics] The judge’s every word dripped with loathing and contempt — Simon Hoggart on the Archer Verdict. ‘Then the sentence and a speech from the judge which surely smashed into him as hard as the prison term. It must have been like being hosed down with sewage. Every word dripped with loathing and contempt: “As serious an offence of perjury as I have experience of, and as serious as I have been able to find in the books”. The judge spoke of the way he had preyed upon the weak and vulnerable to concoct his alibis; the way he had hurried along the original libel trial in order to tell his lies and spin his fabrications. It was a short speech, but lethal. Mr Justice Potts was about to take away his liberty, but first he wanted to strip off what shreds were left of his reputation.’ [Related: Archer’s Greasy Pole]
July 19, 2001
[politics] Hats off to Ken — The Guardian analyses Ken Clarke’s sense of fashion… ‘Yet it is precisely Clarke’s lack of fashionableness that may well prove to be his strength. Despite the horrified cry of Loaded’s Adrian Clarke – “Surely he should have an adviser to help him with these matters?” – this hat exemplifies the lack of spin in Clarke’s image. It is worn, pure and simply, to keep the rain off his head. ‘
July 18, 2001
[politics] Welcome to the House of Usher — Simon Hoggart on the Tory Leadership Contest. ‘We will come out of this stronger and more united than ever!” Mr Ancram said. Oh, give it a rest, I thought. Only a hour or so ago, Nick Soames bellowed “F*** off!” at Michael Fallon. One Tory wife accused her husband – voting the wrong way, she thought – of “going through a midlife crisis and plunging his party into total oblivion”. There’s enough bitterness, wormwood and gall in the Tories now to keep an illegal absinthe distiller going for decades. And they haven’t even had the final round.’
July 17, 2001
[politics / tv] Portillo knocked out of the Tory Leadership Contest / Helen and Paul nominated in BB2… What an afternoon…
July 13, 2001
[tv] Louis Theroux and Ann Widdecombe…. TV doesn’t get any better than that! ‘Ms Widdecombe later said it was what she called the “perfectly sensible” interview Theroux conducted with Paul Daniels that persuaded her to take part. “He has a slightly zany approach but I can cope with that,” she said.’
July 11, 2001
[politics] Think Tory, Think Iain — Matthew Parris on your typical Tory and what it means for the current leadership battle… ‘Take Margaret Thatcher herself. [ … ] Far from being extreme or right wing in her origins, she was a progressive woman of the 1950s — one who actually went to university. She voted for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, a radical idea in the 1960s. She married a divorc. She went out to work while her children were still young. Her equivalent in the Tory party today would be quite prepared to contemplate relaxing the law on cannabis, and most younger Conservatives are.’ [Related: electportillo.com, voteids.com]
[politics] Tension mounts, the votes are in and, er … everyone’s a winner — Simon Hoggart on the Tory Leadership election process. ‘The press amused themselves by insulting passing Tories. Someone offered Peter Lilley a spliff. “Only on Sundays,” he said. Nicholas Soames insulted us. “Why isn’t that man wearing a tie?” he demanded of a hack. “I have it in my pocket,” the fellow quavered. “Well, PUT IT ON!”. Ann Widdecombe rolled towards us. “Ancram!” she shouted at the massed questors for truth. “Ancram, Ancram, Ancram!” As she left the room, she barked: “Still Ancram!”‘
July 10, 2001
[politics] Another long, interesting political profile of Michael Portillo. ‘Moving the political battle on to cultural grounds exposes another division among Conservatives, between authoritarians and liberals. The people who encouraged John Major to go “back to basics” and William Hague to portray Conservatives as “the party of the family” are genuinely shocked that Portillo can suggest it is an area where neither the party nor the state has a role. “None of my colleagues understand the real game,” he complained to friends recently. Intellectual, arrogant, a man who holidays in Bayreuth for the Wagner and Morocco for the ruins, a man viewed with suspicion by most of his political colleagues, his only hold on the party is their desperation to win.’ [Related: Official Portillo Site]
July 9, 2001
[politics] ThatcherWeb — Thatcher fan site. Check out the messianic Flash intro… ‘Let me give you my vision: A man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master – these are the British inheritance. They are the essence of a free economy… and on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.’ [via Haddock]
June 29, 2001
[cartoon] Steve Bell on David Trimble’s threatened resignation
June 28, 2001
[politics] There’s only one person that knows me – and that’s me — long, intriguing, “fills-in-the-blanks” profile of Michael Portillo in the Telegraph… ‘…He still has his detractors. One of Hague’s team says: “William was being shot at from the inside on a daily basis. Michael often didn’t return emails or pick up the phone. He’s impossible to get close to, he’s such a big secret. He has a grandeur and aloofness that William lacks.” Another says: “It was like living with Princess Diana.”‘
June 27, 2001
[politics] Kenneth Clarke joins the battle for Tory Leader… Steve Bell’s view and Simon Hoggart’s‘Ken Clarke rolled up, literally. Everything about him is round. His face, his body, his belly, his eyes, even the movements described by his torso as he circles a room, are all spherical. If Lucian Freud had been there he’d have ripped Ken’s clothes off, shouting: “I want a crack at that!”‘
June 19, 2001
[politics] Anne Widdecombe checks out… Steve Bell’s view and Simon Hoggart’s…. ‘We have lost her from the high seas; no more will we gaze at the billowing sails, the ensign fluttering proudly from her poop deck! And what made it perfect was that she went down with her guns firing – specifically at Michael Portillo, a pocket battleship which made the terrible mistake of approaching her broadside. Crump! “I don’t believe that Michael Portillo is the right person to lead the Conservative party!” Thump! “This is nothing personal, all I can say is, that this is what I sincerely believe!” Nothing personal? She loathes him. “I don’t want today to turn into personal denigration of Michael Portillo,” she added, to the sound of a 12″ gun slamming into foot-thick steel. This means, in translation, “I want you all to take it personally”.’
June 12, 2001
[execution] Steve Bell on Tim McVeigh’s Execution and George Bush. ‘God Bless All The Dead Guys’
June 10, 2001
[politics] What Portillo did next: ‘He had left his election count at Chelsea and boarded a bus for Stansted airport looking “like a dead man”, according to a fellow passenger. When the news was broadcast of Hague’s resignation, which Portillo had thought unlikely, he stared moodily into space. Once in Morocco, as donkeys passed slowly in front of the tour coach on Friday, he was overheard talking to colleagues in London by mobile phone about the leadership. The serious mood passed. In the Palais Jamai hotel in Fes he was joking around, imitating Ross’s radio show. Witnesses said he was dancing “like some demented genie” at 1am yesterday at a festival in Volubilis. “I am practising my election dance,” he told onlookers. Next he visited a 10th century mosque.’
June 9, 2001
[politics] Okay, the final election link — election sketches from cartoonist Posy Simmonds. The Tory Leadership Election starts here… VIVA WIDDECOMBE!
June 8, 2001
[politics] Astute analysis from Michael Heleltine of where the Tories went wrong… ‘…Mr Blair’s Labour Party today is in many vital respects a recycled Conservative Party, but with fresh faces and a new language. For the majority of people in this country, rule by Mr Blair has meant little more than a continuation of the policies established by the Tories. But Mr Blair has profited from another vital phenomenon. While the Conservative Party has looked backwards, Labour has adopted the vocabulary of the future. Britain has moved on – whether for good or ill scarcely matters. Marital breakdown, single-parent families, partners, gay rights, a multi-ethnic population are all parts of modern life, while a relatively privileged majority enjoys ownership of homes, cars, pensions, inheritances. These things forced Labour onto the centre ground and keep it there. ‘
[politics] A final election sketch from Simon Hoggart… Tories slapped in the face with a wet kipper. ‘At Tory central office there was a mood of miserable, dull acquiescence. It was as if the whole party had been slapped in the face with a wet kipper. The only excitement came when Michael Portillo declared on television that, whatever happened, he truly hoped William Hague would remain as leader. My goodness, we thought, will the desperate don stop at nothing to get the job? I thought of popping round to his house to see if BT installs phone lines at 2 o’clock in the morning. But some took a different view. Over at ITN, Norman Tebbit was asked if Portillo’s remarks meant that he had finally got cold feet. “I wouldn’t know,” Tebbit replied, “I have never slept with him.”‘
June 7, 2001
[politics] True Colours — Joe Klien on Tony Blair… How to describe Tony Blair to a Martian: ‘On a train to Newcastle, where she was to stump for various Labour hopefuls, Mo Mowlam did a rather funny parody of how one might actually speak to a Martian: “Tony Blair is the prime minister of the United Kingdom. He is our political leader. He is young, thin, losing his hair. He is a good leader, a good family man, religious, a lawyer. He cares – and he wanted the job. He cannot be stereotyped.”‘

Anne Widdecombe: Vote Labour... or next time shes naked.

[via Wherever You Are. Cheers!]
June 6, 2001
[politics] Fantastic portrait of Mrs. Thatcher in Northampton a few days ago from Matthew Parris. ‘…oblivious to the hands of worshippers reaching out to touch her, her expression said: “Make my day sonny, ask me a question.” “Why are you afraid of the euro?” asked Hayes. “What a question!” she snapped. “What a question.” Mr Hayes flinched. “As” — she stabbed him in the chest with an index finger — “a broadcaster” she stabbed again — “you should protect” — stab — “the pound”. Hayes began to back away into the crowd. She pursued him! Then she grabbed his mike like some kind of trophy and brandished it in front of his own crew’s camera. In much the same way the tribesmen of the Danekil in the Horn of Africa sport, on a necklace, the withered penises of the men they have killed in battle.’
June 5, 2001
[politics kinda] The BBC wonders: What happened to the Natural Law Party? ‘…while other candidates might bat around finer points of fiscal policy in a hypothetical TV debate, the NLP’s representative would likely wade in with the view that Britain’s problems were down to the fact the prime minister lived in a house with a south entrance. This was in fact one of the points made at the party’s third international convention, in 1996, when blame was also heaped upon the Channel Tunnel, which provided a south entrance to the UK. Such things go against the principles of Natural Law.’ [Related: Natural Law Party Website]
[politics] Hats off to Soames, off-message but in majestic form — Simon Hoggart sketch of the grandson of Winston Churchill. ‘Many of the people we meet probably voted Tory when Soames’s grandfather, Winston Churchill, led the party. He gave me the true version of what I had always suspected was an apocryphal story. In or around 1953, when Soames was five, he didn’t know how important his grandfather was until someone told him. So he walked up to the old man’s bedroom, managed to get past the valets and the secretaries, and found him sitting up in bed. “Is it true, grandpapa, that you are the greatest man in the world?” he asked. “Yes I am,” said Churchill. “Now bugger off”.’
June 1, 2001
[politics] Boris’s problem: he actually says what he thinks. Simon Hoggart on Boris Johnson‘…he is too honest. He can’t help saying what he means. I asked how William Hague was playing on the doorstep and he replied, “Huge, oh huge!” But that is not true, and so he can’t leave it there. He made massive, swooping, burying-head-in-hands motions, to show what he really meant. A woman said she had always voted Tory, but not this time. “You don’t engage me at all. You have too many people in the party now who are from a different planet entirely. And you’re going to win and be in a morale-destroying minority, when you could have a much better time editing the Spectator. And what about your wife and children?” Boris groaned, presumably because he suspected she was right on all counts.’
May 31, 2001
[politics] A decent fellow leading a lost cause — another profile of William Hague. ‘Despite his reputation as an orator, Hague’s ideas stubbornly refuse to take verbal flight. With an inexpressive face and a narrow vocal range, he makes no attempt to vary his pacing or trajectory. There are none of the pauses that might suggest reflection or permit emphasis. He rattles through every item on his agenda with an impressive command of his material but a lack of emotional impact. He itemises; he does not persuade. And there is a hint of aldermanic pomposity, evident since puberty. ‘
May 30, 2001
[politics] Thatcher stars in Return of The Mummy‘She was immediately surrounded by Tories, protesters, television crews, reporters, uniformed policemen, special branch coppers, a man waving a 4ft cardboard cutout of her, twin girls performing karaoke versions of Abba hits, a chap with an anti-Kenneth Clarke poster, and a Scotsman with a rasping voice who accused her of hiding bribes from General Pinochet in a secret bank account – in short, a typical cross-section of modern British society. She clambered out. A woman stepped forward and shyly handed her a banana skin, which she accepted as if it were a bouquet. So when the woman began to harangue her about Tory education policy she swerved smartly away. “God bless Margaret Thatcher!” Conservatives shouted. “Boo! Out, out, out!” others shouted. “But she is out!” one of the Tories raged.’
May 28, 2001
[politics] How one man put Bush on the ropes. ‘The tremors of the political earthquake about to strike in Washington were first felt in the plush Senate toilet on Capitol Hill. It was there, last Monday, that Senator James Jeffords of Vermont told shocked colleagues he had made a decision that would shatter their political agenda and make their new president look naive, petty and out-of-touch.’
May 26, 2001
[bell] More political cartoons… Steve Bell’s Campaign Diary — commentary and sketches + his view on George Bush’s current problems…. Holy Democrat Shit!! I feel a disturbance in the Force!!
May 24, 2001
[more politics] How could I have missed this? Steve Bell does another Thatcher and Hague cartoon. ‘The EURO BOGEYMAN is going to TAX YOU TO DEATH!!’ [via Nutlog]