Watch this space.., this space, where I've asked the BBC's iPM to look into the gender gap in political blogging and why women's blogging events are relegated to the fashion pages of the New York times.

The original NYT article is here, and ensuing furore can be found here, here, here and here.

The Booker Long List

The Booker Long List is out and damn them, I have only read one of them. Last year I did my own Booker Prize award...I read every book on the shortlist and put them in order of preference.

My views of last years short list were:

Didn’t like: ‘The Gathering’ Anne Enright

Liked: ‘Mister Pip’ Lloyd Jones, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ Mohsin Hamid

Love: ‘On Chesil Beach’ Ian McEwan, ‘Animal’s People’ Indra Sinha and ‘Darkmans’ Nicola Barker.

I chose in the end, Animal's People by Indra Sinha but the other Booker Panel (the one consisting of the great and the good and not just me) chose Anne Enright's The Gathering. Bleaurgh, such a depressing book... oh well, there's no accounting for taste I suppose.

Still, I had better get reading and hope I pick the best ones first, as the only one I've read this time is 'The Enchantress of Florence' by Salman Rushdie, which is great and I predict will make it onto the short list!

There's some other good authors on the long list, Amitav Ghosh and Sebatian Barry being amongst my favourites there.

And Jonathan, from The Bookseller Crow will be pleased at least!

Has anybody else read any of them and could recommend any to start with?

The Booker 2008 Long List

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Atlantic)
Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (Tindal Street Press)
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (Faber and Faber)
From A to X by John Berger (Verso)
The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (Chatto & Windus)
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (John Murray)
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant (Virago)
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher (Fourth Estate)
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill (Fourth Estate)
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie (Jonathan Cape)
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Simon & Schuster)
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (Hamish Hamilton)

We're looking for female political bloggers in the wrong place...

..because when the New York Times writes about women and blogging they put it in the Style and Fashion section, not business or politics!!!!!!!!

Hat Tip to The F-Word, who tipped Every Dot Connects, who picked up the 'story' from The Brand Box.

As Every Dot Connects says:

"Well, hello! Yes, there’s a glass ceiling. And instead of addressing the question, the New York Times editors are part of the problem. A story about men who blog, especially if they had built the kind of powerhouse network the BlogHer folks have, would have run in the business or technology section of the newspaper. But women’s accomplishments in the blogosphere are celebrated in Fashion and Style"

FFS etc, etc, etc

This is why I am a feminist

This is why I am a feminist and why I am going to keep going, even when it feels like we are wading through treacle.

Why we need women to be in power...

…and working in journalism*, and the police, the army and the courts and more or less anywhere. And I mean In positions of power not just support.

This is an excellent article by Linda Grant on Comment is Free.

She is talking about her work in investigating claims of mass rape in Bosnia during the Balkans Conflict. She identifies it was the first time that rape was generally recognised as a weapon of war at the same time that the war was going on and that it was women being involved that made that happen: She says:

“What was different in Croatia and Bosnia was that this was the first war that had been monitored by women's organisations, which received reports and collected data.

It was also, perhaps, the first war in which women were, in increasingly large numbers, gaining high profile positions in journalism. After the piece came out, I was contacted by Veronica Waddley, then features editor of the Telegraph (now editor of the Evening Standard)”

I know that many people say that it doesn’t matter what gender or race a person is, they can still represent all humanity. And in theory, I agree. I wouldn’t like to think that I would discriminate in my compassion for others, on the basis or their gender or race.

However, I note that in practice, that it just doesn’t work like that; it has needed women getting into positions of power to start recognising that rape is used as a weapon of war. It did take the increases (however paltry) to the number women in parliament in 1997 to bring in some of the flexible working, maternity and childcare legislation and provision over the last 11 years.

So, although in theory it doesn’t matter what groups are in power and what their gender is, in practice is seems to. This is why diversity is so important. Diversity is important, to have not just a woman’s experience but both men and women’s experience when making decisions on things.

To me this is so important that I am not prepared to wait until there is equality ‘naturally’. I don’t think that will ever happen; we need to rebalance it in women’s favour.

I appreciate, some men out there may not feel particularly advantaged: there are always those who have the merit of being the right colour, the right class, having the right amount of money and having gone to school with the right people. However, as can be shown through the numbers, the biggest advantage there is in politics, in business, in anywhere where power exists, is to be male.

And I can’t see how this is going to change, given the stagnation that has happened in the numbers of women being elected into parliament without some form of quotas. In the Liberal Democrats we do in fact have gender quotas for most bodies, from the FE & FPC, to selection committees, shortlists to PR election lists; why do we refuse to bring them in for the most vital, the most likely to effect positive change for millions of women? Why do we not have them for winnable parliamentary seats? Why do we not have a good long look at how we define the various roles in the party, especially those of PPC and agent to make them fit women’s lives more easily instead of insisting that women’s lives fit them?

In the Labour party they do use All Women Shortlists (AWS) and their women’s organisations have real strength within the party, are taken seriously and listened to by both men and women.

It always makes me very sad to see how few men turn up to the usually very interesting fringes that Women Liberal Democrats put on; we’re supposed to believe that they are able to represent all our experiences but they don’t both to do the most simple things to find out what they are.

Even in the Tory Party, Cameron at least goes on Woman’s Hour and sounds like he wants women to join and take part. I listened to the Women’s House podcast when he was on a few months ago – I tell you, he was very compelling! When are our leaders going to be going on Women’s Hour asking for the listeners to get involved?

Nick Clegg has said that if we don’t sort it out within two parliaments then we are going to have to look at AWS again. Well, from the data that the Electoral Reform Society has come up with that’s not going to happen in the next parliament so that only leaves one more. Why wait for the inevitable? Why wait another parliament of nothing changing when bringing forward change would make a real difference for millions of women’s lives? Why should all that be sacrificed for the sake of the ambitions of 30 odd male approved candidates? I know that the sacrifice of the individual for the group does not fit with our liberal values but I think we are cutting off our nose to spite our face if we don’t do this. I truly believe that more diversity will lead to better lives for all.

I’m very interested to see what the newly incepted Speakers Conference comes up with; I do hope it is going to deliver real action and not just wishful thinking! I’m also looking forward to hearing a bit more about what the Bones Commission in the Lib Dems has to say about sorting this problem out. I’m kind of hoping that it will and that will explain why Nick has been so quiet on this topic over the last 7 months.

*How many lobby correspondents are women, by the way…have you counted recently? Quite a few national newspapers don’t have any women reporting from the press gallery. I went to a press gallery lunch the other week that Nick spoke at and I’m trying very hard to remember but I don’t think there were any questions by women and was told that most of the women in the room were not in fact journalists but invited as the guests of journalists (as I was). So a lot of men asking other men questions about things that interest men.

A plea for more women

to stand for Federal Party Committees.

Along with various other things, this note came through the post from the Women Liberal Democrats. I was rather taken with its to the point and concise argument. so, I have TYPED IT OUT(!!!) below. And added some links so that you can easily see what they're on about.

The number of women seeking election to the Federal Policy and Federal Executive committees has declined in the recent past. As a result the responsibility of ensuring that a female viewpoint is expressed falls very heavily on just a few women. Is this fair? The women who get elected do a great job, but they really can't be expected to cover everything. The Party constitution provides for a quota of elected women on the committees - if sufficient numbers of women are nominated. In addtion to the members who are elected by conference representatives there are also nominated members on all Federal Committees. The maority of these nominated members are men, which means that the committees always have a predominately male perspective reflected in the decisions they make.

The elections are held every two years and 2008 is such a year.

Will you stand, or find another woman to stand?

You don't have to be an expert.

The year starts Janaury 1st. The committees meet several times a year and the period of election is two years.

Members also have the opportunity to participate in Working Groups on particular policy issues.

The list of members for these committees can be viewed on the party website, please take a look, see how few women are really at the heart of the decision making process of the Liberal Democrats'
From my calculations, only 21% of the Federal Executive are female and 22.3% on the Federal Policy Committee are female. The commonly held view is that it takes at least 30% of any group to be female before any change in culture takes place.

Women make up 40% of all liberal Democrat members.

The Federal Finance & Administration committee is better with 25% of it's membership as women but really this committee is key - if you want to know where the power lies, then yo have to look to who has control over the money. It is clear that in the Lib Dems, it is men who have control over the moeny.

The Federal Conference committee does best of all, with 33% of the memeberhip female, which when you take out the non-voting members of the committee rises to 40%. Which is exactly in line with the propotion of Liberal Democrats that are women...hooray!

Now, I would say, that if you have decided that being a PPC is not for you on account of wanting some sort of life over the next 1o or 12 years, then this might be an alternative, that is slightly more sustainable.

After all, this is where all the money is like the Rowntree Fun that was given to us to help increase our diversity in terms of sex and colour!

It'll also be an interesting couple of years as the Bones Commission is implemented.

So, I would encourage all women to stand for these elections. I'm going to!!

Well done WLD for bringing it to our attention!

Iain Dale, Liberal Conspiracy, a dodgy list by Wikio and, oh, my top 10 political blogs!

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

There’s been an enormous hoo ha over at Liberal Conspiracy whether to join in Iain Dale’s, or rather Total Politics’ list of the Top 100 Political Blogs.

There is an argument that goes along the lines of:

‘Iain Dale is consistently rude about the quality of left/progressive blogging (not possible to describe myself as left wing, oh no) and often moans about them without linking to them. He should not be encouraged in his self appointed role of King of blogging. And he’s a Tory and people who like blogs like Iain Dale’s, will like and vote for blogs like Iain Dale’s’ and won’t vote for progressive blogs and then Iain Dale will just tell us all that left/progressive blogs are boring.’

I, on the other hand, come form the following point of view:

‘Well, he’s the only one giving me a change to vote for my top 10 political blogs and if I don’t vote (for what will not, on the whole, be right wing blogs) then non-Tory blogs will get even less of a look in.

Just in passing, a very bizarre thing came to light in this discussion. Sunny suggested that I look at Wikio for an up to date top 100 blog list. Well, I nearly fell of my chair when I saw that I was rated 86th!! Ha! How ridiculous!

The scoring is on the basis of how many times you are linked to (as apposed to how many times people click through or read you) and different websites are given different weightings. For example, a link from the BBC will have a higher rating than a link say from…me! And this is where I see the problem being. As, Sky News have linked to me quite a few times, as I occasionally do a bit of telly for them and last week the PM Blog on the BBC website linked to me, for a totally non political reason.

Still, I suppose by adding a qualitative element to their scoring they are at least trying to avoid just going for the most popular as by page clicks, but even at my most optimistic (you know, as sort of: who could want more, than a glass half full, it’s perfect!!) could I consider my blog and influential to have any thing in common. However much I may want that to be so.

So, to my top 10 Political Blogs, on the basis that I can’t vote for myself (although I notice that some people have):

You can find out how to vote and all the rules here

Neil Stockley (Quelle surprise! But do I go out with him because I think his blog is great, or think his blog is great because I go out with him? Ha!)
Quaequam Blog
Liberal Conspiracy
Lib Dem Voice
Alix Mortimer
The Yorkshire Gob
Lynne Featherstone MP
London: Mayor & More
Millenium Elephant
Dib Lemming

It was hard, actually, to choose. I would rather have a Top 20!! But there is a pretty good mix of established, individual, group, male, female and elephants! I would have put Liberal Mafia up there but he’s on an invite only blog hoo!

Update: The more observant of you will notice that the list had changed a bit - I hadn't realised that Dave Hill's absolutely great London: Mayor & More blog was up on the Total Politics website. once I found out, I couldn't leave it out so I'm afraid the most entertaining Tom Harris had to go instead. Anyway, I'm sure they're'll be plenty of Labour voters voting for him, so it won't materially effect his positioning.

Could this happen in the UK?

The picture that shames Italy was the heading and I clicked on thinking I would find some more evidence of Berlusconi’s vile sexism or something. But what I found was seriously, much, much worse.

Frankly, I feel quite ill. It comes to something when people are able to dehumanise a minority group so much that people can continue to sunbathe and picnic around the dead bodies of two young girls.

I’d like to think that it couldn’t happen in the UK, I’d like to think as a country that we haven’t dehumanised anybody. What is it is that makes one human being treat another so terribly? One of the commenters suggests that there are parallels to how gypsies are treated in the UK, but I don’t quite see it.

What I understand that In times or war for example, terrible things happen. There can be moments, even now in London, when someone fearful of their own safety doesn’t step in and get involved. But what happened on that Italian beach was of a different order. There was no war, no danger: just a complete lack of humanity.

Shame on the Italians who sat on that beach and ate a picnic, shame on the police who didn’t post someone to stay with the bodies until the ambulance to come to collect them, but I can’t help but feel shame on all of us for being part of a world where things like this can happen.

I am, reminded of the poem by Niemuller, which I have pinned up on my notice board for times just like this:

First they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
And I did not speak out-
For I was not a communist.
Next they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out-
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

No forcing books upon me!!

Along with Alix (who started it), Peter Black and Jo Anglezarke I have been rather taken with the Top 100 books meme.

Update: Toby Philpott's is here!

I have to admit, this is a bit of an indulgence for me as I have a tendency to be all hinterland and no front garden.

Even the book on the American Civil War that I said I would be reading, on Lib Dem Voice's bloggers summer reading piece, was put to one side very quickly once I was given some fiction books for my birthday! So, I should have said I would be reading Rushdie's 'The Enchantress of Florence' which I predict will find it's way onto a Booker Shortlist and a book by Zoe Ferraris called 'The night of the Mi'raj'.

However, back to the meme..... we're on books and reading, just spare a moment to allow me to plug this great online library tool called; it has allowed me to catalogue all my books, which in turn allowed me to be sure whether I had read all that I thought I had...or didn't realise I had! If you're at all nerdy when it comes to books, you'll love this!

So, back to the meme....

“The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.

2) Italicize those you intend to read.

3) Underline the books you love.

4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.

5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Erm...I've read 72, of the top 100 books...(I don't think they're the top 100 books, but there you go).

Which I think just goes to explain why I never got the exam grades my teachers hoped I would!!

No change at all, I'm afraid Boris

Don't people like Brian Coleman make you sick?

Where on earth does he get off thinking he deserves to spend £8,000 worth of our money on taxis?

Ok, so the letter of the law hasn't been broken but surely spending this much on taxi, including over £600 in one day just shows contempt for the people of London?

A while back, I blogged that although I thought Boris would be one bigga mistake-a for London to make-a, I hoped that his term off office wasn't disastrous for London ('cos I just love London so much) and that things would get better. But my worst fears, and more, are coming true! already, just three months in!

One of the many, many reasons that I could never be a Tory is because of men like Brian Coleman; men who seem to have a sense of entitlement and seem to believe that they are so special that they should never even have to consider taking public transport or driving themselves. Men who see no difference between publicly paid expenses and their own money.

Although, I rather suspect that if he actually had to pay for the taxi's himself, out of his own salary, he would have been a little less excessive.

There should be a cap on expenses like this...and who bloody signed them off anyway?

Update: Have discovered, whilst perusing Recess Monkey, that it's not just Tory men who go around with a sense of entitlement to live off our taxes but Tory women; this is surely just one big Tory disease. See what happens when they start taking the country for granted again?

God forbid that they get into Government; I'm not sure that we can afford to support the lifestyles of many more of them!

BBC's PM asked a question

in their daily newsletter and I answered...and they put it up on the PM blog.

Why can't politics be more like the church?

Less than 15 years since the introduction of women priests, 1 in 4 vicars are now women. At that rate in less than 15 years 50% of vicars will be women. A statistic that was a total surprise to me as I listened to Woman's Hour, on the way to the office this morning. They will reflect the community that they work in.

Why, therefore, have women found it so hard to make a breakthrough in politics? In 90 years we have only managed to ensure 19% of MPs are women, we have plateaued for the last 11 years, and as I mentioned in my post yesterday, according to the Electoral Reform Society, if the Tories get in we will be going backwards.

Have all the women missing from politics become vicars instead?

No real chance of electing more women into Parliament at the next election

I'm sorry if I'm being a bit slow as this joyous titbit of news (not) first came out from the Electoral Reform Society last week, but I was jet lagged and clearly missed it.

But this is terrible!!

Unless Labour get a 2% increase in their majority (excuse me while I fall off my chair laughing)we won't see any real increase in women in Parliament at all. in fact, even if Labour do get an increase, the increase in women is only by 3 percentage points!!

If the Tories get any sort of majority, whether working or not then the number of women in parliament will fall by about 8 from 2005. And the trend has already started, as we have been replacing female MPs with male MPs in by elections since 2005.

I remember a couple of years ago chatting with one of my local activist colleagues about the all too slow increase in women coming into parliament. He told me that it was going in the right direction and in any case, it was going to be an exponential increase from then on in.

This is clearly not the case and it wasn't the case then.

As Ken Ritchie fromthe Electoral Reform Society says:
“Which ever way you spin it, the next election simply cannot prove a watershed moment for women in politics. Progress has always been hard fought, and the parties are simply not picking their battles.

“1997 was in many ways a false dawn for equality. In the last decade where we’ve needed concerted effort, we’ve seen stagnation. The modest numbers of women in parliament have been taken as a permanent breakthrough. In place of an upward curve we have seen a plateau, in what remains a male dominated institution".
So that's it for the next general election. For those who are interested the Lib Dems in the Electoral Reform Society reckons we're going to get 2 or 3 more women into Parliament from our 2005 levels. That is in effect 3 or 4 as we have reduced the number of women to 9 over this latest parliament.

If one was feeling generous one could say that going from 9 to 12 was a massive increase in terms of percentage increase, but all it does is put us in line with the average in the rest of parliament.

But I'm not feeling generous and we need to be thinking in whole number multiples of increase not percentages..if we wanted to have at least 30% of Nick's 150 MPs in the next two elections to be women that would mean we would have to quintuple (!!??) the number of female MPs. Given that we're not doing that this parliament we're really looking at the next one to sort it out. Rob Blackie did a great of analysis of the nuts and bolts of the scale of the endeavour on Lib Dem Voice last week.

Or are we going to give up and say it's too hard?

The Campaign for Gender Balance has been 'encouraging' and 'training' women since it was set up and if these figures are anything to go by, it's greatest achievement is to stop us from going too far backwards. I support this work (mainly via a standing order) as I'm sure that there are women who need encouragement and training and it is certainly better that we do that then we do nothing a go backwards.

At the same time, part of me rails against this as the approach because it assumes that no one else but the women in the party have to change. If only women would think differently about themselves and undertake a bit of improvement (read: be a bit more like men...oh yes, I can hear the soundtrack to My Fair Lady ringing in my ears now), then it would all be fine!

It's an approach that could be read as intensely patronising, idenitfying women as the problem and it is an approach, as Beatrice Barleon, the ERS women's officer refers to as 'tinkering around the edges'.

I do keep going on about it and am even thinking of changing my blog title to 'Cassandra' but we have to start changing ourselves to make the job of PPC more attractive and feasible for women. We have to stop asking women to change. Instead, we have to start looking at the way we do things, the different 'roles' within the party and the orthodoxy of what makes a 'good' PPC. To do that, we need to look at many other roles within the party. We have to look at broadening the remit of the Campaign for Gender Balance.

Or, we just have to admit to oursleves as a party that we are happy with a situation where men still hold the vast majority of the power and continue to organise ourselves accordingly.

The George W. Bush Sewage Plant and Sky.Com News (or what would you name after Gordon Brown?), the Sky News round up of the top stories on the net has gone 5 days a week; this week they asked me to come and go through the top five stories of yesterday with the very lovelty Martin Stanford (who manages to surf the web and present the news at the same time).

You can see it here!!

My favourite story is the San Francisco Sewage Plant that local people want to rename the George W. Bush Sewage Plant; I first heard about this a couple weeks ago when I was in the states on MSNBC.

It's really creative stuff from the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco, but most of all I love the guy, from the equivilant of the environmental services department, who in defending the plant's environemntal credentials, seemed to suggest that naming it after George W.Bush would be an insult to the sewage plant.


So, what would you name after Gordon Brown??

Plus, got to bump into Natasha Kaplinsky in the make up room, which has got to be worth the trip to Isleworth. However, must make a note to myself to try and look slightly less like Shirley Temple whilst on a national TV - I'm 37 for goodness sake!!!

The inevitable consequence of inexperience

Well, Boris Johnson may be, as Neil says, in danger of underming his own narrative but it seems that he's well on the way to delivering on the narrative that I set out for him before he was elected.

Which is, for those of you that need reminding, that someone without the experience of running a large organisation or mananging a budget or a team of people will not have the experience to know whether they have chosen the right people to shore up that lack of experience. So 'having good people around him' will never make up for the fact that he is a dilettante playing at being Mayor.

The resignations of first, James McGrath and now Ray Lewis just show that Boris is lacking in judgement when it comes to people. Mr Lewis' seeming inability to distinguish what as actually happened against what he would like to happen, in the way he claimed to be a magistrate when he wasn't, is a character flaw that shouldn't have been too hard to pick up.

Boris Johnson is now having to play with the grownups and it would see that for all his intellience he just doesn't have the experience to do it well.

Whither the bendy bus

Ok, Bendy Buses: Dave Hill has got me excited on this in his Comment is Free piece this afternoon and I, and as on all things Londonian, have a very strong opinion on them.

So, here goes:

Firstly, if you looked at all the things that needed money spent on them in London today can we all really say, hand on heart, that buses, not having more of them but just changing the style of them, is the tip top priority for the whole of London?

More important than housing, reducing crime, dragging the tube into the 21st century, ensuring that the rail companies take the oyster card, the Olympics (well, maybe they're more important than the Olympics), congestion, climate change, the Thames barrier, keeping young people occupied on something else than stabbing each other, the threat of bombs, the City, making the west end more pedestrian friendly etc, etc, etc?????

I would say this week, like 16 other weeks already this year, many Londoners will be wondering what we can do about the high rate of teenage knife crime. Will replacing bendy buses with a modern version of the routemaster help? No, not really. Having conductors could help in an indirect way, I suppose. But, you don't have to have a routemaster to have conductors and frankly, it might be better to put the money to funding the British Transport Police; just a thought.....

I find it offensive the Boris Johnson is wasting our money on something as frivolous as this. If he was going to start up some new bus routes and put the routemasters there, then that at least would have the redeeming feature of improving public transport in London. But this, this is just frivolous!

Secondly: OK so, I too liked the open platform. It was great fun and very good for shopping on Oxford Street because the bus never went to fast that you couldn't just step on at any point down the road. But that's about it. They were too small and poky, too hot in summer, a nightmare to get off if you had any sort of shopping or luggage. And do I need to mention the fact that wheelchair users and mothers with buggies couldn't use them?

Boris Johnson told us that he was going to represent all Londoners but replacing accessible buses with routemasters is the opposite of inclusive.

I remember not long after the routemaster was phased out watching a young mother with two kids, one of whom was severely disabled. She waited at the bus stop, got on the bus, sat down putting her son in the wheelchair in the space allocated to them and then after a 5 or 10 minute ride she got off the bus and carried on wherever she was going. That journey would have been impossible with the routemaster; her new found freedom (and let's face it the efficiency because she doesn't have to use taxi's so much now) was breathtaking!

Routemasters were only fun for some people and moving away from the inclusive city that we have become should be resisted.

Thirdly, for many, many years before they were finally taken out of service the routemaster like the bendy bus that followed it only really served central London and a few arterial routes. The majority of Londoners and London bus journeys don't even use them, particularly in the suburbs. So once again, a whole lot of fuss over the centre of London and the suburbs are marginalised. Which is pretty damn surprising as it was the suburbs wot won it for him....when, oh, when will we have a Mayor that is interested in all Londoners?

The mort time we spend discussing whither the bendy bus the less time Boris has to spend on the real problems that Londoners are dealing with every day not a made up problem like the demise of the routemaster

What's happening with the Party Reform Commission?

aka the Bones commission: do any of my fellow Lib Dems know?

My undestanding is that they were going to report after the May elections and whilst I know there has been some additional consultation going on with local parties, is there an updated timetable?

Or did we decide to delay the strategic reform required to ensure a step change in our electoral success, to fight 2 by elections on a purely tactical basis? (Although if someone could tell me what the tactical advantage was, that'd be great). Maybe I should just go and find a wall to hit my head against.

Just to put it in perspective, the costs of just one by election could have been invested in employing a full time (maybe even two, depending on the level of experience that you want) organisational change professional for a year and you could implement the commissions findings (whatever they are) in a fraction of the time and actually enable allow us to deliver on Nick's objectives of 150 MPs within 2 elections.

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