December 13th, 2005

Old Friend

Legal/Political Questions - Freedom of Speech/Protest plus Entry to the USA

1. Does anyone have the boundaries of the 'Zone of National Shame' around Parliament? This is the half-mile area which people are no longer allowed 'unauthorised' protests.

One possibility is trying to oraganise en masse to go down there and ask the police present to define it for us and then stand at the edge and carry out a protest. As the protest is mainly about free speech we were also thinking about having people - one at a time - go into the 'Zone of National Shame' and recite Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see my user bio for the quote). As the government fully supports this declaration it would be a sign of 'support' and not 'protest' which might make a firmer legal case should any of us end up arrested.

2. If you are given a 'conditional discharge' when tried in a UK court of law do you still have a criminal record? I ask this bit because my work involves me travelling to the USA and they have a policy of not letting people with criminal records into the country. This would be tricky for me. Also, if any of my American friends could clarify the laws of entry to the US that would be appreciated.
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Old Friend

Another Q for you.....

What, if any, does a tour company need to organise a tour of historic sites in London? Wouldn't need to go in them, just view them from the outside.

Hundreds of tours take place in London every day without contravening the 'mass gathering' laws (can you see where this is going).

I was thinking - would it be possible to organise a 'Charity Tour' of some of the sites (Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, etc) for a largish group of people. Have a token cost for everyone which will give you a free commemerative t-shirt (something simple like an anti-war slogan or the declaration of human rights dealing with free speech or anti-torture with the tours dates and maybe a witty non-threatening/political commentquote on the back). The fee is optional and any up to the each person how much they pay (with a reccommend amount covering base t-shirt price but waved for those who couldn't afford that). Any additional cash raised would be donated to a good cause - for instance Amnesty International.

This way we could have a bundle of people going round a few sites of note taking photos and having fun, raising money for charity :p

If we didn't get shouty at the police then they shouldn't really have any grounds to stop us, although I think in some areas we'd probably still get a talking to...
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    The Smiths

The Smiths...

This may surprise you but I have made it through 33 and a half years and managed to NEVER hear a Smiths album all the way through. Sure I know a number of their songs (who growing up in the 80's and being part of the alternative scene doesn't), sure back in sixth form The Smiths were a popular band and got played on the stereo in the common room, but I've never owned a Smiths record and never listened to more than a few songs courtesy of friends or fellow students.

This was partially because I never really used to think much of them. I liked a couple fo tracks here and there but on the whole I could pass them by quite easily.

Well, years pass and after hearing a few of their tracks recently both on telly and at work courtesy of Sean (a *big* Smiths/Morrissey Fan) I found myself wanting a better listen. Then I discovered their 'The Very Best Of....' on a site for £6. 22 Tracsk. All the popular tunes. Well, I thought why not and ordered it.

It arrived today.

I've so far listened to the whole thing twice. It seems that The Smiths have finally grown on me. Not when I was a mopey teenager but now when I'm a mopey thirty-something. Better late than never I guess?

Anyway, I take back anything negative I've ever said about The Smiths. My teenage student mates were right. They are pretty good.

Although saying that I am now listening to HIM's latest offering 'Dark Light'. Just for a change of pace you understand :p
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(News/Politics) LibDem Leadership

Kennedy Told To Improve or Resign (BBC News Online; Tuesday 13th December 2005)

Strangely enough I was having a conversation with Delphine earlier this evening along very similiar lines.

Now that the Tories have got David Cameron as their ledaer and Gordon brown is likely to be the Labour leader by the next General Elecrtion I think the LibDems are going to be in a bit of trouble. Especially if Charles Kennedy remains as there leader. The only problem is finding someone charismatic and forceful enough to take the reigns and move the party forward.

Cameron will attract a lot of people back to the Conservative party and added to that will be the continued negative feeling towards the Labour party - not least because of Blair - but also just because they will have been in government for so long that people will start wanting a change. When Labour came to power anyone could have been leading the party as Britain had just 'had enough' of the Tories. It just happened to be a young, charismatic leader called Tony Blair. The same will soon be true of Labours exit. People will have just 'had enough' of this government and its policies. Having the Tories run by a 'young, charismatic' leader is just a bonus and will attract a lot of voters, especially if the Tories policies start moving into the centre ground too.

Brown will also win back some support to the Labour party that has drifted over to the LibDems. He will be a change from Blair and a number of people who've moved to the LibDems have partially done so because of their dislike for Blair in particular.

These two things ARE going to pose problems to not least the growth of LibDem MPs ion the next Parliament but more worryingly keeping the number they have already there.

This last General Election was a time when the LibDems could really have stamped their mark firmly on British Politics. Sure, they did good. They are the strongest third party Britain has seen since 1921 near the start of the Labour movement. But with the anti-War/anti-Blair/anti-Tory feeling they could, and should, have done a lot better. Kennedy has been a good leader but he is not the man to take the party yet another step further up the political ladder. Sure he can be very charismatic if you meet him personally (so I've been told) but little of that really comes over in interviews and reports. I wish we still had Paddy Ashdown personally. I've no idea who in the party could replace Charles Kennedy at the moment. The 'Big Two' name sin the pot would be Simon Hughes (who I find immensely grey - always have done - he just strikes me as dull although I know he can be very witty - but perception and image unfortunately count a lot these days with the voting public) and Sir Menzies Campbell who in my mind is one of the best MP's in the whole Parliament. The only problem with Sir Campbell is that he is getting on in years (he's currently 64). I'd love to see him as a 'stop-gap' leader whilst the party looks for someone younger and as charismatic as him but I can't see that really happening.

Anyway, all speculation as Kennedy hasn't made any signal he'll be stepping down at any point soon, despite grumblings within not only parts of the party but also his own Front Bench.

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