Monday, August 7, 2006

Goodbye blogger, hello WordPress

Please come and find me at my very smart new site and update your RSS readers to

All my past posts and your comments have been transferred to the new site where normal service has been resumed! I've still got to sort out my blogroll and a few other tiny details, but wanted to get this launched before I go off on hols at the end of the week.

Thanks for your tremendous support so far, hope to hear from you all soon, please tell me what you think of my new home ...

Cheque book journalism shoud be banned

Jubilant Gail and Tommy Sheridan
The fight to get that great scoop has led to a sleazy, grubby form of journalism; in fact, it's not journalism, just titillation, writing about coke-fuelled celebs smashed out of their head taking part in orgies, for example.

Why don't the tabloids realise that if they refused to pay for these "dishing the dirt" stories, the chances are they would get them for nothing anyway by self-promoting wannabees, as well as dumped lovers seeking revenge. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of them.

Aren't these wretched souls somehow led on by tabloids to spice up their tale to make it worth their while? What credibility does it create among the readers if these stories are paid for?

I'm not sure if this was the case with the ex-prostitute and two other women who claimed to sleep with the forceful Tommy Sheridan and scored a tremendous victory over the News of the World. However, what other motive could they have had for baring all and trying to ruin a high profile political figure?

The rag has been left with egg on its face and now more than 20 court witnesses face the prospect of being questioned for perjury. Doesn't it make you wonder about other not-guilty trials that are held each day where the defendant is either convicted or acquitted - which means that one side has probably lied or fabricated their account before the court after swearing an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I have attended criminal trials and heard two totally different accounts of the same event, the jury has to choose which version they believe, they have to be sure beyond all reasonable doubt. But when a witness's evidence is dismissed by a jury, it does not result in that person facing charges of perjury. Why not, if it appears they have blatantly lied, made up alibis etc? Perhaps if more people were prosecuted for perjury, lower profile cases too, then fewer people would be tempted to lie, though these cases can be very tricky to prove. As things stand, they seem to get away with it. Unless they have ruffled the feathers of the NoW and cost them a bob or two.

I would like to see a UK version of this Australian web that reveals how much the media pays for stories. It is quite revealing ....

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Govt also paid towards jaunt to Budapest

At the same time that Defra officials enjoyed a three-day waste disposal junket in Germany, the Government helped fund a trip for local politicians to Budapest to learn about blogging and e-democracy where they stayed in a sumptious 5-star hotel. It was an international event which included the Mayor of Washington as a speaker.

Among those who attended from the UK was Oxford Labour councillor Antonia Bance, who wrote about it on her blog. Now how could she resist this invitation?

"Strange phonecall a few weeks ago on newly-connected home phone: “Hi Antonia, it’s Dylan Jefferies at the Department for Communities and Local Government. We like your blog, and you’re a newly-elected councillor, would you like to come to a three day conference on the internet and democracy in Budapest at the end of July? We’ll pay your airfare and hotel…” Well, what would you have said?"

It seems like the DCLG had free tickets to give away and didn't know what to do with them, they appear to have been allocated in a rather ad hoc and cavalier fashion. On another post Antonia comments:

"I was invited to go on a bursary paid for by DCLG; I will try to give an honest assessment of the conference, but bear in mind that the fluffy pillows on which I slept and the wine I drunk at the evening reception was paid for by the great British taxpayer, helped out by a variety of corporate sponsors, so I may fail in speaking truth to power."

The great British taxpayer will be greatly reassured to know their hard earned money gives Antonia such luxurious comfort and pleasure. I posted a question on Antonia's blog, asking why she could't have attended training sessions on blogging in the UK. Her reply was:

"Ellee - it wasn’t a training event for local councillors, there were about five of us there from the UK who weren’t speakers. My understanding was that we were invited to add to the mix of attendees and to bring the experience of elected members who are involved in e-democracy."

True, it wasn't a training event, though Antonia's highlight of the conference seems to have been a workshop on blogging, and as her site looks really good, I don't imagine she needs many tips. But did she follow the advice on only blogging about what you want to see published in the Oxford Mail? I hope she will share some of her expertise with my friend Nick Carter, a Conservative councillor in Oxfordshire who was my boss during last year's election campaign.

Judging from the programme, it seems to have been an excellent event and I would loved to have been invited to "add to the mix of attendees"; I'm quite good at mingling and socialising too. I'm naturally delighted that Antonia had such fun.

I would have found it fascinating to listen to the Mayor of Washington Anthony Williams describe how to connect with hard to reach groups. The Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe offered tips on connecting mayors and citizens - pretty essential stuff for those entering the London mayoral race. But I think my highlight would have been listening to Najat Rochdi, UNDP rep in the Arab world, speak about e-participation for youth and women in Africa and the Arab Region. Not sure if Antonia was there, she hasn't mentioned it on her blog.

Where should we draw the line with making costly overseas visits at the expense of the taxpayer? We obviously need to at times, but are the delegates who are invited the right ones who can really make a difference, who can take things forward? Is there a special criteria that is considered before jetting off on these luxurious trips to assess their usefulness and value?

Good luck, btw, to Lichfield District Council which is shortly set to pioneer a national e-democracy project. I'm sure they will be leading on this at future conferences in the UK where more than a hand-picked few will be invited.

A great discovery

Neville Hobson is to social media what Iain is to Tory bloggers - an icon, of a kind. He is always one step ahead of the game, what he doesn't know isn't worth knowing.

So you can image how flabbergasted I was when I was idly flicking through Technorati and discovered he had been writing about me, recommending me as an excellent woman blogger. I feel terrible for not promoting the BlogHer conference he referred to, but I have to admit it passed me by, probably because of my recent hols. I still regard myself as a new girl on the block and feel immensely flattered at Neville's recommendation.

I also found that MayorWatch had a few kind words for me too. This is all a bit nerve-wracking, I feel I have to maintain certain standards now ....

Suzy's appeal on animals and hols

We are a renowned nation of animal lovers, hence a timely appeal that has been made by Suzy Gale to report back any cases of animal cruelty and neglect that you come across during your hols.

Suzy set up a new organisation called Animals Worldwide, a non political group, along with a number of major UK animal welfare charities, including Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and The Dogs Trust, to tackle this distressing problem. More info available on

Saturday, August 5, 2006

If I had time today, I would...

Bee catching in the 11th century

If I had time today, I would spend hours delving into Domesday online, discovering curious facts about life in 11th century England, when William the Conquerer reigned and commissioned this masterpiece.

The Norfolk rag the EDP has already taken a peek and discovered a few treasures:

"It is an insight into a time when Yarmouth paid 12 pence in land tax to the king, when you might also pay taxes in honey and hawks, and woodland was classed by how many pigs it could feed. Written on 900 sheepskins using goose-feather quills, the book was commissioned in 1085 by William the Conqueror to help him decide how much to charge his subjects."

I didn't realise there were actually two books, the Great Domesday and Little Domesday, with the Little version covering the East Anglian counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk. The entry for Norwich has the only bear in the Domesday book, which shows there was bear-baiting.

Did you know that if you killed a man in Chester on a Sunday and Holy days, you would be fined £4, but half that much on all other days. It obviously paid to keep your temper under control at those times. (I thought they were hanged in those days for murder!)

Instead of finding out more, I'm heading back to Burnham Market for a few more special memories.

My moan of the day

I am a snap happy journo and recently bought a fab new camera to take even better shots. It has not disappointed me.

My moan is about a new memory card I ordered yesterday so I can take dozens of pics. I ordered it from Amazon and delivery was promised within 1-2 days. I need it by next Thursday as I am off on a 2 week trip the day after.

Later in the day, I had an email from their distributor called Purely Gadgets saying delivery would not be made until 2-5 working days. Feeling concerned it would not arrive in time, I called their customer helpline to explain my circumstances, that the only reason I ordered it with them was because I was assured of an early delivery. It seems their man on the phone, Rammy, could only repeat that it would take 2-5 working days starting from Monday, not even Friday. And he could not even find my order on his computer, even though I gave him the order number. As you can imagine, I was not very impressed and he advised me to cancel by email as he could not ensure my delivery would arrive in time.

Surely this is breach of contract if I have it in writing from Amazon that delivery would be made within 1-2 days. And surely companies like Purely Gadgets work weekends too if they are taking hundreds of orders online. Or do they just operate between 9-5 on a Monday - Friday, which is not very efficient in this digital day and age.

I shall obviously report this to Amazon. My belief is that PG lure people into placing orders by promising a prompt delivery, then change the date to suit themselves. It may seem petty to some, but it has really annoyed me.

Can anyone suggest a reputable online dealer for memory cards? Or should I just pop into Jessops?

Friday, August 4, 2006

Liz appointed new Tory Women's Officer

Hoping to add zest and appeal to the Tory campaign to make the Party more appealing for women is Liz St Clair, the newly appointed Conservative Women's Officer.

A little bird told me earlier this week that Liz had the job, but she asked me to hold back on writing about it until it had been finalised. She confirmed it this morning, though it seems Central Office has not yet issued their press release.

Liz was formerly co-ordinator of the Conservative Women's Organisation Forum, she will now be working closely with Margot James.

She told me that she was very keen to support David Cameron's changes and support women inside and outside the Party and work towards attacting new women votes.

I'm afraid I have no pic of Liz, she declined to send one, said it had to be sanctioned from Central Office.

Update from CCO: Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, Margot James said: "I'm delighted Liz is joining the team. We've a wide ranging programme throughout the country and we need to ensure effective dialogue between the Party and the lobby organisations representing women's interests."

Good luck Iain

Iain and other Eastern region Conservative candidates with Tim Yeo

Many congratulations to Iain who kept his head and his dignity after not being placed on the A-list first time round, but has now rightfully been included. Modest in the extreme, he mentions it in passing at the end of this post.

I worked with Iain during last year's election campaign, though he needed no press advice from me, I just had to report back to Central Office about his campaign. I know nobody will work harder and be more genuine in serving his constituents as their dedicated and loyal MP.

And if you need reminding about how I made Iain, blush, then please read this.

Update: Iain does not plan to return to Norfolk, understandably prefering a constituency closer to his home in Tunbridge Wells, and has set his sights on Essex (still within spitting distance of me), as well as Kent and London.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

The West End beckons

I'm heading for the smoke soon with my son James to see Billy Elliot again.

This is a real indulgence as it is second time, but he finds it irristible. He is a budding thespian aspiring to tread the boards, so I could not refuse.

He has recently joined Whizz Kids drama group in Cambridge and is waiting to have his professional photos taken and be assigned an agent. It is highly regarded and many of the talented kids end up with TV and film roles. I know James is good, but I don't know if he is outstanding enough, we will have to wait and see.

As a proud mum, I have enjoyed watching him play the Artful Dodger in Oliver and Bert in Mary Poppins. He does fantasise about playing Billy, but is not keen on wearing a tutu: he'll have to learn that's par for the course....