Month: July 2009

Missing the point on organic food

It’s not unusual for scientists to be researching things that are completely pointless, but with the recent research on organic food they are completely missing the point.

Today’s press is reporting that organic food brings no health benefits.  Not only is that no surprise, but it misses the point of why organic food is important.  Organic food is about not eating the chemicals that farmers spray on their crops and at the same protecting the people who live in farming areas from the poisons that end up in the air as a result.  Whilst direct health benefits would be nice, it isn’t the reason why people choose to buy organic food.

Whilst I am on the subject, I also look forward to a day when a supermarket decides that to encourage organic farming, they decide to cross-subsidise the produce they have for sale.  By transferring the difference in price between ordinary produce and organic produce, to make sure that organic food is either the same price or ideally cheaper than mainstream food.  I suspect there are practical difficulties to this, but it would give a huge boost to organic farming and hopefully make sure that more of it is grown or reared in this country rather than brought in from abroad, something which again will help to cut the price.  It will also give a lot of very good publicity to whoever does it first.

If you like my blog, please vote for me

blogsvote-1In an attempt to arrest my rapid decline down the Total Politics list of best of Liberal Democrat blogs, I thought I would give this a push.  Don’t forget you have just 48 hours to vote for your favourite political blogs – of which I am sure this is one!   I managed 37th last year, which was an improvement on the year before, but it is a far cry from 21st in the first year, but there are a lot more blogs these days and I admittedly don’t have the time to post as much as I used to these days.

Plenty of people moan about this annual poll and Iain Dale’s self-appointed status as an important political commentator, but don’t forget it is only a bit of fun and which of us can’t say that it is flattering to be placed in a list of the top 50 best blogs.

Don’t forget to vote here.

The Lutonian Candidate

Unsurprisingly, Esther Rantzen’s announcement that she is going to contest Luton South at the next General Election has unleased a tirade of anger from people in politics.  Whilst I may be about to add to that, I am well aware that the attitude of your average voter is probably: “good on her.  She has shown through her TV programmes that she fights for the underdog.  The only reason these politicians don’t like it is because she upsetting their cosy little corrupt world, when what we need is more independent people like Esther Rantzen to shake up politics.”  But the reason why I am annoyed by her decision to stand is the same reason why I don’t like directly-elected mayors.  It means that the decision on who becomes MPs is all about celebrity.

I have no objections to celebrities getting involved in politics, and I actually think it is good when someone well known is prepared to nail their colours to the mast and actually endorse or even stand for a particular party.  After all, you must be doing something right if a successful popular person is prepared to go public and back you – such as Daniel Radcliffe’s recent endorsement of the Lib Dems – when it is possible that it could disappoint a part of their fan base.

But what I object to is someone getting elected as an independent purely because they are famous without any regard to what they stand for.  Maybe I agree with everything that Esther Rantzen stands for, I don’t know as I don’t know what she believes in.  And that is the issue.  There will now inevitably be many people who will choose to vote for Esther Rantzen because she is nice and seen as anti-corruption, when quite possibly they will disagree with everything else she believes in.  I expect the same was the case with Martin Bell, who whatever the rights and wrongs of his candidacy, picked up many votes from Conservatives angry with the Hamiltons even though his politics is closer to Labour and the Lib Dems.

The reason this is important is because there are far more things going through parliament that require a political opinion than just a view on corruption.  I expect there will be other candidates in Luton South who are similarly anti-corruption, (I hear that the Lib Dem candidate Qurban Hussain is pretty well regarded), but now they may struggle to get anywhere because of the attractions of a famous independent MP.  Even if their political views are potentially far more aligned with those of the people of Luton South than Esther Rantzen’s.

I accept that there is also a frustration on my part because Luton South was actually a decent prospect for the Liberal Democrats to win at the next general election.  With Esther Rantzen standing that makes it a lot tougher, and as a result people who would have made excellent MPs, (whether Lib Dem or from any other party), may well be denied their chance of being elected as a result of one quirk, unique to their constituency that has skewed what would ordinarily have happened in that seat.

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Reverend and the Makers at Sheffield Music City

A quick follow up to yesterday’s post about Sheffield Music City, as last night I went up to Devonshire Green to watch Reverend and the Makers.  By the time they came on, it was chucking down with rain but it didn’t spoilt it at all and it was the busiest I had seen it all weekend.  An amazing set from a band that I knew I liked, but whose songs I didn’t know well, and once again it was all for free.  Yet again, we also had the mad old bloke who was dancing around in shorts and a hat – anyone who was there will know what I mean.

I really hope that we do this again next year as it could become a really successful annual event.  There are of course a few things that could be improved, but generally it was a really good event, that made the city come together and created a great atmosphere.  It must have brought a lot more trade to the city centre shops as well.  Next year, we should also try and market it outside the city too and get other people coming in to the city to enjoy it too.

Finally, I am also pleased because a couple of years ago I mulled over the idea of Sheffield having a music festival in lots of small venues all around the city centre, which could take advantage of the fact that Sheffield is currently well known for its music scene.  Thankfully someone who could so something about the idea also had the same thought.

Sheffield Music City festival

The Baghdaddies at Sheffield Music CityEveryone who knows me, knows that I am very proud of being a Sheffielder.  I love the city, and I am clearly not the only one.  Think about it, it’s very rare for a musician, actor or other celebrity to be from Sheffield without you knowing it.  Actually, thinking about it, I suppose you wouldn’t know they were from the place if you didn’t know it, but I think you get the idea.  Sheffielders are just very in to their city.  But after going to the new Sheffield Music City festival tonight, I am even more proud than I already was.

The downside to today was a rare day of working on a Saturday, but as soon as I got off the train home I went up to the World Stage in the Peace Gardens and was able to see the brilliant Baghdaddies.  I have never seen them before, but they clearly have a bit of a cult following judging from the people who were there.  It was packed, and with people of all ages and backgrounds.  They were brilliant musicians and great fun.  I will definitely see them again.

The main stage on Devonshire Green topped off a great evening – and all of it for free.  My initial mistake, (apart from being broke – payday is Tuesday – and so I couldn’t afford to buy a drink), was not realising that there were still (free) tickets left over for the main stage which they Pixie Lott at Sheffield Music Cityreleased as people left.  So, I ended up watching what should have been a real highlight – Athlete – through a gap in the surrounding fences.  I wasn’t the only one, as Devonshire Street was full of people also watching through the fence or just sitting in the street listening to the music.  After getting in I then saw Preston, Pixie Lott, Booty Luv and my favourite Little Boots.  Whilst not all of it is my choice in music, that’s a pretty good line up for a free festival, and tomorrow I will be back for Reverend and the Makers.

The best bit though was just the atmosphere.  Everyone was really enjoying it and Sheffield felt absolutely amazing, if you also add in the independent venues also running things alongside it as part of Tramlines Festival, the people who are in town to enjoy the music rather than just go out and get drunk, and of course the new Wheel of Sheffield, it was great.  During their gig, the Baghdaddies said “Sheffield, you have a beautiful city.  You should be proud” and you could feel everyone thinking “don’t worry, we are.”

Can you list all your MPs?

I wrote this post the week before last but for some reason never posted it.  It’s all incredibly anoraky, but I couldn’t resist the meme where you have to list all the MPs who have represented you in your life.  Mine is somewhat complicated by the fact I spent the first three years of my life in Sweden, however I have at least been able to find the political representation of the constituency in which I lived (of course being Sweden it was a multi-member constituency elected using PR and I am proud that my place of birth is considered the most Liberal part of Sweden).

Born 25th November 1975

1975-1976 Moderaterna (Conservatives) x 3, Centern (Centre) x 1, Folkpartiet (Liberals) x 4, Socialdemokraterna (Labour) x 8, Vansterpartiet (Communists) x 2 (Göteborgs Kommun)
1976-1979
Moderaterna x 3, Centern x 3, Folkpartiet Liberalerna x 4, Socialdemokatrerna x 7, Vansterpartiet x 2 (Göteborgs Kommun)
1979-1987 Sir John Osborn (Sheffield Hallam) – Conservative
1987-1997 Sir Irvine Patnick (Sheffield Hallam) – Conservative
(1994-1997 whilst at university Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent Central) – Labour)
1997-1999 Richard Allan (Sheffield Hallam) – Liberal Democrat
1999-2002 Bob Laxton (Derby North) – Labour
2002-2003 Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) – Plaid Cymru
2003-2005 Sandra Gidley (Romsey) – Liberal Democrat
2005-2007 Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam) – Liberal Democrat
2007-present Richard Caborn (Sheffield Central) – Labour

So ignoring the first three years, I have been represented by four different political parties in my lifetime.  I expect that makes me fairly unique amongst those who read this.

Finally, on the subject of representation by several parties, another geeky note based on the time I lived in Chandler’s Ford between 2003-5.  Anyone who lived in my home will have been represented by 5 MPs over the last 17 years, and will be represented by a different one again next time, which must be some sort of record.

1955-1992 David Price (Eastleigh) – Conservative
1992-1994 Stephen Milligan (Eastleigh) – Conservative
1994-1997 David Chidgey (Eastleigh) – Liberal Democrat

constituency boundaries were then changed

1997-2000 Michael Colvin (Romsey) – Conservative
2000-2009/10 Sandra Gidley (Romsey) – Liberal Democrat

constituency boundaries are now changing again, and so whatever happens they will have yet another new MP, but my money is on:

2009/10-… Martin Tod (Winchester) – Liberal Democrat

I finally succumb to Twitter

Ever since I first found out what Twitter was it sounded right up my street.  My friends have got used to me occasionally sending random texts about bizarre things that have happened during my day, so now Twitter lets me do it for the benefit (or not) of a few more people.  As one of my friends who recently joined Twitter said, “this does look like a cut down facebook, but then again my fav bit of facebook”, and that’s just where I am.  I can get loads of entertainment from people’s Facebook status updates, but I never get around to doing it very often.

So lets see how this goes, as my blog goes through fits and starts in term of how regular I update it.  I wouldn’t say I am a technophobe, but if something looks a bit scary then it takes me a while to start using it, even though with blogging I was one of the early adopters.  All these @ and # symbols with Twitter just scared me off a bit to start with as I didn’t understand them, but now I’ve got a vague grasp of what they are about and realised that I don’t actually need to bother with them, then it should be fine.  I also thought it would never work with my phone, but now I know I can text it will be fine, I just won’t really reply to anyone until I eventually replace my handset in the coming year.

So you can read my Twitters on the right hand column of this blog, or through http://twitter.com/andershanson.  Thank you to Andi and Charlotte, who probably didn’t realise that it was comments by both of them who finally persuaded me to take the plunge.