Saturday, February 11, 2006


Colin, Calls and a Question of Research

One of my favourite Liberal Democrats, top trainer, agent, candidate and all-round lovely person Colin Ross rang yesterday to warn me he was going to republish my ‘leadership profiles’ on his site, along with one of his own. On me. This morning I found he’s been much shorter and kinder than I was (and perhaps deserve). Though backing Ming, he also provides the best round-up of each of the Leadership candidates’ campaigns in one place (I prefer Colin’s site to the ‘official’ Lib Dem one for titbits of party news, as he tends to cut out the more tedious stories). Colin’s a good friend of mine, too; I trust his Liberal instincts and his sense of humour, and am always happy to hold him upright after he’s had a busy day at conference…

At the risk of being critical after he’s been terribly nice to me, I’m flattered that he’s printed my pieces (other than the mood-setting ‘I Wouldn’t Start From Here’) but you’re probably better off reading them here. Even I found the word count a bit forbidding without a bit of formatting to break it up! I’m still very glad to be featured on one of the best all-in-one sources for Lib Dem info. Thanks also to the other bloggers who’ve quoted odd pieces of me, especially those who found my ‘funny bits’ funny (I rarely manage to raise a chuckle in conference speeches). I’ve been a bit of a hermit recently and it’s nice to feel I’m part of Lib Dem gossip again.

Perhaps because he’d read my pieces, the lovely Colin didn’t try to persuade me to vote for Ming (he was too busy trying to make me laugh). Though I’ve not been canvassed directly by any of the campaigns, in the last week I’ve had two lengthy calls from other very dear friends, each of whom I happened to know were significant backers of particular contenders and who hadn’t, at the time, read my profiles. Despite allegations from some that I’m a deep-cover agent for the ‘Winnie Rennie as unity candidate’ campaign, I yearn to be enthused by one of the leadership hopefuls, and I asked each of my friends why they were backing their chosen candidate. As a result I’ve had some very persuasive chats – not hard sell – about Simon and Chris that in each case made me feel rather positive about them. If another of my friends (backing Ming, say) wants to call me up, please do. I just wish I had as much confidence in the contenders themselves as I do in the supporters I’ve spoken to.

After seeing the lovely Colin’s piece, I spent some time this morning making home-made DVDs. The hard disk on our DVD recorder always seems to be near-full, so after yesterday editing down news of Dunfermline to stick on a DVD (yes, I am that sad) and delete, this morning I did the same with the last couple of weeks’ Dave Allen shows to clear space before tonight’s. I’m glad I did, as there are few things to start your Saturday off better than whizzing through a sketch show with lots of Catholic jokes. Go on, watch it tonight. Add to that a lovely phone call from an old friend – one of those mentioned above – and even an edition of Any Questions that I shouted at a bit less than usual. Millionaire Lib Dem backer Paul Marshall did reasonably well, though I didn’t agree with everything he said, but he spoke far better than he writes. If you recognise the name, he was co-editor of The Orange Book and if you’ve read it rather than just hissed at it, remember the dreariest, stodgiest chapter that sent you to sleep? That was his. Perhaps I should revisit it and pop a review up here at some point.

Incidentally, on the energy question that came up, I was reminded of a never-mentioned line of technological research that would be just about the most useful for our energy needs. I wonder why I’ve never heard of anyone trying to come up with what Rob Fenwick calls “a ‘buffer’ to store the energy created by renewables”. Though I can’t agree with him in backing the enormous cost and danger of nuclear energy, it seems to me that the moral of his piece is not about generation – commit to renewable energy and that’s unlimited – but about consistency. We need investment in energy efficiency and in putting renewables into operation, but if there’s one problem that needs some serious R&D funding even if it doesn’t sound ‘sexy’, it’s how to make our energy supply both green and continuous. I may be ill-informed, but I’ve yet to hear that it’s certainly impossible, so why don’t we try it?

Would you recommend your make of DVD recorder? I'm looking for a good value (i.e., cheapish) one with a hard drive.
Yes, I would. We got it about this time last year* and it hasn't had too many mishaps. It's easy to use, too, which is handy. We got it online and I seem to remember for about £250-300, though prices may well have come down a year later.

It's a (peers at front) Panasonic DMR-E85H. The hard disk's about 17 hours' worth at the best quality setting; it stretches to about 140 if you can put up with pictures made out of Lego. I have a feeling there was another model with twice the space for about twice the price.

Good luck with your search - I've not used other models, so can't do a comparison, but we're happy with it.

*Another of those curious coincidences like getting a digital box the day before BBC Choice's 'Doctor Who Week' or a DVD player when The Five Doctors came out. Cough.
Such buffers do exist now, in Scotland and Wales mostly as they rely on potential energy and water, both being in relatively generous supply thereabouts. I've been around Cruachan, just south of Oban, and it's something that works pretty well.

Can't see any solid reason why similar things couldn't be created in the Peaks, say, subject to at least a modicum of environmental sensitivity.

Oh, and FWIW my "1" is going for Simon too - I've doubts about him (as I have with all three), but at least he makes what are for me the right policy noises; and if, as polls (accurate or otherwise) are correct and he gets knocked out in the first count, my "2" for Ming will at least help keep the "moderniser" out.
Can you point me to some more information on the storage of energy from renewables in Scotland? Got to be worth a look :)
re Paul Marshall - at the LSE recently I was in mid-tirade against Orange Bookers to him before my brain kicked in - "damn damn damn damn he paid for the damn book damn damn".

I remember speaking for a ridiculously long time just so that I could work out a decent answer to his inevitable follow-up: "So have you read it, then?"

"No, but I'd like to" seems so weak in retrospect.
I'd vaguely heard of those, perlmonger, and like Rob I'd be glad to hear more - I'm glad it's not just a theory I'd caught somewhere, but something that actually works. Another idea I've heard, which as far as I know isn't yet in practice, is oil-rig-style offshore platforms that use windmills / tidal power to electrolyse water, converting that natural power into hydrogen which can then be stored and burnt more cleanly than fossil fuels. Any views?

Rob's story about Paul Marshall made me smile. Reminds me of how Richard met one of the most brilliant but controversial of Doctor Who authors, Lawrence 'Mad Larry' Miles; down the pub one night my beloved was holding forth on what we both think of as Larry's double-volume train wreck, and as he started to explain, "Of course, Interference is Larry's worst book because..." a sinister leather-jacketed figure standing immediately behind him came in with an, "Oh, yes?" Richard embarrasses rather more easily than I do, and I don't think it was his favourite introduction...
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