Thursday, August 26, 2004
How long will it be until we get a response from the left here in Britain? I'm really looking forward to it! Basically this story says that before the recent referendum in Venezuela, President Chavez signed deals with Chevron-Texaco and Microsoft.
Given the socialist revolutionary instincts of these two corporations, how long before we start hearing from all those SWP dinosaurs that they were (a) betrayed by Chavez and his so-called 'popular' Bolivarian revolution; (b) never a supporter of Chavez in the first place, but of the Venezuelan people, or (c) that they know Chavez is just using the machines of capitalist imperialism to extract largesse from the American tyrant to the north.
Answers on a postcard please.
Until then, I'll just assume the deafening silence from the old left is a momentary sense of disbelief as they take it all in. Cue crashing of jaws on tables and smashed crockery...
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
I never thought I'd say this...
...but go, Ming, go!
Finally someone stands up in the party and tells some of our more 'enthusiastic' MPs where to shove it. Not that Ming is beyond taking the top-down approach himself. But really, it's become exasperating that our elected representatives seem to think they have a greater say in party policy than the wider membership.
Because of the visibility of our MPs over our councillors and other party members and affiliated organisations, it's perhaps inevitable they get more publicity by the media (limited as it is!). The nature of Parliament which enables political parties present there to be more organised than their grass roots also doesn't help.
Admittedly our policy-making system could well do with an overhaul. Were I going to conference for the whole thing I'd be interested to hear Jeremy Hargreaves at the Liberator fringe meeting on 'wasted trees' (relating to the mountains of paper used for policy motions). But it's good that finally a senior politician in the party has pointed out what needs saying.
And to think that I never thought we saw things the same way. Being interviewed by him a few years ago for a particular job I came out thinking that he and I would never see eye-to-eye on certain subjects.
How wrong I was.
Monday, August 23, 2004
Right. I've tried several approaches. Perhaps this is the best way to find out whether anyone is interested in renting my spare room.
Do check it out. I'm looking for £125 per week (which includes all bills) for what I hope whoever's looking will think is reasonable. Also I've included other pictures of the rest of the flat too, so prospective tenants can see what else is in the flat. So go on. Take a look at what's on offer below.
Drop me an email (located on the sidebar) if interested.
I do wonder how much time I'm going to get on this blog for the next few months. Doing a weekend round-up on the Sao Paulo election took awhile, scouring for reports and translating them! Still, it's only for a few months and I'm sure I'll come back to this blog soon enough.
But as I said last week, this will free me up to write about other things on this blog. And so I can inform my two readers that the Peladao (Big Picnic) in Regent's Park seemed to be a success.
Organised by the Jungle Drums magazine for the Brazilian community, admittedly we didn't get there till quite late - and most importantly - after the capoeira had finished. Bummer. But the football was still going (though judging by the exhaustion and slowness of the players, I suspected we were watching the final). There was also one of the samba bands warming up for the Notting Hill Carnival this weekend. A few stalls selling acai and steaks, plenty of people sitting on the grass (although it didn't feel warm), but it definitely had an end-of-day feel about it.
Would have been there earlier of course, but family duty called (along with a good stack of ribs while celebrating a birthday). I'll be interested in the 'post-match' analysis of the event in next month's edition of Jungle Drums.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Apologies for the lack of posts today. I've been setting up a new blog, which will be done in collaboration with Andrew Stevens, of Race 4 City Hall and Guacamoleville. We're putting together a blog on the Sao Paulo election, which can be accessed here. Hopefully it will mean shifting all the stuff I've been doing on the contest from these pages and giving more attention to other things here.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Went down to Cargo in Rivington Street, Shoreditch, last night. A friend of a friend was promoting a club night, the main draw being Ska Cubano.
Pretty cool sounds, with a large band of two sax, trombone, horn, guitar, drums, bongo drums, keyboard, cello and bass. That's not counting the two singers (bedecked in shiny white suits and berets) and one body recording it all on camera. If you've been down to Cargo, you'll know the stage isn't particularly big. How they managed to get several members from the audience up there as well and still dance, I don't know.
Pretty good sound too. It was recognisably ska (but not in an Ian Drury or Madness sense) and yet the Cuban sounds were distinctive throughout. Cheerful music which was definitely not up itself. But an hour and a half was about right.
Odd crowd too. Some dressed in Hawaii shirts and shorts, others in traveller fare which hasn't been seen since the tree protests of the mid-1990s, complete with nose rings and mullets with the sides shaved off.
They're playing one more gig this weekend at the Tottenham reggae festival.
Hmm. So the Lib Dems are using the silly season (and the Olympics) to make a sporting point. Oh well, why not?
Interesting how the story changes, isn't it? Don Foster makes the comment that because schools aren't good at identifying potential sportspeople, PE co-ordinators should come in and develop this skill. And he seems to be indicating these co-ordinators could be champions, whether at local, regional or national level. At least that's the implication.
So to the e-Politix take: "Liberal Democrats want sports stars to replace traditional PE teachers.
Under their plans, experts will teach their specialist sport at a number of local schools, giving more children access to top coaching."
Not quite what Don was promising, I think. And a look at the upcoming conference motion on sport doesn't have that angle either. Nowhere does it say these 'reformed' PE teachers to PE co-ordinators need to be existing sports stars. In fact, how would an elite sports personality find the time to commit to a school on a regular basis?
But maybe that's not the point. The Lib Dems want a quick headline and if that means the media misinterpreting what is proposed, then so be it. And the likelihood of the press office asking the media for an apology for misinterpreting the story? Less than zero, methinks.
What are we to make of the Government’s decision to upgrade the status of the embattled Central Bank president, Henrique Meirelles, from a civil servant to a minister? He’s currently under investigation for moving his finances around and avoiding paying tax. As you might imagine, the opposition is making a meal of it, desperate to gain some political capital in election year.
Hence the decree yesterday which means Meirelles will no longer be investigated as an ordinary person, but answerable only to the Supreme Court, a privilege ministers are afforded. I suppose from one perspective it removes the sting from the political consequences of this case. But on the other it looks like favours for the boys.
What an ideal time for Lula to sign this decree though. Tonight the Brazilian football team is playing a friendly in war-torn Haiti, as a publicity stunt for Brazil’s UN mission there and bid for a UN Security Council seat. What better way to bury a story then to do it on the eve of the government’s attempt to raise the country’s international standing?
Last week (13 August) I recounted “What’s at stake?”, a document drafted by the political scientist Emir Sader. Today the Folha would seem to back up the importance of these elections for the PT (Workers Party). Polls indicate the left-wing PT and the centrist PSDB (Social Democrats) are the front runners in 68 of the largest cities in Brazil. These account for nearly a third of the population.
Of the 68, the PT currently runs 24 and only leads in 13. Which makes the value of Sao Paulo all the more important. Beyond the PSDB the only other challenger to them and the PT is the catch-all PMDB (Democratic Movement Party). But even they don’t stand much of a chance in either Sao Paulo or Belo Horizonte, two of the bigger cities which would offer them national projection.
And where are the neo-liberal PFL (Liberal Front Party), you may ask? Well, they needn’t bother putting up their own candidates, when they can use the PSDB as their proxies.
The Amazonas governor, Eduardo Braga (PPS) is to lodge a formal complaint against the Federal Police for the heavy handed way they carried out Operation Albatross. This involved arresting 20 people and computers and documents relating to an investigation which has seen R$500 million in public funds go missing. Braga’s grumble is a constitutional one, with the Federal Police occupying state buildings and impeding officials.
But I wonder if he doth protest too much? It’s election year and in this interview with Em Tempo, it’s made suggested that Braga is taking a contrary stance to the PT candidate in the Belem mayoral election, by supporting its rival from the PFL.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
And now closer to home. Is there any connection with the decision to send John Prescott to North Cornwall, after his involvement in this?
Also how reassuring to finally see Charlie note the value of challenging Labour at the next General Election. For the last three years we've been listening to this gibberish that we need to out-Tory the Tories if we're to replace them as the opposition party. But after the successes of Brent East and Leicester South might we finally see a more radical alternative and strategy approach?
My guess is probably not. The story's just to fill copy and most likely a sop to those of us in the party who want to see a more robust approach taken against Labour. It's acknowledgement of the work done in Labour areas to date (and the impending by-election in Labour Hartlepool as well). But come the General election we'll be back to a more simple message of needing to beat the Tories.
Uh, hello? Who's in government at present (even if there ain't much to choose between the present chap and the last lot)?
Finally something for Sao Paulo mayoral candidate, Erundina to cheer. The PSB (Brazilian Socialist Party) is doing well with a 35% showing in the latest polls according to the Estadao, making it a tie between her party and the incumbent from the Workers Party (PT). Unfortunately, it’s not in Sao Paulo where this poll took place, but in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais).
Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Last week I predicted the PSB and their coalition partners, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) could start providing us with entertainment following the candidate’s poor showing in the polls. And sure enough, the fun started, with a PMDB stalwart being brought in to squash dissenters in the campaign (see post yesterday).
Anyone who has been to Brazil and sat through the news post-novelas (soap operas) during an election year will know the sheer inanity which follows. Wall-to-wall coverage of various candidates all getting their minute of fame. And unlike British political broadcasts, you don’t just get five minutes; it can go on a full 45 minutes in some cases.
So pity the poor burghers of Sao Paulo, who are about to get it shoved in their faces. Paulo Maluf, fresh from a banking scandal, is going to air his ‘Team Maluf’ ads, with various sports personalities all expressing support for the man. Rather timely, wouldn’t you say? Expect more exploitation of the commercial sporting extravaganza in Athens before the week is out.
Meanwhile Social Democrat and former front-runner, Jose Serra, has sworn off attacking his opponents for the next two weeks. Given his fall in the polls last week, it’s probably just as well. So what’s his spot going o say? Public, meet: Serra: A man of vision’. Jose’s going to set out his plans for the city and his achievements as health minister in the previous government.
Practically, it’s about all the ad men can do with him, given the man’s gaping lack of charisma. I suppose they could do something with his wife, but she's not up for election, is she?
Monday, August 16, 2004
Meanwhile it's all fun and games over at Erundina HQ (Brazilian Socialist Party - PSB). Former Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) governor and state party president, Orestes Quercia, has been drafted in to oversee the financial management of the coalition's campaign. He claims he won't get involved with the political direction - that's up to the candidate. But what likelihood is there that he hasn't been brought in to add some weight to the team and make sure that disaffected PSB members don't peel off and support Marta's re-election bid?
Back in March Quercia was one of those who expressed discontent at the governing PT's economic policy and advocated leaving the coalition in Congress. What better person could be brought into Erundina's floundering campaign to prevent the lefties scarpering to the exit?
So a poll shows Marta (Workers Party - PT) in the lead yet again: his time among the 16% of Sao Paulo's population which classify themselves as evangelicals. Her main opponent, Jose Serra (Social Democrat - PSDB) must be feeling as sick as a pig.
Poor Jose is even losing out to the right-wing ex-mayor, Paulo Maluf (Popular Party - PP). 72% of those saying they'll vote Maluf will stick with him whatever happens, compared to 71% loyalty to Marta and 58% for Serra himself. Serra must be starting to wonder what he can possible do.
Maluf will be especially pleased with these findings from the eponymous Datafolha poll company, since he's had some bad publicity over the weekend. He claimed to not know anything about a movement of some US$400,000 in a American bank recently. Still, if you have nearly R$6 million stuck in a French bank account, what's a few hundred thousand here and there?
What is it about all things foreign? A trip to the Museu das Belas Artes (Fine Art Museum to you and me) in Rio gives it away. Brazil still maintain a sense of cultural inferiority in relation to Europe. And so it is proved again this weekend.
How many read this Folha article in which the Financial Times and the Observer have both monitored the ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the current dodgy goings on in Brazil's banks? According to the Observer, "in many counties, parliamentary inquiries are a fundamental rock of a democracy. But in Brazil they run the risk of turning into a farce."
Cue mumblings and shamefacedness among Brazil's political elite.
Of course if this was an American publication, chances are the journalist in question would be deemed to be disrespectful to the nation and banned from ever entering (just like the recent example when a journalist's credentials were revoked for passing comments on President Lula's drinking habits).
Friday, August 13, 2004
Just come back from lunch with my interested publisher. Progress on the book has been slow, ever since her initial interest nearly six months ago.
Admittedly it's my fault. I was electioneering for much of that time and had little time to devote to finding it financial support.
But that was before I started blogging. I wonder if I some pro-active, web-based advance work might help? An installment here which - while not hitting many members of the public - could be one way, I suppose. But I'd need the right links to drive others here...
Excuse me while I go get my thinking cap on...
I could start a blog on the back of the emails that I get sent by Cowley Street. I really could.
Yesterday I was being lobbied (along with everyone else signed up to the party's email account) to vote Lembit 4 Prez once again. I'm assured that
'as the party's vice-President for the last four years, Lembit has already shown tremendous energy, throwing himself into doing the things he will need to do as President: visiting local parties, motivating and training members, and recruiting new ones.'
'And for those of a less active bent, there this: 'he is already very well known outside political circles. His high media profile will help him to use the post of
President to reach out to ordinary people who don't watch Question Time or
listen to the Today programme.'
So if I vote for Lembit I'll be expected to attend various training sessions? Or perhaps despatched to Hartlepool, where according to his last missive, he will be spending much of his time.
Also a letter from Jody Dunn, our candidate up there. Everything, including the kitchen sink has been thrown in. But to the uninitiated in Lib Dem letters, here's a dissection of what it really means:
'I've now learnt (the hard way) about the need for ultra comfortable shoes at all times during a by-election campaign - the frenetic pace doesn't give your feet much time to recover.'Ah, yes. Remind everyone how much walking you're doing.
'The future of our local hospital is shaping up to be one of the major
issues in the town. Dr Evan Harris MP has come up from Oxford (thanks Evan!) to
help campaign and his health expertise has been extremely useful.'
Hospital? But so soon! How can this be? Third paragraph in and already the standard campaign material. With a senior name dropped in for good measure.
Self-deprecation added in. We don't all want boring candidates do we?
'Most embarrassing moment of the campaign so far: being asked to wear a
Stetson and line dance in the middle of the town square on The Headland.'
'It never stops in our HQ. The supply of donuts is constant and
occasionally we get a pie and flan from Sheila Tumilty (a great local party
member). People arrive from eight in the morning and there are usually still
people here at midnight - and they come from everywhere.'
Translation: where are you? Why are you not campaigning?
'Luxembourg is the furthest yet (if you discount Charles flying in
the Democrat convention in the States).'
'I hear by-election regular Erlene Watson is going to visit - so
will need to check if Orkney is closer than Luxembourg. Might also be able to
practise my Finnish on him - sceptical he can actually speak it - I reckon it's
What and who is she talking about?
All in all, a rather odd letter.
Bloody typical isn't it? For some reason my Urban Junkies email is arriving late. So I missed this offer: speed flatmating. Exactly what I need.
I'm looking for a new flatmate (now why didn't I post this on the web before? Perhaps because my three readers either have homes already or having read my constant posts on Brazilian politics would rather live with their parents and have their nails pulled out) and this could have helped. Sit down with some potential people and see whether we got on.
But no. I took the boring route of posting on the web. Yawn.
Interesting piece here by the left-wing academic, Emir Sader regarding the risks for the governing Workers Party (PT) in the upcoming elections (and what a relief to escape the vacuous comments being made by the candidates!).
The Sao Paulo mayoral election is important to the party because of its national projection. The contest is between the PT and the Social Democrats (PSDB), who had control of the national government until two years ago. A good showing here would help towards boosting the PT's image in the presidential and congressional elections two years from now.
The other important election is that in Porto Alegre. The poll figures which I analysed there a few weeks ago are good for the PT. And the role that Porto Alegre has played in the development of the party cannot be over-estimated. It is was here that the idea for which the party became distinctive came into being: the participatory budget. Porto Alegre is also the centre of the movements which spawned the World Social Forum, the anti-globalisation network, and the militant Landless Peasants Movement (MST).
But whereas Sao Paulo offers a moderate, soft-left image of the PT, that in Porto Alegre has tended to be associated with a stronger, more radical version. If the PT were to lose Sao Paulo, but keep Porto Alegre, then the mayor of the latter city would become the second most important PT office holder after Lula himself. It would give the left of the party a greater voice than it's previously had. And it may well make the party more distinctive than it is now.
But whatever the result in Sao Paulo, if Porto Alegre is (inconceivably) lost, that could end its experience of innovative governance and the symbolism of the various ideals and projects attached to the party within the city.
On it rumbles. The fall out from the latest Datafolha poll for Sao Paulo mayor, which puts the incumbent, the Workers Party’s (PT) Marta Suplicy, on top, continues to attract comment.
The Socialist Party/Democratic Movement Party (PSB/PMDB) candidate, Erundina, is feeling especially sour. Having made little headway, with a poll of less than 10%, Erundina commented:
‘Since the beginning my candidacy has been contested by some in my party because they are being agitated by the PT. They are being helped to do it. They are a group that have no means or resources… [and] they are organising a team to support another candidate. Where is this money coming from?’
Meanwhile the Liberal Front Party (PFL), who are in coalition with the Social Democrats (PSDB) are showing support for their man, the Social Democrat Jose Serra. Senator Jorge Bornhausen, the PFL president, has tried to kill Marta’s chances. ‘She only has a maximum of 30% of the votes and it’s not going to rise any further. It’s a death spasm, which passes quickly.’
Nice choice of words? Comes across as a slightly unhealthy preoccupation, methinks.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Think of Brazil and what do you usually picture? Football? Beaches? Music? Definitely the latter. And there was something romantic at the beginning of last year when Lula appointed as his minister of culture the singer Gilberto Gil.
Gil was one of the influential Bahian artists of the 1960s who steered the tropicalismo movement. But the military didn't like it or him too much and he ended up in exile in London for awhile. Taking up his ministerial post seemed to encapsulate something about the 'new' Brazil under Lula: the formerly persecuted had taken over the shop. And adding a famous artist to the mix of dour trade unionists sweetened the imagination somewhat.
Fast forward a year and the honeymoon seems well and truly over with Gil as a politician. Even allowing for the radical views of those in the IndyMedia, Gil has deeply upset a number of potential former supporters with his comments in Galicia, Spain at the end of last month. He addressed the audience in Castillian Spanish and stressed the importance of being more international and less nationalistic. Given that the Galicians were denied from speaking their own language in favour of Castillian by the dictator Franco for decades, those over at IndyMedia feel Gil's remarks were insensitive.
Around the same time that happened, I was talking to another Brazilian, from a different startum of society. A diplomat, that person was unhappy with the lack of direction coming out of the culture ministry. 'Sure having Gil at the centre is good for our profile. But he's got to decide whether he wants to be a minister or a musician. He can't do both.'
One thing about polls is the heat they generate. And the recent Datafolha poll is no exception. Here in brief is a quick and easy guide to everything that's been said over the last day according to the Folha.
Workers Party (PT) - They've got the most to crow about. Their candidate, the current mayor, Marta Suplicy, has just gone into the lead. But whereas her colleague, Joao Paulo Cunha, a state deputy and president of the lower house of Congress, is excitable in tone, seeing this as the first step towards winning the presidency again in 2006, Marta is almost serene and Buddha-like in her response. 'I'm very satisfied with the poll.' The party president, Jose Genoino, also injects a degree of moderation, saying 'It's important we be prudent with these polls because our rivals are going to attack Marta as they did in [last week's] debate.'
Social Democrats (PSDB) - The former front runner, is putting a brave face on his fall in the polls. Jose Serra is taking the route favoured by those who aren't doing as well as they would like: 'The poll numbers doesn't alter our strategy one bit. It's going as normal. Polls are a snapshot and are very volatile. What is important is the poll on election day. We're going to continue with our strategy.' The former president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, also took time out of a possible bid for the 2006 election by lending support to his former health minister. What's interesting, according to FHC, is the likely second round contest between Marta and Serra, which according to the poll, Serra would win by 52% to 38%.
Socialist Party/Democratic Movement Party coalition (PSB/PMDB) - It's all fun and games down at the campaign HQ for Erundina, a former mayor herself. Her decline in the polls, from 9% to 7% over the last month, is causing some problems. A section of the coalition want to pack away their ways and back Marta. But this could be a problem, since some of the coalition see the PT as deliberately exploiting differences within the camp. A bonfire waiting to happen? You bet. Stay tuned on this one.
Popular Party (PP) - the main right wing candidate in this election, Paulo Maluf, whose figures have fallen from 24% to 19%, appears to have taken a strange turn. Just as Eric Cantona started talking about ships and seagulls the day after he launched himself at a fan during a game, so is Maluf talking gibberish. 'I'm very happy,' he says. 'We are maintaining our position. We haven't fallen. Evidently there's an increase for the current mayor, but that doesn't need explaining. Walk the streets to see the PT's campaign. A party that entered government in sandals and now walks in gold shoes...'
Sorry? I think there we must leave it. But roll on the next poll and the inevitable rubbish which will spout.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Just got my weekly edition of e-LDYS news (the newsletter for 'young' Lib Dems). Makes me feel youthful once again (even though I'm 28 years old)!
Pleasing to note that according to Opinion Poll which conducted a survey of students that 'support for the Liberal Democrats is currently running at 47%, with the Conservatives on 23% and Labour on 20%.'
Of course they haven't yet worked for the Lib Dem party yet. In the newsletter is a job ad for an adviser to the party on education matters. By my estimate that means there will have been five such people in that post by the end of this Parliament (assuming the next one doesn't resign as well).
What does Phil Willis, the party's education spokesman, do to these people?!
It's all happening here, isn't it? I posted on an apparent lesbian tryst excluding a candidate from the election yesterday. And today what makes the news today? Folha's running an article on Maria Augusta Silveira, who's running for council in São José do Rio Preto in the interior of Sao Paulo.
What makes Guta (as she's known) different, is that she's a transexual, having had the snip in 1998. Reassuringly there's a statement that there's no constraint on her candidacy. Well that's alright then.
Do I detect a fashion developing here? Nadia wins UK's Big Brother at the weekend. Perhaps Guta wins a seat in October? It's all go for the community!
One other interesting point in the CNT Poll. People were asked what they felt made them most proud to be Brazilian. The top two, with 26% and 22% respectively, were an absence of war and solidarity in being Brazilian.
Worryingly - for this blog at any rate - is the low esteem in which politics is held by the people. Only 0.6% of Brazilians expressed pride in politics. Which does make me wonder whether I picked the right horse in choosing this subject to blog on!
For most foreigners Brazil is football and beaches (both received 6%) and music and culture (4%).
It's probably just as well that pollsters don't determine how to market the country abroad. How would you go about it? 'Come to Brazil: not a war zone' doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
The latest Datafolha poll puts Marta Suplicy, the present Workers Party (PT) mayor for Sao Paulo, in the lead in her bid to be re-elected. This is the first it's happened, with her passing the former leader, Social Democrat (PSDB) Jose Serra. Her share of the vote has risen by 10 points to 30% between the end of June and this week, compared to Serra's dip by 5 to 25%.
And further good news for the PT camp: Marta's rejection ratings are down, from 42% to 34%. But it's not as low as Serra's, who has the lowest rejection level of any candidate, at 11%. Should the contest go to a second round run-off this should give him some comfort. However, it must be frustrating for his campaign team, with the poll findings overshadowing the launch of his election website which can be found here.
According to the Datafolha's director, Mauro Paulino, the change in the PT fortunes is probably due to a more visible presence on the street as the campaign proper kicks off.
There must also be satisfaction in the Planalto (seat of national government) too. The latest CNT poll shows that people are feeling good about themselves and it's rubbing off on the administration. Lula's ratings have risen, from 29% to 38% who deem his work good while those who say it's bad have fallen 6 points to 18%.
On all the everyday issues, health, education, poverty, violence and economic well-being the figures are up, with those polled claiming things have improved since the last time they were asked, in June.
But there is a sting in the tail. Those who believe the promises made by Lula in his presidential campaign two years are not being fully completed has risen in the last year from 34% to 55%. His advisers will have to watch these figures if they're not to be caught out at some later stage. And the poll was taken just before the weekend and before the recent scandals over tax evasion at the Central Bank have made their way beyond the chattering classes. The question must be asked whether it will eventually break out beyond that section of the population and engage the public like the Waldomir scandal (accepting illegal campaign contributions) which broke at the beginning of this year.
Yet another example of President Lula's apparent lack of political ideology this morning. Another statement on military service and his 'frustration' as a young man that he never got to serve. And he was young when? Oh, that's right, during the 1960s when the military dictatorship was in power and persecuting his colleagues in the trade union movement.
Sometimes I wish he would stop eulogising the army. That's what we've got the right-wingers for. But maybe it's part of this Faustian pact which means he can't upset the balance of the Brazilian body politic.
And meanwhile I still haven't made the trip down to the consulate here in London to exempt myself from service this year...
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
I am at a complete loss in understanding this. Apparently an action has been successfully brought against a federal deputy and candidate for mayor of Viseu, a town in the northeastern state of Para. It's claimed that she has a 'stable union' with the current mayor, who happens to be a woman as well.
It's alleged there is a lesbian affair going on between the two, which they both deny. But the decision against the federal deputy's candidacy stems from the closeness of her relationship with the mayor. Perhaps she's getting a headstart over her rivals?
Whatever it is, being gay isn't grounds for exclusion from an election. The local gay movement in the state capital, Belem, makes this point and is offering its support to the two women if they want it.
Yet another strike in favour of equality before the law and Northeastern tolerance, I don't think.
I've usually commented on domestic subjects in Brazil. But Lula's given me an opportunity to note what's going on in the world of Brazilian diplomacy. Not quite sure what to make of it though.
Apparently he's going to propose to the UN that a team be sent to Haiti (where Brazil runs the peacekeeping operation) to assess and report upon the economic situation. So far, so good.
And he also proposes a global fund to combat hunger, which Brazil won't be a recipient of, but rather a contributor. Again, a good idea.
But some of his comments aren't too helpful. To condemn Haiti's 'colonisers' for the state the country's in and to blame Britain for the situation in Sudan is a bit much. Indeed, he argues that Britain was in Sudan for 300 years and what did they ever do for the people there.
Excuse me? 300 years? Where is his foreign policy adviser when he needs one? Last time I checked, the British took over Sudan in the 1890s, and only because they wanted to secure control of the Nile.
But history isn't the point here. He's playing if for public consumption. And I doubt the British will get too upset. I can just imagine what they're thinking in diplomatic circles: 'Oh it's just another populist South American mouthing off again.' Which is really unhelpful since they may well overshadow his other, good points.
I'm not really mentioned it to date, because the story is so readily available elsewhere, but finally I can make reference to the investigation into the apparent tax evasion of the Central Bank president, Henrique Meirelles. Although it won't be quite what you expect.
The point of this blog - at least as I presently see it - is to look at the political news overlooked by English language coverage and in the run up to the October elections. And besides, there's so much going on in Brazil that just deserves a mention. So I've avoided this particular story. Until now.
I was wondering how long it would take before it made the move from parliamentary investigation into outright political debate. And sure enough, it's happened. The Workers Party's (PT) president, Jose Genoino, has criticised the investigation for 'emptying' information about the investigation at its centre for clear political purposes.
Clearly there are concerns within the PT over this story. Chances are this ongoing saga will probably register among the electorate in the next polls, which linked with the alleged illegal contributions scandal earlier this year, may cause some damage to the government and its candidates in the mayoral races - not least in the economic powerhouse, Sao Paulo.
Could this then be part of the reason for bringing together both President Lula and Sao Paulo's mayor, Marta Suplicy, yesterday, to talk about her successes during her mandate? These apparently include improvements in education, support to low income workers and small businesses. Nothing like getting back to your roots when seeking support.
Monday, August 09, 2004
Slightly curious article in the Jornal do Brasil today. There's a piece on the action being taken against a Workers Party (PT) governor, Zeca do PT, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. He's accused of 'administrative impropriety' (that catch-all phrase it seems) and not directing some R$80m of tax received from the state oil company, Petrobras, to the state's cities, as is required by law.
What's odd about the story is not the investigation, but the fact that it took place at the end of March. As far as I can tell in the piece, there have been no developments since then, with no decision taken whether to continue with proceedings or not.
Which begs the question, why write it? Of course the JB is no fan of the PT and the Lula administration in Brasilia. Is this just an attempt to helpfully 'remind' readers about the PT?
Well that's got to be good news for Wellington Dias, Piaui's embattled governor. Investment funds from the national government will be directed faster to the northeast than any other region. And Piaui will receive nearly 20% of this money.
Last month I noted on this blog that Wellington Dias was coming under fire for failing for the size of his state's debt with the national government. He was going to have to make major administrative reforms and cut the payroll if he was to get Piaui back on an even keel. The decision of the national government may well be a sop towards their struggling party colleague, who may be proving a bit of an embarrassment to the governing Workers Party (PT).
But recent polling figures from Teresina, the state capital, suggest there's a lot of ground to be made up. The T's candidate for mayor is trailing in fourth place at the moment, on 9% and faces the largest rejection level by the public (32%).
The political scientist Fernando Limongi seems to be the Folha's darling of the weekend. He's also been interviewed (briefly) by the paper regarding the nature of the vote in Sao Paulo and the general prospects for campaigning by the candidates in the city.
According to him the October mayoral poll won't reflect the federal elections, but at the same time neither is it a blank canvas (good hedging of bets there!). The centre of the city is the most politicised and likely to be stable in terms of decided voters. So for candidates it may be a good idea to get out to the periphery (which for that also read lower income) where the opportunity to influence the vote may be stronger. But again he also reserves his comments by suggesting that work can be done in the centre.
In the end what he and other analysts do know is that Sao Paulo voters don't cross from left to right or vice versa easily. In this then the city is probably unlike parts of the country in the north where such ideological affiliation is much weaker and tied to a personality. Certainly in this respect Sao Paulo's poll will be quite unlike the rest of Brazil in October.
Of course if this was the UK and we were talking about the Lib Dems then there would be talk of past election results and canvassing returns. But Brazilian elections don't tend to involve canvassing (not only is it too difficult to get to people's homes, in come cases it may be too dangerous). Chances are this analysis will be used not to identify individual voters, but target publicity material and ad campaigns in particular areas of the city where potential supporters live.
After all the bad things that have been said about e-voting, finally there's a story which suggests that it has some tangible benefits. The Folha published a story yesterday stating that a new study shows that e-voting can actually reduce the number of invalid votes in an election.
The political scientist, Fernando Limongi, who carried out the research, looking at the number of invalid votes over several elections, discovered that the use of e-voting helped less educated voters make a valid vote in the lower income areas of Sao Paulo. According to him, this can be put down to the the use of colour and party symbols on a machine whereas traditional paper voting tends to use words and numbers for candidates, which isn't so helpful for the illiterate and functionally illiterate.
Back in October 2002 Voxpolitics commented on the use of e-voting for the presidential elections. I was slightly critical then, commenting that some of the machines had to be taken out of service, since the smudge marks from previous voters meant that later voting choices couldn't be read! More recently, my friend James at the same website has published the following article on the dangers that contracting e-voting out from the public sector.
It would be useful if Limongi's research gained a wider audience. Of course, its translation and accessibility on its website would be a step forward. At present I can't seem to find it here.
Friday, August 06, 2004
Paul Kingsnorth makes one or two good points about the Lib Dems in his most recent blog. It's frustrating that you can't comment though.
I suspect the parliamentarians are using this new book to claim a 'policy shift' as a means of making themselves look 'sensible' and 'respectable' prior to a General Election. It's also the 'let's win Tory voters over' strategy which I've never been convinced by. Basically it goes like this: Lib Dems lie second in more Tory-held seats than Labour ones. To win those seats Lib Dems need to win Tory voters. Therefore we need to present ourselves as similar to Tories.
Living in East London I think this is rubbish. Even though we were third in Bethnal Green & Bow last time, there are plenty of disillusioned and jaded Labour voters and non-voters out there who want someone from the centre-left to speak up for them.
Rather than conform to mainstream thinking we should be looking at creative and imaginative ways to deal with the problems we face. One way we could do this is to introduce participatory budgeting at a local level, like they do in Brazil. I wrote about this for Liberator back in February, but I still haven't heard anyone take it up with any enthusiasm. Maybe it's about time I reminded them...
I wondered how long it would take before Hartlepool would feature as a battleground in the campaign to be the next Lib Dem president. And sure enough, now it has. Hot off the press in my mailbox is a missive from Lembit Opik. And not just once, but twice:
"Dear Fellow Lib Dem,
"I am just emailing to update you on my campaign to be President and to
let you know that in the weeks ahead I'll mainly be spending my time working on
the Hartlepool by-election.
"The Presidential campaign is going really well and I am flattered by
the large number of messages of support from ordinary members of the party,
which are coming into the office every day. (If you want to see just a few
of the people who are supporting me, you can visit my website at www.lembit4president.co.uk).
"All the evidence shows that it's going to be extremely close, so if
you do have any questions or want to pledge your support, you can get in touch
with my Campaign Team...
"However, while the Presidential campaign is important, it seems to me
that the best use of our time at the moment is to pour all our efforts into
Hartlepool. We have a great chance in Hartlepool to prove to Britain that
we're THE contender to Labour. So, with the exception of a few other
outstanding commitments, that's where you'll find me for most of the next few
"I do hope you've decided to vote for me for President. But
frankly, whether you have or not, please come to Hartlepool! This is one
we can all win together. Hope to see you there.
So any Lib Dems who fancy some face time with Lembit should make the long trek north. And meanwhile those of us hanging out in East London will have to make do with a virtual version of he candidate.
I'm sure Guacamoleville would like to have seen this, but unfortunately he (or is it she?) hasn't left their email for me to send it. So it'll have to go up here for now.
So the latest edition of Jungle Drums (rapidly becoming my favourite Brazilian magazine here in London) is out. Although it's also available online, I thought I'd note upcoming Brazilian-themed events this month.
The people at Jungle Drums appear taken with the Ritzy Cafe down in Brixton, which seems to be taking on all manner of Brazilian music including jazz and funk tomorrow night (7), DJing and bossa nova next Friday and Saturday (13 and 14) and choro and samba on the 21st.
As well as the Peladao (see post below), there's also Brazilian film at the BCA in King Street on the 17th (except I'll be supporting a Peruvian friend that night at a Cuban salsa gig in Cargo which is being put on by a friend of his) and of course the carnival schools at the Notting Hill festival at the end of the month. Maybe this year I might finally make it, as well as the Sambatralia clubnight at The Pool on the last Thursday of the month (26).
The magazine also reports that a new bar called Guanabara (Rio de Janeiro state's old name) will be opening in Covent Garden in September. Apparently it has space for 500 people and will be Brazilian-themed, with music and food to boot. I suppose I will have to make my way there as well. All in all, it's looking like a good time is in store over the next few weeks.
Last night I attended the first anniversary meeting of Dialogo Brasil, the consultative group set up by the Brazilian embassy here in London to liaisewith the Brazilian community. I go to these things so you don't have to.
Anyway, details, details. Chances are most people will not be aware of an event taking place on 22 August in regents Park. It's been organised by a number of groups, but appears to have the bilingual magazine, Jungle Drums at the forefront. It's called Peladao and will be a free event at which football will be played (the 18 teams are now completed), music will take to the stage (including Tukriatu, Banda Pororocas, Trio Azevedo and Ritmos da Samba), along with DJs Marcio Custodio, Fernando Dias and the Sambatralia crew between sets. There will be barracos (stalls) selling Brazilian goods and food (the acai will be worth the visit alone, I assure you) and information from various charities and organisations working with the community and in the Latin American region.
From what I could gather the event is not being advertised beyond the Brazilian press in London, since the focus is on getting Brazilians together. But I'm sure some of us Anglo-Brazilians and their friends will be more than welcome.
Which brings me to the other topic of discussion last night. How do we reach out to the Brazilian community? It's an ongoing discussion, not least in making available to them information about availability of public services. In June a seminar was held which addressed issues of immigration and social services and recently the embassy has published a document detailing what the consulate can and can't do for Brazilian resident in the UK.
But still there's more that can be done. One speaker pointed out that many Brazilians in the UK were here as economic migrants only to work and send money home. Chances are they have very little contact with official Brazilian representation in this country, especially if they are here illegally. And the usual channels of publicising this work and information at events can be tricky, especially if you have to pay to get in. If they are sending money home such migrants may be less likely to attend them; they're probably unlikely to go out very much. Another speaker spoke of the frustration of getting the evangelical churches to take up the matter, by announcing it during sermons; she found the pastors were claiming these were political matters which have no place in church.
We need to find different ways of getting the message across and beyond the traditional means of the local Brazilian press and haunts, like the Cafe do Luis. Maybe events like the Peladao will help, but other, creative solutions are also needed.
Answers on a postcard please.
How did miss this? Earlier this week a local NGO and the authorities launched a campaign in Espirito Santo state (the small, forgotten one between Rio and Bahia) against the buying of votes in the run-up to the October poll. Probably just as well, since the experience of Espirito Santo is a pretty sorry one.
In March last year a state deputy, Jose Carlos Gratz, was put under investigation for buying the votes of other deputies in his bid to become president of the state legislature. As far as I can tell, there doesn't seem to be any outcome on that investigation.
And just when it couldn't get worse for Gratz, in April of this year a public prosecutor indicted him, four other state deputies, 15 former members of the legislature and the ex-governor, Jose Ignacio Ferreira. Their crime? Apparently 'administrative impropriety'. They stand accused of transferring R$37m (£7.4m in today's money) from a state fund dedicated towards development loans in favour of paying off public sector workers whose salaries were late.
Sao Paulo TV channel Bandeirantes carried a debate between the seven (count them) candidates for mayor last night. The two front runners, Marta Suplicy of the Workers Party (PT) and the Social Democrat, Jose Serra (PSDB), were less noteworthy for the comments they made (Marta defending her record as the incumbent by citing improvements in education and transport and Serra, as a former health minister, castigating her for failing to improve health) than for the 'peace and love style' which the Folha claimed they both adopted. This meant being less aggressive and avoiding attacking the other candidates.
It's a shame no one bothered to tell their aides about this new approach. Last week the PT threatened to prosecute the PSDB over an article on the latter's website entitled 'Dona Marta and her Two Husbands' (Eduardo Suplicy, from whom she's separated, and the public works in the city).
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Although it's not up, this evening Dialogo Brasil is holding another event at the gallery by the Brazilian embassy. The subject? Something about social projects in Brazil and in Britain for the Brazilian community and how we can get involved. I think. Anyway, I'll check it out and let you know tomorrow.
Tomorrow is also the first anniversary of the group, which was set up to provide communication between the community and the diplomatic staff in the consulate and embassy. Hard to believe that a year has passed and here we are again, sitting in a hot, stuffy and humid room in the middle of a heatwave.
Oh dear. Yesterday I commented on the annulment of the Roraima governor's mandate. When this happens the president of the legislature should take over. But it would appear that this chap is also under investigation for his involvement in the same electoral abuses as the governor.
Where will it end? Will there be anyone left in Roraima to take over the governor's mantle? Chances are they mat go for a by-election, which would explain why the defeated gubernatorial candidate from two years ago, Ottomar Pinto (PTB), is keeping schtum.
So a mayoral candidate is protesting the literacy test, which he claims is 'humiliating'? Good. Manoelito Argolo, the current mayor of Entre Rios, Bahia, is protesting having to do the test. It's something all prospective candidates have to do if they want to be able to stand.
In fact it's Brazil at it's most insidious. The history of the country is riven with examples of Brazil's elite perpetuating its position in society. In the past entitlement to vote was contingent on property (just as it was at one time in Europe and North America). But when universal suffrage came around, Brazil's elite got around the problem of allowing the masses to vote by demanding that all candidates demonstrate their literacy (which in a country like Brazil with limited public services means going to school, a privilege not granted to everyone).
Manoelito's campaign is not an isolated one. According to the same article in the Folha, another town in Bahia has already excluded five candidates standing for council for having failed the test, while another six towns in the same state have prevented four others each.
And so Brazil's cycle of social exclusion continues.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
It seems the Democrat convention failed to stir those at Cowley Street. After the success of several bloggers gaining media accreditation for the event, I thought I might try the same thing at the Lib Dem conference next month.
However, it seems they are unconvinced. So it looks like I'll have to shell out a small fortune if I am to bring you the unvarnished, behind-the-scenes details of what goes on at Bournemouth. But what with the conference supposedly to be dominated by Iraq and Mark Oaten's virtually unqualified endorsement of new anti-terror legislation on the Today programme this morning, could this be one more step along the way towards creating a bland, uncontroversial pre-election conference platform?
Then again, what am I thinking? Who in their right mind would want to read snippets from a Lib Dem conference?! Even some hard-core political junkies might balk at that!
Yesterday evening I braved the storms to meet Josh Lacey at Al's Bar in Exmouth Market (good choice of wheat beers) for the first time. I've been corresponding with Josh for awhile now, since I first learnt he was writing a biography of Charles Miller, the Englishman who introduced football in Brazil at the end of the nineteenth century.
Josh seemed quiet, although it may have had something to do with me not shutting up. Although his focus is on Miller and the British in Sao Paulo, I arranged to meet him and lend some books which I have around the flat: on the English in Rio Grande do Sul, an essay on football in Rio and one about the first football club in the country, Sport Club Rio Grande. I wrote about the club back in February, which grabbed Josh's attention. The fact that he's coming to the end of writing it probably means he borrowed them more out of politeness than anything else.
The Charles Miller biography should be out sometime next year, Josh assures me, although I haven't yet worked out where to order an advance copy. But if his prose is as insightful as the reviews he writes for the Guardian, then the wait will be worth it.
I think I'm set onto global domination. Or at least Google dominance.
I've just typed my name into the eponymous search engine and find I occupy gold and bronze positions (also four and six if you can be bothered to go down that far). But who is that in silver?
I have Brazzil to thank for publishing my articles (although bizarrely the rugby one still seems to be high on the list) and I'd like to think this blog is attracting more attention too; Para Ingles Ver is currently number five on Google. Let's try and get into medal contention by the time of the Olympics!
Of course this is all sheer vanity of course. But then what would be the point of a blog if no-one read it. I think I'm succumbing to bloggeritis: an egotistical condition brought about by constant commentating.
While political news in Brazil being dominated by the Central Bank's president being charged over tax evasion, it's likely the tale of Governor Flamarion Portela of the northern state of Roraima may be overlooked.
Yesterday the electoral court voted to annul his mandate as governor, deciding he had committed 'economic crimes' in his re-election campaign two years ago. According to reports, these involved the use of social services to improve his election result between the first and second round votes, a month apart. These included support to agricultural and low-paid workers within this period and the use of fraud to help with these payments, which by all accounts seems rather blatant in retrospect.
No doubt there will be some relief, but embarrassment among the governing Workers Party (PT). Flamarion was elected on the Social Liberal Party (PSL) ticket, a small party whose website doesn't really say tell you much about its origins or what it stands for. Months after being re-elected, Flamarion joined the PT. He left the party (apparently voluntarily) in December 2003 after internal pressure within the party was brought upon its president, Jose Genoino.
While there will be a sigh of relief for those in the government, it does beg the question of how someone like Flamarion managed to get accepted in the party. And no doubt high-ranking party members will hope that the Flamarion case will not be linked by voters with the party in the elections in October.
At what point do I cease to be considered a 'youth'? This morning I received my first e-newsletter from the Lib Dem Youth and Students (LDYS), now under the stewardship of my former campaign organiser in Newham, Chris Lomax. This was one of his pledges, to keep the members up to date on LDYS activities. He's doing a good job in that regard.
But it's unfortunate that the first story slightly marred the entire experience. "MORE MUST BE DONE TO PROMOTE RESPONSIBLE DRINKING" screams the headline.
What's this? Young people actively encouraging other young people to drink less? Whatever next? Old people urging other old people to stop grumbling about the war and how 'things were better in my day'?
Drinking too much is what being young is about. You have to find your limits somehow. While this isn't an ad for having your stomach pumped, or being paralytic on a nightly basis, I do wonder whether we want to have LDYS adopting a hectoring, nannyish role.
At least my faith in the organisation is partly restored by the next story: "LDYS CONDEMNS EUROPEAN THREAT OF CANNABIS CENSORSHIP".
Ah good. So we haven't lost our 'radical' credentials yet then. But what's this? How did this escape the irony detector? "LDYS has for a long time stood for the full legalisation of cannabis, as prohibition has proven itself to be totally ineffective in addressing the harms the drug can cause to some, and is a gross infringement of an individual's sovereignty over their own body and mind." (stresses my own)
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
I see that the Brazilian embassy has now put details of what the consulate can and can't do for Brazilians in the UK up on its website. The document takes the form of the seminar which was held on the subject last month, which I commented on in my article in Brazzil last month.
While it's useful these things are going up on the web, I'm sure it would make sense if it was to be carried on the British embassy's website in Brazil, and was made available in print form in the consulates in Rio, Sao Paulo, etc. I wonder if anyone's doing that, since I doubt most potential visitors to Britain would think of checking the Brazilian embassy's UK-based website before visiting a british consulate in their hometown.
While I was away Respect won the council by-election in Tower Hamlets last Thursday night. The victor, Oliur Rahman, was my rival in the recent GLA elections.
I don't want to give Respect more credit than it deserves, but it does raise some challenges for the Lib Dems in the East End and other parts of the country where there are large ethnic minority populations. Usually we present ourselves as the alternative to Labour, who fails such people, and the Tories, who find such areas not to be natural territory.
It is a worry that Respect now has a voice on the council. Not because they claim to be the only anti-war party (how Galloway can get away with claiming Lib Dems were pro-war I don't know), but the manner in which they seek out support. It's not about appealing to voters on an individual basis, but rather an attempt to wrestle the top-down control that Labour previously enjoyed. And I would be surprised if most of their voters know much more about Respect's policies other than its stance on the Iraq war.
Maybe it's just a mid-term thing. Come the General Election Respect won't figure, with Galloway unlikely to be re-elected. And then there are the local elections a year later, when Respect may well have run out of steam. In fact, chances are it probably only did so well in Stepney last week because the by-election was held so close to the GLA elections, when Respect did well in the area.
"Don't you think we run the risk of repeating the same-old, historical experience of left wing parties which all went wrong, when they became the government the party changes into machinery of government and loses its autonomy?
"Any PT city mayor's speech sounds more like a PT message than
that of president of a local assembly. Do I believe we face risks? Yes I
think so. We are undergoing different historical moments but there is this
"We have lived such an experience in SP, when Erundina was the mayor of
São Paulo. At that time the party had an attitude of being independent of the
government. And the government at the time used to say the municipal PT was in
opposition to the government. So we have had all kind of experiences in government-party relations. In the federal government, it would pose a serious lack of care for the PT to adopt an attitude of not being in solidarity with government.
"It is a difficult political operation to be loyal and have independence. Because the party has acquired a characteristic which is not good, it is difficult to have a closed meeting nowadays with the PT.
"Always someone lets the press know. I think this is not a crucial factor but it is irritating. It makes it difficult to have an open discussion because everything is made public. This, no doubt, limits the debate. It cannot be otherwise, or, instead of helping, we create more problems."
Politics is going online in Brazil. In June the number of Brazilian users on Orkut, the online community, outnumbered Americans. Now, according to the Folha, politics is increasingly becoming a source of discussion among those wired Brazilians. But it's not good news for the government: of the 26 dedicated to discussion about President Lula, only 3 are in favour of him and his policies.
It must be a sign of the times that the use of the web for political purposes in Brazil still merits discussion by the media. Yesterday the Folha also noted that Sao Paulo mayor, Marta Suplicy, is going online to make her case to the public - or the computer-literate section of the population at any rate. It's quite professionally done but obviously looks like the PT website (which is better than most other party political websites in Brazil - most just have contact details at present) and includes details of her achievements to date.
Could this be a sign of Marta's campaign building up steam? With a positive poll out by Ibope last week (see post below) and details of her administration's actions over the past four years, are we about to see a more effective candidacy?
Back to the grind of Brazilian elections. While I was away I see Ibope published their monthly poll on Sao Paulo. Since the end of June the Social Democrat, Jose Serra, has seen his lead fall 6 points to 24%. Meanwhile the incumbent, Marta Suplicy, has seen her stock rise by 7 to 23%, putting her in second place. The right-winger, Paulo Maluf, has dropped off the pace, from 21% to 18%.
However, a word of caution: there is a 4% margin of error, which could mean Marta being in the lead or behind Serra by as much as 9%. Anyway, that doesn't really matter, specially in the first round. What does count is the run-off, which would presumably be between Marta and Serra. In this case Serra would win, by 50% to 32%, with Serra picking up most of those votes from Maluf's supporters.
So it's not just Britain where supposedly 'progressive' parties depend on Tory votes...
Monday, August 02, 2004
I'm back. Just got in this morning, after a gruelling eleven hour flight from Vancouver via Edmonton. Lots of great sights to see and even kept an eye and ear open to Canadian political happenings, some of which I hope to come back to future posts.
Also a thanks to Andrew for alerting me to this blog that promises to cover the Hartlepool by-election. Typical though, isn't it. You go away for two weeks and Peter Mandleson gets offered a new job. And I wasn't there to comment. Oh well, you can't win them all...