Tweets on 2009-09-30

  • @trioptimum it's probably d-ay-mon-oh-eed. #
  • RT @helenduffett That's the second person in 20 min to stop me in the street and say, "Second place in the polls!" << is that Cowley Street? #
  • Googling "alex foster tories id cards balletic u-turn" #
  • RT @MakeVotesCount @UnlockDemocracy: News release: Gordon Brown’s voting reform pledge will satisfy no-one #
  • Labour introduced civil partnerships. But they didn't get everything right for gay people #lab09 @stealthmunchkin #
  • The perfect t-shirt for Nick Clegg (T-shirt hell – sometimes NSFW) #
  • Hmmm, bread and cheese. Nom nom nom. #
  • Off for spot of kulcha. Fascinating Aida 25th anniversary tour. #
  • RT @owenblacker: Gordon Brown's back door to compulsory ID cards: typical worthless political window-dressing #no2id #
  • Leaving the theatre with an urge to buy a sparkly choker and a matching set of dangly earings #
  • Ooh! Half price Terry's All Gold! #
  • @markpack Harold who? I was 14 when I discoved prime ministers don't HAVE to be women! #
  • Hmmm. Strange white blossom on the chocs. Eating them anyway. In the name of scientific experimentation, you understand. #
  • @madammish @sarabedford I don't think I have anything with a suitably plunging neckline. So, new frock too! #
  • @alanfleming so is it actually healthier? #
  • Playing fetch with the kitten. #
  • I knew what a quoin was but had to double check vermiculation. (@helenduffett) #
  • Oh, my goodness, just ban photoshop already! #
  • An interesting use of #QRcodes (h/t @helenduffett) #
  • Don't miss two ace posts from last night: Mark Pack on Gordon Brown ( and Alix Mortimer on Sarah Brown ( #
  • Shocking. RT @currybet: The Sun and the Labour Party are slugging it out in Google Ads war re Hillsborough #lab09 #

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Brown’s ID card loopholes #lab09

I’ll confess I am not actually listening to the Prime Minister’s speech to Labour conference, as I have far more important things to do, including biting my nails and feeding the cats.

However, a quick refresh of Twitter shows that quite a lot of my friends are. And some of them have even been a little taken in by Brown’s ID card commitment.

If Twitter is right – and I can’t be bothered to check – he said, “there will be no compulsory ID cards for British citizens in the next parliament”

My goodness, but you can drive a double decker bus through the wiggle room in the loopholes there!

  • There will be no compulsory ID cards for British citizens in the next parliament

So there will still be pointless, wasteful ID cards then?

  • There will be no compulsory ID cards for British citizens in the next parliament

All those here on visas and work permits will still have to queue up to give more personal data to the UK government than is currently demanded from sex offenders, then?

  • There will be no compulsory ID cards for British citizens in the next parliament

They’re not ruling out compulsory ID cards at all – just putting them on hold for a wee while.

This entirely disastrous Government IT project has wasted millions already and threatens to waste billions more. It will eventually require the entire population to travel then queue up one at a time to hand personal data to a Government that doesn’t know why it wants it, but is misguided in its belief as to exactly what problem this solution will cure. And it requires technologies that don’t exist yet.

It’s a massive (sorry Millennium) White elephant, and only one party has consistently opposed it (it was a Tory idea in the first place, even though they’ve now come around to our way of thinking). Vote Lib Dem for an end to them!

So, dear reader, what did you think of our dear leader’s speech?

Tweets on 2009-09-29

  • RT @libdemvoice – CommentIsLinked@LDV … Vince Cable: I stirred up a hornets’ nest, but my Mansion Tax is fair #
  • Queue out of the door at Sherwood post office. #
  • RT @CamillaZajac The annual autumn landmark has apparently landed. RT @iangordoncraig: #Nottingham : the goose is on the roundabout. #
  • @charlottegore can you move the graphics to another host, eg Flickr? #
  • It's PM. At 5PM. I still mentally sing the theme tune to myself whenever I hear it start. #
  • Chortling at PM's juxtaposition of Gordon Brown / Mandy and Rocky theme. #

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#ldconf feedback questionnaire

A message arrives from the Conference people asking for our feedback on all matters Conference.

Conference is important to the Liberal Democrats. Your input, debates and votes are vital in shaping the Party’s policies and campaigns, and ensuring that we remain the only truly democratic party in British politics.

So we want to make sure you come back! Your views are important to us, as they help us improve conference year after year. If you attended autumn conference this year, please take the time to give us your feedback. By clicking on the link below and filling out our online questionnaire, you’ll be helping us to improve future conferences.

And as an extra incentive, you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win free registration to your next federal conference!

We look forward to hearing your views.

This is your opportunity to get anything that bugged you off your chest or to commend and praise good practice as you saw it. What do you think about the new timing arrangements? Leader’s speech at 4pm on a Wednesday OK by you? How about the prices at the snack bar? All good questions – and plenty of opportunity for free form responses too, if you want to have a go at some of the bad elements of Conference. Our vox-poppers were not too impressed at the number or cost of the internet PCs or conference Wifi service. Perhaps you’d like to mention that too.

And if you particularly enjoyed the LDV events, such as our two fringe meetings on Campaigning after Rennard (shame the rally over-ran and took all our audience!) and Beyond Twitter – as well as the Blog of the Year awards and the Liberal Drinks meeting – why not mention them in your feedback form?

Unfortunately, if you weren’t at conference, you can’t complete the form – the final question is your name, so that they can check whether you were there or not. Which slightly disenfranchises all those who would have gone if it hadn’t been all the way down there on the South Coast. (I’m much more looking forward to a few conferences up in my neck of the woods in Liverpool and Birmingham next year.) Feel free in that case to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

We’d also be very keen to hear from our readers about the LDV coverage of conference. How do you think we did? Did you listen to the podcasts – if so, what did you think? Where you following our twitter coverage of our events? Was that useful? Anything you’d like to see more – or less – of?

Liverpool’s bells

Have just returned from a weekend ringing tour with FODS up in Liverpool. Whilst there were four nice churches visited, really the object for me was a chance to ring at the open practice at the Cathedral. With the heaviest and highest church bells in the world, the Anglican Cathedral of Liverpool is a sort of Mecca for ringers. Many of my ringing friends have spoken about the experience of ringing there, and so I was keen to experience it for myself.

The FODS have toured Liverpool once before – in the late 90s, I think – and when I went then, I certainly went into the cathedral, and was bowled over by the sheer size and scale of the immense edifice. But I hadn’t before made it up the tower. Given that it’s one of the largest cathedrals in the world, and has a very high, very large tower, it’s a bit of a relief that there are lifts, rather than making you climb a thousand stairs. That relief is slightly short lived when you realise that each lift car can carry a maximum of three people and there are at least 30 of you hoping to attend practice. The locals were full of stories that the lift recently broke down, and there are signs everywhere vaguely near the lift in a very simple pictogram to reinforce the limit of three.

I rode up the lift with two women, one a ringer of some standing in Liverpool and the other a complete novice who had never rung before, but was interested in seeing what it was like. In my pains to explain that Liverpool Cathedral was in so many ways a unique ringing experience, and therefore maybe not the best place to get a first taste, I fear I came across a little unwelcoming and had to mend bridges later on in the evening.

Eventually the lift takes you to level 8, the ringing chamber, which is enormous, and a little dark. There are windows, but they are small and high up. There are massive girders throughout the room holding the tower together, each with a little staircase over them so that you can circulate. And on the floor there are names painted at angles, which I think referred to other towers around the world. (I think these were the remnants of an art installation, reviewed here.

A local ringer started the practice by asking for shows of hands of those who had never rung at Liverpool Cathedral before. Since the bells are so heavy, and the sound so distant, they place rooky ringers carefully amongst more experienced ones. Even if you are a ringer of some standing, these are a special challenge. They’re also very loud, and audible a long way away so there is an even greater responsibility than normal not to make a hash of things.

I got to ring in the first set of rounds and call-changes, and was asked to ring the 3rd, which means the third heaviest out of the main ring of 12. There’s an accidental bell that lets you ring another scale, and a monster of a 14-ton bell not attached to the usual wheel, and rung only on special occasions.

To ring, you need to stand on a special structure built where the ropes fall from the ceiling, which raises all the ringers four feet off the ground. It’s a sort of stage, with a circular, stained pit in the middle. I rang, more or less uneventfully apart from when distracted and thinking I was ringing the 2 instead of the 3 moved in the wrong direction at a call. Despite the volume, the bells are hard to hear in the ringing chamber, as they are quite a way away and separated by thick concrete floors.

My ringing stint over, I wandered around the ringing chamber a bit more, took some cameraphone pictures and videos (which I will add into this post when they have uploaded to Flickr) before my battery died. After a while, I noticed people were grabbing ear defenders and heading back to the lift. It turned out they were going to watch the bells from above, rather than from below. I grabbed a pair of defenders from the bag and joined the lift queue.

When you get out, here’s what you see:

Liverpool bells

(photo credit: That_James)

That’s an extraordinary sight, for so many reasons.

Firstly – these are enormous bells, amongst the largest in the world. Almost all of them are significantly bigger than people. The largest, central bell weighs 14 tons, and is surrounded by bells from 9 cwt to 4 tons. And yet they are dwarfed by the space they are in, in this huge lantern at the top of the huge tower astride the huge cathedral. Most other church towers could fit into the bell chamber many times over. The space is so big, and so open to the elements that it is not unusual for clouds and rain to form in the space. The stain in the pit below comes from rainwater collecting in the mouths of bells and bucketing down on unwary ringers below. NB, in the photo, the bells are raised for ringing, with their mouths facing up. When I was there, they were being swung, so each of the bells around the edge was turning full circle.

Secondly – the design of the frame holding the bells. It’s concrete! In most other churches, it’s wood or the wood has been replaced this century with a metal frame. This beautiful industrial concrete setting for the bells means they can be arranged in a perfect circle, rather than meshed together in two layers, bells facing in all directions and jigsawed together in complicated patterns, as is usual. But how did they get the concrete up there? It must surely have been poured in situ, rather than cast below and hoisted up? The industrial machinery reminded me a little of my primary-school trip to a nuclear power station. We were trouped around to look at distant concrete machinery through safety-glass windows. Similar vast spaces applied.

I was so bowled over by the sight that I beetled back down the lift and handed my ear defenders to the woman who’d never rung before and sent her up to see it.

Although the ringing chamber is not normally open to the public, the bell chamber forms part of the Tower Experience, which is open to all visitors. If you get the chance, go and see it.

Tweets on 2009-09-27

  • – Drinking brown ale in the absence of any draught beer. #
  • The tenor box (which short people stand on to reach further) at Port Sunlight is a solid block of wood. V heavy. #
  • Penultimate stop at St Nicholas Pierhead. #
  • On into the cathedral. Great Scott, but it's big. #
  • On the plus side – the highest tower in the UK has lifts. On the minus, it's 3 at once and there's 30 of us. #
  • Rang the 3rd at Liverpool Cathedral – that's a sufficiently scary experience for me. #

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Tweets on 2009-09-26

  • I had heard that Rod, Jane and Freddy were touring with no original members… but it's not true! (@miketd) #
  • @markpack – @mandateblog won't let me comment, calling my comedy spelling flame "spam". The horror. #
  • Lobby, lobbier, lobbiest? Ah, no, it's lobbyist. #
  • Hilarious story from crowded congested train (strong language) #
  • Latest Hitler Downfall vid is about the spat between City and County councils on a new Notts world cup football stadium #
  • @jamesgraham is that a GOVERNMENT BACKED SCHEME? We get a lot of calls like that. #
  • "I'm not, as some suggest, going to kill the first born. All I'm going to do is injure the first born." #
  • Good Lord. Barely minutes into the News Quiz and they're talking about y-fronts. #
  • @dr_nick hire car? #
  • Another night, another cathedral of despair. Off to that Liverpool for FODS ringing tour. #
  • RT @charltonbrooker: Schedule psst: Gameswipe is on Tues 29th Sep, BBC4,10pm: — aimed at both gamers and game-sceptics #
  • @tonytheaker martinis? in reply to tonytheaker #
  • @Madamemish yes indeed… The Friends of Dorothy Society of Change Ringers, almost all of whom are highly accomplished. in reply to Madamemish #
  • Bromborough. No stay on the treble. Eek. #
  • Well. Port Sunlight could be… sunnier. Bebbington church next. #
  • Wondering who's the dish on the 3rd? "Oh, that's wossisname," says Tiffs helpfully. #
  • Giant spider interrupts dizzy queens. #
  • – Interesting trees for a churchyard – yew, horse chestnut,, palm… #

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Tweets on 2009-09-24

  • Ooh, stirring music! #ldconf #
  • Pff. Like there's anyone left who still has a £20 note at #ldconf after visiting the snackbar. #
  • RT @rhjames164 Nick Clegg's leader speech at the Lib Dem conference in full and analysis #ldconf <- Erm, embargo?? #
  • Liking this definition of progressive austerity – not savage cuts, but considered redistribution of spending and saving. #ldconf #
  • Ooh "quangocrat". Quangocrat quangocrat quangocrat. #ldconf #
  • 50p more on a cinema ticket! <riotous applause> #ldconf #
  • @SussexTim cut in numbers of MPs has been Lib Dem party policy for ten years or more. #
  • And… Cue more stirring music #ldconf #
  • Wonderful few hours with my delightful nephew and his lovely parents. #
  • Midnight sober yoga in cathedral of despair car park is infinitely inferior. #
  • Safely home. Haven't driven through #bbcr4 close for ages. Excellent World Service programmes about migrants and fly people. #
  • @miss_s_b A34 was totally closed in the night and had to do large, badly signed detour to get back en route. #

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#ldconf podcast: Beyond Twitter

Below, you will find our final fringe event at conference, Beyond Twitter. MP Jo Swinson joined LDV regular Mark Pack and MySociety’s Richard Pope to debate the future of public online engagement with politics.

We still have one more fringe event in the cans ready for sound processing, but I won’t be able to bring that to you just yet.