It’s official, the LibDem’s control Birmingham City Council

Can’t help a little bit of taking the mickey out of LibDems and in Walsall it isn’t hard but today I had a leaflet come through the door, local elections coming up don’t you know.

I thought I’d take this little snippet out and share it.


Now for those not of these parts, a little background. This is from Nadia Fazal, LibDem candidate for my ward, Willenhall South in the forthcoming elections. Nadia’s gets about a bit (political sense) having previously been a member of the Labour Party who wouldn’t elect her to stand, headed off to Respect where they’d let anyone stand but nobody would vote for them and finally she’s ended up as a LibDemmer.

Nadia’s obviously not too hot on her politics, either that or she’s being deliberately misleading but we’ll just take a peek at what she’s saying shall we.

Well, all the stuff about Walsall having the highest council tax, well yes, that’s all correct but what’s this:

“Council tax in Birmingham where the Liberal Democrats are in control has gone up by a below inflation 1.9%”

Now I’ve not been keeping up with things the last week or so due to personal reasons that I’ll write a bit about later but I’m sure I would have noticed mass defections from Labour and the Tories to the LibDems in Birmingham so that they could have taken control of the council.

Ah, that’s right, no, Nadia doesn’t know what she’s talking about, Birmingham would be Tory controlled with a few LibDem bag carriers to make up the numbers.

There’s also this nice little quote:

“where Liberal Democrats have a say in running things, council tax payers get a better deal.”

Nadia’s young, she might not remember but some of us do. When the Tories needed LidDem bag carriers in Walsall a few years back (who were subsequently ditched when the Tories got enough seats to run things on their own) they were so effective in getting a better deal for council tax payers that they forced through an increase of just shy of 20% in one year alone.

Yep, that was a good deal for the council tax payers wasn’t it?

John Hemming, LibDem MP and thieving little Script Kiddie?

Blogging MP for West Bromwich – Tom Watson came up with this little gem today that I thought needed a bit more attention from the more technical angle. It relates to John Hemming, the LibDem MP for Yardley in Birmingham having used someone else’s code for his website. More specifically we’re looking at this. It’s John’s left hand sidebar menu and very nice it is too. For your delectation here’s the code for it and don’t worry there’s only a few bits of it that we need to examine, I won’t get too technical.


OK, it doesn’t look like anything particularly special but when compared to this bit of code written by this guy it does start to look strange.


Now we’re not looking at all the menu items as John’s obviously tailored them to his own needs but moreover we’re looking for one thing that is there and a few things that aren’t. The big giveaway is in the title of the script. They both identify it as ‘JSwitch Slide Menu’.

If we look further down on the original we find this, the license agreement:






Which relates to this:

“Author: Eric Simmons
Version: 2.1 04/2006”

That for some strange reason seems to be conspicuous by its absence from John Hemming’s script.

For the record, I’m an Open Sourcer, this website was built entirely though the use of Open Source code and software and I’ve acknowledged everything I’ve used. In the techie world openness and honesty is always the best policy and if someone else has toiled over a bit of code for hours and requests that you acknowledge the author or have a customary link back to them then that just good manners and techies with bad manners who thieve stuff and deliberately exclude the originator are considered the lowest of the low.

That’s not to say you don’t find some strange requests by authors at times. I remember once coming across one where the author requested that his code shouldn’t be used in anything that might in some way be offensive to God. Not knowing exactly what would be offensive to God I decided to steer clear of it, but that’s another story.

What it does show is that John Hemming has gone down considerably in my estimation (not that he could go much lower, he is a LibDem after all) and shown himself to be a disingenuous person happy to nick other people’s code but not acknowledge it.

Note: I’ve used the term Script Kiddie as although I know it is generally used in relation to software and not web based code and although some use the term Web Monkey I feel that Script Kiddie is a better description.

Southwark council tax

Just really a post of sympathy to Jon Worth, who has been duly added to my blogroll for being up there in the higher strata of the political blogosphere, (he talks about serious stuff, not innuendo and tittle tattle crap) not to mention a good open sourcer.

He’s having a few problems with his council tax by his Tory/LibDem run council. I can fully sympathise, we had similar difficulties with our council tax up here at Walsall MBC which also used to be a Tory LibDem coalition, till the Tories took over of course and it’s even worse now. A wait in the OneStopShop is not for the faint hearted when it comes to irate punters getting rather miffed that their landlords are threatening to evict them because the council hasn’t coughed up the money.

One might think the council’s a bit on the skint side with all those payments due to staff it’s unfairly dismissed through poor managerial practices but that would just be cynical. However, it’s nice to know that Tory-Tory/LibDem run councils share such common problems. You never know, they might just share other similarities.

Walsall Borough election result before the votes have been counted

I’m going to stick my neck out here and do a bit of election result prediction. Feel free to shoot me down should I get things spectacularly wrong but give me credit that at least I’ve got the bottle to put myself up for a potential right drumming.

Just for information I penned this article on April 28th 2007 in the early hours of the morning. I’ll be releasing it around about the close of polls on election day. There may be an hours discrepancy in terms of the time stamp as I can’t be bothered to adjust my sites times to BST but you’ll see it definitely went up before the votes were counted and feel free to save it but I promise not to try and pull a fast one by retro-editing it simply to make myself look good or get out of the shit if I get it spectacularly wrong.

So here’s how I think the make-up of Walsall will look come next Friday.

Tories 32
Labour 21
Independent 1
LibDems 6

Which is actually how it stood before the election.

In fairness it could be anything between:

Tories 34
Labour 18
Independent 2
LibDems 6


Tories 30
Labour 22
Independent 1
LibDems 6

So anyway, for you delectation I give you a quick run down on what’s going to happen in Walsall. It’s by no means exhaustive and of course there’s things I know and factors at work in some cases that I have no wish to put into the public domain for use by other parties against us but just for a bit of fun and for Paul Macmanomy to take the piss out of me when I get it spectacularly wrong here we go:

Birchills Leamore: Lab Hold

This on paper should be one of the safest Labour seats in the borough yet last year the majority over the Tories got down to 80 something (can’t be bothered to look it up). The reason for this was that the Labour Councillor at the time Carol Rose defected to the Tories, strangely enough she did this a week or so after she failed to get selected to stand for Stourbridge in the 2005 General election after she was flaunting her wares as a committed Labour person so she obviously thought the Tories were a better prospect for her future. She’s standing again but against Tim Oliver the current leader of the Labour group she doesn’t stand much of a chance.

Blakenall: Lab Hold

Again another seat that should be one of Labour’s safest in the borough. Complicated by a very active Democratic Labour Party candidate but despite that Labour should hold it. If we don’t then there should be some very serious questions asked.

Bloxwich East: Tory Hold

Labour held this seat last year by seven votes if memory serves me correctly, anyway not more than ten. That was with a local candidate who’s well known. This year, not a chance of picking up this seat, Tories will walk it.

Bloxwich West: Tory Hold

Labour have an excellent local candidate here and former Councillor who works hard in the area. Despite that the Tories have a far superior organisational structure in terms of campaigning in Bloxwich which accounts for them holding five out of the six seats in a town that on paper should be completely Labour and as above, our one seat is very tenuous.

Short Heath: LibDem Hold

I’m going to really stick my neck out here and give the positions of the parties.


I’m not going to go into the reasons but Labour will get slaughtered in this ward and the BNP will pick up a considerable amount of votes and clearly be second.

Willenhall North: LibDem Hold

Change of candidate for the LibDems here. They’ve put up the bloke who stood in Willenhall South last year who was so committed to us, so much so that he’s buggered off to a nice cushy safe LibDem seat.

Willenhall South: Lab Hold

Much to the contrary of Colin Ross and Paul Macmanomy saying this one’s too close to call I’ll go into numbers and predict at least a 200 Labour majority over the LibDems, Tories coming third and the Democratic Labour Party struggling to get over 100 votes if that. Simple analysis, Labour has the strong local candidate who lives in the ward, works very much on local issues and getting things done for people round here. The LibDems have put up that woman who used to be a member of the Labour Party, then joined Respect and has now ended up with them. Scraping the bottom of the barrel for candidates is putting it mildly.

Aldridge Central South, Aldridge North and Walsall Wood, Streetly, Rushall Shelfield and Pelsall: Tory Hold.

I’ve done these wards together because they make up the constituency of Aldridge Brownhills. It’s plain and simple, the Labour Party is next to non-existent in this bit of the world, we stand no chance of winning anything however you’ll note I left the Brownhills ward out which I’ll do next. The only ward to watch would be Rushall Shelfield, one of the BNP’s two target wards in Walsall. They’ll do well here, almost certainly come second but overturn the Tories? Almost certainly not.

Brownhills: Lab Hold

This one’s very tricky. If I was to play it safe I’d say Tory gain but I think Labour might just hold on. Electorally Brownhills is a funny ward. In the all-up election in 2004 it returned two Tories and one Labour although it was narrow between the second Labour candidate and the second Tory. Labour failed to gain it last year by a very narrow margin despite having an excellent campaign and a hard working candidate. It is also complicated by being one of the two focus wards for the BNP in Walsall that has almost turned it into a three way tie between Tory, Labour and the BNP. The BNP might pick it up but I think that the combination of a well known local Labour candidate who works hard in the ward may just see her through with those extra few ‘personal’ votes that such candidates get.

Pheasey Park Farm: Tory Hold

Nothing much to say, the Tories will win.

Bentley Darlaston North: Lab Hold

A presumed safe Labour seat and with the candidate who both works and campaigns hard in the area there shouldn’t be a problem in winning it.

Darlaston South: Lab Hold

Another ward with a hard working Labour Councillor up for re-election. Probably has the best run campaign of any in the borough. There’s a threat from an Independent, the wife of the current Independent councillor for the ward who won last year for very special reasons but against the Labour candidate combined with her formidable campaigning approach (at least compared to the rest of the Labour campaign in Walsall) this should hopefully be a Labour Hold.

Paddock: Tory Hold

Not much to say. The Tories will hold it.

Palfrey: Tory Hold

Another funny ward. A lot of Muslim community politics goes down in this neck of the woods. Last year it was a Labour gain and potentially could be a gain this year but I doubt it.

Pleck: Labour Hold

Again a bit funny due to some Muslim politics which saw a Muslim Tory elected in the all-up election of 2005 who then defected to Labour and decided not to stand this year so it’s a fresh Labour candidate but someone who’s known very well locally and works hard so he’ll probably get through.

St. Matthews: Tory Hold

I’m biased on this one as the candidate is the one who stood last year in Brownhills. He’s an excellent campaigner and was prior to the 2005 all-up election, the Councillor for this ward. Following the boundary changes this ward changed considerably. To the cries of gerrymandering and such, a large area with a good thousand or so Tory voters got shifted into this ward and effectively wiped Labour out. Is it possible to regain the ward? Sadly probably not and the Labour Group would be all the worse for the lack of the presence of it’s candidate in this ward sitting on the benches.

So there you go. My prediction for Walsall despite all the bad press, investigations, auditors reports (nicely delayed until after the elections), referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service, the background of what amounts to a completely crap Tory run council and I doubt they’ll be any change whatsoever and if anything maybe a Tory gain of one or two.

feel free to take the piss out of me if I get it completely wrong though.

[Update] As it’s polling day I’m going to stick pretty much with the predictions above but with some rather dodgy feelings regarding the Blakenall, Brownhills and Darlaston South wards.

What were you doing on….. Colin Ross?

As yesterday Bob tagged me about what I was doing on the 20th March 2003 I suddenly realised that there’s one person I had forgot to pass it on to. My old mate Colin Ross. That’s the guy who works for Ian Shires the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Walsall and who’s salary is paid for by Walsall MBC.

However I thought I’d make it a bit more specific in terms of dates and times, so here goes. I’d like to ask Colin what he was doing at:

10.37am, Thu 1st Mar 2007
2.56pm, Thu 1st Mar 2007
4.30pm, Thu 1st Mar 2007
9.18am, Fri 2nd Mar 2007
10.43am, Mon 5th Mar 2007
10.40am, Tue 6th Mar 2007
12.41pm, Tue 6th Mar 2007
4.52pm, Tue 6th Mar 2007
12.01pm, Wed 7th Mar 2007
12.37pm, Thu 8th Mar 2007
10.34am, Fri 9th Mar 2007
10.41am, Fri 9th Mar 2007
11.05am, Fri 9th Mar 2007
2.41pm, Mon 12th Mar 2007
4.47pm, Tue 13th Mar 2007
9.46am, Wed 14th Mar 2007
3.37pm, Wed 14th Mar 2007
10.58am, Thu 15th Mar 2007
11.07am, Thu 15th Mar 2007
5.03pm, Thu 15th Mar 2007
10.20am, Fri 16th Mar 2007
10.19am, Tue 20th Mar 2007
2.02pm, Tue 20th Mar 2007
10.29am, Wed 21st Mar 2007

OK, it’s a rhetorical question, I know the answer. Colin was posting to his blog and has been throughout the day for the last few years. Feel free to browse his archives he’s been at this for quite a while.

The only problem I have is that I thought Colin worked up at Walsall Council for Ian Shires, the Leader of the LibDems in Walsall and these times that Colin seems to post to his site throughout the week appear to fall pretty much within what would normally be defined as the traditional working day.

I only say this because I spotted this little article on the Express & Star’s website where it appears staff at Walsall Council caught doing things like downloading stuff and posting to their personal blogs might get into rather a bit of trouble.

I’m sure we’d all hate that to happen to Colin wouldn’t we?


I have of course recorded Colin’s entries for this month should they be requested from me for further investigation if Colin tries and pulls a fast one by deleted them or removing the timestamps.

Having a go at my own side – sort of…

I did mention as I got caught up in all this Tory attack nonsense that I was planning on writing an article that was critical of my own side. It’s a bit long-winded and requires some explanation, particularly that of a techie nature but bear with me there’s some interesting and important points to be made.

The genesis of this topic started when I received an e-mail encouraging me to sign a petition on No.10’s website. I don’t sign petitions as a rule and in all fairness this particular petition was poorly worded. However the good intention was there, it was something dear to my heart and I thought very valid to be raised.

Basically it was to encourage the Government to use Linux operating systems in Departments and the public sector in general.

Here’s why it wasn’t a particularly well phrased petition. It pretty much only mentioned Linux which to be fair is only one part of a wider use of Open Source Software (OSS) and I would agree that if the objective is to encourage the use of OSS in the public sector then there are far better places to start than simply trying to adopt Linux as an operating system.

Anyway as I’ve never signed one of these Downing Street petitions before I wasn’t aware that they send out responses but I was interested by the one that I got. Here it is:

“Government policy on Open Source Software (OSS) is available in the document “Open Source Software, Use within UK Government, Version 2.0, 28 October 2004″. This is available from The policy is set out on page 4 of the document. In particular the Government will:

* Consider OSS solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT procurements. Contracts will be awarded on a value for money basis;
* Only use products for interoperability that support open standards and specifications in all future IT developments;
* Seek to avoid lock-in to proprietary IT products and services; and
* Consider obtaining full rights to bespoke software code or customisations of commercial off the shelf (COTS) software it procures wherever this achieves best value for money.

The UK Government champions open standards and interoperability through the e-government interoperability framework (e-gif). This framework is available from the ‘govtalk’ web site. The ability to substitute one component for another removes the dependency on a single supplier and encourages competition – an essential for Transformational Government. Many authors of software embrace open standards and interoperability but do not wish to make their source code freely available; they should not be penalised.”

Me being the curious Penguin that I am decided to read through all the various documentation referred to and a few others as well.

Now on to a side issue where this becomes less an administrative issue and more a political issue.

The other day I was browsing through my site stats and picked up a referral from Technorati which looked interesting. Can’t remember what it was but I came up on the same page as Guido AKA Paul Delaire Staines.

As I don’t read his site I wouldn’t normally have picked up on it but had a little look. It was an interesting piece about George Osbourne talking up the benefits of OSS and to go with it Guido provided nice little graphical representations implying that the Labour Party was in some way in league with the evil empire of Microsoft compared of course to the open and wonderfully modern and forward thinking Tories.

Another side issue. I wanted to link to that post so dropped back the Paul Delaire Staine’s site tonight but couldn’t find it. There’s a simple reason. His site is complete and utter shite from a design/functional perspective. No category listings that aren’t present in posts on the front page, no hierarchical archives section to search by date and I didn’t spot a search function either. Purely from the perspective of a techie who designs websites with functionality as the core objective, I would be ashamed to put such a shoddy pisspoor site on the net but hey ho, back to the issue.

So Paul Delaire Staines did a piece talking up the Tories and doing down Labour, no surprise there then. However and this is why the ‘sort of…’ bit appears in the title of this post. I’d originally planned on giving my own side a bit of a drumming on this issue but it’s a bit more complicated than a straight fight against the evil empire of Microsoft, not that I would expect such a complex issue to be handled on Paul Delaire Staines site, he does afterall appeal to the Janet and John end of the political spectrum.

I’ve touched on a lot of the various issues before in this post so please refer to it if there’s any concepts you’re not familiar with.

Let’s run with the Tories good on OSS and Labour bad and we’ll split this into two categories. Use by the parties and use in Government when in power.

Use in Government first, that’s the easiest. Now OSS has been around for many years but it’s only been the last 5 or so years that it’s been hitting the mainstream for regular users. Prior to this any use of OSS has been determined by the techie bods behind the scenes and uses have been more concentrated on various server structures, e-mail systems etc, not your average desktop application that people actually use from day to day. Now because of this it’s hard to criticise the Tories for not implementing it when they were in power.

However, this was the period when a lot of the civil service used a particular Word Processor called WordPerfect which was systematically replaced by the Microsoft Office package throughout virtually every level of government departments so with all due respect to Paul Delaire Staines on this one, it’s a bit rich to accuse Labour as being under the power of the evil Microsoft when it’s those same Tories who he’s now espousing as the radical proponents of OSS who stuck the shit in the public sector to start with when there were perfectly acceptable and as most techies would probably agree, a far superior product being used to start with although it too was not OSS.

Labour have been in power for almost a decade and in fairness have done very little to either alter the situation as regards implementation of OSS solutions or promote it. However in October 2004 at least the Government published a paper on it’s use which is far more than the Tories ever did. Has anything been done about it, well I haven’t spotted anything particular from national level but there is some shift in local services. The most interesting is implementations in schools which as far as I can tell is being driven less from actual policy by individual local authorities and more from simple practical cost/benefit perspectives of individual schools where the onus on the change often comes down to the particular techie in question who’s been tasked with the implementation of IT systems.

The irony of this is that implementation in the public sector isn’t coming from top-down diktat but more from grassroots practical implementation on a local level to deal with the specific challenges and needs of the services in question.

The problem with implementation in the public sector is twofold. Firstly, large organisations invariably tend towards slow change over time, radical overhauls, particularly IT systems in the public sector tend not to be a good thing. People are happy with what they’ve been using for years, were trained on and have a suspicion of using new systems. Secondly what exactly are we talking about when we refer to using OSS in the public sector?

It’s not about sticking Linux on every desktop in every government department and local authority. There are a plethora of OSS applications out there that happily sit on Windows operating systems and I would be more inclined to agree that change there is where it is needed.

There’s only a few applications required for use in most aspects of the public sector, an office suite, e-mail client and web browser, not really that hard. Of these well the web browser isn’t of great significance from a cost perspective because it comes bundled with the operating system. However e-mail client and office suites are. A simple switch to and say Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client would save millions and unlike many switches of software, retraining costs are negligible. To be honest if any member of staff in the public sector can’t work out how to use after having used Microsoft Office then they have serious problems. The functionality, layout, style of the two applications are near on identical. Same is true for Thunderbird compared to Microsoft Outlook, looks a bit different but how hard is it to send an e-mail?

So there you go, a bit of criticism of the Labour Government for not pushing implementation where it could easily be done, but equally the Tories are to blame for many of the problems in the first place and I haven’t spotted a single Tory controlled local authority in the country about to embark down the road to IT enlightenment so we’ll put the George Osbourne thing down to a crap publicity stunt.

On to the parties actual usage then. After all if you’re going to espouse the use of OSS then one would assume you use it yourself. It’s a bit like telling people not to fly and then taking short haul trips that could easily be done by road. Or banging on about energy saving while burning shitloads of halogen bulb spots in your kitchen, that sort of thing.

Now one thing that came out of that Webcameron thing last week was a few hits from Tory Party HQ and please note, I’m going to say something complimentary about the Tories here. They use Firefox, an OSS web browser. Actually, all I know is that maybe one person in Tory HQ uses it but at least that’s one so for the record they get a tick box of approval on that one. Not sure what Labour or the LibDems use so can’t really offer an opinion there. Equally when it comes to operating systems and e-mail clients I really don’t know either but I’m going to hazard a guess they all use Windows with the odd Mac lying around for specific graphical and publishing work.

Here’s where we can get a picture of things though. Websites. Now I have no time to check out every single MP’s/Cllr’s/MEP’s website but from a bit of sampling here’s my conclusions. As regards elected members higher than Councillors I didn’t find a single one from the Tories or LibDems using an open source web system. I could be wrong, I’ll be happy to accept examples but from my mouch around the net I didn’t pick up on any. I found a fair few being used by Labour members, mainly it has to be said WordPress blogs although Harriet Harman has a Typo 3 front end with a WordPress blog tagged on to the back. When we get down to the Councillor level there’s a lot more Tories using open source stuff, again mainly WordPress but I didn’t spot a LibDem as they seem to often use some strange system that I’m assuming the party nationally set up for them.

On to the three main parties home websites. LibDems, looks like a bespoke system as does the Tories. Now of course I can only surmise from my own knowledge of scripting by looking at their source code but one usually finds that if a generator of some sort has been used it appears in the code. If however they have used OSS solutions or the companies they’ve employed to do their sites for them have and deliberately omitted it then that’s a big no no in the techiquette book. Labour on the other hand use a system called Typo 3 which is OSS, it clearly states it in the source code of the site and although I’m personally of the opinion that if you use OSS web solutions then you should also put it somewhere on your site, I won’t be too critical as it’s not a set requirement.

So there you go, Labour not so bad after all when it comes to the old OSS. I will qualify my statements above by saying that I used sample to derive these conclusions. I could quite easily have picked the wrong sites out and I’m happy to receive corrections or pointers in the direction of examples. I’m also really interested as I get a fair few hits from those working in the public sector of what you’re using at work. I’d like to do a bit more on this if I get enough responses to derive some serious data from so here’s what I would like to know. Here’s a few likely examples but please add others:
What operating system you’re using? Windows, Mac OS, Linux
What office package do you use? Microsoft,, Corel, Lotus
What web browser do you use? Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Netscape
What e-mail client do you use? Outlook, Thunderbird, Lotus

Feel free to post in the comments section although I know that people from political parties or the public sector might not wish to be identified then feel free to use the contact section and mail me. On this occasion all messages will be treated in strictest confidence and I won’t reveal anyone’s identity. If you could give indications like which party, which governmental department/local authority then that would help immensely. This for me isn’t really a party political issue, it’s more a personal campaign for better use of software in the public sector so I shan’t be using any of the data to have a pop at any party.

I love Liberal Democrats…

Hey, promised I’d be doing something on the LibDems. Actually this isn’t what I planned, it just sort of cropped up today by accident. Was reading through the BBC’s news and spotted this article on how old Ming the Merciless has faced down all those peace nick party members who wanted to scrap Trident.

Then I though to myself, hang-on a bit, I’m sure I saw a section on my old mate Colin’s website, he’s the guy who works for Ian Shires, leader of the LibDems here in Walsall who is employed by Walsall Council and also the guy who is one of their organisers in the West Midlands and was their Parliamentary Candidate for Wolverhampton South West in 2005.

So I decided to drop by his site out of curiosity and this is what I found:

Hang on, that’s a bit strange, I’m sure I saw something there to the effect of ‘say no to trident’ can’t be imagining things can I?

Then it came to me, I took a screenshot of dear old Colin’s website the other week and hey here it is:


That’s strange, there one minute, gone the next. Then I decide to have a bit of a look around the net. Hey, try it yourself with ‘colin ross trident’ plenty of vociferous calls for the LibDems to scrap Trident.

So what’s Colin got to say now that Ming’s stuffed them on Trident?

“The motion that passed is an improvement on our current position, the Liberal Democrats are now committed to reducing Trident by 50%.”

So erm, that would be Colin the ardent campaigner to scrap Trident now saying that to reduce it by 50% is OK?

Got to love those LibDems for their consistency.

A little bit of self indulgence

I’ve been a bit busy the last few days and last night in particular. Equally today would also have been quite busy as I planned to install some double-glazing, but due to the lack of supply of suitable plugs in Willenhall and deliveries due on Tuesday that job will have to be postponed. The reason I was busy last night was that I installed the latest version of Ubuntu Linux (edgy eft) on my computer, not sure why as the next release (grumpy groundhog) who thinks of these names, is released in April. Suffice to say it’s not as simple as the long term supported release of dapper drake but I was impressed with the startup and shut down times. 1m10 and 21seconds respectively. That on an old Celeron 1Ghz with 512Mb of ram ain’t bad in anyone’s book. (startup also includes the time it took me to log on and type my password of course).

That’s left me with a little time to do a bit of blogging while some DNS settings propagate across the net on a new project. So the subject for today is Google rankings and keyword referrals. Don’t worry, it’s not too techie.

As designing websites is one of the myriad of things that I do, I like to think I’m not so bad at what’s called SEO (search engine optimisation). This is what some web designers consider to be one of the darker arts of the techie but to be honest I’ve never really approached it that way. Yes, I know how to fiddle the system to get a site to the top of Google but I don’t, primarily because it’s cheating and will screw you over in the long-run anyway. I stick by the good practice route of developing well structured websites and a few other nifty but principled ways.

Partly it’s a technical challenge which is always something I’m up for but also a curiosity at what is possible. Now just a note for the first techie to point out I’m not using SEF URL’s, yes I know, there’s a very good reason for it and I’m still not overly convinced they’re as valuable to SEO as some people make out.

As these things interest me, I do tend to keep a close eye on the statistics of my site. Not in the way that self-important little idiots like PratTory do to impress about the vast numbers of people that find their little bits of writing interesting but I’m more interested in keyword searches through (primarily Google) that lead people to this site. BTW, Google ‘prattory’ Google’s got it right on that one.

So for a bit of amusement, here’s a few results from Google ( version, can vary slightly on other national versions). Some I’ve done a little bit of deliberate targeting on, others are simply accidental or sheer coincidence. All terms are specific, are relevant and true as of today when I double-checked them and I’ve put a bit of commentary in on some of them. I also want to clarify a few things as the last week or so certain people have been arriving at my site through specific search terms and I want to put the record straight.

“political penguin” 1st – Hey it’s the name of the site, I of course deliberately targeted this one, I do after all want people to find my site. I was however quite impressed it hit the no.1 spot within 36 hours of the site going live and hasn’t budged since.

“buying knuckledusters” 2nd – I did one post when I mentioned this, why I’m no.2 I have no idea. There are still an alarming number of people ending up at my site with this search term.

“Walsall MBC” 3rd – Thought this was quite strange when it first cropped up on Google and I’ve been slowly rising ever since. Interesting to think that one of the first impressions people might get of Walsall Council could be through my website. I’m sure that isn’t what all those marketing and PR people up at the council might want.

“Walsall politics/Walsall political” 1st – Quite proud of this one. Not deliberate I promise.

“Willenhall politics/Willenhall political” 1st – Again, same as the last one.

“Wolverhampton politics” 3rd – Given I write hardly anything about Wolverhampton this one is a bit surprising, but there you go. Equally I stand no chance with the term “wolverhampton political” Wolverhampton Uni has a political studies department, they like totally rule.

“deputy leadership contest” 2nd. Another real surprise given how little I’ve written on it, but there you go, not deliberate of course.

“peter francis walsall” 3rd.

OK, that’s the fun over. Here’s why I decided to cover this subject. The last week or so some interesting search terms have been cropping up from some interesting sources. Here’s the rundown.

“Ian Shires” 5th
“Ian Shires libdem” 1st – also works for ‘lib dem’ with a space.
“colin ross libdem” 3rd – also works for ‘lib dem’ as well.
“walsall libdem” 4th
“walsall libdems” 5th

For those who don’t know, Ian Shires is the leader of the Liberal Democrats on Walsall Council and Colin Ross is his assistant who is employed by Walsall Council and whose salary is paid for by the Council Tax payers of Walsall. Now for some reason these search terms have been popping up rather regularly over the last couple of weeks and this made me think I should have a look into it.

After a little digging it appeared that the search term for ‘Ian Shires’ was penned by someone on a Telewest broadband (now Virgin media) connection somewhere in Willenhall. It didn’t show up as the usual server for this side of Willenhall so I’m assuming it came from somewhere in Short Heath or Willenhall North – interesting that. What’s also interesting that they seemed particularly keen to check out everything that I’d written in my LibDem bashing section.

Now to be fair I wouldn’t have mentioned all this were it not for the fact that I’ve been getting more hits the last few days which is highly unusual. Coupled with an anonymous tip off to something going on up at yon council which I’m looking into and the fact that yesterday two of these referrals came directly from Walsall Council’s own webserver.

I guess if I’ve got so many people wanting to know what I’m writing about LibDems in Walsall then I better dig out the archive to keep them happy. Suffice to say, yes, a few things to come when I can put them together and see, I’ve even put this article in the LibDem bashing category so they know where to find it, aren’t I nice?

Daily round-up

Nope, not attending to pests with a well known brand of weed killer, I’m doing a bit of an overview and catch-up of the days events.

I’ve been out most of the day and busy with fatherly duties and attending to a visitor from Germany most of the evening so I’ve been a bit slow to catch up on what’s been going down in the wider world today.

So first up is the launch of a ‘new’ website by tweedle dee and tweedle dumber. My first impression was what’s the point? If the objective of the exercise is to encourage debate through the use of t’internet then someone might have told them it’s already been going on for years and they obviously just missed it.

Of course after a quick squiz through their comments section they have it appears successfully managed to attract a large number of the usual have a go at the Government brigade and Tory trolls which then begs the question, so what has this site achieved apart from becoming another forum for attack by those who do not like either the Government or the Labour Party?

For me it shows that an idea has been hatched by people who truly do not understand the online medium and were they to follow anything that is actually going on in recent online political discourse, one would assume they wouldn’t be so daft as to put a link to the Tory, sorry independent thinktank Policy Exchange. If by their claim that they wish to debate policy and direction within the Labour Party then by all means link to organisations that broadly share our common values. If their position is to entertain the views of a North American Neo-Conservative dominated organisation who’s aims are the antithesis of everything that any right-minded member of the Labour Party should believe then personally they can fuck right off.

So in summary, pair of losers launch pointless website that will achieve nothing other than more daft headlines and media speculation about the state of the Labour Party and foister claims of challenges and infighting which are pretty much in the wishful imagination of the Daily Mail et al.

Next up, and we’re on to Policy Exchange again. This one sort of took me aback slightly. Having a reasonable knowledge of the kind of right-wing rubbish that comes out of the charity status think tank I wasn’t quite aware that this was their sort of thing.

However reading the Metro on the bus today I came across an article based on research done by Policy Exchange. I’m assuming there’s only one thinktank in the country called Policy Exchange so here we go. Was it a study of the impending impact of mans activities on the future of our planet? Was it an evaluation on the proliferation of nuclear technology to states that may wish to support terrorism? Was it even a nice bit of we should privatise everything and leave the free market to sort things out? Nope, it was an investigation which revealed that Britons are the most unfaithful [to their partners/spoues] in Europe.

Well that’s nice to know, that Policy Exchange’s contribution to the discourse on British society is that we’re the most likely to shag someone else while in a relationship. (I’m using the “we’re” term there to include myself as a Briton but certainly not in relation to my own practices towards fidelity just in case you were wondering). For some strange reason this little piece doesn’t appear on their website amongst all the other titbits where they’ve been featured in the more high-brow end of the media. Of course to know Policy Exchange turns out this drivel for the tat end of the printed press market makes you wonder why Iain Dales resigned in the first place.

Finally there’s this story in the Guardian from last week that I meant to write on but didn’t. LibDem Councillors back a BNP Councillor to be on a committee. Brief outline, they did this, their group decided not to take action because like good little children they promised not to do it again, they then expressed no regrets about it and the party suspends them. In all fairness the LibDems are doing the right thing in suspending them while it’s investigated and of course were they found to be supporting a far-right party in such a way they deserve nothing more than to be booted out of the party.

I only mention this because I’m sure this is one of those situations where myself and my old friend LibDem Colin Ross would put our party allegiances aside and stand up for our principles as Colin so eloquently put it in this post a while back.

You know it’s strange though, because there’s not been one little squeak from Colin over this matter or a call for these two Councillors to be thrown out of his party. Strange that isn’t it?

Finally, finally, word reaches the Penguin that Walsall Council has been receiving enquiries from various people regarding the nature of Colin’s employment paid for by the hard-pressed tax payers of Walsall, sorry Colin, just to let you know, it wasn’t me, I never got round to it, another one of those jobs on my long list of things to do.