Friday, 17 October 2014

Labour announce (a little bit of) Lib Dem Supporters Trust policy

I've just checked my pass for Conference and it certainly appears to be for the Liberal Democrats and not for Labour's. I'm sure if I'd been at the wrong one, my cousin a Labour PPC for next year's General Election would have put me right.

But I do recall speaking in the motion on Reclaiming the People's Game. In fact I have evidence that I did here:


Yeah, we were talking about the role of supporters trusts in the running of football clubs. Many of those in the debate had some experience of such trusts, myself included, being set up to save their clubs. In my case that has resulted in investment in the club by the supporters trust and a seat on the board for a representative of the supporters trust.

So you can imagine my shock when today Labour announce that they have a plan to for supporters' trusts to appoint members of the clubs' boards. Even more startling when a number of Labour activists and leaning journalists attacked Liberal Democrats for actually have the gall to discuss and debate this issue at our conference earlier this week.

It appears that the reason we were attacked is that this is a good idea, so much so that it has been stolen from under our noses.

But the Liberal Democrat policy that was discussed went further than just call on supporters' trusts to be recognised. It called for greater equality and diversity training and observance within football, greater clarity and robustness into the ownership and fitness of individuals to be directors and protection for individual stadiums and local identities of clubs.

So Labour are only concerned about one part of what is needed not the hard stuff that will actually have a greater effect and hopefully lead to less requirement of supporters' trust to actually have to come to the aid of their club. Labour failed to deal with the banks but are happy to appeal to the base level in appearing to do something about the result, they are up to same trick with the people's game, but they really must deal with prevention as much as they are sorting out the recovery after near death experiences of many fans.

Yet again the Lib Dems are leading the way, but leading the way by getting to the heart of the issues, not dealing only with the outcomes but seeing how they can prevent the symptoms in the future.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Northern Ireland gets a pay day loan

Hey! I've got Peter Robinson on the line.
Not so much Wonga, as a cash advance from next year's block grant. But only on the proviso that we can come up with next year's budget which will have to account for the £100m that has been brought forward to this year to deal with the indecisiveness of the Executive to make hard decisions this year.

There is a problem though. Next year's budget has got to be sorted out by the end of this month or else the deal is off. It has taken Northern Ireland's politicians a lot longer than 3 weeks to reach the current impasse as they seem unable to make any tough decisions on cuts. So what hope do we have that over the next three weeks it will be any different to find similar cuts for a different period?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Dave's West Lothian Answer Fail

So the prime way that David Cameron sees as giving greater power to the voters in England in a small "f" federal UK is English votes for English laws in Westminster. He is therefore short changing the people of England do not be fooled by him.

In Scotland the Scottish MSPs can vote on Scottish laws in a chamber that is elected via a proportional voting system. Admittedly for the last 3 and a bit years that has been an SNP majority that the majority of voters didn't want but has in the past led to consensus politics.

In Wales the AMs can vote on Welsh laws also in a chamber that is elected via a proportional system, at times Labour have run the administration on its own but it has also often led to consensus politics.

In Northern Ireland while the MLAs are elected on a wholly constituency basis, it is a proportional system so unlike Scotland and Wales it does not have regional top up lists to ensure that people's views are represented as this is done in the six member seats.

If only the 533 English MPs could vote on whatever ends up being deemed to be an English only matter (something that there is actually very little of due to funding impacts for the devolved nations), it would mean that 39.6% of the electorate would end up with 55.9% of the MPs making their decisions. With boundary changes that were brought in since 2010 many of the 92 gains that the Conservatives made are supposedly harder to take away from them. But Labour with 28.1% of the vote and Lib Dems with 24.2% in England last time would have 35.8% and 8.1% of the MPs making such decisions respectively.

It is not proportionate as the other three member states have.

It is as Nick Clegg so rightly pointed out really a case of Tory votes for English laws.

What David Cameron is actually proposing is selling the people of England short and not giving them a true reflection of what the rest of the UK has experienced since devolution. He doesn't get what it is that makes the powers that true devolution can bring, he is seeing it as a way of regaining some control in some part of the UK, but to do so absolutely as only when the SNP had a majority from 2007-11 did they have any real say in any of the devolved powers.

Dear Gatwick, Lessons from Lib Dem Conference

Dear Gatwick,

We thank you for your sponsorship, free Wifi* and delicious snacks served up at numerous fringes at Lib Dem Conference but there is something you should really have known before to went to all the bother.

So see us liberals see such major attention grabbing especially at a conference where you are an interested party as treating the electorate. Therefore you are part of the establishment trying to buy our affections. It is something that at times even the leaders of our party attempt and fail to achieve, not because we are a fickle lot, far from it we are a principled lot.

Now we will accept your kind gifts, spending ages tweeting, blogging or whatever with the free wifi. We will gorge on the sumptuous spreads you put out. But even sitting in the conference hall during the debate I heard many people expressing just what I had already worked out, you were trying to bribe us, blindside us and our green credentials and sneak it in.

There was also an amendment which of course had to be laid by our own members which upset the Southern representatives so much they accused the movers, at least in privet if not so overtly from the platform or being fooled that opening up more capacity in the South East would lead to more in the regions, rather than steal whatever non-internal flights looked good and therefore creating even more need for the regions to fly through a gridlocked London-centric hub.

So the lesson dear Gatwick is don't suddenly appear to be interested in us when you have something you want us to do for you. Court us and persuade us if you can, but don't expect us to bow to the might of big business, that is what you probably have managed with our coalition partners but it isn't going to cut the mustard with me and my fellow Lib Dems.

* Which several people have since told me was crap and they reverted to using their own data allowance.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

First impressions of post referendum Scotland

Yesterday was the first time I stepped foot in Scotland after the referendum. It is a fortnight on from what Alex Salmond hailed the biggest decision Scotland has to make in 300 years so what do I think.

I come from Northern Ireland, so I am used to opposing sides marking their territories. Green, white and orange kerbstones in some parts red, white and blue ones elsewhere. But if you were in doubt you'd look up to the lampposts or the top of towerblocks and there you would see flags of the matching hue to confirm where you were. In days gone by from me this used to indicate whether I was Stephen or Patrick and whether my father came from Londonderry or Derry and more precisely The Fountain or just vaguely the Cityside.

There have always been Saltires flying across Scotland but this time as I traveled by bus from Cairnryan to Ayr and on my train to Glasgow as I wandered a little last night after grabbing a bit to eat in the City Centre back out to my accommodation for this week I noticed something else. Wherever I saw a Saltire there seemed to inevitably be a Yes poster or sticker in the windows as well.

Now I know that not all of those across the whole nation who fly the Saltire are anti British as those who fly the Tricolour in Northern Ireland are. And I expect, indeed know, that there are some who have a flag pole outside their house, hotel or whatever that fly the Saltire that do so for tourism reason and not as a mark of their voting intentions. But I largely was traveling through towns and villages. Or that is where I was close enough to see the flags and the additions. Or just the stickers like the one next to the plague on the Kingston Bridge commemorating the opening of it by Queen Elizabeth , the Queen Mother.

Just like my Facebook and Twitter feeds which has members of the 45% who voted Yes there are signs of people marking their territory. The one thing I did spot is that it is by no means 45% of all the accommodation that I wonders past that still is doing so. But there was enough of it to catch my attention. Maybe by online presence is more politically active that the general populace, or maybe the general populace is more ready to move on with the decision than what the media and the vocal parts of the 45 are telling us.

As I said these are just first impressions from someone who grew up in a divided community, where symbols have a greater importance to marking your identity that almost anywhere else I have visited or lived. Also as I wasn't present here during it and last lived in Scotland over a year ago I cannot judge on the intervening period it is just a brush on the surface from someone who has spent a decade living here.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Dear Dave, Why ECHR matters to me

Dear Prime Minister,

Being a white, Etonian, heterosexual, with a Royal bastard in your ancestry you have probably never suffered from having your Human Rights violated.

However, I am a white, homosexual, Northern Irish man with very working class roots and without European judgements I would probably be locked up right about now. Or trying to stay away from the place I call home.

You see without the European Court homosexuality would still possible be illegal in Northern Ireland. Or quite possible only up until 1997, but by then I would have acted illegally in the interim and so would have had a criminal record for loving someone. You see it was only when Jeff Dugeon's case made it to the European Court that the UK Parliament felt it had to act over the wishes of every Northern Irish MP at the time. At least at the present that is not the case, but we do have a situation where even a simple majority of our MLAs being in favour of advancing LGBT legislation here one mighty party has enough MLAs on its own to lodge a petition of concern and veto that advance.

David will no doubt tell us that we have legal recourse within Northern Ireland and the UK.

However, when the ministers of said party appeal every judgement that a High Court Judge in Northern Ireland makes that speaks in favour of LGBT people we have an issue. Of course some will say we have the Supreme Court of the UK. But they have intimated that they will be wary of making a judgement on a area of legislation that's power has been devolved.

So as a Citizen of the European Union (yeah it says that on my passport) I would like to retain full access to the powers of being in that Union. I don't want a majority Conservative Government making judgements as to what should be in that British Bill of Rights. Looking at recent comments from many about the "awkwardness", "unnecessariness" of same sex marriage, I have doubts if left to their own devices such a Bil of Rights would be fully inclusive all in the LGBT+ spectrum the way that the ECHR is.

I have a feeling that they may well be something akin to the DUP "consciousness clause slipping in there somewhere, allowing people of faith to refuse service to someone that they find in conflict with their faith. Raising freedom of religion away from merely the freedom to practice, observe and be treated fairly into the right to use that freedom to counter other freedoms that also need equal billing. That Bill of Rights may well be an Orwellian "some are more equal than others".

So Dave stop bowing to Nigel Farage and knee jerkingly doing away with some of the good bits of Europe, but start to look at the things that even the most ardent Europhiles say need reform.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The new ethical quagmire for journalists

Before today, even if you happened to live in Braintree, the chances are you hadn't paid much attention to the career of the Minister for Civic Society, Brooks Newmark. But now we all know his name.

It appears that a journalist has ensnared him to show a picture of him in his Paisley pyjamas which revealed rather more than most people should reveal in a clothed picture but a great deal less than some of the pictures recently leaked from iCloud.

The fact is that the married, father of five, who is MP for Braintree has resigned from his Government post on the eve of his party's conference. But the only person that this story may have been of interest to would surely have been his wife, and even then we cannot prejudge the nature of the marital relationship between the Newmarks. There are all sorts of possibilities that such a relationship may have been totally okay with this. They may be in a consentual open marriage. It may be that the marriage is beyond repair but they are staying together for the sake of the children and/or his or her career. It may of course be that his has done this against her wishes and without her knowledge and he is in deep trouble with the woman he married who still loves him.

The only reason that this could have been a public interest story is if there were anything illegal going on, or he was being hypocritical in his behaviour and his speeches in Westminster. If the journalist was entrapping him because of something illegal that Newmark had previous on why not take that evidence to the police? The reason of course is that there wasn't anything illegal, this male journalist impersonated a young woman to entrap the MP to get a story for the weekend of party conference.

The ethics of our journalists were under trial over phone hacking and this is a new depth. Posing as someone they are not to entrap either through text messages, or maybe online, into revealing images that could damage such people's careers. In other words impersonation, entrapment and then blackmail like releasing the story. New depths appear to have been sunk to to gather this story.

Journalists are not law enforcement, judge and jury of people's actions. Nor are they the arbitrator and curator of people's private lives. As when numerous ordinary people tweeted at The Last Leg on the issue of nude selfies, many more ordinary people are actually doing exactly what Mr Newmark did. Many of them will be readers of the newspaper this journalist works for. Some of them will undoubtedly be married to someone who isn't the recipient of that text or photo share via Skype, a website or email. But unless a law is being broken what they are doing or what Newmark was doing isn't actually illegal. It may not be part of your normal daily behaviour, it may be behaviour that you do not consider participating in but that doesn't make you the moral compass for everyone else.

Update Buzzfeed appear to have unearthed the Twitter account that the journalist used to flirt with a number of Conservative MPs. This is looking a lot more like a honey trap what was set far and wide.