Friday, 30 June 2006

Bad Night for Labour and Conservatives

Three by election results last night. Two in the traditional Labour heartland that returned Nye Bevan and Michael Foot but held by independents, one in the old Tory stomping ground of Harold MacMillan.

In the end Labour failed to regain either the Westminster or Cardiff seat of Blaenau Gwent from the Independents standing on the lagacy of Peter Law. In Bromley and Chislehurst they sank to fourth behind UKIP.

As for David Cameron he can also not be sitting to comfortable today he say a 5 figure reduced to 641 after a recount in what was the 17th safest Conservative seat only 13 months ago.

So far in this Parliament we have had two Westminster by-elections in Labour seats, one in a Lib Dem seat, one in a Tory seat and one in an Independent but formerly strong Labour seat. The results make interesting reading only in Lib Dem Cheadle has the holding party increased their majority and share of the vote. Labour lost vote share and were worried of losing Livingston, which they did in Dunfermline and West Fife and failed to win back Blaenau Gwent. The Tories failed to make any impression in any of these since a slight increase in their vote share at Cheadle.

In fact considering the spread of these constituencies. Three in traditional Labour heartlands and the Tories claiming two of them as their birthright the number of votes won make very interesting reading. Labour have won 36,633 votes to the Tories 33,265 however the Liberal Democrats have taken 48,811 votes in these five by elections. So it just begs the rhetorical question who do the electorate see as the real opposition to Labour.

Thursday, 29 June 2006

Almost a Year Since Gleneagles... is Tony Blair Getting on.

Well Save the Children have unearthed this memo.

So still a lot to do on making healthcare free in Africa.

HIV treatment target of 2010 needs some work on if this is going to be acheived.

Although debt in the 28 poorest countries of the world has almost now be cancelled.

Tony cannot be losing his direction or purpose as some of his own people are saying. There is still work to be done on the promises he made us last year. If he really wants to make poverty history he should be doing more about it.

Vote Neill and You May Have to Vote Again Later

This morning the Bromley Times carried a warning for voters in today's by-election. The front page story says that if the Conservative candidate Bob Neill is elected in today's election the people of Bromley and Chislehurst may find themselves returning to a poll if another election is called due to irregularities on his nomination papers.

The message could be summed up as Vote Blue, Vote Again.

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

In the Name of the Father

The latest critic of Gordon Brown's decision to seek out a replacement for Trident comes from the Moderator of the Church of Scotland. The Right Rev Alan McDonald says that he doubts that Mr Brown's father, the late Rev Dr John Brown, whose name Gordon invoked on the eve of Veteren's Day in his address at St Bryce Kirk, would have agreed.

The Moderator said that as for the actual view of Rev Brown he can not be sure but he stated the Church of Scotland has been opposed to nuclear weapons for 25 years. He went on to say in a cutting remark:

"The Chancellor is due great credit for his part in the Make Poverty History Campaign.

"However, what is the point of making poverty history if you then effectively target the poor, and everybody else in the world, with nuclear weapons?

"And ... how much aid for the developing world could you buy with £25 billion? How many lives could be saved?"

Last night a spokesman for the Chancellor was saying that 'the fullest possible debate' would take place on this matter before a decision is made. So in that case what exactly was meant by the Chancellors statement last Wednesday?

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

It's About Fairness Not Higher Taxes Bristow

Bristow Muldoon MSP is to start leafletting homes in Livingston with lies about the effects on local people of replacing the council tax.

He is citing figures in the leaflet which do not add Council Tax unto Income Tax figures for the current situation. Therefore scewing the results which will erronerously show an increase in income tax as one of Labour's many stealth taxes, which would be replaced by a local income tax, has not been taken into consideration.

Maybe Mr Muldoon would care to enlighten the electorate what the changes in the average tax budget for all taxes income, council, fuel, VAT etc have been under Labour to the average household instead of grabbing unto one headline tax while ignoring the rest. The Lib Dem's Tax policy is to bring about fairer taxes to the average and less well off members of our society something that Labour have been failing to do in the 9 years they have controlled Westminster.

I look forward to seeing a copy of this leaflet and will let you know just how average Mr Muldoon is going to say an average household is. His colleague in Westminster Jim Divine, used an example of a couple in the top 30% of earners during last year's by-election.

A-Lististo Spokesperson Fails to Secure Seat

Anne McIntosh MP for the Vale of York, which is disappearing under boundary changes, and Tory spokeperson on Work and Pension has failed in her bid to gain selection for Selby. In another blow for Chameleon Dave's A-Lististos not even potential Government ministers, who already have Parliamentary experience, can fend off local candidates such as Nigel Adams.

Monday, 26 June 2006

Cameron Fails to Impress Former Tutor

After listening to the end of Italy vs Australia on the way home I stayed tuned to Radio 5 while I got in some shopping on the way home. When who should they bring on to join the condemnation of Chameleon Dave's UK Bill of rights but his old tutor from Oxford, Professor Vernon Bogdanor.

Now it may have been a number of years since the Tory leader faced this particular Oxford Don in a tutorial but the comments on this evening's news was a vertitable ripping apart of sub-standard undergraduate work not even fit of a potential future Prime Minister. Cameron was accused of not understanding the German example he was citing to model his plan on. Far from it circumventing the European Convention of Human Rights Professor Bogdanor told Radio Five listeners, deprived of Wimbledon coverage, that the German courts actually had the right to throw out laws that contravened the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), whereas our own courts could only say that Parlilament should re-address such an issue. He also said that having a Bill of Rights alongside the ECHR would only cause confusion as British citizens would still be European Citizens no matter what Dave was planning to do.

It made great radio to hear the man, who is cited as calling David Cameron "one of the ablest" students he had taught, tear a chunk out of his latest plans. It very much was like those shamefully pulling apart of substandard work that all Univeristy students witness at some point in their academic career, and they just hope that they are never on the recieving end.

Labour Not so Tough on Crime

Prime Minister's Questions in the last couple of weeks has been dominated by law and order so Channel Four have a timely report comparing the main parties voting records on these issues.

In the vote on the Criminal Justice Act at its third reading on 20 May 2003 Labour voted for and the Liberal Democrats and the Tories voted against. But what were the reasons. It introduced a range of measures including indeterminate sentences for anyone committing a serious sexual or violent offence, and an early removal scheme to allow foreign nationals to be deported at the halfway point in their sentence.

The reason that the Lib Dems voted against was that it introduced a measure that allowed automatic parole at half of their sentence for anybody with being sentenced to over four years. The Lib Dems believed this should be the decision for a parole board on a case to case basis. The Tories did not give a reason for their opposition.

The Lib Dems voted against the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill at its third reading on 24 June 2003. However, we had voted in favour of their introduction in the Crime and Disorder act 1998. The reason that the vote changed in 5 years is that Lib Dem Councils had introduced Anti-Social Behaviour Contracts which have proven to be such a good idea that they are now being taken on by the Home Office. Both Labour and the Tories back ASBOs which may not be around much longer following the Home Offices new consideration of ABCs.

The view of Channel Four on all this is that the Lib Dem and Tory vote against Labour policy is either because they seek to introduce tougher policy or because they have seen fundamental flaws in the legislation that labour has introduced.

Therefore Mr Blair is not so tough on crime and muddled on how to legislate on crime. So next time you hear the alternative New Labour sound bit rolled out remember the facts.

Losing Your Friends in the Press

The Torygraph have this morning are carrying the news about Bob 'Three Jobs' Neill's difficulties regarding the acualite on his nomination form for the Bromley a Chiselhurst by-Election. If the Tory press is printed this Mr Neill must be wondering what where his friends are.

Sunday, 25 June 2006

Tory Case of Foot in Mouth 2

Annabel Goldie might have glared at her TV on Friday night if she had seen her Westminster leader on Jonathan Ross. Not only did he continue to show his indecision of Iraq but he admitted that Margaret Thatcher made it hard for the Scots but that she got it right:

"It meant very difficult decisions. Especially for north, Wales and Scotland, there were difficult times - but we in the Conservative Party believe they were the right decisions."

Just the sort of comment to go down well with the elephant like memory of the Scots, who still remember that it was Michael Howard who experimented with the Poll Tax north of the border. Ten months out from an election in Scotland it may not have been the wisest time to make such a confession.

Tory Case of Foot in Mouth

It's not been a good weekend for Tory leaders' vocal utterenaces. Adding to their woes is Brain Coleman chairman of the GLA and self-confessed football-phobe. He actually in a statement compared the St George waving and flying English supporters to Nazi Germany and the military junta in Argentina in 1978. He said:

"A Jewish friend of mine remarked how the sight of endless Cross of St George flags reminded her of the Nazis' taste for flying flags at every possible opportunity and the nationalistic feelings whipped up by totalitarian regimes.

"The Argentinian generals used their World Cup victory in 1978 to lay the groundwork for the invasion of the Falklands four years later.

"One of the great things about being English is that our patriotism is restrained, rather like all our emotions. If England win the World Cup, let's have some polite applause."

So I hope every football fan has got that. Polite applause only no chanting from the stands, no screaming at the referee and no singing of Championes when your team wins something. Maybe Mr Coleman would care to enlighten us how this anti-flag waving affects the last night of the Proms, the Mall during State Visits or the Union Flag festooning the header of his own party's literature?

Also is Mr Coleman going to stop his party leader flying the flag of St George from his bike as we suppose the chauffer's follow up vehicle?

Saturday, 24 June 2006

Tory Candidature Invalidated

Who said the Tories were going to win Bromley and Chislehurst no problem?

Well it appears that their candidate Bob Neill in invalid to stand for Parliament and has made a false claim on his nomination papers.

It looks likes Bob 'three jobs' Neill has too much opn his plate to check the conditions of his various employments. Apparently his membership of the North East London Strategic Health Authority is a position that explicitly prevents him standing for Parliament under the House of Commons Disqualification Act of 1975.

So not only has he stood when he is inellible but he has also fasley signed the decalration that he is not disqualified under the act. Not only has he ruined his political career and thrown the by-election into tormoil but he has also dented his reputation as a legislator at the same time, the law being another of his jobs.

Thanks to Recess Monkey for this news.

Friday, 23 June 2006

Farewell to Prudence and the Nuclear Family

Gordon Brown may be about the become part of a nuclear family when he wife delivers a second child, we all hope safely again this time. But his opther recent nucleur comments on a replacement for Trident are going to take a bit of explaining.

Nick Robinson the BBC's political editor is on the ball today. He has found out that one Labour backbench rebel in 1984 described Britain's nucleur deterrent as:

"Unacceptably expensive, economically wasteful and militarily unsound."

Maybe that back bencher should have words with the Chancellor about his fears if only that back bencher wasn't the newly returned member in 1983 for Dunfermline East who now sits for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath the one and the same Gordon Brown.

Cameron Flip Flops on Jonathan Ross Show

Watch out for Friday Night with Jonathan Ross tonight. You will hear David William Donald Cameron say that Blair was right to go to war in Iraq and said that those who had supported military action should 'see it through'.

Is this the same David Cameron who was quoted on an election leaflet earlier this year in Dunfermline saying?:

"Issues that once divided Conservatives from Liberal Democrats are now issues where we both agree. Our attitude to devolution and the localisation of power. Iraq."

I happen to remmeber the appearance of that quote on election literature because when I returned from deliveries to see the offending comments. Must people's reaction went something like this:

Iraq? Iraq! IRAQ!!! When have we ever agreed with the Tories on Iraq?

In fact I remember poor Michael Veitch my Conservative opponent in last May's General Election being the only one of the candidates to support the war in Iraq from the platform during hustings.

So is this another Chameleon moment for Dave? Saying one thing to try and not be totally wiped out in Dunfermline but having to maintain the party line on a national platform? Or is this a flip-flop in the extreme within such a sort period? Does Dave really know his mind and what words are coming out of his mouth?

D Cameron to Stand for Tories in Linlithgow Next May

According to the Scottish Tories website their candidate for Linlithgow next May is D Cameron. Fortunately for the electors of Witney it is not their MP and leader of the Tories in Westminster but Donald Cameron, however sharing two names with the party leader might be one way of acheiving recognition in the fight to come back from slipping to fourth in last May's General Election, though I doubt it.

I'm sure my regular readers would like to know more about Mr Cameron, well so would I but a cursuory internet search provides no further clues. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 22 June 2006

So Long and Thanks For all the Fish

Conservative Home have launched a vote to select a new logo for the Tory party.

Now being a big 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' fan I think that the first one featuring the Dolphins reminds me of when the second most intelligent creatures took their leave of Earth. However, their last message was mistaken as a double somersault through a hoop while whistling the star spangled banner.

I do hope that is a good omen that the Tory message will me so unclear to the voters that they have no idea what is is that they are saying. Then people will look for parties with substance rather that just one that is performing stunts to impress.

Blair Back Peddles Over Tartan Army PMQ Slur

Yesterday at Prime Minister's Questions Anne Begg the Labour MP for Aberdeen South asked her leader:

While accepting that people can be passionate about football, does he agree that that incident besmirches the reputation not only of Aberdeen, but of the tartan army, who can travel the world without attacking supporters of opposing teams?

The Prime Minister's response in full to her question was:

My hon. Friend is absolutely right both in what she says and the tone in which she says it. I am sure that everybody condemns what was an appalling and totally unjustifiable attack. In fairness to the football fans from England, as well, the vast majority of them behave extremely well. The way in which the present World cup is being conducted is absolutely excellent and it is a great tribute not just to the German authorities, who are conducting it and in charge of it, but to the English fans who have travelled there. I pay tribute to all those who lawfully and properly are football supporters. She is absolutely right about what she says about that particular case.

The fact that he did not point out that the vast majority of Scottish fans also abhor such attacks which was part of Miss Begg's question has caused upraor with the Tartan Army.

However, with comments flying in from various Tartan army supporters associations A Downing Street spokesperson said later:

"What the Prime Minister was agreeing with was Anne Begg's clear assertion that attacks like these should be seen for what they are, which is a disgrace."

Going on to assert that Mr Blair was "absolutely not" criticising Scottish fans, the spokesman said, endorsing Ms Begg's view of tartan army members as peaceful supporters. However, as seen above Mr Blair's comments in the House did nothing to suggest this about the Tartan army. While Scottish fans praise the English fans on their good conduct in Germany that is in no way related to the question about an attack on an English fan in Scotland.

If only Gordon Brown hadn't raised the issue of World Cup football into such a political arena.

Linlithgow Parking Debate

Last night I attended the public meeting held by Linlithgow Community Council regaring the parking proposals for the town centre.

Many of the proposals in the scheme were torn into because of a number of factors. One thing that did cone out of the scheme is that the officers who drew up this proposal are not taking into account the the full long term picture of the area.

In the FAQs in the proposal under 'Why not build a new car park?' comes the response:

'In the short-term, it is not feasible to provide signifigant extra parking space in Linlithgow due to the signifigant costs and lack of suitable places.'

The problem is that the reasonm that the costs are so prohibitive is that every suitable space is being bought up for residential development therefore increasing the pressure on parking spaces whereas the same brown field site could have been used by the coucil to alleviate the parking issues.

Of the four groups that park in and around Linlithgow 3 do not appear to have been addressed in the proposals the traders and business owners will have no right to park near their business, the tourists that come to Linlithgow and are an important eceonomic imput and the commuters upon which development of Linlithgow and nearby Bo'ness is being built with the express links to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Of the fourth group the local residents these while being considered are not being given enough recognition or available spaces and are being asked to move cars from outside some of their front doors.

The proposal would also make Linlithgow the only town in West Lothian where residents and shoppers would have to pay for parking to get to their shops. There has recently been huge investment to help commuters in Linvingston at Livingston North a new second car park and the park a ride schemes on Livingston road. So the argument about cost is merely one of no back bone.

If residents want to make comments about these proposals they should write to West Lothian Council, Transportation, FREEPOST SCO4880, Linlithgow, EH49 0BR by the 30 June.

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

A-Lististo Not Quite a Tigger

The most wonderful about Tiggers is I'm the only one.

from Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones A-Lististo and now Conservative PPC for Chippenham has had his Tigger credentials to be the only Black Farmer in Britain exposed by the Grauniad today, although fellow Lib Dem blogger Paul Walter got there first.

Just for the record Wilfred David Mwanaka grows maize, pumpkins and butternuts in Essex, and is another Black Farmer who farms in the UK.

Class Reversal in Cologne

Last night it has been reported that the Eton educated conservative member for Witney was sitting with the mass of English travelling support in the stands at the RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne. Meanwhile a son of a Scottish manse Labour politician was sitting with the Hoi Polloi and German Government representatives in the VIP box.

But apparently all was not well between the two. The Raith Rovers supporter's associates claimed that the Tory was a Johnny Come Lately football follower and was trying to merge chameleon-like into the hearts of English supporters having acquired his ticket from his corporate friends. They also accused him of trying to make political capital out of football. Heaven forbid that the member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath should attempt such a thing.

Apparently ITV provided the corporate tickets and while Tory spokespeople said their man would be celebrating with the fans he would not be out too late as he has a pressing engagement today at one of the Royal Palaces in the City of Westminster.

A Sign of Things to Come?

Kate Maclean the Labour MSP for Dundee West has announced that she will not be seeking re-election next May. Her majority in 2003 was 1066 so maybe she is getting out after five successful election campaigns and representing parts fo Dundee for 19 years befoire she ends up with a metaphorical arrow in her eye. The seat is one of the most likely to fall to the SNP in May.

Meanwhile I have sized up the seven candidates for the Liberal Democrat Lothian list. I have been on the campaign trail with all seven of them at various points in the last 12 months and therefore had very little problem in ranking them before posting my ballot off. They are a very strong selection and hopefully we will have a significant share of the second vote to see some of them elected even if we do increase our number of constituency seats across the region.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Blair Force One and err...Two

Tony Blair is to get two official planes to fly him on official government business.

One will apparently only have 70 seats for long haul flights, the onther a smaller 15 seater for short haul. Which means that fuel usage per passenger will be higher than booking the same delegation on a commercial flight.

So much for Tony Blair being prepared to fight Climate Change. I hope he is going to offset the fuel emmisions.

Can't you just imagine Jim Bowen going up to Prescott and saying "Here's what you could have won"?

Blair: England Expects Every Scot to Do Their Duty

The Facts:

On 6 May 1953 Mr Leo Blair's wife Hazel gave birth to a second son in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was given the name Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

He spent his early childhood in Australia before moving with the family to Durham. But he has his secondary education in the city of his birth at Fettes College, Edinburgh.

Yesterday he became another Scot to become all English saying:

"I support England very strongly, but if Scotland was playing - not England - but a game against someone else why [take the attitude] that I don't want Scotland to win when they are part of the United Kingdom?"

The thing is Tony it is just this sort of attitude that the English will happily adopt an Scot, Welsh or Northern Irish sports team of person as their own when doing well but always reject them when they start to wane that leads to the Celtic nations looking for teams of excellence to support, especially if we are neutral. That plus the fact that the English still go on about 1966. So the Scots have to keep reminding the English that they were the first team to beat the World Champions when they met in 1967. The same may eventually be true of Rugby from 2003 but the Irish take great pleasure in reminding the English who beat them first as world champions.

We also live in a multi-cultural society Mr Blair are you asking the Australians, Germans, French, Americans, Italians and others who live in England and are supporting the land of their birth or forefathers to support Ingerland? Or what about Norwegians, Austrians, Russians or New Zealanders who are merely supporting a team maybe they have some connection with, or maybe has some players in their league?

Last time I checked I was free to support Northern Ireland living here in Scotland. In fact the other Livingston fans applaud me for it. I also support Ireland in the Rugby whether at Murrayfield or, as happened once, at the Scottish Lib Dem conference with the party leader stood beside me.

So when all this jovial anybody but England support is out of the way at some point from the 24 June to the 9 July we'll either be hearing about the 40 years of hurt continuing or ending ad nauseum until the next World Cup or beyond. So allow the Scots their 4 weeks of pleasure Mr Blair, after all tis only a game of fitba.

Monday, 19 June 2006

Brown Aide Predicts Labour Failure

In what was an interesting weekend of pronouncements from various Labour sources Michael Wills MP for Swindon North, former Home Office Minister says that on its current course Labour are heading for 15 years in the wilderness following the next General Election.

Mr Wills has put it down to a matter of trust, basically because he still believes that Labour have good messages on public services. He also thinks the issue is to get the public listening to Labour. He in fact said:

"Unless we can get people to start listening to us, unless they are prepared to hear the messages we are putting across, we are going to lose next time. There is no question about it."

Well Mr Wills personally I think the people are listening to what Labour has to say and aren't happy with it. But I agree with him that it looks like they will lose next time.

Only if it is a matter of trust that is the problem with Blair then Chamelon Dave had better start deciding which colour he is going to remain no matter what the background colour. Too much camoflage from the Tory leader would also sink the good ship Tory.

Saturday, 17 June 2006

Is World Cup the Catalyst for the West Lothian Answer?

Today's Scotsman raises an interesting point by suggestion that the current World Cup could could intensify pressure on the devolution settlement.

Since Tam Dalyell asked the West Lothian Question it has gone unanswered and after 7 years of devolved power in Scotland it has raised its head above the parapets of Westminster to save Tony Blair's hide on a number of occasions.

The question that is seeking to be answered is:

How can it be right that MPs elected to Westminster from Scottish constituencies have no ability to affect the issues of their constituents which have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and

If power over Scottish affairs is devolved to a Scottish Parliament, how can it be right that MPs representing Scottish constituencies in the Parliament of the United Kingdom will have the power to vote on issues affecting England (including those that don't affect Scotland), but English MPs will not have the power to vote on Scottish issues?

According to James Kirkup's article in today's Scotsman there is growing disquiet in England and this might tear assunder the constitutional agreement that was established in 1999. A report is going to be made by the Scottish affairs committee next week that is going to highlight this unease and proposes possible solutions.

The committee sees four possible outcomes the dissolution of the UK; English devolution; fewer Scottish MPs; or English votes on English laws. Can any of these answer the question sucessfully and fully?

Dissolution of the UK

A radical proposal but would it be sustainable. It throws up a number of other questions not least of which is the Northern Ireland question. Could Northern Ireland survive on its own? We are still waiting to see if they can return to governing themselves at present. If they cannot what would become of them on dissolution, would they remain part of England or part of Ireland?

Both the major parties have governed the UK for years as unionist parties standing up against the Nationalists of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would they then take a big u-turn and give in to those calls after all this time.

What would become of North Sea oil and its revenue? those fields are goegraphically Scottish not English could nay government contemplate losing such a highly profitable income earner and put the English in a position of energy debt.

Admittedly dissolution of states has been occuring all over Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. However, this has usually been initiated by the smaller fragments seeking and gaining their independence from the larger state. The notable exception was the equality of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Not one of these dissolutions has been powered from the largest section of the whole releasing voluntarily the other states.

English devolution

Tony Blair will claim he tried to do this and it failed. The problem with the North East Assembly proposal was that it was not devolution in any meaningful sense. There was to be no real power to that proposed Assembly it has less ability to change anything that the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies.

Giving real power to the regions of England and increasing the powers bestowed on Wales and Northern Ireland could have real benefits to everyone. There are differences in provisions of certain services from region to region. Environmental concerns in the South West would be different from the largely urban Midlands. Transport in London is vastly different from those in the North West. Health care provision in the South East commuter belt is different from the heavy industry background of the North East. One shoe doesn't necessarily fit all, one solution created in Westminster is necessarily the best for the regions.

The problem with NuLabour and is they like control from the centre. NuLabour want to control the minituae of the things that fall under Whitehall departments from Whitehall. You just have to look at their proposals to merge Police forces, control of Health Service provision etc to see that bigger equates to better in their eyes. Therefore giving power to regions is probably not on their agenda.

Fewer Scottish MPs

Last May there already was a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs coming down from 72 to 59. Any further reduction would only serve to make many of the largest geographical constituencies in the UK even bigger. Now I know there are bigger constituencies in Canada, the US and Australia but these places also have a different degree of accessibility by-and-large. The wilds of Scotland do not easily allow for small airfields of easy access by superhighways.

Already to accommodate the reduction some constituencies in Scotland straddle two Scottish Parliamentary regions and two or more Scottish Parliamentary seats. Where I stood in Linlithgow and Falkirk East last May the voters were served by two different councils, two regions, two Police Forces, two health boards etc. The constituency had 2 constituency MSPs, 12 list MSPs and that is for a relatively straightforward division. Some Scottish MPs elsewhere have far more other elected representatives to deal with for various parts of their constituency.

So the practical side of having non-coterminous boundaries needs to be properly addressed before any further reduction is even considered also the practicalities of MPs serving large constituencies.

English votes on English laws

The question with this had been what constitutes English laws. Even Tam Dalyell the poser of the original question on occasion since devolution voted in Westminster on what was a devolved issue. In his explanation although the law would only apply to England it would have a knock on effect in Scotland. However, as Tam would no doubt probably agree some of his English former colleagues probably wish they had the same opportunity on some of the decisions that have been made in Scotland. So who is to determine what is truly a devolved issue in that sense?

So what is the best option? I would say English devolution. To what extent? Probably on a regional level but giving real power to the regions and not just forming talking shop. It works for Germany and Spain more or less equal in size to the UK. But until both Labour and the Tories are prepared to let some power leave their grib and let decisions be taken and exercised outwith Whitehall the West Lothian Question will continue to fester.

So while Gordon Brown's new found liking for the three lions on his shirt is the opposite of the majority of his fellow Scots it doesn't look like the West Lothian Answer is any closer to being found.

Could Scotland Knock Sweden Out of the World Cup?

The last time Sweden faced Scotland on 17 November 2004 the land of Abba and Sven Goran Eriksson celebrated a 4-1 win.

However, Sweden have yet to qualify for the second round of the World Cup, they need a single point to go through. Following Argentina's 6-0 win yesterday against Serbia and Montenegro England need to impress to be taken seriously by the other serious contenders, Portugal, Germany, Holland and Brazil have all looked equally fragile so far only Argentina and Spain have stood out.

So let's say Sven allows Gerrard and Lampard some freedom and that he has Owen and Rooney fighting it out to impress to play alongside in form Crouch in the second round. The team might just leave Sweden on four points with either a negative or neutral goal difference.

In the simultaneous game at Kaiserslautern on Tuesday night Trinidad and Tobago must play for a win against Paraguay who will only be playing for pride. Now sat on T&T's bench so far unused in this campaign sits Jason Scotland. Should Leo Beenhakker find his team winning and in with a chance of progressing he may wish to rest his starting strikers. Now he has used 5 already but maybe to gee up the Tartan Army support that has adopted his team he might throw on Jason Scotland.

So imagine the scenario:

T&T are 2-0 up Sweden are losing 3-1, therefore Trinidad and Tobago are one goal up on goal difference.

Scotland comes on with about 20 minutes to go.

Sweden score through Henrik Larsson (Scotland [the nation] doesn't know whether to laugh or cry) Sweden are now ahead on goals scored level on goal difference.

Jason Scotland scores and T&T deny Sweden by one goal as the games come to an end.

Pubs across Scotland start singing Scotland, Scotland, Jason Scotland after all they all seem to have been looking up the lyrics. As most of them have come through here in that search.

Friday, 16 June 2006

All Quiet on the Northern Front

As some of my regular readers may know I work in a call centre and last night I got called upon to cover the shift that finished at 7 o'clock. Fortunately work very kindly has TV sets so we can at least watch the action while continuing to take calls during the World Cup.

However, from 5pm to 7pm last night while we were constantly taking calls I only had two from male customers, every other customer was female. Of those two one was similarily still at work calling on behalf of a customer and the other was also located North of the Border in Scotland.

Maybe somebody could enlighten me to the derth of English males between 17:00 and 19:00 last night?

The A-List and 4Rs

The author of Mrs Dale's Diary (former candidate for Norfolk North, former David Davis campaign manager, apparently named by London Evening Standard's Power People list as one of the top 200 most influential people in London, yet not one of the top 100 Tories not yet in the House of Commons) visited this site yesterday evening and left a comment I would like to answer if I may.

Mr Iain Dale said about my comment that only 2 A-List candidates had made the Folkestone and Hythe shortlist:

This is utter bollocks. It is simply not true that only 2 of the 20 in Folkestone are A Listers. I don't know where you got that from.

Well if Mr Dale had bothered to open the link that cited that very fact he would have seen it led straight to a Torygraph article on 9 June were a Conservative spokesman (please note the gender specific epithet) in denying that Adam Rickett's failure to make this list was a failure for the A-List said:

Two other priority candidates, including Simon Walker, a former media adviser to the Queen, and Priti Patel, a former Tory press officer, had gone forward to the next stage of the selection process at Folkestone and Hythe.

Now as Mr Dale has been unable to either provide a different number or another source I'll have to stand by what is out in the public domain. However, if he is willing to articulate errors in my arithmetic I will read what he has to say and write it up. After all as a Liberal Democrat I'm determined to lead by example with the 4Rs of Education.

Thursday, 15 June 2006


No it's not the cricket score. Nor the odds of France breaking their world cup duck of four games without scoring in the World Cup, strange that their last goal was the winner in the 1998 final.

No its the 114 MSPs who yesterday voted in favour of the Borders' rail link. Bristow Muldoon did cause a bit of a ruckus with his doomed amendment. He was accused of politicising and electioneering as his proposals to do without the station at Stow and allow the contractors to not build the whole line as a job lot. This could have led to the line reaching only as far as Gorebridge in Labour held Midlothian and not continuing to Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank in Liberal Democrat held seats.

When you consider that the Lib Dems had the restoration of the line as an election pledge in 2003, and Labour only took it on as part of the partnership agreement that sort, this would have been denying a sizeable number of voters who voted for the line being denied access to it.

Fortunately Bristow Muldoon did join the 113 other MSPs voting for and only Brian Monteith voted no.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

So Tony What is Changing?

Much as I'd like to think Sir Menzies Campbell read my blog this morning and aimed his question at PMQs today based on that, I doubt it. After all he did speak on the subject yesterday to a group of businessmen.

However, Ming added a new twist which must have made the fading shade of green Chameleon shirk in his seat across the ailse as he asked something that David William Donald Cameron wouldn't dare to test his party's green credibility. What Ming asked was what had changed since 2003 when an energy review criticised the option of new nuclear power stations on the grounds of cost and waste.

Mr Blair's response was that a balance of new sources of power was needed (is this a climb down from his over reliance on nucleur) and also that the technology of nuclear power was also changing. It may be changing Prime Minister but the issues of cost and waste have not yet been address. As the Prime Minster said 'also' this must mean that he acknowledges that other low-carbon energy production methods are also changing. They are becoming more economical, less wasteful of what is produced and more with greater efficiency.

At the moment Blair with his push for more nucleur no matter what the costs or effects is setting him up for an Arnie Vinnick type nightmare some time hence.

A-List Equals Abysmal List

A prime Tory seat that of former leader and Home Secretary Michael Howard has selected only only 2 of Chameleon Dave's A-List of candidates in their short list of 20, that's TWENTY candidates. That is a one in ten chance of a A-lister which are worse odds (2 in 3) than in Bromley and Chislehurst where the local party failed to select an A-lister.

Most high profile of the failures is Adam Rickett the quintisential mincing metrosexual candidate from the list that is trying to promote diverty within the conservative Tory party.

However, the former Coronation Street star should have seen it coming when the Chairman of the Folkestone and Hythe constituency Conservative Association made his views clear in the Telegraph on 1st June:

"I think it is unlikely that Mr Rickett will advance much further in the selection process in Folkestone & Hythe, which is a very traditional Conservative seat."

Considering that traditional Tory seats are the sort of seats that the high profile, and on some occasions highly qualified A-listers need to take to have a lasting effect in Parliament shouldn't the opposite be true if the Tory party have truly taken young Dave to heart. Maybe he should revert to his full name David William Donald Cameron until he can convince the traditionalists at the core of his party that he is on their side.


In the comments below Iain Dale pointed out that the number of A-Listers quoted in the Torygraph is erroneous and he has since advised me that he personally knows of six A-Lististos on the Folkestone and Hythe short list. We wait to see if the A-Lististos can break their duck in established seats, not effected by boundary changes, in the selection process.

Green Men Speak with Forked Tongue

Oh dear they claim to talk the talk but clearly neither of them walk the walk.

David Chamelons new green caring Conservatives clearly are not even prepared to talk about key issues. The had agreed to discuss environmental policies with the Liberal Democrats but when they failed to commit on issues such as nucleur power and climate change levy Sir Menzies Campbell pulled the Lib Dems out of the discussions.

Tony Blair doesn't fare any better this morning. The Soctsman reports that the Environment Agency are upset that he is not looking at a technology neutral approach to cutting carbon ommissions. With Nuclear Blairs favouring of new nucleur power stations the agency is concerned that all types of low-carbon power generation, including also wind, wave, biomass, geothermal and solar, are being overlooked.

Mr Clive Bates of the Environment Agency says:

"[Mr Blair] amy not be listening to our advice.

We are concerned about the displacement effect of a large programme of investment in one capital-intensive technology like nucleur may have on energy efficiency and renewable technology."

The agency's warning was echoed by Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, who yesterday told an audience of business leaders:

"Investment in nuclear will discourage investment in other technologies that could supply capacity."

With the news that Scotland is ahead of reaching its renewable energy generation target and England and Wales lagging behind it is clear that only with Liberal Democrats in power can people get a government that actually has an impact on the environment. The only difference that Scotland has is the Liberal Democrat thrust that green issues affect all areas of goverenance and as such have got this included in every area of Scottish policy making.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

More Misery for Gaza

Another Air strike on Gaza.

While the aim of the Isrealis was to stop militants firing rockets across the border something they actually acheived (apparently Islamic Jihad have confirmed that Hamoud Wadiya their top record launcher and a colleague were two of the nine dead) there was also heavy civilian casualties.

Amongst the seven dead civilians it is reported that Hisham al-Mugrabi aged 4 his brother Shaher aged 8 and their father Ashraf are the latest victims leaving one family heavily in grieve.

Isreal may be working at stamping out the rocket attackers but are doing little to sort out the root cause of the people motivated to do this, or launch suicide attacks on the country. The oppression, the walling in of Palestinians all add to the tensions in the area. Isreal and Palestine need to get back together and discuss their joint future it is the only way to sort out this problem, collateral damage and killing of innocents is only going to intensify this sort of situation.

Scotland World Cup Song Soars Up Charts

"The World Cup Finals are on their way
With all the teams off to Germany
Brace yourself cause on every screen
There'll be nothing but the England team
But wait!
There's hope at hand
We can still support Scotland, Scotland, Jason Scotland"

From Scotland, Scotland, Jason Scotland by the Trinidad and Tobago Tartan Army

Despite only selling 12 copies in London the above single has made the top 30 of singles charts. Somehow Scottish football fans have managed to get a World Cup song into the charts in a year that their team did not even qualify. Maybe that is what is meant by the immortal lyrics of the 1978 song 'Well we'll really shake them up when we win the World Cup'. At least in one respect the Scots are managing to maintain their hold on memorable World Cup songs.

However, the official Trinidad and Tobago song 'Fighter' by Maximus Dan is not fairing so well on the UK charts for the Soca Warriors.

Monday, 12 June 2006

Crack Open Over Track

I was getting ready for an afternoon watching football yesterday when I saw Bristow Muldoon MSP for Livingston trying to defend his ammendments to the Borders Railway.

For the record Mr Muldoon is convener of the Scottish Parliament's transport committee who had recommended the proposals without Mr Muldoon's ammendments after 3 years of consideration. His first ammendment is possibly one that is seen as a wrecking proposal to the whole scheme either the developers must commit to the whole project of not at all. The second is to do away with the proposed station at Stow.

Seeing as the provision of the Border's railway is part of the partnership agreement which Mr Muldoon's Labour party and the Liberal Democrats entered into in 2003 this act of possible sabotage of a much needed public trasport scheme in an area where public transport is seriously lacking is an act of rebellion against the Partnership Agreement. It also shows the true lack of depth to Labour's committment to fight climate change. If Mr Muldoon is not prepared to fund an essential public transport initiative from within goverment funds but pass the excess unto the council tax payers of the borders, why was the same not done to Edinburghers for the overspend on the Parliament Building?

If Bristow is to be even handed he must apply the same rules to the Aidrie-Bathgate rail line. However, as this would pass the burden of debt, in part, unto West Lothian council tax payers (ie his electorate) I doubt this will happen.

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Torture Awareness Month

June 26th is the day the United Nations has designated the International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims of Torture. A number of organisations have joined with TASSC International to set aside this month as Torture Awareness Month.

While a lot of this action is targetted against the US Government the fact that Tony Blair has been aiding George Bush with flights through UK airports has aided the US in extraordinary rendition and in outsourcing torture.

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Ming Flying High

Ok the BBC, Rob Renwick and even Iain Dale all agree that Sir Menzies Campbell had a good PMQs today.

He asked the Prime Minster about rendition flights using the USA in light of the latest report from the Council of Europe which has claimed the UK has colluded in CIA rendition flights. Tony Blair was clearly flustered and gave an non-commital answer saying that the report added nothing new.

However, the report does conclude that there was a "spider's web" of flights criss-crossed Europe and mentions two new locations of secret jails Poland and Romania.

Mike Gapes, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, and Labour MP for Ilford South said the report contained little new information. So either the chair of the Foreign affairs select committee is right that there is some new information of the Labour member for Sedgefield is right that there is nothing new, when he answered the question earlier. Both cannot be right.

Tory Way to Bring Ethnic Diversity and Other Issues

Brian Jenner over at Conservative Home has produced 10 ways to liven up your Conservative Association


People want to try something new. Keep an eye on your High Street. If an exotic restaurant opens, put your head round the door and introduce yourself. ‘I’m involved with the local Conservative Association, could we do a deal to have a buffet in your fantastic new place? We’ll supply 20 people and give you some local promotion on our website and in our newsletter. You give us one free drink, a free buffet and a short talk about your cuisine.’ You charge your members, you learn something and you’re guaranteed to be in a cutting edge venue

Who else but a conservative could use the word exotic in quite a patronising way?Would this include a new Kebab takeaway? That would be ethnic and I'm sure most Tories would learn something. As for cutting edge, well in some inner city High Streets I wouldn't like to comment. Mind you it does show the extent to which Tories really require to diversify ethnically. Especially if they need short talks about ethnic cuisine, I wonder if that would include Haggis, Neeps and Tatties.

As for putting it on the local Tory party website, don't most of these appear around election time and disappear soon afterwards. A bit like Syed's endorsement for that Lobster restaurant during the BBC's recent Apprentice series.


If you are involved in politics it helps to know your neighbours. Create a flyer saying that you’re going to organise a street party in the road/ a back garden/ park to generate some neighbourhood spirit. Ask anyone who wants to help to send you an email. Organise tables and make plans in case of rain. Get everyone to bring their own sandwiches and drinks. Don’t tell them you’re a Conservative. Let them find out later.

Maybe this was inspired by the recent Idiots Lantern episode of Doctor Who.

Don't mention you're a Conservative let them find out later. How much later? Blocking off some streets I know would really not create much community spirit, more the opposite as you try and be heard over the strain of beeping horns, and that would just be Jeremy Clarkson trying to pump out a lot more CO2.


Get people to pay up front. Sort out an online credit card payment facility. People are very mean about small amounts of money. Better to charge £15 for an event, than charge £10 and bother people with raffle tickets. Banning raffles from the Conservative Party would be my Clause 4 moment. You can raise more money in the long term by generating goodwill and providing a proper service.

Wow if the least contentious issue that David Cameron is going to face is banning raffles in the Conservative Party they really must not be looking at filling the policy void that currently exists.

Swinburne Calls for Belt

Well the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party MSP John Swinburne has called for the return of corporal punishment in Scotland's schools.

The belt was banned from use in Scotland's schools 20 years ago. When the MSP recently raised the matter in the Scottish Parliament Green co-leader Robin Harper accused the MSP of proposing the licensed assault of pupils. Mind you it is to be expected from an MSP who on election said he had views to the left of Chairman Mao and to the right of Margaret Thatcher.

Maybe Mr Swinburne should read the Conventions on the Right of the Child before he starts getting threatening letters from parents across Scotland.

Monday, 5 June 2006

Vote Blue, Go Red

What is Annabel Goldie up to? Every analyst in Scotland knows that the Labour vote is collapsing. You only have to look at recent results Dunfermline & West Fife, Moray etc to see the party is heading to meltdown.

Yet the leader of the Scottish Tories has said she would prop up Labour in a 'stability pact' should they lose the support of the Lib Dems and cannot find anyone else to help them. Alex Salmond of course is delighted at this electoral suicide.

Last May at the general election Labour tried to scare people against voting for the party in second place in key seats by saying it would let some other party in. Now it is clear that they will be relying on people doing just that to shore up their own precarious position. Vote Tory get Labour you can hear the cry next April and May during the campaign.

Mind you for a number of years people have voted Labour and got quasi-Toryism through Blair anyway.

George Foulkes Taking Maths Lessons Off Salmond

It looks like poor George Foulkes former MP, former Chairman of Hearts FC has been taking maths lessons from Alex Salmond.

Mr Foulkes is looking forward to returning to politics for Labour on the Lothian list at next May's elections. This must spell disastor for some of the regions constituency MSPs in that event.

Even if Labour could maintain their second vote share from 2003 they would have to lose 3 constituencies before they pick up any seat off the Lothian list. So that would mean goodbye to Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow), Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central) and Bristow Muldoon (Livingston). Of course if they are losing seats their second vote would also be affected as would that of other parties.

Interestingly the article in the Scotland on Sunday states that Foulkes will be helping Boyack and Martin Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) to retain their seats, no mention of West Lothian. Chisholm had an 18.84% majority and was the 19th safest of Labour's 46 consituencies in 2003. Is this a slip from the brain to the lip? Or does it show just how worried Labour really are about next May's elections?

Saturday, 3 June 2006

Bush Seeks to Ban Gay Marriage

After years of speculation as to which Republican would have the audacity to attempt it in the land of the free, step forward George W. Bush. The leader of the war on terror has announced a new front as he attempts, yet again, to constitutionally seek a ban on gay marriages. This comes less than two years after Vice President Dick Cheney, who has a lesbian daughter, spoke out against such a ban when Bush had previously backed a motion calling for a federal ban.

This could be an attempt to shore up key grass root Republican votes following recent opinion polls the latest of which had the Republican congress on only a 27% approval rating ahead of November's mid-term elections. One pollster Charlie Cook said:

"It's bad. It's very bad. All the diagnostic indicators suggest that 2006 will be Armageddon for the Republicans."

However, many people put Bush's victory over Kerry down to the ballot initiative in Ohio to ban gay marriage which brought out the narrow Republican victory there which secured Bush four more years. If Ohio's 20 electoral college votes had gone the other way Kerry would be the current occupant of the White House.

So is the resurection of this policy, plus repealing the estate tax and the congressional right to ban flag burning a sign of election year panic?

None of the three is currently expected to pass, but it is a marker for the nation.

Statistics vs Alex Salmond

I don't know what they taught Alex Salmond in maths at Linlithgow Academy but whatever it was either Alex wasn't listening as he dreamt of being President of Scotland or else he has now forgotten it.

Today he has said:

"[The Liberal Democrats] are Labour's little helpers in Scotland and they should be clear that the longer they stay joined at the hip to Labour the more support they will lose."

Now I took three A Levels which all included a statistical element and then did a degree with a high statistical element so here are the figures.

1997 General Election
SNP 22.0% Lib Dems 13.0%

FPP SNP 28.7% Lib Dem 14.1%
List SNP 27.3% Lib Dem 12.4%

2001 General Election
SNP 20.1% Lib Dems 16.4%

FPP SNP 23.8% Lib Dem 15.3%
List SNP 20.9% Lib Dem 11.8%

2005 General Election
SNP 17.4% Lib Dem 22.6%

So therefore I make that since the 1997 election SNP down 4.6% Lib Dems up 9.4% on Wesminster Results. Also since the first Scottish Parliament vote in 1999 SNP down 4.9% Lib Dems up 1.2% First Past the Post and SNP down 6.4% Lib Dems down only 0.6% on the more competitive 2003 list vote.

Far from losing support Alex 617,260 SNP votes in 1997 have haemoraged to 412,267 last May and 365,359 Lib Dems in 1997 have become 528,076. If this is losing support I can't wait to see what sucess brings.

Right to Cycle (2)

I wrote earlier this week about one farmer's unilateral action against the 75 Cycle Route near Blackridge. Well today I'm glad to report that an agreement has been met between the council and the landowner and the route will be restored within a fortnight.

Friday, 2 June 2006

Campaign Against Homophobic Bullying.

The Liberal Democrats have today unveiled a new campaign aimed at ending homophobioc bullying in schools.

The camapaign has three aims that:

1. Homophobic taunts and name calling in schools should be challenged immediately by staff.

2. All schools' anti-bullying policies should be required to include measures specifically to deal with homophobic bullying.

3. At least one teacher in every school should undergo training which includes how to tackle homophobic bullying.

As someone who was a victim of some homophobic bullying at school I reckon this campaign is long overdue but looks like it has established keys issues and strategies to deal with this problem.

So add you support by signing the petition.

Scotland Doesn't Believe in Mars

The home of the deep fried Mars bar has turned its back in disbelief at the actions of the company in rebranding its brand name product for the world cup.

Believe AKA Mars is currently experiencing a major slump in sales North of the Border. Being associated with the only successful home nation to qualify for a world cup may be one thing but it is backfiring in other regions, especially when that nation is the Auld Enemy.

However, Mars marketing claims that the Believe slogan can relate to Scotland's hopes of qualifying for South Africa in 2010 are falling on death ears on the tartan army as boxes of Mars are not shifting off the shelves.

Happy Birthday Dufferin County

Coming from Bangor, County Down I was surrounded by places named after the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, Frederick Hamilton-Temple Blackwood. He was a major landowner all across the County Down and has locations and plagues in buildings all over the place.

He served as Govenor General to Canada from 1872-8 and it was interesting to stumble across the news that Orangeville, Dufferin County, Ontaria is to honour the 125th Anniversary of the naming of the county with a statue of the man who did a great influence of the advancement of Canada.

Back home you can play golf at Blackwood Golf Club, drink at the Ava Bar next to the train station, walk along Dufferin Avenue or Hamilton Road where you'll find Dufferin Hall attached to Bangor Parish Church, or further along to Hamilton House.

Judge's Sick Cover Sorted in Parliament

Whatever we think of John Prescott he does fill one vital role, if anything should happen to Tony Blair or he is out of the country or on holiday Prezza steps up to carry out the role vacated by the leader of the country. The same has not been so for the top Judge in Scotland.

Steps have been taken by Jack McConnell to ensure that the recent lack of cover for the top post on the Scottish judicary is not repeated.

Lord Hamilton was only started his new post in December last year but has been off with stress since April and was admitted to the priory last week. In his absence no other judge could run important judicial organisations, advise the Executive or make decisions on certain appeal cases. So far three cases have been delayed because of Lord Hamilton's illness.

Lord Gill the Lord Justice Clerk is set to step in to cover for the incapacitated Hamilton in the interim.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Naughty Boy Gives Up Home

So John Prescott has given up Dorneywood. No more croquet on the lawns for him and his staff then. The Times Online front page is interestingly laid out today.

Firstly there is the headline Prescott Quits House which can be slightly miscontrued. Normally for a MP this would have other connotations that what is relevant in Prezza's case.

Directly below that however is the headline that naughty boys cost an extra £6,000 a year. Surely that is a conservative estimate when it come to Prescott. Between his former grace and favour Dorneywood and his retained appartment at Admiralty House he is costing far more than that. Then there is the £133,000 salary for not running a department any longer. The guy has gone from a full time department to a part time job surely that requires some sort of reappraisal of his salary, even if he is the person to stand-in for the boss.