Sunday, 29 June 2008

Heinz Failure to Listen (Or Maybe Just Read)

H.J. Heinz when they initially pulled the New York Deli mayo ad said they listened to their consumers. Well it looks like they can't read then.

Yes the first of the long awaited responses to the fact that they pulled the ad in light of 200 or so complaints from people not valuing the rights of all (another alleged Heinz promise). Yeah Tim Trent got a response which is exactly what Michael Mullen said over here that they "accept that this ad was not in accordance with our long-standing corporate policy of respecting everyone's rights and values."

Now there is much quoted proverb you can please all of the people some or time and some of the people all of the time. Therefore it would appear that Heinz's long-standing corporate policy of respecting everyone's rights and values, no matter how bigoted or how outlawed those values may be.

Still a soup of shame hanging over Heinz. The egg mayo is still very much over their faces with this whole debacle.

Supermarkets, Booze, SNP and the Border

Way back on 18 June over at Jeff's blog he rejected my comment that the SNP price per unit policy would lead to booze drives over the border to England. Something I'd earlier that day covered in more detail here.

Well it appears that the Supermarkets themselves are thinking of ways to circumvent just such a proposal. ASDA chiefs say there is nothing to stop them setting up distribution centres south of the Border so that online Scottish shoppers can pay English prices. That could be worrying for the workers at the supermarkets distribution centres that currently hug the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

So while the SNP are salivating over the possibility of declaring internet independence by changing Government address from .uk to .sco the same world wide web also is a reminder that the border with Englandshire is only about 70 miles away from our two major cities. So making too radical a change in Scotland can affect commerce, jobs etc by companies merely moving that short hop.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Wendy' House of Cards Finally Topples

The Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander has resigned. It is another twist in Labour's sailing close to the wind too often with political donations.

She had failed to declare in time "gifts" given to her for her leadership election last year. The parliamentary standards committee had earlier on this week suspended her for one day. After what has been a gaffe strewn 10 months of leadership which of her colleagues will step up to the plate? I'll look into the potential runners later.

Ten Thousand Sign Heinz Petition

I've been watching for a while as the petition to Heinz to reinstate their ad has ticked closer to the momentous threshold of it's ten thousandth signature. Well at High Noon UK time, after all this is a UK ad, on the 28th June it was only 12 signature short of that number. It's only taken 15 minutes more to get to 10,000.

Considering that Heinz initially said when removing their ad that they listen to their customers can I ask are they listening now? So basing what they say are 202 or 10,000 people going to be listened to? It has already been over 57 hours since I sent emails and posted complaints to Heinz UK. Mr Nigel Dickie, who yesterday along with other execs at Heinz removed their personal contact details from Heinz's website, not Mr Michael Mullen have not even had the decency to get somebody within the organisation acknowledge my emails and complaints. As someone who works in a call centre environment I know that even a simple acknowledgement at a time like this is easily achievable. After all those of us who have written in are largely aware that a lot of others are doing so as well. 57 hours however is a little bit long to get yourself into motion.

Heinz on their website list their Premier Values. How do they score this week.

Passion . . . to be passionate about winning and about our brands, products and people, thereby delivering superior value to our shareholders.

Heinz produced an ad that was innovative, with layered very dry British humour. They also were launching a new range linking it with the New York Deli's it was named after. However, when the American Family Association issued an alert their passion wavered. (Notice one lie the fact that the vote on civil partnership in California is stated as not being legal in England [the UK])Despite the spontaneous nature of the counter debate and individual comments and letters many posted on various forums no passion to restore the ad is forthcoming.

3/10 for trying then backtracking than failing to acknowledge a mistake.

Risk Tolerance . . . to create a culture where entrepreneurship and prudent risk taking are encouraged and rewarded.

A prudent risk was taken with the ad, it was shown in a more tolerant society than the USA. Sadly the actions of reactionaries in another country is attacking the liberties of a sovereign state. Watch out UK we'll soon be on some axis of evil and be invaded by our ally if this keep up. A risk was taken, but it hasn't been rewarded what off the person who commissioned the ad, they have since been slammed from on high that the ad is "not in accordance with Corporate Policy". How is that going to encourage whatever members of Heinz staff gauged that risk and took the ad campaign on board?

1/10 First sign that the risk failed they backtracked ignoring any counter risk.

Excellence . . . to be the best in quality and in everything we do.

Whoops. I think the above says it all first they said they listened to their consumers but haven't seemed to listen to one side of the argument.

5/10 This 5 is purely for the ad itself.

Motivation . . . to celebrate success, recognizing and rewarding the achievements of individuals and teams.

Oops again Nigel Dickie's original comments to his UK market have since been overruled and overridden from the corporate chiefs. The advertising team must be feeling small if still employed and not currently on gardening leave. Motivation has been given to their consumers however, to protest, blog, boycott and complain, not an ideal business model.


Innovation . . . to innovate in everything, from products to processes.

Product I have not tasted yet was going to try some this week but as I'm boycotting no idea. Advert again good product. Processes lousy no response, hiding away hoping the storm will pass, no signs yet, pulled an ad before investigation which in all likelihood if any action is taken will result in protests of about 50% of current ads on UK TV as a result of far more graphic depictions/implying of actual sexual activity.

4/10 All points awarded to product not process.

Empowerment . . . to empower our talented people to take the initiative and to do what's right.

They took an initiative have since been told that was wrong.

0/10 Can't promise one and fail to deliver on the other.

Respect . . . to act with integrity and respect towards all.

TOWARDS ALL Heinz!!! Now respectfully explaining the concept of the ad to the AFA should have been enough. However, it is a long held theory that ironic humour is often lost on the Americans, no offence to any and I know some who do get it. No same sex parenting couple that I, and many comments from others on messages boards I've read, know of exists where there is a not either two mums or two dads, or the non-biological partner is merely known by their name. Therefore there is no gay kiss. The peck is far less sexual than a kiss going on in a UK ad for Heinz Salad Cream, which also contains nudity and forced removal or anther's clothing. So why is one ok by corporate policy and the other not Heinz?

-10/10 Two facedness, taking backwards steps over equality.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Nick Clegg Joins Calls for Heinz to Reinstate Ad

The Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has joined the growing number of concerned citizens in the UK and beyond resulting from Heinz's pulling of their New York Deli Mayo advertisement.

On the Lib Dem website from the letter he has sent to the company he has said:

"The depiction of a same-sex kiss in this advert was innocent both in tone and content, and I am shocked that you decided to withdraw it.

"While I understand that some people in Britain today are uncomfortable with same-sex relationships, such prejudice should not be condoned by an organisation of your size and stature."

He's has joined the growing number of people asking Heinz to "reverse this decision and reinstate the advert".

Heinz Early Day Motion

Diane Abbott has lodged this Early Day Motion regarding the Heinz Deli Mayo Ad's removal on the back of 202 non-justifiable complaints:

That this House notes that the manufacturer Heinz has withdrawn its television advertisement, which features two men kissing, on the basis of 200 complaints that it might be embarrassing for parents with children to watch; further notes that millions of children watch depictions of same-sex relationships in soap operas every day; further notes that the advertisement was not intended to be a realistic depiction of a same-sex relationship, and that the advertisement was intended to be humorous; believes that Heinz's decision was ill-considered and likely to offend millions of gay, lesbian and transgender people; and calls on Heinz to reconsider its decision.

Ironically it is EDM 1889 which is when such a reaction would have been expected rather than 2008. So far 9 other Labour MPs have signed it, Diane Abbott, Chris Bryant, Alan Simpson, Ian Gibson, Jeremy Corbyn, Karen Buck, Greg Pope, Kelvin Hopkins, Eric Illsey and Lynne Jones.

I have written to Michael Connarty urging him to do the same. If you live in the UK please write to your MP and encourage them to do likewise following this clicky link if you're not sure how.

Update: Sadly the Parliament site is not updating the signatories regularly enough to check the current level of Parliamentary support however Lynne Featherstone has blogged that she has since signed it. Nick Clegg has also written to Heinz on this issue.

Updated to 4 July: More names added to Government website total now 22 with Paul Holmes, Mike Hancock, Stephen Williams, Mark Oaten (Lib Dem), Glenda Jackson, Chris McCafferty, John McDonnell, Martin Caton, Jim Devine, Rudi Vis, Linda Riordan, Harry Cohen (Labour).

Second EDM 1913: It appears Lynne Featherstone contrary to the above has submitted her own EDM:

That this House regrets Heinz's decision to withdraw its television advert featuring two men kissing because of homophobic complaints and considers the scenes portrayed were in no way offensive or indecent; believes footage displaying affection between two people of the same sex should be treated in the same way as two people of the opposite sex; and calls for the company to resume its advertising campaign as planned.

Signed as of 4th July by 15 other MPs:

Lynne Jones, Jim Devine, Glenda Jackson, John McDonnell, Alan Simpson, Jeremy Corbyn, Paul Flynn, Rudi Vis, Kelvin Hopkins, Harry Cohen and Bill Etherington (Labour)

Mike Hancock, Adrian Sanders, Paul Holmes and Stephen Williams (Liberal Deomocrats)

The sad absence of any Tory, Nationalist of Northern Irish member from either EDM is starkly disappointing inditment against those parties.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

What the Heinz?

Well yesterday's tale of mayo and the juxtaposed image of a male deli guy in place of the mum of the household has taken a rather sinister twist.

Yesterday the Director of UK Corporate and Government Affairs, Nigel
Dickie had been telling us the as was pulled because complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency and Heinz themselves had been about "offensive", "inappropriate" content in the ad and that many of the 202 complainants thought the ad was "unsuitable to be seen by children". He's even gone further to say that some of those parents had, bless their hearts, had to explain to their kids that homosexuals existed.

However, there was uproar from those of us who got the joke, both gay and straight. I mean no gay family would have a mum and a dad either two mums or two dads. The person making the sandwiches was referred to a mum, therefore the fact that they spoke with a New York accent so out of keeping with the family was a play on the product. The 'kiss' was an innocent, indeed almost obligatory, peck before heading to work, one was wondering how that could be seen as offensive or inappropriate when you considered the content of the programmes it was being shown against.

However, as I pointed out the story has gone global. Twice this blog has been visited from somebody at H.J. Heinz corporate offices in Pennsylvania. The Director of Global Corporate Affairs, Michael Mullen has issued a press release here. He has probably put his foot even further into it by saying:

"Heinz pulled the ad in the UK because our consumer research showed that it failed in its attempt to be humorous and offended people on all sides.

"Heinz apologizes for its misplaced attempt at humor and we accept that this ad was not in accordance with our long-standing corporate policy of respecting everyone's rights and values."

I have sent an email to Mr Mullen rejecting his apology as there is nothing in the ad which he needs to apologise to me about. There is however other issues I would like to see him apologise about and if you want to do the same his email address is

BTW the facebook group currently has 1823 people going to boycott the company's products and the petition to reinstate the ad now has 5288 signatures.

UPDATE 10:15
Interesting opinion piece on the blog of what appears to the PR company, Seventy Seven PR, owned by the Ad's producers AMV BBDO. These are the personal views of James Gordon MacIntosh not those of the agency Seventy Seven or AMV BBDO as he so kindly points out below.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Heinz Two Man No Messed Up

Heinz were close to earning praise for their New York Deli mayo ad as it represented a non-traditionally nuclear family.
It was tongue in cheek humorous and featured two men as the parents in this familial skit and like all couples at the start of the day ended with a rushed peck on the cheek as one went off to work with the sandwich lovingly created by the other.

All was quiet on the advertising front until as a result of allegedly only 202 complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency claiming that the ad, which is not shown during specific child orientated broadcasting, was "offensive", "inappropriate" and "unsuitable to be seen by children". So having taken the brave step of commissioning the ad in the first place Heinz ran for cover pulling the ad from our screens, claiming they had done so because they were "listening to its consumers".

Whoops bad choice of words there, because now of course all the consumers who hadn't spoken out in praise of the ad because of its inclusivity in today's society are speaking out. There is a petition calling from those who:

"feel that the decision to withdraw the advert is wrong in the face of a small number of narrow-minded individuals.

"By doing so, Heinz have given the impression that they would prefer to cater for the homophobic than the free-thinking, and the decision has provoked upset, brand distrust and outrage among the LGBT community and outside of it."

and calling on Heinz not to "bow down to these homophobic individuals."

At time of writing this petition has 1844 signatures. The originators only wanted to get a few over the 202 complaints that Heinz had originally received.

For those of you on facebook there is a group calling for a boycott of Heinz products until the ad is reinstated, currently with over 775 members. Both of these have been set up in the last 24 hours.

Oh dear if Heinz really are listening to their consumers they are going to have to listen now, after all there are many varieties of people in this world, whether there are 57 distinct variations I cannot say, but one variety shouldn't be dictated prejudiced views over another.

Update 16:30 909 in Facebook group, 2500 signature on petition.

Further Update 17:03 My stat counter has reported a visit at the time stated from H.J. Heinz Company's IP address from Pittsburgh, Pa. somebody at the World Headquarters is clearly taking an interest in this issue.

Legal Ramifications for SNP Primary Class Size Reductions

Now I'm all for the reduction in class sizes for our younger children, it is one of those policies on which the SNP and Lib Dems have largely agreed on the theory. So therefore you can imagine my shock when the Lib Dem/SNP led Edinburgh council pointed out that the SNP target of 18 for primaries 1 through 3 may actually be illegal to implement.

The problem is the conflict between the single outcome agreement for delivery of key services by councils and the policy. Edinburgh Council believes it cannot use class size reductions as a defence against parental challenges against not being allowed to place their children at a certain school. There is no legal power in place for a local authority to place a restriction on the size of any primary class.

It's a shame that after years of opposition and planning such a benchmark policy should have such a nagging flaw in it, of course this sort of thing may not have been obvious until the implementers who know all current, relevant legislation started to look at practical implementation. So hopefully this is a hiccup that can be overcome rather straightforwardly to help improve the early education of our children.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Boris the Looter

So Boris has been Boris-like and it's now caught up with him. Indeed the quote from Boris shows that well he is still Boris.

In case you have missed it not since Pete Burn's gorilla fur coat was remanding in custody during celebrity big brother has an inanimate object raised so much police attention and headline. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, was until yesterday in possession of Tariq Aziz's cigar case.

Boris claimed the circumstances of how the then Spectator Editor came to have possession of this Iraqi cultural property as so "morally ambiguous that [he] cannot quite think of it as theft", then hangs himself by his own petard with this quote.

"As I stared at the remains of his home, I saw utter destruction - surely the looters had left nothing of value?"

"And there, just by my toe, protruding from beneath a piece of dusty plywood, was the cigar case. Actually, it was only the bottom half of a cigar case, in thick red leather and coarsely stitched.

"But I immediately saw its importance. If this was the cigar case of Tariq Aziz, think of the scenes it had witnessed."

I'm sorry Boris the fact that the looters didn't take it doesn't make it therefore yours to take and possess for 5 years. In fact by so doing aren't you just a looter yourself? Admittedly a rather posh one with foppish hair and a media/political career but a looter none the less. Also if as you said you immediately saw it's importance why didn't you hand it over to the appropriate authority in 2003 rather than wait until 2008?

However Boris should be thankful that Saddam is no longer in charge in Iraq the penalty for looting there in his time was the death penalty. Even under the Iraq (UN Sanctions) Order 2003 it clearly shows him to be in the wrong. For Dick Whittington the streets of London were paved with gold for the current Mayor of London Baghdad was paved with cigar boxes.

Mugabe Not Recognised

Britain has used the strongest language yet about the recent goings-on in Zimbabwe by not recognising the legitimacy of Robert Mugabe as President elect. Paddy Ashdown has warned that Zimbabwe could descend into another Rwanada if the attacks on MDC supporters continues and heads towards genocide. Morgan Tsvangirai has sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy in Harare following his stepping aside from the presidential rerun, while his supporters at the MDC headquarters were rounded up and detained.

There are moves afoot at the world level, the UN Security Council have said that a free and fair presidential run-off vote on Friday would be "impossible".
This statement had much earlier been a more strongly worded draft from the UK but the fact that South Africa, China and Russia joined in an unanimous Security Council condemnation of Robert Mugabe is a positive step. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had earlier called for the elections to be postponed. So the UN has recognised the "campaign of violence against the political opposition", "the killing of scores of opposition activists and other Zimbabweans, and the beating and displacement of thousands of people, including many women and children."

So what next? If God doesn't intervene with Mugabe might the UN? Lord Ashdown has said that military intervention 'might' be justified at this stage to stop the Zanu-PF backed militia from their regime of terror and intimidation of the people of Zimbabwe. What Other sanctions may be brought to bear? Can these bring about freedom and fairness without hindering the people who are already suffering.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Child Porn Compared to Drinking At Home!

"There is some suggestion that what you do in your own home doesn't really matter. That you can drink yourself to oblivion and it's your right. I think there are two arguments against that.

"First, we don't simply allow people to do anything they want. We don't allow people to watch internet porn relating to children or some other vile matters in their own home because it impacts on others. We don't allow people to consume recreational drugs in their own home because they want to and they say it won't do any harm.

"There are things that we decide as a society, and as a Government, as a Parliament, that are inappropriate. That's why we say that there has to be a speed limit, that there have to be restrictions on illicit substances, that there have to be constraints on pornography. These things, some argue, are harmless. No, they are not. And secondly what we have to say is that the abuse of alcohol by an individual in their own house does impact on others."

So says Kenny MacAskill, now nicknamed Kenny MacAskilljoy by Scotland on Sunday in defence of the SNP's latest policy initiatives regarding alcohol consumption. I thought the quote would have to be given in full and I just find it unbelievable that such far reaching comparisons were made. In this statement Mr MacAskill does appear to be lumping all home consumers of alcohol with child pornographers, illegal drug takes and speed fiends on our roads. While these three all do hold serious consequences either for the person involved or others drinking at home does not always affect others adversely.

So while Mr MacAskill does seem to pointing out the extremes of drinking at home and how it affects others surely this is covered under domestic violence legislation etc. The plans to raise costs, ages of purchasing from off licences are not going to affect these hard core drinkers he seems out to stop. They have a disease which needs treating, these actions aren't going to affect their ability or willingness to get hold of their daily does of alcohol. What all these plans does do is inconvenience the mild drinkers disproportionately. Don't label all at home drinkers along with child pornographers or shooting up drug addicts, that is overkill, using the same fear tactics that Labour seem so prone to push to when nobody else will agree with them.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Queen to Steer Clear of Hull and David By-Election

The Queen's political neutrality may be in jeopardy if a planned visit Hull close to Haltemprice and Howden goes ahead.

Labour's refusal to pick up the jauntlet laid down by David Davis over their policy of 42 days detention without charge, means with all due respect to the Miss Great Britain Party, Generalist Party, various independents and The Mad Cow Girl of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party into a somewhat neutral by election anyway.

I just hope the Queen isn't secretly a Offial Monster Raving Looney supporter and that is why her neutrality on this issue is at stake. Although like the late Screaming Lord Sutch she does stand out on the sartorial stake. I once had the pleasure of meeting Lord Sutch while he was promoting Sekonda watches in one of my department's 'prestige' watch windows in Shaftesbury Avenue so maybe the Queen might be somewhere on the horizon.

I certainly hope it's not for fear of mixing her and the Mad Cow Girl up.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Facebook Blog Networks

Found a wonderful newish application on Facebook where I can link to all the blogs I read. Doesn't appear to be that much British political links set up yet. So I'm in the process of serarching for or adding those that I do.

Just Who Did Edit the Spectator Boris?

Intrigue over at conservativehome where they have a letter from the former MP for Henley, now Mayor of London complaining about the latest Lib Dem leaflet. Now let me try and think back a few years to what that mans previous job was. Oh yeah that's right he was paid to be editor of The Spectator.

Now anyone who is a editor would know the difference between a by-line and a quote attribution you would think. Well according to this letter not the former editor of the spectator. You can see the page in full by following the links and explain something to the Mayor of London, or whoever it may be masquerading as the former respected magazine editor, writer of that letter.

Next to the picture of Boris are open and closed quotation marks and a quote from him. This is quite properly attributed to the man who said those word, that's Boris Johnson.

There are two articles on the same page. In the opening paragraph of each there is a comment that The View's opinion is being expressed. It is not the opinion of Boris Johnson he is only attributed with the 19 word in the top left hand column. Actually haven't I seen the sort of thing used in articles in The Spectator and other publications. A piece is written and a quote is placed somewhere with a picture of the speaker of that quote. It can be from the piece or a prelude to the piece or just a snappy page filler at times.

Now how Boris thinks that the people of Henley will "taken in by ...deceit" from Campaign View, which doesn't masquerade "as some sort of independent Oxfordshire magazine" I can clearly see a perfectly valid election imprint on the page he takes exception to. Just what is Boris saying about the people who returned them to Westminster? That they are savvy to the ways of electioneering? That they are easily things or people who masquerade to be things that they're not? (On a side note has Boris removed the more sensible suit he campaigned for London in yet)

As for sinking to low depths that's going a bit far Boris. Every single Labour controlled by-election I know starts with a booklet obituary/tribute to the deceased MP, and some of the things I saw and read while living in Kingston in the run up to Ed Davey wresting that seat off the Tories were pretty below the belt too. If your going to use hyperbole Boris don't leave kettles of a midnight hue near any loud mouthed pots.

Africa Finally Wakes Up To Mugabe

It's taken a while but finally fellow African nations have added their authoritative voices to those international observers about the lack of freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe's elections.

Having been intimidated, arrested, beaten, charged with treason, banned from advertising, starved and even killed or having close family members killed the supporters and leaders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have gained some support from their own Continent. Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe who is part of the monitoring Troika said:

"The first impression we have is that if the elections were to take place today, these elections would never be free and fair... because... the report we received still indicates that violence is escalating throughout Zimbabwe."

With the re-run presidential elections only 7 days away on 27 June that does not bode well that the will of the people from the 29 March election will be strong enough to overcome the will of Robert Mugabe 3 months later. But with the leaders of South Africa, Kenya and Senegal all now expressing concerns about the fairness of next weeks poll is it too little too late.

It may not be too late as the people may still find a way to have their voice heard through the ballot box, and seeing the level of intimidation, starvation and deprivation he is willing to inflict on his own people they may see change through the MDC as their best hope for personal survival no matter what they risk by voting so on the day.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Beware of the Leopard

Can the Tory Leopard really change it's spots? And more to the point is now the time that redecoration of the polka dots going to achieve it?

Iain Dale, recently returned from being civil partnered, led me to an article by Tim Montgomerie in today's Telegraph. Not since Lady Thatcher visited factory floors while looking to get elected in Dartford have the Tories appeared so keen to woo the hard-working classes. Fee Fi Fife glum their leopard smells the blood of a minister's son.

Tim talks about taking working class families out of tax because:

"Income tax is taken from many poor families, churned through an expensive bureaucracy and then returned in benefits."

and that

a clear majority of voters are ready for a refund from a political class that has squandered their money [to fund better public services].

He advocates this policy as being as radical and just and the aforementioned Lady Thatcher's sale of council homes. It will cost he says £44bn to take 14m people out of the tax system altogether. Fourteen Million!!! now I have to say that is radical! I'm all for removing people who can't afford it from their tax burden however is it just? Is it some pie in the sky figure? Is it achievable and what are the costs and benefits of it?

He advocates freezing public spending rather than keeping up with the £12 billion a year increase that Labour have been producing to make up for this shortfall. How is that going to be achieved? Ok £$7.7bn of that is what the increase to cover the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is costing extra. So we still need to find £4.3 billion per annum, that's before taking into account potential world driven inflation, fuel poverty pay outs of the elderly having to meet an up to 40% increase, which surely would need to be found from somewhere to make up for the shortfall from less income.

So where is the public spending savings going to come from? And how? Tim did mention the reason for the taxes was allegedly to fund better public services. But that a lot of this has been lost in bureaucracy. Now obviously sorting out the level of waste through that bureaucracy which would led to some savings. But what about the rest? A lot of the funding has been going to improve infrastructure hospitals and schools. Will that programme be cut back.

Both my primary and secondary school had insufficient capacity while I was there. Both have finally had their refurbishment and improvement schemes funded since 1997. Before that there had been 18 years of Conservative control of Education funding and what happened, more upon more 'temporary' classrooms. At least the current lab technicians never have to do what I did in my brief spell back at my old school carry supplies out through the rain to the temporary science labs.

Yes the plan to take that many people out of taxation is radical. It is headline stuff. But what about the small print.

We saw 18 years of the Tories selling off the family silver. We now face many people in potential housing crisis and not enough social housing to catch all, thanks to Mrs T's radical scheme. We have bigger more centralise hospital services these days, people still need to be got there and the specialist posts filled by qualified consultants and specialists who need training. Our schools need to keep up with technology to empower our future generations to be ready for the world at large books and pens are no longer enough.

Let's not forget that while Labour have lost the way many of us remember why we gave them a chance in the first place. The Tories had forgotten about social structure, welfare, the people. They will still need looking after even after many of the lowest paid are taken out of tax. Is this a black hole on the horizon?

Consent Redefined but has it Been Defined Enough?

Scotland is to redefine rape which will make it a statutory offence, rather than common law as well as given a clear definition of what is consent.

Kenny MacAskill, the SNP Justice Minister, announced his proposed changes to the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill yesterday. On recommendations from the Scottish Law Commission the new bill will cover spiking of drinks with date rape drugs, sexually offensive emails and text messages as well as widening the power to cover male rape.

However, two of the Commissions more controversial proposals that of decriminalising all consenting sex between 13 to 15-year-olds and consensual adult sexual violence were both not included in the new bill. On the first Mr MacAskill said society does not encourage sex between children, the problem of course has been that biology is not necessarily a respecter for society's wishes. The arbitrary line in the sand has moved up the age scale since medieval times merely because the ability to survive has increased.

Generally 13 to 15 year olds have boyfriends or girlfriends of roughly the same age as themselves and at present when biology takes offer under current legislation they can find themselves on the sex offenders register before they are 'old enough' to 'consent'.

The SNP yesterday were advocating doing what is best for the health of the nation, yet at the same time are not seeing a slightly wider picture in this area. For an under 16 should they acquire an STI or become pregnant, when having to inform sexual partners to be checked or the name of the father the other partner may then not come forward for fear they will face criminalisation. The same can also be said about consensual adult sexual violence, society may look down on it but it goes on. While it is criminalised should some accident occur that requires medical attention what do the consenting adult do, how do they explain aware the marks that may actually be unrelated to the treatment required.

It is a murky legal quagmire but the Commission had shown some common sense approach which can only help in other areas. The Parliament is rightly clarifying the word consent but at the same time there was more that could and maybe should have been done.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Buckie Stops Here

Well...err...actually probably not.

What is more likely may well be booze drives in 4x4s to Cumbria or Northumberland. Teenagers laughing outside supermarkets as they drink their illegally gained Buckfast Tonic wine incredulous as the middle classes have to queue twice to get their more expensive Chardonnay or Whisky to enjoy with or after their meal.

Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon laid out the SNP plans which they feel will tackle Scotland's drink problem a "social responsibility fee". The only thing the SNP would appear to have learned, from recent errors, is that said tax, sorry fee, will be set by local authorities, however they will have to fund a way of collecting this. The SNP haven't said they will provide the funding to allow for that: no real surprise there then.

They think that introducing a second supermarket alcohol only counter will prevent 'impulse' buying of alcohol by shaming people into not buying it. Shame may not be the problem, inconvenience maybe. On Monday while I was in Tesco I heard three calls for all staff to go man the tills while I was shopping, a separate booze till may well have meant the shelves would never have been replenished.

A closer look at the SNP's minimum pricing rule say 35p per unit shows that while McEwans Export premium would go from £2.08 to £2.80 per liter, Whisky and Wine would be up but just under 25%, supermarket own brand lager would go up by 32%. However the drink of preference of on-street, teenage drinkers, the bottles that litter the streets every morning through the weekend and school holidays, Buckfast, would remain unchanged. Sure the SNP plan to stop them getting their alcohol for 3 more years until they turn 21 but the ones who already break the law by getting some before their 18th are hardly likely to be put off by that law change.

In essence the SNP will be increasing exports of Scottish Whisky, especially to Carlisle and Berwick being the first stops of the booze drives to England. After all Whisky is not an impulse buy for most enjoyers of the odd dram so they will happily stock up on trips to England. So shipping costs of Whisky will increase, pollution to transport it once to England to sell then back to Scotland to drink will increase our carbon footprint.

Also agitated shoppers hoping to have a nice bottle of wine with their meal will have to queue twice in busy supermarkets, adding to trolley rage and car park rage. Only the ardent young drinker it seems will remain relatively non-plussed by the whole experience, either having to create fake ID with an earlier date of birth, or more worryingly befriending some over 21 rather than over 18 to buy them some drink.

Wow it looks like the Nats are doing everybody else's jobs for them in how to win back Nat votes. Keep up the good work.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Literally Iris

hat tip to Darren Og via the Facebook group Northern Ireland does not need homophobic politicians for this.

Dear Iris…

THANK you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to follow them. My important Biblically-based questions are listed below the fold. I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to the Irish, but not English people. Can you clarify? Why can't I own some Englishmen?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is: my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wriggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Nats Stumble into Another Tax Raising Dilemma

Bernard Salmon, and others, have raised some interesting questions about the SNP plans to set a minimum price for alcohol.

The first is under EU legislation is it not impossible to set a minimum price for any good, the freedom to price a product in our competitive market is up to the retailer. One of the last bastians of minimum pricing the book market in recent years has seen competitive pricing in their field.

The second is that the only way to ensure a minimum price would be to set a tax on alcohol, where yet again the Nats appear to be overstepping hte mark of a devolved governemnt and appear to be acting as if they have already gained independence. The fact is that customs and excise duties are set by Westminster, the Scottish Parliament has no power to alter these rates.

What I'm seeing developing is actually a conning plan hatched by Alex Salmond's own personal Baldrick. The Nats will keep making proposals which push right up, indeed often, over their ability to deliver under the powers given as a devolved Parliamnet. End result they struggle to implement these policies. The reason they tell the people is not because they are unworkable or ineffective or because of being unable to gain a majority of support in Holyrood.

Oh no! What they will tell the people is that the reason that they have been unable to deliver is because their hands are tied by Westminster. They will use this argument to go into a referendum, listing all the things they could have done, is a send up of Jim Bowen from Bulleyes.

I can see it know Alex Salmond in an Independence Referendum Broadcast pulling back that curtain and saying "Great!" Smashin'! Super! People of Scotland here's what you could have won." But instead of caravans and speed boats will be a raft of over promised under delivered policy announcement.

It's a scarey though but don't have nightmares.

Nats Robin Hooding the Young and the Old

The latest effect of the SNP tightening of the bugetary purse strings may well the free bus travel for the over 60s.

It is another incentive that is currently facing a Governemnt review and like other policies under such review the spending will be cut while the review gets under way. The result is that the reimbursement to the bus companies will not cover their increased costs with the rising fuel prices if they keep it at being available to the over 60s and the age may increase to those over 65 as a result.

This comes the day after new drink laws were proposed which could further alienate young people by not allowing under 21s to buy drink from off licences, at the same time as many are trying to give those over 16 a vote. The much cited Armadale experiment did seem to lead to an increased number of young people and police presence in the streets of Bathgate over the trail period. Also many people have pointed out that the continent has actually lower drinking age which is true, they also forget that they have less of a binge drinking problem.

The problem with prohibiting young people from acquiring drink only makes it more attractive to try and get some. Also once acquired by surepticious means it is more likely to be consumed in a hurry causing further problems. Responsible drinking requires responsible drinking laws.

If both Nat policies take effect they could be facing a reaction from both the youngest and oldest voters.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Carry On Upping Khyber Troop Numbers

George W. Bush is in the UK, possibly seeking sanctuary from the attacks from John McCain and Barak Obama. However, with the American President in the area Gordon 'Tim'rous Beastie' Brown took the opportunity of his moral support to announce an increase in British troop numbers in Afghanistan; as is typical of such announcements under Labour the House of Commons will only get their announcement from Defence Secretary Des Browne later at 15:30.

The announcement will take UK troops in Afghanistan to their highest since deployment following 9/11 and shows a sort of pendulum effect as Gordon Brown has been cutting numbers in Iraq. However, it doesn't make it any easier on our forces who will still be being deployed with regularity between the two theatres of conflict. As the commander of our troops in Helmand province said last year we are facing a 30 year marathon mission in Afghanistan.

When you consider that both World Wars took a total of ten years and not even Northern Ireland took 30 years to come to a peaceful settlement it makes you wonder just who is winning this so called war on terror.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Top 10 McBlogs

The other week Jeff from SNP Tactical Voting placed me in his top 10 blogs in the Scottish blogosphere. What with an action backed week in Stormont and Westminster and I didn't even get around to Zimbabwe I never got around to returning the favour and posting mine. Well this evening I'm going to do just that having just updated my links.

Like Jeff I'm not doing it in any particular order and I'm going to stick with blogs that are reasonably regularly updated. I could easily do another list of my not Scottish reading material and may well do that soon.

1) Ian Rubie Dale: Anything Caron Can Do

I think I can claim some sort of grandparental rights to this blog as the eponymous Caron after whom the blog is named is a mutual friend who followed me and with my help started her own blog. It's always interesting to red the blog of someone you know reasonably well through your political acquaintance and even sometimes surprising to see what and how they may post thing.

2) Jeff: SNP Tactical Voting

I have to admit this is one of the first blogs I tend to turn to in the day, mainly because typing snp into the explorer window is easy, but also as there is usually something there to be read. In recent weeks me and Jeff have also been fairly regularly exchanging comments in each others blogs.

3) Ideas of Civilisation

Always erudite IoC often look deeply into the issues and is a worthy addition to the Scottish debates. He is not, as far as I have seen aligned to any political party and therefore offers a somewhat objective narrative amongst us who have party political motivation.

4) Bernard Salmon: The Sound of Gunfire

I often wonder at Lib Dem gatherings the diversity of opinion, which strengthens our debate and helps us seen issues from a range of perspectives before taking action and shaping policy. This leads nicely to Bernard, although we share the same allegiance there often are times I don't agree wholeheartedly with what he writes, doesn't mean I don't read it fervently.

5) Kezia Dugdale: Kezia Dugdale's Soapbox

Taking a leaf out of John Major's book Kezia carries her soap box with her everywhere she goes. I thought she was, until recently, the sole voice of Scottish Labour in the blogosphere, I'm sure she is relieved she isn't quite. However, she certainly is the most visible and handles the slings and arrows that are hurled at her from all directions with an iron fast steadfastness that a certain other Lady in the political sphere would be proud off.

6)Will Patterson: J. Arthur McNumpty

I can assure you that Will's blog is not the equivalent of the rhyming slang euphemism his blog's title is based upon. Far from it, with the recent exception of being misplaced at the time of the most shocking political event of the week, he seems to have his finger on the pulse. Definitely no numpty is Mr Patterson.

7) Mr Eugenides

Unless I'm mistaken the only political blog with a readers collective on Facebook and yes I am one of said collective. I think I've just been blogging longer than Mr Eugenides though I did take a rather long hiatus whereas he has not. Another erudite and thought provoking blogger of note.

8) Duncan Stephen: Doctor Vee

Apart from being the Godfather of the the Scottish Roundup and having his F1 blog he contributes himself to the political debate here north of the border, although not as much as once he did.

9) Scottish Tory Boy

The voice piece in the Scottish Blogopshere for the Conservative party. I think of most of the Scottish blogger he has yet to pass comment on David Davis which is a shame as I think we'd all like to hear his take on things. Like Kezia he must at times feel like a voice crying in the wilderness but also he is not quite alone.

10) Hard spot as I've realised there are many worthies yet to feature.

I could have gone for Dundee Lib Dem Councillor Fraser Macpherson but felt placing a third Lib Dem on my list would reek of nepotism. Equally I could have gone with Malc in the Burgh who we all wish a speedy recovery from whatever ails him so he can return to the cut and thrust. It could have been Adam Smith was a Socialist but again sadly missing in action since the end of last month.

Who I will plump for is Richard Thompson's Scots and Independent. Like myself and aspiring candidate, though I obviously don't wish him luck in the Westminster seat he was recently selected for. But he's prepared also to pop his head above the parapet and blog about his views on issues. Never an easy thing to do when seeking office as sometimes you worry that something may come back and bite you.

So there you have it a ten, may not be the same this time next month but that's the world we live in. And I know there are others out there. Some of you I do read but 10 is such an arbitrary number but you are all read as and when and I'm discovering new blogs almost every day as I'm looking for other takes on certain stories.

You're Being Sued Mrs Robinson

Before I start I would like to assure Mrs Robinson this is not a witch hunt, her words not mine. Merely trying to get to bottom of just what she has said and has continued to say in her defence since I first posted this, then this earlier this week and also where the story has led.

It appears that on Tuesday the MP and MLA tried to defend her comments made on Stephen Nolan's Radio Ulster show last Friday in the Belfast Telegraph. To be perfectly honest she didn't do the greatest job of it. For starters this:

"I love them [homosexual]; that is what the Lord tells me, to love the sinner and not the sin. And just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ so can a homosexual."

Ouch! First when trying to explain herself by accusing a whole subset of the population of requiring psychiatric treatment this comparison was bound to spark further fury rather than quenching the flames she'd set off earlier. Does this mean she sees homosexuality on a par with murder. If she is taking her bible literally both should be taken outside immediately and stoned to death, mind so should every adulterer. Is that what she wants to happen? There has even been a letter in the Belfast Telegraph from Changing Attitude, a church network seeking affirmation for Gay and lesbian Christians in Ireland, criticising her negative view of homosexuality and Christianity.

She secondly went on to defend her comments as her right to free speech. But hang on just a second her right to free speech is one thing but shouldn't it also apply to those who she has condemned, suggested they needed to change, even seek unsubstantiated psychiatric help. They have the right to free speech too, the also have the right to be protected from potentially harmful and hateful comments. If such comments were to come from someone with a responsible, authoritative position surely the need for protection is all the greater. Sorry Iris that defence cannot work on this not in light of you position as chair of the Health Committee, your speech needs to be more guarded as you balance you public life and responsibilities, especially in so public a forum.

In the last week as well as being investigated by the police, she is going to probed by the Assembly's standards committee and she may be being sued under the Public Order Act — article 9 — which deals with threatening behaviour and insulting words.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Have DUP Paved Way for Nationalists Future?

Iain Dale, that'll be the Tory one rather than my Scottish colleague and friend, raised an interesting quandary over the Democratic Unionist Party's support of Labour in the lobbies on Wednesday night.

If the as yet unsubstantiated rumours that some deal has been done, no matter how surreptitiously, could it help the nationalists? No, not the SDLP or Sinn Fein but the Scottish variety.

Like the DUP the SNP lead a devolved executive within the UK. Like the DUP the Scottish Nats are seeking leverage over financial packages for their part of the union. So what happens if at some point in the future Gordon Brown needs more than the 9/10 Unionist votes to secure a crunch vote? What if Alex Salmond makes an approach to Gordon to shore up what he needs and names his price?

If Gordon has as he said yesterday not made a deal with the DUP he can stand up to Alex, however if it comes to light that some preferential treatment is heading the way of Northern Ireland how can he turn down some quid pro quo concession to Scotland.

Could it be after years of defending the Union and standing up to Nationalism that in one moment of seized opportunism the DUP have manged to aid the process that may unravel the Union that they hold so dear? We live in interesting times, and will look out for developments.

Least Bad Answer - Says Question Poser

I haven't got around to posting this yet but over 30 years after he initially posed the question the then MP for West Lothian Tam Dalyell has acknoweldged that a recent Conservative proposal is the 'least bad answer' he has seen thus far.

Ken Clarke who has carried out the democracy review and Tam are not natural bedfellows, but the former father of house says that Clarke "grasp of the difficulties of devolution" is greater than anoy of the Labour members during that time from 2001-05. Seeing as for part of that time the man charged by Labour with the task of constitutional reform was his neighbouring MP the late Robin Cook, before he resigned as leader of the house, that may be a bit unfair and Robin did have a fair grasp of a great many constitutional issues. But it may well be true of any of the Labour members then present who still sit in the House of Commons.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Anyone?

There is going to be a by election in Haltemprice and Howden following the shock resignation of David Davis the Conservative Home Secretary.

It takes one back to the days when the House of Commons was a place of principle, and top hats and tail were in abundance in the lobbies. Prime Minsters would call a general election if the commons went against them on an important vote. Minsters upon appointment would resign their seat and face a by election, this was how Winston Churchill and others found themselves unexpectedly outside the commons and seeking another seat.

So if there is such a great matter of principle at stake over yesterdays vote how about the member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath following Mr Davis example resigning his seat and facing the public on this issue on the same day? Two seats, two opposing views both up for the public vote.

Of course the Right 'Honourable' Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath will probably cite some reason why this cannot happen and he cannot do the right thing, sorry proper thing to follow Frank Cook's excellent example from the debate. Things such as running the country, fighting the war on terror, fending off the economic disaster facing our country, looking after the wife and kids. So I'll happily in this age of new found chivalry accept his champion.

So therefore instead of another Fife By Election we just have to make do with Redditch seat of Jacqui Smith the Home Secretary, who so clearly also thinks this is a principled stance. Let he defend her Labour majority of 3.6% over the Tories. Although in light of there being some division in Tory ranks over just what they think on this issue can we please be sure that the candidate to take on this battle really is against the 42 days detention without charge. Maybe a unity candidate, who leaves us in no doubt how they stand on this, someone like Tony Benn.

When Irish Ayes Saved Gordon's Bacon

Gordon's Majority for 42 Days detention without trial

So last night by a majority of 9 (see above) Gordon Brown managed to squeeze the victory that was so important to him. We know have the right to hold suspects without charge for 5 days more than China, 4 times as long as in Australia and 24 times as long as in the USA. Although as Tony Benn said afterwards in so doing he had handed over "Osama Bin Laden's greatest victory" as "fear always leads to the worse possible policy". We have eroded our freedoms and sense of justice and liberty at the behest of terrorists.

It was a shallow victory for Gordon Brown, without the votes of nine DUP members, one Ulster Unionist and the Conservative vote of Anne Widdecombe he would have been defeated. Even some of Labour's potential rebels turned backers of the bill, including Austen Mitchell, said they only voted for the government to "save Gordon for the nation". So even the majority of 9 with a count of 36 rebels, wasn't even a true reflection of the mindset within his own party on the issue, merely an offsetting of the day he will face defeat.

David Davis the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary emphasised this outside the House when he said the Bill had "almost no parliamentary authority" and had not been won on the argument but on a excellent whip operation. Indeed others said that the argument on it being needed for security, that it didn't take away our liberties had actually been lost by debate in the chamber as no solid reasoning was given to support either strand of the necessity for the extension by these arguments.

The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, said it had been a victory for pork barrel politics, we're just waiting to see what is in the barrel. Labour rebel Bob Marshall-Andrews said the changes and concessions that had been made to bill made it meaningless, including trying to turn Parliament into some kind of court. Indeed what will happen should the need for Parliament to vote on an extension arise in a summer recess, Parliament unlike the courts in our land do not sit all year round to enable such judgements to be made conveniently.

Now the Lords will have their say on this. Doubtless they will return it to the commons with major changes. This bill may yet turn out to be a noose around Gordon's neck for some time to come.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Labour Sexed Up the Need for 42 Days

Oh dear, remember us going to war in Iraq because of sex up dossiers? Well it looks like Labour have not learnt from that lesson.

Well one of the key reasons Labour have been telling us that they need to detain terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge, an additional 2 week on what is already available, was because the police almost ran out of time to investigate two suspects over the failed plane plot at Heathrow in August 2006.

So how close did they actually get?

Well the pressure group Liberty have revealed that the evidence used to convict these two was obtained after 4 and 12 days respectively.

So just where is the pressure on the 28 days we, according to Labour and Gordon Brown, currently have? Both of these would have been solved under the 12 days (allowing for breaks between interrogation) that Australia the next longest country with Common Law have for their suspects to be held.

It will require 33 Labour rebels to join the Tories, Lib Dems et al to overturn the government on the vote tonight, if the DUP do walk into the Government Lobbies. The only 42 I want to hear about later and tomorrow is those 33 plus the 9 DUP members all standing up to this government's underhand attempt to sex up the need for this unnecessary, draconian, illiberal increase.

Environment Sammy Sceptical on CO2

It may appear that this week I'm deliberately out to get at the DUP, but I can assure readers that they just are the ones that are featuring in the stories that are sparking my blogging juices.

Way back in 1987 for the last month of my Lower Sixth year I had a supply teacher for my Economics A'Level course. In the recent reshuffle by the new Northern Irish First Minister Peter Robinson appointed him the new Minister for the Environment. Sadly back then, aged only 17, I didn't had the economic grounding and certainly not the environmental economics knowledge I later attained at Kingston to hold a debate with Sammy Wilson about such things. However, his comments upon taking up his new role do lead be to want to debate some points with him.

You see Sammy Wilson MP MLA is a CO2 sceptic when it comes to Climate Change. Ok he says it is not responsible for all climate change, yes there are other greenhouse gases which have an affect however he is denying that CO2 has as major an effect as it actually does have. He does not support green taxes to change behaviour as he see the effects in reducing CO2 as minimal, but every change causing a reduction is required, if you add up a lot of minimal changes you get significant change. Isn't that a basic principle in economics; economies of scale? He has been the sole voice of being more sceptical than most sceptics are even ignoring that Climate Change is occurring.

Well Sammy within 2 years of being in your class room I realised that Climate Change was occurring. Leading on from the grounding I had from you and others I realised that the eventual solution would have to be economic and political and have to cross national boundaries, because what we were fighting was not contained by human demarcation of divides. To have you in charge of DENI when many in Northern Ireland and the world are doing their bit to slow down, halt or reverse the affects of Climate Change is not the best scenario. The people of Northern Ireland deserve an Environment Minister who cares about all areas of the environment and I hope they continue to lobby you and educate you so that you see what environmental change can be wrought through your position of responsibility.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Iris to be Investigated for Hate Crime

Following on from yesterday's post regarding comments made by Iris Robinson MP MLA, Chair of the Northern Irish Assembly Health Committee and wife of First Minister Peter Robinson police are to investigate her comments under hate crime legislation.

Andrew Muir, the vice chair of Gay and Lesbian across Down (GLAD) lodged a complaint at Bangor police station on Friday evening. This has now been handed over to the South Belfast division of the NIPA for investigation. The police were initially reluctant to take Mr Muir's statement until he stated that his concerns were covered under the hate crime legislation.

While as I said yesterday she has every right to hold her opinions in private and while she has every right to base those her opinions on her own opinion, when she pushes those opinions in a public forum as a public figure she has crossed a line. While she is not the first politician to be hit by the hate crime legislation she is the most high profile elected representative thus far.

Scarily some more of the transcript of that interview doesn't give Mrs Robinson any room for manoeuvre.

Stephen Nolan: Do you think for example that homosexuality is disgusting?

Iris Robinson: Absolutely

Stephen Nolan: Do you think that homosexuality should be loathed?

Iris Robinson: Absolutely

Stephen Nolan: Do you think it is right for people to have a physical disgust towards homosexuality?

Iris Robinson: Absolutely

Stephen Nolan: Does it make you nauseous?

Iris Robinson: Yes

Stephen Nolan: Do you think that it is something that is shamefully wicked and vile?

Iris Robinson: Yes, of course it is, it’s an abomination.

Not the sort of comments that you would want from someone charged with scrutinising health policy, planning and spending.

Hat tip to Cosmodaddy

Lord Advocate Does Not Advocate 42 Days Detention

Well Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting kicked off the blogosphere debate of the week yesterday over Wednesday's vote in Westminster regarding detention without charge for 42 days. I see with relief that the Lord Advocate in Scotland has come out against increasing the current powers.

Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini has said that the move is "not supported by prosecution evidence". Her views echo those of the Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales, Sir Ken Macdonald who has revealed that nobody has been held for more than 14 days since last summer when the time scale was increased to 28 day. In fact he says he has "managed quite comfortably" within that time frame.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major, who these days rarely speaks up on domestic issues, has also called the move unnecessary. Indeed he believes the arguments for the increase are bogus and counterproductive. Major who laid the ground work for the Irish peace process sees the move to increase to 42 day detention as more likely to boost terrorist recruitment than tackle the security threat to Britain.

He went on to defend British freedoms as a fundamental right which Labour are doing a great disservice and harm to:

"If we are seen to defend our own values in a manner that does violence to them, then we run the risk of losing those values.

"Even worse, if our own standards fall it will serve to recruit terrorists more effectively than their own propaganda could ever hope to do.

"The Government has introduced measures to protect against terror. These go beyond anything contemplated when Britain faced far more regular, and no less violent, assaults from the IRA."

So is Gordon Brown heading to a beating on Wednesday? Heavyweights are starting to come forward and be counted say this is an irrelevance. We already have 16 days longer than the next highest comparable county Australia with 12 days. Why do we need to have 4 times as long as anyone else before we can bring to trail? Why when the Director of Public Prosecutions says that we haven't need to use the new powers give last year at all yet do we need a further extension?

Is the government going to stop at 42 or are they going to strive on to reach their original goal of 56 days? If they get there then where? Is the government of stealth taxation trying to implement stealth detention now as well?

42 days is not the answer to Life, the Universe and Terrorism.

Monday, 9 June 2008

How Can Iris be Allowed to Chair Health Committee?

UPDATED: [Following some further background reading into the situation I have felt it pertinent to make a couple of additional comments contained within the square brackets.]

Iris Robinson is an elected MLA in the Northern Ireland Assembly and MP at Westminster. As such such she is elected to represent all the people of Strangford irrespective of race, gender, religion, political preference or sexual orientation.

However, her comment on Radio Ulster on Friday morning that homosexual should seek psychiatric counselling "to turn away from what they are engaged in" shows a great disrespect for her elected position as well as grave concerns for her position as Chair of the NI Assembly's Health Committee, [especially as the issue arose from a question about a man being attacked because of his homosexuality.]

If believing that homosexuality is a psychiatric condition is she any better than the Nazi's who also considered them inferior and along with the Jews executed homosexual at concentration camps. Or the Iranian who deny the existence of homosexuality in their country to the extent that when they find someone who is they have them executed.

Now I fully accept that these are strongly held personal and religious beliefs of Mrs Robinson as she said she would happily put any homosexual in tough with a lovely Christian psychiatrist she works with. However, they should never have been make publicly considering her position. While such a position may well be held in private in her public position and role it presents a clear conflict in her abilty to perform that role objectively. [It should especially be true when the position had nothing whatsoever to do with the question raised, and therefore had not right to appear in a reasoned response.] In fact I can fully understand that position as it was one I myself was brought up with, which would have been fine and dandy until I realised that I myself was homosexual.

Now I'm not sure what Mrs Robinson's church and Christian life is like. However, I do know that while mine was based on staunch Presbyterianism it moved as I grew into the charismatic end of experiences and I have taken part and witness the full pallet of the spiritual gifts. So I was brought up as many of my University colleagues said as one of the most knowledgeable in the scriptures, but then was willing to experience my Christianity in all its aspects. Therefore as Mrs Robinson suggested I did seek the counselling and prayer for what like her I thought was a condition that I might be able to get over. In fact on all three occasions it was through prophetic intervention that I was compelled to go and seek this.

Well Mrs Robinson it is not a condition I have got over by the means you suggest, nor is it something I now would seek to do nor encourage others to seek to do. It is not psychiatric nor could anybody claim in my case that it is the effect of nurture. It is who I am. Just as it is who many of Iris Robinson's constituents are, she should get on with looking after their actual health needs rather than creating one which even Royal College of Psychiatrists plainly states is not a psychiatric disorder.

Hat tip to Paul Walter @ Liberal Burblings.

Also for reference see blogs by stroppybird @ Liberal Conspiracy and Lynne Featherstone.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Aid Supsended in Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe is only just returning for the UN-sponsored summit on the food crisis. His own country is one of those most heavily hit so of course naturally his first course of action is to suspend all overseas agencies for providing that aid to his people. Only governemnt agencies will be providing the aid that people need.

That will be agencies of the same government that manged to detain US and British diplomats. The British delegation said that at least that action taught them a little more of what is a regular occurance to Zimbabwe's own citizens if they diagree with the way they are being run.

The actions by Mugabe may be be another way to try and strangle through manipulation of their daily food supply the people into voting for him. I hope they have the strength and resolve to realise that if he's prepared to play god with their existance to try and maintain, even overturn the choice that they had already made that they should overwhelmingly vote him out of office in the re-run Presidential elections.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Dave to Face Barber Copycat Enquiry

They say imitation is the best form of flattery. Well witness David Cameron's new hair do yesterday during PMQs, in the middle below.

Defined strong centre parting. Clearly a man trying to express that he's balanced and on an even keel. Also rather a youthful but serious and striving forward style if you can carry it off. Wonder where he got that idea from with spending so much time in the House of Commons?

hat tip tp the Metro.

Tsvangirai Held in Zimbabwe

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and held yesterday for 8 hours while on his way to address an election rally for the rerun Presidential Election.

The Movement for Democratic Change leaders arrest highlight not just the need for democratic change but the need for democracy in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF supporters are still hounding, beating, and killing MDC supporters in political attack. The arrest of their leader is light compared to what some of his supporters have gone through since the disputed election in March.

Mugabe is of course currently at the UN-sponsored global food crisis summit. Sadly Zimbabwe is not merely affected by the current world trends but also by the fact that state sponsored removal of the traditional farmers from their land to be given to untrained people has turned the lands of plenty into a pitiful shadow of what they could and ought to be.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

They've Taken OUr Proctor Away

You are my Proctor
My Mark Proctor
You make us happy when skies are grey
We want to tell you
How much we'd miss miss
Don't take our Proctor away.

Sung to the tune of you are my sunshine this was the chant that the Livingston faithful sang over and over at McDiarmid Park on the last day of the 2007-8 SFL Division 1 season. There had been talk that then owner Pearse Flynn was going to sack him because he hadn't received results. This despite being hamstrung by being unable once he'd learnt about the Division and players with in to buy or loan players from mid December.

The fans singing earned Mark and his assistant Curtis Fleming a stay of execution, that is until the new Italian owners took over this week. Now the manager who was kept in his job at the end of the season has been dismissed by the new owners.

I'm sure all Livi fans will wish him the best in finding a new position quickly and all the best with that, unless of course he ends up facing us in which case we'll be wanting the full 3 points of course.

A Tale of Three Speeches

I'll admit that the political geek in me overcame the need for sleep last night to witness what promised to be an historic evening in American politics as it happened. Yes folk yesterday while South Dakota and Montana marked the end of the 2008 Presidential Primary season all eyes and cameras were focused on New Orleans, New York and St. Paul, for it was here that John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were making their speeches.

McCain was first up to the plate and took his chance to try and reach out the the Clinton supporters who claim they would would not back Obama in November. He praised her and what she had brought to the campaign. He then tired to distance himself from President Bush, attacking his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and environmental policy. Then it was time to lay into the Democratic nominee designate.

"You've known me longer than yesterday," he said, "which was when you started to get to know Senator Obama." The same old attack once more, while trying to advocate that he is actually the hand of change.

Next up was the Democratic winner in South Dakota from New York. She was introduced by her campaign manager Terry McAuliffe as the next president of the USA, was this a sign of what was hinted during the day about what she wouldn't say.

She started out thanking Obama, being grateful and honoured to fight in this race with him, asking her supporters to recognise what he had achieved. But then back on familiar sound bites she asked who was best and ready to take back the White House and govern from day one. Mention was made that she had won more Primary votes than any other candidate in history (this count does not include the caucuses), that she had won the swing states required to secure the 270 electoral college votes in the General Election. You could feel what was coming.

She wanted everyone of the 18m votes that were cast for her to be heard, honoured, recognised and counted. Still looking like she was looking for justice for the voters of Florida and Michigan. Then the big question. Where do we go from here? She said it was a question not to be taken lightly and that no decision would be made tonight. She encouraged supporters to tell her through her website what they thought she should do.

Then it was the turn of the first African American to win the nomination of a major party. He also thanked all the most talented, qualified field of candidates fielded against him. Noted that they are true leaders of the party and that Hillary has made history not just because she's a women but as a leader who inspired millions of Americans. He said that when universal health care came about she would be central to that victory.

Then his attack against McCain. This in not just an election about the change of party in Washington but about change in Washington. He acknowledged McCain accomplishment, then took a snipe at McCain, even he doesn't acknowledge mine. Then pointed out that 95% of the time he has been Bush's man so the distancing himself hasn't happened during the campaign. He said of the attacks on him not visiting Iraq if he'd made a few more trips to the hardest hit cities and towns by the economic recession he'd be more in tune with what change was really needed in America.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Stadia Tour Itinery

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that in the 2007-8 season I started to chart my travels with Livingston Football Club. So for ease of access to these guides of the grounds, ammenities, programmes etc here is a quick reference guide.

Dens Park, Dundee

East End Park, Dunfermline Athletic

Cappielow, (Greenock) Morton

Broadwood, Clyde

McDiarmid Park, St. Johnstone

Palmerstone, Queen of the South

Forthbank, Stirling Albion

Firhill, Partick Thistle

New Douglas Park, Hamilton Academical.

Coming Attractions 2008-9

Well with Hamilton promoted to the SPL we should have been visting Raydale Park, Gretna, but it looks like nobody may be going there this season.

However, we are going to be visiting Victoria Park, Dingwall home of Ross County the most northerly League Ground in British football and the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie home of Airdrie United. I'll let you know when once the fixtures are announced.

Also to welcome the new owners of the club I will be doing the stop off at Almondvale before the season kicks off properly.

Benvenuto a Almondvale

Siamo il Lvingston FC
Odiamo le Pars
Ed odiamo Dundee

Sorry just getting into practice for next session when Italian owners come to Almondvale home of Livingston FC.

Pearse Flynn the Irish Chairman of teh club who bought the team while in Administration back in 2004 has sold his majority sharehoding to an Italian Consortium headed by Angelo Massone. Former Lions and Celtic boss Davie Hay is understood to be part of the consortiums plans to come back to West Lothian as director of football.

I'm going to wait and see just what this all means to the team I love and support week in week out and will keep you posted.

In the meantime in the words of Michael Caine:

Siete supposto soltanto saltare i portelli sanguinanti fuori

He's Not that Principled

Ok so only the day after the Tim'rous Beastie that is our Prime Minister set out a non-nonsense, taking no prisoners* agenda over the 42-day detention plan. Just when you may have thought he'd found a backbone as he was spurting on about principles.

Today the same paper that posted his message the Times informs us that he's not prepared to stand or fall for his principles after all. Even John Major was ready in his darkest hour over Maastricht to face a confidence vote. But the Prime Minister is only prepared now, after saying we will fight and we will win, to put the vote to the commons in the normal way.

David Davies the Shadow Home Secretary takes a guess at just what is going on the Gordon Brown's head.

"I think the logic is probably something like this: Tony Blair was defeated on 90 days; and most of the people who voted against him were Brownites.

"Therefore, Brown thinks they will support him if he comes back with more of a compromise and tries to present it as a consensual argument: 'I am likely to succeed where he failed'."

However, a the PM is currently hoping that the 9 Democratic Unionist Party Members abstentions may stave of a very humiliating Commons defeat it wouldn't seem to be that much of a consensual agreement within his own party.

Jenny Rigg over at Liberal Conspiracy was good enough to mention yesterday's post in her Monday Morning Warm Fuzzies. However, it was hollow laughter with which I commented on Gordon Brown's search for his principles as today's entry shows it was guessing that they would be as short lived as recent appearances of a spinal column from the occupant of Number 10 have been when opinion doesn't follow 'his' principles and he opts for others.

*Actually there are potentially rather a lot of these just not from his own backbenchers.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Sticking by His Principles is he? What Principles?

Today's opinion piece in the Times by Gordon Brown regarding the upcoming 42 detention without trail debate, and possible defeat he is facing, ends with the following:

That is why I will stick to the principles I have set out and do the right thing: protecting the security of all and the liberties of each; and safeguarding the British people by a careful and proportionate strengthening of powers in response to the radically new terrorist threats we now face.

Oh dear having Gordon Brown talk about principles at the moment is probably not the best think. We all knew what standing by his principles to lift our poorest people out of poverty and encourage them to work hard led to. Yes the U-Turn when he realised his principled stand over abolishing the long term goal of the 1997 Government to have a 10p tax band led to swift backtracking during a by election campaign.

Speaking of principles on this matter didn't Gordon once support 56 days in the original debate which got voted down to a mere 28. So he has already had to accept a compromise once on this 'principled' stance of his. At present as Gordon reminds us Judicial review is required to detain beyond the 14 days. Doesn't that tell us something? That the interest of the individual still needs to be enshrined. That the decision is not taken by the politicians or the police. It is taken out of their hands after 2 weeks, and substantive progress needs to be made in that time scale to convince the judge that detention should continue. Why therefore after a further 2 weeks should a further 2 weeks be required again?

Of course this being a piece by Gordon he opens with a ream of statistics. "Today in Britain there are at least 2,000 terrorist suspects, 200 networks or cells and 30 active plots." Hang on a second here Gordon, now I realise that the police cannot start to piece together the actual evidence until they have issued warrants to seize the stuff. But surely some of this complexity of things must already be on record with the police, like the picture on the front of a jigsaw puzzle, they just are required to find the pieces. That is of course unless the statistics are nicely made up by Gordon at his PC at 4 a.m. at the end of his working day.

Gordon does try and address the issue of civil liberties in his piece. Blink and you may miss it:

So I say to those with legitimate concerns about civil liberties: look at these practical safeguards against arbitrary treatment. With these protections in place, I believe Parliament should take the right decision for national security.

Oh dear Gordon to use the word arbitrary when you're trying to defend your principles is hardly a good combination in English. You should have scoured the thesaurus for alternative. After all arbitrary suggests choices and actions which are considered to be done not by means of any underlying principle or logic, but by whim or some decidedly illogical formula.