Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Can You Name 10 Famous Belgians?

Probably not, but by the end of this week you may well be able to name 10 Belgian businesses. Following on from Fortis being helped out by the Benelux governments on Sunday, today is the turn of Dexia.

Dexia is one of the world's largest lenders to local governments, but has run up significant losses in its US operations. It is now partially nationalised by the Belgian, Luxembourg and French governments, to the sum of an investment of 3bn, 400m and 3bn Euros respectively. Its Financial Security Assistance unit which dealt in US bond insurance posted a 2nd quarter loss of $330m and has subsequently been hit by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

This morning shares in the European markets have been hit by the US congress decision not to approve the bail out plan yesterday, following losses on the Asian markets overnight. However, after early losses many have rallied just in time for the New York Stock Exchange to open.

Republicans' Darwinist Theory of Economics

They be creationist over wealth but last yesterday's vote against the, heavily amended by congress, bail out plan shows that House Republicans have a Darwinist "survival of the fittest" approach to the financial sector. Two thirds of Republicans votes against and as the roll call carried on more Democrats took a cautious approach ending with 40% not supporting the plan.

So yesterday while the US's 4th largest Bank Wachovia was bought over by Citigroup, the BeNeLux nations bailed out Fortis, Iceland nationalised its third largest bank Glitnir, and German lender Hypo Real Estate was loaned 35bn Euros from the German Banking sector, American legislators continued to procrastinate leading to overnight loses in the Asian markets.

There are fears for other UK banks including the Royal Bank of Scotland, who at one point yesterday were down 20% in value, and Lloyds-TSB who are in the process of rescuing HBOS. James Eden of Exane BNP Paribas said:

"I'm trying to be open-minded about other surprises there might be. Can you imagine Lloyds walking away from HBOS? The share price is telling you there is a chance of that happening."

So while they fiddle on the hill as Wall Street and the wider financial world burn, how can these legislators who fought for major concessions from the original plan then vote against what they fought for? Leaders on both sides of the aisle had negotiated through the weekend a complex deal of bi-partisan compromise. Don't forget this deal stemmed from the Republican Treasury Secretary, was backed by a Democratic House who wanted to have Republican support which was why the details were hashed out in what was allegedly a shouting match at times. Yet when it came to it some were smug enough to say the bankers have got what they deserve.

There's just one problem with that. At the moment the bankers are scared to lend among themselves, let alone anyone else, as none of them are certain what tomorrow may bring their way. Therefore the circulation of money is slowing up. The knock on effect of the bankers freezing up their lending could knock down to businesses heavily and from there to the workers and the electors on the street. One does wonder how many of the Representatives who voted no may well have many electors facing a tougher time come election day as a result of yesterday's vote.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Not Really the Nursery School Provision Promised

The SNP were quite enraged about the removal of nursery school provision of teachers from some council areas. Indeed in their 2007 manifesto they promised:

Life should be easier for young families. The SNP will increase by 50% the
amount of free nursery education available for 3 and 4 year olds.

Well it appears that what they mean by the amount of nursery education being available only equates to a qualified teacher being available at least one day a week. Nothing new there the Lib Dems pointed out that this pledge was missing from last years budget. Indeed the First Minister has only promised to have 20,000 new teachers in training by 2011. In 2004 there were 22,231 primary school teachers, and in 2007 2,011 nursery school teachers in Scotland so one would have to assume that the First Minister has taken an overall figure for nursery, primary and secondary, to apply it in an answer to a question about nursery to get the wow factor of the figure.

But by using the claim that declining numbers had led to a slump in educational standards at nursery level and only aiming to provide a 20% educational week for nursery pupils aren't the Nats just covering up a scar with an elastoplast rather that really being committed as they claim to education. Of course the Nats also pointed out that the cutting of previous nursery teachers was councils ways to meet budget how many more have been reduced under a Nationalist centrally frozen budget?

Bradford, Bingley and Brown

So Santander, already owners of Abbey and Alliance & Leicester, come in to help out the Government by taking over the profitable parts of Bradford and Bingley ie the braches, retail banking and savings. Leaving us the taxpayer with more nationalised mortages and loans in the Brown Building Society, aka Northern Rock poc (publically owned company) for it does appear increasingly that the governemnt may soon be owning a huge proportion of the nation's mortgages.
Sr Bradford: Hola, Senor Bingley.

Sr Bingley: Hola, Senor Bradford. Que t' al?

Sr Bradford: All the better for consolidating our bad debts with Senor Brown and the Northern Rock UK Ltd.

Sr Brown: Senors Bradford and Bingley I will be prudent in looking after the mortgages and will bring sunshine to your branches with a little Spanish flair.

Sr Bingley: Well that's better than some Scottish dross then.

Friday, 26 September 2008

McCain What Is He Good For...

Having spent the morning doing multiple tasks concurrently I decided to look at the focus of one task that Senator John McCain seems to want to have today. When he suspended his campaign on Wednesday he said:

"I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both
houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both
parties to come together to solve this problem. "

However, that's all well and good but when the President is on your side but it's your own party that is the stumbling block you're supposed to lead. So his credentials to govern one of the most powerful and complex countries in the world are surely taking a knock if he can't get his own party to fall in line especially if you do not feel that "the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands - and we are running out of time." If it were a Democrat in the White House coming up with this plan McCain would be the sole leader of his party at this time. Guess the Republicans in Washington are as sheep like as those from Alaska.

Here's hoping McCain doesn't suddenly get a resolution sorted out just in time to catch a plane to Mississippi for tonight's debate, or like Iain Gray we'll all know he's using this crisis for politics instead of as he insisted putting politics aside to get through this mess.

O Unlucky Man

A pastiche after Tom Harris MP

GORDON Brown really hasn't been very lucky in his short time as Labour leader, has he? First there was his anointed to the leadership as nobody then wished to stand against him which hardly gives him a mandate. Then there was the Miliband article which ended up with the clarion call to make our case afresh and a will he/won’t he challenge suspense ever since. Then there was the sudden reappearance of the tax he'd taken away in his last budget as chancellor in September pay packets. Then he couldn't quite remember who was left in various posts as they seem to keep resigning.

And now this.

Does that imply an abstinence only approach to child raising and for women in the developing world?

(I could also add his strange obsession with Prudence which, although often quoted in Budget speeches, did not include putting aside for a rainy day which we now find him scrambling around trying to accomplish.)

And that dull, mirthless sharpening of knives you hear in the distance is it Charles Clarke, Jack Straw, Ruth Kelly, Michvid Heselband…?

Open Letter to STV

cc: OFCOM, Stephen's Linlithgow Journal

Dear Sirs,

My understanding of election coverage is that the media has to maintain balance in its coverage.

6.2 Due weight must be given to the coverage of major parties during the
election period. Broadcasters must also consider giving appropriate coverage to
other parties and independent candidates with significant views and

Last night on STV's Politics Now show you featured the Glenrothes by election and had the Labour and SNP candidates only. Are you deciding who the people of Glenrothes should be voting for and excluding Harry Wills, Liberal Democrat and Maurice Golden, Conservative from having equal access to media provision on your channel. The same scenarios occured to some extent in the recent Glasgow East by election and the media perception is hard to overturn on the street if this unfairness persists.

I am forwarding my observations to the Braodcasting Standards Commission and publishing it openly on my blog as I see this as breach of the rules that we have to ensure a fair, democratic election system in our country.

Yours faithfully,

Are Lloyds-TSB Labour's Policy Wonks?

Just what was new Nu-Labour Scottish MSPs leader Iain Gray implying when he said that a Scottish Local Income Tax would affect Scottish jobs with HBOS?

Surely the man who is leader of only 45 other people isn't implying that a bank should be setting policy in Scotland? Last time I checked the board of Lloyds-TSB were not members of the Scottish Parliament. Also last time I checked Sarah Gordon Brown wasn't chief executive of Lloyds-TSB-Halifax-Bank of Scotland. So just what is Gray up to? Is he using a crisis for political gain? Scaremongering on a new tack with the same old refrain but with a new menace lurking in his wake?

The warnings from the CBI that Scotland's stalled economy would fail to grow once the crunch is over and that a consensus (when 46% of the people are actually in favour of LIT) are running on empty Iain. We've all seen that the wealthy are really only in it to keep as much of their own wealth to themselves and bugger fairness to those on the lowest incomes, very much like Labour policy. Ordinary people are looking for progressive not regressive taxation at the moment as they are struggling to make ends met. That way the hard working on lower incomes can spent theirs on what they need to spend it on rather than having a bulky flat rate tax set for something which in not reflective of their ability to pay.

Of course Gray did hint that Council Tax may have runs its course during his leadership election but has nothing concrete to bring to the table to replace it. We'll wait and see just how many of the same people also attack those proposals if and when they appear. Strangely people will always complain about their taxes and then always find the faults in any replacement system rather than weighing up the pros versus cons.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Manifestos for the People Too

Baroness Ros Scott has today revealed her manifesto for being President of us disparate lot commonly known as the Liberal Democrats. There are comprehensive sections on how she sees the role affection Members & Activists, Candidates, Councillors & Staff and the Structures of the party. A lot of this is what I heard from Ros on her summer tour of Scotland and the reasons that convinced me to endorse her as the best choice to take this role and take our party forward.

Read more about her manifesto launch at her excellent blog or on her campaign website.

The Lion, The Viking and the Conference

Mister Pinkfish has arranged an bloggers' interview with our Viking Leader at the meeting of the hoarde in Dùn Èideann next month. Mister Stephen is going and promises if I am a good panthera leo I may be allowed to follow in the fluffy pacyderm footprints of my blogging hero to be the cuddling blogger of that event.
Wonder if I'll get my own pass like the many on Mister Stephen's noticeboard? Anyhoo I'll have my best BBC Scotland voice on, Mister Chick or Mister Tam probably.

Sit Down Shut Up

Scottish Tory Boy and myself have been carrying on the terrace humour we enjoyed experienced on Tuesday night's match over at Jeff's blog. So I guess his latest post (especially the title) regarding Nick Clegg's call is in essence some sort of continuation on the theme. (At least it was when I read the title hence mine to accentuate STB's point)

Of course everything he says is highly factual regarding the decision by the Information Commissioner's Office. To continue the football analogy I'm ashamed as a call centre employee that having had a football club board who seemed to know little about football but could run a call centre, I appear to have a party management who know nothing about call regulations. Maybe Chris Rennard and Pearse Flynn should compare notes.

I had qualms from when this was first muted, apart from the fact haven't seen the Scottish reaction to Salmond's I don't feel it is a effective way of communication of any sort of message. But as I didn't have the full facts I limited my response to speculation on a number of points. However, when I heard they hadn't pre-screened the script with the IOC alarm bells rang. The IVR (Interactive Voice Response) that we have to use for each inbound call and option is very carefully vetted for all manner of reasons legal and otherwise. One inclusion is always the DPQ (Data Protection Question) for UK calls and other countries with similar legislation which is when the customer confirms or denies certain uses of the information they will be giving during the call.

Now the party has been reprimanded and I think it is high time that we used the knowledge and resources within the party for the best effect. I know there are a number of communication employees with ties to the party. I'm not sure who, if any of them were contacted in relation to this call. One of the things that attracted me to Ros Scott's campaign for president of our party was that she wants to carry out a skills audit of the membership to be able to put in best practise for key elements of our party. This would have been one example where such an audit would have come in handy as it appears that a little knowledge was used in a foolish way.

Just What Central Bank Alex?

As long ago as at least 2001 the whole banking policy of the SNP was set in stone. I don't think I've heard a dramatic change in it yet. Basically the Governor of the Bank of England would continue to oversee banking in Scotland until the time was right for an independent Scotland to enter into the Euro.

Now neither the Bank of England nor the European Central Bank would have responded directly to the First Minister of Scotland calling for a £100m fund to save the Bank of Scotland. Indeed with several European banks currently setting up their own contingency fund of £70bn the ECB would probably have got them to buy up HBOS and the Bank of Enlgand would have encouraged other banks under its authority to act as a lifeboat which would probably have led to an English pay, say Lloyds-TSB, buying up HBOS to keep them afloat. Of course if the BOS had only been an investment bank instead of a commercial bank the American approach to Lehman Brothers may have been taken, i.e. let the market decide.

Short selling may have in the last hours accelerated the takeover, concentrating the minds but like all banks suffering at the moment it is the kick on effect from the sub prime mortgage exposure that had been making HBOS vulnerable. Salmond calls that branch of his former profession "spivs and speculators" one wonders how much advise over what to short sell a former economist at the Bank of Scotland may have given in the past.

Further to my comments about Alex Neil's general assembly of the Scottish banking kirk elders it is interesting that in 2001 he seemed short sighted enough to say:

"There is no point in us jumping out of the British frying pan of sterling into
a federal European fire of the euro."

Further claiming that joining the euro would limit the degree to which Scotland could be independent within Europe. In light of the interdependence of Scotland's economy with that or the UK, Europe and the World I don't see this sort of independence in all things, at any cost the attitude I'd want from someone overseeing fiscal autonomy in our interdependent world. As Bernard Salmon added it all reeks of symbolism for the sake of acting tough enough to be able to handle independence, which personally I'm glad of as most intelligent people will see we cannot be independent and isolationist at the same time.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

On the Buses: Or Not

Tales of Two Buses

Talking about buses. What? You missed the Eddie Izard-esque segue? I had the misfortune to have a bad day and two different results on the buses yesterday and neither had anything to do with David "Blakey" Miliband.

As I mentioned yesterday I was taking a midweek game in the Corporate Insurance Cup as a chance to catch up on my table topping Livingston.

"You’re no, you’re no, we’re top of the league and you’re no."*

So knowing that the road works around Haymarket are delaying buses I was quite expectant that my 90 second walk from desk to bus stop would enable be to get on a delayed 15:57 bus heading Livingston direction leaving at the end of my working hours on time for a rare change. Sure enough as I looked down the road towards Edinburgh Zoo I soon saw the First Bus livery waiting at the lights at the zoo exit. It was in the outside lane so I knew I’d have to use all my usual tricks to get it to see me and stop.

The lights changed just as the Lothian bus picking up from the stop before the lights pulled along side, this is a worse case nightmare for us First Bus customers along the Glasgow/St. John’s/Corstorphine Road even more so when you are desperate to be somewhere else at the end of your trip other than your sofa. With my week pass in hand I looked straight at the driver of the First Bus as both approached my stop at the Forestry Commission the Lothian driver pulled in and also indicated to the First Bus driver to do the same. Just beyond the stop it indicated it was coming in I thought to stop, so to ease the wait time I ran along to hop on quickly. However, I ended up running after the bus all the way to the next stop where when I was about a length behind it pulled away again from the next stop. A rather irate me was straight on the phone to First to complain.

The second bus/coach related tales are with the coaches that took us to the match itself. The first upsetting thing is that some of the people I’ve travelled with on coaches to away games for some seasons now will never travel by coach to Celtic Park ever again, because of the poor disability access provision for away supporters' coaches.

View Larger Map

I hope this map experiment works but the green flag is Celtic Park and the blue tag is where we had to alight and re-embark our coaches. As you can see it is quite a long trek along Springfield Road to get from one to the other and the guys who require the aid of sticks to walk there were exhausted on arrival, and even worse on getting back. In future they have decided to drive themselves and avail them selves of parking right next to the stadium but also thus missing out on part of the ambiance of travelling to away games.

However, that is not the end of the tail. Oh no! On our return trip homeward bound our coach while travelling along the M8/A8 having just negotiated last nights road works suddenly lost power about the Kirk of Shotts area. Our coach driver manfully lurched, urged and eased it along the hard shoulder to come off at the Shotts junction before coasting the vehicle for a 3 mile downhill stretch towards his depot at Harthill before having to give up and bring it to a stop in Eastfield in a bus stop. Similar to some of your worst flying experiences he then earned a round of applause.

All in all quite an eventful day/night on the buses. Lionel will fill you all in on Celtic Park and the game later on.

*Yes this did get an interesting mix of reactions from humour to derision from the Celtic faithful last night.

If Heselband Really Wanted a Militine Moment

Overheard in a lift in Manchester was David Miliband telling an aide that he had avoided a Heseltine moment. However, mere words are not enough here is a leaked memo of some other ways to make a Heselband or is that Militine impact.

10. As a junior minister get foreign governments to agree to a entente cordiale and grand concorde indeed. But be economical with the truth while hovering over trains.

9. Set out to be a millionaire by 25, in cabinet by 35 (close we take you policy role as being thereabouts plus foreign office at 41 nice one), leader of the party by 45 and PM by 55.

8. Come up with a grand sell off scheme, council houses were Hezza's thing. So see off the Bank of England or something instead.

7. Do something to really wind up the opposition's local authorities. Hezza was empowered to circumvent local authority planning controls while at Department of Environment, lets just flood low lying Tory authorities on the East Coast and rehouse residents in run down inner cities next to "hard-working" families.

6. You need to have a big spat with the PM over something that really matter a la Westland. Maggie saved the Falklands, Hezza defended defence spending. Gordon wants to save the economy, have a blow out over banks.

5. Need a better nickname that "the boy David" after all Hezza was Tarzan. Do you have any distinguishing tattoos? Have you have more than say 30 sexual partners? We need something here David work with us. No Blakey in allusion to your early ambition to be a bus conductor doesn't do it. Needs more effort.

4. Flamboyance factor cf Hezza's mane. The photoshoot in the Times at the weekend was good. Nice image change to old dour features. Lets work on it more relaxed polo shirts, chinos, big smile. Check out which toothpaste both Barak Obama and John McCain used we may be on to a winner.

3. Need to resign from the cabinet an brew on the backbenches for a bit, but not too long, like Hezza, ready to launch a counter attack. We advise you resign in March 2010, reason something about the manifesto but you won't clarify at the time (need to see polling after the election to ascertain just what costs us the election nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Then we can brand you as the voice of change over the summer of 2010 ready to take the leaders speech at Autumn conference.

2. Need to line up some loony to take over your parliamentary seat for after you retire. One of Ken Livingston's hoard suit fit the bill.

1. Key get another senior party figure to resign first heating the fire underneath the PM like Geoffrey Howe did for Hezza's coup. Darling wouldn't have the impact as lost all respect. Jacqui Smith we've lost our file on sadly. You're at foreign office which leaves a dilemma, we suggest Jack Straw as he's probably the most respected senior figure still with any post of some clout. We'll get unto any of his people who haven't already asked about nominating you if he'd throw himself on his sword.

What With This Morning's Metro Endorsement

Got on this bus this morning to see that the Metro seemed to have come out for the Republican Nominee for POTUS.
Or am I just reading my fluffy friend too literally?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Alex Neil and the BOS Kirk

So Alex Neil is assembling the 'banking elders' to look at a possibly alternative to the Lloyds TSB takeover of the Bank of Scotland. Yet why is the SNP back bencher so determined to look at an alternative when the HBOS chairman is convinced last week's deal was the right thing to do.

For starters one of the things he's claiming as a stength is a very strong and diverse wealth of business knowledge. I'm sure Lehman's, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley can all have claimed the same as with much of the rest of the banking sector that is currently facing great uncertainty.

There are also claims from one of the supporters of Alex Neil's grand scheme, Jim Spowart founder of Intelligent Finance, that:

"We can't just sit back and watch the Bank of Scotland

"We've all enjoyed successful careers in banking, which is one of the
jewels in Scotland's crown. It is vital that we do something."

However, the BoS didn't simply disappear when it merged with Halifax and kept an identity and the same seems to be enshrined in the takeover plans by Lloyds TSB. In fact with so much uncertainty at present surely economies of scale stand a more reasonable chance of survival than small independent banks.

So what else is really motivating this decision? Looking at some of the names behind this move being called to this Kirk session meeting Spowart, Sir Angus Grossart, Sir George Mathewson and Gavin Masterton have all at some point either tacidly or directly offered support to the SNP, only Sir Peter Burt stands out of the group called Neil to meet to discuss a £6bn bid for the nation's bank.

Therefore is it fulhardiness for the sake of standing alone? Is it really a wise move to think small when the prevading tide is to conglomorate to survive? Also is now the time to put in such a counter claim when for the moment at least survival has been assured? And if the need is so great to prevent the Bank of Scotland disappearing where were Neil and his cronies in 2001 when the Bank of Scotland and Halifax merged in the first place?

An independent buy out of the Bank of Scotland no matter how experienced the hands at the tiller may be, could end up as its death knell if the Banking sector goes the way of recent airline company furtunes. Small operators there have ceased to breathe and the same may be true of the financial world. Why take the baby out of the cot and put it into the fire for any other reason that single, bloody mindedness 'hands offs it's Scottish'-ness madness?

It would well be a sad day for the Bank of Scotland if this takeover were to suceed and then fail to acheive what it claims to want to acheive. Best to put it to bed now and work with trying to maintain what can for the moment.

Heading Off to Glasgow East Tonight

Now before some clever clogs points out that Glasgow East was the last by election and I'm heading the wrong way I'd just like to clarify that the reason is that the team I missed seeing Livingston play in a pre-season game have drawn us in the Corporate Insurance Cup. So there may be a little bit of rivalry with Scottish Tory Boy and others over tonight's game.

So having been around this stadium a few times on my way to and from the previous by election i'll be going inside this evening to see the team who top the Irn Bru 1st Division take on the team in second place in the SPL in the third round tie.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Who is Going Run to Rack and Ruin?

Last week Mr Roy was dropped from the Labour Glenrothes campaign team. No not the candidate Lindsay Roy but Frank Roy who was part of the Glasgow East campaign team, because in the parlance of post-wall Germany the Eastees didn't want a Westee ruining running this campaign, so that Mr Roy is off enjoying a holiday in the USA. Apparently Nigel Griffiths MP, he with the 404 seat majority in Edinburgh South, had stepped in to head up the campaign. Only for the Scotsman today to report that Gordon Banks MO for Ochil and South Perthshire is actually now running ruining things for Labour.

However, it is bad news when even Gordon Brown's former treasury spin doctor Charlie Whelan admits that telephone canvassing of Unite union members in the constituency showed a critical number were thinking of supporting the SNP. Ouch! Not much spinning going on there Mr Whelan.

On the plus note Gordon can look at the fact that his is pegging back David Cameron's Tories in the Independent on Sunday poll although he will have to think Nick Clegg for a lot of the pulling back from the 21 point to 12 point lead. The Tories are down 7 to 39% but only 2% of that has gone to Labour now on 27 with 5% going to the Lib Dems up at 21 despite having a conference overshadowed by looming financial meltdown. So maybe the message that has only started to come out of the Liberal Democrats could yet have an impact on the voters in Glenrothes. There is time, like in Dunfermline and West Fife, to get a good positive message out there. After all we were apparently on 12% only last weekend in a different poll keep that sort of increase up it will be over 50% by the end of October.

Also 47% did not think David Miliband would make a better PM than Gordon Brown which may be while Miliband is moving to end leadership talk for now.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Lib Dems Still Left Wing: In Glenrothes

Rumours of the Lib Dems shifting to the right have been greatly exaggerated at least in Crusader House Markinch which as of yesterday was also the home of the Conservative's campaign office for the Glenrothes by election.

When I reported once more for duty at the Lib Dem HQ I found at the top of the stairs the directions Conservatives to the right Lib Dems to the left. Also the weather held off yesterday and it was a dry day delivering, including at one point down Markinch High Street right past the SNP headquarters which are only at the other end of the really loud platform announcement sound bubble from Markinch station (that woman has some lungs on her).

I also got to thinking that the entire Scottish Blogosphere with the exception of the Labour bloggers could actually end up in one pretty tight part of Markinch without realising it during this campaign.

Friday, 19 September 2008

They Say It's Your Birthday

It doesn't really matter if its raining or its fine,
Just as long as you've got time,
To P-L-A-Y, P-L-A-Y,
Playaway, Playaway, Playaway.

Robin: Holy Makeral Batman one time presenter of kids show Playaway, Jeremy Irons is 60 today.

Batman: That's very true Robin but he went on to many other things and is considered a serioius thesbian these days. Winning an Oscar an Golden Globe for Reversal of Furtune as well as other awards and nominations.

Robin: But don't you also have an important birthday today Batman?

Batman: Well not me personally Robin but yes Adam West (right) who played me from 1966-1968 on television and in a film turns 80 today.

Robin: WOW! So who else is blowing out candles today then Batman?

Batman: Well Xandra Rhodes the fashion designer, Twiggy the model, Niles Rogers the record producer, Jarvis Cocker the singer, David Seaman the footballer and a Liberal Democrat blogger to name but a few. It's also 38 years since the first Glastonbury festival was held.

Robin: Ding! What a day uh Batman.

Batman: It certainly is Robin.

Tornado hits Torbay...

...no not Adrian "Biffer" Sanders return from conference this.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Name of Old Bank Disappears - Or Does it?

In the 17th Century the oldest Bank in what is now the UK, it was also the only surviving commercial enterprise created by the Parliament for the Kingdom of Scots to survive. However, yesterday when HBOS merged with Lloyds-TSB the name of the Bank of Scotland disappeared apart from the notes in your pockets. At least that is what early reports in the national media indicated that the name would be come Lloyds-Halifax, however it appears that only the TSB bit is being lost in what is now becoming Lloyds-HBOS.

One reason for this may be the Bank Notes (Scotland) Act 1846 which means that for a bank to print its own banknotes in Scotland it must maintain a head office north of the border. So HBOS's Scottish HQ on the mound will continue to operate and AGMs will continue to be held.

Meanwhile while insurance company AIG were effectively nationalised in the States the Government now owning 80% investment banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are next in the firing line according to experts. However, considering that many of these companies are being bailed out by a country with a national debt of $9.6 trillion one does wonder just what happens should the lender of last resort of mortgage, insurance or banking companies, the US Government, have to file for Bankruptcy at any point.

If Uncle Sam's Top Hat Lands on Chance...

Earlier today James Shaddock asked me the question "Can a governemnt file for bankruptcy?" after I'd posted this. Well it appears I haven't been the only one asking the question.

A games manufacturer founded in Salem, Massachusetts has this to say about Bankruptcy in the rules of a game you may be familiar with:

"You are declared bankrupt if you owe more than you can pay either to
another player or to the Bank. If your debt is to another player, you must turn
over to that player all that you have of value and retire from the game.In
making this settlement, if you own houses or hotels, you must return these to
the Bank in exchange for money to the extent of one-half the amount paid for
them.This cash is given to the creditor. If you have mortgaged property you also
turn this property over to your creditor but the new owner must at once pay the
Bank the amount of interest on the loan, which is 10% of the value of the

"The new owner who does this may then, at their option, pay the principal or
hold the property until some later turn, then lift the mortgage. If they hold
property in this way until a later turn, they must pay the interest again upon
lifting the mortgage.

"Should you owe the Bank, instead of another player, more than you can pay
(because of taxes or penalties) even by selling off buildings and mortgaging
property, you must turn over all assets to the Bank. In this case, the Bank
immediately sells by auction all property so taken, except buildings. A bankrupt
player must immediately retire from the game. The last player left in the game

So what if Uncle Sam's Top Hat comes to land on a chance square picks up the card and it says you own your debtors X trillion dollars. But who exactly of the other players on the board would the money $9.6 trillion go to?

Well 40% is owed to the USA government or the Federal Reserve. Yeah strange isn't it but by issuing treasury bonds against itself it would owe.

However the other 60% about $6 trillion is owed to , corporations, US states, and foreign governments. It breaks down to about $2.7 trillion (that's $2,700,000,000,000 for those who like their zeroes) of overseas debt and two months ago over $1.3 trillion was owed to just three countries, Japan ($593 billion), China ($519 billon) and the United Kingdom ($291 billion).

Only 4/5 countries had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2007 higher than the US foreign debt, the USA, Japan, Germany, China and the UK. Which puts the fact that America is struggling financial into startling terms.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

They're Only the Head Get Over It

Attitude magazine have come up with a genius way for everyone (even those of a heterosexual persuasion) to get involved in supporting Stonewall's Education for All campaign. Apart from featuring Sir Ian McKellen, Alan Carr, Dan Gillespie Sells from The Feeling and Mark Feehily from Westlife on this months cover that is.

As editor Matthew Todd mentions in this article you can write to the headteacher of your old school and let them know in a friendly way how you feel about homophobic bullying, either from personal experience or as a concerned relative or friend. After all as most gay couples won't have children those getting bullied at school for being gay "are the children of straight people. We are the children of straight people, mostly" even those who are erroneously branded as gay by others.

So here's a challenge. If you were bullied, or even a reformed bully, or knew someone who was. Or if you have have a child who is or knows someone who is being bullied for being gay. Or are just concerned that the word "gay" in the parlance of today's youth equals "bad" or "uncool" take up a pen or get on your keyboard. If you have a story to tell, tell it, if not just ask what measures your old school has in place to deal with homophobic bullying. Even if just about how they handle the common misuse of gay, which can make a young person questioning or certain of their sexuality feel uncomfortable.

And if you're thinking it is only words and they cannot hurt you read this tragic story of one teenager who died as the result of a homophobic attack by other teens. It has taken one life and has ruined the life's of the attackers. If schools are able to educate, protect and help straighten out earlier future incidents may not occur.

So if you've left school both you and the Head, who may not even be your old head, are both adults and should be able to have an honest discussion. So get over it, the fear that you once had as you walked past their office, and get writting, it needn't take long.

An Answer for Iain Dale Regarding TPS

Iain Dale says the following about Nick Clegg's automated call outs this evening:

"They [the Lib Dems] highlight people who are on TPS and are supposed to be excluded from phone lists. But I would bet quite a lot of money that the LibDem phone calls this evening will reach thousands of people who simply do not want them.

"Perhaps the LibDems would like to explain what measures they have taken to ensure that anyone registered with TPS does not get any of their phone calls."

Well I expect it is the same as any other piece of telephone canvassing I've ever done with the party. The lists will have been TPS cleared in the last week to see which numbers do have TPS. Like always we never call the TPS numbers this is easily programmable (putting my work hat on now) into whatever system is making the calls.

The argument about the SNP scenario was that they did not do this. As I know having despite having my number TPS listed for years at the time I picked up the phone one evening to hear Sir Sean Connery's dulcet tones.

That said I don't consider the most effective way to reach people is through an automated message.

Students Sensible Over Drinking

Unlike certain members of the political leadership Scottish student leaders are showing sense in targeting the real issues of our binge drinking culture. It isn't the age that is the problem it is the promotions, CARDAS (the Campaign Against Raising the Drinking Age in Scotland) are slamming promoters who organise booze tours etc.

Seeing as these events would be happening in clubs or Union Bars the SNP's proposals to ban off sales to under 21s would not curb these promotions of irresponsible drinking. It is these sort of promotions and excessive drinking spree's that young people once they start on can lead to irresponsible attitudes and unhealthy relationship to alcohol. There's no denying that binge drinking is a major issue but while promoters are still freely promoting such hedonism with the bottle to young people surely there is a flaw in the system, which the ban on off-sales is not tackling at the root, merely an outpouring of our acceptance that binging is acceptable and promotion worthy.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Last One Out Please Visit the Palace

Remember the good old days when John Major faced a vote of confidence in the House of Commons. Well it looks like not even confidence these days is a matter for the House to hear about.

Heaven only knows who Gordon would get to whip a vote of confidence, or vote for him in one especially now that David Cairns is the first Minister to resign on the issue of his continued leadership. Although last I heard my MP Michael Connarty was still backing his man even saying he should get himself to Glenrothes, so with Miliband standing firm, although that may be yesterday's news, that's at least 3 votes for him come the conference.

Looks like it may be a case of musical chairs around the cabinet table over the next couple of days now that the first minster has vacated his chair. Just as long as the last one left in the room with Gordon remembers to call on the Queen to advise her that s/he will be forming the next government.

Has Tavish Got the Nats Rattled?

Looking around the blogosphere Tavish's call for tax cut such has really got their hackles up. Whether it's calling him a Tumshy and an eejit, asking him to stop havering or just to urge care.

Even Alex Neil seems unwilling to admit that the government as like the people should find ways to tighten their belt in difficult financial times. While their Westminster business and energy spokesman Mike Wier thinks it's irresponsible and and stupid. So the Nats who attacked Brown and Darling over the removal of the 10p tax rate are not even prepared to look at relieving the burden on Scotland's tax payers even though they have the power to do so.

The Nats are havering on about where the money will come from to pay for this, ignoring the fact that they have been irresponsibly and stupidly adding to the number of quangos in Scotland over the last year, as well as extra allocation coming Scotland's way under the Barnett formula. But they probably have plans for that money which more than likely means setting up needless mirror functions to Westminster in their bid for independence or increased centralisation and duplicity of powers at Holyrood away from local authorities.

The Nats have always accused other parties of failing to have an alternative. I think this challenge has really got them reeling as they can't think of an alternative themselves, nor a reason not to look into it.

Who's Been a Naughty Boy Then?

If this account from Julian at Orange by Name is true, and I see no reason why it isn't given that a Lib Dem is telling the press there are being lenient, then what action should be taken against Adrian Sanders MP for Torbay?

The some of the press this morning called it a Prescott-like moment there was one exception there was no unidentified projectile aimed at Mr Sanders before he hit out at another human. The only thing that Mark Littlewood had done was earmark the Torbay seat as being vulnerable to a Conservative bounce under Cameron. As the Tories they were placed 2nd just over 2000 votes behind in 2005 this is a reasonable expectation all things being equal, without a lot of work by and goodwill towards the incumbent, under the circumstances of the Conservatives riding a high wave in the polls.

The party will have to discipline the MP if the eyewitness account posted on Julian's blog is correct. Removing the whip being the least that I would expect to happen under the circumstances. Whatever the party in Torbay, and Mr Sanders himself, decide to do over this is up to them. But I can't believe a local party would look too favourably on their MP taking this approach to resolve an argument, especially as he was supposedly amongst friends in Bournemouth.

Star Woman Sought for the East

Since 1918 Labour have had 18 MPs in Scotland's capital but it all that time only one woman, Lynda Clark, for eight years 1997-2005 has been representative for them in Edinburgh Pentlands. She of course then chose not to stand in the Edinburgh South West seat to allow Alistair Darling to find a seat after Edinburgh Central was wiped off the Westminster map.

However, with Gavin Strang stepping down in Edinburgh East at the next general election Labour are considering making some amends for that by considering having a women only shortlist for his replacement. A similar tactic is being used next door to West Lothian for the Airdrie and Shotts seat being vacated by John Reid.

Having recently watched the docu-drama of Mrs Thatcher's early days in politics it does seem sad that there is still something of a glass ceiling in getting through the selection process so often for female candidates. Having seen and worked closely with some excellent female candidates in the past I know that there is no disadvantage in selecting the right candidate irrespective of gender but sadly too many of those involved in some politics still will always place a man before a woman in their voting preference at selection level. Once any candidate has crossed that threshold it is largely the popularity of their party that makes up the bulk of their vote, their own popularity or lack of, making up the topping; which can create a effect either to hold, or take a surprise gain in a tight contest.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Well the Vote is to Make it Happen

The big debate for the vision and direction of the party has just been passed, unamended down in Bournemouth, there was excellent coverage of the debate for and against (if slightly biased IMHO) by Stephen Tall over here at Lib Dem Voice.

While as Brian Taylor said there was a rather mixed response from the floor at conference the fact the tax cuts have been passed at conference means that the party will now be promising a radical agenda for social justice whenever the General Election comes along. We're trusting the people to do what is right with more of their money, you can't be more liberal than that. I know that the party will still ensure there is sufficient provision for those unable to earn an income for whatever reason. Those supporting the cuts (many of them big hitters in the cabinet) have said that this is only part of our social justice agenda going forward.

So the Lib Dems look set to deliver a fairer tax system, lifting more people out of poverty than Gordon Brown knows about (at least the ones he keeps claiming to be helping). If we can deliver this plus social justice we really will have the radical edge in UK politics.

By Election Deja Vu

On Saturday I'd just returned from delivering resident surveys back at the Lib Dem by election HQ in Markinch just as the Lib Dem conference was getting under way on Saturday afternoon. It really was a case of heavy deja vu when I looked around some of the personnel in the office as both Charles Dundas who'd been the candidate then and Caron where there as well, of course they passed the comment that my delegates page sat on the notice board all through the 2005 conference and stayed up until the end of the campaign. As I don't have one for Bournemouth this time I can't replicate the scene.

However, that wasn't the only case of deja vu at the weekend. It is possible if you arrive by train to avoid the SNP HQ on your way to the Lib Dem's one. Or if like me you get offloaded in Glenrothes on the way up with bundles to delivery first of all. However, it is pretty hard to bypass the second used-car showroom HQ on the bounce by the Nats as you have to go anywhere other than Markinch to do any work. Admittedly this car dealership is rather smaller than the one they acquired for Glasgow East but it also seemed to have less people hanging around it every time I had to come past it at the weekend as well. Of course part of this may be down to the fact that we're still waiting to find out just when the election will be held so I'll keep an eye on it over the coming weekends.

Of course if it isn't attending conference you end up sacrificing for these things it is other things like watching you team lose at football but still remaining top of the league. Think I actually got the better end of that sacrifice for this weekend at least.

When is a Rebellion Not a Rebellion?

The Independent has the headline this morning Clegg faces grassroots rebellion over his £20bn tax cutting plan.

Now I'm assuming that the Indy is using the word in linmes with the following definition:

"organized opposition to authority; a conflict in which one faction tries to
wrest control from another"

As opposed to the sense of:

"organized opposition to a government or other authority involving the use of

As I don't expect my fellow Lib Dems to be brandishing pick axes, sickles or pitchforks as they apporach the platform later this afternoon. Although such activity may well shift the coverage off BBC Parliament and unto BBC1 or BBC2.

Indeed as Paul Holmes MP points out in his article in Lib Dem Voice at the end of last week.

"It would appear that Liberal Democrat policy has changed to one of cutting
public expenditure to fund tax cuts rather than switching wasteful or less
desirable New Labour expenditure to fund needed investment in accord with
Liberal Democrat policies. "

So indeed rather than being a rebellion it is a case of sticking to what has gone before that may be what may happen in Bournemouth later. It is as Paul also puts it the vagueness that is the issue the as "yet unidentified spending cuts in order to fund as yet unspecified tax cuts".

So should the amendment from Paul, Evan Harris et al pass it is not rebellion but clarification. Indeed if anything it can't be a rebellion as the authority on setting policy within our party is the democracy of conference which has yet to say one way or the other which way we are going on this policy paper laid before them by the policy committee.

Tavish Lays Out Tax Cutting Challenge

At the weekend down at the Federal Party conference down in Bournemouth Tavis Scott challenged the Scottish Government as well as fellow opposition parties to really help people by cutting 2p of the level of income tax.

He said that with fuel costs up by 50% and the average food bill up £30 a month and inflation soaring we could not let this go on, adding.

"We can't turn our backs. We've got to find ways to help people out, because we
know things are going to get worse."

One minor hiccup in Scott's announcement was picked up in this morning's Times that he failed to correct the cost estimates, under Scotland's tax varying powers, from £400m to the actual figure of £800m out of Scotland's £30bn budget. Although this was less of a glaring error than when Charles Kennedy attempted to outline the proposals for Local Income Tax days after becoming a father during the 2005 General Election.

However, the Nats issued a coll response to the challenge saying:
"It's only a couple of years since the Liberal Democrats were calling for
an increase in income tax when the standard rate was higher. Now they are
calling for an income tax cut.

"The biggest items of Scottish Government expenditure are health and
education and the hard question for Tavish Scott is to answer is where the cuts
will be. The Scottish Government has already frozen the council tax and cut
business rates."

So I wouldn't expect there to be any more tightening of the belts in the Scottish finance bill that will come before the Parliament soon.

However, today at conference the whole tax cutting agenda that the party leadership is taking on board faces a challenge in an amendment to the Make it Happen (Visions and Values Paper) . No doubt it will lead to a lively debate as the party decides whether proper spending on public services or tax cuts really is of greatest importance and help to the public at this stage.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Lipstick on a Pig: Try a Frog

This news is brought to you by the letters L, B and O and by the number 8 but that's enough on with the news.

A well known Hollywood celebrity has spoken out regarding the the latest highlight in the press about putting lipstick on a pig and leaving it's status as still a pig.

When interviewed in her Hollywood Hills mansion the star of stage and screen (pictured left) said:

"Moi, always manages to put lipstick on a pig, mon cher-ee. I wouldn't leave the
house in the morning without doing so."
Asked what brand she used to that stayed on the reply came back under a flinging arm.

"A lady never discloses the secrets of her make up table. Unless they are paid to do so in an exclus-eev high valued contract. I wouldn't betray that trust that Revlon has placed in moi to reach out to the porcine market place."
Asked what she felt about comments that putting lipstick on a pig was being conceived as a difficult task she retorted.
"Hah! That is nothing sweety. You try putting lipstick on a frog. That is harder, but something I aim to do every day."
We did ask the opinion of a frog on this matter but he insisted that the camera was not point at him so we pointed it to th ground while we interviewed him.
"That Mr. Obama is one lucky man. I used to front a very popular variety show and he would have been on our show by now if that was still running. He would then have realised how difficult it is to prevent getting lipstick off a pig.....(he was looking around furtively)....off you. The best way is to try and avoid Piggy's lips in the first place."
So here in the Tinsletown the debate about lipstick and pigs carries on.

It Isn't So Academical

What size is appropriate for a secondary school? Or more important how many pupils should fit into the space?

These are questions perplexing parents in West Lothian at present and particularly those of Linlithgow Academy who held a meeting at the end of last month to look into the planned expansion of the school. This is especially prevalent at the moment with the promise of 2 additional non-denominational secondary schools in the county currently on hold due the credit crunch hitting the building trade and the PFI (or whatever it will be called) to complete these projects.

West Lothian Council's aim is to have:

"Schools which are a haven of excellence, and most importantly places which
inspire our students and staff to achieve the very best that they can."

Although the question is not so much one of population at the level of 1,320, from my Northern Ireland experience off hand I know that both Methodist College with 1,850 secondary level pupils and my own alma mater, Regent House Grammar School with 1,444 are two of the best in the country. But what both schools had even when internal space was limited was space to accommodate such numbers on the grounds.

Linlithgow academy is already bulging at the seams and parents are concerned quite rightly that the current pupil levels of 1,210 let alone an increase can be accommodated without out affecting standards of teaching. This is especially true where specialist facilities labs/technology rooms/home economics/music facilities are taken into account. Having been in a previous job a temporary lab tech back at Regent I knew that some of these facilities tech/home ec/science were catered from in temporary classrooms a long trek from my prep room, down flights of stairs and other obstacles; not ideal I say with my current risk assessor hat on.

This is even more greatly exasperated at Linlithgow Academy because of the lack of the space that we had available at Newtownards. Greater reduction in social space at the school will have to come as a result of fulfilling the needs for academic space. At Regent with two separate periods dedicated to lunch, outwith the dinning hall there was the assembly hall, gym and sports hall all used to accommodate pupils during inclement weather. The outdoor space available would also have been greater than required to fit the current footprint of Linlithgow Academy with room to spare as some of the sports facilities were adjacent to the school unlike at Linlithgow.
So the stressed on the size of Linlithgow Academy and other schools across the area including St. Margarets and Whitburn Academy are liable to be pushed to, if not beyond, over the coming years. While the housing downturn may stop new building, including that of news schools, the children are already there are need educating somewhere.
Something has to be done to provide this is balanced way of not just classrooms but the other facilities involved. Sadly as with other additional housing provision in West Lothian over recent years amenities have been secondary to housing expansion which is why with the downturn in building we can now find ourselves in the awkward squeeze.

West Ham now Have Another Vacacy to Fill

Football is a game of two halves so the old cliche goes. That includes a club's shirt. It has a front and a back this is the tale of two halves from the world of football yesterday.

Well Gianfranco Zola may have been smiling yesterday when he was appointed the new West Ham United manager. However, turn the shirt over.

And there will be concerns still with the club board following last night's news that the club's shirt sponsors XL Travel have entered administration, which has left tens of thousands of tourists stranded overseas will all flights grounded.

Song Title Answer Meme

There is a meme doing the rounds to answer the following questions about yourself in the titles of songs by one band to here you go here's my take on this meme. All you have to do is guess the band.

1) Are you male or female? European Son
2) Describe yourself? Obscure Alternatives
3) What do people feel when they're around you? Fall in Love with Me
4) How would you describe your previous relationship? Love Is Infectious
5) Describe your current relationship? All Tomorrow's Parties
6) Where would you want to be now? Canton
7) How do you feel about love? Love Is Infectious
8) What's your life like? The Art of Parties
9) What would you ask for if you only had one wish? A Foreign Place
10) Say something wise? Don't Rain on My Parade

Who is this Stephen Linlithgow?

Caron has received her copy of Total Politics Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9 but apparently in the Scottish section there is the following quote:

"reading the likes of Fraser MacPherson, Stephen Linlithgow and Underdogs Bite
Upwards is a useful insight into Lib Dem thinking and how this might
affect things in Edinburgh"
Erm, who is this super blogger? Sarge?
Rosemary the telephone operator?
Penry the mild-mannered janitor?
Erm...enough of this phooey.
It says quite clearly at the top of this page under the title "Blog of Stephen Glenn". Even the posted by bit at the bottom of each entry unless done by Lionel de Livi a rather fluffy Lib Dem and sportsmad addition in recent months says Stephen Glenn. So who this Stephen Linlithgow guy is I have no idea, furtunatly if you google Stephen Linlithgow this blog is the top hit which is better than under my real name where the blog is only 4th* so maybe I'll be changing it by deed poll. Only joking mum.
At least Nich Starling of Norfolk fame gets it right with hios quote in the Lib Dem section and probably sums up the essence of my blog in the quote he took the one about about attacking when you need to and praising when I can.
Anyhoo my name's in print, again, along with a whole host of others, ad plenty of articles about political blogging across the United Kingdom of all shades from all corners. If you are going to conference make sure you get a copy or click on the pic at the top to link through to order it for yourself if like me you aren't heading to a conference this autumn.
*Although the top hit is this article by me for Our Kingdom and second is me guest editing the Scottish Roundup.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

What do you think?

OK my post on the statement "Lipstick on a pig" which has been used by both Presidential candidates has caused a little bit of a stir so I've set up a poll to gauge public opinion. I can see four reasons why it may be used. With my current readership spanning both sides of the pond results may well be interesting. First up the context:

"John McCain says he's about change too, and so I guess his whole angle
is,'Watch out George Bush -- except for economic policy, health care policy,
tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics --
we're really going to shake things up in Washington.'

"That's not change. That's just calling something the same thing
something different. You know you can put lipstick on a pig, but
it's still a pig. You know you can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called
change, it's still going to stink after eight years. We've had enough of the same
old thing."

First up is as stated here the context in which Barak Obama used the phrase was purely about McCain's change being an ineffective cover up to Bush's policies for the last eight years.

Next having seen the full statement you could side with the Republican camp who say "Obama was referring to Gov. Sarah Palin. It's obviously disrespectful and offensive.Who has been talking about lipstick lately? It was obvious."

Thirdly it's like that last song you hear in the morning before getting into work, you know the one, that one you can't get out of your heard no matter how bad it is. But somehow later on you can't help humming along of making some oblique reference to it.

Finally while a google search for Lipstick on a pig brings up 490,000 searches try adding Iraq and you get 190,000 searches alone. The phrase has been used by many American commentators on many different issues, including both Presidential candidates in the past on more than one occasion. Therefore while not as common as goggling it is an idiom in both Barack Obama and John McCain. John Edwards used it similarly to Obama to talk down Bushes job creation strategy in 2004 and Dick Cheney also used it that year.

So over to you, you decide.

Lipstick on a Pig: The Porcine of the Species

Well neither Barak Obama nor John McCain were first to coin the phrase "putting lipstick on a pig" though both have used it it was first cited in the online Urban Dictionary as far back as August 10, 2004; when it was defined as:

A term used by many, generally in reference to someone who may be trying to make something or someone look appealing or attractive when it quite clearly will not work, or will only deceive the dumbest of people.

Although Time magazine ran a story ran a story on the history of the phrase and it first sprung from funding for an American football stadium in 1985.

"One of the oldest published quotes using the entire phrase appeared in
The Washington Post in November 1985. Asked by the San Francisco Board of
Supervisors to put his station's $20,000 fundraiser earnings toward the
renovation of Candlestick Park, KNBR personality Ron Lyons scoffed, "That would
be like putting lipstick on a pig."
Well there's no doubt this idiom survived the collision of two words and thoughts to conjure up a phrase that has a specific use and parlance. This evolution of language has seen the word survive and be fit to be used by both candidates during this election cycle. So why the brouhaha over it's use? Has it really become a term of sexist abuse as the latest attack ads on US TV would have us believe? Lets look into the context of how both Senator's use the phrase.

The first use was by the Senator from Arizona not as they may have you believe by the one from Illinois. It was actually made in the context of a female opponent. As CNN reports it was John McCain who first used the phrase:

In Iowa last October, McCain drew comparisons between Hillary Clinton's current
health care plan and the one she championed in 1993: "I think they put some
lipstick on the pig, but it's still a pig." He used roughly the same line in
May, after effectively claiming the Republican nomination.

Now look at the alleged sexist use of the phrase by Barak Obama on Monday in Virginia.

"John McCain says he's about change too, and so I guess his whole angle is,
'Watch out George Bush -- except for economic policy, health care policy, tax
policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics -- we're
really going to shake things up in Washington.'

"That's not change. That's just calling something the same thing something
different. You know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. You
know you can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change, it's still
going to stink after eight years. We've had enough of the same old thing."

Now maybe McCain spokesman Brian Rogers can tell me what he thinks is the "big difference" between the two references. He says:

"McCain was referring to a policy proposal. Obama was referring to [Alaska]
Gov. Sarah Palin. It's obviously disrespectful and offensive.

"Who has been talking about lipstick lately? It was obvious. The crowd
went crazy because of it."

Erm well lets take a careful look at those two paragraphs of text from Barak. He starts by stating he is talking about McCain, about his lining up with Bushes policy in Washington. Now as Sarah Palin who actually described herself (and all hockey moms) as a pitbull with lipstick, loves to remind us she isn't one of the Washington set. So clearly she cannot be lining up change in line with those policies i.e. putting lipstick on a pig.

He carries on after the first analogy with a second about fish in paper still stinking after 8 years again a reference to the Bush policies that McCain has supported. The context is complete on either side of the edit that is doing the rounds in republican circles and on the airwaves in the States. Fortunately as the Huffington Post points out many in the media are not so easily fooled or deceived like the dumbest people.

No where in what Obama said does he refer to, nor hint at, Governor Palin. Of course McCain only started talking about "change" after the Democratic candidates in the primaries got mileage from it. Surely instead of a sexism charge which has no foundation in truth a trades description violation should be levelled at the McCain camp.

One senator used the phrase "putting lipstick on a pig" in relation to a female opponent. But the female opponent in question Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't take offence at it, nor use it to turn the tables on the man who said it, because Hillary is more of a man about it that McCain, Brian Rogers or his campaign team are.

You Better Knock, Knock, Knock on Doors

On Monday Ideas of Civilisation posted an interesting piece on his blog called "Should politicians have to contact voters?". It caused a little bit of debate in the comments thread of which I partook. Well yesterday I noticed this challenge issued by Nick Clegg which takes up just that point.

Nick points out as with IoC that most people feel alienated with politicians, I can vouch for that from the contact I have had with people on the doorstep. They rarely see their politician and in some instances have gone many years without any direct contact with a member of any political party coming to them before I turned up. Too often it seems that politicians especially in what are conceived to be safe seats take their electorate for granted and fail to connect.

Nick points out that he also feels the best way to engage with people is to go and talk to them saying:

"I'm passionate about connecting with people. Talking with them, listening to them, and learning from them. That is why since I became Leader I've been holding Town Hall meetings in constituencies across the country. And that is why at our conference in Bournemouth I will be challenging our party to knock on at least a million doors between the end of conference and Polling Day for the Local [in parts of England] and European elections. It is a tough challenge, but one which I am confident that we are more than capable of meeting.

"For Liberal Democrats calling on people to talk to them isn't just about elections and votes. It is about understanding what matters to residents in our communities. Our opponents often deride us for listening to the very real concerns of voters about local issues. But it is something to be proud of that we take seriously such concerns and, more importantly, work to act on them. This is what community politics is all about; and this is what makes us different from the other parties. Community politics rightly lies at the heart of our party and the way in which we do politics."

I totally agree, while you yourself may be somewhat tuned in to the concerns at a certain level you can get caught up too much in the high level, high profile politics. So without direct contact with non-political people you can miss an underlying groundswell of opinion from residents, concerned parents, the elderly or some other group in your society. A number of people have at times said to me that they feel that Lib Dem policies are often common sense, although sometimes followed by the phrase but I can't see myself voting for you. I think the fact that Lib Dem politicians and activists do engage with people is partly why our policies do form common sense, we hear both sides of the argument before going to conference to shape policy and the direction our party will take.

I for one will be out and about on doorsteps but I can't do a million on my own of course.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Two Knights. So What?

We're Knights of the Round Table,
We dance when ere we're able,
We do routines and chorus scenes
With footwork impeccable.*

From Monty Phyton and the Holy Grail and Spamalot

Well it really takes the biscuit when Nats Jeff have to compare the knights heading up the respective Commission/Futures Trust on either side of the debate.

Jeff goes out of his way to disparage the achievement of Sir Kenneth Calman. Yes unlike Sir Angus Grossart he is not involved in the world of business or economics but that hardly means he is not qualified to pass a dispassionate eye over the future of our country. Sir Kenneth has been Chair of Cancer Research in Scotland, Chief Medical Officer both for the UK Dept of Health and here in Scotland as well as holding senior posts at both Durham and now Glasgow Universities. He's also currently President of the Boys Brigade.

Sir Angus is a lawyer turned merchant banker, now Vice Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Has been Chairman of the National Gallaries of Scotland, as well as being Chairman of the Fine Arts Society and Lyon and Turnbill auctioneers.

Both seem able to carry out carry out cognitive function at the highest level, both have experience of leadership, both have shown a diversity in interests. I don't think it does anyone justice to accuse someone appointed to chair a review that they may not agree with of being an inferior product to the one that they do. Not when the evidence is there that both have strengths.

*I have to admit before writing and researching this piece fully I'd used this quote before reading here "[Sir Angus's] interest in architecture has taken him far afield, from Crusader castles in Syria to the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru" pure coincidence I assure you.

World Still Exists! Is this Due to One Way Traffic?

OK the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been fired up, but before everyone breathes too big a sigh of relieve protons are currently only going in one direction. you see they having starting the ones going in the other direction yet, nor the deflection of the two once they hit full speed.

Not that I'm necessarily a doom sayer but rumours of the Earth's survival have yet to be cleared up, counted clarified and appraised after the scientists make crash test dummies of us all.

So just in case you haven't received* the directions from Prak on how to get to God's final message to his creation written in large letters of fire I'll let you into a little secret.

Meanwhile in tribute to the words of Michael Caine we ask the scientists to only blow the doors off and keep to that remit.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this I got to thinking. If LHC is trying to replicate the bib bang surely the least likely outcome would be that we'd get sucked into a quantum singularity or a black hole. Surely at the point of big bang there be explosion not implosion and we end up getting scattered to the ends of the galaxy waiting for the micro gravity of our component parts to cohere together to form glubs of mass somewhere out in the void. So it looks like it may not be a Vogon Construcutor Fleet we have to worry about after all. People of earth your attention please.

* That includes Scottish Tory Boy for one, more than likely, based on this. Though not Holyrood Patter.

All Silent from Nats on Pay Front

You probably won't read much about this in the Scottish blogosphere as there only a few small voices of non-SNP out here. But you'll hear even less about this from the Scottish Government themselves in fact so far they have "said nothing at all" with regard to the public sector pay dispute.

As today's Scotsman points out there are two reasons for this, first is the one they would have you believe is the one they want to lay the firmly at the feet of Westminster, must particularly Alistair Darlings reticent, and increasingly indefensible stance, over the 2% cap on public sector pay increases. The second however is that even if they wanted to break the salary cap all local authorities in Scotland are hamstrung by the SNP called for, and taken up, freeze on council tax increases and would have to rely on Holyrood to provide extra funding to do so.

So while the SNP, if they were in opposition, would be up in arms demanding action for Scots struggling to make ends meet they cannae of will nae act to allow public sector workers employed by local authorities to have a fair inflation compensatory wage. So while low wages is an argument the Nats cannot win the Scotsman is expecting us to see them attack Westminster on the inflationary prices ignoring the fact it takes two to tango.

Meanwhile of course on Newsnight Scotland the other week all three of the Labour leadership candidates defended the right for a fair wage for the public sector workers. So whoever comes to lead them this weekend Labour in Scotland may well be supporting strike action this winter in opposition to their Westminster colleagues while the Nats will be siding with Gordon Brown and Mr Darling. Oh what a tangled web that could create this autumn.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Scottish Tory Boy's Long Lost Weekend

Yeah last Wesdnesday he told us he was taking a break but now he's back looks like a long, lost weekend to me.

Here is my ode (the radio version) to STB, apologies to Lloyd Cole and his excellent Lost Weekend.

It took a long weekend in a flat in Edinburgh
Staring in space in a single room
And the sickest joke was the price of the laptop
Are you blogging at me now may I please blog along with you

This morning I woke up from a deep unquiet sleep
With ashtray clothes and missed my laptops screen
With which I wrote for you top ten Scottish blog
Upon my screen 'twas stolen from me when I logged off from you

You see I, I wouldnt blog it if I didnt mean it
Google me, I'll fall to pieces too easily
I was a STB with a head full of blog ideas
Wrote my heart on my blog like a stain
My aim was to inform you
Could we meet in the parliament
Did I ever hey please did you link to me
You see I, I wouldnt blog it if I didnt mean it

Google me, I'll fall to pieces
Yes it's too easy and theres nobody else to blame
Will I hang my head in a crying shame
There is nobody else to blame nobody else except my sweet self

Again it took a long weekend in a flat in Edinburgh
Twenty four gone years to conclude in tears
That the sickest joke was the price of the laptop
Are you blogging at me now
May I please blog along

I was STB with a head full of blog ideas
And unashamed wrote my blog with Tory ideals
And your STB was a link upon your blog
You linked to me when I linked to you
You see I, I wouldnt blog it if I didnt mean it
Dropped out me just needed to blog again you see.

Tories U-Turning Before They Get to Power

Little over a year ago George Osbourne promised that the Conservatives wouldn't make cuts in public expenditure. It was seen as a similar pledge to the one Labour made back in the lead up to 1997 not to increase the level of tax set by the Tories and therefore as a major plank to lure disheartened voters from the other side. Well unlike the political convictions so loved by Gordon Brown or an Iron Lady these Tories are for turning and haven't even had the removal vans turn up to turf Gordon et al out of Downing Street yet, at least Gordon didn't go back on his no more taxes pledge until he started issuing budgets.

Now Osbourne has said he is likely to inherit and "economic mess" well we can all many of us can see that around us. Those of us who can see it know that many of those who are worse off will need help from the public purse. However, he goes on to say that he will not give details until after the Government set public expenditure budgets up to 2014 next summer of what he says will be a "tonal change" over his policy to match that spending until 2011. The Conservative have long made clear that they will aim to share the proceeds of growth, yet as Mr Osbourne is facing a potential shrinkage in the economy it is not clear how as he claims he will free cash to cut taxes and reduce debt.

He's also hinted at scaling back the Tories early eagerness for green taxes, even though he says, "I think green taxes are a very powerful tool in tackling climate change.[But the] case is made much more difficult by Gordon Brown and Labour because they have used them as stealth taxes, by which I mean they don't replace some other tax." So why isn't he going to be able to make a case for them, or was he planning to introduce them stealthily himself instead of being up front about it. Maybe Caroline Lucas is right that Labour and the Tories have borrowed environmental rhetoric merely to dump it when the nay-sayers (most specifically those in the Conservative Party) are claiming it is hard to be green in a credit crunch.