Tuesday, 30 June 2009

This Italian Job May End Up Falling Off the Ledge

Today may be the day that the Italian job at Livingston FC finally goes from tittering on the edge to the big drop over the edge.

All season long the chairman Angelo Massone has been reassuring fans that there is nothing to worry about. That there was no financial problems to concern ourselves with. However, what he didn't realise is that with a family club like Livingston a lot of us die hard fans know people who are employed or who's services are used by the club. When club employees who are ever present both home and away fail to turn up on coaches to away games on the weekend after what is meant to be pay day we noticed.

He was denying he needed help as late as the middle of this month. But help had been offered, others were even interested in taking the club over. But all Massone seemed to want to do was chide the fans. Some of whom have been with the club since Ferranti days. Many of those that remain have tasted the crest of the wave on the climb to the third best team in the SPL and UEFA cup football, through the CIS Cup triumph but are still there no matter how dark things have been the last 5 years. These are the not the people to blame for the state of the club these are the lifeblood.

However, over the weekend with the deadline of 30 June for a £280,000 rent bill due to the Council Massone finally publicly said there were difficulties. There had been offers by others including former Cowdenbeath owner Gordon McDougall, and former Dumbarton owner Neil Rankine but if there is enough time left for any of them along with the Livi for Life Trust to save the club we shall have to wait and see today.

So if I am in mourning the demise of the team I've supported since before I actually lived in West Lothian by tomorrow evening may I respectfully ask for some privacy for me and my family of fellow Livi fans.

Update: A little bit of hope is that Gordon McDougall does seem determined to step in, even if Massone puts the club into adminstration later today.

Monday, 29 June 2009

LDV Weekend Meme: fantasy liberal cabinet

Oh dear one of the chores of being in the preceeding week's Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen is actually being singled out and named to partake in the LDV Weekend Meme*. But it is an intersting one set by Stephen Tall a fantasy Lib Dem-Liberal-SDP Cabinet. A cabinet of all our talents alive or dead.

Roy Jenkins – Prime Minister
Vincent Cable – Chancellor of the Exchequer
William Gladstone – Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Nick Clegg – Home Secretary
Menzie Campbell – Justice
William Beveridge – Work & Pensions
Jo Grimmond – Health
Shirley Williams – Education
Chris Huhne – Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lynne Featherstone – Energy and Climate Change
David Lloyd George - President of the Board of Trade
Bill Rodgers – Transport
Winston Churchill – Defence
Paddy Ashdown – International Development
David Penhaligon – Communities and Local Government
David Steel – Constitutional Affairs
Clement Freud – Culture, Media and Sport
John Pardoe – Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Russell Johnston - Europe

I've added in couple of posts that LDV didn't include, Trade and Europe.

*As. opposed to being including in the catch all 'All Lib Dem Bloggers'

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Musical First: A Thriller

Being of a certain age my music collection is in 4 formats vinyl, tape, cd and electronic. Trust me I'm constantly trying to get it all unto one/two but there is always so much more good new stuff and only so little money. Yeah as someone who gets the odd little copyright payment I will not rip off another artist. Therefore sometimes some of the older scratchable (vinyl) or chewable (tape) formats are the only way I can listen to stuff.

The first album I owned was obviously bought for me as there are numerous kids albums that are still in the LP box back home. However, after my first couple of 7" singles the first 12" of grooved plastic I got my sweaty mitts on was a gatefold Album sleeve which featured on the inside the artist with a baby tiger. The album had only garnered two number ones of it at the time. But I was thrilled to hand over my own pocket money (this was before a paper round led to me buying an Album a week) to buy my first album Michael Jackson's Thriller.

So though my musical tastes are wide and varied that first piece of black plastic that revolved around my parents' turntable at 33 1/3 RPM was full of tunes like Billie Jean, Beat It, Human Nature, Wanna be Startin' Something and that unforgettable, mad, Vincent Price cackle from the end of the title track itself. There was also the Paul McCartney collaboration The Girl is Mine for which the reciprocal duet Say, Say, Say was on the former Beatles star's Pipes of Peace album also part of my music collection.

Amazing from the 9 tracks from that 42 minutes and 16 seconds of music that could be jammed between the lead in and outplay parts of the grooves on both sides of that disc of joys 7 were released as singles. Is it any wonder that the album is still the best selling of all time. Returning to number one a total of four times (thus far) in the US, UK and Australia. Looking at the Albums that sandwiched it takes me back through my music collection. Synchronicity my first Police record*, Footloose the film some of us watched on a school trip to London (and we then did the steps on the Hovercraft over to Calais in the morning), True by Spandau Ballet (yeah even this Duranie had True), War by U2 (what can I say I'm Irish), Touch by the Eurythmics and The Swing by INXS by equal first album of theirs with Listen Like Thieves**.

So for the last 24 hours I've been reliving early and later musical memories. Watching some of the tributes from Glastonbury including Lily Allen who was threatening a double (single gloved and a potential wardrobe malfunction a la sister Janet in that top) as well as samples of riffs or songs plugged at the last minute into sets.

The news continues to seep through, gladly now just a trickle amongst the other stories. But all eyes are looking at the physician who was with Michael just before he went into cardiac arrest and who was present in the room when a member of staff called 911. The coroners office in LA has ruled out foul play but an accidental misdose of prescription drugs may now have led to the cardiac arrest that took the King of Pop.

On a personal aside one of my colleagues at work who has a pair of tickets for one of Michael's O2 shows is not going to seek a refund. Instead he is going to frame them as a lasting tribute to the entertainer whose music he still appreciated.

*Sorry just had to use that pun.

** This was pre their international big break on Live Aid and after much hounding of the local record shop on the recommendation of an Australian penpal. I'm quite pleased of my early UK released INXS collection of everything in every vinyl format.

Can a Blogger be an Effective PPC?

I've watched the deabte unfurl with interest started by Chatlotte Gore the other day about why she sees her blog as a hindrance to her being an effective Lib Dem PPC that could be elected to be an MP. I've no doubt that Nich Starling who at one point was being talked about as a potential candidate for the Norwich North by election as I myself, another approved candidate and blogger, read this with interest.

Charlotte says that her blog would cause an hindrance as her candidacy 'could be derailed very quickly by finding a few choice quotes'. Remember the story that some poor Tory staffer was charged with reading Nich's blog.

No admittedly a lot of our politicians and PPCs shy away from blogging after the misadventure that was our PPC's blog in the Hartlepool by election. One just should never publish anything that could be seen as a slur on the people who you hope are going to vote for you. But that shouldn't prevent you from putting your opinion on policy across. The fact is our party does allow our people to think for themselves and formulate, debate and then vote on policy is one of the things that does actually set us apart from the other two. In fact I dare anyone to find me a regular voting rep at conference who has voted for every piece of policy that our party has ever passed in their time with that crucial word 'VOTING' in large letters on the obverse of their badge.

Now those that know me would know that I sit almost on the opposite side of our party's Kirk from Charlotte on many issues but that doesn't mean that I don't think that her views can't be represented within the party, even at Parliamentary level. The thing is that on the core issues the things that make us Liberals and Democrats we see things in pretty much the same light. How we choose to implement and balance our economic and social responsibilities can at times differs but the fundamentals of freedom, fairness and openness are there.

Mr Quist has already posted an counter-point in which he states that the current FPTP electoral system and our state of democracy encouraged 'safe and homogeneous candidates' and that it 'isn't that other people don't have interesting opinions'. He has a point out of the thousands of people that vote in Linlithgow and Falkirk East only a few hundred actually heard that all five of the candidates disagreed to some extent with their party's position on something*. The fact that there are more public declarations and statements by me (approx 15o0 over the last 4 years) on a wider range of issues by me that the sitting MP is not in my opinion a hindrance it shows that I think about such things.

I don't expect everyone to agree with everything that I say and write that would be craziness and I'd probably have to start executing those that thought for themselves to keep the status quo. But I do expect people to see that I have an opinion and to know that they can approach me about a topic and expect and answer not to hide behind a wall of silence and inaction as from what I've been receiving correspondence about recently which shows that there is some discontent with the MP which stretches beyond expenses but to the effectiveness of the job he is doing.

My experience from campaigns is that sometimes someone who is prepared to say something that is broadly in line is better than someone that you worry about saying the wrong thing every time they open their mouth. Of course the latter often doesn't have an impact in the safe seats where any buffoon can wear a Labour or Tory rosette and often get in. Lib Dem candidates do tend to be thinkers for the simple reason that to get our message across we have to be smarter, have to be clearer in our message, have to find some way to impact. Sometimes we have the smartest and best suited candidate but the media doesn't like to portray that.

In the classic West Wing episode just before the debate for the second term the team decided to 'Let Bartlett be Bartlett'. The same applies to Charlotte or any other candidate that is worthy to put on the Lib Dem rosette, blogger or not, we have to let them be them. By doing so the true liberalism (whatever the individual means that that truism) of our message comes across in all that that means.

*At least at the first hustings at the second the Conservative was toeing the party line to the letter watch out East Lothian he's heading your way.

Who are the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics?

You would expect an organisation with the words open politics to be just that open. So just who are they.

I got intrigued last weekend into just how Guido Fawkes managed to get the story so quickly about Jim Devine being reported to the police. Then during the week I got interested in just how fast Guido and Tory Bear, both right wing bloggers were able to Retweet Sunlight Centre for Open Politics news so rapidly. Until you follow the links. Their twitter is @sunlight-cops which leads to their website which shows on their about page who they are.

Founder: Paul Staines AKA Guido Fawkes

Media Director: Harry Cole AKA Tory Bear

New Media Campaigns Director: Mike Rouse of Rouse Media fame 18 Doughty Street, various mainly Tory groups he has worked for including both Guido and Tory Bear as well as John Redwood and Iain Dale.

Research Director: Chris Galley just the Home Office Mole reveled as leaking from close to Jacqui Smith in 2008 who had applied for several jobs in to Tory Party. He also stood as a Tory Candidate for Sunderland council in 2004. When he was unmasked as that mole his Friends reunited page listed his interests as 'centre-Right politics, the stock market, political satire, the miners' strike'.

All in all quite a right leaning lot, which would explain why not one of their complaints to the police thus far has been against a Tory Member of Parliament despite their paying back over £250,000 of their expenses and paying for moat cleaning, duck houses and thinking that the voters were just jealous of their fine country houses.

Bear in mind that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is to the North of the 38th parallel when you consider just home open the Sunlight Centre is on the politics of all hues.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Charlie Must Be Missing an Angel

You could very easily miss it in all the Michael Jackson news today but Farah Fawcett one of the original Charlie's Angels also passed away in California yesterday, aged 62.

The star of many TV shows and movies had been terminally ill with cancer and was to have married long term partner of 25 years Ryan O'Neal who proposed earlier this month but the ceremony never took place.

The woman who was many young boys pin up from their youth, well 12 million bought the red swim suit pin up for starters and many others used the TV pages, was the blonde angel sent on missions by the off screen voice of Charlie (John Forsythe) had been battling cancer for a number of years since 2006. Having first been hailed a survivor of rectal cancer 2007. She had appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to talk about her battle of cancer to discuss her survival and to raise awareness of the disease.
However, despite being the ex-wife of The Six Million Dollar Man star Lee Majors sometimes there just isn't the technology or the money to save you when cancer spreads to certain areas. From personal family history I know that the liver is one such area. So when it spread and lodged there doctors couldn't do much more than ease her pain.
I guess Charlie is missing one of his angels to today.

King of Pop Moonwalks off Stage for the Final Curtain

Love him or loathe him the startling news of this morning is that Michael Jackson has died at the age of fifty.

The man who apparently slept in an oxygen tent to extend his life, who had extensive cosmetic surgery to drastically change his look. The King of Pop who was about to embark on a comeback tour will no more moonwalk across the stage.

His financial troubles and the child abuse claims will of course tarnish the life of the man who spent his entire life in the public eye, since he first appeared aged 5 on stage with his four elder brothers in the Jackson 5. He started to tour professionally at the age of 11. There was still a buzz as the tickets for the tour he was rehearsing for were whipped up and many people couldn't manage to get hold of one for the sell out tour.

However, he was stressed about this comeback and his brother Jermaine has just said that he died of suspected cardiac arrest. The medical team spent over an hour trying to resuscitate him. Of course Michael had three children Prince Michael, Paris Michael and Prince Michael II the latter who was infamously held by one hand from a fourth floor Berlin hotel window by Michael. These kids no matter anyone's personal view of Jackson have been left without a father.
He may be millions of dollars in debt but I doubt that unlike that other child prodigy who wrote many great tunes, Mozart, that Michael will end up in a pauper's grave.
Update: It is now 12 minutes into what normally the World Business report on the BBC and the Business correspondent has finally appeared. But only it appears to talk about the business acumen, or lack of it, of Michael Jackson. Now off to the 'gossip' columnist of the National Enquirer. May have to go to Radio 4 for other news.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A Week is a Long Time in Political Blogging

It was about this time last week that I was sat with the three (that I know of) LYS bloggers* and decided to encourage them all, now that their exams are out of the way to take up their keyboards once more.

Well the results have been good. First out of the blocks was Callum Leslie, who managed to post about a non-political subject close to my heart, football, on the same that that Lionel posted about my feelings on the same subject, though from opposite ends of the financial spectrum. Then last night he posted about the Tories' strange reaction to John Bercow being elected speaker.

Next up was LYS President Ruaraidh Dobson who first accused me of badgering him, then finally got around to writing up his take on the demo outside the General Assembly in support of Scott Rennie. Then got into a debate about youth and that while there are good eggs (present company included) there are times when they do need to be shown up for their actions not defended for the sake of it.

Next we had Kieran Leach who used the words 'getting on hs case' and 'forcing' to describe me to encourage him to blog again, before also giving his side of the Scott Rennie demo. Although he did mention a favourite pastime of ours talking about policy over a pint. He then took up the secondary part of Callum's Tory post to look at the BNP from a Josh Lyman angle. I was actually quite chuffed that Wordpress chose me with a possibly related Josh Lyman post. Then a little geeky post about travels done entirely from his laptop.

I'm glad that all three have returned to blogging after a little friendly encouragement, despite what they wrote. The three of them all have found their voice online in their blogs, yet each are inherently liberal. It shows how diverse the blogosphere is as well as you only need to write when you can.

People often ask me when do I find the time to blog. The answer is it there, often redundant time doing nothing else. Now that I have the laptop I often blog on the way to work having geared up my brain by watching the morning news, or failing that a glance in the morning paper. But there is so much out there that can spark you off. Once it does it may need writing up.

Being seen as the premier Scottish Lib Dem blogger some people think they could never do what I do. You know what I wouldn't want them to, I'd want them to do what they do. Just like these three and many others there are different ways to tell the same story to express the same thoughts even. As for the time commitment as Ruaraidh and Callum would both acknowledge I didn't ask them about their blogs in earnest until after exams and the Euro campaign were out of the way, heck even my blogging took a slight dip during the campaign, there is no easy way to type while climbing tenements.

I'm not saying it is necessarily easy to put thoughts down on an empty screen but it is a lot easier than many people expect, I guess those who are good at it make it look easy, when sadly it's not. Sometimes I just fill the page for the sake of doing it, knowing that something will evetually come. There are many unpublished drafts that have never seen the light of day littering my pages.

There are a lot of good young Liberal Democrat bloggers out there, the three I've chosen to highlight here are merely ones that I can actively encourage when we keep meeting up in the Scottish party. I'd encourage other bloggers to keep encouraging each other it can be a lonely old business sat at yor keyboard but every little bit of encouragement sure helps.

I suppose now I really had better get on to writing some of the guest posts I have been promising people after writing all this.

*Yeah I also know James Harrison is a vlogger.

Max-ed Out With the News

Max Mosley has announced that an agreement has been reached with the Formula One Teams Accosiation (FOTA) that will prevent the big names and big teams breaking away in a rival championship next season.

As part of the deal Mosley who the team principles have been unhappy with has agreed to step down and not seek re-election as President of the FIA when his fourth term comes to an end in October. This is contrast ahead of the FIA meeting today when Mosley said he would seek re-election. It also appears that the writs that Mosley and experienced barrister had drawn up against the teams who had threatened to pull out (McLaren, BMW Sauber, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull Racing, Toro Rosso and Brawn GP) will now be filed in the WPB*.

There was a campaign of which I and many other F1 fans both in Blogs and Tweets were involved with which called for Max, who was seen as the biggest ego and most immoveable mountain in a sport of big egos, to get out. The FIA even tried to ban Max Out banners from being shown in broadcasters at the weekend’s Grand Prix at the spiritual birthplace and home of F1 Silverstone.

All rumours that John Bercow’s speakers robes had come from Max’s dressing up box for Bernie Ecclestone have been denied by all parties.

*Waste Paper Basket

Dishonourable Charge

'The honourable member is nicked' may soon be a phrase heard around the Westminster Village following a rule change in the Autumn that would see an end of Parliament policing itself.

There is to be an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) in the 93 pages of new rules. (What is it with the Labour Government that to make things more transparent they add page upon page of confusion?) However, there are also to be three new criminal offences.

  • Knowingly making a false claim for an allowance, maximum penalty 12 months imprisonment
  • Knowingly making a false claim for an allowance, maximum fine £5000
  • Taking money to lobby for work outside Parliament, maximum fine £5000

The legislation has won support in principle from the opposition parties although there is some concern with the vagueness of the words. For example would having received a cup of tea from a company on a visit lead to a £5000 fine if their case was taken up by the member (yeah 93 pages and the detail is grey).

Ipsa will take over the function of the Fees office, plus being able to make members pay back excesses and set rules without separate Parliamentary approval.

All in all it looks like a step in the right direction but does it go far enough to restore Parliament in the eyes of the public. There is far more that can be done to bring greater accountability, greater transparency and these are area that at the same time as these measures are being announced that the Government and the Tories appear to be trying to stifle further progress.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Don't Let Beckett Sit in That Chair

If Margaret Beckett is elected Speaker later today it will be the best rigged free vote in the history of the House of Commons if the rumours that are emerging today are true. Not least because the whips don't merely need to prevent MPs going into a particular devision lobby this time, they have to be sure that they vote in a secret ballot the right way.

This intimidation of voters at the ballot box was done away with for Parliamentary elections not last century but the century before that. At a time when Parliament is desperately in need of another reform act the one thing it doesn't need presiding from the Speaker's Chair is the one candidate that has not backed plans to remove the power of patronage from the Whips Office (which probably explains why the Government Whips and senior Tories are backing her) which would allow the MPs not the whips to select the committee chairs.
There is a call from more transparency in Government but as reported on my blog and elsewhere there are plans afoot for Parliament to retreat tortoiselike back into its shell. It poked its head nervously out over the parapit and didn't like the look in the voters eyes. The eyes that were angry because they had been promised something that was sadly lacking behind expectation when it came to be enacted upon.
The timetable of events today is:
9:30 Candidates have an hour to submit their nomination papers with 12-15 signatories (at least 3 from outside their party)
11:00 Names will be published around Parliament and on their website
14:30 Father of the House Alan Williams will preside over the speeches of the candidates
Approx 16:30 The voting takes place. There are 30 minutes for MPs to cast their vote in each round.
Any candidate getting less than 5% or who comes last is eliminated. New ballot papers will be drawn up and second and sunsequent votes will take place. (Expected time per round of voting 2 hours voting, counting and reproducing fresh ballot papers)
Once a candidate is sucessful there will be a motion put to the House that X shall be speaker. If contested there will be a vote. If motion is agreed to the traditional dragging to the chair will take place of the sucessful now, suddenly less than willing volunteer to the Chair will take place.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Iain Dale's Hoisting by His Own Petard

Iain Dale has got rather shirty about the Lib Dems selecting April Pond who was the the PPC for Broadlands as the PPC for the by election in Norwich North.

Now there is one thing about by elections that differs from General Elections. Any party that doesn't scour for the best candidate available is stupid. And if there is a good local candidate selected for a more winnable seat already selected they may well be the best person to take the extra pressure of national attention that most General Election candidates do not encounter.

But the irony is that the Tories themselves are the experts in flying in candidates. At least April is from the same county.

For the last Westminster by election in Glenrothes Maurice Golden was parachuted in. He's now the PPC of the more winnable Central Ayrshire seat. Having failed to get selected for Dunfermline and West Fife by election, but was on theMid Scotland and Fife list* he has now abandoned Fife so soon after been proud of saying he was '28 years old and [had] lived in Fife all his life' on his by election literature.

Of course that Dunfermline and West Fife selection caused some controversy as local party members boycotted the selection when Tory Group leader on Fife council Cllr Stuart Randall was not shortlisted. The candidate Carrie Ruxton had stood in 1999 for Dunfermline East for Holyrood but by 2001 had cropped up as Westminster candidate in Northavon where the 34.7% of the vote she gained just wasn't enough to unseat Lib Dem Steve Webb after being parachuted in as a token female in a target. In actual fact the swing was from Conservative to Lib Dem.

As for Glasgow East whoops Iain. Davena Rankin had been selected for Glasgow South before then being selected for East. But guess what Iain she lost and in your own word went 'crawling back to' Glasgow South Conservatives to 'beg for them to have her back'. Oh and they did. Does Iain wonder 'what on earth will' Glasgow South 'voters make of her whoring herself across' Glasgow? No I don't think so either.

There is something about people in glass houses. I'm reckoning the glass house at chez Dale must be very draughty this evening.

UPDATE: There is now a classic comment posted on Iain's blog at 9:31pm that points out that his use of the word 'whoring' once selected as a PPC for somewhere to then stand somewhere else in a by election means he has just called Winston Churhill and Margaret Thatcher whores. Double oops.

*Number 9.

The Greening of Formula One

No this is not a post about fuel, fuel efficiency or anything else that you would associate me with from a title like that. But all week I've been seeing a growing number of the people I follow politically on Twitter slowly turning their profile pics green. Green is the party colours of Mir Hossein Moussavi and following the outrageous result announced last weekend I've noticed the political twitterverse turning green in solidarity.

However, having spent most of the weekend following the #iranelection hashtag today I've just spent a few hours following the #f1 one for the British Grand Prix. One thing that struck me was there was not a noticeable drop in the percentage of green faces I was watching scroll down the screen. This is a people's discontent in Iran and it is a people's movement of solidarity around the world, from celebs to politicians and ordinary people as well the Internet is slowly turning green in one sense at least and a welcome sight it was too.

Flipping Homes is One Thing But Flipping the Truth

As I reported last night I heard that Jim Devine MP for Livingston had been reported to the police for investigation. It appears that the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics has raised the issue of Devine's expenses claims.

We have the issue firstly of the £2157 for rewiring his London flat , the one he acquired from fellow West Lothian MP Michael Connarty in 2006. For a start the invoice had an invalid VAT receipt. Devine when pressed further claimed that it was a friend of a friend. Later still he said it was somebody recommended to him in a pub. The latest is that Devine is saying the person who carried out the work is dead. Or have moved up 'north'.

Next you have the matter of £2326 for joinery work. The name hidden by redacting on the official receipt is the same as the name of the landlord of the Mason's Arms. Admittedly the man's original trade was joinery, however he has issued a statement that since he retired and took up the license he has not carried out joinery on anything other than the pub. Devine has said this heavy duty shelving, 60 metres worth apparently, has been at times for his office, his London flat, a shed and in a pub basement. Forget Great Birnam Wood moving to high Dunsinane Hill foretelling the downfall of Macbeth, the moving shelves of Livingston may be enough to bring down Devine not of his own freewill or timing of his choosing.

There is also the £690 in March followed by £1800 in June of 2006 for laminate flooring. The first was for the above area (redacted out) the second was for the lounge, bedroom and hallway. One does wonder just what other area there was to cover in laminate.

There is the mileage claims that were made in the name of a former member of staff, which have not been passed on in full to them. But that is not the only disgruntled member of staff as there are two industrial tribunals brought by former members of his staff. Plus billing for legal fees to advise a former employee on a "compromise agreement terminating her employment" smethng he had investigated himself with Network Rail earlier this year.

When you think that Devine himself mentioned the fraud word in relation to the electrician's non-existent VAT number one wonders just what fraud he was actually thinking of.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

'Allo 'Allo 'Allo Mr Devine What do we 'Ave 'Ere Then?

Guido has drawn my attention away from watching The Big Bang Theory on DVD and over to the news. Apparently Jim Devine the MP for Livingston is going to be one of the MPs that will be investigated to the police.

There has been concern about shelving, Devine himself thinks that someone is committing fraud over the rewiring of his London flat. Good to know that the Met are going to be looking into it if that is the case. I'm sure Jim would want us all to get to bottom of 'any' fraud involved.

More to follow when it becomes clear how and if this breaking news develops.

Expenses Lessons: Need to Go Less Redacted Way

The debacle over the long drawn out release of MPs expenses under the Freedom of Information Act and the subsequent outrage at the Telegraph publication of the unredacted information before the overly redact official release would surely go down as a lesson learnt.

However, the news that some MPs are seeking to stop any further publication is clearly an indication that if they have been listening they have picked up the wrong lessons from that. The public outrage is about what they spent and then the officious redacting of the public record. To try and hide that further on excel spreadsheets is the wrong step (I say that as someone who's working live revolves around spreadsheets).

To hide away means that the public will know have no means on checking on the integrity of the MPs repentance. They have sought a glimpse and are angry. They will want to know that reform really is happening, the only way for that to appease the voters is for more openness not more shadowy goings on with a black marker pen. The lesson learnt is surely to clean up the expenses and allowances system and to be seen to be doing that from first hand evidence not some generated spreadsheet picking out only the headlines. Often headline results don't give the full story that only an examination and analysis of the raw material, with as I discussed yesterday fewer needs for redacting.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Save Football Parties - Are They Kicked Out of Touch?

Somebody mentioned to me last night in light of my football clubs failure to pay the electricity bill that if Jim Devine does call a second Livingston by election there may be a repeat of the Hamilton South by election. In that election there was a Save the Accies candidate in the current climate there could be a Save the Lions by election candidate.

Now I largely keep my football and political lives separate however my football supporting live does often allow me the chance to talk to councillors from both the Labour and SNP sides of West Lothian council in a relaxed setting. Football is largely non-political and certain while an MP should do all it can to help the local team a one issue candidate to save the team is just that a one issue candidate. If elected he/she may be lucky to discuss the fate of the team once in the remaining Parliamentary time, including question times to Prime, Scottish and Culture Ministers. Plus you have no idea how they would stand or how they vote on many other issues, indeed the diversity of Livingtson fans would not agree on all of that anyway (I know from personal experience in the forums).

Of course there is always the possibility that one of the candidates could be someone who is concerned about the survival of the team they also happen to support.

Redacting Worse than the Truth

There are certain things that I can accept should have been redacted with the publications of MPs expenses:

  • The personal details of staff members, their addresses, bank details etc
  • I'd also by the same score accept account details of the MPs themselves for their banks and services.
  • Signatures also as this could lead to fraud. Although I did notice Michael Connarty's familiar looping Y was always peaking out from under this redactions.

However, there appears to be a lot that has been left out.

  • The names and locations of where things were purchased.
  • The detailing of what is on the receipt. I know that one of the new measures is that receipts are required for every amount claimed (welcome to the world the rest of us inhabit) but surely this could be shown now.

Some of the mysterious thing from my perusal of just a few was the number of overdue bills just from the West Lothian members. TV licenses had expired, Council Tax was not paid on time, phone bills, electric etc, other services related to accommodation were not paid on time. In this modern age most of these can be set up as direct debit payments and you never worry about the time that is being paid or that it hasn't been being paid. I accept that being a elected representative is time consuming matter but some simple steps could make things easier.

Also in the letter from Connarty to Devine detailing the £4000 sale of furniture at the top of the letter after Dear there is a redact over the name. It looks about the length to be Jim but obviously it must not be as this is the only part of the body of the text that is redacted. Maybe Michael has a pet name for Jim....slim, or sexy, or love...eugh.....sorry back to reality and that is the reason that it was black inked.

Whoever took it upon themselves to redact so much of these thousands of pages of claims has does a disservice to the phrase transparent Government. Indeed it reminds me of Sir Humphrey Littleton in the 'Open Government' episode of Yes Minister it is just the sort of compromise that he would have got Jim Hacker to agree to, nay suggest, in the closing scene should be the Department of Administrative Affairs approach to releasing MP's expenses.

Sneak Peek

I'm about to migrate this blog to Wordpress. Just need to do a little bit more tweaking but in the meantime here is a sneak peek of the new look etc.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Lion Wants to Roar

I've just heard on the news Signor Angelo the chairman of Livingston say that he 'deliberately' failed to pay Scottish Power the electricity bill to teach the fans a less.

Now Mister Stephen has travelled with the team from Dumfries to Dingwall and many spots in between, he is not alone. In the 2007-8 season he actually only missed 2 games home or away one because he was home and one as he was working on January 2nd. He'd also attended all the home pre-season games. Is this the type of fan that Signor Angelo wants to teach a lesson, I would hope not. These are the fans that are the life blood of any club. These are the fans that have stayed with the club through Dominic Keane, Pierce Flynne and now Angelo Massone. For the last 5 years if has been a constant game of can we trust the Chairman. The latest Latin occupant of the role is not doing very well for his business model.

I know of many fans who are not sure that they should part with £240 or £280 for a season's long commitment because of the lack of paying bills and players through the last twelve months. Holders of season tickets would come very low down the list of creditors when it comes to a club going insolvent and for many Livi fans that is a barrel we have faced down for too long.

Now Mister Stephen has a valid reason for not buying a season ticket at this stage. We are heading into a general election year he is not going to get to many if any games this upcoming season. He may well only turn up on the worse weather days when any campaigning would seem pointless. However he does hope as in 2005 to get to any final games after the general election is out of the way, if that is I still have a seat in my club's stand to watch players still employed.

Is Devine Going to Recall Himself?

There has been a lot of talk in recent times in Westminster about adopting some form of recall system that could be triggered by an electorate if their MP has been found guilty of breaking Parliamentary code. However, as with Dr Ian Gibson in Norwich North there is the now talk of the possibility that Jim Devine in Livingston may well stand down forcing a by election. The possibility of him standing independently making it effectively his own recall.

It is possible that he would stand himself as an Independent in any such by election (as he disbarred from standing under the Labour banner he has served as agent, candidate and MP for a quarter of a century. In a comment I made on Jeff's SNP Tactical Voting blog it throws back to the experience of the first General Election I was old enough to vote in.

1992 found me on the electoral roll in Coventry South East during the period of Militant deselections from the Labour Party. The sitting MP then was Dave Nellist who was the closest of the Millitant expulsions to getting re-elected and for that election made the safe Labour seat into a three way marginal. The vote that day was:

Jim Cunningham Labour 11,902
Martine Hyams* Conservative 10,591
Dave Nellist Independent Labour 10,551

It is interesting to think that the last time I voted in a Westminster election (for all of 2005 I was living in Livingston Village) may well lead to a similar situation. It leads to interesting questions as Caron has laid out or indeed as I did last night.

How Labour select their candidate, whether all women short list or not it will be done by a local party that not 10 days ago endorsed a candidate that has now been deselected by the committee of the party's National Executive Committee.

Then there is the man himself who watching the news coverage (yeah including the Charles Dundas face in the background most often picture) many people, even those who appreciated him, are wary because of the expenses scandal.

As for the Nats well they PPC doesn't want to be in Westminster for even as long as Jim Devine. They are wanting a referendum on Independence within 18 months. Alex Salmond is saying that there should be a debate and referendum about the Calman proposals.

If there is a second Livingston by election that will be a issue that no doubt the SNP will run with and to be honest I think it is something that the Lib Dems should be proud of our record on and take the fight to the Nats. It was a number of years ago that in a healthy debate and close call that we democratically voted for Fiscal Autonomy for Scotland. Tam Dalyell in yesterday's Scotsman is trying to avoid the partial West Lothian answer. Sadly it shows that Labour like to talk the talk about the reform but are actually very conservative when it comes to implementation, but I'll take the Laird of the Binns to task in another blog post later on that point.

It really does lead to interesting permutations as to what could happen. In the current climate there are issues and situations that arise that work in the Lib Dems favour. If Devine were to step down we as Lib Dems should not be scared of taking the lead on those issues and pushing Alex Salmond unto his back foot and into the ropes.

Whoever takes the Lib Dem mantle into a by election or for the General Election there is plenty of scope and opportunity to get across our message of real change. Something that we have laid out but which the other 3 parties are still talking about as pie in the sky. We also have the space to get a clear message across which was lost somewhat in the recent Euro elections by the hi-jacking of the political agenda but in a way this time we can talk the issues that need to be talked for Westminster without qualms as it is for a Westminister seat, it's not a referendum on Independence, though we shouldn't be afraid to jab, upper cut and hook into that fight with some killer punches.

In the 2005 by election the press starting talking up the contest as only between the SNP and Labour from even before electioneering got under way. I've noticed already they are doing that again. But there is so much more change in the political landscape since then. Labour are in turmoil (although they will deny it in open), the SNP whole raison d'être is coming to a head, the Tories are showing as no ideas. The Lib Dem's Vince Cable was like John the Baptist crying in the wilderness about Banking regulation, problems that would have for the economy and found to be correct. Nick Clegg has laid down the gauntlet on political reform than more than just trimming away the split ends and messy edges is a complete re-landscaping of our politics. We are radical, relevant, reforming and ready to take the issues up with all comers.

Earlier today I popped into Clifton Terrace where with Charles Dundas and myself in the same room the joking was at times about which of us was going to get our nomination papers in first for the Livingston by election. Also makes the fate that the selection of West Lothian Lib Dem PPCs has yet to take place (at least in the actualité) a far more open scenario than in 2005 when we were two months after pledging to fight on for our respective constituencies.

Further add into the by election speculation mix that fellow blogger Nich Starling is being talked about as a potential for Norwich North and the Lib Dem blogosphere would certainly have plenty to talk about.

* One lasting memory of Martine's election literature was that it mentioned she was a graduate of 'Kingstone [sic] Polytechnic' my own tertiary educational establishment as it was known at the time. The fact that she couldn't spell Kingston correctly on her literature was another reason that I would never have voted for her, yeah I voted Lib Dem at just after 7am on election day (as you may know from recent tweets my time of voting in person is pretty static).

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Call to Youth's Keyboards

It's been a while and they have had exams so I've let them off. But the exams are over and later on today I'll be having drinks with two of them and the third will be joining after that most likely (as drinks are pre-LYS meeting). So I'll be giving the LYS bloggers a kick up the mousemat to get blogging again. So Ruaraidh, Kieran and Callum you have been warned.

Labour Tactical Seat Planning?

In a pastiche to Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting my good friend Caron raised an intersting point last night when she wrote:

"The question is will Devine resign now, like Ian Gibson, and cause another by-election? If he did, that would be a major headache for Labour in Scotland as they also have to defend Speaker Martin's Glasgow seat. While having the first Livingston by election on the same day as the Scottish Parliament Cathcart by-election split the Nationalist effort, the climate was very different then."

She does have a point. During Glasgow East and Glenrothes by elections I've seen the SNP by election nest of ants (like this anagram) in motion. It is a reminder of full blooded Lib Dem campaigns like Dunfermline and West Fife and elsewhere that I have been to. Ok apart from having a marquee where activists appear to hang around the HQ. Or is it just me that gets sent out again once I have restocked on snacks and been to the toilet?

However, I'm sure Labour have to. They have in their hands the writ for any Labour held seat by election (that included the speaker's Glasgow North East). So may there be a prompting to get Devine to stand aside now so that they can run two campaigns in the hope that two clean untarnished Labour candidates (if they can be found) can contest the two seats in the hope of defending at least one if not both of them, in the hope of retaining at least one of the new breed of post expenses MP.

Yeah the political landscape may have changed since 2005 and the SNP juggernaut may well think they have a chance even with split resources of taking on all comers (though I'd love to throw a Lib Dem spanner in the works). But is it a risk, a spin of the dice, an electioneering coup that a Labour party strategist may be looking at pulling off the shelf....sorry couldn't resist that pun.

We live in interesting times.

Iran Tweeting for Democracy

The massacre of Tianammen Square happened twenty years ago this month. On that occasion we saw a peaceful many student led protest for change and democracy slowly quietened then quashed by force. The eyes of the world watched as the army moved in to break that up. The outcome is that China still tries to control just what information the Chinese people do have access to.

Move on to now and instead of Beijing we have Tehran. Instead of the Communist Party cadre on the street we have the Basiji the religious militia. Instead of a few thousand hanging chads from Florida we're looking at millions of lost ballot papers and votes, plus in some pro-Ahmadinjad areas reports of 120% turnouts. The people can't be fooled that much.

Iran thirty years ago threw out the Shah for tyranny and oppression with the Islamic Republic being set up. They famously burnt American flags in and after that revolution, now the new generation of net savvy young people are using largely American based social networking and new media sites to get their message out. The old guard are trying to lock down the old media but the new media is far more flexible. Trying to censure the Internet will never work for this new age. People see it as damage and merely, like the Mongols did with the Great Wall of China, if they are determined enough will find a way to go around.

That is what is happening now. Iran is trying to shut down communication, mobile phone networks are down, texting is no longer available, Internet portals are being blocked. But somehow the word is still getting out. Proxy servers are being set up and phone calls are still being made. Posts and blogs and vlogs are still getting through or around whatever is being thrown up. Yeah the old media is under a reporting ban of strict conditions, but the world's media no longer solely relies on such sources for all its news. So the news still hits the rest of the world (or as much of it as is allowed free speech) about what is going on in Iran, not from the traditional journalists but the citizenry who realise that their time is now.

A new day has dawned in Tehran who news what the Internet will convey to us today. A new awaking is also arising from dormancy in the Islamic Republic.

Jim Devine's Empty Promise

The anorak in me has a hoard of past election literature. It took me all of 2 seconds earlier to lay my hands on the Livingston by election literature. Flicking through it I noticed that a relative of the employee who allegedly got paid £60 of the thousands Devine claimed for travel expenses around the constituency is featured as one of the endorsers.

But what I was really looking for where the words. In the Election Communication that would have been addressed to me if Labour had used an up to date rolling electoral register from 10 months before the 2005 Livingston by Election Jim Devine wrote the following:

"Dear Friend,

"The by-election on 29th September is one nobody wanted. Robin Cook was a true giant of British politics, a highly respected MP for West Lothian and a friend.

"Robin and I worked closely together for over two decades, most recently on the St John's hospital and bringing new jobs to West Lothian - but Robin was not one to rest on his laurels, and I know he would demand a new strong voice for West Lothian - a Labour voice with Labour values.

"West Lothian matters to me. I was born and raised in Blackburn and I have worked on the NHS here. If elected I will build on Robin's legacy. I am committed to being an MP on your side - dealing with your concerns.

"I'll demand action. I'm not afraid to take a tough stance to make West Lothian better for all of us. Thatt's why I'm determined to get tough on the drug dealers who destroy too many of our kids lives - enough is enough.

"I will always put the people of our area first. But I need you to vote for me on 29th September. Without that I can't do anything. But with your support I will work tirelessly to make West Lothian a better place.

"Jim Devine."

Says a lot really and most of it now pretty hollow. Where are those values now Devine?

Who's not afraid to take a tough stance? Actually when has Jim Devine ever voted against the Government, even if it was for the betterment of others or Parliament? Answer I can't find one occasion he took a tough decision that wasn't handed down to him to take.

As for it being better for all of us. Only if you know something about shelves or electricity it would seem.

Did he always put the people of Livingston first? When it came to claiming for phantom shelves or paying a phantom company Devine should really have called Rentaghost (though that's not claimable on expenses).

Tam Daylell gave us the West Lothian Question. Jim Devine gives us the West Lothian trivia question.

Which MP was brought down by an expenses scandal having never faced a General Election vote?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Time to Brush off Those New Brooms Again

Well Jim Devine Livingston's MP has today been barred for standing for Labour at the next General Election after being dropped following investigation into his expenses by the Labour Party's NEC.

It wasn't even four years ago that my close friend and colleague Charles Dundas turned up at the Labour by-election head-quarters with a few others carrying new brooms to demand a clean sweep and new start for Livingston*. It was in reaction to one of Devine's election promises which was actually to correct something not done by the then Labour run local council.

However, he and his heavies (yes there were heavies around Devine when he ventured out) came out to get into an argument about a Local Income Tax while Charles was being interviewed. His soundbite which was aired on Radio Scotland was about an average family of a nurse and a firefighter. Their literature when it came through the letterbox talked about a senior grade Fireman and his top grade nurse wife. In essence earning more than double the average household income in Livingston. An early sign of how out of touch

One of the thrusts of our campaign 4 years ago was that Devine was not going to bring about change of what Labour was doing to this nation, and to the people of Livingston. In his maiden speech to the Commons on 25 October 2005 he called his predecessor Robin Cook 'the outstanding parliamentarian of his generation'.

However, Devine also said of himself:

"I have ideas on how we should improve turnout. From my experience in the by-election, one idea is about political honesty and political debate....dishonesty alienates voters, and that is why people do not participate in the political process. "

Sadly Mr Devine your honesty has been found wanting.

It is time for Livingston to get out the new brooms again and select a new MP. They deserve a great Parliamentarian of the caliber of Cook.

But will they get it from a local Labour Party that only last week endorsed the man now found wanting by their NEC. I don't think so?

Will they find it an the SNP who within months will be wanting a divorce which will lead to greater poverty and pressure than what Labour have led us into over the next number of years.** What's the point?

If Livingston voters are truly sick and tired of the excesses of Devine and his Labour cronies, and want a new MP that will stand up for their best interests they should take a serious look at the Liberal Democrats. The party has been arguing for change and openness on expenses and voted with one voice for that last summer. The party that warned of the banking crisis as long ago as 2002 through Vince Cable and is offering real solutions to both these issues and many more.

*Sadly I didn't blog it. It must be on the old party website.

**Commentators are saying a UK will not fully return to pre-credit crunch levels of employment for another 8 years. Many say an Independent Scotland will make international employers less willing to take a chance and we could take longer.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Sorry Irfan You've Just Lost All Respect

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
I've just read this post from Irfan Ahmed and I have to disagree with his statement defending his post supporting a Respect candidate:

"I will suspect that many reading this will think that I am promoting a candidate from the Respect party but actually I am not promoting her I am actually just mentioning her as a candidate and making a point that Salma should get elected as the effect it will have on UK politics and the participation of Muslim's in phenomenal!"

Look through our own party's growing list of PPCs and you will see a diverse range of candidates including a number of Muslim candidates in other Birmingham seats. As for Muslim woman I haven't scanned the lot but I do know that there is my friend Shabnum Mustapha over in Glasgow South and I suspect that there must be others.

Yes I agree with you that it is about time we had more diversity in ethnicity and religion across the House of Commons. However, I do see that the Lib Dems list of candidates is a growing mix of just that sort.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Euro Election Reflections 3

Coming as I do from that hot bed of political oddity known as North Down I'm sure that one group of the strange North Down political landscape will be rejoicing.

From the days of Jim Kilfedder and his Ulster Popular Unionist Party (basically him), through Robert McCartney United Kingdom Unionist Party (again basically him though it did elect others to the first assembly) to now being the sole Ulster Unionist MP with Lady Sylvia Herman North Down has often stood in the face of the traditional Unionist parties of the province. Indeed the largest party on the council has at times been the Better Bangor Campaign and the NI Conservative Party. Yeah that in most parts of the UK isn't an oddity but the Conservatives have been the biggest party on North Down Council in the past.

Therefore I've no doubt that Laurence Kennedy (who actually came second to Kilfedder in the 1992 GE) and the rest of the North Down Branch will be rejoicing at the first Conservative (OK Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force) elected to Parliamentary office since 1972 in Northern Ireland in Jim Nicolson.

Of course whether it is a surge in Ulster Unionist support following its merger with the Conservatives that brought about this hardly surprising election to one of Northern Ireland's three European seats ahead of the DUP remains to be seen. But estimates are putting the DUP at losing 5 of its Westminster seats on this weeks performance who to is the issue with Traditional Unionist Voice also polling well on first preferences.

Master of the House?

I'd just like to draw your attention to this brilliant casting of 'One More Day' from Les Miserables by Political Dissuasion.

Footnote: I would have tagged more of the cast list but Blogger wouldn't let me, look for yourself.

Justice for Omagh Victims

On the day of the Omagh bombing I was at Stormont. No I wasn't pulling some overtime, and besides the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment, where I worked at the time, was just off the estate. I was at the Northern Ireland Civil Service sports club playing in the semi-final of the Irish Junior Cup for bowls. There were enough civil servants on both teams and from the spectators to realise that there was a little bit too much activity, mainly arriving, at that time on a Saturday to be normal.

At the end of the game we learnt the full extent of what was going on around us. While in the warm summer's sun of that day eleven years ago we, like the people who were visiting Omagh, were making the most of what was seen as a start of a peaceful Northern Ireland. No criminal trial has been able to put away any of those accused of the attack by the Real IRA but yesterday the families of the victims got some justice as £1.6m in damages was awarded to the relatives of 29 people. While the monetary compensation may not be forthcoming in full from the accused in some small way it is the decision that they are accountable that is of some importance to the families.

The following Saturday at a different bowling green, we stood heads bowed as a mark of respect before delivering our first bowl. Like the victims of the previous weekend we were Protestant and Catholic merely, indeed more determined, to make the best that Northern Ireland was now offering.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Euro Election Reflections 2

When George Lyon is formally declared as the eleventh Liberal Demorcat MEP later today he will actually be in a minority. He will be one of five male Lib Dem MEPs to the six women who will be representing us.

Last week on one of my colleagues blogs or Facebook, and just now I can't recall which, somebody complained that the Lib Dems by not using zipped lists and proportionality were not getting a balance of people. Well without doing so we have achieved sexual parity. Sarah Ludford in London, Fiona Hall in the North East, Liz Lynne in the North East, Diana Wallis in Yorkshire and Humber. Even in the one region we returned two MEPs, the South East, they are both women Sharon Bowles and Catherine Bearder.

It shows that women can indeed rise to the top and I know there is still work to be done to encourage more to the surface in key and winnable Westminster and Holyrood seats, but we are a party that recognises talent and that is something to be proud of.

Euro Election Reflections 1

I'm doing do some more in depth comment later. But for now here is one personal reflection on the count last night.

I was attending the Falkirk Count, good solid Labour territory you would think. However, there was only one Labour representative in the hall as the votes were being counted, Cathy Peattie the MSP for Falkirk East. Now as a Lib Dem in some of the darker parts of the central belt for two Euros in a row now I've been the only Lib Dem at my count (although Kevin McPhillips had company over at Livingston for West Lothian) but this is the first time I've ever seen a solitary Labour count agent.

I think that speaks volumes for the mire that Labour are finding themselves in if they cannot muster activists to even stand in the warmth of Grangemouth Sports Complex for a few hours.

I know there are exceptions like Kez and my own cousin down in Cumbria but from what I've witnessed Labour activists have been very thin on the ground. That is even in comparison with just 5 years ago and the last Euros.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Polls are now open

I expect to be busy all day. But I'm voting Lib Dem today because we're stronger together with Europe and weaker apart.

Labour’s arrogance has messed up Britain’s relationship with other European countries

The Conservatives and UKIP think that on its own Britain can face the economic storm, climate change, international crime, people-trafficking and terrorism

As for the SNP they think think that on its own Scotland can face the economic storm, climate change, international crime, people-trafficking and terrorism.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

There's a Kind of Hush All Over the Poll Tonight

I'm writing this sitting on the bus having done a good cardio session delivered a few eve of poll bundles in the tenements facing the Meadows in Edinburgh. My allusion to Herman's Hermits in the title of this blog is that despite being a political anorak, despite having my nose to the ground I, like many others in the political world, am not entirely sure what the vote tomorrow holds for the count on Sunday.

Every political fibre in my body tells me that what I have been campaigning for and what the Lib Dems have stood for in these European Elections was good sound and would have turned peoples heads and votes. However, for the last four weeks, although it feels like four years, the Telegraph has hijacked the political narrative. Don't get me wrong a lot of what came out needed to come out, it is what the Lib Dems have said and voted for many times down the years, but it has blocked out all other messages.

Even on that Nick Clegg and the message we have put forward to make a change is a good one. It is just what Parliament needs and what the people want. Yet the recent polls show that the Telegraph have appeared to have done a job or tarring all parties with the same brush, nobody remembers their saints. Although thankfully the Scots are well aware of the needs for the MPs of Argyll & Bute and Orkney & Shetland. The Telegraph tried to show up when all they are really doing is serving all their constituents. Rather than being a stay away member as some would appear to be from other parties, with first homes here there and everywhere.

So what is going to happen in tomorrows vote, that all depends. Those who are upset may either stay away or vote for change. But if they vote for change simply for the sake of it without asking what that change will be is that really worth it? Could they end up with an MEP or MEP for the next 5 years they may regret. The way some of the people I've met have been talking they haven't weighed up all the things that some of the less established parties bring to the table. In most cases there is a reason that they are not well grounded and what they stand for well known. Either they don't want voters to see their true intent, or people have seen their true intent and decided not to vote for them.

Looking at the polls it is that have said they don't intend to vote that is worrying. Have they said that because they really aren't going to vote? And if they are is this being accurately reflecting the polling companies take on where those votes are lost? Or have they just said 'I'm not voting for any of them' meaning the Westminster parties but are weighing up options? If so do those options include the only party that has said what they intend to do, not merely that we will consult and await Kelly's report, that party being the Liberal Democrats.

At the start of this campaign I was really excited that my party was going to fight an election for Europe on the issues of Europe that affect everyone of us. I was glad that we were standing up for what Europe does well and campaigning to change what needs reform. I'm still glad that we are taking the same stance on Westminster.

However, I am sad that this election is not about what those who are represented are going to do, nor about what they are saying. This election in the minds of many is not even about Europe, something that the Tories and SNP are also talking up because they don't want people to look too closely at just what they are saying and doing about Europe.

I'll still be doing my bit tomorrow. Voting Lib Dem and encouraging others to do so as long as I can manage. But in all my 21 years of being old enough to vote this is the most disheartening campaign, at times in ways, I've been involved in.

Quote of the Day: Hazel Blears

In her resignation statement she said (amongst other stuff):

"Most of all I want to help the Labour Party to reconnect with the British people, to remind them that our values are their values, that their hopes and dreams are ours too."

Sorry! I'm just picking myself off the floor after that bit about values.

In Livingston that means it don't matter if the dodgy geezer in the pub offers to do work for you, turns up in an unmarked white van and gets paid cash in hand. Or you know the landlord is an ex-joiner you can charge for non-existent shelving these values are OK. Plus you can buy stuff at the tax payers expense which has already been bought at the tax payers expense only for them to be replaced by the seller at the tax payers expense what a Devine circle of events.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Nats to Table Dissolution Motion

Today is day 2 of Nick Clegg's 100 days to reform Parliament but the Nats, both the SNP and Plaid Cymru, are going to turn this over to a vote next Wednesday, pre-reformation of any substantive kind. Advanced Media Watch an SNP blog is saying that the Lib Dems 'have signalled that they intend to back it' and that William Hague is making promising noises from the Conservative benches. It is not however a vote of no confidence in the Government but a more substantial motion that would none the less trigger a general election if passed.

Of course we are calling for an election but Nick has also said that an immediate election without reform in place before hand may only lead to 5 years of umming and ahing until whoever wins is forced to call another one. Hoping that the public mood will die down in the interim. Yes an election has got to be called soon. But Labour, the Tories and now the Nats are all saying what they will do 'after' an election to sort of the mess, not what needs to be done before one to re-engage the trust, and make provision for mistrust, of the electorate in those they will be asked to vote for.

As it appears that we will be backing it along with Her Majesties Official opposition it remains to be seen what the rest of the Labour Party will do. Those that are wanting to stay may want to call it to show an understanding of the public mood. Those that have indicated they want to go may want to get their severance deals now to avoid more heartache. Those who have been called before the NEC may also vote for it in the hope to get hold of their pension before they may be forced to face a by election and loss their benefits. If could be a interesting job for the Labour whips to try and defend this one.

Maybe that I am postponing post election downtime with loved one(s) for some time depending on the outcome of the vote. Go to the Ballot Boxes and preparre to maybe campaign again. Boy does that make my aching feet ache even more.

The Devine Comedy: Or How he may not face GE Vote

The news this morning is that Jim Devine who replaced Robin Cook in the October 2005 Livingston By Election may become infamous as the MP who never faced a General Election vote.

Labour's National Executive's special endorsements panel is to 'urgently' review the former constituency agents expenses following the emergence of his submission of a claim to pay for work for a company that never existed. The £2,157 rewiring bill for his London address had an invalid postcode and VAT number. The Devine comedy defence was:

"As an MP do I have to check the VAT numbers of every company I use? What it sounds like is the guy has been trying to avoid paying the proper tax. That is what it looks like happened here and that's hardly my fault. I haven't done anything wrong."

Er I would have thought that anyone in the public eye especially a legislator would at least carry out some background check before paying, and I can only assume I assume case in hand, for such work. The work was apparently on the recommendation of a friend. We all know about friends of a friend. Apparently not the Livingston MP.

There is also a bill for £2,326 for joinery work, including 66 metres of shelving, for his constituency office. The name on that receipt was in the name of Tony Moran, who also happens to the licensee of a local pub. Devine comedy response 2:

"Tony Moran did no work for me in my office."

Then why is his name on the invoice submitted to the fees office for said work?

Of course there is also the fact that he claimed £4000 for the furniture which he purchased from Michael Connarty when he purchased Connarty's flat. Furniture that the tax payers ahd already paid for was being paid for again as were the replacements for Connarty.