Friday, 31 July 2009

Today is the First Day of the Life of My Club

Today may well be a happy day for me following last night's joyous news of the salvation of Livingston football club. But at the same time my heart is going out to the Hearts fans who find themselves next in the crosshairs of a creditor, in their case the HM Revenue and Customs.

Hearts fans have been concerned during the current financial and banking crisis as their owner Vladimir Romanov's fortune is based primarily on the fortunes of Lithuanian bank Ūkio Bankas. From as long ago as the Iceland banking crisis fans of the Gorgie club have looking anxiously at the credit rating of the bank that is also the clubs main sponsor.

I do hope that Hearts can pull through this, administration is threatened over their unpaid tax bill, but that need not be the end of the world. Thinking how down and out Livingston fans were yesterday Hearts are actually in better position asset-wise to ride out this storm. So even though I know a number of Edinburgh based fans of whatever club were prematurely toasting the death of Livingston FC I'll not be doing the same to any other fan just as I didn't with Gretna last year. Times are tough for all of us and our football clubs as well.

So keep your chin up Hearts fans, if Livi can pull through so can you.

Last Chance to Vote

At Midnight tonight the voting will finally be over and we'll all (with a few noticeable exceptions) be waiting in suspense for the results. Yes the voting phase of the Total Politics Best Blogs Poll is drawing to a close.

One of my own original draft top ten gave their reasons for why thy pulled out of the voting here. Personally having known that in the first year when I did feature that Iain Dale drew the conclusions himself and in the second year when experts in each field did much the same thing that the current system for an established glimpse into the blogopshere is fairer and more reader driven.

I can see that some people don't like the chase for votes that some people with rather more testosterone than others. I'd like to think that on my blog my own thoughts on this were to really gauge what was the best even if not from your own stable. I also use some of the points that Subrosa used in that blog post, and I hope she doesn't mind, and mentioned in the write up of this year in the Scottish Blogosphere.

So for the last time this year if you still haven't got that email off, there is still time. For full details and rules, please see this previous LDV posting. Then email your Top Ten Favourite Blogs to

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Livi Til I Die and the Lions Roar Again

I left work at about 5:30 to head to Dean Bowling Club to play bowls in the Edinburgh Activity Mix Decathalon. We managed to get into the third/fourth playoff and we narrowly beaten 5-4. The net result of being in a zone of concentration playing sport is that iI wasn't refreshing the news feeds every five minutes for News of Livingston FC.

I opened my laptop once I got unto the platform at Haymarket and did refresh the BBC page for Scottish Division one to be greeted with the headline Livingston Saved from Liquidation and whooped with joy. I may also have uttered the odd expletive, so apologies to any fellow travellers. Too be honest I have still on cloud nine and I've only had one dark rum and coke all evening. I had my Livi top in my back and am now proudly wearing it on top of my sweatshirt.

The basic facts are that the SFL appear to have accepted that Neil Rankine and Gordon McDougall were the best hope for Livingston's continued survival. Angelo Massone turned up at Hampden but was turned away from the 3 hour meeting: he was the obstruction not the saviour.

The two experienced football bosses will help to manage the club for the next season which the SFL have accepted is a doable proposition. MacDougall ad earlier this month resigned from the board of Divisional rivals Dunfermline to show his commitment to the cause.

All I can just now it I'm Livi til I Die and long may that association continue.

Even Pearse Flynn Urges Massone to Go

The man who sold the controlling interest in Livingston to Angelo Massone for £1 last summer, former owner and Chairman Pearse Flynn, has urged the Italian to 'do the right thing before it is too late'; ie 2pm this afternoon.

Speaking in today's West Lothian Courier he says when he sold the club there was £278,000 of debt. Massone has been saying in recent weeks that the club had been left crippling debts, but nowhere near the £1.8 that the administrator is reportedly saying exist. Chairman of the Livi for Life Supporters Trust and shareholder under both Flynn and Massone Ged Nixon added:

"It is frightening, knowing what he inherited and what the declared liability was, compared to now.

"He insists he has put £500,000 into the club but whatever you believe, if we take him at his word then he has lost something in the region of £1million on top of that which is simply not possible for a club the size of Livingston."

When from a fans point of view you consider that the star players have been sold in the last 12 months, Graham Dorrans to West Brom, Dave MacKay and Murray Davidson to St. Johnstone and Leigh Griffiths to Dundee, even if for cheap valuations one has to wonder how?

Pearse Flynn said:

"I sold the club to him for £1 with debts of £278,000 while he claimed to have £1.6m to invest in the club.

"I remember saying to [Massone] that if he didn't have the money then not to get involved.

"I don't feel good at all about what has happened since he has taken over."

He also urged the current owner to accept the £25,000 that is on the table but personally thinks he should get nothing for the mess he has made of the club.

Livingston FC: What the Papers are Saying

I was flicking through the sport's pages this morning to see what the papers say about the imminent liquidation of Livingston.

The Grauniad fail when they say:

'Presumably the number of people reading this column who care, or even know about, the probable demise of Livingston FC can be counted on the fingers of an oven glove.'

Personally I find such presumptions about Scots first and Livingston fans secondly a disgrace. An oven glove has one finger. Other than myself I can think of several other readers of that paper in the support. I may have to confine them to the level of the unmentionable red top.

The Daily Telegraph mention that this is the fourth Scottish Team to go out of business in 7 years, Livingston, Gretna, Clydebank and Airdrieonians. Though on a minor technicality Clydebank's position basically survived when the outfit moved to Airdrie.

The Scotsman has been matter of factly updating its story since early yesterday morning and says the fate lies in the SFL meeting this morning. But as the Daily Mail reports that would require a change in the SFLs rules over insolvency. Basically as Massone's company still technically owns the club as registered with the SFL which he is not prepared to give up voluntarily they may severe those links and offer Neil Rankine and Gordon McDougall, waiting in the wings with a joint rescue bid, the rights to the identity.

The small hope is rule 76 which says:

"Any club who goes in for an insolvency procedure are in breach of SFL rules. The committee then have full power to deal with it as it thinks fit."

The Herald reports that though the deadline for Massone to hand over his shares to McGruther acting for the Administrators to hand over his shares yesterday, is willing to wait until he walks into the meeting at Hampden this afternoon at 2pm for a change of heart. But he will need the shares in his hand and the interested parties by his side or else all looks doomed.

The unmentionable paper do publish a plea from Chris Innes* the team captain to the SFL to give a stay of execution. He of course went through this all last summer with Gretna.

All in all not a pleasant mornings reading, with only the thinnest glimmer of hope. Angelo you have seen only a small part of how upset the community is as many of us had to be at work yesterday. You appear to be the only person left who thinks you are able to save this club by holding unto your shares. Wake up! Smell the espresso and do the right thing.

*Hey after yesterday's horrible headline they gave a decent story today. But I still remember Hillsborough.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Forty Eight Hours

I'm a bit concerned that all the clocks in Bloggerdom appear to be running a little fast. As a horologist this is very disconcenting.

Now you have until midnight on Fridar to vote. That is 2 days or 2880 minutes from Midnight Wednesday or now.

LibDemVoice that the bongs for 10 o'clock tonight left 48 hours but this is of course 50. Norfolk Blogger thought it was the case at 17:49, but when even the Blogmeister Mr Dale himself thought so at 18:48 who can blame the others.

But Yes, that’s right folks now really it is only 48 hours to go. You have until midnight this Friday to cast your votes in the Total Politics poll of Top 10 favourite blogs. This year, the poll is being co-promoted by Lib Dem Voice, LabourList and Iain Dale’s Diary.

For full details and rules, please see our previous LDV posting. Then email your Top Ten Favourite Blogs to

Petrificus Totalus Lib Demmery: Not so Fast - Possibly

A lot of my Lib Dem friends got rather excited by the news leaked last week that Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe admitted to Attitude magazine's Youth edition that he was most likely going to vote Lib Dem at the next election.

For those of you who were holed up under the stairs at Privet Drive here is what he said:

"I actually rather like Nick Clegg. But ya know, cat's chance in hell. At the next election I will almost certainly vote Lib Dem. If all the people who liked them voted for them you could change politics overnight and we could have a proper three party system."

Some rather interesting comment, especially when you realise that he also said 'David Cameron is barely distinguishable from Tony Blair' and in response to would he like to see Cameron as Prime Minister ' No! No, no, no, no. no!'. As for Gordon he quotes Paul Merton is saying "it's a tragedy that this man has waited all his life to do this job - and now he finds out he can't do it".

As you can gather there actually is a lot of depth of thought in the young star such referencing Daniel Defoe, Martin Niemöller and the following comments on gay education being included in schools.

"There's all this stuff at the moment, which is hateful, about people being up in arms about the idea of gay sex education is schools. Hello!?! Actually for the one or two gay kids in the class, it's fucking vital! It really makes me angry. You're not going to turn the straight kids gay by giving them a sex ed class about how to have gay sex safely! You know. Really. People can catch HIV even after their first time and that's what it's all about; that can be avoided."

And this about the importance of getting out and voting:

"It's so important that young people learn about politics and vote even if it is a protest vote to make a point. Not voting is not a protest."

Of course while that Lib Dem vote comment may have been headline grabbing there is more behind the story and it isn't all good news. The interview runs to 9 columns over 5 pages so there a fair amount of the inner working of Radcliffe's thoughts that are exposed and he seems a rounded, intelligent, thoughtful young man. But following on from giving us his vote at the General Election he says:

"My prediction for the next ten years. The Tories will get in at the next election and will be in for a while. They have to go to the centre to get in, that's how they have to play it, but once they're in they will reveal themselves to be much more right wing that they actually make out - and the left will react to that and we will actually have a proper left wing again"

Attitude: And would you support a proper left wing?

"Yes, yes. I would actually."

Admittedly young Radcliffe happily admits he was too young to experience the euphoria of New Labour in 1997. So he doesn't know a proper left wing being in opposition of in power like some of those slightly older that him (OK double his age) can. So maybe, just maybe where he to experience that he really would realise that the Lib Dem way really is the right way.

Yes my more libertarian brethren may argue with me rotten of fiscal and social policies but to the core we are Liberals where it matters most, somewhere that reading Daniel's word in Attitude I believe he belongs too. But you know what having both sides of the debate in making spending policy I think we get it more often right than either of the extremes.

Only Playing One Quarter

It may be American Football close season, but this ain't about sport but Livington MP Jim Devine. As if it wasn't bad enough that the MP has claimed phantom shelving and had his flat rewired at public expense from a non-Vat registered electrician, he's not even bothering to do the job his pay and expenses are supposedly supporting.

Since he was deselected for the seat earlier this year Devine has only voted 24% of the time. This is a disgrace but not as bad as Margaret Moran who is in Esther Rantzen's sights in Luton South, who after claiming £22,500 for dry rot to be sorted out on her partner's house in Brighton, neither near Westminster nor her constituency has failed to vote at all.

It is bad enough that these MPs, along with David Chaytor, Derek Conway, Sir Peter Viggers and Anthony Steen, have already failed their constituents by their claims, they are now failing them by failing to do the job of work that is expected of them. If any of us failed to turn up for work in our places of employment we'd soon be disciplined and shown the door.

These MPs may still have almost a full year left to 'serve' the people who voted for them, even if they are not able to carry on after that. Reform is needed so that MPs who are not performing their duties can face a call back if a sizable enough section of their constituents demand it. Otherwise we may have an awful lot of lame ducks MPs hobbling from their nicely furnished flats in London to the Terrace at Westminster for lunch and drinks and nothing more.

It's "Livi 'til I Die" Surely not "Livi 'Til They Die"

This morning as I went out the door I lifted my Livingston scarf and placed it around my neck. It is not cold outside nor is it a football day, but I'm doing it to so that I still support Livingston. The scarf I chose was the one celebrating our winning the CIS Cup in 2004 whilst in administration (pictured).

Five years ago when the club first entered administration as will all clubs that face the uncertainty of such times the fans on the terraces started singing "Livi, til I Die", ironically this is to the tune of "I'm H.A.P.P.Y". Today may well be the final curtain, or just the end the Scottish league journey....for now. However, there is still hope, there are people interested in keeping the club going, keeping the dream alive.

As regular readers will know that one stumbling block is Angelo Massone. If he doesn't relinquish his controlling interest in the team by high noon, Livingston will be entering the spaghetti western tragic ending of liquidation.
All I can say to Angelo Massone is this morning is, "If you are man enough, sell up, walk away leave those of us who have committed heart and soul into this club a future. You've failed in this football venture, admit defeat and move on, let us start afresh, again." I just urge him to do it this morning.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Less than 24 Hours to Save Our Lions

William Hague famously on the eve of the 2001 election shouted from his soapbox there was only 24 hours to save the pound. Well 8 years later I still have it in my pocket, however this fate of Livngston FC may well be up at noon tomorrow.

The paper that as a true Liverpool fan I cannot bring myself to read has a headline flashing up in google news 'No Tears if Livi Fold'. Well I believe Kenny Black the manager of Clydebank
Airdrie United might have been the one of the mangers who knows just what a team means to the fans, in his case two sets.

Earlier this month I heard a lot of promises from Angelo Massone. With his back up against the wall I thought he may well have followed through with some of them, it appears that was not the case. He has yet to walk away from Livingston and he is the only person making the future untenable. He over the last 12 months has done something that not even Pearse Flynn managed to do and lose all respect in the local community; fans, business and the Council. Even at the end of Flynn's reign the fans knew they could get him to rescind a decision, when we sang for Mark Proctor to be kept on when it was rumoured that the best man we'd had for years was going to be let go. Flynn took the fans advise and kept the man on, unfortunately he sold the club soon after an that promise was rescinded by the Italians.

Now there is only thing we want Angelo Massone to do. There is a time frame in which he has to do it. Please sell your controlling interest to the club for the £25,000 that the Administer is asking for. At least that way you can keep one of your promises, to save Livingston Football Club. But do it before midday, don't listen to that lawyer, listen to the fans.

More haste, More Dosh but less Transparency #MPsExpenses

Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems had urged Members of Parliament to take time to deal with the situation of expenses and public confidence before they returned to their constituencies for the summer recess. End result the new outcry over the subsistence allowance.

Not that there wasn't outcry over Gordon Brown's proposal when it was first muted, many MPs from all sides were pointing out that this would give more money with less accountability. The £25 pounds for each night spent away from their main home could amount to £9,000 without the need for a receipt to be shown. There are full time workers in the UK who are lucky to have that amount of money to spend on all their bills, food and getting to work after taxes.

The unreceipted claims for food under the old discredited system was £4,800, but at least was debated even if the Labour and Tory benches overwhelmingly supported it. This new subsistence allowance was rushed through in the final days of the Parliamentary session, without even full Parliamentary scrutiny or a vote. Instead it was passed by a small committee chaired by the speaker John Bercow and including Harriet Harman as Leader of the House and Alan Duncan from the Tory front bench.

All three had said that an expense system not backed by receipts was unacceptable yet what have they done? Almost doubled the unreceitable allowances to the within £1000 of the gross full time Minimum Wage for a adult working 35 hours per week.

This is a disgrace that should never have been allowed to happen. Nick had called on the House to get this sorted out in the open before returning to their constituencies. The people were calling out for this to be sorted and this should have been a priority and constituents would then have understood that they were determined to do something about it. However, with this news coming out just after the English schools have broken up for the summer and with MPs dispearsed makes bad reading and prolongs this distrust that the public has in politicians.

Monday, 27 July 2009

4.2 Days, 4.2 Hours, 4.2 Minutes* Left to Vote

*OK I can't really get 0.2 of a minute sorted out.
As you can see I'm carrying on with my unconventional countdown to the Deadline of the Total Politics Best Blogs of 2009 Poll closing.
0.2 of a day is 4 hours 48 minutes, 0.2 of an hour is 12 minutes. Therefore 4.2 days + 4.2 hours + 4.2 minutes = 4 days 9 hours 4 minutes and 12 seconds.
Yeah time really is ticking by so if you haven't already get a move on, think of your ten Top Blogs of this year and get voting.

The rules are largely the same as last year's mass participation event.
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and ranks them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include ten blogs. If you include fewer than ten your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents are eligible or based on UK politics are eligible.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2009. Any votes received after that date will not count.

Iain Dale is asking us not to list a 10 on our blogs to encourage others to vote for them, so if you want to see my list you're going to have to wait until August the 1st, although I see that others have done I'm not going to be tempted by premature posting.

Is 'The Stig' Set to Temp in Massa's Seat

Whilst all Formula One fan are wishing Felipe Massa a speeding and full recovery, practicalities do have to be looked as the season moves on. It is unlikely that Massa will return to drive at the European Grand Prix at Valencia, if at all this season. So will fill the second seat alongside Kimi Raikkonen?

The third driver for the Scuderia is Mark Gene. But less that 48 hours after the spring bounced off the car of Reubens Barrichello and bounced down the track to hit Felipe on the head it is rumoured he will not be risked. Luca Badoer is also a name that is floating about.

However, the Times today points out that there is another man with a Super Licence still contracted to the team of the prancing horse. The man who recently walked unto the set of Top Gear dressed in the recognised overalls and helmet of the Stig and removed that helmet.

Having had one seven time champion in Lance Armstrong recently come out of retirement to return to his old hunting ground of the Tour de France, is another seven time champion about to sit back in the famous red liveried car? Will we see Michael Schumacher return to the grid rather than merely standing on the pit wall?

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Mass Resignation Does Devine Go Too

If what Jonathan Calder points out from today's Mail on Sunday is true what does that mean for Jim Devine and Livingston. The Mail on Sunday tells us:

"Rebel Labour MPs are threatening to force a series of parliamentary by-elections in a new attempt to oust Gordon Brown from Downing Street.

Well-placed sources say that a number of Labour MPs are prepared to sacrifice themselves as part of a 'guerrilla campaign' against the Prime Minister.

They include some older MPs who are prepared to bring forward their decision to retire at the next Election and others who believe they have been victimised.

Of course shortly after he was deselected Devine threatened to do exactly what Ian Gibson did in Norwich North and resign his seat forcing a by election. There has been nothing more heard from Devine about this since. But if over the summer recess the biggest, if not bigger, mass resignation of MPs since the Unionists all resigned in Northern Ireland over the Anglo Irish agreement in 1986 will Devine be amongst them?

Back then of course it was in protest to the actions of another party and there were casualties. If it were to happen as the MoS suggests it be in protest over their own leader's handling of things and of far bigger embarrassment. There would more than likely be casualties just as there was on Friday in Norwich North.

We live in interesting times: possibly.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Sorry Stephen I Just Don't Have Time for this Meme

Stephen Tall over at Lib Dem Voice has challenged us to a very interesting weekend meme:

When Iain Dale asked if Lib Dem Voice would this year co-sponsor Total Politics’ Best Blog Poll 2009, he also set me some homework: to write c.1,000 words on ‘the State of the LibDem blogosphere’ by the end of the month? As you will see from the date, my deadline is fast approaching.

I’ve got a few ideas of what I intend to write, but I’d greatly appreciate the insistence of Lib Dem Voice readers – as well as Lib Dem bloggers – to ensure my analysis is suitably rounded and informed. I’ve come up with five questions I want to (try and) answer in my article:

What are the greatest successes of the Lib Dem blogosphere?

What are we, collectively as bloggers, failing to achieve?

How does the Lib Dem blogosphere compare with those of the Labour, Tories and other parties’?

How helpful is blogging as a campaigning tool (are there examples of it making a real impact)?

What do you think the next year holds in store for the Lib Dem blogosphere?

How would you answer them? If you have a blog, please feel free to address
them there, and leave a link to your article in the comments thread. If you
don’t have a blog, please feel free to address them directly in the comments

Unfortunately I have my own homework from Mr. Dale, with the same deadline for the 'State of the Scottish Blogosphere' and I really must get on with completing that. So I don't really havve time to respond to that. But if you are a Lib Dem reader feel free to help out Stephen Tall, if you are Scottish answer below the same questions for Stephen Glenn.

Obviously it your Scottish replace Lib Dem with Scottish in the above and question 3 with:

How is the Scottish Blogosphere served by the Labour, SNP, Conservative, Lib Dems, Greens and other parties?

Nice to be back so close to Mr. Tall as before other Stephens filled the gap our names stood side by side on the LibDemBlogs blogroll.

After that Thank God Tomorrow It's Over

What a stage! What a race!

The real battle of the Tour de France came down the the climb of Mont Ventoux and good choice by the Tour Organisers, the final hour of the ascent of the Giant of Provence lived up to it hype of being the place where the general classifications would be decided.

The seven heads of state Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Bradley Wiggins, Andreas Kloden, Frank Schleck and Vincenzo Nibali were the ones who kept together when the big group hit the slopes above Bedoin. They started to close down the leaders up the slopes Juan Manuel Garate and Tony Martin, but that wasn't the reason for their speed.

Frank Schleck attacked a number of times, but each time he was marked by Lance Armstrong determined not to cede his third step on the podium. When little brother Andy attacked it was the Maillot Jaune on the back of Contador that came with, but when Frank didn't follow he sat up. Obviously more determined to help his brother get a leap on Armstrong rather than try and get the 4'11" he needed over the man who was covering his every move.

Kloden was the first of the big 7 to suffer and slip off the back. But Nibali and Wiggins also at times seemed to struggle to get back. But over and over again 6 of the heads of state kept together. Kloden any time he thought there was a hope of getting back on the back wheel suffered as another acceleration pulled them away again.

Then in the final two kilometres Andy went again this time with brother Frank on his wheel. Armstong and Contador went with, but Wiggins seemed unable to respond. Was this the time that more British hopes were to fade, almost at the point when the memorial marks the death of Tom Simpson on the same slopes. But no Wiggins kept digging in finding reserves from somewhere.

At the line Garate crossed first, then Martin. Then the three leaders of the race A. Schleck, with Contador and a three second gap to Armstrong. But with Kloden down the road the only real gap that mattered was going to be between Frank Schleck and Bradley Wiggins. At 43" after Garate the elder Schleck crossed the line Brad had to get there before the race showed +1'06". Then on the left hand side of the road almost out of view of the camera Bradley Wiggin's reminiscent of Steven Roche he appeared crossing the line at +1'03" twenty seconds lost but 4th place retained for the procession towards the Champs Élysées tomorrow.

Of course the Brits have had a good tour David Miller has been doing sterling work, and just missed out on the run into Barcelona of individual glory. Wiggins of course has ridden high up the GC and has given hope of making a podium in Paris in the years to come (why did that Texan have to come out of retirement this year?). But a little man from the Isle of Man is going for 6 tomorrow. If only he hadn't been disqualified on the run into Besancon we may still have seen him and Thor Husovd competing the two intermediates as well as the final bunch sprint on the Champs Éylsées tomorrow.

But as it is Britain's top stage winner Mark Cavendish and equal top finisher Bradley Wiggins can look forward to Paris tomorrow one to relax the other has one more goal, to be the first of the men to cover the 3252km of the 96th Tour de France, even if only by a few yards and hundredths of a second.

So Long, Dear Friend

The news that long time friend of West Lothian Liberal Democrats John Barrett the MP for neighbouring Edinburgh West is to step down at the General Election has come as something of a shock to me. Indeed John was the candidate for Linlithgow in the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999 before he replaced Donald Gorrie as the MP for Edinburgh West when he steped down after being sucessful in the same elections.

On the two occassions outside of conference that I have seen John in action this year he has seemed to be right on form and looking forward to the next general election and taking on whatever the other parties threw at us.

In January this year he was a platform speaker at the Palestinian rally in Edinburgh calling for us to look at this situation neutrally and provide support where it was needed rather than hopping on the US pro-Isreal bandwagon no matter what.

He also turned up to a soggy, no down poured out and windy Linlithgow Street Fair in May he had a good discussion with myself, Kevin McPhillips and Tam Smith the SNP candidate before we really learnt the extent of the local MPs expenses issues.

In his own words (via Andrew Reeves) he says:

"Serving the people of Edinburgh West at parliament has been a great privilege and honour and I have enjoyed every moment, however, after over 25 years campaigning, I believe the time is right to stand down from Westminster.

"I am absolutely not retiring – at 55 years of age and while I am both fit and healthy I feel I have another challenge left in me. Another full term at Westminster would take me to 60 when I feel it would be much harder to make a fresh start at something new. Much of my work at Westminster has been with the poorest and most vulnerable people in the developing world. I hope to use the experience I have to continue with work in this field in the future.

"I have never been a career politician, I was a successful businessman for 20 year and a community campaigner who went to Westminster to serve my local area, not to further my political ambitions and I now I am looking forward to the next challenge. I am still 100% committed to supporting the Liberal Democrats at all levels.

"The only way I know how to do the job is to give it 100% commitment to the job and this usually means working long hours and most weekends. As a grandfather of two lovely grand-daughters, I would now like to spend my weekends with them instead."

Of course this leaves the second safest Lib Dem seat in the UK with a 13,600 majority up for grabs. Often we have heard that incumbency is a major reason preventing Lib Dems from getting more balance both in gender and ethnicity into Westminster. In Scotland only one of our four target seat candidates is a female Katy Gordon in Glasgow North, here is another prime example to get another to get there alongside Jo Swinson, or maybe even a candidate from an ethnic minority of which we currently have none in Westminster in the whole of the UK.

There are many capable women from the Edinburgh area who may consider this opportunity.

Siobhan Mathers springs to mind, but until today's announcement she was throwing her heart and soul into fighting for the Edinburgh Central nomination for Holyrood and doing better than last time on the revised boundaries. Of course part of Central is also in West down at the Murrayfield/Haymarket end.

Amy Rodgers would be another but she recently stepped down from the East Lothian seat for work reasons. However would the opportunity of defending a sizable majority make her reconsider? Questions that only she could answer.

Who, if anyone, in Edinburgh is a potential ethnic option? I know we have several in Glasgow and Dundee but my head is scratching over any approved ethnic candidates in Lothians.

There are others I'm sure who would be enticed by the possibility and I wonder just who will put themselves forward for what is suddenly going to be the most contested PPC selection in Scotland.

Irfan is Right and Wrong on Email

Irfan Ahmed seems to have developed either a paper or newsprint allergy I'm not quite sure which. But he's advocating a whole hearted shift from literature to email and he is right and wrong.

He's right of course in that we should be living up to our environmental credentials and moving away from the amount of paper we want to use. He is also right in that the electronic age is upon us and we should be using more use of website and email shots etc.

He's wrong in that there is no directory of everyone's email, whereas we do have a list of every elector in the constituency. Even the emails that some of us give when we return our form are only for internal use and not for the full register publications. In fact I can't remember all of my own email addresses, or on occasion a couple of their passwords (yeah some required changes and now I'm lost thankfully not the major ones). Indeed many people have more than one. I have one for work, one for home, one for campaigning, one for my MSN etc as well as several others of the original ones that I still check for various reasons.

We still need to garner people's email addresses and having worked in a call centre where part of the business people are often asked for that as part of their details people still often refuse to give that. Indeed people are far more willing to give their address than their email. Just look at the recent crash of the mobile phone directory server when it was overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to unsubscribe to show how unwilling people are to give away that sort of information on a wide scale.

Also not everyone, even in this day and age, has and uses their email account regularly. However, everyone does use their front door on an almost daily basis and will check their mail.

Yeah people are likely to not read some of our literature put through their letterbox, put isn't the same also true of unsolicited emails, if not more so with spam filters. At least with deliveries we do know the message has reached the desired voter. Email addresses don't tell us when someone moves even sometimes their work one only alerts us they have left long after the IT crew decide to clean up the addresses.

Yeah we should be moving towards email as much as possible, it is more time efficient way of delivering the message. But we need to gather the email addresses that we need to move wholly over to that. Even in our key target seats with email lists in the thousands we still have less than 10% coverage of the whole constituency, obviously in some of our held seats this figure can be higher, though often is lower. If we are looking to win new seats we need more than 10% penetration which needs we still need to be out there. Delivering leaflets of course isn't just about putting bits of paper through letter boxes and many experiences leafleters will tell you of conversations they have had with people as a result of doing so. Heck, I even first encountered our current local party chair that way.

So Irfan yeah you are pointing in the right direction but the party and indeed the world still has a long way to go with that one. We don't have access to everyone electronic inbox but we do have access to every voter's letterbox.

Crunch Day on Ventoux

Today is the day that the general classification will finally be settled in this year's Tour de France and for the 8th time in Tour history it will act as a mountain top finish. The roll of honour to win on the summit reads like a history of worthy post war recipients.
  • 1958 Charley Gaul Luxemborg Individual Time Trail (Champion 1958, King of the Mountains 1955, 56 )
  • 1965 Raymond Poulidor France (8 times on podium 3 times each behind Anquetil and Merckx)
  • 1970 Eddie Merckx Belgium (5 Time Champion 1969-72, 74)
  • 1972 Bernard Thévenet France (Champion 1975, 77)
  • 1987 Jean-François Bernard Individual Time Trail France
  • 2000 Marco Pantani Italy (Champion 1998)
  • 2002 Richard Virenque France (Most successful King of the Mountains (1994-7, 99, 2003-04)
  • 2009 ???
But what makes Ventoux special? It is not the tallest, not the steepest but has a mystique all of its own. It stands out on the horizon however you approach its 1912m summit. Indeed from the feed station at78km into today's 167 km stage the riders will start a circuit around it. Admittedly that circuit will include the 4th category Col de Fontanbe and 3rd category Col des Abeilles. Certainly the Mont holds a little bit of a psychological hold over the riders.

But it is the 21 km ascent to the summit from Bedoin to the peak that is the real test. It starts in the airless forests at the base before exploding into the barren lunar landscape at the peak. From Saint-Esteve at 5 km up the climb to the peak (with only brief respite through Chalet Reynard and the treeline) it is greater than 6% climbing and for long stretches greater than 95 all the way to the top.

Ventoux was first climbed in the Tour on 22 July 1951 when it was including in the 17th stage from Monpellier to Avignon. On that occasion a lead group of 12 were together at the foot. At Chalet Reynard Hugo Koplet attacked*, only Raphaël Géminiani**, Luison Bobet, Gino Bartali and Lucien Lazardes*** could stay with him. 2km from the summit Lazardes attacked and reached the top alone followed by a lone Bartali and thus was Ventoux first conquered in the Tour.

Its not just the breaks but the mountain that has claimed men. In 1955 Jean Malléjac who had finished second two year previously was described 10km from the summit "Streaming with sweat, haggard and comatose, he was zigzagging and the road wasn't wide enough for him... He was already no longer in the real world, still less in the world of cyclists and the Tour de France". He collapsed as was taken to hospital struggling and shouting after regaining consciousness on the side of the road.

The same year Swiss racer Ferdi Kübler was setting such a vicious tempo that Géminiani survivor of that first ascent warned him off. Advise he ignored to his cost. He started to struggle in the last kilometre of the ascent and fell repeatedly on the descent finishing 26 minutes back on the line for his efforts on the climb.

In 1967 the British cyclist, that Bradley Wiggins is most closely competing with for prestige in the major tours, Tommy Simpson came to his own fate. He began weaving across the road in the last kilometre and fell twice. The tour doctor Pierre Dumas reached him after the second collapse spent more than an hour giving him heart massage and mouth to mouth. But realised he was dead and had him removed from the mountain by helicopter to Avignon where the cyclist was pronounced dead at 17:40. Of course Simpson's death is an object lesson on how the drugs don't always work.

So what of today's stage. Alberto Contador may well have a 4'11" lead over Andy Schleck but this is the sort of stage that that might be clawed back, especially as tomorrow there is just the gentle roll into Paris to come.

The Schleck brothers will well be aware that their fellow countryman Gaul was the first winner on the summit here. Older brother Frank will need to do something to climb back unto the podium. He'd gained that spot on stage 17 on the Col de Colombiere but lost it the following day on the TT around Lac d'Annecy. Expect him to attack at some point on Ventoux.

As for younger brother Andy lying in second he may go with his brother, and they may launch tandem attacks to see it Contador has anything to give. If they can get a gap then it is just a matter of how big they can get it. Although he may well already know that Contador is not going to be beaten this year, but then Ventoux does await.

As well as Frank Schleck wanting to get back unto the podium don't forget that Bradley Wiggins is sitting just 16" behind that spot over a man he has climbed better than on a couple of mountain finishes this year. But that man is the man who came second to both Pantani and Virenque on those other two Ventoux top finishes this decade and in that 2002 pursuit of Virenque set the record for the fastest ascent at 50 minutes. He also has the small matter of 7 successive victories in this race to his name, so don't rule out Lance Armstrong from the challenge of Frank Schleck, Wiggins or Vincenzo Nibali just yet.

Today is going to be a very interesting day and coverage live on ITV4 starts at 13:00 BST but it already underway by text on the BBC website.

*The eventual winner.
**That year's eventual King of the Mountains and 2nd overall.
***Who would be first when the Tor reached Paris.

Friday, 24 July 2009

7 Days, 7 Hours, 7 Minutes Left to Vote

What? You expected me to do a normal countdown to the Total Politics poll of Blogs? How often do you read me?
Yeah it you haven't already it is time to really start to think about your top ten political blogs of the year, as I post there there really are just 7 days, 7 hours and 7 minutes to midnight on 31 July when the inbox will be shut to any new votes, and we don't want that to happen. And as you have now read this there is less time than that remaining.
As you are here and still reading this I expect that you read a number of political blogs. If that is the case good you may well read more than 10. Now I know the standard is high this year, as indeed I think mine has gone up as well (I'm certainly getting more links from elsewhere and recommendations). I think I had a harder time selecting my Top Ten for this year than last as the standard is so high and some of those I voted for last year are sadly no more. So I decided which of the new or improving blood was worthy to get into my top ten and some others slipped out.
So give it a good think.
Read the rules below.
And if you haven't already get voting.

The rules are largely the same as last year's mass participation event.

1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and ranks them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include ten blogs. If you include fewer than ten your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents are eligible or based on UK politics are eligible.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2009. Any votes received after that date will not count.

Iain Dale is asking us not to list a 10 on our blogs to encourage others to vote for them, so if you want to see my list you're going to have to wait until August the 1st, though I am tempted to give a number of groups of ten and not rank them to throw the cat among the pigeons. Of course if you like what I've done over the last 12 months all votes will be willingly accepted and appreciated, after all I have high standards to keep up and improve on from last year.

What Now For Livingston?

As promised I said I'd get around to saying more about for me one of the two big football stories of the day.

In February 2004 Livingston Football were preparing for the CIS Cup Semi Final when they went into administration.

This week having had a 0-0 draw against SPL side Falkirk and a 2-1 win against Plymouth Argyle in pre-season friendlies we have been thrust there again. This morning the court of session in Edinburgh appointed an interim administrator to bring 'some stability'.

David Thomson, counsel for the local authority, told the court that the company was in "a grossly insolvent state".

"There appears to be a general recognition that this company is in a seriously insolvent state and is not in a position to do anything about it.

"It is appropriate the court take control of the administration of this company."

One thing that recent events and disclosure from Angelo Massone has revealed is that since 2004 the Council have been seeking the same level of rent from the company that they say is insolvent and for the upcoming season they have agreed a lower rate. Ironically if upon relegation the lower level had been applied the club would now actually be in credit with the council from what has been paid.

There have also been two attempts from different sources, thus far, to reach some agreement with West Lothian Council, but these have all been turned down. Agreements have been made with other creditors, to maintain some stability going into the new season.

One thing I'd like the council to answer how much is the administration of the club going to end up costing anybody involved with the club now and in the future. These guys don't work for free and their fees will have to be met somehow. On top of the fact that in an incredibly tough division we are pretty much looking at relegation before a ball is kicked whoever takes over the club is looking at Division 2 football most likely next season.

I'm quite sure who I've lost faith in more the owners of the club or the pledge of the council that they have the best interests of maintaining senior football in Livingston.

**Breaking** LIvi Back into Admin


Livingston Football Club enter administration for the second time in just over 5 years.

More to follow*.


*Just as soon as I get the Norwich North result

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Secularism Shouldn't Cold Shoulder All People of Faith

I see (via Simon Wilson) that Tim Montgomerie over at ConservativeHome has pointed out that the National Secularist Society* (NSS) want to do away with people of religion in the House of Commons. They have said about David Kerr:

"The concern for voters would be that such a person would have their allegiance to the Church and not to the SNP. It is one thing to bring your religious beliefs to politics, but it is another to bring the dogmas of a right-wing Catholic organisation. That would be the worry for voters."

The HSS will argue that this only applies to members of Opus Die but their wording and the title of their society would point to their underlying agenda.

In 2005 I faced Michael Connarty a well known MP in the British Humanist Society. He is well aware that I was one of two of his opponents in that campaign who confessed a Christian faith. But I'm sure that if you were to ask Michael should that disbar me from seeking election to the commons he would say of course not. The only thing he would argue that should prevent me from sitting in the House of Commons are my views on policies.

Indeed many of my secular friends feels that surely my faith must shape my politics, while many of my Christian friends accuse my politics of affecting my faith. I guess somewhere in the middle is where the truth lies. Indeed if you were to look at my voting, speaking and writing record I'm sure you would be hard pressed to guess or prejudge just how you'd expect me to react based purely on my faith. Indeed I did blog against a lot of fellow Lib Dems on the matter of how liberal are we on the matter of people's believes over some of the clamp downs on religion in recent months.

If we are to have a representative democracy part of that democracy must still be those of faith, all faiths in our country. Yes some of them will have very conservative views on a number of ethical matters, but not all people of faith are that bound by that when they come to matters of conscious. Charles Wesley was actually under fear of personal assault when he preached from the pulpit to end slavery for example. There are Christians on both sides of the debate regarding human sexuality and abortion for example. It is not just as black and white as the NSS would maybe want to have us believe.

No doubt this may spark some debate from the usual quarters, but we can't go blocking people from seeking election for any reason we just don't happen to agree with. If they are way out of line then we need to win the debate, show them up for what they are. But merely being of faith is not one of those reasons. Many of those as Simon pointed out were actually at the vanguard of social reforms going against the norms of society. Don't forget it was son of the Manse David Steel who he introduced his Private Members Bill in 1967 to legalise abortion, although Roy Jenkins had wanted him to sponsor a bill on homosexual law reform to incorporate Scotland when he came up in the ballot. So the NSS and others shouldn't tar everyone of faith with the same brush, sometimes we're the most revolutionary, forward-thinking, risk-averse people out there.

* UPDATE: Correction has been made as I originally posted Human Secularist Society instead of National Secularist Society. There may have been some confusion with the Humanist Society of Scotland who have made no statement on David Kerr.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Belfast to Star in Top Gear Mini Adventure

The old Victorian sewers in Belfast are currently undergoing a £100m refurbishment scheme. But somebody at Northern Ireland Water said, "Hang on lads, I've got a great idea."

The idea was to approach the BBC with a number of proposals to use the new six mile series of tunnels in programming. The idea that struck was the possibility to recreate the classic scene from The Italian Job where Michael Caine and the team flee through the sewers of Turin (although the ones in Coventry were used for the shoot).

But who to do such a thing.

Some say they are on the most wanted list of the homophobic deep South.

Some say that no caravan in save within a 3 mile radius of them behind the wheel of a car.

Well in the coming weeks Jeremy Clarkson, Richard 'Hamster' Hammond and James 'Captain Slow' May who have driven to the North Pole, taken on planes, trains, bobsleighs and mountaineering base jumpers will be going underground. So let the boys all drive and the boys all shoot for the challenge.

Always Believing You Are Gold

Congratulations to Tom Daley at just 15 and while going through growing pains he has lifted the gold medal at the World Championships for diving.

But don't be too embarrassed about your dad, parents keep on doing that, it’s not just a teenage thing. Don't get me wrong I loved the fact that my father would try and get to cheer me on sometimes as often as 4 times on a 10 k road race. Having a map reader in the family who knows his walking pace has its advantages.

When I was playing bowls in my breakthrough season I didn't deliberately ignore him. The fact that there were only 8 games on at the time when he came back from holiday, eventually down to the last one, I had the cap down and was ignoring everyone apart from those of us on the green. Yes I'd heard him asking questions behind me that I could have actually answered myself. But I didn't say 'hi dad' for an age, I didn't want him to break me away from my zone.

The fact that my mother used to escort her schools hockey team to play against our school in the hope that she could watch my brother play; as he wasn't as into the family spectating, just shows the lengths they will go to.

But Tom you acknowledged as we all do how important, those at times embarrassing, parents are to the success of any sportsman. They are the one group who will always support you no matter what you have just been through. From the highs to the lows.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Will You Still Vote Me, Tomorrow

There has been a rush this afternoon to get through the unfinished business of the House of Commons on the last day of the parliamentary session. Snuck in the middle of that was a SNP attempt to move the writ for the Glasgow North East by election.

Many people including Scottish Unionist (I kid you not) were rooting for the SNP.

Harriet Harman as Leader of the House moved an amendment opposing the writ being moved today. Saying that she wanted a by election when most people have the chance to vote. But wasn't it only last year that they rushed the Glasgow East election through just so that there would be less people able to vote as it was scheduled during the Glasgow fair period (something Angus Robertson pointed out shortly after I tweeted it). I guess having lost then the Labour Party aren't trusting their own voters to be around in the summer.

Patrick Cormack of the Conservatives did point out that Harriet Harman suggestion that the speak was last elected as a Labour MP was in error as in 2001 and 2005 he stood as the speaker. As one of this colleagues pointed out that effectively made him an independent as he represented no party. This was part of the crux of the SNP argument for Parliament to be able to move this writ not a particular party.

David Heath of the Lib Dems pointed out that there was an issue with the system (yes another one) in that the majority party could use this situation for political gain rather than for the good of the people.

But Jim Sheridan did shot a hole in another thrust of the SNPs case that the people of Glasgow North East would be unrepresented in the House until November. When he raised that with the exception only of the Sinn Fein member the members of Banff and Buchan had the MP with the worst voting record in the commons going on for far longer than the time Glasgow NE would be without an MP.

In the end the amendment passed 238 - 127 so we still have to wait for a Glasgow by election. As Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard pointed out with that figure is the SNP had tipped off the Conservatives and Lib Dems with a little Matt Santos-esque heading to Norwich subterfuge they may well have pulled it off.

Tom Harris, who contributed to the debate, Tweeted:

SNP motion defeated. They complained that the Glasgow East by-election was in the summer, now moaning that North East will be Nov. Lambs!

A speakers conference was mentioned during the debate. The issue of replacing a speaker may be an issue to be discussed for reform. But well done for the SNP for having the cajones to challenge convention and Parliamentary procedure in this way. Shame on Labour for being the only obstacle.

Trump's Aberdeenshire Clearances

Compulsory purchase orders are usually used by the Government or local authorities to acquire land that is required for transportation, education or health etc. The measures are not and should not be used for a private enterprise for a 'profit development' to get its way over private individuals.

Donald Trump has been saying all along that his Golf Resort development at the Menie Estate at Balmedie is meant to help the local community. Yet having failed to reach a negotiated settlement to encourage the neighbours to sell up he has applied for compulsory purchase orders. He really does think he can throw his weight around, but then he has already used influence to flaunt his way around UK planning procedure once already to get to this stage.

Martin Ford has placed a motion before Aberdeenshire Council which calls on them not to use compulsory purchase powers to force residents from their own homes on or adjacent to the Menie Estate. He adds:

"It must be very stressful for residents living with the anxiety caused by this threat to their homes. The council owes it to them to end the uncertainty.

"The other reason for tabling the notice of motion is to ensure the council discusses this matter in public.

"This decision is such a crucial one, concerning as it does basic rights important to us all, that it must be taken in public.

"A debate and vote in public will ensure that those directly affected by the decision can be present when it is taken, if they wish."

Some of the commenters on the Press and Journal article are likening Trump's approach to the Highland Clearances, a rich landlord is looking to forcibly more residents off his land and even that adjoining it to have his own way. He is seeking to use the full authority of the law to bring it to be, whilst claiming it is for the best of everyone.

Development director George Sorial while saying he was 'shocked and surprised' by Mr Ford’s motion added:

"Compulsory purchase powers are reserved for the council. It’s a process we would rather avoid. For him to take a position like this when we have a live application creates an extreme risk of prejudice."

Sadly by not ruling it out maybe people will understand just why the original planning committee was tied when discussing the application. There were issues of environment and local residents that were of concern. Martin Ford's casting vote was to look out for those varied concerns when they themselves could not come to a clear decision. The fall out has been great and the council still have not learnt the lesson to listen to the public opinion, too busy eying their corporate perks no doubt when the new links course is finally opened.

Candidate Mocks Glasgow Universities

The Principal of Glasgow Caledonian University has branded the SNP candidate for the Glasgow North East by election a 'dangerous elitist' for his comments in 2007 that the university did "not have a reputation to tarnish" at this alma mater St Andrews.

Now I have a lot to thank St. Andrews for, not least of which is that two Graduates of that institution have provided me two gorgeous nephews. But I ended up at a Polytechnic originally before coming away with a University degree when Kingston moved from one status to the other. I agree with Dr Ian Johnston's comments that the majority of the mainly vocational courses are externally professionally accredited, and so offer a good route to employment. As Willie Rennie MP for Dunfermline and West Fife also says:

'The institutions have a good reputation for their partnerships with industry and for improving the life opportunities of thousands of people of all ages and from a wide diversity of backgrounds.

'In fact I would argue that Paisley and Glasgow Colleges gave a bigger lift or added value to their students than those institutions that Mr Kerr thinks are only worthy of any consideration.'

Indeed I do recall that at the end of my first term of University comparing notes with some of my school friends who were also studying Economics elsewhere, including St. Andrews. As we were only studying one course and not the other lines of study that the University's insisted on we'd actually covered more in that first three months than they would encounter in their first year.

As Willie says thankfully not all people associated with the ancient Universities think that way. But there are a number of people that they churn out that think deriding the newer Universities is a matter of jest, that they can be make 'light-hearted' comments about. The people who attend such places often don't have the privileges that many of the ancient Graduates have had. It's hardly surprising that even during my brother's time at St. Andrews there was a degree of social climbing that some people tried to do in that fine Fife institution. Aiming for acceptance by the 'Yahs' the group of those with received pronunciation, often Oxbridge rejects, was a goal for some.

The SNP are trying to wipe away this sort of comment as a one off joke, yet a BBC source said Kerr was always seen as "a bit arrogant" by colleagues. "He thinks other people aren't as intelligent as he is."

Is that sort of person really going to be best placed to serve the people of NE Glasgow?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Campaign So 'Clean' that Chloe Smith's Job was Swept Under the Carpet

Oh dear. I've just read the following report of David Cameron's latest defence of Norwich North candidate Chloe Smith:

David Cameron has told voters in the upcoming Norwich North by-election that Tory Chloe Smith is the only candidate who has campaigned in a "positive way".

The Leader of the Opposition said Labour had just produced "smear after smear" while Ms Smith was the only one to sign a clean campaign agreement.

He was rallying Conservative supporters at Drayton Village Hall.

Oh dear. Signing something isn't how you will be recognised of being a clean campaigner it is what you say and do.

Looking at Chloe's latest leaflet (courtesy of Norfolk Blogger) she says:

'Sadly the one thing that comes across is how little faith people have in politicians to tell the truth and actually deliver on their promises. I want to be different.'

Nice sentiment. Later in the contract she writes in:

'Sometimes you have to choose between your principles and party loyalty - a
I will always choose my principles.'

One of those principles she seems to want to highlight is openness and honesty. Going so far as to suggest:

'if I am elected as your Member of Parliament - hold me to what I promise at the General Election next year.

'And by that time, if you think that I've broken any one of these promises you should vote me out.

'That's the sort of MP I want to be honest, straight-talking and

Ok then, why should be people of Norwich North have to wait until the next election to hold her to account. Surely if she has already put party loyalty over principle, if she has been less than straight-talking an honest surely they can merely decide not to even vote her in on Thursday that would save a lot of heartache and hand wringing over the months ahead.

So this 'different' candidate who doesn't want to be part of the party machine hasn't been altogether honest and straight talking about just how she is employed. She states she is a 'business consultant' rather vague, hardly straight talking and also not entirely truthful. The Times exposes that:

'she is on secondment to the Conservatives’ implementation unit. Ms Smith, who
is registered as an assistant to James Clappison, a Shadow Work and Pensions Minister, is drawing up plans on how the party would govern once in power. '

Oh how very 'different' of her. Now I reckon the people of Norwich North may not have minded if this 'honest' candidate had told them what she was doing. David Cameron says she has run a clean campaign yet not been upfront with just what she has been doing for the last year, nor that she lives in North London not North Norwich.

As I said above signing a clean campaign pledge is only really worth more than the paper it is written on if you really are clean about what you say and do. Sadly Chloe Smith is already showing herself to be just the sort of politician that even her literature doesn't really want to have as the MP for Norwich North.

One Small Step

So this is it. Forty years ago millions of people were glued to their TV sets as Apollo 11 made its final approach to the Sea of Tranquility and for the first time a manned vehicle landed on the moon. Of course what the world was really waiting for was the emergence of Commander Neil Armstrong to lead the way.

"This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"

That was it. People of my generation and my parents were hooked on space. Even those of us who weren't around to see that first lunar walk live had the desire to follow suit. I was rewatching one of James Mays 21st Century programmes on Dave last night which started with him saying, "At the age of six I wanted to be an astronaut". Like many of us we did, until we realised when we got older me needed probably two science degrees to get unto the programme.

At 7 I wrote seven pages in my English jotter n one hour on the subject "Journey to the Moon" the teacher wrote at the end "Is this finished?". Hardly I'd barely got my Saturn 6 rocket out of Earth's gravity, but the monster had attacked the crew. Its hardly any wonder that when my father died I got offered his Arthur C. Clark and Issac Asimov collections.

But we watched sci-fi on TV Star Trek, Doctor Who, Blakes 7, Buck Rogers, not just as escapism but to wonder what was coming next. Many scientists were inspired by what they saw. My current mobile phone looks a lot like a trimmed down version of that first communicator from Star Trek. It was also made by the company that had allowed us to hear Armstrong's words from the surface of the moon.

It may well have been a giant leap for mankind when we put our first men on the moon. Since 1973 we haven't lept further. Indeed I heard one comment over the weekend (I think it was May again) the Saturn 5 rockets were the sports cars of the space age, since then we're merely pottered about opened the sunroof and peeked out into it. Not a bad description of the space shuttle really.

There is a lot of science we have done in space down the 40 years since. A lot of that is experimentation some of it is preparation. The preparation is to provide survival techniques for man to exist more than a few days away from Mother Earth and all the abundance she provides. But we've yet to aim for the third star on the left and keep going, but maybe that day will come.

Our one small step unto another world is all we've taken thus far. That's not a walk let alone a leap. Do we still dream of what going further may mean to an increasingly crowded, under-resourced, over-populated earth?

Forty years ago we did it because it was hard. We need to look after our resources now too not because it's easy but because it is hard.

Sunday, 19 July 2009


This is not a hoax, this is the latest Labour leaflet in a desperate Norwich North Campaign.

This is not a spoof. Labour's Norwich campaign "leaflet": on Twitpic

Is it just me and all my friends playing Mafia Wars affecting me? But does this mean that unless Labour get in they are going to kill the poor innocent fox they are holding hostage?

I See Your True Colours Shining Though

Call me Dave, a liberal Conservative has shown his true colours today. Yes David Cameron has said that he is going to shut down the peace camp on Parliament Square and move it on.

He says that the encampment right outside Parliament is "pretty poor place" and looks like a shanty town. While he may be correct he is forgetting one important thing. The reason people feel the need to camp out in Parliament Square is because of the draconian approach to protest taken by the Labour Government. If the right to bring protest to Parliament Square were allowed people wouldn't feel the need for guerrilla warfare to stay their ground and fight the whole time.

Look at Holyrood in Edinburgh or the Synedd in Cardiff where protests can be taken to the seat of Government the protests are made and people then disperse. The problem is that by surprising free speech on the doorstep of the Palace of Westminster the protesters have had to camp out claiming their ground for fear of never being able to return and protest again, its the old case of squatters rights and that is not a democratic way to protest.

Wasn't Tony Blair who once said he liked the fact that people in the UK could protest right outside Downing Street and Parliament? Yes, believe it or not it was only about 8-9 years ago.

Moon Faker

Forty years ago while Apollo 11 fever was sweeping the earth I was just a very sizable bump. I was merely biding time to arrive at the same time that the political party of my adulthood would have its annual conference.

Therefore last night I was quite shocked to find this compelling evidence that the lunar landings were faked (may I encourage younger readers to read the whole way to the bottom before throwing stuff at me*).

Today I am however glad to find that there are of course a list of twelve things that we do know are on the moon.

Now if you'll excuse me I have a craving for soup and cheese.

(Demon Drawer would like to thank Dr E. Vibenstein for unearthing the first of these.

* Sorry Irfan.

Fe Fi Fo Fum Labour Feel the Breath of the Lib Dems Now

The latest opinions polls do not make good reading for Labour. The one in the Independent on Sunday in particular with the Conservatives on 38%, Labour 23% and the Lib Dems just behind them on 22%. So the Lib Dems are right behind Labour on share of the vote.

However, while the share may have us equal the seat share shows the ridiculous nature of our electoral system. According to Electoral Calculus returns for that vote share 358 Conservatives, 198 Labour and 68 Lib Dems. One percentage point should not equate to 130 MPs and almost three times as many. That clearly shows how Lib Dem votes are not fairly accounted for in the current First Past the Post Voting System.

Just as a little experiment I decided to keep the Tories in 38% an swap share from Labour to the Lib Dems find out the level of parity. The result is that it only happens at Lib Dems 28% (120 seats) Labour 17% (118) a full 12% swing still required to get parity in seats from being right behind Labour in share of vote. It would apparently give the Tories a 108 seat majority but with the vote shares reversed the Tories would have a 14 seat majority Con 332, Lab 242, Lib Dem 45.

Is it any wonder that have to work so much harder to get any vote than the other parties seem to have too. It's because that vote on the national scale is not quite the same value.

On a plus side for us North of the Border Electoral Calculus on the current figures gives Edinburgh South, Edinburgh North and Leith, Aberdeen South and Glasgow North to the Lib Dems. The Tories will on these figures make gains in Scotland just don't believe them south of the Meadows.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

What were your blogging highlights of the year?

Ok let me first say that my vote whizzed off through the ether to the Total Politics Ballot Box late Thursday night after a fair deal of cogitation, rumination and cutting & pasting in excel. So nothing that follows can change any of that.

Now I'm looking at the next task at hand I have a fair idea where I am heading but you may know what's it like, your head is down too busy typing at times to peep up over the parapet at all that is going on. So I'd like a little help from my Scottish blog writing and reading friends.

What are your highlights and lowlights of the blogging year?
Are there any little gems that stand out?
What where the top issues that the Scottish blogosphere pulled apart in debate and/or put back together again?

Any thoughts, comments etc would be appreciated at my email address. The sooner the better.

The reason?

Well all will be revealed at a later date.

Is Cavendish DQ French Revenge for TeamGB on Track?

Here are some facts:

  1. Thor Hushovd rides for the Cervelo Testteam in the Tour de France
  2. In most of the bunch sprints he is not to be found on his own lead out man's wheel* but that of Mark Cavendish's team Columbia Highroad
  3. Thor has yet to beat the speed of Mark Cavendish in a straight sprint to the line this Tour de France**.
  4. On today's stage into Besancon the barriers are narrowing as the sprint gets towards the end instead of staying consistent; see here.
  5. Mark Cavendish has always gone to the right when Mark Renshaw peels off to launch his final push to the line (Hushovd knows this see point 1 he's always in the prime spot to observe)
  6. There have been occasions of leaning in sprint finishes in the past has not led to disqualification.
  7. The head race commissaire has announced that once he makes a decision it is final. There is no right to appeal. However, a few days ago the morning after he made a decision that there was a split in the peleton he changed his mind overnight and reinstated 15 secs that many including Britain's Bradley Wiggins had been docked on the line.
  8. This is the second incident in which a British cyclist in jersey contention has been penalised by French cycling officials in this years Tour.
  9. France have repeatedly been losing out to Team GB cyclists including Wiggins and Cavendish on the track in recent years.
  10. The Tour while under the auspices of the UCI is also somewhat a law unto itself at times (which is both good and bad at times).
One does wonder if it had been Tom Boonen against Hushovd whether a disqualification would have been the decision, or whether a reversal of line placings (an alternative penalty) would have sufficed, or even if the result would have held.

Why did the course at the end narrow so much? Could the race not have stopped further up the road if the road was wider there? Have the race officials noticed they have got the course wrong on this occasion but are afraid to admit their mistake? Does it have anything to do with the ongoing success of British cycling?
I may be a little cynical but both of the controversial line decisions in this weeks tour have affected British racers. Brad Wiggins was less that 20 metres behind Lance Armstrong, 5 positions in that 'split' 15 seconds may well have be enough to prevent him doing anything in the General Classification. On the last sprinters stage before the Champs Elysees was the finish made deliberately tighter on Cavendish's launch side, thus effectively ending the close Green Jersey contest?

UPDATE: Just like to say that a number of the anti-Cavendish comments on Twitter this evening are homophobic in nature. Our use of language really needs sorting out.
UPDATE 2: Here is what Robbie McEwen, an experienced Tour Sprinter who was also robbed of a final Green Jersey, had to say via Twitter:
18:32 Cav didn't really move much, barrier did but his looking over shoulder lining up Thor is what judges would have dq'd him for. full dq harsh
18:33 most they should have done if anything was reverse placings.
18:54 re:Cav DQ.Trying analyse impartially-both mates of mine.Calling it like i see it.Sprinting tactically is very fine line.I lost a green by DQ
18:57 if Cav hadn't had a look, he wouldn't been DQ'd I think. Fine line.again, total dq is OTT. shame to ruin a gd battle. gd luck to both

*Indeed does anyone know who that is?
**Barcelona where Thor did win beating Cavendish in the same group was a tough uphill finish.

Gentlemen a Little Attention Please

Many of the menfolk are well aware that in the same week that cycling hero Lance Armstrong is fighting well in the Tour de France on his comeback, John Hartson the former footballer has had crucial surgery for cancer.

There is one thing these two gentlemen have had in common. Their cancer started in their testicles. Lance found his early sought advise and got his sorted. Hartson waited longer before seeking help and we have yet to know the outcome. As someone who has found an benign lump down there I was encouraged when Iain Dale posted this earlier. Iain had found this post from a Miserable Old Fart which included this educational video:

As Miserable Old Fart also points out:

Unfortunately some of the most at risk group will not be able to view this video. It is age restricted because it shows real testicles so people between 15 and 21 are not allowed to view it due to US obscenity laws!

Testicular cancer is most prevalent amongst young men aged 15 - 35, so a large section of those who need to know how to check their own balls are denied on line video advice! That is immoral, disgusting and unacceptably obscene!

I totally agree with this and Iain's Tweet:

But I'd also like to urge you also to be aware of the early signs of Bowel Cancer which it isn't so easy to detect. You never know quite when your may well need to know those signs.

And gentlemen don't be stoic about it. If in doubt, check it out. Give yourself the best chance to LiveStrong for a long time.

Stepher's Super Four: Pick the First 11th -18th Jul 2009

I think the whole being co-trainer of Malc and Audrey's Loch Ness Marathon effort has got me thinking of those glory days when I could run a mile in under 4 minutes. As everyone else is doing their own little round up and as I have connections with all four of the four home nations I'm going to present my own Home Nations of blog posts from the week.

So representing England this week is the excellent James Graham looking at an underlying malaise in the Lib Dems. One I agree we need to do something about and should really be the party best placed to do just that.

The land of my fathers, no not Wales for me Northern Ireland sparked a whole load of excellent posts this week as you would expect, many from the varied writers on Slugger O'Toole (well worth a bookmark and a blogroll listing for anyoe serious about politics) but others elsewhere. But my pick of this bunch is by Michael Shilladay on Gerry Adams World Tour with narrow focus on unity.

Ok after the tease with land of our fathers let's go to Wales I'm going to suggest Cymru Politics acknowledgement that my Lib Dem colleagues in Wales are holding the Welsh Assembly Government to account over £750,000 spent on various credit cards. Including £250, 000 for kids furniture for the New York office.

From Scotland I'm going with Kelvin Holdsworth, Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow and this take on the same sex marriage debate.

I'll be doing a super 4 from the 4 corners of the UK every weekend going forward. (What have I let myslef get into now?)

Is Tories' Euro Group Leader Homophobic?

The Tories are up in arms at claims that Michal Kaminski the leader of their European Conservatives and Reformists grouping in the European Parliament is a homophobe. Timothy Kinthorpe MEP is saying that words said by Kaminiski in 2000 have been taken out of context and that language has changed.

Kaminski is known in Poland as a spin doctor but I'm up for the challenge lets look at the context lets see what the Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice Party) have said and done on the issue.

In September 2005 Jarosław Kaczyński (the then and current party chairman) said:

"homosexuals should not be isolated, however they should not be school teachers for example"

Adding homosexuals "should not be discriminated otherwise." He also stated:

"The affirmation of homosexuality will lead to the downfall of civilization. We can't agree to it."

Why should he say that well the following year when Kaczyński. was leading the Polish parliament the state prosecutor announced an investigation of all gay groups for illegal financing, criminal connections, and pedophilia. Also the Ministry of Justice ordered local prosecution offices to investigate if 'any crimes of a pedophile nature have been committed by homosexual persons' in their respective area.

Looking at that context calling the homosexual community was light feed as the whole lot were being singled out for branding as pedophiles while PiS was in power.

Earlier this month William Hague had waded into the argument saying that the PiS had changed its views on homosexuality to appease the British public only for a Polish PiS MEP, Konrad Szymanski, to refute this for the sake of their own base saying:

"We won’t apologise because there is nothing to apologise for. Of course personally I don't have to agree with [David Cameron]. PiS holds the view that homosexuality should not be promoted in schools.

"From what I know, many British Conservatives don’t agree with him on this either.

"We have already agreed that in these matters we will each keep to our own convictions.

"Law and Justice has a clear stand on this issue – we are against both homosexual marriages and the adoption of children by gays and lesbians. That is how our Euro MEPs will always vote.

"If some Tories happen to have a different view on this, then this grouping will not be voting unanimously on these issue."

I think the fact that the PiS are quick and adamant to not let themselves been seen as quite as gay friendly and the UK Tories want to paint them speaks volumes, and indeed pointing out to similar stances of some Tories. What do you think?

Friday, 17 July 2009

Nats Hobson's Choice for Glasgow North East

Well there is a new SNP short list for the candidate to contest the Glasgow North East by election and I list it below in full:

David Kerr

There you have it. The only name on the list is that of former BBC Scotland Journalist David Kerr.
However, the press do need to get their facts straight over this 4th candidate thing. Anne McLaughlin didn't so much step down as step aside while elevated to MSP. Don't forget she had been the de facto candidate for a replacement on the list since 2007 as well as PPC for Glasgow North East. Of course the fact that the SNP were the only of the big for Scottish parties to have a PPC to stand against the then speaker has added to their misery over this affair.
As for Grant Thoms who replaced Anne as PPC from what I understand the SNP party rules are very similar to those of the Lib Dems. In the event of a by election any PPC in place is able to apply for the position of by election candidate, he decided not to at this time. The Scotsman said he withdrew over unguarded comments on his blog which may be a far more accurate description than the Herald calling it a controversial blog. Tartan Hero was no more a controversial blog than any of the other partisan blogs in the Scottish Blogosphere, and the bloggers do, with the odd exceptions, tend to largely get on.
The only really controversial thing about this whole selection procedure is how James Dornan, the man who beat Kerr in the selection last week, expected to hide his financial issues in the full glare of a by election spot light. To be honest it makes Grant's decision not to stand for either the comments or his sexuality look mediocre in comparison, indeed in light of the current climate in Parliament such honesty in a politician would have been a refreshing asset.
Anyway as it stands the SNP members of Glasgow North East will this evening be more than likely endorsing the preferred candidate of Alex Salmond. That is unless there is another twist in the tale and he doesn't carry the room. Then what?

The 65,000 Person Question

The launch of the National Pandemic Flu Service coincides with the announcement that the NHS is preparing for the worse case scenario of 65,000 deaths this year through swine flu. The advise is based on 30% of the population falling ill. Children under 14 are being hit hardest and the NHS was told to plan for a worst-case scenario of up to half of all children being infected during a first pandemic wave.

The figure of 30% for the model is based on the pandemics of 1957-58 and 1968-70, the scenario is also ranging the number of fatalities from 19,000 to 65,000 based on the 33,000 in that first pandemic and a few thousand less at the time end of the 60s. The NHS is being prepared for 12% of the workforce being off work sick, but emphasis this is not a prediction just a figure based on the worse case scenario. They are expecting the occurrence of cases to drop off over the summer but to peak again in October after children have returned again to school.

While Tower Hamlets has the highest proportion of visits at 769, per 100,000 0f population and London boroughs of Hackney, Islington and Lewisham not far behind the rich and famous are also not immune to it. Harry Potter star Rupert Grint, ex-Prime Minister's wife Cherie Booth, England footballer Micah Richards are just the tip of the iceberg of high profile cases.

To put things into perspective in some years there can be as many as 20,000 extra deaths a year related to influenza. Those with underlying health conditions, the young and the old are most at risk and are the categories being targeted for the government immunisation programme.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Bhoy Bans the Black Stuff

You know I'm kind of wishing that should Labour manage to hang on to Livingston whenever Jim Devine finally goes that the researcher who has left (and has still not recieved the travel payments owed) gets employed as the new MPs researcher. I'm not just saying that as they are a relative of a good friend but because of the following.

Jim Devine has decided that the people of Scotland should take action against against Diageo on August 12th. Now that is good. But Jim Devine has only named one Diageo product and from the title you can guess which Irish favourite that would be. Quite a statement for a Celtic fan to ban his fellow fans possible favoured tipple. The issue is that if you want to strike a message to the giant producer Diageo what is wrong with the rest of their product range, here is where a little research comes into playing. By the power of Google within 20 seconds I was directed to the Wikipedia page for Diageo which list all their products, so Jim what is wrong with boycotting the rest of these on August 12th?

Diageo is the holding company for some of the most recognizable alcohol brands, including:

  • Beer: Guinness, Smithwick's, Red Stripe, Harp Lager, Kilkenny, Kaliber (non alcoholic)
  • Scotch whisky: Johnnie Walker, Justerini & Brooks (J&B), Bell's, Black & White, Vat 69, Oban, Talisker, Lagavulin, Glen Ord, Glenkinchie, Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore
  • Baijiu: Shui Jing Fang
  • Vodka: Smirnoff (Smirnov in Russia), Cîroc, Silent Sam, Popov, Ketel One
  • Gin: Gordon's, Tanqueray, Gilbey's, Booth's
  • Rum: Captain Morgan, Bundaberg, Pampero, Myers'
  • Bourbon: Bulleit Canadian whisky: Crown Royal, Seagram's
  • Irish whiskey: Bushmills
  • Tennessee whiskey: George Dickel Tequila: Don Julio, José Cuervo
  • Schnapps: Black Haus, Goldschläger, Rumple Minze
  • Mixed drinks: Archers, Pimm's, TGI Friday's
  • Liqueur: Baileys, Sheridans, Yukon Jack, Godiva's
  • Wines: Sterling Vineyards, Piat d'Or, Barton & Guestier, Beaulieu Vineyard, Blossom Hill, Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Acacia, Chalone, Provenance, and Rosenblum.

That's just for starters Jim or are you just trying to blame this all on the Irish. When Grand Metropolitan were an equal partner is setting up Diageo in 1997 and have actually saved a number of Scottish Whiskys as a result, something that has been forgotten a little in the latest Johnny Walker controversy.