Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Prime Minister Clegg?

Former US Presidential Candidate Howard Dean is saying that Nick Clegg could actually win the General Election and become Prime Minister. He's said Nick could be the big winner from Britain's first televised election debates, capitalising on disillusion with the two larger parties.

After the success of the first debate between the various chancellors with the undecided and wavering voters from Vince Cable's performance is is possible. I know Nick will do well and won't be making any pig squels into microphone anytime in the next few weeks. If Gordon is terse and Dave lacks any substance, just like George presenting 'his 'most important pledge' on the morning of the debate, who can tell.

Already I've had one comment that Howard Dean thought he could win the American Presidency as if an inability to learn from past mistakes ruled you out of seeing things clearly and having an opinion. But hang on hasn't Gordon made a mistake over the banks and boom and bust, and where was David Cameron on Black Wednesday again, oh yeah that's right next to my then MP the Chancellor Norman Lamont. If making mistakes, especially political ones, rules you out of public office then that's Gordon and Dave stymied then, enter Nick through that big black door.

Actually come to think of it didn't Nick say something along the lines of wanting to be Prime Minister in Bournemouth last September.

What is the SNP and Plaid Cymru's 'Fairer Funding'?

I've been reading that the SNP and Plaid Cymru are saying they want fair funding. Ieuan Wyn Jones Plaid's leader has said of demands of the other parties in the event of a hung parliament:

"We would demand fairer funding for Wales and Scotland to protect jobs, our schools, our hospitals and the most vulnerable in society.

"At the heart of our platform there would also need to be a real commitment to grow our economies through fast transport links and additional support to create thousands of high-quality jobs in the green and creative industry sectors."

So looking at the departments they want:

  • Enterprise - protected/increased

  • Education - protected

  • Health - protected

  • Business - increased

  • Transport - increased

  • Environment - job creation - increased

By my reckoning that is every single Scottish Department that they either want to see no cuts or increased investment in.

Now watching the Ask the Chancellor's debate I know that what the nationalist parties are asking for above seems to be beyond the reckoning of the UK economy. While yes the most vulnerable in our society should and ought to be protected (I know under the Lib Dems they will be) there is issues in the others. Creating jobs in green and creative industries is something that the Lib Dems promise and the Labour budget has actually gone some way to help with. The Lib Dems are also promising a pupil premium for the most disadvantaged children. Guess what? As a result of the Barnett formula this will mean additional money for Education coming to Scotland and Wales through the calculator.

But let's not beat about the bush while both Alistair Darling and George Osborne failed to answer the question of what cuts they would bring, Vince Cable was honest to say 'None of us can guarantee no cuts in any department'. However, it is how you make those cuts that is significant and how you fund them. There are some things that the SNP would agree with Vince scrapping of Trident, doing away with the ID card database, all projects that will release billions to be used elsewhere meaning less cuts. But the SNP have failed yet to look closer to home. they have failed to look at what they can do to make savings to allow the very goals they expect from others to be as well funded as they want.

Look at the fact that we are now on our third consultation regarding Independence. We have a Scotland Futures Trust that has yet to deliver. These are just two headline issues there are others in the quagmire or quangoism that the SNP have control over. Only a few weeks ago the SNP were saying they were opposed to any cuts in Scotland's budget, reality may have settled in slightly, though not from my reading of the above, now they are saying "More Nats, less cuts". May I ask after this launch, where? Where are they planning the lesser cuts for Scotland if all the devolved areas that they and Plaid Cymru in coalition in Wales have control over are to be protected or enhanced.

I know the song says 'you gotta have a gimmick' but I don't think wearing blinkers and not taking ANY responsible actions in this crisis is a very good look for either Alex Salmond or Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Legal Aid for MP Fraudsters - They 'Aving a Laff

I just cannot believe the audacity of Livingston's Jim Devine, Scunthorpe's Elliot Morley and Bury North's David Chaytor. Not only are they still saying that their fraudulent accounting on their expenses is above the law of the land but on their salariesthey will be claiming legal aid to take the hearing through the magistrates court about why they shouldn't be tried in a court in what are expected to be the days before and of the General Election 4-6 May.

The MPs' QC is apparently charging 150 hours at £250 an hour and £1000 a day for the days in court, just for the hearing where they claim that they should not be tried in a court at all. That is a total of £40,500 or £13,500 each or the equivalent of 21% of their gross salary. In terms of someone on a minimum wage working a 37.5 hr week that is the equivalent of £2428.34 in court costs, if say they were caught fraudulently claiming benefits whilst holding down that job.

Legal Aid is there to help the poor deal with cases they need. This case is raised by the MPs to try and avoid a further court case looking at the actual crime itself being heard in the courts of the land. This money is being spent by them to try and prove that they are above the law. A defence that has sounded hollow since it was first issued from their lips.

They surely have got to be having a laugh, only please don't do so at the tax payers expense, you've tried that once and have been caught out.

It Was This Fair, But....

Seeing this image of Tony Blair taken during yesterday's speech in Sedgefield reminds me of the fisherman's tale.

It was this fair, but it got away.

You know in 1997 I was somewhat excited, sure the Labour landslide meant they didn't have to rely on Lib Dems for support but there was a hope that things might get a little better, if not a Lib Dem better. I'd been a child of Thatcher I was 9 when she entered Downing Street I was 27 when the Conservatives finally left office.

To be honest there was some great fair stuff in that first term. A ten pence tax rate, a national minimum rage, civil partnerships, devolution to Scotland, Wales and erstwhile Northern Ireland (of sorts). But there were also taxes by stealth, the start of a central controlling state over our personal information, but there was pandering to the banks and the unions trying to keep sweet with all and having control over neither.

Then of course near the start of that second term 9/11 happened, thing became even more hyper sensitive, our liberties were getting more and more closed down, as if the terrorists had won, only the terror was coming from our own government. We set out to get rid of Saddam and to hell with a factual accurate reason for doing so or a UN resolution for that matter, we were going in. There were a few brave Labservative members of Parliament who voted with the Lib Dems against war in Iraq on the ground laid out, but they were not enough.

No that 10p tax rate has gone, there are more stealth taxes, the personal allowance of income is frozen despite a 3% inflation rate. So when Tony is saying:

Look, Gordon he's a good friend of mine. He's served for 10 years as chancellor and 3 as Prime Minister, he can give you a future that is fair for all.

Remember that Tony himself promised that things could 'only' get better. Which they have stopped doing for some time now they are getting worse so much for that only. There are 4 steps for a fairer Britain but they are not going to come from voting Labour, or Conservative in this election. It truly is the one that has got away from the Labour Party and the Conservatives have never really had a bite at that particular fish.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Labservative or Time for a Change

Yeah the Labservative's had a rather bad day last night. But here is what they stand for.

You know there is a way to avoid more of the same, vote Liberal Democrat, or do more and get involved in many ways including like the newest member of my local party did today and join us.

Vince on Top in Debate

"The Labour government led us into this mess. They have done severe damage to pensions and savings, they have wasted a vast amount of money on over-centralised public services.

"The Tories presided over two big recessions in office, they wasted most of the North Sea oil revenue, they sold off the family silver on the cheap. Now they want to have another turn to get their noses in the trough and reward their rich backers.

"The Liberal Democrats are different. We got this crisis basically right. We are not beholden to either the super rich or militant unions."Check Spelling

Vince Cable's closing statement in last night's Ask the Chancellors debate on Channel 4. The Guardian says that Vince drew first blood as the election truly kicked off, The Independent says he came out on top of the opening battle.

Even the readers are saying the Vince was head and shoulders above in the Guardian's poll. And the host Channel 4 are reporting that it was Vince that impressed the audience.

Last night it was easy for the supporters of all three parties to be partisan, but watching the neutrals it was clear that Vince was the one that was impressing the people that needed to be impressed, not the party faithful but those yet to decide where they will place their X.

Of course the big two parties are brushing it off, George Osborne in his closing remarks saying "there won't be a Lib Dem government" but if the Lib Dems continue to convince people we are the actual change, we are the ones who finger is on the pulse, you can never tell.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Beware of Tories Bearing Gifts

Unlike the Lib Dems who announced a full tax package [PDF link] at the same time covering who would gain and where this was being paid for, the Tories have announced a cut without the consequences. There was great fanfare last night that seven out of ten would benefit from them halving the Labour increase in National Insurance conributions (NIC) planned for April 2011. But there is no announcement as to where or when they will make up the £5bn shortfall.

There are two possible alternatives that George Osborne may, or more likely not, reveal in the Chancellors debate at 8pm this evening.
  • Fund it by spending cuts
  • Fund it my increasing VAT and removing VAT exemptions
If it is former cuts into what? Will these cuts impinge on the poorest? The very people that the Tories are trying to tell us they are helping.

If it is the latter, while your money would have more value at point of payment, it would lose it at the shops. If the 20% VAT that has been brandied about does come in, the poorest won't be net gainers but net losers. As well as the only 0.5% hike in NIC they will also be suffering from the VAT shift.

The Tory excuse is that NIC is a tax on business as David Cameron said on yesterday's Politics show:

"Remember it's a tax not just on people's incomes but it's also a tax on every business who employs anybody or thinks of employing anyone new."

Only the Lib Dems are offering a clearly fair taxation on the lowest paid. The increase in the personal tax allowance to £10,000 lifts 4 million out of income tax altogether. There is incentive for people to get back to work as the money is theirs rather than returning to the exchequer.

Labour have effectively frozen the personal allowance to get more tax out of us, the Conservatives are only going half the increase and possibly introduce more indirect taxation to hit the poor elsewhere, possibly more severely.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Future Evolution of the Lib Dem Bar Chart

Thanks to Lib Dem Voice's 2x2 this morning for this to cheer up the shortest night.

Now to just work out how to get in unto literature and into people's letter boxes.

Only joking James and Kez.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Return of the Pledge Card

Just when you thought it was safe to walk past a Labour activist's pocket the pledge cards are back. Yeah Gordon Brown will be unveiling Labour's 2010 pledge card this weekend.

  • secure the recovery
  • raise family living standards
  • build a hi-tech economy
  • protect frontline investment in policing, schools, childcare and the NHS – with a new guarantee of cancer test results within a week
  • strengthen fairness in communities through controlled immigration, guarantees of education, apprenticeships and jobs for young people and a crackdown on antisocial behaviour.
Following Wednesday's budget we know that "Future Fairness for All" doesn't include in the tax system and so it is obviously missed off the pledges. Instead money is going to be spent on state funding citizens' rights to take anti-social offenders to court. People will be entitled to take out civil actions and get funded by the state if police are not taking action within a set time. So that sounds like another target for our overstretched police force.

There is also a promise of more constitution reform than ever before. However, the headline policy in that is the 13-year-old pledge to bring legislation to have an elected House of Lords.

As Matt Porter the Guardian's creative director says:

"The political message is only revealed on closer inspection, which perhaps is the point - voters are more interested in mueseli or medication than policy."

Judge for yourself.

Their guarantees of education, apprenticeships and jobs for young people is only after six demoralising months of unemployment. Having graduated when I did in the last recession nothing is worse than having finished your education and got no work to go into. But Nick Clegg below has promised that the Lib Dems won't wait that long, but after 90 days young people will be placed in a job, training or internship. It is time to give hope to the thousands of young people who have been hit hard while Labour failed to secure us from boom and bust.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Digital Economy Bill Now On the Agenda - Take Action Now! #DEB #DEBill

Yesterday at 11:35 am Harriet Harman announced in an almost throw away line to the commons:

The business for next week is as follows:


Tuesday 6 April-Second Reading of the Digital Economy Bill [ Lords ], followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Equality Bill.

With recent events the letter from 25 Lib Dem PPCs Bridget Fox, Islington South & Finsbury, Julian Huppert, Cambridge, Martin Tod, Winchester, Farid Ahmed, Walthamstow, Jon Ball, Ealing Central & Acton, Alan Beddow, Warwick & Leamington, Mike Bell, Weston-super-Mare, Duncan Borrowman, Old Bexley & Sidcup, Sal Brinton, Watford, Belinda Brooks-Gordon, West Suffolk, Alan Bullion, Sevenoaks, Adrian Collett, Aldershot, Andrew Dakers, Brentford & Isleworth, Sue Doughty, Guildford, Helen Duffett, Romford, Merlene Emerson, Hammersmith,
Gareth Epps, Reading East, Ed Fordham, Hampstead & Kilburn, Steve Goddard, Oxford East,
Simon McDougall, Bognor Regis & Littlehampton, Jo Shaw, Holborn & St Pancras, Sandy Walkington, St Albans, Peter Welch, Southend West, Munira Wilson, Feltham & Heston, Simon Wright, Norwich South. Which I, and I know others, would happily have added our names to. Although I hadn't been selected back when it was written.

Then the passing of the Freedom, Creativity and the Internet motion at Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham. But then yesterday in the comments about the business of the House nothing from the Lib Dem Members of Parliament. I have the feeling we need a large intake of fresh Lib Dem MPs who understand the complexity of this issue as those who were there yesterday didn't catch on to the urgency. That sense of immediate action that had taken us through conference about this one Bill before the House and how we didn't want it in the wash up. Sadly it now looks like being likely where it could end up now judging by the timing announced by the leader of the House and when we all expect Gordon to go to the Palace just before this is due to be debated.

As Bridget Fox one of the architects of the motion and the letter pointed out our MPs currently only deserve two cheers. As she points out our Department of Culture, Media and Sport team have said:

"The controversial parts of the Bill will need to be scrutinised and voted upon by the next parliament before they can be brought into law. Liberal Democrats MPs would not support these sections of the Bill without this process."
On web-blocking they are emphatic

"We do not believe that measures to address site blocking can reasonably be included in the Digital Economy Bill and we will not support any such measures."

On disconnection without proof less clear, which I like Bridget am a little concerned about.

"The Liberal Democrats are unconvinced of the merits of measures such as temporary account suspension or bandwidth throttling"

Please don't tell me they want to be convinced. They do propose a set of technical measures, to be met before any disconnection would be possible; the main ones are that copyright infringers would be notified by letter, without any risk of their Internet connection being affected for at least a year, and that any process to disconnect users explicitly assumes their innocence until they are proven guilty.

They did also pick up on the issue of open access sites being vulnerable to such actions:

"We believe there is inadequate protection in the Bill for schools, libraries, universities and other businesses offering Internet access to the public.....We will take further action in the Commons to improve the legislation."

The third cheer will only occur if we don't get a washed up decision on this issue. We need to get proper scrutiny on some of those complex issues that the time allowed currently or in a wash up is not worthy of the issue at hand. If you haven't written yet to your MP please write, if you have already do what Scott at Love and Garbage has done and write again.

Bad Quote of the Day

"Women make up 52% of the population... There are more women than men, so why should men be proposing to men?"
Sadly this quote comes from Morgan Tsvangirai Zimbabwe's Prime Minister echoing the approach of President Robert Mugabe not to enshrine gay rights into the new constitution. Mugabe had said:

"That issue is not debatable, it's not up for discussion.

"It is just madness, insanity. The ancestors will turn in their graves should we allow this to happen."

Sadly it those highlight the naivety of many of the African nations. Not enshrining gay rights in the constitution is not going to make men who fancy men start to propose to the women folk. What about the women who fancy women. If we are always to rely on how the ancestors would have done things we would never have progressed.

Look at the first reactions to trains, electricity, flying. All of these are also things that our ancestors would have looked at as witchcraft or sorcery but are part and parcel of every day life. So too should be the rights of every individual wherever they reside irrespective of race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation.

This news from Zimbabwe follows on from the Uganda Bill to make homosexuality punishable by life imprisionment, or death in some circumstances, a gay couple in Malawi serving three months in prision for holding a party to celebrate their engagement, and Kenyan police intervening after rumours that a gay couple where planning a wedding.

This post has been sent via email therefore spacing and fonts may not appear at my usual standard. Also there may be links to other relevant blog entries or other content added later today along with adding the correct tagging.


The Times They are a Chargin' - The Musical

When my Uncle first found out I was learning guitar my Christmas present that year was a Bob Dylan songbook. It didn't get much use from me before, I think, I swapped it while at University for a couple of tickets for a new up-coming band called Seymour, you may know them better as Blur. However, one of those songs, indeed it is probably the only one I actually learnt how to play, does seem rather appropriate for a little Stephen Glenn alteration today.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
A click on a Times link
Will soon make you groan
And accept it that soon
You'll be charged to the bone
If your Times to you
Is worth skimmin'
Then you better start spendin'
Online your news fix to own
For the Times they are a-chargin'.

Come writers and critics
Who spread the news with your pen
>Keep keyboards active
And news free from the pain
And don't link from blogs
For the readers won't win
And there's no tellin' who
That it's readin'
The Times loser now
All the others will win
If the Times they go a-chargin'.

Come Guardian, Telegraph
Please heed the call
Don't charge for your content
Don't put up paywalls
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who installed
A charge to look inside
And it is ragin'
And we'll not open windows
For others we'll fall
When the Times they start a-chargin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the world
And don't charge what's free
That's so very absurd
Your sons and your daughters
Are being charged for words
Your old way is
Rapidly agin'
Please get the new way
Where you widen web's world
But the Times they are a-chargin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
Backward step now
Will later be blast
As the present row
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
The Times of London
Is stuck in the past
So the Times they are a-chargin'.

Music of Bob Dylan, words rearranged by Stephen Glenn (with no assistance from William de Worde*)

* A little mention to the editor of the Anhk-Morpork Times for all my Discworld fan readers. Actually I'd like to see Terry Pratchett's take on this whole situation of the online media overtaking the as yet young and fledgling newspaper industry. A sort of Web 2.0 version of Moving Pictures.

The Times They are a Chargin'

Or why the Times Online business model is turning me off

Or after 22 years readership the grand divorce

Younger readers may not realise this but when I first attended an institute of Higher Education my day started in the University Library in the newspaper and periodical sectio scanning the newspapers. Back then they were all broadsheets none of this Berliner or Tabloid format. The reason being that 22 years ago the papers were not online. Their archives where available on microfilm or microfiche after a few months, or in a filing cabinet in the Library until they were available.

I was studying Economics and in our first week we were told, no instructed, no make that ordered to read the Financial Times plus at least two other papers from different parts of the political spectrum. I chose all three of the The Times, The Guardian and The Independent but for the one I used my student discount to buy and have as my own I chose The Times. One of my shelves in my bedroom became my own catalogue of the back issues for that year and I had a card index or relevant stories. Oh how Google would have made my student days easier.

The reason I'd chosen the Times was not because of its 'balanced' reporting, nor was its political view closest to my own, but because it had the fullest sports section. I even got to see the Northern Irish football results on a Monday morning, almost collapsing one morning in my first year when Bangor where third in the league. I called home to clarify this wasn't an early April Fool joke.

Therefore as Caron has pointed out the news that News International are going to charge for their online edition is making me rethink. I still buy a morning paper every morning and skim the others online. My morning blog post in usually inspired from what I have read or seen on the early BBC breakfast news.It normally gets written up on the bus, it usually includes some quote or other. Obviously I'm cutting and pasting those and linking to the source material

Now if I'm already paying a pound a day for a paper copy of the Time I'm loathe to pay an additional pound a day or £2 a week for an occasional (actually frequent) quote. I only visit the pages online I generally have read in the paper copy for the reason of capturing a quote. I'm also not going to direct my readers to a subscription only service.Therefore now that the Time is not cheaper than the Guardian, and is actually more expensive than the Scotsman now in paper form I'm likely from June to switch my reading habits.

You will have already seen a shift in my linking habits as New International have flagged this potential online charging service. I suspect many other bloggers will follow suit and you wonder just what sort of impact that will have on the Times' online footfall. Knowing the number of out clicks that I get that go to the news sources quoted multiplied by the number of blogs out there it would be quite high I imagine, plus the casual reader will not be willing to chip a pound for browsing.

It is a pity that the Times don't seem to get the media in the 21st Century. The Scotsman only have some articles that premium subscribers have to pay for. Thinks like editorials and comments and certain columnists for example, the bulk of 'the news'is freely available online.

Maybe the Times are wanting us all to go back to that image of huddling in the library to read our newspapers in the online sections. Instead of wrestling with broadsheets and newsprint struggling with the indexing system.

Campaign Diary - Candidates' and Agents' Briefing

Last night was my first visit to the new West Lothian Civic Centre, the building is very impressive, but I wasn't there for a tour but for the business of the candidates and agents briefing ahead of the general election.

Having been to a few counts elsewhere I have to tell voters that the team in West Lothian is one of the most well organised there is and at the same time one of the best for transparency and accuracy as well. Indeed when I turned up to the Electoral Commission meeting at conference and they heard where I was from they said, "You'll have no problems then". They went through all of the new changes that both us poor candidates or our agents and they as count staff will be having to go through. One key issue that a lot of voters are concerned with is the issue of postal votes. There will be an awful lot of these in the two seats Linlithgow & East Falkirk and Livingston.

However, there is verification equipment in place to check the identifiers for the postal voters. Because this verification will lengthen the verification of postal votes instead of only a few postal vote verifications they will be running one on each day leading up to the election itself. It is also because of on the day postal votes that the counts will probably all be somewhat later this year. Don't expect Sunderland South to declare before 11 this year.

By law the count team only have to sample 20% of the postal votes but West Lothian are going to treat every vote as equal and aim to verify all 100% of the postal votes that come in for both seats. I did say they are top notch for accuracy.

Having seen these guys at work on election nights and days for the past nine years I can expect them to run operations as smoothly as possible. They are aiming to have the count declared by 2 or 3 am, the only thing that might postpone that is if the verification equipment or its backup breaks down. We're all touching wood that this doesn't happen.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

North Down's Independent Unionist MP

North Down my home constituency is renowned for its mavericks at least in my life time.
In 1970 they returned Jim Kilfedder as an Ulster Unionist MP, but he resigned from the party seven years later to become an Independent Unionist in 1977 then formed the Ulster Popular Unionist Party which was basically him and a few local councillors. At the end of his time he was challenged in 1987 by Bob McCartney who stood as a real Unionist. Bob had actually been his Ulster Unionist opponent in the previous 1983 election. McCartney then went out to fight as a UK Unionist in the 1995 by election following Kilfedder's death. His party has a slightly wider sphere of influence though briefer, reaching into Stangford, Lagan Valley, Antrim South and Antrim East, with MLA in the first Assembly until the others fell out with McCartney.
So in 2001 when North Down elected Ulster Unionist Sylvia Hermon as their MP it was the first time in my memory that they had a mainstream Northern Irish party holding the seat in Westminster. On Monday as Lady Sylvia was cosying up to Ian Paisley and making an intervention during Peter Robinson's speech on the new Northern Irish provisions for Justice devolution she said:
"I want to put on record that this Ulster Unionist representative in this House-for whatever time is left to me to speak for the party here..."
I said on twitter is this Sylvia announcing to the House that she is to stand again as an Independent? I appear to have been correct, today she has resigned from the Ulster Unionists and made that announcement:
"I have taken a considerable amount of time to think and to reflect before coming to this decision, but I believe it to be the right one for the Party and for me.

"The tremendous support I have received from constituents during the recent stressful and difficult time in my political life has encouraged me greatly, and convinced me that I ought to run again as a candidate."

You know what? Knowing North Down politics as well as I do I reckon that is one seat that David Cameron and Reg Empey don't have a hope of wrestling off the incumbent. North Down likes their mavericks and they have one again.

This post has been sent via email therefore spacing and fonts may not appear at my usual standard. Also there may be links to other relevant blog entries or other content added later today along with adding the correct tagging.

D-Day for Digital Economy Bill #DEB

Despite what your Labour MPs may be telling you about how they agree that the Digital Economy Bill deserves a full debate. Or that it is not appearing on the order papers and therefore not likely to appear before the house before the dissolution.

The rumours last night are that today there will be announcement that the 3rd reading in the House of Commons is going to get 90 minutes. Just as people will be protesting outside. It may only take an hour and 30 minutes minutes to see large holes left in the Internet and families cut off from the web, companies becoming backwaters because of the actions of some geezer on the third floor, without right of comeback or presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. That is not enough time to give the complexity of this issue debate and scrutiny.

This is not good enough.

The Bill is poorly drafted, draconian and diabolical. Worthy of Lord Voldemort of Hartlepool and Foy but not of this country and its citizens.

Myopia of the Long-Sighted Fool

by Peter Brookes in The Times 25 March 2010

There are three things about Alistair Darling's budget statement that point out just how ineffectual he is in the role of chancellor on the shifting tide of current economic situation. The first is his setting of the personal income tax allowance, the second his long range growth forecasts, the third is the unexpected larger return on taxing bankers bonuses.

"I have no further announcements on VAT, on income tax or on national insurance rates."

Normally by that point of the statement the chancellor has announced changes to the personal allowance at which tax is started to be paid. Apparently the decision to freeze the personal tax allowance at £6475 came when the retail price index dipped below zero in September. At the time the retail cost index which actually has a more direct relevance to the lowest paid was still over 1%. RPI has rising steadily since then to 3.1% now. Instead of taking a mean, or median month over the last 12 months to make the adjustment to the personal allowance the chancellor took the best performing month and used that as a benchmark, or rather as a way to penalise the lowest paid with an extra £48 tax a year. Many of them are not enjoying the luxury of the 1.5% this year that the MPs have received, in fact that is double my increase over the last 2 years.

"This year, as I said in last year’s Budget speech and last year’s pre-Budget report, I expect the economy to grow by between 1 and 1½ per cent. I have decided to revise slightly downwards my forecast for 2011 to bring it into line with those of the Bank of England, to growth of between 3 and 3½ per cent."

The second is what is often pointed out as being Alistair Darling's over optimistic growth forecasts. The independent sources tend come to a figure which seems reasonable, though even the IMF have been over optimistic, yet the chancellor has been prone to double that. Has he realised the error of his ways by scaling back his prediction for next year. Well he hasn't scaled it back by the amount he was wrong and is still well above the scaled back level that the IMF have predicted. Below is the Bank of England's predictions and even they add the caveat that there is only a one in ten prospect of hitting the darkest segment.

"At the time of the pre-Budget report I put in place a one-off 50 per cent tax on the excessive bonuses of bankers....I can tell the House that that tax has raised £2 billion—more than twice as much as was forecast. That is money paid by the banks, and those receiving bonuses will, of course, also have to pay income tax at the highest rate."

The unexpected doubling of the return than what Darling was expecting on bankers bonuses being taxed at 50%. Err, duh. Lets do the maths.

Alistair predicts X returns from taxing Y bonuses at 50%

Therefore 2X=Y

Alistair receives 2X returned from taxing bonuses at 50% therefore bonuses =2Y. Bankers take home after taxation Y in bonuses. So the net effect is negligible to the bankers but and extra bit out of the banks money, when they could be using more of that to pay back the bail outs.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Tam Doesn't Get the Social Media Generation

Earlier I blogged about how the SNP had made an epic fail with their "Jim Murphy on Facebook? #EPICFAIL" headline. Well they have just been trumped by my SNP opponent in the General Election Tam Smith. Who has just tweeted:

Being intrigued I followed the link but got this:

Yeah, that's right I get a locked area of his website. Who knows what he was wanting to say about the Labour Secretary of State for Scotland.

I was wondering what his other 11 followers were making of it until I realised how many were backing me.

There is something about glasshouses and stones being thrown inadvisably.

Cider House Rules Maybe

I think the operator of the Official SNP Twitter account has been quaffing too much cider before the tax increase at midnight.

First all seemed normal and a policy I actually agree with.

I mean the differential in fuel pricing between those with good public transport provision and those that don't, and therefore need to use their own vehicle, most notably in rural Scotland is grotesque.

But then soon after the SNP seemed to want to have their cake and eat it too.

So it appears that Darling can raise the 3p extra on fuel if he wants to as long as he gives it to Scotland!!! Yeah I think if I'm following that train of thought correctly the SNP fuel policy is:

Fair fuel is want we want but if we can't get it, it's Scotland oil so give us the money.

But the cider drinking continued with the result of secondary school elections (not sure if these are mock election of SYP ones [not clear in the press release]) in Aberdeenshire earning the headline and tweet.

Reading the actual story it turns out to be ab epic fail. On the day of the UK budget this is your first story after the event! They later actually look at a real benefit for Scotand's computer games industry but to release this as your response when everyone else is looking at the budget and the fall out is an epic fail.

The headline is a question "Jim Murphy on Facebook?" So you would expect that the object of the question being on the subject would be in question and therefore the epic fail of the hashtag. But no it is poor grammar, something that the winners of the elections in Aberdeenshire I expect would like to put right. Although I do love one quote in the piece which I have taken and changed to make a true statement (my changes in red)

"It is the Lib Dems which trust Scotland's young people to have their say - that's why we've consistently supported giving the vote to 16 and 17 year olds.

"It is the Lib Dems which is introduc promising record more apprenticeships and paid internships, more college places, guaranteed training or education after 3 months unemployed and more investment in youth-services. It is the Lib Dems who care about young people, and it is only with Lib Dems MPs that we can block cuts ensure further investment to the services young people cherish."
The SNP will block cuts in investment in youth the Lib Dems though the Barnett formula differential will be providing more for that end. I believe it is protected for that purpose and might well be in agreement with a Scottish government.

So there you have it, either a cider induced afternoon in the SNP media centre of a somewhat epic fail. I'll let you decide.

Dooh Nibor Tax Breaks

I have long been arguing for Labour to stop using the regressive taxes such as national insurance and VAT to get their pound of flesh especially from the poor and deal with progressive taxes. Well today Alistair Darling did that but what has he done. It is another example of Dooh Nibor* taxation like the doubling of the 10% tax rate. It may not be as bad but it is another move in that direction. The personal allowance has not gone up from £6,475, this at a time when the Chancellor capped all public sector pay to a 1% increase, inflation is running at about 3%.

Pensions have been removed from index linking and now so has the personal tax allowance. The worse off are going to suffer more yet again. Yes they may well get a pay rise bit more of it is taxable and therefore their tax burden increases once again. Add on to this the fuel increase 3% in stages. I can see the bus fares increasing in stages at each increase and yet again by a higher percentage than the actual add on to the costs.

Under the Lib Dems the income tax personal allowance would rise to £10,000 pounds. The poor would be better off not worse as Labour have left them in this final budget before the general election. Yes it is costed Jeff counter balanced with making the tax system fairer, closing far more loopholes that Darling did earlier but as you say Labour have launched an attack on the poor.

As for the increase tax on cider, as David Heath has just said in the commons, it takes year to grow a harvest capable of producing cider. The sudden increase may well affect the artisan ciders rather than the high alcohol mass produced drinks that are a source of binge drinking. Heath suggested a production volume exception or a alcohol level to incur the 10% increase as alternatives rather than the flat rate suggested. But hey, flat rates are the Labour way.

* Robin Hood in reverse taking from the poor etc.

Building Blocks for a Recovery?

Today is probably going to be different from any of the other pre-election budgets I've heard since the 1980s. There isn't the leeway that is normally allowed to make it a give-away budget to all and sundry.

However, the effects of this budget may also be short lived, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are promising an emergency budget in the event of them winning the General Election and it is not even clear if what the Chancellor sets out now would be what a Labour Government wants to stick to if it is returned to power.

So what are the main themes that are being speculated about. The Guardian tells us Darling is looking to close tax loopholes, though not tellingly some of the ones that Labour themselves helped open up that Vince Cable has highlighted. The Times tells us that nuclear power and wind will be at the heart of a green economic recovery, but what about other renewables and indeed what about Vestas the UK's only wind turbine manufacturing plant when it shut down about this time last year that was hardly a 'prudent' failure last year to echo Lib Dem recovery plans now.

The little man above is made of 44 blocks of Lego, I think he is more capable of steering Britain out of this recession that was deepened by Gordon Brown's budgeting while chancellor. Not that I think George Osborne is any better. Will Labour build out of a future to make it fairer to the ordinary tax payer? I doubt it their record speaks for itself, they'll use VAT and National Insurance to raise revenue like they have done for 13 years, making the poorest pay proportionately higher taxation than the richest who can employ accountants to get them around payment of so much.

While Labour are looking at off-shore loopholes the Liberal Democrats have also pointed out some of the loopholes created by Labour and the Conservatives before them that also need addressed. Plus we'll be lifting the threshold to make the minimum wage almost a tax free full time wage.

The budget today may in the words of Holywood go straight to DVD, it will be replaced by the blockbuster to come as the real deal, the one that really will take us through the next 12 months. Whether that has Lib Dem input or indeed leadership is up to the people.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Lib Dems Were Leading On Lobbying Too

The whole lobbygate issue that has seen Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt see out their last days in the commons suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party is another case where the Lib Dems called for more transparency.

Just as in the summer of 2008 my Lib Dem colleagues placed an amendment to make the expenses more transparent and in line with most employees, in October 2006 they also looked to tackle the lobbying situation. Unlike the expenses where some from each of the other parties almost made the amendment pass, with lobbying Labour voted against and the Tories just sat on their hands and abstained.

So while David Cameron is taking the opportunity to call for an investigation into this lobbying case, why hadn't he or his party taken action about the possibility in the past? The answer is quite probably that they are gaining from it themselves, just not caught on camera as the Labour former ministers have been.

Yet again it is the Liberal Democrats who had been leading the campaign to clean up politics, something that the Davey come lately only signed up for last month.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Scottish Televsion Underdog Supporter #STVFail

At the moment all the ITV regions bar those in Scotland are watching the Nick Clegg interview with Mary Nightingale. So what you say?

Well we have had the Gordon Brown interview with Piers Morgan and the David Cameron one with Trevor McDonald. The latter is the issue, there is one Conservative MP in Scotland, their leader in Scotland Annabel Goldie has said that Cameron can win the Westminster election without taking seats in Scotland. Oppose that to Nick Clegg who has 12 of his MPs in Scotland is determined that his party will take more. Of all the people that the people of Scotland need to know about is the one who says that it is the people who will be kingmakers in the event of a hung government, but we will do it on what we believe.

What we believe is likely to be front and foremost in this interview, yet that is not going to be shown now on Sunday night just after Dancing on Ice and the news like Brown and Cameron have had.

STV must justify why they are supporting the smallest Westminster group of the Scottish parties in this way while ignoring the second largest.

Stephen Gately Tribute

I'm having a little down time watching the Stephen Gately tribute and as the show started I suddenly remembered another connection between the two of us.
  • We're both Irish (though North and South)
  • We're both Stephen Patrick G.
  • We both sing.
But on his first birthday (St. Patrick's day) after his death that was also the day that I was selected to once again stand for Linlithgow and East Falkirk. Maybe this campaign is my own little personal tribute to that other Stephen Patrick whose memory I defended against a certain newspaper article on this blog back last year.

Michael Connarty Reponse on Digital Economy Bill

On 16th March I sent the following email to Michael Connarty my Labour MP and opponent once again in the General Election regarding the worrying advance of the Digital Economy Bill.


I am rather concerned by the events in the Lords yesterday of the passing of third reading of the Digital Economy Bill. Further I am concerned that as we approach the end of this session this complex issue is going to pass unto the statute books without proper scrutiny, consultation or consideration when it returns to the commons.

I spent a lot of the end of last week lobbying Scottish members of my party who were in Birmingham to first get this issue into our emergency motion slot and then to take action. There was even a letter from 25 of our PPCs and many more have since added their support urging our peers to go further with their amendment to secure civil liberties as well as copyright law in the process. In the end our Freedom, Internet and Creativity motion passed with only one representative against.

To summarise my main concerns of the impact it will have :

* This bill, if it becomes law will allow Websites to be blocked by ISPs, search engines and others at the request of "rights owners", without any court involvement or appeals process.. websites will just disappear from view, without warning or notification or even any evidence of wrongdoing.

* This bill, if it becomes law will allow record companies to force ISPs to disconnect users without court involvement, appeals or proof.

* This bill will allow media giants to "steal" copyright property (images, software, music) wholesale by "mistakenly" assuming they are orphaned works.

This bill will add huge costs to every aspect of the Internet in the UK, from additional legal and technical costs, to hampering businesses and harming free speech and competition.

I know that time is running out but I would urge you to prevent this draconian bill being pushed through the house without debate or proper review in the final rush to pass bills before the House rises. This is one matter that by its complexity needs proper examination rather than the somewhat knee-jerk reactionary bill that Lord Mandleson has brought forward.

Yours faithfully

Stephen Glenn

I have just recieved Michael's repsonse which I will also publish in full.
I agree.


Your Economy Needs Vince

The Treasury are taking Liberal Democrat economic policy seriously. They have called in Vince Cable for detailed discussions with the permanent secretary Nicholas Macpherson about the Lib Dems will be demanding from both Labour and the Conservatives in the light of a coalition, and the possibility that neither George Osborne or Alistair Darling will be Chancellor but Vince.

Of the meeting Vince has said:

"[Nicholas Macpherson] wanted to know what we attached priority to. He wanted to know what we felt strongly about."

He added that the Liberal Democrat ideas on tax and spending were well received and he wasn't told by the Permanent Secretary that he couldn't do that.

Vince had seen the issues with the banks that unraveled in 2008 a full 6 years earlier, and like a modern day John the Baptist was preaching from the wilderness that was the Lib Dem benches. Now he is being considered as a serious and credible candidate to get the economy out of this mess, not just by the Treasury but also by the Labour and Conservative parties.

I think it is a clear sign that a Lib Dem vote is not going to be wasted. If it returns more and retains all of my colleagues in the House, making the likelihood of a hung parliament more likely, we could well have the safest pair of hands on the tiller for economic recovery.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Former West Lothian Candidate Dies

When I first moved to West Lothian there were two names outwith my own party that the political activists held in awe. One result may have determined the paths of their political careers, but both were held high.

For Labour there was Tam Dalyell for the SNP there was Billy Wolfe. The two went head to head when this was just one West Lothian seat, before there was 'The Question', in the 1962 by election that was the start of the former Father of the House's career. The latter a former leader of the SNP has passed away aged 86 in the final weeks before the next General Election. They were to face each other another 6 times in the contest the closest being in 1974.

The Watsonian* (who had earlier also attended Bathgate Academy on Marjoribanks Street) was still held in high esteem with local SNP activists, even appearing on a recent leaflet from my opponent Tam Smith. That other West Lothian Nat Alex Salmond has paid tribute saying:

"Billy Wolfe blazed the trail in the professionalisation and organisation of the SNP, and he more than anyone transformed it into a modern political party."

It was in the year of my birth that Billy became leader of the SNP after 3 years from 1966 as Deputy leader and he stood down in 1980. He'd led the party to their largest Westminster tally in February 1974 and the first devolution referendum (which sparked 'The Question') in 1979.

Away from politics he ran an Chieftain Forge, a spade and shovel forge manufacturing agricultural machinery, which may well have been used on my family farm in Donegal. But when politics took over he closed the business.

He may have moved just over the boundary in South Lanarkshire but my thoughts go out to his widow Mary, his children David, Sheila, Ilene and Patrick, Tam Smith and all the SNP team in West Lothian.

Read Also: The First SNP blog to pass tribute is Calum Cashley's personal tribute.

*Former pupil of George Watson College, Edinburgh.

An Apology You Won't See From Iain Dale or Guido

Further to my earlier post I think this is needed following the partisan line taken by others (named above)
In common with other commentators, we may in the past have given readers the impression that Conservative MPs were, in the area of Dolphin Square cash payments, paragons of virtue. We may have written sentences like "The Tories have escaped censure," and "The Tories have emerged from the scandal smelling like a baby's powdered arse, or "The Lib Dems gaze at then Tories and Labour benches (and indeed neighbouring flat occupiers) in bewilderment at the smell of Mr Sheen, who, like Tory MPs, shines everything clean." Headlines such as "Tories all square over Dolphin" and "Tories escape sleaze cash" may have reinforced the view that David Cameron and his band of merry men truly are the unsullied virgins of modern day politics.

We now realise there was not a jot or scintilla of truth in the above. We are happy to put on record that the Conservatives and indeed Labour are now exposed as not only similar offenders offenders but as those who cowered rather than asking for clarification. They should be classed as even lower that the brave Lib Dem politicians who though they transgressed House of Commons rules reported themselves to the Standards and Privileges Committee.

We would therefore like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to our readers for deviating from our normal critical and non-partisan analysis of what goes on in our party and for believing that Conservative MPs at last had some light of hope to crow about. In future we will avoid phrases such as "we didn't get caught" and "what about you you did it too" when writing about the expenses of or donations to Conservative MPs. We thank you.
Sorry no offence Iain, you would.....err have done the same.

Openness from Lib Dems but What of Labour and Tories

I can remember where I was when I first heard of the Dolphin Square property situation, I was preparing Lib Dem posters ahead of last year's European election.It was at the height of the MPs expenses scandals that the Lib Dem MPs raised the issue with the Standards and Privileges Committee. The one reaction of those around me was "stupid".
The fact that the payment was made by the landlord in return for them agreeing to pay higher rates meant that the payment should have been made to the public purse rather than their own pockets. I think you will hear within hours that Richard Younger-Ross, John Barrett, Sandra Gidley and Paul Holmes will all be announcing that they plan to return that payment. After all they referred themselves to the committee for a ruling that has now duly been given.
However, I also know names of other MPs from the other parties who lived there and also accepted the payment. As Nick Clegg said:
"I am very pleased that Lib Dem MPs acted promptly and correctly in referring themselves and making clear they would comply with the recommendations of the committee.

"In stark contrast, nearly a year later, Labour and Conservative MPs who accepted the offer from the Dolphin Square landlord have neither referred themselves nor been referred by their parties."

So before anybody from the other parties gets to uppity about the named Liberal Democrats you have to ask why the members of other parties haven't come forward to the committee or their own parties. The Standards and Privileges Committee have said, while asking those known to apologise and repay, that they are aware of other MPs having accepted "cash windfalls", but said it had no information as these had not been referred to it or the subject of complaints. It currently is a case of those who have owned up are getting tarred with a brush that those who have taken no action are getting away with.

This post has been sent via email therefore spacing and fonts may not appear at my usual standard. Also there may be links to other relevant blog entries or other content added later today along with adding the correct tagging.

Better Greener Buses

We all know that Labour thought it was a smart idea to allow every car over 10 years old to be part of their scrappage scheme, despite the fact that some of those cars probably weren't that great a pollutant to the environment.
However, yesterday as part of Labour's call for better buses in Scotland at Holyrood Liberal democrat transport spokeswoman Alison McInnes call for that scheme to be transferred to buses.
"The bus industry is critical for vast areas of Scotland, especially areas without good train links. Scotland deserves bus services fit for the 21st century.

"We need measures to support the industry through the recession. Greener buses would help achieve Scotland's ambitious carbon targets."

So while Labour were calling for a £3 million fund of grants, the Liberal Democrats were taking Labour's own policy to its natural conclusion. As Alison pointed out there is potential for 200 new jobs in Scotland in manufacturing of green hybrid buses, just the sort of fillip that would help Alex Salmond answer Tavish Scott's question in First Minister Questions yesterday about what he is doing about Scottish unemployment.

This post has been sent via email therefore spacing and fonts may not appear at my usual standard. Also there may be links to other relevant blog entries or other content added later today along with adding the correct tagging.

Election Campaign Diary Day One

Well yesterday was the first full 24 hour period of being selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Linlithgow and East Falkirk. So while I wasn't blogging I was busy with other stuff online which may to a casual observer seem trivial are none the less vitally important.

For example no longer am I merely a politico who blogs, I am a parliamentary candidate that blogs so certain subtle changes to my online presences had to be made to keep everything open, honest and legal.

One of the highlights for me in the first 24 hours was after letting the wider world know that I had been selected once again to contest this seat for the Scottish Liberal Democrats to find that when I went to Wikipedia to edit the constituency page that somebody had already beaten me to it. That is something that hadn't happened 5 years ago, much of the online presence outwith the party websites was promoted by myself.

There are, if we are facing a May 6th election only 48 days (and as I type at the Deer Park roundabout 10 minutes) until the polls open. Of course it is not that I haven't been doing nothing in the last 5 years. I have been attending public meetings, knocking on doors and talking to local people about local issues in the constituency, then taking these up with the relevant representative. Anyone who lives in the constituency and wants to ask me a question can either email me at stephen4linlithgow at gmail dot com [correct the anti spamming yourself] or as some did last night ask me a question through my Twitter ID either a DM or an @stephenpglenn.

This is one election where no party is able to take the people for granted. Many of our politicians made sure of that over the revelations of recent months. The Liberal Democrats had campaigned for openness in Government and in the summer of 2008 had voted for changes to the expenses system ahead of the mess that unravelled last summer. If elected I will continue to make sure that our politics at Westminster are properly cleaned up, not the half hearted efforts of Labour and the Conservatives when they were caught out, but giving real power back to the people.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Jeff's Crystal Ball Not all Wonky

No Jeff has been worried that his crystal ball has been a bit wonky of late. Well I thin that on this St Patrick's night this Irishman will be able to partly put his mind to rest.

Almost 18 months ago, conveniently on my birthday so I could remember the date, he blogged:

"Stephen Glenn is expected to stand in Linlithgow and Falkirk East for the Liberal Democrats. A very tough contest indeed for the genial Ulsterman."
My response to him at the time was:

"But I'm expected to stand then am I? You know the result of the selection process before I do, do you? ;)"

Because until tonight the good Liberal Democrat party in West Lothian hadn't selected their candidates for the General Election. However, they did prove Jeff right in deciding that there wasn't "a Lib Dem better credentialed than [my] good self" in given me another turn as the candidate for Linlithgow and East Falkirk. Jeff wasn't alone both Michael Connarty and Tam Smith have asked me am I the candidate, I've had to say only that my name would be in the hat before tonight.

The West Lothian have also kept up the continuity from 2005 by selection Fauldhouse's own Charles Dundas once again as the candidate for Livingston.

You may notice one or two changes around the blog to indicate this event, one of which much as a regret doing is putting comments unto pre-moderation. The main reason for this is that I cannot be always available to check comments that go up. In light of recent events on other blogs this an action I feel I have no alternative with my current position but to face. I apologise for the inconvenience.

Happy St Patrick's Day

As an Irishman you'd expect me to be celebrating St. Patrick's day this evening. Well I may have a dram of Whiskey (note the spelling) later to celebrate but there is a local party meeting this evening first.

Of course that doesn't stop my blog from celebrating without me.

As a Northern Irishman it is over to the Muppets to sing the song of our country.

As a Rugby fan I'm still on a high from the events around the time of the last St. Patrick's day. Ok there was a bit of disappointment on St. Valentine's day but our hearts were soon put back after being broken at Twickenham.

Mind you to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of one of Ireland's most famous exports this was the advert.

Sláinte mhaith.

Is Labour Control of Information to Blame?

This morning in the Independent we learnt that the the Youth Justice Board are not publishing their figures on youth crime as scheduled but in 6 months time. An official at the government agency has said that the reason for this is official "purdah" period. The former Civil Servant in me is screaming Gordon hasn't gone to the Palace yet he can't be suppressing reports under the election "purdah" period, that is unless the politico in me has missed the actually calling of the General Election (and I know that hasn't happened).

We also have Helen Goodman Labour MP for Bishop Auckland crying out:

"The police have talked to me about [mephedrone] and have really made the case for a legal ban on it.

She said it should for two reasons: "One is that it would send out a clear message to young people about how very dangerous it is.

"Secondly, it would mean that the police have more powers for dealing with it.

"The police have told me that there are people standing outside the primary school in one of the villages in my constituency trying to push that to people under the age of 12.

"We need to educate young people in the dangers and risks of taking drugs, but I also think we need to have a proper legal framework.

"Ideally, as well as looking at this one particular drug we'd have a new legal framework that would ensure you couldn't just go away, tweak it, and come back and sell something that's incredibly close."

On point one tobacco can be dangerous, alcohol can dangerous, indeed any alien item in the human body can be dangerous. Heck tasers can be dangerous, on people with minor heart conditions could be fatal.....oh hang on the police want to use them not ban them. I don't hear Labour MPs crying out for a complete ban on any of these to send out a clear message to young people, and the police, how very dangerous these are.

Also this is the same police force that have called out for ID cards, random stop and search, rights to detain for 90 days without charge, rights for fully exposing search at airports all of which, and more, have been pandered to by authoritarian Labour, without consideration of civil liberty considerations.

But then it all comes back to information, or more to the point Labour's control of information should I say. Just like we have a Youth Justice Board providing information to the Government about youth crime (even though the rest of us won't get that info for six months) how about a similar body for drug usage. Let's see let us call it the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), that'll work says exactly what is says on the tin. Lets appoint some experts in that field to that panel and let them look into things such as new drugs on the scene, just like methedrone. They could advise government based on scientific evidence just how dangerous the various drugs in our culture are.

Guess what? The ACMD does exist.

Guess what? The ACMD had a sub-committee looking into legal highs.

Guess what? Labour didn't like what the Chief expert Dr David Nutt had to say about cannabis in October so the Home Secretary sacked him.Other members of the panel also resigned.

As a result of losing the six experts Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said he would not pre-judge decisions on drug classification ahead of the committee issuing advice. However, we have Labour and Conservative members of the house now wishing to jump just such a gun before scientific opinions are made.

As Chris Huhne Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary points out:

"If the Home Secretary hadn't meddled in the work of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs we would already have had their advice and the Government would be able to act.

"The failure to classify mephedrone is a direct consequence of the Government’s interference in the independent advice of its scientific advisers.

"If the Home Secretary hadn't meddled in the work of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs we would already have had their advice and the Government would be able to act."

So it is all very well Mandelson saying a review into mephedrone should be "speedily, carefully" carried out. Thing is that process was stalled by Labour own stubbornness to accept scientific fact. They'll happily accept scientific 'fact' when it suits them, weapons on mass destruction in Iraq springs readily to mind, but not when it goes against what they have already said.

Wow! That Didn't Take Long - The Dark Lord Speaketh

At 9:58 I blogged:

"However, just like that and the Digital Economy Bill I'm expected a knee-jerk, ill-conceived, poorly thought out Labour reaction any minute now."

The connection with the DE Bill was uncanny at 10:21 the BBC are reporting that Lord Voldemort of Foy and Hartlepool (aka the Business Minister) is saying the government would take "any action that is justified to deal with this" and that it will be examined "very speedily,very carefully". I'm sorry but as the Government are currently proving with Lord Voldemort's Digital Economy Bill speedily and carefully do not sit well side by side with this parliamen

Quote of the Day on mephedrone

"Just because [mephedrone] is legal to possess it does not mean that this is at all safe."

That is a balanced view from Kay Aisthorpe of police community initiative Safer Neighbourhoods. There are a lot of things in our live that are not entirely safe if used in the wrong way:
  • household bleach
  • kitchen knives
  • motor cars

Just because something is not "at all safe" through one use does not mean that all the rest should be banned. Same goes for our net usage. However, just like that and the Digital Economy Bill I'm expected a knee-jerk, ill-conceived, poorly thought out Labour reaction any minute now.

Although it does take me back to my time at the end of one school term working as the chemistry department lab technician in my old school. One of the younger teachers was trying to replicate one of the old time experiments for his sixth form class as an end of term treat. He'd written his required chemicals in the request book. I had to tell him that I was unable to provide the As2O3 he'd requested. Why asked why I had to inform him that no compounds of arsenic were allowed on school premises.

Top 'o The Morning

It is St. Patrick's Day so I'm going to round up some Irish news stories this morning.

First up and some sad news for Cardiff Blogger, Jedward have been dropped by Sony after just one single. John and Edward Grimes who were Louis Walsh's last remaining act on the show released their cover of Under Pressure mashed up with Ice, Ice Baby but it was kept off the top slot by Owl City and then dropped like a stone the following week.

Walsh said:

"I'm completely committed to Jedward and I know they still have a great career ahead of them.

“I am in talks with a major record label about a new deal for them."

The Metro is telling me that tomorrow's hangover will cost the UK economy £560 million. Almost a quarter of all workers will be nursing a hangover tomorrow. Now I know us Irish are renowned for breeding like rabbits but seriously 11.5 million adult Brits claiming to be Irish, I'll await next years census results with interest.

Chris Sorek of Drinkaware urges caution:

"If you are heading out after work, have a big, late lunch. It's also a good idea to pace yourself with non-alcoholic drinks and plenty of water and opt out of rounds."

Back home in Northern Ireland it is the big day for school sport. Belfast Royal Academy face Ballymena Academy in the Northern Bank School's Cup final for rugby at Ulster's Ravenhill ground. St. Malachy's college will face De La Salle in the Maxol Direct Senior Cup for football at Lisburn Distillery's New Grosvenor Stadium. While in Gaelic Football Omagh Christian Brothers School faces St Colman's, Newry for the MacRory Cup at Casement Park.

And finally The Irish Times tells us that we may have been celebrating the Irish Saint's day over 6 weeks ago on 1 February if Patrick hadn't outdone Brigid of Kildare in the nations affections for patronage.

"WHILE ST PATRICK has had the edge in terms of recognition as Ireland’s patron since the dawn of recorded history, St Patrick’s Day has only been a national holiday in Ireland since 1903, when the British Parliament passed the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act. St Patrick’s Day parades have a somewhat longer pedigree, with the earliest recorded taking place in 1762 in Manhattan, when the participants were Irish-born British soldiers. Parading for St Patrick’s Day does not seem to date back any further than the 19th century in Ireland."

I won't tell the Cheltenham Festival, Guinness, New York or Boston etc if you don't.

Anyway that is it for this morning. Sláinte mhaith.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Getting Ready With The Sunscreen

I'm following the example of Jeff and shamefully borrowing one of his phrases in return, in about 24 hours I fully expect to be 'applying the sunscreen' and start to pre-moderate comments on this blog. Watch this space to find out the reason why.

This will only be the second time in the almost five years I've been blogging that I have pre-moderated comments on this blog. The last time ran from 26th to 30th September 2005 (I'll let you google for yourself what might possibly have been going on then). It is not a decision that I am taking lightly but in light of Jeff's situation over the weekend I feel that in the next day it will be wisest choice for me at least in the short term.

I fully believe in free speech and will probably continue to allow most comments through the filter. However, I do realise that over the next couple of months I will not be online as much as I would like to be to keep an eye on what is being posted and may not be an situation to allow comments as quickly as some of my readers may hope.

As I said the recent events that overtook Jeff while he was enjoying the Spanish Sun (lucky sod) are just the latest reason why I am considering this action. Jeff is one of the most gracious and understanding of the Nat bloggers out there. He is most certainly not someone for whom the derogatory Cyber-Nat moniker should ever be applied. He engages with the opposition and is willing to let any PPC have a guest post on his blog (sadly no non-SNP PPC has 'yet' taken up his offer). He like me has always, until recently, allowed a free flowing comments policy. Indeed it was no surprise to read the comments of support for him from across the political divide in the bogosphere. It was though to see a journalist apparently refuse to accept his apology in the full sense in which it was offered.

Unlike the Main Stream Media bloggers tend to be a solitary experience. As someone who used to help moderate part of the BBC website I know that the press has teams of people looking out for comments that may offend, some ISPs are flagged up as potentially hazardous, some just turn up and get flagged by other readers. When you write an article for a paper or for the BBC you really do put it to bed. It goes online and you do not have to keep up to date with the comments that are going on under it in its online state.

When you are a blogger however, you want to interact with those that take an interest. That isn't always instantaneous in our online world. You have to do things, like work, sleep or even just turn off your computer and do something else instead.

So while a media outlet can take instantaneous action against a derogatory comment a blogger may not be able to do so. However, if it is pointed out to them that something has happened and they take the quickest action that they can an apologise for doing so that should be accepted. It is after all only good netiquette. There are times that maybe a blogger should be proactive and realise that they are not going to be available to check several times a day what is going on and set up pre-moderation, but that can sometimes ruin the blog for their loyal readers. Also to be honest I had to call work from Bournemouth last September and get somebody to turn on my out of office on my work email. We forget things sometimes.

But before the media jump down the blogger's throats let them not forget that they have occasion scoured the blogs and from my personal experience:
  • Quoted half a sentence out of context (a post about Charles Kennedy during the Dunfermline and West Fife by election)
  • Stolen an idea for a diary section (Angela Constance letter on behalf of Jim Devine sending up Nicola Sturgeon's letter)
  • Taken only the end of an interview (my Tavish Scott piece from conference again out of the context it was meant)
In all but the first I wasn't even credited for the idea, and all of the above where not in a tabloid, but the one paper Scotland on Sunday.

Yesterday I happened to log on the the BBC just as the news of Ashok Kumar's death hit the breaking news, in the end I had a tribute up and online before the BBC or the Guardian. It's not a competition I doubt the several hundred hits I got in the first couple of hours of that news breaking are anything like the traffic they and other mainstream sites got. Although I did have over 10 hits from the Houses of Parliament before there was any other source except the local paper carrying the news.

That was pure fate, as sometimes unfortunately is what somebody decides to post in your comments section. Sometimes it is off topic, sometimes it is defamatory and sometimes it all happens when you are enjoying some off line time. That is the risk that sometimes us bloggers who wish to defend free speech take. It is one I'm not likely to be taken at least until May 7th.

I apologise in advance for the inconvenience.