Sunday, 30 May 2010

Whatever Happened to Privacy

Earlier today I was ordering coffee and tea for me and my mum in Bangor when on the screen was scrolling the BBC 24 news about David Laws. One of the things that I picked up from the scrolling was the use of the phrase:

Laws didn't want to disclose his "sexuality"

The inverted commas were what struck most. Ok I will admit there was a story there, but the story of the day has shifted unto one of sexuality and one where private life has been exposed as part of another story because of the link into the original story. Ben Bradshaw the Labour MP said:

why should anyone in Britain today feel ashamed to acknowledge they're gay” y ashamed?

Linda Jack responded with:

More likely fear of losing family - just because it was easy 4 you doesn't mean it is as easy 4 others - maybe you haven't noticed but whether we like it or not homophobia is still alive and well in our enlightened country.

Jonathan Fryer sums it up quite well by saying on Twitter.

Yes, it's tragic that some people have to hide their sexuality, but it's equally tragic when people are forced to parade it

What has happened today is a case of that. If you are in the public eye it is not uncommon for some of your partners not to want to be in that spotlight. Whilst I'm prepared like Ben to wear my sexuality if not on my sleeve at least not hidden away. There are others for whom this has been a reason. I recall what I said about Simon Hughes when he was similarly forcibly exposed.

There may be family reasons with some people, yes even today, that such things are not publicly wanting to be discussed. In David Laws his catholic upbringing may have something to do with that, also the world of the city of London being a "man's world" is not conducive to such openness.

There is also the matter of protecting the privacy of a partner. In my own past there are for a number of reason who would not have been out there standing beside me as part of my very public life. There are all manner of reasons, their own level of coming to terms with their sexuality, their career or job prospects (perceived or real), for some it is the cross political persuasion issue. It's why I usually only refer to partners on this blog by some coded name.

Invasion of privacy of a third party is something that needs to be protected. Yes there was a story to be revealed. Although why now? If the Telegraph had the full un-redacted expenses claims last year the timing of this disclosure as well as the rest of the story that is coming out with it points towards spitefulness to a degree. But I digress, I'm not the one to expose a partner. If they are a public figure and also out then that will be easier for us both to deal with, but that isn't always the case, therefore I do compartmentalise by private life from my public when I have to. In fact isn't that something all of us who aren't Belle de Jour etc do?

The extent of what level of privacy is required depends on the individual concerns and needs of the situation and couple. I wish we live in a world where such things never matter, but look at the Gaily Fail and the Torygraph as examples of MSM who do make an issue of it, or the BBC's use of "sexuality" earlier today, why emphasise it and then expect homosexuals and their partners to expect to be open and treated fairly?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

I Have a Second Plot

At the start of 2009 I like many others acquired a plot of land near Heathrow Airport. At the recent general election the reason for us acquiring that plot suceeded, there is to be no third runway going over our little plot.

Therefore today I heard that another cause that has been close to my heart is also splitting up a plot. So I became 'one of Menie' (many) in putting my name to The Bunker that Donald Trump doesn't want to have as a hazard in his way to his golf course. Indeed it is a plot of land that his project cannot go ahead without access to.

Yeah this is one plot of land that essential to Donald Trump ripping up and controlling the greatest dune system in Scotland and affecting an area of special scientific interest.

No doubt Ruariadh Dobson will continue to say that I am "dead wrong", but at least I'm being consistant.

Belated Towel Day Addition

Hey folks I only found this last night, 42 Awesome Ways to Use a Towel hopefully you all know where yours is by now after yesterday's blogposts from me and others. Now it is time to use the "most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have".

As for Caron pointing out that
the times of my posts from yesterday were not what she'd call a coincidence, quite correct just highly impropable.

So follow the first link and you will just some of the ways in which to use your towel. I only wish I'd come up with it first.

Mayoral Junta Against Peaceful Protest

The front cover of today's Independent tells a sombre tale.

The top half shows the Queen making her speech in the Lords including the words:

"Legislation will be brought forward to restore freedoms and civil liberties, through the abolition of Identity Cards and repeal of unnecessary laws."

The bottom have shows Brian Haw being arrested earlier just outside in Parliament Square.

It brings up the dichotomy of what was being said inside by a Conservative/Lib Dem government and what was being done outside under the auspices on a Conservative Mayor of London (whose brother is now part of that Conservative group inside).

A Mayoral degree has come from the gherkin to remove protesters from Parliament Square. Where are we? China, Pyongyang, or London? They are not protesting outside the Gherkin but the Palaces of Westminster. There are being peaceful about it yet the full weight of a junta from down river has come to bear on the only piece of open ground near the seat of power where a protest can be made.

Obviously either Boris didn't get the memo, or decided to ignore it in his own power games after finding he is no longer the most powerful Tory in the capital never mind the country.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Towel Day IX: Time for the Immortal Toast

Of course this the Towel Day IX, not to be confused with Ix (which means boy who cannot sufficiently explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven). Of course a boy with just that name came to Earth to expand on the entry in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy from harmless, to something more substantial. After some research he settled on the name Ford Prefect as being inconspicuous.

But as the day draws to a close it is time for the immortal toast.

To absent friends. So long and thanks for all the fish.

But just remember to drink responsibly.

Towel Day: What We are Missing Out On

When Douglas Adams died he was working. He was writing!

Yes that does deserve an exclamation mark as any Adams fan will tell you of Douglas's oft repeated phrase:

"I love the sound of deadlines.

The sound they make as they whoosh past my head."

Yes he wasn't good at meeting deadlines, but when he wasn't restricted by them his creative juices coud flow. It seemed from this his last interview that he was sadly, prematurely cut off midflow.

Towel Day: The Origins of God

Whilst there is a lot that I love about Douglas Adams, there are a few things were we disagree. One of those if God.

I believe there is one, Douglas believed there wasn't. What I do appreciate though is that he wasnt a lazy atheist he was someone who thought about it, often and he was someone who put his thoughts into words.

Of course I would urge you like Douglas to look for yourself and don't take his or my word for it.

Towel Day: The Man Knew Where His Was

Recent TV viewers will know that the brilliant Stephen Fry went on his own Last Chance to See but of course it was his friend Douglas Adams who went first.

In fact Douglas was only meant to go and see the Aye-Aye and other celebrities were meant to do the rest. But the partnership he struck up with Mark Carwardine and the passion he garnered for the subject of wildlife meant that he ended up doing the whole lot.

Here is Douglas with towel (appropriately for today) talking about that first trip.

Towel Day: So Long and Thanks...

.... For All the Fish

Yes today as any Douglas Adams fan will tell you in towel day. Do you know where yours is?

So to celebrate here is the opening title sequence of the film that Douglas was working on when he unfortunately died of a heart attack.

There is some dispute about the worthiness of this opening to the film. But as Douglas was constantly tweaking with the concept I've also heard that it was his idea to open with a musical number. Lest we forget the so long and thanks for all the fish bit in the TV series did have a radiophonic workshop rendition of a dolphin whistling the Star Spangled Banner so if this was Douglas's vision to get the film off to a start it was his move into another genre. At least he didn't, at least not when he died, have the idea of Hitch Hiker's Guide: The Musical who knows we may well have had that by now if he was that way inclined.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Feeling Blue and Rudderless Under the Goldie Tide

"There is no-one in charge. We need to have someone who is in charge of the Conservative party in Scotland, preferably elected by the membership.

"The membership and the constituencies have been allowed to atrophy. The branches have disappeared. There's no real link between the voluntary side of the party and the MSPs."

So said former conservative Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth yesterday, which won't be good news for Annabel Goldie with less than a year until the Scottish elections. Although some party insiders said it was the "memory of Lord Forsyth in government" that was affecting Tory performance at elections in Scotland.

But there were questions about a name change in Scotland (Scottish Reform anyone), a separation from the party in England and a clear out of the leadership. Goldie as leader in Holyrood, David McLetchie (the former leader) as campaign director and Andrew Fulton as Chairman.

Paul McBride QC echoed the rudderless message when he said:

"The problem was that we spent large amounts of money but there was no clear leader who had powers to hire and fire, make strategic decisions and have a say on who stood as candidates.

"We had people working for us having to report to three or four different people and that was unacceptable."

I'll agree there did appear to be a large amount of money spent even out here in Linlithgow and East Falkirk. I have to say that all that money didn't tell me anything about the Tory's policies.

There was also disquiet about some of the older member of their Holyrood team Mary Scanlon, 60, Nanette Milne 68, Ted Brocklebank, 67 and Sir Jamie McGrigor, 60 who have been elected on the list not for a constituency. Some are saying they should be removed from the party list for next year and others are calling for a two strikes and you're out policy.

Sounds like disarray in the Scottish part of a party that is governing from Westminster and doesn't sound like a winning formula for anywhere in just over 11 months time.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Messers Ed Talking Balls Over Iraq

Is there a war going on?

Today Ed Balls said in the Telegraph that the war on Iraq was was "wrong" and "a mistake". Going on to say:

"We shouldn't have changed our argument from international law to regime change in a non-transparent way. It was an error for which we as a country paid a heavy price, and for which many people paid with their lives.

"Saddam Hussein was a horrible man, and I am pleased he is no longer running Iraq. But the war was wrong."

Ed Miliband told the Guardian the decision to go to war was taken "led to a catastrophic loss of trust in Labour" adding:

"I was pretty clear at the time that I thought there needs to be more due process here.

"As we all know, the basis for going to war was on the basis of Saddam's threat in terms of weapons of mass destruction and therefore that is why I felt the weapons inspectors should have been given more time to find out whether he had those weapons, and Hans Blix – the head of the UN weapons inspectorate – was saying that he wanted to be given more time. The basis for going to war was the threat that he posed.

"The combination of not giving the weapons inspectors more time, and then the weapons not being found, I think for a lot of people it led to a catastrophic loss of trust for us, and we do need to draw a line under it."

You'd think there was a leadership election on or something. Oh yes there is.

Of course Balls was an advisor for Gordon Brown at the time of the invasion and is going to some lengths to try to distance himself from the decision that was backed by his then boss. Strange then that he also says if he had been an MP at the time he would have voted for the decision based on the evidence provided and at the same time saying:

"It was a mistake. On the information we had, we shouldn't have prosecuted the war."
So on the information he was privy to he said we shouldn't have prosecuted the war yet at the same time says if he'd been elected he would have voted for it. Huh? Is it just me that finds that argument doesn't add up.

Miliband was in the states at the time unlike big brother David but said he had 'some very heated arguments' with Gordon Brown about it but decided it was better to fight for climate change from inside the cabinet. That would be fighting so hard that you couldn't even get the party to make Parliament cut their own carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 as part of the 10:10 initiative that you said you supported in principle, right?

Well as the only two leadership candidates who weren't elected to the House of Commons at the time of the vote to go to war on Iraq these two may have been able to put a line under it. Sadly they failed to do that with their diversionary tactics.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Look Who's Snogging the Boy

Sorry must stop ogling. Oh yeah there is a reason why I have the pictures of two gorgeous men on my blog this evening.

Matt Smith on the left is now easily recognisable to all Doctor Who fans but the young man on the left is Douglas Booth, who you may have seen earlier this week in Worried About the Boy playing the lead Boy George. Well they are currently shooting a drama in Belfast about the gay author Christopher Isherwood (played by Smith) who wrote A Single Man there is to be some tonsil tennis going on apparently. Based on his memoires of the same name the drama Christopher and his Kind tells of his escape from his suffocating mother to pre-war Nazi Germany.

Booth is playing is playing a street cleaner who Isherwood has a brief relationship with, best not remind the real Boy George of this chapter of his life story.

It's do you feel like?

Well it is that time on a Friday and 5pm so we know what that means. Time for a little indulgence as the weekend kicks in. Earlier this year while researching something else I came up with the first one of today's clips, found it coincided with Friday and so here you have it, a rather eclectic mix.

Earlier this year we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of his release but 49 years ago Nelson Mandela gave his first interview to the outside world about the struggle in South Africa. ITN's Brian Widlake is doing the questioning.

There have been close links between South Africa and India for generation. For a start M.K. Ghandi was once a lawyer in South Africa before he returned with the aim of freedom for his own people.

Therefore the fact that 20 years after Mandela gave that interview we also witnessed the assassination of the former President of India Rajiv Ghandi (no relation to the Mahatma) here is a pictorial illustration of his last minutes.

On a brighter note (maybe) to conclude today is also Leo Sayers 62nd birthday. What does that make you feel like?

It's Friday.....It's Summertime

Hey I'm returning to my usual routine and it is Firday, it is also Hot, Hot, Hot out there so, take it away Will Smith.

On the same theme but a little bit older step forward Mungo Jerry.

And finally while the air is certainly still I hope no babies were being born to the overkill.

The more observant of you will also have noticed I've posted this a whole hour earlier than my usual it's Fridays. Well what are you still doing at your desk get out and enjoy the sun, I have. Although I had pre-written one months ago that will go live at five as normal.

Liberal Conservative Deal Good News for Rural Fuel Prices

So the Liberal Conservative coalition is going to start pilot programmes to look at how fuel prices in rural areas can be cut when the oil price is high. It's a step towards a workable scheme that was promised in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

As George Lyon MEP says:

"This is an important first step in our fight for fairer fuel prices in rural Scotland.

"Successive Labour and Conservative Governments have blocked Liberal Democrat attempts to secure a fuel duty reduction in areas where driving is a necessity, not a luxury.

"Now with Liberal Democrats in Government we have a chance to deliver on what other parties have refused to even consider.

"I will work with Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander MP to make sure pilot schemes are introduced in Scotland so we can begin to lift the serious financial burden of sky-high fuel prices."

The price differential from the national average can be as much as 15p a litre in some of our worst hit rural areas and the option of public transport is largely non-existent or at best infrequent to residents in such areas.

It shows the changes that Liberal Democrats are bringing to the new Government and follows on from the debate Alistair Carmichael secured on 10 February this year where there was far reaching issues raised from many voices and areas heard from, though none from the SNP. In that debate Alistair said:

"I bring that answer* to hon. Members' attention because it is important for us to understand that the problems that are faced by our communities are not unique; they are shared by different communities in the European Union. However, they get very different treatment from their Governments than that which we have experienced.

"I have asked Ministers in the past to consider such a derogation, and I make the same request of the Minister today. Will she consider setting up a pilot scheme to assess whether the Government's concerns are legitimate, real and substantial-I suspect that they are not-or whether they are just an excuse for continuing to do nothing?"

So Lib Dems are delivering on things they have asked for under Labour through working with the Conservatives. Who'd have thought it?

Obviously not James Macintyre at the New Statesman who thought that Labour had a good working relationship with the Liberal Democrats down the years. Here is one example of the reverse. An example of where talking the talk isn't enough, Labour failed to learn to walk the walk. That is why the people have turned against them action is what the people want.

* One received from George Lyon on 8 January from the EU Commission (excuse the civil service speak):

"The Commission can, nevertheless, confirm that-on a different basis-in order to partially offset the additional costs of insularity - and thus geographical remoteness and difficulties of supply, France was authorised to apply a reduced rate of taxation to unleaded petrol used as motor fuel and consumed in the Corsican department. Moreover, at the moment of the adoption of Council Directive 2003/96/EC4-and for similar reasons as France-Portugal and Greece were authorised to apply reduced rates of taxation for fuel consumed in the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira and on some Greek islands. Concerning the details of the schemes, the Commission can inform the Honourable Member that in the case of Corsica, the reduction is 1 cent per litre. In the case of the Greek islands, the reduction can be up to 2.2 cents per litre. In the case of Azores and Madeira, the directive does not specify the amount of the tax reduction, however, according to the information available to the Commission, the degree of tax differentiations from the Portuguese mainland is 1.5 cents per litre (Madeira) and 3.8 cents per litre in the case of the island of Azores."

1922 and All That

The outcry from Conservative back benchers over Cameron gaining ministerial say in the 1922 committee shows that there is something that the bigger partner of the coalition could learn from the smaller partner. That lesson is let the party democracy have its say.

The 1922 Committee has been sort of the conscious of the Conservative party just as the Liberal Democrats Federal Executive and conferences are to our own party. It was the place where the backbenchers could have their say without fear of ministerial interference. They could talk openly about their concerns without fear of recrimination.

Of course the Liberal Democrats have long maintained that anyone can talk openly in debate against a certain line the leadership want to take. In fact there have been times that conference has voted against the 'perceived' leadership line. But there isn't any recriminations in doing so, that is part of democracy. That voice from the foot soldiers is often different and more in touch than those in the Westminster bubble

So with the 1922 Committee vote going 168 to 118 in favour of allowing Ministers in, 78 of whom voted for.

David Cameron had taken his decision to enter a coalition to all his MPs, Nick Clegg had done likewise, as well as the Federal Exec as required, but further to the special conference which wasn't required after the first two approved. He may have been scared of the feedback he may have received from the membership but was still prepared to let them have their say. Cameron is now trying to silence and maybe control a bit tighter some of those that form that Government, it may not bode well as a matter of trust.

As former MP Paul Goodman said:

"A week ago, Cameron retained the goodwill of most of his MPs, despite failing to win the election outright and forming a coalition with an opposing party – on what many of them regarded as dubious terms. However, much of that goodwill has vanished since yesterday afternoon."

There is of course nothing stopping the backbenchers forming a second group, maybe calling it the 2010 Committee in which they can keep the Ministers and 'pay roll' vote out of proceedings and discussions. I wonder how long it will take to form that group?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

***BREAKING*** Change in Law Required Says Election Report

The report into the problems encountered on election day where queues of people were waiting for hours to vote and were not issued a ballot paper before 10pm (therefore not being able to vote) requires a change in the law says the Electoral Commission report

There were 1,200 people affected who were still queuing to vote in London, Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham when Big Ben struck 10 on May 6th. As the law stands you have to have been issued with your ballot paper when 10 pm comes not merely be in the polling station or in a queue to get into a polling station.

Of course polling station staff will have to wait until every valid ballot paper is deposited in the ballot box before sealing them and sending them on their way to the count, but for a nation of queuers some of the queues to vote didn't go smoothly on the day.

I've queued for Wimbledon and I've queued overnight to get in. The queue there are issued with a numbered card which is checked off as you enter the fenced off approach to the gates, ensuring that nobody jumps the queue and gets there ahead of time, it is a well run and marshalled queue. So surely there must be some way to validate the identity of voters and issue a ballot paper to those who have queued up to vote.

On the night there were suggestions that those in the queue should be let into the building that is serving as the polling station and the doors closed behind them so that they will not be swayed by any news after 10 PM comes. Although to be fair none of us these days are truly fully cut off when we are in a public place like a polling station. But the premise holds that they would not be swayed by any outside influence coming down the queue and you would know who was in the queue at 10 PM as the doors are then closed, like many stores do at the end of the day*. Once somebody has voted obviously a member of staff or police officer will act on the door to let the individual out.

It makes sense, it may require a certain amount of overflow space in some locations to be available, or some other way to identify the people in the queue if that is not possible.

But it is something that can be done and should be done.

* Though not 5 minutes before the advertised closing time as I know happens in some shops.

Five Men and a Lady

Diane Abbott has announced she is tostand in the Labour leadership race. At last there is some diversity.

I don't just mean in her race or gender either. Now we have a diversity of views. When John Cruddas announced he wasn't standing I thought we were heading towards a vanilla election not just the white middle-class males, some would say all five looked like brothers rather than just the Milibands, but also in their opinions.

Now all us political wonks know that Diane is more free-flowing with her views on the new Labour project, on the This Week sofa, sipping the Blue Nun proffered by Andrew Neil, she has disagreed with both Blairism and Brownites in the past. She truly is a breathe of fresh air into the Labour leadership contest.

Maybe sitting those weeks in the studio with ex-leader Charles Kennedy and the man who missed his chance for leader courtesy of the voters of Enfield Southgate in 1997 Michael Portillo she knows she is up for the task at hand. As she said launching her campaign:

"The other candidates are all nice and would make good leaders of the Labour Party but they all look the same... We cannot be offering a slate of candidates who all look the same. The Labour Party's much more diverse than that.

"I looked at the field and said 'If not now, when?' And 'If not me, who?'

"It's important that we recapture the civil liberties agenda from the Tories and the Lib Dems.

"It's important that we re-energise the party and bring democracy back to the party.

"We need a proper debate on immigration, where children of immigrants like me also have a voice."

If I were a member I'd probably vote for her. As a member of another party I'd be worried if she actually won. She may well be the person to shake up Labour and give New Labour it's Clause IV boost. Depends how the party is felling about such a shake up. In the words of the classic Goodness Gracious Me Sketch the party may still want the 'blandest thing on the menu' maybe Diane is just too spicy for the Labour Parties tastes.

Scotland Capable of 700% Renewables

There is a report which shows that Scotland is capable in the next 40 years of providing 7 times the energy requirements it needs through renewable energy.

In the report from the Offshore Valuation Group that by harnessing 20,000 offshore wind, wave and tidal devices would acheive this. There would be an export of surplus energy to the rest of the UK or Europe and 50,000 jobs created.

Of course such benefits need investment as much as £4bn a year just in Scotland.

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said:

"There has never been a clearer and more dramatic picture of the scale of the renewable resources around our seas and coasts.

"Not only does this offer a huge potential cut in carbon emissions, this is the biggest single economic opportunity for Scotland in coming years."

We can with the combination of renewables on offer be a fully renewable powered nation with reliable supply by 2050, as the Liberal Democrat manifesto promised. It is reckoned that 11,400 giant offshore wind turbines, about 4,000 wave machines and 5,000 tidal generation devices would deliver this potential.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

***BREAKING*** Could Eric Ilsley Prove the First Subject of Recall

When the Liberal Conservative Government actually gets down to making new acts they will include the one that enables the right to recall an MP who has been proven of wrong doing.

This morning's news makes one wonder if Barnsley Central MP Eric Ilsley may be the unfortunate to make the history books as the first MP to face the public's right to recall. He has been called before Westminster Magistrates Court just like his former Labour colleagues Jim Devine, David Chaytor and Elliot Morely along with Conservative peer Lord Hanningfield on the 17 June for dishonestly claiming council tax and other household bills on his second home in London.

Eight Days to Take Action on Dungavel Child Detainees #LibConWin

A week may be a long time in politics but surely eight days into an new Government which only say for the first time yesterday and hasn't even been sworn in yet must be pretty instantaneous.

Instead of being held behind the prison fencing at Dungavel but moved to Yarls Wood, Bedfordshire with specialist family and child facilities and support services as an interim measure before totally removing from detention only eight days into a new government. As Damian Green the immigration minister said:

"This is something which many groups in Scotland have been calling for, and we are now delivering this positive outcome.

"We are committed to ending the detention of all children for immigration purposes. I hope that we can have plans agreed within the next few months."

You would have thought this might have been met as being a fast moving step to improve things before getting right of the draconian measure altogether. Not so the SNP who are still attempting to point score rather than offering alternatives locally and aiding the effort as I asked yesterday. Indeed Christine McKelvie is already saying:

"The Lib Dems claims on asylum and detention have been badly exposed and the Conservative’s chaotic Home Office appears once again to be unfit for purpose."

Hang on we're only allowed eight days to announce, come up with a solution and act upon it? Does that seem fair?

Nobody has said it is the final solution, merely that it is a better one than is currently available.Anne 'Indygal' McLaughlin MSP is also getting in on the act of jumping the gun and leaping on the condemnation bandwagon:

"By removing children immediately to Yarls Wood they are being taken away from the support networks and services they have built up in Scotland.

"There must be guarantees from the new Government that children are only being detained as an absolute last resort and that no one will lose access to the law, or the ability to challenge the Home Office’s decision as a result of this move."

Look at the statement Anne! Look at the commitment! Look at the time scale. We're are looking at doing away with detention of children within months. As Green also said:

"I have already announced the launch of a comprehensive review of alternatives to child detention, including opening a dialogue with relevant stakeholders, organisations and experts.

"This work has now started, because it is in all our interests, including those children currently in detention, to do it quickly, but to also do it well and safely."

It will be done. It will be done well. It will be done safely for all the children involved.

One does have to ask though if this step has been taken in 8 days, with another step to be taken in months, just what the SNP government have been doing to try and get the children held in detention in Scotland released or into better surroundings that Dungavel in the THREE years that they have been in charge.

Going to be a Reformation

There will be a great smile that comes across my face every time I drink a cup of Earl Grey tea today. The reason being that Nick Clegg is about to outline the biggest wholesale reform of our politics and liberties since the Great Reform Act of the Prime Minister after whom that blend of tea is named.

He will use the phrase:

"for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few"

Which I know will grate with some Labour listeners as it is lifted from Tony Blair's Clause IV speech. He also said yesterday while talking to leaders of voluntary groups:

"What I'm discovering is we've been using different words for a long time – it actually means the same thing. Liberalism, big society. Empowerment, responsibility. It means the same thing."

So wake up to the liberalism that is about to return come to us including:

  • scrapping the identity card scheme and second generation biometric passports
  • removing limits on the rights to peaceful protest
  • a bonfire of unnecessary laws
  • a block on pointless new criminal offences
  • internet and email records not to be held without reason
  • closed-circuit television to be properly regulated
  • new controls over the DNA database, such as on the storage of innocent people's DNA
  • axeing the ContactPoint children's database
  • schools will not take children's fingerprints without asking for parental consent
  • reviewing the libel laws to protect freedom of speech

Now that is delivering on promises. That is delivering liberalism.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Image of the Day

Well here's something I've always dreamed off. Seeing a Liberal Democrat sitting on the Government front bench.

Well as Parliament reconvened earlier and got on with the job of re-elected John Bercow as speaker there was the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats sitting behind the dispatch box not over the aisle on the opposition side of the House.

We are truly in a period of new politics.

Unfortunately that message doesn't seem to have stretched north of the border. The SNP are using the news that the promise to get children out of the detention centre hasn't been acted upon yet at Dungavel after just 7 days of the new Government.

Here's an idea Christina McKelvie and the rest of the SNP at Holyrood how about working with us to provide somewhere for them to be housed safely and properly immediately while the review into the alternatives is actually taken.

Charles Manners-Sutton - Last Speaker Voted Out After an Election

I don't expect John Bercow to go the same way as Charles Manners-Sutton did in 1835 when he was the last speaker to be voted out, not by the people but by the MPs returned to the commons. But who is the poor unfortunate who is a footnote in history books.
Charles Manners-Sutton was the son of the 89th Archbishop of Canterbury (1805-1828) his namesake, part of the Duke of Rutland's extended family. His uncle Thomas Manners-Sutton was the 1st Baron Manners and Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1807-1827). Indeed from 1817-1827 this family had the Speaker, the leaders of the Lords Spiritual and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland all in their midst.
He was born in Screveton, Nottingham, the family seat of his mother who apparently eloped with his father. Manners-Sutton was one of that group of Etonians that rose to the highest level of UK political life. From there he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge before before called to the Bar at Lincolns Inn in 1805.
The following year he was returned as the MP for Scarborough a seat he would hold until 1832 when he was returned for one of the Cambridge University seats. He was appointed the Judge Advocate General in 1809 under Spencer Percival (the only Prime Minister to be assassinated) and retained the post under Lord Liverpool until 1817 when he was elected speaker follow the retirement of Charles Abbot through ill health.
The reason for his demise was that in 1832 his name was mentioned as a possible Prime Minister for an anti-reform ministry. This was a rebellion against the 1832 Reform Act which did away with the 'rotten boroughs', granted new seats to the large cities that had sprung up during the industrial revolution and increased eligibility to vote by 50-80%. When the Whigs where returned to power in 1835 they weren't happy with this and duly voted the speaker out. He was elevated to the Lords as Baron Bottesford, of Bottesford in the County of Leicester, and Viscount Canterbury, of the City of Canterbury. He died 10 years later aged 65 Southwick Crescent, Paddington.
As John Bercow has not been anti-reform, nor was his name mentioned as a possible Prime Minister in recent weeks I fully expect him to survive a vote on his Speakership this afternoon and not suffer the same fate as Manners-Sutton, who I expect will maintain that footnote of history status for some time yet.
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.

Monday, 17 May 2010

May's Own Private IDAHO

Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia(IDAHO)* it is the 20th Anniversary of the World Health Organisation de-listing homosexuality as a mental illness. Some people who think there is still a cure should get with the 1990s and realise it isn't a disease.

So our Home Secretary and Equality Minister Theresa May issued this statement:

"This government is committed to creating a society that is fair for everyone and supports equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.

"This means supporting civil partnerships, tackling homophobic bullying wherever it occurs, changing the law regarding historic convictions for consensual gay sex and using our international influence to put pressure on countries where LGB&T people are persecuted.

"These commitments show our determination to tear down the barriers that continue to hold people back."

Considering May's own voting record on gay rights and that most of her party's predecessors the lifting of historic convictions for consensual gay sex is a start of the great repeal act against some of the Conservative's policies.

However, the statement is welcome. Especially in light of the reaction earlier this year of one of their MEPs to the situation in Uganda. I hope the UK under a Tory and Lib Dem government does bring pressure internationally for gay rights.

* Look I know the T has been dropped altogether don't look at me.

Robert Tannahill

On this day 200 years ago the body of Robert Tannahill was found in a culvert in Paisley, he had taken his own life. Like another famous Robert he was a poet and indeed was in the eyes of some comparable to Scotland's bard.

Here is one of his poems.


The rough hail rattles thro' the trees.
The sullen lift low'rs gloomy gray,
The trav'ller sees the swelling storm,
And seeks the alehouse by the way.

But, waes me! for yon widowed wretch,
Borne doun wi years an heavy care;
Her sapless fingers scarce can nip
The wither'd twigs tae beet her fire.

Thus youth and vigour fends itsel;
Its help, reciprocal, is sure,
While dowless Eild, in poortith cauld,
Is lanely left tae stan the stoure.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Taking Back Parliament

Yesterday in Edinburgh about 300 joined the March to Take Back Parliament and get a fairer voting system. We were wanting fairer votes. The march is one of the shortest I have ever gone on, starting outside City Chambers and going straight by the shortest route to the Assembly Buildings.

Yes I know we Lib Dems are in coalition with the Conservatives in Westminster who are offering a referendum on Alternative Vote, which they are more than likely to campaign largely against once the referendum is called. As my sign (above says) "I want fair votes. AV isn't it" because that is what I still believe.

I stood for election on May 6th on our manifesto which said that Single Transferable Vote was the Lib Dems preferred voting system. I've been saying that for over 22 years. I'll keep fighting for that.

One of the weirdest things about the march was marching down the mound and turning beside me to see Mark Lazarowicz walking there, someone I'd spent some time in the last couple of years trying to unseat in Edinburgh North and Leith. However, after some of the complaints from some of his parliamentary colleagues in favour of the non-proportional, not fair First Past the Post system and against any form of Proportional Representation it was good to see a senior Labour figure in the capital speaking out in favour of PR. It really is a sign of the new politics that parties that have been fighting hard side by side can agree on key issues of change that is needed.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Standing Up For Students

Looking at the fine detail of the coalition agreement one thing that did strike me was the omission of any agreement to increase tuition fees. Indeed what there was is a rather woolly statement.

Higher education

We await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against the need to:
  • increase social mobility;

  • take into account the impact on student debt;

  • ensure a properly funded university sector;

  • improve the quality of teaching;

  • advance scholarship; and,

  • attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote.

Therefore it was with relieve that I saw the following amendment to our special conference debating the coalition deal from Liberal Youth.

Conference expresses its concern that Liberal Democrat MPs who signed the 'vote for students' pledge may be unable to uphold this pledge under the abstention agreement on the Lord Browne report in the 'Higher Education' section of the agreement for a coalition government and expresses its hope that Liberal Democrat MPs can vote against any rise in the cap on tuition fees which isn't index linked.

Conference calls upon Liberal Democrat MPs to ensure that on any decision made on the Lord Browne report, they above all else take into account the impact on student debt.

Conference affirms our aspiration to scrap tuition fees.

Conference also affirms that any vote on tuition fees should not be held as a vote of confidence in the government.

Liberal Youth are incredibly worried that a whole generation of young people from lower-income backgrounds will be shut out of university education all-together if we see even higher tuition fees. Therefore, Liberal Youth are asking you to support this amendment, to reaffirm our stance on tuition fees, and force our ministers to fight for lower fees in the cabinet and allow our MPs to oppose such measures in the commons.

I fully support it, not only does it respect the idea of the new politics and the coalition that we have entered into, but it also allows our parliamentary party who along with myself and many more of our candidates all signed the 'vote for students' pledge.

I have signed their petition in support of this motion and would encourage you to do likewise and if you are attending on Sunday to speak in support and vote for it.

Thanks, but No Thanks

In the last 36 hours I have had some rather interesting emails, Facebook messages or DMs on Twitter. I think for the sake of my own sanity I'm going to go public.

To the Labour activists who offered me a link to their sign up page or a membership form. No thanks. You have proven to be WAY too authoritarian over the last 13 years. I don't like it, it's not part of the politics that I stand for. As for the recent reaction of my Labour MP to a constituent who took a different point of view from him I think that sums up Labour too well.

To Patrick Harvie and his kind request of free membership if I switch to the Greens. I made a decision 22 years ago about which party was most like my vision green, socially progressive, liberal and economically viable. That position hasn't changed I prefer my environmental instincts to make economic sense, it is why I studied environmental economics for two years as part of my degree, so that the sums will add up and the world will also be a better place for us all.

To the poor deluded SNP members who think as I'm anti-Labour I most be pro-them therefore I should sign up. I'm sorry your bare-faced inability to explain how Scotland or the UK is going to get out of the economic mess that we find itself in makes the economist in me similarly to the greens cringe in despair, especially considering the former profession of your leader. I'd also far rather be in a party that seems more welcoming of diversity than some of your own number have been in recent times.

I haven't been offered membership of the Conservative Party but I'd just like to say that although my party are in partnership with your party in Westminster there are fundamental differences. I'm glad we are there to hold in check several of the more extreme of these.

I'm currently weighing up my options of what I shall be doing over the next 12 months. One thing is certain whatever it is I'll be standing up for the Liberal Democrat cause whatever I decide. So while I thank you for your kind remarks and desire to have me in your party I will have to decline on this and I expect any further occasion you care to broach the subject.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A Few Words of Experience About Coalitions

I've seen some of my own party up in arms, whil the opportunistic Greens are offering a switch and the SNP ranting as usual about being left out of a rainbow alliance. So I think I have to tell you a little story about my own political journey.

Once upon a time I lived in a Lib Dem controlled council, but I left and since then (in 1997) it returned Liberal Democrat MPs.

Since that time I have worked for the ultimate coalition assembly of all powers in Northern Ireland. I have voted in 2003 on entering a coalition with Labour in the Scottish Parliament. I have been courted by both the SNP and Labour ahead of the 2007 council election with the aim of making deals for a coalition after the outcome and I have now agreed that the Conservative coalition is the best way forward for our country at this time.

Of those last three the first is a mix of First Past the Post and addional member top up, the second was by single transferable vote, the last of course was First Past the Post.

Here's the thing I would love to be back in the situation that Kingston council would have offered and even stronger after Thursday of allowing all the Lib Dem pledges to be inacted. Howvever, in 2003 when I entered the special conference to decide to enter a second partnership agreement I went in with questions. When the main two parties in West Lothian approached me, I had questions that would have needed to be answered. Again over the last few days I have had questions and many of them have been expressed on this blog.

I don't sit comfortably with the Conservatives, I cut my political teeth fighting them. I know many of my Lib Dem friends feel the same. I lean to the left of our party, I backed Simon Hughes to replace Charles Kennedy for example. I'm very much a social liberal with some economic liberal tendancies.

However, I do believe in electoral reform. I've seen it work in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, where people have to work together to get things done. People who do not always agree with each other all the time on all things. I have seen some combinations in a room to discuss real politics in Northern Ireland that you wouldn't believe if you look at the TV coverage of the time.

If my fellow Lib Dems agree that we need electoral reform to make a truly fair Britain they should know that there will probably never be an opportunity to hold absolute control by any party, including ourselves in some Scottish councils, ever again. In those circumstances it is a matter of who can step up to the plate and agree to get things done.

For those who felt that we should have gone in with Labour and the rest look at how much lack of control Labour had over its own MPs while those discussions were going on. I note that the Guardian and some other commentators have said that the Lib Dems lack discipline, but that has not been seen in the last week, it is Labour who showed they lacked that common purpose.

Look at what I posted earlier of what the Lib Dems have actually acheived. Look also at the things the regressive Conservatives have dropped to enable us to get these things in there. Look at all that Labour only were prepared to do "in principle" they didn't even send the man responsible for the costs to talks, it was all dependent on Darling. Osborne and Laws who are not working together both knew the costs of making deals in the Liberal Conservative talks, the Conservatives were prepared to move towards us and our stand point something that Labour seemed to not want to do in the negotiation team and more tellingly in the wider PLP.

So here it is, the new politics is about working together after the results are in. It doesn't mean that I don't campaign hard against either Labour, the SNP, Tories or others. You don't believe me ask them. They know that I will hold them to task.

But whether in Northern Ireland, West Lothian, Scotland or the UK if you have to work together to get things moving, advancing and rolling along you best do that, or else the people, the banks and whomever will crucify you for merely fiddling while things burn all around you.

Voting Liberal Democrat Brings Change in 2010

If you voted for me or any of my Liberal Democrat colleagues I'd like to say thank you and ask you to look at all the pledges from our manifesto that are now going to be enacted over the next 5 years of Government.

A Fair Start for Children

  • Introduce a Pupil Premium to give all children a fair start.

Fairer taxes and Economic Reform

  • A substantial increase in the personal allowance from April 2011 with a longer term policy objective of further increasing the personal allowance to £10,000, making further real terms steps each year towards this objective
  • Reform of the banking system, ensuring a flow of lending to businesses and a Banking Levy. An independent commission on separating retail and investment banking.
  • Capital Gains Tax reform

Fair Politics

  • Fixed-term parliaments and a referendum on electoral reform for the House of Commons.
  • A power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing.
  • A wholly or mainly elected House of Lords on the basis of proportional representation.
  • Giving Parliament control of its own agenda so that all bills are properly debated.
  • Enacting the Calman Commission proposals and a referendum on further Welsh devolution.
  • A statutory register of lobbyists.
  • A limit on political donations and reform of party funding in order to remove big money from politics.
  • Radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups.

A fair and sustainable future

  • Establish a smart electricity grid and the roll-out of smart meters.
  • Establish feed-in tariff systems in electricity
  • A huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion.
  • The creation of a green investment bank.
  • The provision of home energy improvement paid for by the savings from lower energy bills.
  • Retention of energy performance certificates when HIPs are scrapped.
  • Measures to encourage marine energy.
  • The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard.
  • Establish a high-speed rail network.
  • Cancel the third runway at Heathrow and refuse additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted.
  • Replace the Air Passenger Duty with a ‘per plane’ duty.
  • The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.
  • Make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.
  • Promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.
  • Reduce central government carbon emissions by 10 per cent within 12 months.
  • Increase the target for energy from renewable sources.


  • Restoration of the earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011 with a “triple guarantee” that pensions are raised by the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%.
  • Phase out the default retirement age and end the rules requiring compulsory annuitisation at 75.
  • Implement the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman’s recommendation to make fair and transparent payments to Equitable Life policyholders.

Civil Liberties

  • Scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the ContactPoint Database.
  • Outlaw the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
  • Extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopt the Scottish approach to stopping retention of innocent people’s DNA on the DNA database.
  • Defend trial by jury.
  • Restore rights to non-violent protest.
  • A review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • Further regulation of CCTV.
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.
  • End the detention of children for immigration purposes.

I'm sure you'll agree that is a great deal there to be proud of. I'm somewhat upset that more of our fair start for children proposals don't appear on this list especially the things that many young families were so enthused about like shared parental leave. Maybe we'll just have to lobby Iain Duncan Smith about going further.

Thank you for voting for a fairer Britain, I'm sure my colleagues in cabinet or parliament will carry on making sure we built upon the trust that you have put in the Lib Dems on May 6th.

How Gay Friendly is the Home Office?

A gay couple may be able to spend the night at the Home Office as Chris Grayling has not ended up taking the Shadow Post he held when he uttered the word that B&B owners had the right to deny a service to same sex couples. However, just how gay friendly is his replacement Theresa May.

In 1998 she voted against equalising the age of consent and in 2000, she voted against the repeal of Section 28, legislation that banned the 'promotion' of homosexuality by local government and schools.

In 2001 and 2002 she voted against gay couples jointly adopting children.

In 2004, like much of the Conservative front bench, Mrs May did vote in favour of civil partnerships. But in the same year, Mrs May didn't attend Parliament for any of the four votes that led to the Gender Recognition Act.

In 2008 she voted in favour of a defeated bill which said that IVF rights should require a male role model- effectively discriminating against lesbian fertility rights.

So while none of the great offices of state have gone to the Lib Dems (Osborne at Treasury, Hague at Foreign Office, Fox at Defence, along with Cameron and May) we have ended up with someone whose record on gay rights does not bode well at the Home Office. Someone whose approach to Europe does not bode well at the Foreign Office and someone whose grasp of Economics leads to despair at the Treasury (thankfully David Laws is there to back him up). Look I know the policy concessions were good, but what happened in dealing with the great offices.

Polly Toynbee Ain't No Rocket Scientist

I was going to let Polly Toynbee's comment yesterday about Lab-Lib being the only legitimate coalition go until I saw her quote on the front of today's paper*.

"Shimmering on the horizon was the chance for a progressive alliance, a rocket about to take off. Then it crashed to earth."

Now I'll admit I'm no rocket scientist but over 30 years of reading sci-fi and sci-fact gives me a basic understanding of many of the key principles. So lets look at that above statement piece by piece.

On the horizon

You know I'll give her that, this is accurate. The Labour negotiating team remained on the horizon. Their aim was to defend their manifesto. It was like Custer's last stand. They were entrenching trying to defend the indefensible and not give ground. Hence they were on the horizon.

Chance for a progressive alliance

Yeah was a chance for an alliance, yes it would have been widely of progressive thought, but here's the crux. How much of that progressiveness would have been allowed to progress? It was a minority at worst or rainbow mash up at best. There would have been many conflicting agendas to try and get anything done. Yeah while there may have been a possibility of a progressive alliance how much chance did it really have to manoeuvre?

Rocket about to take off

As I said before there was no give from the Labour. The first docking of American and USSR vehicles in space came across a problem, they had different shaped airlocks. There was a solution they worked together to make it compatible. If they didn't then 5 space travellers would have been killed by the vacuum created by the incorrectly linked vessels.

The problem was the same with the Labour and Lib Dem negotiations, however, there was no give from one side. Without compromise to move into brave new politics things would have been wiped out into the vacuum of political space. The Lib Dems had brought down their Scottish coalition negotiating team, it appears that Labour had not. In 1999 and 2003 Labour did know how to work together with others to come to a satisfactory settlement this time they didn't.

They were sticking to their manifesto. It was like turning up at the NASA assembly building with Galilleo's plans for flight and being scoffed at by the NASA engineers when they refused to change things. It wasn't the commander of the mission alone that was the problem, it was his engineers and indeed his crew who had started to debate how to avoid allowing AV from their own manifesto as well.

Crashed to the Earth

Sorry Polly to crash to the earth you have to first take off.

That requires the right fuel, it also requires enough fuel to break gravity and eventually the atmosphere. There wasn't the right fuel it was a volatile mix but not enough to power anything. Also there wasn't enough of it to allow lift-off. Yeah there would have been 313 MPs in Alliance with SDLP and Alliance party 317 but that still isn't enough to provide a stable flight into the future. NASA would have been worried about tiles falling off effecting re-entry with disastrous effects at every step of the journey.

As for Shimmering I think it was lukewarm at best way off getting to the simmering stage whatsoever.

If you want to play the blame game as your article says Polly, you'll have to admit that Labour spent 13 years becoming less progressive by the day and that is what cost them a chance to form a fully progressive alliance. The Lib Dems increased their share of the vote but because of the vagaries of our electoral system ended up with less representation, and Cameron won over most of those who turned up to vote. Simples!

* Yes Murdoch has truly lost my pound a day.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Tory or Labour: Why the Right Decision Was Tory?

I have been getting a lot of email from constituents from both sides of the divide over the argument of which coalition, and indeed none, the Liberal Democrats should have entered into. So I'd like to make the following comment on the goings on of the last five days and especially the last 24 hours or so.

I now am watching scenes of Gordon Brown resigning while we do not yet now if the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives have agreed upon the decision as William Hague only left the discussions after Brown entered the Palace.

One phrase that grated with me when it first came out what the Labour negotiating team saying they were defending their manifesto. That crated not of coalition but of hanging on indeed attempting to take over. It appears that the Conservatives have understood the new politics better, they have made concessions, indeed this evening some of their MPs have said that some of their policies which they didn't like could be got rid of to be replaced with Lib Dem ones.

One key thing is the sustainability of either alliance. The Labour one was tenuous and that was clear, there was no way that Labour could guarantee any vote on any major legislation, Labour MPs in Scotland were even ruining any chance of a fall back with the SNP by mocking them at every turn, which was just wrong. The Labour deal and every step they appear to have made, even the resignation f Gordon before agreement is formally met by the others appears to be doing everything to undermine the governance of our country.

As I blogged earlier my own Labour MP have even been taking it out on constituents. Labour appear to be trying to get the people to make up their minds again as soon as possible rather than achieve any sense of stability towards the national interest.

Anyone who will know me will attest that one thing I am not is a right wing member of the Liberal Democrats. For me to earlier today to say that a deal with the Conservatives was the right, proper and only thing to do was a big step. But it is the thing to do but the best for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, for Scotland and the United Kingdom. It will undoubtedly be hard for many of you to understand or to take, I'd welcome you to email me if you disagree and I will answer your enquires personally.

Michael Connarty Being Curt with Non-Labour Voting Constituents #LabourFail #LEF

Strange to think that only last Thursday Michael Connarty was being as nice as pie to the people (well with the possible exception of Tam Smith) representing the votes cast by over half the constituents in Linlithgow and East Falkirk.

A concerned constituent has forwarded an email that was sent to him from Connarty over the issue of forming a coalition. Indeed he was urging him not to form a minority or rainbow coalition. The additions in red are my own corrections and comments.

Strong words Mr X,
Why should the Lib Dems be in any government when their vote fell, to 24% actually Michael this was an increase from 22% That means 76% of those who voted , voted AGAINST them, and their main platform of proportional representation So 24% vote and less that 10% seats is proportional? Also as you heard me debate three times you know there was more that that to our main platform. Indeed in our own coinstituency [sic] their vote FELL from 15% to 12%.Tsk 15.3% to 12.8% and also to your and your agents surprise, well done on that squeeze message over the last two days.
Indeed as an avowed Non Labour voter, do you not think it a bit odd and inappropriate to write to me to 'urge' me to do anything? I thought an MP was elected to represent the people not merely those that voted for him. Even Ian Paisley always represented his Catholic constituents. Would it not be more appropriate to write to the leader of the party for which you did vote to URGE them to do something. Well seeing as the Liberal Democrat representative at the election has been informed I'll leave that up to Michael as to whether I'll be passing the message on or not.
I am a graduate Economist you know that was one line I never used against Michael's constant use of it despite it being true and have been elected to various levels of representation for over 30 years. I am actually quite capable of analysing the situation for myself and assessing what would be best in the interests of the people of Linlithgow and East Falkirk. So in other words people of Linlithgow and East Falkirk if you have a concern it will fall on the deaf ears of your elected representative as he is clearly more than capable of working out all your concerns without hearing from you.
I am certain the Queen* will find it of great interest if you decide to write to her. Rather a smug sign off from someone who is an elected representative of over 30 years.
Michael Connarty MP

So there you have it folks we have elected an MP who argues that he needs two offices so that he can hear from the people he represents and serve them over two local authorities, two health trust, two police boards but he is capable of making up his own mind without hearing from you. Now that is a waste of opportunity. Something I'll be letting the people of Linlithgow and East Falkirk before we meet again, and I think we will, across a ballot paper Michael.

As I've already started answering concerns of the people of Linlithgow and East Falkirk once again it looks like I'm ready to take on the
concerns of the local residents and challenge Michael when he continues to fail to meet those expectations. Maybe next time the people who turned to Labour in the dying days away from considering Liberal Democrat won't be so easily swung back.

* Actually seeing as the constituent has military experience and threatened to resign their commission and fight against an unelected Government by peaceful means shows a depth of feeling.

Decision Time

I'll have to admit a referendum on AV which one part of a coalition is free to campaign against is the not the ideal way to bring about new politics, however I doubt that this is the only concession that the Conservative team have given away. I suspect that there are also retractions on just how must they are going to cut in the first year as well.

You also have to look at some of the things that we have agreed upon.


There is plenty of scope for agreement, the Tories are also looking at a pupil premium and freeing up schools to do what they want. One contentious issue will be over homophobic bullying and teaching of same sex education as part of the curriculum, even in faith schools.


The Conservatives had intimated that they will look at the lifting of the personal tax allowance to see how this can be afforded. This is an encouraging sign for the lowest paid in our society. This may allow room for manoeuvre to get rid of the inheritance tax cuts for the super rich possibly to tax them instead on their properties. We shall wait and see but the Tories have intimated movement to make taxation fairer.

Civil Liberties

The Tories are with us on cutting the surveillance state, scrapping the ID card scheme that has been the Labour puppy for so long. Also part of this is loosening up red tape for businesses.

The Economy

There is a basic agreement in what needs to be done the real debate is over the time scale. There is a desire from both sides to get the banks lending, to cut the deficit over the term of this parliament and give Britain a greener and sustainable economic future.

Political Reform

Voting system aside there is movement to fixed term parliaments not set at the whim of the incumbent, the right to recall a corrupt MP and cutting the size of the House of Commons.

I know there will be people who said that they didn't vote Clegg to get a Conservative government, however more people in this country did vote for the Conservative MP than any other party and they returned more MPs. The Conservative government that would exist with a Liberal Democrat coalition partner would have a greenness to it, an inbuilt social conscious as well as a desire for new politics. Yesterday's Guardian cartoon showed Cameron crushing the cricket of wooden boy Clegg's conscience, however the Lib Dems in coalition with the Conservatives would act as a social conscience for the larger partner. Look at the promise to look at the poorest end of income tax above for a start.

If people voted Liberal Democrat to get electoral reform and their views to be expressed in Westminster more vocally then you have to realise that there is agreement between us and both the main parties in some areas and disagreement with both on others. I think Nick Clegg and the negotiating team will be looking at what offer is best to fulfil the nation's interests, that includes stability and economic recovery first and foremost. We have to show that coalition government can work here in the UK if we are to move for true proportionality. Only if it works and we can show we work with a party that is not the natural bedfellows will both the two main parties realise that there is hope of a future for them.

We were right to talk with the Tories as they had the best mandate from the people. We are still right to talk with them and try and come to some sort of agreement to best serve the people.

That Extra Mile

Last night William Hague described the upped offer to the Liberal Democrats as 'going the extra mile' so what must have been lacking before?

His statement said:

"In the interests of trying to create a stable, secure government, we will go the extra mile and we will offer the Liberal Democrats, in a coalition government, the holding of a referendum on the alternative vote system, so that the people of this country can decide the best electoral system."

It appears that before that statement the Tories may only have been seeking an 'confidence and supply' agreement, why else would Hague add the phrase in a coalition government after the word offer? If a coalition was already the default position surely this would have appeared in the phrase a stable, secure, coalition government at the top of the statement?

Then there is also the move from a conference on electoral reform to the Pauline conversion of the Damascus Road of offering a referendum on AV. Why is it that both of the two old parties are most fixated by AV*? The simple answer of course is that while it is electoral reform it is most like the current system and still offers them some hope of forming a majority government on less that 40% of the popular vote.

Both Labour and the Conservatives wish they were still in a two party system are are delusional about conceding any ground the multitude of other parties that have fought hard to make small inroads under FPTP. They still are thinking it is their right to govern are are willing to concede the littlest option but not the fairest.

So was it really an extra mile or merely a jump of panic?

* To be fair the latest wooing from Labour is a referendum later on STV after whipping through AV.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Has Dave Blown It?

Is Dave, or more to the point the Conservative Party about to blow their chance of power for the second time in this election?

In the hour it has taken me to get from work to home there is a faltering in the talks between the Tories and Lib Dems. Gordon Brown has wasted no time in removing himself as an obstacle in potential talks with Labour. The talks with Labour are starting tonight so is the clock ticking on a Cameron premiership? Is there going to be a rainbow over Westminster?

But hang on just as I'm typing this George Osborne has just offered a referendum on AV. But as both Labour and the Conservatives are aware, that is not the preferred option as outlined in the Liberal Democrat manifesto the preference is for single transferable vote. As the Guardian pointed out earlier AV is only marginally more proportional that first past the post.

William Hague has just tried to cast off his Damascus road conversion to proportional representation as letting "the people decide the best system". If you really want the people to decide the best system why not offer them the best system, the one that balances up a local accountability with proportionality.

Earlier we learned that agreement had been made on reducing the number of MPs, the Lib Dems being more radical than the Conservatives on that cut, that would need a redrawing of the boundaries anyway. If that is the case what is stop asking the boundary commission to draw up multi-member STV constituencies instead.

AV on constituencies, like we have now, may be disproportionate to the Tories as second preferences may go to the 'progressive alliance' but STV will at least reward them for strength where they are considerably strong. Maybe it is time for the Tories to truly wake up to what is the best and fairest way of electoral reform.

What Will the Next 24 Hours Bring?

As I resume post-election blogging I'd like to start by pointing out that even as a candidate in last Thursday's election I have no more access to the information of what is being discussed in London than any other party member. Therefore what I am about to type is based purely on the media reports of the last few days.

The statements last night from Danny Alexander and William Hague both focused on how the talks were working through the economic questions. This is the key stage of supporting any Government forward from this point. It is possible that the Liberal Democrats could agree to support a sound policy to deal with the deficit without entering a formal coalition. If this area can be resolved it would be possible that Cameron could lead a minority administration without the need for further support. It would also put the banks and markets at rest over what they see as uncertainty.

However that would then leave him requiring support on other issues and policy implementations when they come up. I'm sure that other areas of dispute, as Alex Wilcock put it the other day the other 3 key principles of our manifesto are up for discussion. All through the election Nick, myself and all our candidates emphasised that these four elements of fairness were the core of what we were standing for. Many of you have expressed to me your opinions on that going forward. These could well be the deciding points for how formal or informal the relationship between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems might be.

Somebody has raised the issue with me of have the Conservatives got the right to law down the law over Scotland. That may be one place where our 11 Scottish Lib Dem MPs may end up having a say. But we were voting in a UK wide election just the Conservatives have lost the trust of the Scots since the Thatcher years.

Whether there is a full blown coalition or a deal of "confidence and supply" one thing does appear clear a deal with Labour is off the table as Nick Clegg said last night that such a deal would be illegitimate in the public's eyes.

One possible scenario could be however, a confidence and supply agreement with the Tories and using the first opposition day to get a vote on proportional representation (if the Tories do not give on this) if Labour back that, Caroline Lucas, the Northern Irish parties and Scottish and Welsh Nationalists would also leading to a majority in the house on the issue.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Giro d'Italia Stage 1

It is day one of the Tour of Italy, the Giro d'Italia so welcome to the Netherlands.

Today the peleton gets underway with an 8.4 km time trail around the streets of the Dutch Capital Amsterdam. Starting and finishinf at the Van Gogh Museum

Being Amsterdam it is obviously an incredibly flat time trial so expect to see the time trailists in the race

Value of Your Vote

On May 6th 2010 it took on average
  • 33,350 votes to elect each Labour MP
  • 34,989 votes to elect each Tory MP
  • 55,131 votes to elect each Plaid Cymru MP
  • 81,898 votes to elect each SNP MP
  • 119,788 votes to elect each Lib Dem MP

Yes there were hundreds of people disenfranchised across the country due to the queuing issues, but the figures above show a far larger disconnect between the value of the vote based on who you vote for. Time for a change and a fairer politics, time for electoral reform to include proportional representation or else the two old parties will continue to shore things up for their own benefit and not that of the people.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Democracy and Principles in Proportional Representation

So the general election, the effects of which I still feel in too many muscles, has resulted in a hung parliament, so what now?

As some who for as long as I have been politically active and aware know that our current electoral system is anything but fair I have seen yet another example of just how unfair that system is. The difference is that this time many of the people in our country are also aware of just how unfair that has been too.

Also I'm someone who has long been a supporter of a single transferable vote electoral system to elect multiple members to constituency as the best way to get that imbalance between votes and seats resolved. With such a system comes the result that you are going to have parties that have to act together to get things done, that is the nature of the beast. Of course the people have spoken in a certain way about certain keys issues and cast their vote accordingly.

The issue that arises after a vote is what are the key principles that a party stands for that cannot be written off to work along side another party. In this election the Liberal Democrats have had those 4 key principles outlined clearly all along.
  • Fair taxes
  • Fair start for our children
  • Fair chance for our economy
  • Fair deal for politics
Also through this election, and again yesterday, Nick Clegg had always said that the party with the clear mandate from the people, should be allowed the chance to attempt to form the next government. Political commentators at times wanted him to define whether that meant votes or seats, he refused to speculate saying it would be clear at the time. Indeed it is as the Conservatives have both the lead in seats and votes.

So that does lead to the question of the four key principles and where the two parties are separated. On our children and economy we are closest, though with the economy there is a major difference on when it is prudent to start making cuts in government spending, although the majority of the population have back the Labour and Lib Dem notion that it should not be straight away.

On taxes the Conservatives were not looking to alleviate the burden on the poorest, indeed what they were aiming for was to further relieve tax on the richest with their inheritance tax proposals.

However, it is on fair politics that the biggest gulf exists, but it is the one point that the public are feeling most strongly about. They at the moment really want their vote to count. Turnout was actually up across the country this time, people wanted their voice to be heard. The Tories talk of electoral reform in the last 24 hours has been but a mere tinkering around the edges. David Cameron is merely offering a conference on electoral reform. Personally I think it is not enough, for a second election in a row one party has got 1 in 4 votes yet has only 1 in 10 seats, while a party with 36% of the vote has 49% of the seats.

We no longer live is a two party system, indeed we have two parties taking their first seats in Westminster the Greens and Alliance Party, and two more losing their places Respect and the Ulster Unionists. First past the post works where there are two parties but most seats in this election where contested by four or more parties, never mind candidates. There is a need for change in how we cast our vote and how that vote represents the views of the people. Also then how that view is reflected in Westminster itself.

There is a need for parties, the people and other influences to realise that the voice of the people is no longer clearly advocating one way to do things, but several. That parties will need to work together but they must represent the views of those who have voted.

For thirteen years the Labour party have kept electoral reform on the back burner, bringing it up again to the fore only as the election approached. Therefore David Cameron's statement yesterday to merely kick it into the long grass of another conference is not enough, it is only a way of dodging the fundamental issue of what is wrong with our political system. People are already saying that for the Liberal Democrats to forego our principle on this is not acceptable, that is true of those who have turned to us from elsewhere on this occasion as well as our long term support.

I think it is time to draw that line in the sand and not cross it.