Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Farewell Professor - Laurent Fignon 1960 - 2010

There are very few top class sportsmen who wear their glasses while participating in their sport. But the bespectacled face and flowing mane of blond hair tied back in a ponytail were what earned Laurent Fignon his nickname as the Professor on the professional cycling circuit.

We and he knew this day was coming when we would bid farewell to a two-time winner of the Tour de France and the man last man to ride unto the Champs-Élysées in the maillot jaune to lose it by the narrowest margin ever, only 8 seconds to American Greg Lamond. Last year he had announced to the world that he was undergoing chemotherapy for metastatic cancer. He had in his retirement become a commentator on the sport, something he was doing again this July and there was an interview with him during the ITV converage when his familar voice was struggling but he current one was determined to carry on.

He was brought into the Renault-Elf-Gitane team in 1982 to support the four time winner of le Tour Bernard Hinault. But the team leader failed to make the start line in 1983, Pascal Simon assumed that role, but midway through the race had effectively lost that position to Fignon losing 3 minutes over a 15.6km on the individual time trial up the Puy-de-Dôme. A couple of days later on Alpe d'Huez Simon also lost the lead of the race to the young pretender to the crown France's next big thing. However, at just 22 he became the youngest winner of the tour since 1933 when they rolled into Paris.

He repeated the feat the following year, after winning the King of the Mountains in the Giro d'Italia while coming 2nd. In 1989 having won the Giro for his only time the order was reversed by that new aerodynamic bike and riding position adopted by Lemond on the Champs-Élysées.

His best finish in the third Grand Tour the Vuelta a España which is currently in progress was third in 1987.

Here is the day in 1989 that he attacked Lemond and keeps tabs on Pedro Delgado to take the maillot jaune, in honour of the Professor

Laurent Fignon 1960-2010

Endorsement of the Day

This morning I had a debate with John Prescott on Twitter regarding NHS Direct. I reckon we both fought our respective corners and fought them hard. Figurative punches were being thrown much to my relief. Me pointing out the lack of money to do everything and the rational for looking at what was essential and therefore needed to keep being funded was what was important.

The fact that nurses currently on the NHS Direct lines will be returned to front line duties and actually treating people. At one point John seemed to suggest that NHS Direct nurses in their current number were essential as "It's about the quality of service - the reassurance and knowledge that saves lives." But NHS Direct isn't where lives are saved that is through the diagnosis and treatment by Doctors and Nurse Practitioners in our surgeries and hospital.

Anyway we got to a point where the entrenchment was shifting, John said, "In case you hadn't noticed, YOU'RE the Government now. Enjoy!"

To which I replied "
Sadly John I didn't get elected. But yeah I know that. At least this Government has realised there is a fiscal hole unlike you"

That led to this:

While I'd obviously welcome such a ringing endorsement for my debating skills from an ex-Deputy Prime Minister from a former Government. I'm sure I can could on the endorsement of the current Deputy Prime Minister in the current Government and leader of my party Nick Clegg.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Inside Incredible Athletes

Last night Channel 4 showed a really great programme called Inside Incredible Athletes. As regular readers will know I've sometimes mentioned the 'differently enabled' athletes* I've come across in the fields of athletics and bowling.

The show, which if you missed it is on 4OD here, is well worth a viewing and does show how differently enabled many of these athletes actually are. Highlighted brilliantly by England blind football captain David Clarke taking part in a five-a-side game between his current and former work places. Or dressage rider Lee Pearson who can control his horse without his hands due to his muscle difficulties. Or the fact that single amputees running with a blade compensate for the balance and weight distribution issues over time to make it look effortless when it is not.

It shows the athletes in all their attributes, jealousy of Lee's boyfriends getting a free car wash, the passion and aggression from the wheelchair Rugby guys, the wit again rugby player Steve Brown saying:

"Injuries can happen in any sport, or live. Believe us we broke our necks."

The passion and commitment for their chosen field in evident 2 years out from the London 2012 Paralympics. The event that Channel 4 will be covering in more detail and hours than ever before. This show not only brings the athletes to live a normal people with normal attitudes to getting on with things, it also explains some of the difficulties they have had to overcome to be at the top of their game. To be enabled in that different way. Some of them can compete alongside anyone, some need a slight equipment change, but all are able to compete and survive in the world on their own terms and that is what is so joyous to see.

* This was a phrase used by one of them to me saying, "I'm not a disabled athlete, I'm differently enabled."

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Two Who

The next series or Doctor Who is going to have a mid-season split after seven episodes, which what Steven Moffat calls a "game-changing cliffhanger" at Easter "an earth-shattering climax". It will return in the autumn with a run of six episodes.

It is not as The Grand Moff says splitting the series in two but making it two distinct series on the same budget with same number of shows. It means there will not be the long wait from the end of the series until the Christmas special. It also means that it is closer to the story arcing of the original series which had a story over a number of weeks before moving on. With the Moff in charge of that arc which will add to his other punctuations in the series even under Russell T. Davies.

It gives the Moff two premieres, and two climaxes. No doubt a return of his other vehicle Sherlock will also fill the schedules after its success this summer.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

A Little Bit of History

It's not everyday that you can say you took part in a little bit of history but setting off from Bangor on the 9:57 train this morning heading to my father's home city I did just that.

Meeting up with members of Belfast Pride at Great Victoria Street Station (a task I had to do in my own gregarious way as we weren't meeting Mícheál Carchrie Campbell until Yorkgate) it was off to Northern Ireland's second city for their inaugural Pride Parade. Starting from Duke Street railway station it followed the route of the 1968 Civil Rights March.

As a result it followed a lot of my families history, there are various members living on or near Duke Street in the 1901 or 1911 census. We crossed the Craigavon Bridge, around the 'Hands Across the Divide Statue' which was the closest point to the Fountain area where my father grew up and where my Grandmother lived most of her live. Also up past Carlisle Road Presbyterian Church where my grandparents were married. Eventually arriving having entered the city walls and exited them again at Guildhall Square.

Those of us who had travelled up by train had been a bit worried as the train pulled past the assembly point as there didn't seem to be a great turnout, but that soon changed, as this picture goes some way to show .

As seems to be the way with these things there was a little shower or two, but that didn't spoil the atmosphere as ever. Plus of course all those who marched were making that little bit of history.

One really great thing about how this first Foyle Pride was received was the way the car drivers on the Craigavon Bridge and the bus passengers, plus those along the pavement as we paraded through the City streets past the shops, bars and cafes were really supportive of the parade. Of course there were the dour church folk at the roundabout as we started, whose protested doesn't appear to have been registered on the Parade Commission's website (oops!). But the majority of the people of Derry were not listening to them but accepted the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transexual/gender and Questioning) community to their hearts.

I'm proud to be a son of Derry descent for (at least) four generations on today's reaction.

See more pictures on my Flickr account.

Pride in the Maiden City

Today I really am heading home, for those of you who followed by exploits last weekend you're probably wondering what I'm talking about. What I mean is that the male line for at least 4 generations before be has come not from Bangor but from Ulster's second city Derry/Londonderry on the banks of the Foyle.

The reason I am travelling practically to the other end of Northern Ireland and on one of the longest railway journeys you can take across the six counties is for Foyle Pride. Although there has been Foyle Pride since 2007 there has never been a Pride Parade this year is the first and it is taking the historic route of the 1968 Civil Rights march from Duke Street Railway station to Guildhall Square.

Of course this being Northern Ireland there are the usual protests, but this son of Derry will be marching with pride this afternoon.

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong *Sarcasm Alert*

I saw this on a note on Facebook and just had to share it to a wider audience.

01) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

02) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

03) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

04) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

05) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

06) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

07) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

08) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

09) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Thanks to Will McGavrey who reposted this from Mitchell Sturges

Friday, 27 August 2010

Why Older Gents Find It Harder Coming Out

It must be something to do with me being here in Bangor, last time I was here briefly it was David Laws that came out today it is Crispin Blunt. There are differences between the two cases, the first had been with his partner for a number of years the second had been married and coming to terms with his sexuality has led to a split from his wife at the age of 50.

I've noticed some of the younger bloggers and tweeters don't seem to get that there was an issue with being out publicly even not that long ago. It is something that Iain Dale writes poignantly about here (and I don't think I can improve on) it also shows how near to the cusp of that sea change I myself am. Which when you add to the fact that I'm from Northern Ireland makes it all the more a step that I've been out for over a decade.

Of course there is no such thing as being totally out, there are the little outings that one can or decide not to make every day. It has been nine years since I lived here and to be honest it is like starting all over again with many people not knowing. Bearing in mind that only for the last 5 years in Scotland did the much stronger gay side of my bisexuality become a matter that impacted on people. It is of course five years that many of the people here didn't get to see much of me in. So I'm facing a lot of honesty on my part going forward of that I am sure.

Crispin Blunt has made that first step of being honest, possibly with himself, but especially with his family. That will be a bedrock that will help him going forward, much as it was for David Laws back in May. The fact is from here on in it is a fact. A fact of his life that he has finally acknowledged. It has nothing to do with libido* it is about the sexuality of the individual, and just as there are high and low libidos in heterosexuals the same goes for homosexuals.

However, one thing that does it easier for the older LGBT community in the public sphere (and I think the split comes somewhere in the 40s) to come out is the fact that the younger ones of us have come out to largely positive responses. As Kristofer Keane tweeted:

"the message that needs to be spread is if you've got anything to get off your chest, do it now, we'll all still love you."

* Shame on Fraser Nelson the Spectator editor.

It's Friday...so Edwin Morgan

It's not often I start your Friday with a static image but here you are.

Christ of St John of the Cross is the paiting by Salvidor Dali that inspired this poem by Edwin Morgan (which I cannot embed. It is an excuse to combine my favourite artist with The Scots Makar the national poet of Scotland who died last week.

He also wrote the poem read out by Liz Lochhead at the opening of the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2004. Here it is:

Open the doors! Light of the day, shine in; light of the mind, shine out!

We have a building which is more than a building.
There is a commerce between inner and outer,
between brightness and shadow, between the world and those who think about the world.

Is it not a mystery? The parts cohere, they come together
like petals of a flower, yet they also send their tongues
outward to feel and taste the teeming earth.
Did you want classic columns and predictable pediments? A
growl of old Gothic grandeur? A blissfully boring box?
Not here, no thanks! No icon, no IKEA, no iceberg, but
curves and caverns, nooks and niches, huddles and
heavens syncopations and surprises. Leave symmetry to
the cemetery.
But bring together slate and stainless steel, black granite
and grey granite, seasoned oak and sycamore, concrete
blond and smooth as silk – the mix is almost alive – it
breathes and beckons – imperial marble it is not!

Come down the Mile, into the heart of the city, past the kirk
of St Giles and the closes and wynds of the noted ghosts of
history who drank their claret and fell down the steep
tenements stairs into the arms of link-boys but who wrote
and talked the starry Enlightenment of their days –
And before them the auld makars who tickled a Scottish king’s
ear with melody and ribaldry and frank advice –
And when you are there, down there, in the midst of things,
not set upon an hill with your nose in the air,
This is where you know your parliament should be
And this is where it is, just here.

What do the people want of the place? They want it to be
filled with thinking persons as open and adventurous as its
A nest of fearties is what they do not want.
A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.
A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want.
And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of ‘it wizny me’ is
what they do not want.
Dear friends, dear lawgivers, dear parliamentarians, you are
picking up a thread of pride and self-esteem that has been
almost but not quite, oh no not quite, not ever broken or
When you convene you will be reconvening, with a sense of not
wholly the power, not yet wholly the power, but a good
sense of what was once in the honour of your grasp.
All right. Forget, or don’t forget, the past. Trumpets and
robes are fine, but in the present and the future you will
need something more.
What is it? We, the people, cannot tell you yet, but you will know about it when we do tell you.
We give you our consent to govern, don’t pocket it and ride away.
We give you our deepest dearest wish to govern well, don’t say we
have no mandate to be so bold.
We give you this great building, don’t let your work and hope be other than great when you enter and begin.
So now begin. Open the doors and begin.

So not my usual all singing all dancing Friday mix but as someone who sought to get selected for the seat that houses the building enshrined in the above a poignant one.

Look Who's Following Me Home

On the 20th October one of the greatest raconteurs in the Liberal Democrats is coming to Belfast.

I know of very few Liberal Democrats who tire of hearing Paddy Ashdown tell his stories, the stories of his life and his experiences. Seeing as he is coming to the place where he grew up (indeed attending Garth Prep School here in Bangor) and where he spent some time of his military service it is somewhat of a homecoming.

Indeed it was his spending his formative years in Northern Ireland that Jeremy John Durham Ashdown was never know as that for the rest of his life, he was nicknamed Paddy when he first turned up at Bedford School aged 11 and has worn the moniker with pride ever since.

No doubt some of what he will be regaling in Belfast I will have heard in Edinburgh when he was promoting his autobiography A Fortunate Life but that will not stop me enjoying the journey through his memories again, as ever. Indeed as one other famous Ulsterman, comedian Frank Carson, would put it "It's the way he tells 'em".

Here is what I wrote from copious notes about Paddy's talk in Edinburgh in March last year as a taster, but he will tell it far better than I, so if you are in or around Belfast at the time do get along.


Thursday, 26 August 2010

Quote of the Day: Marianne Rademacher

aids ribbon Pictures, Images and Photos
"If the responsibility for prevention is put entirely upon women and HIV-positive people, we are not recognising the combined responsibility of two people."

These words were spoken at the end of the trail of German pop star Nadja Benaissa, who was not given up to ten years in jail for having unprotected sex while HIV positive. She had sex with three men after she became affected at the age of 17 eleven years ago.

The words of Ms Rademacher of Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe remind us as well as the Germans that the responsibility for safer sex lies with both partners. It should not be the sole responsibility of one partner and the fact that a possible jail term hangs over you makes it less likely that you will be open about it rather than more so.

For example if I a HIV negative person fall for someone and fall in love/lust with them and want to have sex with them, it is my responsibility to find out there status. The easiest way to do so is to ask the individual concerned, it is an element of putting trust in each other. If they tell me they are HIV positive I have the option, it is my decision what I wish to do with that information. I can proceed to have safer sex with that individual taking the precautions that I am able to do, or be totally safe and not proceed any further, but at that point the option is mine.

The responsibility has been both of ours to be open and honest about where we are. Ms Benaissa had been poorly informed, someone had told her there was next to zero chance of her passing on the virus. In fact of the three men she had unprotected sex with once has since been diagnosed HIV+. The chance of passing on the virus is not zero therefore there is a responsibility if you are positive to tell. Of course like Ms Benaissa that leads to the other issues of being open enough to discuss it and face the rejection option I mentioned before. These very poignant words from a HIV positive guy tell the issue that they can face when love is all around them, the constant fear of loneliness, disclosing and rejection:

"it has ... to do with the not being able to get on with a relationship either without telling the guy about my status – or after telling him."

This feeling from those that are positive isn't helped by a great deal of ignorance still out there about how HIV can (or cannot) be contracted. Something I would have hoped had lifted since I first faced it directly with a Uni friend who have contracted HIV through the bad Factor 8 that was given to Haemophiliacs. Sadly instead of greater understanding there appears to be a new generation growing up ignorant or forgetting about the risks.

However, I think that criminalising people for knowingly passing it on leads to people not having the desire to find out, not go for STI checks. Not being aware of what other infections they may have and could pass on to others.

So yes the responsibility does lie with both partners to be responsible. But it also does rest with everyone who is sexually active with more than one partner to know their own condition. As I mentioned in my speech in favour of lifting the Blood Ban. There are gay men who are more aware of the sexual health status than the vast majority of the heterosexual world. Maybe it is one thing that the LGBT community is more open about than the straight world. We are more aware of the risks, but as a result are more aware of the responsibilities that go with that risk.

Of course there is still more openness that is needed in all sections of our world when it comes to sexual health. The surprising number of over 50s who are getting infected, the large numbers of under 25s having unprotected sex, not just leading to unwanted pregnancy but to the spread of infections.

So next time you are about to embark on sex with a new partner heed the word of Ms Rademacher above. So be responsible play it safe.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Fosters* Edinburgh Comedy Awards Shortlistees

The five names of the shortlisted comedians for the 2010 Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Awards have been announces. They are (clockwise from top left):

  • Sarah Millican - who was the 2008 Best Newcomer
  • Bo Burnham - who started doing his comedic songs on YouTube (he's only turned 20 in the last week)
  • Greg Davies - Who plays Mr Gilbert, head of sixth form, in the Inbetweeners
  • Josie Long - won the BBC Young Comedy Award at the tender age of 17
  • Russel Kane - who recently pointed out there were too many Russel's in comedy
Here's a little glimpse of each of them in action.

* Others lagers (and for that matter real ales) are also available.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Great Views: The Guardian Says So I Agree

The doing a series of top 10 UK walks today's is one I have done and can thoroughly recommend, and it is an excuse for you all to come over and see me. The reason being that the best walk for cliff-top views is the North Antrim coast at the Giant's Causeway.

It is a majestic walk from the top looking down on the basalt columns below, or up at those rising above or around you. It is quite a sight of a different fiery past in that part of the world when the lava flowed up to the surface and then solidified to make such majestic shapes.

Or was that just the carving out of the rocks done by Finn McCool, to create his seat, organ etc.

Afterwards you aren't too far away from my favourite Irish Whiskey distillery at Bushmills so you could take the tour and sample some of the wares.

Monday, 23 August 2010

#OperationEvacuate: The Final Chapter

Well I'm finally sat down in Northern Ireland and think that I really need to let you know the end of the story which started to be told by myself and my travelling companion, Northern Irish Lib Dem Chair Mícheál Carchrie Campbell. So to keep everyone, especially my spy handler Chris Wilson*, in the loop here is the remainder of the tale.

Saturday was spent mainly packing and cleaning. Although there was a brief little bit of relief as Caron and her daughter Anna came over to deliver her Dyson for the use of Operation Evacuate. Mícheál, as they were leaving, asked Anna is she was a member of the Liberal Democrats. When she said no, he asked her if she wanted to be. When she said yes Mícheál asked for a form so I ran inside to find where I had them and handed one to them as they sat in the van to fill in. We then had the welcoming handshakes from local party representatives past and present and the Northern Irish chair.

Anna and Caron are going to be fostering my Conference 2009 hoopla won teddy, Bourne Ident Teddy, until I return to Scotland and Anna has a Bangor Bowling Club keyring which says, "Presented by Stephen Glenn" on the reverse of the club emblem, just so she doesn't forget who or where I am. As if!!

On Saturday evening Mícheál was having a meal with his mum's cousin and her son, who live nearby. While they were out the landlord came around for his final inspection while I was still mid packing and cleaning. But on Mícheál's return he said that his second cousin had asked at the table, "Was that Stephen?" then turned to his mother and said that was the Liberal Democrat candidate you got all those leaflets from. Apparently he would have also voted for me if he hadn't moved over to Edinburgh. I'm not which of my Edinburgh colleagues benefited though, that is a question I will have to get answered.

Well I spent most of Saturday evening and Sunday morning cleaning and little bits of final packing in van while Mícheál tried to get as much sleep as possible for the drive. The bathroom and cooker were sparkling by the time I was done.

We then set off at 7 am in the morning for the drive to Stranraer. On the way we honoured a challenge set by Caron to fly the pink jack out of the window. We did it on the way to the Varyag memorial at Lendalfoot. It is one of those memorials we have both driven past so often, either in a queue of traffic up from the ferry or in a rush to get to the ferry. This time we had time and used it to take a look and pictures of it.

After what was a smooth uneventful return trip we arrived at the port of Stranraer....

...yeah there is something about ports on this trip...

...initially the first queue at the port was up to the gate and a secondary one had started. The traffic warden told Mícheál that he could get in there, and he probably would have done if the traffic warden hadn't positioned himself in front of the wall that forms the gate to the entrance. There was a scraping noise as the traffic warden jumped over the wall to say you shouldn't have done that. This will add to #keygate as being #twgg (traffic warden gate gate) from the #operationevacuate family of hashtags.

We then proceeded up to the security check wondering if Alana and Peter's tale from Belfast on the way out would have got here before us. It didn't appear to have, but the security guards were happy to look in through the side door of the van before letting us proceed, straight into the hands of the law.

The police had just, it appeared, turned up for duty and decided before we had moved 2 metres further along to pull us over to the side. The proceeded to take details from us, search the vehicle (inside, underneath and under the bonnet). However, there were a number of issues with this that we are raising as a result.

Random stop and searches are illegal for a start and this one especially.

We were not given a reason of suspicion as to why we were being searched.

We had details taken from us and a request for photographic ID. Apparently a Northern Ireland Assembly Pass and General Election leaflet were not enough (you'd have thought alarm bells would have rung out then) so we had to reach for our passports.

I asked the data protection questions. Why are you taking my data? Who will have access to it? How long will it retained for? The answers were Prevention of Terrorism Act (not sufficient reason on its own as I pointed out above). Only for usage of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and not for any third party. I'm not sure I think it is for x** number of years.

After our details they let the dogs go into the van to sniff around and then check us out afterwards. Once all this was done the 'officer' (who was only wearing a security high vis jacket not a police one) who had opened the bonnet told us to shut the bonnet. Mícheál asked if he could do it for us he said no, then as Mícheál tried to push it down said, "No not like that, you need to lift it first." Too late not it was already bent out of shape. He then said we'd better get that shut or there would be a prohibition.

At this point Mícheál asked them for their identification numbers (which were not on display on their uniforms. The female officer was about to do so when her colleague with the bonnet said no we don't have to do that (actually they do if requested to provide). So we have no idea which officer we are to lodge a complaint against as they were not as forthcoming with information as we had to be on their say so.

As we trundled along towards the queue to our ferry we wondered which of our mobile phone contacts we should contact first. Mícheál's boss after all is the Northern Ireland Justice Minster, I had the Lib Dem Justice Spokesperson or the Secretary of State for Scotland in mine. Then again we both could contact the Deputy Prime Minster who is acting as Prime Minister as well.

Having experienced this at first hand we both think that the over reaction that our police have had (especially as this wasn't an international boundary) is far too excessive. This from two men who grew up with the constant daily threat of terrorism on their doorsteps everyday. For more frequently and more deadly that anything that currently exists, when security was tight but nowhere near as intrusive, humiliating or police-statest as this situation was.

We calmed down on the crossing. Mícheál started to compose his letter while I got my nose into the observer. Later on we got a postcard each of the ferry we were crossing on and sent the identical message to each other as we entered Belfast Lough facing our respecting home shores of Down (me) and Antrim (him). Then off we got and drove to Bangor where with the help of Sam O'Neill the 4th Bangor BB Captain and Cedric McBurney the BB/Scout Lib Dem team finally offloaded my stuff mainly into mum's garage.

This morning after some welcome recovery sleep we returned to van to McGladery's commercial hire and told Martin in the hire office the tale of the trip. We're waiting to hear the estimate for how much of our deposit we shall be losing, between the key and the scratched paintwork.

* Actually as he off to the Ukraine for the next 10 months he may be able to dig out my KGB file from 1990.

** The reason I'm not revealing this number is that Mícheál asked the same question and was not told so am not going to damage his own formal complaint.

Dear Daily Telegraph: The History of Splitting

The Daily Telegraph today has an article entitled 'The Liberals have a History of Splitting'.

It says that:

"Most Lib Dems chose Charles Kennedy as leader. Most chose Sir Menzies Campbell. Most chose Paddy Ashdown. And most have just chosen Simon Hughes to be the party's deputy leader."
Of course the last part in inaccurate as only the majority of Lib Dem MPs chose Simon as Deputy Leader. But the whole tenant of the argument is that over the last century only the Liberal had a tendency to split or splinter.

It ignores the fact that at the time that the Liberals split before the Nationalist Government the Labour party itself had split with the Independent Labour party opposing mobilisation during the First World War, the anti-war campaigner Ramsey MacDonald resigned as leader and Arthur Anderson took over. The same grouping would disaffiliate itself once more in 1932 under MacDonald. But in 1931 the Labour cabinet itself was split over spending and wage cuts split. It led to MacDonald and his keys allies resigning and setting up the National Government with the support of Tories and Liberals.In 1951 there was a split into the Gatskillite and Bevanite camps over the future direction of socialism.

Of course in 1981 there was a major split that led to the formation of a new party, whose successors would later go on to be in Government, that was of course the SDP. There followed the Militant tendency which led to a further split as some Labour MPs and members went off to the Socialist groups.

Which leads us on Ed Miliband telling us that Nick Clegg is betraying Liberal tradition and that he is actually a Tory. Now if ever there was a Government that had betrayed its own tradition it would be the Labour government of the last 13 years of which Ed was a part of in the later stages. As for betraying the Liberal tradition maybe Ed would like to define exactly what he means by that. There are a number of liberal ideologies all contained within the Liberal Democrats, so we are always coming to compromises on setting out policy and our stall.

He goes as far as calling Nick a Tory. Having read his thoughts on the future of Liberalism in the The Liberal Moment at about this time last year was able to ask questions a matter of hours after finishing reading it. I know he's not a Tory, but his is part of a Government that is largely occupied by Tories, therefore of course there will be more Conservative policies straight out of their manifesto than ours, but there are also a number of compromises on policies where than can be action.

Waking up this morning as I did in Conservative-free* Northern Ireland I don't fell like a Tory because of the coalition. Every upheaval that faces Miliband's party does seem to lead to another split. There are so many socialist parties in some parts of Scotland (esp Glasgow) that they are tripping over each other.

So Ed be careful throwing those stones about, there are dangers as always under the Labour party, just because you are being called the Bennite candidate is no need to go off in a huff.

* And Ulster Unionist at Westminster level.

Cause or Effect? Mental Health Among Gay Community

Yesterday whilst I was busy moving back to Northern Ireland I did sit down with the Observer while on the ferry. However, this one from Tracy McVeigh did stand out in light of a conversation me and Mícheál had had the previous evening.

It is looking at the issue of mental health in the LGBT community that will appear in this month's Attitude. The article suggests that rather than homosexuality being a result of mental health as was an officially held stance until the 90s, it is a result of societies failure to provide for homosexuals. One killing quote is:

"Imagine if we expected a young heterosexual girl to get her first lesson about relationships in a singles bar."

For the fact is that young gay men or lesbian women only really get the chance to meets others with their sexuality in that setting or online. Or at least with any certainty that the question is not going to be taken the wrong way. A heterosexual can happily go up to somebody they fancy and tell them so without fear of any repercussion except rejection. An LGBT individual has to take a chance of a random person they fancy. First they come out to that person by asking, that person may take an adverse reaction to the suggestion that they themselves are gay, which might result in violence, name calling etc. instead of just rejection.

There is also a pointing out of the word 'gay' amongst young people to mean that something is bad. The issue arises when someone who has grown up hearing that usage suddenly realises later on that they are the word which those around them have associated with equally bad all this time.

All this insecurity on many different levels leads to the fact that there are so few out role models that people can look up to. If even someone has confident as David Laws feels the need to have kept his sexuality private and Gareth Thomas only recently had the confidence to come out himself, it shows that even the most confident people are going to be open about their sexuality without mix.

However, from personal experience even some of the most confident, outspoken and outgoing gay people I know have some level of mental instability. It's not what made them gay but it is a result of the pressures and expectations that society places on them.

Do click on the link above and read Tracy's article in full it is well worth a read and something that even straight friends of LGBT individuals should read to enable them to maybe understand what their friends are sometimes going through.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

It's Sunday...I'm Busy...I'm Moving

I'll be on the road when this publishes. However, a musical redition of the journey. Has to start with this:

Simply for the line "Bathgate no more".

Then I'll be setting sail for:

Before the final short hop to:

Even though I keep insisting this song is about the other Bangor in North Wales.

But Operation Evacuate is underway and by tonight I'll be sleeping in my mums not for a breif stay but for a period of months.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

To Cheer Caron Up...Gratuitous Chest Exposure

I was speaking to my good friend Caron on Thursday evening and telling her I had scheduled some posts for over the weekend. She said she'd probably be crying as she read them, so this one is just for her. Although I suspect that a far number of you will be equally thrilled by it.

At this time in the winter months wed generally be settling down at Caron's with a glass bottle of wine. Getting ready for some gratuitous chest exposure on Strictly Come Dancing. While this isn't Strictly there is plenty of waxed, male chests on show.


My Top Ten for 2010

With voting over for the Total Politics top blogs and as I'm busy this weekend I thought I'd tell you just who it is that I did vote for. So in reverse order.

10. Eric Joyce's Blog - As much for the twitting that Eric does as well as the blogging. He has come to this lately and has shown that he has got the idea of being online. Of course as the agent of the Lib Dem candidate against him I had to answer the GE question about his meeting on the Digital Economy Act by saying "if he is re-elected".

9. Liberal Democrat Voice - Still the go to place for a range of Lib Dem and external views. The team has be bolstered this year and the Hon Lady Mark set a high standard as the first guest editor earlier this month.

8. Subrosa - Should have had one of my votes last year (though I did mention her in the Scottish review what I wrote) but she withdrew herself from consideration. Gives a differing view on things in Scotland, being of a more esteemed generation than most of us.

7. Cardiff Blogger - Is one of the Tory leaning Bloggers that I was able to keep reading even through the General Election campaign. If you haven't caught his and Arnie's weekly podcasts, where have you been? Sometimes irreverant, sometimes cutting edge, often very much tongue in cheek. Always cheeky.

6. Slugger O'Toole - The Lib Dem Voice best non-Lib Dem Blog of 2009. I know I had to make the imprumptu acceptance speech before handing it over to Mick Fealty on the Monday after the Total Politics fringe. The centre of Northern Irish political blogging. I expect my return there will see me contributing more to it in upcoming months.

5. The one, the only, the very fluffy Millennium Elephant - I know that both his Daddies must be very proud of how this 10 year old can write satire worthy of That Was the Week that Was. There were times when I thought how can I cover this political story with worthy words and Millennium would find the right slant, the right EMPHASIS, the tune that would make me smile even if I was angry with the actual story he was extrapolating.

4. Green SNP Tactical Voting - Jeff have moved to Nodnol but he is still somewhat focussed on Scottish politics, though recently his has joined his second politic party. Basically because the SNP are not going to be fighting his local MP and fellow blogger Lynne Featherstone.

3. Caron's Musings - I was worried that if Caron got better she would be less able to keep up the standard of blogging she got into when she was ill. I'm glad to say that the standard of both blogging and writer is doing great. Often Caron and me can find ourselves blogging about the same story at the same time. Yet from largely the same segment of the party will come up with a different way to portray it.

2. Mark Reckons - Very sadly earlier this week one of the most well researched blogs has taken his final bow. I know I'm not alone amogst Lib Dem bloggers in linking to him because he has often asnwered the question of the day in such a way that there is perceivable comeback. I know from personal experience how hard it is to keep up his quality and quantity of output, which sadly is the reason he is hanging up his keyboard.

1. Stephens Liberal Jounral - This is the first time I have ever voted for myself in a Blog of the Year poll. However, I do think I've had my best year, even if politics got in the way of blogging for part of it. I've throw punches in all sorts of directions and judging by the backlinks, comments and retweets many of them landed. I'm not going to match Mark for research or Millennium for satire but I have a niche between the two. Knowledgeable in certain areas but often with a barbed wit to make a point. Of just finding the right combination of words to make a point.

So there you have it my top 10 for last year. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Those Charles Kennedy Rumours

Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg on campaign trail in Glasgow
Your writer is just to the left of shot with other candidates

Yesterday evening as we were travelling the rumours of a Charles Kennedy defection to Labour started to circulate.

Charles Kennedy was one of the early SDP success stories taking the Ross, Cromarty and Skye seat in the 1983 General Election: just after a young Liberal, named Simon Hughes, was elected in a by-election in Bermondsey. Charles is the last incumbent Lib Dem MP who was elected on an SDP ticket and I like the fact that both he and Simon are becoming the spokespeople for the conscience of the party. They are two of the senior members who came from different perspectives to rise to the top.

However, the rumours appear to be either Labour led or some are suggesting from right-wing bloggers to destabilise the coalition. Looking back at that January day in 2006 when Charles resigned the leadership there were no rumours that that was the step he was going to take that morning. I know I was caught up in the media circus being phoned to come to the studio for an interview before the speed of change overtook that. So I don't think he's allow rumours of this kind to get out, he'd make the move and do it.

But I don't think he'd make the move. At his first PMQ deputising for Cameron Nick Clegg reasserted that the party opposite had gone into an illegal war in Iraq. That is the view of the vast majority in our paty, including of course Charles Kennedy. I don't think he'd feel at ease sitting shoulder to shoulder with the Labour members who voted for that war. The same goes for other former Labour members who are now part of the Lib Dems, who I suspect are the "rumoured colleagues" that Charles Kennedy will bring with him.

Life within the Liberal Democrats is often a tightrope of ideological struggle between the various strands of thoughts on issues. Liberal Democrats are used to fighting for their corner and their point of view even with their colleagues. We don't give up that fight easily and after 100 days of coalition government and looking around the blogosphere and see that after initial trepidation the party is starting to speak its heart and mind once again.

That is why I think Charles and Simon and others will act from within the party and not seek to do things from elsewhere. Also there is the comment made earlier this week Nick Clegg:

"If we weren't in a coalition now I don't think people would take any notice of the Liberal Democrats.

"If we were in a coalition with Labour arguably our identity crisis would be even worse."

Also if you are dissatisfied about the way the Government is doing things the easier way to bring about that change is from within that Government rather than from the other side of the House, which currently after 13 years of leadership is merely leading the league in whinging.

If Charles Kennedy is to be a figurehead within the party for the social liberal agenda being heard I'd be more that happy to man the rigging or scrub the decks for that good ship. I'm not, however, for lowering the flag of liberalism to raise a flag of convenience of any hue.

Read also: Not always you see Tom Harris defending Lib Dems, he is often doing just the opposite, but he is defending Charles from some totally unfounded claims.

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Early Hiccups of #OperationEvacuate

Well Mícheál Carchrie Campbell (Northern Ireland Lib Dem Chair) and I are currently having a race to see who can blog the early episodes of Operation Evacuate*, over the table from each other as Bangor comes into view on the starboard side.

Hiccup One shortly after the 300 deposited me in Belfast City Centre I had a phone call from Enterprise (hire company number two) of Operation Evacuate's chequered history in getting the key incredient (ie the van) sorted. The person on the other end of the line said, "We are sorry but the van you have booked will not be available in time, will a small transit do?" My reply was no not with the size of the fridge/freezer amongst the other things that I am having to move.

So after they said a van would be available tomorrow, too late for the crossing we had booked, they said they would call back with alternatives. They did they found another van hire place that had the van we were looking for. Phew problem sorted.

We haven't got the van you are looking for

Update to be fair the Enterprise Cares tweeter has replied twice to my earlier Tweets to make sure that everything was Ok.

Hiccup Two was a minor one. Mícheál ended up having to stay longer at his morning meeting
that he thought he would have to. Then on the trip in from Glengormley got on the wrong bus. So ended up going to his to pick up his stuff before meeting me. But the silver lining was that Pam Tilson called to say grab a sandwich, I'll put the kettle on in the office and we can catch up til he gets here. So we did until Mícheál turned up.

Hiccup Three the security at the port after asking to see our booking reference asked Mícheál to open up the fan. So he stepped out and used the ignition key to open the dead lock on the door. For someone who speaks English and Irish he reverted to the Anglo-Saxon when a snapping noise was heard. Followed shortly there after with a plaintive 'Stephen, come here'.

I was on the phone to McGladery's to say what had happened and could they ship down the spare set as we were immobile less than 10 miles into Operation Evacuate. I was asked if we could get up to them, I said could you taxi them down and I'd pay for that it would be quicker and cheaper. We were blocking one of the two lanes to get access to the HSS queues.

Alana and Peter who were on duty were glad we were able to laugh about it. Alana however may not have been too observant if she had looked into the back of the van. She said we'd better call our 'wives or girlfriends' to tell them we'd be late. The simultaneous comments of dirision from two out and proud Ulstermen was missed. As was a later 'It's ok hug' from me to Mícheál, which only warranted the comment 'Best not tell your wives and girlfriends'. She also asked if we were brothers, they was more sniggering from us.

Finally she noticed Mícheál's rainbow lanyard and said, "In Australia that is the sign of gay pride." We said same here. Penny dropped she asked, "Are you?", we nodded. She then outed herself, just one of the most bizarre little daily coming out occasions I've ever had. But a good laugh was had.

Update It appears that my Laptop and Blogger have beaten the MacBook and Wordpress to publishing.

* The mission which weve chosen to accept to move my stuff from Bathgate to Bangor this weekend.

It's Friday...So 1812

Yes I know it is 2010, however in 1882 on this very day Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky unveiled his new composition Торжественная увертюра «1812 год» at the Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.

You know him better as Peter and the piece as the 1812 Overture.

Part 1

Part 2

But hang on say my loyal readers. That's too straight laced for a Friday post at 5pm. Of course it was used in V for Vendetta as the Palace of Wesminster gets destroyed (but I can't embed).

So instead of the field guns how about some Muppet explosions.

Or Yosemite Sam taking the pot shots at Daffy Duck.

Or Ken Russell's take on the theme from the 1970 film The Music Lovers.

Blogging May be Light Over the Weekend

Hopefully right about now I'm taking off from Edinburgh Airport bound for Belfast, although this evening I will be sleeping in my bed in Bathgate again. Yes today is the first day of the big move.

Though as Andrew Reeves has had in his highlighted posts on his blog since I made the announcement last weekend is it "A sad day for Scottish Lib Dems and Scottish Blogging"?

It is somewhat strange to be heading back. I've spent over 17 years including the last nine years and four months firmly ensconced in West Lothian. I'm a fully paid up NIPPLE* yet I'm heading back.

I don't feel like I really belong in Northern Ireland so much anymore, I've only spent 5 years since my A'levels actually living there. What is more strange is that the room that I will be setting up to work from home in was the room that I sat in to revise for those same A'levels 22 years ago. I will however, be sleeping in the room next door. So yeah I'll not be able to ad hoc pop into Clifton Terrace to hand in my various forms, ballot papers, or to rescue Kieran Leach for a drink.

Yes there is family and friends to catch up with both from before and through the joys of the internet ones I didn't even know 9 years ago. There are some good friends like Caron, Andrew and many others who I've got to know over the past nine years who will be a gapping hole, as I suspect I may be for them, over the time I'll be away. Also there are several (tens of) thousand leaflets that probably had my name on for delivery in the 2011 Holyrood campaign. Plus a few thousand doors that I'll not be knocking on. So in a sense Andrew is right for the Scottish Lib Dems.

My blogging may well take on a different focus being away from the Scottish political buzz day in day out. Actually getting to see BBC Northern Ireland's Hearts and Minds on a Thursday night rather than Sunday morning will seem strange again, but may well act as a catalyst.

Two things my blogging will still be is liberal and eclectic. It will still focus largely on politics both nationally, locally and undoubtedly also on Scottish matters (hard to totally take me totally out of that pond). There will be my usual diversions unto other subject matter whenever I feel like it too. One thing that somebody has commented on since the General Election was over and again once I was no longer contesting Edinburgh Central or the Lothian List was that there has been a little more freedom in my posting again. There maybe isn't that fear of stepping too far off party message for fear of voters (or more likely the press) reaction.

So we shall see. I think I've over the last 12 months had a pretty strong year of blogging, obviously the General Election and subsequently seeking selection meant the volume at time petered off. There has been some hard hitting posts where I haven't spared the punches aimed in all sorts of directions. I'll keep them coming don't worry.

Although having said that blogging will be light I have a few things scheduled.

* Northern Irish Professional Person Living Elsewhere.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A Solid Stonewall of Silence Over Equal Marriage #Stonewallfail

Next month's Lib Dem conference and Delga's motion on Equal Marriage* has got most LGBT organisations talking about this issue. Indeed we know they are because PinkNews asked the leading ones to respond in 400 words.

They got responses from LGBT Labour, LGBTory, Delga, OutRage!, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation and from Scotland the Equality Network and the LGBT Network. There is one noticeable exception that is living up to its name once again in the wrong way STONEWALL.

A Stonewall may to must people's mind be an immovable object, a barrier or a definition of boundaries. However, the context in which Stonewall came by its name is the exact opposite. The Stonewall riots were a time for the LGBT community to stand up against the call for them to conform to what 'society' at the time deemed they should be. Denying themselves, denying that gay people had equal rights, even denying that they were normal.

The silence from Stonewall is stifling.

To be fair the other two political groups seem to be somewhat confused about equal marriage. LGBTory supports the call for Civil Partnership to be carried out in a Religious setting, however a Civil Partnership like a Civil Wedding is not allowed to contain any religious content. Of course a subsequent meeting may be arrange accommodate David Cameron's fear of letting some religious groups desire to carry out same-sex marriage appear equal with what is currently available.

LGBT Labour only talk about civil marriage to be carried out for same-sex couple and totally avoids the issue of religion. Apart from that their stance is similar to the Lib Dems in that civil partnership should be available to mixed-sex couples and marriage available to all (just they don't seem to include all marriage in that only the civil version).

Now I know you shouldn't mix politics and religion, I am from Northern Ireland after all, but in this case politics has to undo a wrong by allowing an enabling. The religious communities who wish to carry out same-sex marriage are barred from doing so by existent legislation. It is time to undo the shackles for those that want to, but not to force those that don't to also comply.

* I'm looking forward to the Federal Party discussing and I trust passing something that I was an interested observer and adviser in helping Liberal Youth Scotland to get the Scottish party to pass their motion.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A Wee Dram for the Road...

...well not literally as I don't want to be seen encouraging drink driving. No what I'm talking about is the fact that Scottish scientist have found a way to turn "pot ale" and "draff" into biofuel.

For those who have yet to go on a distillery tour the pot ale is the liquid from the cooper still and the draff is the spent grains. Therefore they are by products of the whisky industry, things that would otherwise just be disposed of.

The scientists from Napier University found they could make Butanol from the two main by-products at Glenkinchie Distillery*. There are copious amounts of both produced in the distilleries across Scotland, and cars do not need to adapt in any way to run on Butanol.

The main concern about some of the biofuels that are produced is that the organic material that is needed to produce this is a primary source and the planting of it takes up valuable arable land that could be being used to feed people. However, as the Napier scientists have discovered a use for otherwise thrown away products is the direction that biofuels should be looking. What organic waste is not going into either human or animal consumption anyway that could be used to this end? We can't start planting the developing world to grow crops for our fuel while they starve.

* Yes, I have toured this East Lothian distillery in my tasting travels.

Hughes Right Sentiment Wrong Solution

I love Simon Hughes dearly but his call today for a 'coalition veto' while the sentiment is grounded in the right place his solution is all wrong.

We are 100 days into a coalition, so we cannot yet say that decisions have been made without consultation. The deal was taken to the Federal Executive and Parliamentarians, with the exception of Charles Kennedy they agreed to it. Even the special conference of party delegates passed it.

However, as far as being able to veto something divisive that the Tories may foist upon the Liberal Democrats yes we should have that. But we shouldn't need a veto to do so. What we do need to address is the so called 'Britvic Clause' the fact that it requires 55% of the Parliament to bring down the Government. This should not be changed it should remain as the simple majority 50% plus one.

That way the senior coalition partner will have to tread carefully with the junior partner. Knowing that if they push things too far they could find their backs up against the wall. There has been coverage that the Tories are getting far more out of the deal than the Lib Dems. The Tories are getting the glory while the Lib Dems are soaking up the blame.

Maybe they are, but if the threat over them no longer having that support and no longer having the ability to push things through more aggressively that agreed, they may have to tread more carefully. The threat of a no confidence motion when they are being particularly divisive may well focus Tory minds on partnership and the fact that this time they are not governing on their own.

It isn't the veto that Simon suggests. Policy will be decided at cabinet level and I trust that if our people in there have misgivings they will voice them and steer the course to a more liberal approach. But if Nick has the option for saying I cannot guarantee our support, in fact I feel we will have to vote against this, then there is the power.

Of course with such power comes responsibility and we entered this coalition in a responsible way to deal with the mess that Labour have gotten us into. So we need to show a degree of responsibility in how we move things forward and not be like these two.

Cartoon from Imageshack

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Homophobe Needs to Learn to Read the Bible Properly

There is something that often irritates about some of the so called 'Christian' extremists who preach things like kill the gays and brandish the word abomination around while enjoying their prawn in their polyester/cotton mix clothing.

However, today's 'learn to read the bible' award goes not to an American but Russia's first legal billionaire German Sterligov. He said that he wanted all gay men and women killed when he was interviewed at the weekend on the popular Moscow radio station Echo Moskvi.

When challenged by the host
Ksenia Larina:

"I want to understand, German, what what you want to do … what to do not only with atheists but also with gays and lesbians?"

Mr. Sterligov responded:

"As it is written by the Apostle Paul, Let it be their blood upon their heads."

Other guests on the programme chipped in. One asked:

"This is what is written about gays and lesbians?"

"Yes," replied Mr. Sterligov. "This is what is written about the homosexuals."

Now for some facts, yes it is written in the bible,"Let it be their blood upon their heads" you can find Paul saying it in Acts 18:6. However, here is where Mr Sterligov falls down, you cannot take a sentence in the bible out of its context to make it say what you mean.

The context of this passage is Paul visiting the synagogue in Corinth. He was testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. However, they resisted and blasphemed. So Paul shook his clothes (ie getting the residue of them off him) and said:

"Your blood be upon your own head! I am clean. From now on I shall go the Gentiles."

So instead of it being about homosexual is actually about some of God's chosen people, the children of Israel rejecting the message that Paul was giving to them. It has nothing to do about sexuality and all to do about rejecting the message. Seeing as you who I would expect to accept the message have rejected I'm going to those that you think don't deserve to hear it.

Harsh words and equally applicable to Mr Sterligov. You say that some people deserve to die for who they are. As I've mentioned before people like Mr Sterligov are very particular about which of their priestly laws from Leviticus they want to uphold and which it is ok to ignore in this day and age. Generally if applies to sleeping with man as with woman and includes death keep, if it involves sea food, or slavery or clothing we can ignore that now.

End result of course is a total image of hate, when actually Paul would have been turning his back on that hate and taking his message to those that Mr Sterligov has shown such hatred to. Sadly a recent poll of Russian opinions shows that Mr Sterligov is in a majority. 74 per cent of Russians believe gays and lesbians are morally dissolute or mentally defective, while only 15 per cent think they are normal.

There is still a long way to go in certain parts of the world. But if you are going to have an argument based on biblical references at least use the passages that relate rather that totally twisted, that is debate rather than diatribe.

I Didn't Reckon On This

Earlier this year somebody said to me that there were two very strong contenders for the Lib Dem BOTY this year. I asked who and that individual said me and Mark Thompson. Obviously I was chuffed to be held up in such company.

It was at a time that the two of us in our own inimitable style where ripping into the Conservatives and Labour, pulling apart their policies or lack of with whim, vigour, reasoned argument and not a little humour in the run up to the election. Of course for me the actual election got in the way (being a candidate, agent and helping when I could in a target seat) so I took a little bit of a dip, but have recently got back into full flow, but today I've been knocked sideways by this news.

I have come to a decision that due to other commitments I am going to stop blogging.

This will be my last blogpost....


Mark (Reckons) Thompson

Now as I've always told anyone who's asked "How do I start blogging?" one of my two key points is blog when you want to and are able, don't feel the pressure to be as prolific as some of the others (myself included). So therefore it would of course be hypocritical of me to tell Mark to keep at it, I know he will have his reasons, some of which he explains on his final blogpost.

The will be a gaping hole left by Mark's departure. He is currently the top individual Lib Dem blogger in the Wikio rankings at number 13 only nine places behind Lib Dem Voice. If I recall correctly he did manage to hold the Stephen Glenn Position just outside the top 10.

While I know that he is giving up his Mark Reckon's blog I know that the door will always be open when something really powerful needs to be typed from his keyboard as a guest piece on Lib Dem Voice or elsewhere. At least I hope so.

But as one of the older hands in the Lib Dem blogosphere it is always a shame so see another bright light extinguish itself and Mark was certainly one of the brightest, most thoroughly researched, accessible and perceptive blogs we had in our corner. I had the privilege of meeting him at Bournemouth last September and I look forward to having a drink with you again in Liverpool mate.

So long and thanks for all the fisks.

UKIP Leadership Election Rules In Full

Now that Lord Pearson of Rannoch has stepped down as leader of UKIP after less than a year in the post it seems appropriate to review their leadership election rule. Here are the new rules to ensure that someone who is in Lord Pearson's words "not much good at party politics" fills the post again.
  1. A returning officer shall be appointed.
  2. A deputy returning office shall be appointed.
  3. The returning officer shall withdraw to the corner of the room where he/she* shall have their his back to the leadership candidates
  4. The returning officer shall press play on the music device that is located in the corner.
  5. The deputy returning officer shall invite the leadership candidates to stand and walk around the room.
  6. The deputy returning officer shall remove one of the chairs that the leadership candidates were sitting on whilst they continue to walk around.
  7. The returning officer at a time of his choosing shall press stop or pause on the music device in the corner of the room.
  8. The leadership candidates shall attempt to sit on the chairs.
  9. The deputy returning officer shall eliminate the leadership candidate left standing once all chairs are occupied from the race.
  10. Repeat steps 4 to 9 until there is just one chair and one leadership candidate Mr Farage remaining.
  11. The remaining leadership candidate shall be asked to sign a pledge never to get in a plane trailing a banner on polling day.
  12. Once the above affidavit has been signed and witnessed by the Returning Officer and Deputy Returning Officer the signatory shall be invited to lead the party.

Let the party games begin.

* There are no women in UKIP are there?

Parish Notice Update My Future Blogging

As you may have noticed if you read my Parish Notice at the weekend I'll so be heading over the water to Northern Ireland. Some of you have been concerned about what that means to the blogging.

What? You think I won't have stuff to blog about just because I am over the Irish Sea. Don't Panic! The blogging will carry on. Heck I've even been welcomed by the Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland prior to my arrival on the strength of my blogging. No pressure at all then when the local party chair says:

"Stephen is a well-known LibDem blogger, so hopefully he will bring some life to
this blog."

As this was the first post on the blog I may be consulting my sister-in-law, who is a midwife, for some post natal advice. Although saying that I seen a number of baby blogs grow out of the seed of an idea inspired by myself and others.

I'll no doubt be posting a Northern Irish slant on things more on that blog while keeping my national and Scottish focus probably more on here. Watch out also for me probably posting some more stuff on Slugger O'Toole which transcends party politics.

I may also get around to finally completing the revamp of my blog. Yeah you may have thought it had been finished but don't you believe it. I still have a few ideas that I never quite got around to with all the campaigning over the last few months.

In other news with Blogger's new comments tab and as I'm currently not standing for any party position I have returned to an unmoderated comments policy for new postings. If you wish to comment on anything over 7 days old that will still be moderated. Just keep behaving in the comments folks.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Happy Birthday Dear Namesake - The Jerk

No I am not being derogatory in the title, because if you were to Google my name you'd also find a lot of mentions to a 65 -year-old from Waco, Texas who was the star of The Jerk (1979). Indeed it was the first starring role for the stand up and writer that people know as Steve Martin.

So why you are asking am I wishing Mr Martin a happy birthday as a namesake? Well his given names are Stephen Glenn Martin, the second name after his father.

He started out doing stand up but also ended up writing for The Smothers Brothers Half Hour, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. He got his first TV appearance in the Steve Allen Show. But is was his guest appearances on Saturday Night Live that lifted him to the stratosphere (he added 1 million viewers when he appeared). This lead to the movie career that many more of us know him from, which started with a lot of physical comedy but has mellowed out somewhat as he got older.

So many happy returns for the 65th time to the man who shares my google search results.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Parish Notice

I did alude the other day and indeed over the past few weeks on Facebook that things in my live are about to head for a change.

Well I tonight I did let slip on Twitter and Facebook that I have just enjoyed an Au Revoir meal with Caron's. Anna was our waitress for the evening, Bob prepared an excellent menu of which we had choices but not for the main which was Aberdeen Angus Beef Fillet Steak in a rich peppercorn sauce, accompanied by rosemary potatoes tossed in parsley and roast garlic and tender, sweet asparagus.

We had printed menus and wine lists and everything.

The reason for the Au Revoir is that I am relocating for some time to Northern Ireland. I may be some time, my work have agreed to me working from my mums for the next six months. (I only had this confirmed last thing on Friday and therefore haven't been able to let too many people know too much up until now. But as with all these things live may always take an effect and plans may change.

So therefore it is an Au Revoir to Scotland but I will be back at some point, just not sure in what capacity or when. It has been a funfilled 9 years and I have felt very much at home hear and have made many friends who will remain so for the rest of my live.

Does Barack Obama Read My Blog?

I'm not sure if PoTUS* reads my humble little blog. I did get a number of hits from Washington yesterday so you never know. However, I do know we are on the same wavelength over what I posted yesterday.

Speaking after a Muslim Iftar dinner, breaking the daily Ramadan fast, last night at the White House he said:

"We must all recognise and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan, Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground. But let me be clear, as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.

"That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are."

Well done to President Obama for taking a stance for what is right and enshrined in the constitution against the upsurge of of Islamaphobia. Separating out the rights of ordinary law abiding Muslims from the responsibility to deal with Al-Queda and other terrorist groups who are not a true representation of their faith. Showing respect for the victims, all victims, of Al-Queda including those on 9-11 and the many Muslim victims too.

A President who is calm enough to get the facts straight, to keep the Constitution in mind and show balance in his comments is someone worthy of the job. If you are reading this Mr President keep up the rational thought patterns even it all around you seem to be losing theirs.

* President of the US for all non-West Wing fan readers.

Friday, 13 August 2010

It's Friday....So Patricia Neal Sood Still

Well it is Friday so I'm going to let you in on some of what I got up to this week and linked into what happened last weekend.

As Patricia Neal, who died during the week, starred in The Day the Earth Stood Still it is just cause to show you this which mentions her co-star Michael Rennie in the opening line.

As Mat Bowles who gets my hat tip says it isn't perfect in places but good none the less. But hey as it was the tenth anniversary of H2G2's Scottish Researchers Group last Saturday it is also an excuse to link to something I wrote earlier in another place.

Of course as well as H2G2 last weekend I also combined it with Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy, of course not for the first time. His jazzed up performance of the song that merges the two doesn't have the visuals but here is the opening version of the song that goes with the immortal toast.

In my post earlier this week I did mention that the Skye Boat Song was something that Rupert Murdoch didn't own, so I was considering posting a version of it here. After all, Edinburgh's Tattoo is on at the moment, you can hardly move on the High Street and if you are trying to get around at the wrong time of the evening at the top of the Royal Mile or thereabouts forget it. But I thought of something a little more upbeat was appropriate.