Wednesday 31 August 2005

Marigolds at the Ready for Campaign Office

Well the local party has acquired office space for the Livingston by-election close to Livingston North Station. We recieved the keys this morning. I might just have to don my marigolds after work to help get it cleaned up ready to become a hub of activity.

I'll post again once I actually get the guided tour. Until then I have some more deliveries to do.

Tuesday 30 August 2005

Child's Play. Normality Resuming

Yesterday evening I was out delivering in the Adambrae area of Livingston. This is the area of town that poor Rory Blackhall, the murdered schoolchild, lived in.

For the first time in the week we have been doing our deliveries I actually saw groups of children playing again in the street. This has been an activity that has not been forming is normal backdrop to the this by election campaign so far. Therefore it was a welcome soght that some sort of normalityis returning to people's lives.

Monday 29 August 2005

Is a Week This Long in Politics?

Last Saturday was the first day we started delivering 'Charles Kennedy's Resident Survey' in Livingston. I read this morning a comment written by one of the Nationalist Councillors saying that we'd been doing it for months.

Now I know a week is a long time in politics but can 9 days of deliveries seem so long to the opposition? Maybe so.

Saturday 27 August 2005

The Usual Suspects

Okay the three leading parties in Livingston have now chosen their candidates. Seeing as It is only just over 3 months from the general election it is hardly surprising that both the Liberal Democrats and SNP have chosen their General Election candidates, Charles Dundas and Angela Counstance respectively.

Robin Cook's agent Jim Devine makes up the trio, although with the confessions he made in today's Daily Record may be a suicidal opening statement, clever opening gambit or a error in Labour's slection process when they rush through by elections. Only the result will tell.

The SNP are trying to ignore the fact that their vote has shrunk on each of the last four Westminster Elections while the Lib Dems are breathing down their necks on the way up. But then this is no real surprise, that is what Labour and Tories have done in by elections that Lib dems have won or challenged strongly in in recent years.

Next week the SSP are due to select their candidate, I suspct they also will reselect their candidate from May, Steven Nimmo. As for the Tories if anyone know the location of any Tories in Livingston could you ask them to get in contact as I'm really concerned that they have slinked off the planet without telling the rest of us why.

Thursday 25 August 2005

Lib Dem PPC for Livingston Selected

Tonight Charles Dundas who stood in the seat for the May General Election was overwhelmingly elected as the PPC for the Livingston by Election in a vote by local party members.

He said, "News of my premature candidacy has been greatly exaggerated. However, I am glad that I have the continued support of the Local Party and was tonight selected to contest the forthcoming by election in Livingston."

The fact that Charles has worked hard for the local party since the General Election made it difficult for the other candidates, no matter how good they were, to take this position away from him.

On a personal note I am glad that the continuity we discussed after the General Election had allowed to continue and I look forward to working alongside Charles.

Interesting factoid of the campaign 1: Our paths first crossed when we actually both were shortlisted and interviewed for the job he currently holds.

Controversial Labour One Gender Short List

Surprise, surprise Labour announces a short list comprised of one gender for the Livingston by Election and there is an outcry. This time however it is because it is an all male short-list.

You would have thought out of 40 applicants from across the country there would have been at least one competent woman amongst them. Maybe I'm just naive about the potential of women in politics, too much time around Jo Swinson and Marilyne MacLaren no doubt giving me a distorted view. But no! After cutting the list down to twelve for interview Labour have announced a short list of five men for the by Election.

Indeed Cathy Peattie, Labour MSP and convener of the Scottish parliament's equality committee, expressed concern at the nominations.

"It is now as if the Scottish parliament selections are by one set of rules, and Westminster by another," she said.

"That situation appears to be worsening and I think the Labour Party has to look at this."

The men who will be facing the local members today are Unison official, and Cook's agent, Jim Devine, Sportscotland executive John Duncan, three councillors Hanzala Malik from Glasgow, and West Lothian's own Willie Dunn and John McGinty.

Both the Liberal Democrats and SNP have women on the shortlists that all the local party members will vote on.

Tuesday 23 August 2005

The Schoolboy, the Search, the Shock

Over the weekend we experienced our own horror story unfolding here in West Lothian. Rory Blackhall went missing from his school on Thursday, he wasn't there to be picked up at the end of the day by his grandfather.

Over the weekend helicopters, mountain rescue teams, police and volunteers were searching every area in Livingston where he could be hiding or have been hidden. Livingston is very green and there are a lot of such areas. You realise this as you drive past yet another search team looking in undergrowth.

On Sunday afternoon before any official announcement was made the whole town started to know something was up. The Police who had been moving on to the next bush or copse were now static their faces giving it away. Mountain Rescue teams were departing with their rucksacks there could be only one explanation, a body had been found close to Rory's school in a wooded area.

The town is in shock and yesterday police were present at every primary school in town to reassure parents and pupils.

The Race is On - Tories Left in Their Blocks

So the race to succeed Robin Cook is heating up. All three of the main parties in Livingston are in the process of selecting their candidates to be announced on Friday.

Telling though is the comment that 'The Conservative Party has yet to finalise its selection process'. Considering they are having the same problem in deciding how to select their next leader this is not too surprising. Mind you they were also the only local party that was incapable of making a comment in the press about the passing of the Member of Parliament.

Labour had 40 applicants from across the country, obviously chasing what is considered the safe seat on offer; local names are still considered to be favourites though. My SNP opponent in May, Gordon Guthrie, has decided to turn his back on the people of Linlithgow and East Falkirk after just 3 months to challenge the SNP’s Livingston General Election candidate. We have three Liberal Democrat applicants who will be facing the short listing panel before being presented to the local party later this week.

We live in interesting times, this week will be a long week in politics.

Saturday 20 August 2005

Livingston Gambit Declined

Last weekend I received the letter advising me as an approved candidate that applications for the Livingston constituency were open. No surprise to me there being also a member of the local party involved in the eventual selection of candidate from the short listed applicants.

As a chess player I spend a long time considering my move in this. I'll going to call it the Livingston Gambit Declined.

The chess definition of a Gambit is an opening in which a minor piece, or pieces, usually a pawn, is offered in exchange for a favourable position.

At the General Election we had two young, (Is 35 still considered young these days? After all I'm 10 years older than Jo Swinson MP) candidates with local connections standing in the two West Lothian seats. In discussion we both decided to stay active in our seats to build up our personal, local profile; something we both have been doing for three months since the election. Therefore although the prospect of a national profile by election was tempting it did not fit into the long term game plan and could backfire when I next stand in Linlithgow for either Parliamentary seat.

Therefore I've remained true to my pledge to work for the people, and many Lib Dem voters, of Linlithgow and East Falkirk. However, I will be spending considerable time in the near future in Livingston after it's not every day you are able to walk to the headquarters in a key, target or by election seat now is it? At least not in this part of Scotland.

Now We're Quick Off the Block

The Guardian diary got it wrong Livingston Liberal Democrats have yet to vote on a candidate for the forthcoming by election. However, while out delivering Charles Kennedy's residents' survey in various areas today, in glorious sunshine, it was encouraging to get comments like:

"Oh! The Liberal Democrats, I thought Labour would be here first."


"After all the coverage Labour has had in the last few weeks I thought no one else would bother."

So in a sense we are indeed quick off the mark but not in the sense Marina Hyde of the Guardian meant.

My parents had chosen this weekend to visit before all this latest activity kicked off. I had to persuade them that I had had weekends off since May 5th. In my mercy I saved them from deliveries, although I was tempted to give them a couple of bundles, just don't tell Chris Rennard.

On a positive note my football team scored their first goal and got their first point of the season. Although we are still bottom of the Scottish Premier League.

Friday 19 August 2005

Farewell Dyna-Mo

Mo Mowlem former Northern Ireland secretary has died.

As some raised in Northern Ireland I was impressed by her approach the the hardnosed politicians of home. She knocked them out with her more relaxed approach they didn't know how to counter her. A lot of what she acheived was done from the shock in how she went about things. She went unto the Kelly show, UTV's equivalent of Parkinson, came on kicked off her shoes and curled up on the couch.

Yet the same person toughed it out with Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams as well as her personal battle against cancer. She was a breathe of fersh air and provided new hope to the dark side of Northern Ireland. She will be dearly remembered and sorely missed.

Are Labour running scared?

Today's Glasgow Herald carries a story about Labour intentions regarding the Livingston by Election. Expect their candidate to be named next Friday and also that they are intending to approach the speaker to move the writ early under the Recess Election Act of 1975.

The fact that all this info reeks of a Labour press release indicates that there is something that Labour are scared of. The only thing that would cause them to move this fast would be that they are actually scared that safe Labour territory such as Livingston is no longer safe. So from being all quiet last weekend expect the activity to pick up very quickly, very soon.

Wednesday 17 August 2005

Labour's Fair Deal for Pensioners

Labour was clearly impressed by the Liberal Democrat's election pledge of a fair deal for pensioners. How can I tell? Well this article in yesterday Guardian suggests so.

However it appears that instead of taking them out of the unfair council tax as we were proposing and giving them a decent pension they are merely going to defer payment to the inheritors. So with one fell swoop they are going to increase inheritance tax.

Is that really prudent Mr Brown or just another stealth tax?

Tuesday 16 August 2005

Wow! I finally made the Times.

After years of writing letters to the time and not getting one published I found today that I was featured in Saturday's week on the web. It's amazing what happens when you check out the unusual referrals to your site on site counter.

Not bad for an infant blog like mine. A shame that all my fellow Blog for Victory signatories couldn't all be similarly honoured.

What quiet month?

Susanne Lamido on suz blog is contemplating how quiet August is. I wish!

We got our latest focus for Linlithgow from the printers on Thursday 4th August. Two days later or course one of the West Lothian MPs died. So last night I took a well earned break and went to Linlithgow to delivery about 400 of my own focuses before the rush of time takes over elsewhere.

However, As I was walking around I was thinking that I was delivering to 700 potential electors, although only about 420 of the people I was delivery to had actually bothered to vote. However 100 of them must have actually voted for me on May 5th. Now that was encouraging.

As for a quiet August maybe next year. I've had three months off from full out election mode and it is gearing up again at the moment. There goes the next few games of this football season as well and we're still only 3 weeks into the new season in Scotland.

Saturday 13 August 2005

All Quiet on the Livingston Front

Following the explosions and pyrotechnics of John McCririck at yesterday's funeral all is settled into quiet normality in Livingston. The weather is not sure what to do rain, sun and overcast have all made a bid to be today's weather. It is like the moody calm before the storm.

In fact it is so quiet I stuck in Livingston by election into Google on the off chance that something might come up.

All I found was that UKIP have beendiscussing their options and tactics quite openly since last Sunday afternoon. They obviously seem to need a map to find West Lothian but won't find Livingston, which is landlocked, if they continue to end it in an 'e', at least on any map post 19th century; and it has grown a lot since then. But most encouraging is the severe lack in understanding of Scottish politics as they are contemplating undermining us, the second party in Scottish politics only 3 months ago, as 'not even a proper political party'.

The Scottish Peoples Alliance, now called the New Party, similarly alligned to UKIP attempted to stand a candidate in Livingston in the last Scottish Parliament election: they even have offices next to the football stadium. The result a pitiful 6th place. However, based on recent UKIP activity I doubt they'll even be able to muster a paperless candidate.

Friday 12 August 2005

Scotty will be Linlithgow Born - Doohan

Since the death of James Doohan there has been speculation regarding his character Montgomery Scott's birthplace. As reported on this blog and elsewhere Linlithgow was first to declare but since then Edinburgh, Elgin and Aberdeen have all tried to snatch his birth away from the Royal Burgh.

In this week's Linlithgow Gazette a new authority gives his opinion on the matter, none other that Doohan himself. His eldest son Chris has said that he asked his dad did Scotty have a fictional birthplace and the actor responded that it he believed it was Linlithgow.

This should back up the council's bid to errect a memorial in the town and Chris Doohan will be on hand for the unveiling. No doubt to a very warm welcome.

Street Fringe to Fall Silent in Tribute

The stretch of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh from the Tron up past St. Giles to the top of The Mound is usually a hive of activity and excitement at this time of year, as the Fringe is in town. However, this afternoon it is expected to fall silent and respectful for the funeral of Robin Cook.

Robin's political career started across the road from the Cathedral in Edinburgh City Council Chambers. It will be formally concluded today in the impressive Church of Scotland Cathedral in the presence of many of the leading politicians of the land, but not the leader.

The Prime Minster's snub in refusing to break his holiday to attend the funeral has caused reaction both local and national.

His friend John McCririck, who will be among those speaking at the funeral service.

Said recently: "Robin's criticism of government policy was dignified, and never became personal or vindictive.

"If Margaret Thatcher can bring herself to attend Ted Heath's service, then surely Mr Blair ought, at least publicly, to show respect and gratitude to Robin."

It's a shame that a great parlimentarian should have the misfortune to die during the holidays of a Prime Minster with so much contempt for Parliament.

BBC report of the funeral

Wednesday 10 August 2005

The Pirates of Whitehall by Gilbert and Sullivan

This deserves a wider audience. Thanks to Sandra Gidley.

Reform the Lords Today

Elect the Lords Campaign

Today marks 94 years since the 1911 Parliament which included the following pledge.

“it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation.”

94 years and we still have a Prime Minister who thinks an appointed upper chamber is not bad thing. ONe of his stauncest opponents to a fully elected chambers is the man who has preoccupied my postings in recent days, Robin Cook. Yesterday the Guardian wrote that his death left an intellectual vacuum at the heart of the Labour Party.

Electoral reform was one of the issues I agreed very strongly with Robin on. Indeed the last letter I recieved from him was on the subject of Lords reform on 27 May about my concerns on how certain Labour voices were talking about the new bill. he told me not to worry he would do his best to ensure my fears were not fulfilled. sadly he is not longer they to shepherd this bill through his Labour colleagues.

There is a growing groundswell for support for a predominantly elected upper chamber at Westminster. If you support replacing the Lords with a predominently elected second chamber sign up here. Let's make a change that is worthy of that intellect that was snuffed out at the weekend.

Sunday 7 August 2005

Tributes to Robin Cook

I've spent a lot of this morning traaipsing through the tributes here are some of the best.

The BBC has listed his best quotes.

The Times has an obituary from his biographer.

Scotland on Sunday has an article on the similarities between hill walking and Cooks career.

But as a fan of the local football one of the most pertinent was posted by Dov to the club message boards of the MP proudly wearing the club colours on the way to a match.

However faux pas of the day goes to the Guardian who in their Ask Aristotole biography of Robin list him as being the Lib Dem spokesperson, industrial development from 1986 - 1987. Now even that is beyond the wishful thinking of Paddy Ashdown.

Death of a Hillwalker

On further reflection on yesterday's news I remembered that I have seen Robin Cook one more time since Election night. The event was covered in my first entry in this blog.

At the Make Poverty History March in Edinburgh while in the muster point before the off. The Liberal Democrat group was lined up beside the group from West Lothian Churches. I spoke to both Bristow Muldoon the MSP and Robin before the off as we were waiting to get on our way.

Looking back now you could tell Robin was an experienced walker. The baseball cap on his head to protect against the brilliant sun that day was not in the best condition but had obviously been through many a gap, to many a peak and possibly taken a tumble or two in the windy hills of Scotland.

Saturday 6 August 2005

To Die in The Hills

In Memory of Robin Cook

To die in the hills is peaceful,
To die in the hills is bliss.
If I want to go let me enjoy my last hours
Away from the bustle, and life's cares and woes.
To breathe in the hills air is beauty
To breathe a last breathe there divine.
Farewell Robin Cook, you were a breathe of fresh air.
Farewell what a shame they called time.

The last time I saw the late MP for Livingston was on election night. He literally breezed into the count hall, swept up to the press gantry and he was off. He looked as fit and healthy as any of the 10 candidates in Bathgate Leisure centre.

I love nothing more that to escape to the hills and the solitude it allows. I love getting up there with my father who is a few years older than Robin Cook’s 59 years. I remember one time that my father backed out of intended route to go up and instead to go through the Mournes. Maybe that was how Robin felt this afternoon, maybe he didn’t take the easy way out, that wasn’t his way. Maybe he pressed on to the task he had set. Whatever happened on Ben Stack a great parliamentarian probably enjoyed his last few hours of life.

Gaynor was with him that night at the count when I last saw my MP alive. My thoughts and prayers go to her and Robin’s family tonight.

God Bless.

Blair Seeks to Amend Human Right's Laws

The Prime Minister has outlined plans to extend powers to deport or exclude foreigners who encourage terrorism. Already we can exclude or deport those who pose a threat to security. However, Blair now wants to clamp down on those who advocated terror and worryingly is prepared to amend human rights laws to make such deportations more straightforward.

Just how far is he prepared to bend to the vagrancies of public opinion and allow the mood to affect legislation grounded in historic contemplation and deliberations?

Charles Kennedy has responded acknowledging that 'there is a worried mood in the country, and rightly so, about the problems and dangers being faced and the terrible events that have taken place.'

However he also warns that 'you can't just legislate by mood. You have also got to legislate introducing means which actually set out what you are trying to achieve.

'If you have an international war on terror, does it make sense simply to re-export a source of potential terror from your own country, rather than dealing with that individual and that issue within your own jurisdiction so that you have some control over it?'

It has also immerged that not all of the Prime Minister's plans were revealed before the cross party consensus was announced in how to tell with the immediate terrorist threat. These proposals which only immerged yesterday appear to be putting a severe strain on that consensus.

Is Blair going to listen? I'll leave you to your own best guess on that.

Friday 5 August 2005

Oversold now Needing A Health Warning

ID cards can Seriously Damage the Nations Health!

Lib Dem health spokesman Steve Webb said today that he is worried by plans to bar people without ID cards seeing NHS doctors - except in emergencies: quite right too.

This could be especially be true if the Scottish Parliament maintain their stance of not making ID cards compulsory for devolved services. However, there are obvious concerns that ID cards will create similar underclass to health care that existed before Labour introduced the National Health Service.

Wouldn't that be an interesting epitaph for Mr Blair as he dodges doing time on the backbenches?

Thursday 4 August 2005

Well Flogged Horse Oversold!!!

So Labour now admit to overselling the advantages of national identity cards.

Would someone like to tell the MP for Linlithgow and Fakirk East? Whoops I've already done that! While I was sat on his right side in hustings meetings in Linlithgow and Bo'ness he said it would be beneficial to combat identity fraud.

But his colleague Tom McNulty says 'We did suggest, or at least implied, that they might well be a panacea for identity fraud, for benefit fraud, terrorism, entitlement and access to public services.

'ID cards might help where fraud and abuse of identity were part of the equation, but they would not solve the problems.'

Charles Clarke has already said ID cards would not have stopped the London Bombings. I raised the Madrid issue as a case in point during the election, the new MP didn't seem to enamoured by me raising that point.

As Simon Hughes said today the biggest problem that the police face is not proving suspects' identities, but that they did what they were suspected of doing.

Anyway I feel another email to the MP on the issue of ID cards is coming soon.

In other news my interview this morning went as well as I could have hoped. I should hear one way or another about that tomorrow.

Wednesday 3 August 2005

Losing 4-0

I must admit I am not a big fan of the Old Firm, either Rangers or Celtic: probably has something to do with my upbringing.

However, knowing that Liverpool were reasonably safe I found myself glued BB2 not ITV2 last night. In first half Celtic started appallingly but they picked up going in 2-0 at half time, three more for extra time, four for the outright win. Was is possible? They were lively throughout the second half and soon all three Livingston supporters in the house my fiancee's father, brother and me were groaning at every missed opportunity.

In the end 4-0 was a good result but not enough, Celtic went down 5-4 on aggregate. Heaven help us when that team travels along the M8 to visit us at Almondvale. Especially as they'll have no midweek football to tire them out this year.

First Person Charged

The first person has been charged in relation to the July 21 bombings. He is not one of the three suspected bombers held in the UK, nor the other suspect detained in Italy.

The charge read out in court is having information that he knew or believed might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person in the UK for an offence involving the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism, failed to disclose that information as soon as reasonably practicable to a constable. Now work your way through that one.

Being Northern Irish born I'm used to not seeing bombers get caught. However, a lot of people in Northern Ireland must be guilty of the above. Even some of the comments by Unionist politicians down the years would lead one to suspect, that unless they had given such information to the police, they would be guilty of the above regarding IRA activities.

I know that the terrorism act is there to protect us. However, some of the new parts being discussed as coming in are too big an infringement of civil liberty. I trust that the Liberal Democrats in Westminster will do their best to strike a balance between the need for prosecution and the need for liberty.

Tuesday 2 August 2005

The One That Almost Got Away

Ever got that feeling that the world is ganging up on you? I had earlier today.

Applied for a job closing date was yesterday. The interviews were scheduled for tomorrow. I get a call for an interview. Of course working in a call centre I don't get to actually take the call in real time as I am dealing with a customer so have to call back.

Interview slots are in the middle of the day. I work in Edinburgh interview is over in the West of Scotland. I'm currently acting up in my stand in role. Know this will be awkward but brazenly ask the boss for time off. Get turned turn, ask what would be acceptable.

Redial the prospective employer. They will talk to the boss and see what they can do. I ask if possible first thing or last thing. They call back: I'm again on a call. They offer a compromise first thing in the morning on Thursday. My boss still turns me down. But her boss is beside me when this happens. So before I can send an email of complaint I've been told they will manage.

I just hope the interview goes well after all these problems.