Tuesday 28 February 2006

That's Fife

Oh, look what there is out there.

I wonder if Gordon Brown is going to get one. Probably not deemed prudent.

It makes all the sore feet really worth it, I’ll be placing my order later.

Thanks to Alex Foster for pointing this out.

Monday 27 February 2006

Another Change of MP

One advantage of being in a local party which includes two constituencies from the same council area is that you get an larger option of potential properties without having to change local party registration. Thus I making my third constituency change since I first arrived in West Lothian whilst not switching my local party.

When I first came to Soctland I was registered in Stoneyburn and had Robin Cook as my MP. Unfortunately I couldn't vote against him in 2001 as I moved just too loate to get unto the register. Then I moved to Whitburn and had the father of house Tam Daylell as my MP. While there I had to priveledge to vote for a council candidate I knew very well, ie me. Just over a year ago when I knew I was being primed to stand in Linlithgow and Falkirk East I moved back into Robin's constituency, therefore missing the opportunity to vote for myself at a Westminster Election. Of course Robin was only my MP for about 8 months before his tragic death. However, I'm leaving Jim Devine behind now to move over to Bathgate and become a constituent of Michael Connarty.

As a result of searching and now finding this new flat I have been a little less busy in posting of late and may disappear for a few days while I attempt to transfer my braodband connection.

I'll see you all soon once I get settled in the new place.

Sunday 26 February 2006

Healey Joins Gordon Fan Club

Dennis Healey has come out in favour of Tony Blair going soon so that Gordon Brown can take over. Lord Healey said that that imposition of university tuition fees and the establishment of foundation hospitals were fundamental errors made by the prime minister.

However, I love the line that David Cameron is only seen by the BBC as Gordon's probable opponent at the general election expected in 2009 or 2010.

Now considering that Tony has already said he is standing down that can mean only one of two things. Either the BBC don't think Brown is a shoe in or they think Cameron might do an IDS and implode before the next general election.

No Slam This Year

It has been a good weekend for many rugby followers, my apologies to Peter Black and and the whole plethora of English Lib Dem Bloggers. As an Irishman resident in Scotland it has been a glorious weekend. We are three weeks into this years six nations and already no country is on course for a Grand Slam and only Italy are really out of the running for winning this season.

With Scotland beating the previously unbeaten English at Murrayfield yesterday, I wish I'd not attempted to change trains at Haymarket at 4:45 yesterday and Ireland beating Waled this afternoon, I'm one happy rugby fan. Now there are four countries with a 2-1 record, England, France, Ireland and Scotland. It makes all the matches in the last two weeks vitally important.

I'm just happy that Ireland are not scheduled to play Scotland during Scottish conference weekend this year. A couple of years back at the BBC reception on the Friday night the head of BBC Scotland addressed the delegates by saying I hope you will all be cheering on Scotland as they take on Ireland in tomorrow evenings tie. I said out load not all of us, know the people to the left hand side would expect nothing less, only to turn to my right and see the then Scottish leader Jim Wallace smiling broadly at my comment. Fortunately he has not borne me a grudge. Although I am led to believe we were cheering on different teams at Murrayfield last year.

Mind you Ireland have the last game of this years six nations on 18th March when we take on England at Twickenham. Who knows how important that game will turn out to be for both teams?

Saturday 25 February 2006

Helping Willie Say Thank You

I have just returned from Inverkeithing where I was distributing thank you leaflets on behalf of Willie Rennie.

The Scotsman magazine today had a article on Willie's first fortnight in Westminster. It mentioned the fact that the first time he returned in daylight he got unto the bridge and realised that in front of him he saw his constituency. My timing of reading this couldn't have been better as just as I reached that line my train was starting to cross the Firth of Forth on the rail bridge. Mind you I'd heard this story from Willie last week following the hustings.

Anyway I turned up at that very familiar office, soon to be vacated for new premises in Dunfermline, for another few hundred leaflets to deliver. Everyone in the office was still smiling. Someone said it felt like forever that they had had a Liberal Democrat MP rather than just two weeks. I did the long drag from the office down the High Street to the far end of town yet again. I know the steps to those flats so well by know. I can find the back entrances in the dark, because at times I have done.

Having seen a number of people only last week it seems like I have never been away. Mind you it was lovely to put out a thank you leaflet from a Lib Dem MP for the first time in my campaigning career. I know it won't be the last.

Thursday 23 February 2006

Child Protection Measures to be Discussed in West Lothian

West Lothain Council is to look into one of the suggestions made by members of the public following the disappearnace and murder of Rory Blackhall in August last year.

The idea is that if a pupil fails to turn up to scholl without prearrangement or at the prearranged time a text message will be sent to the parent or guadian to alert them to this and prompt them to respond either that the child is absent with the parents knowledge or to take appropriate action. In Rory's cases his absence from school was only noted when his grandfather came to collect him at the end of the school day. This scheme would give police a vital few hours head start in the case of any further abductions.

Meanwhile the Scottish executive is to introduce Scottish Candidate Numbers for all pupils in state schools to be able to track their movements. This would stop the re-occurance of incidents such as Danielle Reid who went missing in 2003. Her mother lied that the child had be en take n out of school and the family moved to Manchester to cover up for her partner who had murdered the child and thrown her body in a suitcase into the Caledonian Canal.

Monday 20 February 2006

Scottish Success

Well done Andy Murray on becoming the youngest Brit to win an ATP title. At 18 years 9 months he is 1 year and 1 month younger than Greg Rusedski and 3 years 7 months younger than Tim Henman. Also encouraging is that he has achieved this peak a full year younger than Roger Federer, who he has already played and although beaten was not humiliated.

I know that we shouldn't put pressure on him but I'm impressed he beat Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt on sucessive nights at the end of a tournament so I think we can say his suspect fitness is getting eliminated and pyschologically he is taking on the big players and aiming for success. Unlike Henman, grass may not be his best surface but I'm sure the Wimbledon crowd will be encouraging him all the way when he next appears in SW19.

Sunday 19 February 2006

Scottish Hustings Pulls In The Crowds

The start of the Scottish Hustings in the Liberal Democrat leadership contest at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh got off to a delayed start this afternoon. This was not due to any of the candidates turning up late all of them were present in the hall in plenty of time, no the reason was that approx 530 Scottish members turned up, out of a membership of 4200 what about 1/8th of all members. In deed an MEP, MP, MSPs and councillors were either left standing at the back of the hall of forced to retire to the hastily arranged overflow room elsewhere.

The contenders were drawn to speak in alphabetical order before having to whizz of to the secondary meeting to give the same opening remarks again. I forgot to take a pen so I am writing from memory.

Sir Menzies Campbell started with local Scottish anecdotes, tried to name check as many Scottish members as possible but laid out his stand on liberty, the environment (although through the afternoon he referred far too often to his Jag) and how he had to campaign hard to win NE Fife. He also reiterated the point that he does not want to set a deadline for troop withdrawal despite this not being his opinion this time last year. The fact that he has again stressed this point when I have heard him say otherwise in the flesh is something I don't like about his current quest for leadership. at this point he lost any chance I had of giving him my second preference.

Simon was next up and started by emphasising the importance that Scotland had led the way. Our strong general election result moving into second place in Scotland. That we had shown the way we can be trusted in power through what we had achieved through Holyrood and that we will be making another change with Proportional Representation for local government next May. He stressed his human rights and environmental background. The fact that he grew up in rural constituencies and chose to work in inner city ones. Stressing that unfairness existed in both. Land Value Taxation was supported in throwaway line which people not au fait with this policy could easily have missed.

Chris Huhne gave a very good, very sound speech but it was more like an economics lecture than a hustings stump. However, he started by mentioning Dunfermline, of course this raised the roof, at least where I was sitting in front of some of the newest members to acquire a Lib Dem MP. Fortunately Gordon Brown was not amongst them. He stressed his involvement in the bread and butter areas of policy he has helped to shape through the years. Chris earned a big round of applause when he made no apology for being a Europhile. However, as other bloggers had mentioned he did attempt to mention as much as possible his experience in business and journalism and Europe.

The time for questions was limited, due to the excessive turnout, and didn't really get into any potentially divisive issues. The only possible spilt was over the question of how to attract more young people into the party. Chris answering first referred to the fact the we had the youngest MPs, all women, in England, Wales and Scotland. Ming going next said that he would gratuitously mention that all three were backing him. While Simon picked up the youth cultural reference in the question and using it and other references in his answer. In other words I know the party attracts young people, young people are attracted to me and I can speak the language of te young people.

All in all if all I was going on was this afternoon's performance I would have no difficulty in picking any of them as a leader with ideas and vision. My problems with them were Ming had home field advantage, he did try and utilise this but it wasn't enough to convince me. As I've said earlier I'd heard the change in Mings stance on scheduling a withdrawal, now he appears to be in denial. Chris gave a very sound performance but then I'm a fellow economist. I'd heard him try and expound land valuation tax and it didn't connect at a normal level. Which leads to Simon, he gave the simplest explanation of LVT I have ever heard. I was sitting in a largely hostile section of the audience and he was getting fair comments from those around me. He conveyed more passion than the others. Although as he sometimes does extrapolated and extended the ending a little to long. I think I was ready to finally applaud his opening remarks on 4 separate occasions before another sub clause was thrown in.

Afterwards Ming left first and Simon and Chris were still talking to departing members for a while after he had left.

My first preference will be going to Simon with Chris second and Ming third.

Mind you the biggest and only standing ovation of the afternoon went to Willie Rennie MP, and yes us Scots are still smiling about having him at Westminster.

Friday 17 February 2006

How Important is Your Leadership Vote?

Earlier today when Barrie Wood posted that our voters wanted Simon Hughes as leader it sparked the following response from Jock Coats that our voters don't get a vote in the leadership election. This is a valid point. However, that makes the decision of us political anoraks and insiders all the more important.

One thing we all agree on is that we want to see our party make real progress in future elections. To do that we need someone who is able to quickly convey our party ideology and emphasis in the short sound bite attention span of the modern media. Therefore while Chris Huhne is a brilliant mind he takes to long to wamr up in all the debates I've seen to get his message across. Anyway the people who get our message across in most depth are the actual candidates on the doorstep answering hte particular inquiries of the electors they meet.

Most of us activists actually miss the media converage of the election campaign because usually we are out in our constituencies getting hte message across the hard way to people on their doorsteps. However, there is very little discussion of policy on the television what there is is reduced to sound bite sized chunks and then a focus on where the leaders were for the day.

Therefore while Chris is excellent at coming up with ideas is he able to convey those in the short time that the media will allow him, if leader, at the next general election. I'm not sure.

Of the other two candiates who is able to give a piffy one liner that sums up our ethos on a event, news story or policy? As leader, and come to guy of the press core, this is what they will end up doing on a daily basis. Simon definitely has that skill in abundance.

Maybe some of us are thinking too intellectually about who can lead our policy forward and not looking at who can present it. After all it is the party as a whole that leads our policy forward. There is nothing wrong with Chris Huhne presenting a policy at conference when he'd have more time than the rest of us with our 4 or 3 minute allotment.

The leader is the public face of the party, the person they connect to. We have a lot of deep thinkers in the party machine I wouldn't want all of them to be our top target seat candidates as some of them lack the people skils to be a constituency working and listening MP, however I do love to hear some of these people contributions on conference debates. They can sometimes pour new light on something that seemed so straight forward before.

If I was to look at the three candidates objectively as someone outside the party machine; as someone who lends us they support come election time but no more, or even as someone who is thinking of voting for us for the first time. Who would I be most likely to vote if I only saw them on TV, only had a brief second of their time during a target seat walkabout? Undoubtedly my answer would be Simon Hughes as he would enthuse Liberal Democracy at me in that fleeting moment.

I've still to finalise where my second preference is to go. No doubt I will make up my mind after the Scottish Hustings on Sunday.

Green Beats Tory in Election to Replace Labour

Well it's all true in the race for a post previously held by Winston Churchill, Gordon Brown and David Steel. Yes the race for rector of Edinburgh University took a strange twist when Lothian list MSP beat Times columnist Magnus Linklater in the final round to replace former Father of the House Tam Dalyell.

The Tory Higher Education Minster, former editor of the spectator and MP for Henley Boris Johnson came in third, despite earlier attempts to drink the students under the table. There was a concerted Anyone but Boris campaign and I will not disclose which Liberal Democrats I heard plotting some of that campaign while hard at work in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election campaign HQ. Linklater and Johnson have both had the most media presence by virtue of both being media savvy, however the 1994 Edinburgh graduate Ballard connected best with the students being over 500 votes clear on the last round of the count.

The headline is possibly something that many Scots won't expect to see too often in the near future though.

School Plays To Change Forever

So now our literature and plays are to be watered down for school productions. So here are a few of the changes to be looked out for, found on a photocopier at the Department of Education and Skills.

Animal Farm:
The main charactors can no longer be portrayed as pigs they must instead be referred by their full titles as PC Squealer, Sgt Snowball and Chief Superintentent Napoleon. Also cut out the bits about terrorising Mr. Jones see current change in legislation.

A Merchant of Venice:
Shylock the Jew to be renamed Sebastian the Merchant Banker. William Hague's ammendment to make the plot about saving the pound instead of Antonio's pound of flesh has been rejected.

Pirates of Penznace:
Of course piracy is a crime therefore the pirates can either be replaced by malcontents on jetskis or surfers protesting against pollution.

Little Shop of Horrors:
Gender balance is required in the protitudes outside the shop. Therefore a lad in full football kit should be added. Of course all reference to the profession of these people is not to be mentioned, any copy of the News of the World found near the staging area may affect the schools funding for the next few years; Ruth Kelly or her sucessor will be informed.

Much Ado About Nothing:
Children really shouldn't be reading Hansard at such a young age they might get ideas about not voting Labour.

Gloves Coming Off for Holyrood 2007

So the gloves appear to have come off for the 2007 Scottish Election looking at the media over the last 24 hours in Scotland.

You have to admire the gall of Alec Salmond, leader of the SNP. Last night he called a gain of 143 votes on a turn out of 30% in the Milton council by-election in Glasgow on a par with 4000+ extra votes across a whole constituency in Dunfermline and West Fife. It was similar to the SNP use of a ward result in Dunfermline and West Fife as evidence that there was a massive swing in their direction and as sure-fire evidence that Douglas Chapman and not Willie Rennie was heading to Westminster.

Then The Herald runs an article that Labour MPs are calling for a rethink in strategy and forming links with smaller groups in return for not contesting the list seats themselves. Surely that is showing up the absolute travesty of the top up list system. If Labour are attempting to escape proportionality the whole system needs redressing to a fairer PR system.

The Times Scottish Edition only run a story about how Labour now should be targeting the Liberal Democrats as the main opposition next May and not the SNP. It quotes one Labour MSP as saying:

"The Nationalists will always be an irritant but the dynamics of Scottish politics are changing. Look at what happened in the general election last year. Not only are the Lib Dems now the second biggest party in share of the vote across Scotland but they’re now the second party in Glasgow."

Another MSP said:

"We have to accept that in many parts of Scotland the SNP is no longer the target for us."

Well the race appears to be on and we have the momentum, this is going to be one long race. With the death of Jackie Pallo this week I think its a case of "Greetings, grapple fans. Welcome to the Holyrood Bowl, Scotland"

Thursday 16 February 2006

Connarty vs Liberalism

Well the scorecards are in for this week.

ID Card Bill 5 Divisions Michael Connarty Illiberal on all 5 counts.

Terrorism Bill 3 Divisions Michael Connarty Illiberal on all 3 counts.

So next time he claims to be liberal the people of Linlithgow and East Falkirk will know differently.

Return Of Robbo

So I walk into the Lothian Liberal Democrats meeting last and the first question I’m asked is not, who am I backing, what did I think of Dunfermline or what did I think about Charles. No, the first thing I was asked was what did I think about the return of Robbo. Somehow during the day I had missed the news that John Robertson was returning to Almondvale to take over as manager of Livingston.

There has been much speculation with each management crisis over recent years when Robertson would be asked to take the helm of the club he earned his coaching badges with. However, having gone via Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Hearts and Ross County he has now returned to the club he ended his playing career with just when we need an experienced and enthusiastic manager to keep us in the SPL.

Obviously his experiences with Vladimir Romanov at Hearts has caused some heartache to Robbo as he has asked for a clause to be put in his contract that he alone is responsible for first team selection. Well I suppose that will leave us Livi fans in no doubt then on the park who to blame. Only joking John, welcome back.

Wednesday 15 February 2006

Behind the Smoke Screen

The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

So wrote John Stuart Mill. Now seeing as everyone seems to be espousing how truly liberal they are these days, the Orange Bookers, the leadership candidates, new father David Cameron et al I though we should go back to one of the founders of liberal philosophy.

There has been a lot of hoopla in the last few hours by my fellow Liberal Democrats regarding the ban on smoking in public places in England, it must be noted Scotland and Northern Ireland are already preparing for their bans. Bear in mind this legislation is largely to aid some of the poorest paid workers in Britain those on or near minimum wage who work as bar and restaurant staff. The universality of the ban is to the benefit of all workers.

Somebody, somewhere said why don’t we also ban alcohol, thinking that we are merely out to ban every. Well people do not die from second hand inhalation of alcohol fumes. If anyone can prove otherwise I’m sure that will be something that has to be looked into. Yes their are health worries with alcohol but these are primary affecting the user and not secondary affecting someone nearby while the alcohol is consumed. Physical attacks from someone under the influence is dealt with by other legislation, but I am getting off the point.

People have mentioned smoking rooms in pubs etc, ok tell me who is going to remove the empties from these rooms. Don’t answer the patrons. I know of very few patrons of any pub or restaurant that take their empties back to the bar or hatch themselves, some member of staff will have to go in there to retreive these.

As for ventilation systems these are costly and not 100% effective. A large number of smaller premises, private members clubs included would not be able to afford such devices; I know for example a number of bowling clubs would be unable to afford such an outlay. However, as with a separate room somebody has still got to service such facilities and he or she would still come in contact with second-hand smoke before it is extracted through the ventilation system.

The benefits is not also to the public health but to the public pocket. The ban on smoking in public places elsewhere has seen a reduction in smoking. This leads to a reduction in health care needed in the long term, leading to a lower public expenditure requirement.

I was at the very interesting and varied debate at Scottish Conference regarding the proposal for Scotland, so I know that this issue divides the party which is why it was given a free vote up to each member to decide for themselves. But can we now move on.

What's next? Oh yes, 'glorification' of terrorism.

Tuesday 14 February 2006

It Doesn't Happen Often

It's not often that I praise the DUP however I was impressed my one-time economics teacher, now MP for East Antrim, Sammy Wilson contribution to the ID card debate last night. However, he was attachking one of the few strands of the entire bill that the government have held firm on the whoe way through that is that the cost is worth it.

Stewart Hussie of the SNP followed not long afterwards laying out the ridiculous claims of the saving that the government, sorry the private sector, will make as a result of this government funded scheme paid for by, well I guess that is us the ordinary citizens.

Both these comments were followed by Michael Linton who said:

no one has seriously challenged its figures. In fact, they have hardly been mentioned.

I recommend that Mr Linton read Hansard as he apparently is suffering from the newly discovered Labour Party malaise of inconvenient deafness, inconvenient that is to the public.

However, this is one issue that must not lie down. So if you haven't already please visit the No2ID website.

Michael Plays Follow the Leader (In Waiting)

Well Michael Connarty appears to not be listening to himself, or reading his own attributed quotes in the Sunday Herald, when he said that Tony Bliar was illiberal and this was why the people of Dunfermline and West Fife had voted against Labour. He followed Gordon Brown into the aye lobbies on all five divsions on the ID Card Bill last night.

Somehow this should not surprise me as Michael was wanting Gordon to take over as leader as soon as possible after last year's General Election. Something he was not backward about being forward about.

We'll see how things go on Wednesday with the Glorification of Terrorism Debate.

Monday 13 February 2006

Out of Africa, Just Not in Time

After his promises in PMQs the other week not to miss any more crucial votes in the House of Commons it appears that Tony Blair will be missing from this evening's vote on ID cards.

The reason for this is that the Prime Minster’s plane had a abortive take off from Pretoria, South Africa this morning.

Now either he is announcing this in advance of Hilary Armstrong making excuses about losing tonight’s vote on Identity Cards to save the blushes of his Chief Whip.

Or else the outcry from his Labour colleagues reported in various weekend papers is worse than it appears and he has taken up political asylum in Mark Thatcher’s old house.

What is worrying for Labour is possibly that Gordon Brown may be telling them not to worry, that he's in charge. and this one is in the bag, after he promised the same thing last week with Dunfermline and West Fife.

Sunday 12 February 2006

Is Michael Connarty Listening?

I read an interesting article in today's Sunday Herald relating to the fallout in the Labour Party following Dunfermline. It was made all the more interesing my the following comments from my opponent in May last year Michael Connarty the MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk:

"Tony Blair’s 'illiberal' views cost Labour the by-election. There was a general feeling that people wanted to tell Labour they were getting it wrong. The Iraq war, sending troops to Afghanistan and civil liberty issues were all coming through."

It will an interesting week for me watching the Parliament Channel. If he really believes that Blair's civil liberty issues are wrong and illiberal as he seems to imply in the article then he should be with Willie Rennie and the 62 other Liberal Democrats in the same lobbies on Monday and Wednesday nights. First for the Lord's Ammendments on the Identity Cards Bill then the Lord's Ammendments on the Terrorism Bill.

I look forward to this week with interest.

Bloggers 4 Hughes

Now that the Dunfermline by Election is out of the way I can devote more time to the final few weeks of the leadership campaign and as a result more time to my other site Bloggers 4 Hughes.

Therefore I was delighted to see another Blogger supporting and voting Simon 1 this morning. David from the Republic of Hyde Park also gives some very astute reasoning behind his preference order.

Simon also was very good on Sunday AM this morning especially onj the issue of Europe. Yes Europe is there to benefit us and does in the big things that it does so well, what people are most upset about with Europe is the way they attempt to micromanage down to what happens on your high street or in your community. I thought this was the most clear and concise message I've heard any Liberal Democrat give about our future priorities in and for Europe.

Saturday 11 February 2006

Impressive in Slough

The three leadership candidates had a tough act to follow in todays hustings in Slough by all accounts. Most Lib Dems I know both online and in preson are still buzzing about our 63rd MP Willie Rennie.

However, the reports from people who were there indicate that Simon Hughes was the most impressive. Tony Ferguson who had previosuly written Hughes off ranked Simon top on Education, Environment, Health and for their opening remarks. He only gave Chris Huhne a slight edge on taxation. Indeed his overal ratings came out Simon Hughes 41/50 Chris Huhne 34 and Sir Menzies Campbell 28. While this performance had not put him wholly in the Hughes camp it has him undecided which of the Hs will get his first and which his second preference.

Gary Giffin commenting on the above was also impressed by both Simon and Chris, so it appears there are doubts to Mings assertion that he is a safe pair of hands to lead our party.

The outcome of this hustings in front of 500 party members is according to Rob Fenwick who wasn't there has been inundated with requests to add many more names to Simon's Supporters.

Where Do I Claim My Media Pass?

Have just opened my post this morning to my copy of Lib Dem News. It appears that my day in the media scrum last Thursday did pay off. As my picture is the one showing our new MP Willie Rennie with our former leader Charles Kennedy greeting a resident during their walkabout.

I remember how I managed to get that picture. I stationed myself in front of a street bin and the gaggle approached ans was very fortunate that the end result and handshake took place right in front of the position I'd taken up.

Final Day Dunfermline and West Fife Campaign

A report from your Lib Dem Blogger on the spot.

Firstly a big thank you to the fellow bloggers Neil Fawcett, Alex Foster, Will Howells and I know I'm missing someone who actually came to Fife to help win this for Willie Rennie. Also to the rest of you involved in Telephone Canvassing or writing addresses and to the MPs including Bloggers Lynne Featherstone and John Hemming who sent key people such as Mark Pack and Tom both outstanding in their own way.

So what was my third long day of the year like (May 5, September 29, and February 9)?

Well spent the night before polling day with Willie's agent Peter Barrett and his wife Liz so that I could get to the office bright and breezy for a 5am start on the streets.

Arrived shortly after and was straight out again to Crossford to do once again one of the first runs I did in the campaign. Moving with the stealth of a cat, having practised on General Election day and again for the Livingston by-election I managed to avoid waking people and only two dogs while getting out a good morning leaflet urging people to send Our Willie to Westminster. I was getting a bit worried as time ticked on but made the 8:20 train at Inverkeithing Station which carried me to Haymarket then I went out to Edinburgh Park with moments to spare to get to work.

There is nothing worse than spending polling day of an election that you have spent so much time on sitting behind you normal work desk. I was itching to get out of there and back over to Dunfermline; I was feeling so out of the loop.

5pm came 12 hours into polling day operations and I could finally get back to it. Returned to Inverkeithing station to be greeted by an SNP canvasser on the platform, greeted him in a loud voice with 'No thank you, I'll not be supporting any party that is only going to come 3rd.' Then Watched with glee as he failed to offload a single leaflet to any of the other occupants of my carriage.

Turned up at HQ in Inverkeithing just before 6pm to be dispatched straight away off to the Dunfermline Committee Room with a letter from Cllr Joe Rosiejak. Turned up there and was turned around straight away again to some streets off Townhill Road with a different leaflet. We returned to the car to find a sealed postal ballot had been left on the windscreen.

Returned to the committee room to enquire where the nearest polling station was and then rushed off to the Carnegie Hall to hand the postal ballot in. Then it was off out again to deliver some of that letter from Councillor Rosiejak I'd brought across earlier. Kept going with that until about 9:45 then returned to the committee room. Exhausted and aching but sure I could do nothing more.

After a quick cup of tea it was off to HQ to wait for the result. While we were waiting we watched Question Time and have some pizza and other food. Some interesting tribalism was going on during Question Time but when certain phones went off all heads turned to gauge from expressions what was going on. We knew it was close and too early to call, but no matter what knew it was not going to be a good night for Labour.

Finally the confirmation came through that we had won it and the room went ecstatic.

Reasons to be Cheerful:

All the hard work had been worth it we had helped to send Willie to Westminster.

It was a 16.8% swing against Labour after the month the party has had.

The last time the Liberal's held Dunfermline was from 27 October 1931 to 14 November 1935 (interestingly for me the same day that Labour gained their current hold on Linlithgowshire then West Lothian).

It was the first by-election win by the Scottish Liberal Democrats from Labour since the party's formation and the first of any of the predecessor party's in living memory. Strange to think that George Galloway's old seat Glasgow Hillhead was Conservative before his predecessor Roy Jenkins won it in March 1982. Indeed the last time a Liberal candidate won a by-election from a Labour hold was in 1908 in Dundee, the sucessful candidate was a young upstart called Winston Churchill.

So the celebrations really got under way as we prepared for the arrival of Willie Rennie MP. Obviously others returned first from the count. I caught up with Cllr Rosiejak and told him I'd been out delivering his letter until almost close of poll. He told me he'd met a constituent at the polling place who had said they only decided to come and vote for Willie when they received that letter from him at about 9:30, i.e. while I was still out delivering them to her area.

There was much handshaking, hugging and back patting going on then the BBC crew arrived to prepare for their shots. Then finally we all gathered outside waiting for Willie to arrive, holding our Win with Willie signs proudly his car finally entered the car park but still had to go around the building to get to us at the entrance.

The chant started up of 'Willie! Willie!' and then the car came into view. Peter Barrett the agent and Nicol Stephen went over to greet the newest Member of Parliament and his wife with TV crew and press in pursuit. The chants continued as he reached us when Alex Cole-Hamilton and Peter lifted him shoulder high. Willie grabbed one of his signs and gave and interview from up there in front of HQ's entrance. He went in and we all trooped in for Willie to thank every one of us as we filed past. Then the lined the corridor to where the party was set up for Willie to get the party properly started.

Just as we were about to get partying another news crew, who will remain anonymous, turned up and asked us to do a lot of the greeting stuff again as they had managed to miss our HQ. Despite all the signage up at it for the original spontaneous acts.

But everyone was really buzzing after the tension of earlier in the evening to the untold joy of knowing we had achieved the first overturn of Tony Blair's Third Term.

Friday 10 February 2006

If Dunfermline Spells a Canada Moment

I know the next General Election is a long way off but I just loved this post by Dan on Political Betting:

Based on the vote changes in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, here are the results of a General Election:

Liberal Democrat Majority 140

L D 38.24% 393 MPs
Con 30.74% 220 MPs
Lab 19.30% 1 MP

Now that is startlingly like the Canada result of 1992 that almost wiped out their Conservatives.

Although using the Baxter formula a later poster got the result of:

LD … 35.87% … 341
Con … 30.73% … 250
Lab … 19.39% … 21

Still very good.

Total fantasy? Probably, but it shows that the glass ceiling is breakable. Now we need some excellent candidates from all walks of British life.

Dear David Cameron

Next to that letter on the leaflet that the PM quoted at you this week is a statement from Adrian Graves, that one and only 'prominent' Liberal Democrat your party are claiming to have snagged since Charles Kennedy stood down as leader. He says:

The arrival of David Cameron at the helm of the Conservative Party has precipitated a fundamental shift in both the direction and political atmoshere within the (Conservative) Party. As a result politics is suddenly dynamic and interesting again. Importantly, this new phenomenon offers - arguably for the first time since 1997 - the only potentially acheivable opportunity for 'regime change' at the next general election.

Now I know we have mocked Mr Graves in the past but it looks like he may be prophetic after all. Politics this morning is now suddenly dynamic and interesting. The arrival of David Cameron has had an effect a slight drop in their vote and the realisation of people that voting for the Conservatives is confusing at best as nobody knows what they stand for, a bit like the media branded the Lib Dems in the early days.

Now this phenomenon does offer the only potentially acheivable opportunity for regime change at the next general election, that is to vote Liberal Democrat. After the month that we have had in the media to win on a 18% swing can only show that we have the right policies for the people of Britain and that when we can present those to the people they respond. The potential for regime change in Westminster is there and it lies in the hands of hte next leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Labour In Leadership Crisis

With Tony Blair saying he will not fight another election as leader the Labour party leadership succession was thrown into chaos tonight when bookies favourite to succeed Mr. Blair for the last 11 years, Mr. G Brown of North Queensferry, became a constituent of a Liberal Democrat MP.

Normally, I would not say that this should be a disadvantage to anyone become leader of their party however Mr. Brown was actively involved in the campaign for his home seat. However, as the Glasgow Herald reports:

"For Mr Brown, this is personal – because he made it so. With the death of Rachel Squire last month, Labour rushed into a brief campaign, with what seemed to be a safe bet that they could capitalise on the combination of her legacy, a big majority, and two rivals vying to establish themselves in second place.
Mr Brown swung into action as the neighbouring MP, eager to show his Westminster colleagues he is a vigorous election winner. It is by a measure of his own choosing that the chancellor has become an election loser.

"If anyone is harbouring plans to stand against him when Tony Blair stands down (John Reid, the defence secretary, for instance?) Fife voters yesterday gave him some powerful ammunition"

Mr. Brown took control of what he considered his own personal domain. Riding rough shod at times over the Scottish Labour party who have jurisdiction over a number of areas such as transport which Gordon took a keen interest.

Defeated Labour candidate Catherine Stihler can at least be thankful that she did not have to give up her day job as an MEP before losing. However, she appears to not even be heeding her own advice:

We have to listen to the people and we have to learn. We fought for Labour values and this time we lost. But we'll keep on fighting for them and we will keep fighting and we will win again.

Surely the people of Dunfermline and West Fife have told you that the values on which you stood do not appeal to them any longer. If all the people of Britain who feel the same way take the same courageous step and tell you so at the next general election whoever succeeds Mr. Blair as leader of you party may find themselves in for an even more torrid time and possibly even face some recuperation time on the opposition benches to a Liberal Democrat PM.

Thursday 9 February 2006

You Know They're in Trouble When

The Scottish Secretary evokes the name of the late MP to encourage out their vote in what should be a safe seat.

"I ask everyone who lives in Dunfermline and West Fife to preserve [Rachel Squire's] memory by voting for Labour."

"Do it for Rachel. And do it for every hard-working family, every pensioner and every child in your community."

Alistair Darling

Actually Alistair the people of Dunfermline vote for themselves. If they are not happy with how you and the rest of Tony Blair's cronies are running things they can vote against you and vote you out, such is the joy of democracy.

Yesterday, Tony Blair accused David Cameron of flip-flopping while brandishing a Conservative leaflet from the Dunfermline by-election a dangerous thing to do Tony considering the amount of flip-flopping Labour has done over road tolls and bridges as a result of the same election campaign.

Stuck in Work for Another Few Hours

I was up at 5 this morning and out in Crossford delivering for the Dunfermline by-election. I was dropped of at Inverkiething Station at 8:10 and just made it in in time for work at 9. Before you ask I did ask for today off but due to staffing issues was not allowed the time. I did take two days off last week which was the most they would allow.

I wish I was the other side of the Forth ironically something I can see from the office rather than stuck in Edinburgh working, in fact I'm in an all day training session today, and I'm still awake. The buzz in the office last night and this morning was great. I did not see any Labour or SNP out and about where I was delivering and that included being right next to a polling station. I'm getting goosebumps and ichey feet (as well as sore) and can't wait to head back there after 5 this evening, hopefully another train won't break down in Edinburgh this evening.

If you are close enough and have the time get over there. Things are moving and tonight is going to be tense but lets see how much of a bloody nose we can give Blair and Brown.

Wednesday 8 February 2006

Drop Everything

Get to Dunfermline.


We're in the ball park! Labour spent yesterday evening frantically calling up their vote to make sure it was still theirs.

Just think how the media attention would shift on Friday morning from the travails of the last month with a new Liberal Democrat MP.

So stop right now. Book a flight, hop on a train or gather a car load of fellow Lib Dems and get to Dunfermline so we can ensure that we send Willie Rennie to Westminster tomorrow.

Who Are Last Years PPC's Backing?

So everyone knows who the Mps are backing what about the other candidates who stood shoulder to shoulder with those who got elected. After all if we are to move on as a party some of these people are going to be in Westminster next time around and will want to have a leader they can trust to firstly get them there and then work with in the Commons.

The three leadership websites list the opinions of 191 of our PPCs from May last year.

Sir Menzies Campbell has 72 backing him for 37.7%

Simon Hughes has 60 - 31.4%

Chris Huhne has 59 - 30.8%

So while Ming has a slight advantage is this group it would be all to play for in the race to reach the second round. However, from what I am picking up the majority of Hughes or Huhne voters are looking at not putting Ming as their second preference so it really is anybody's race on these stats.

Monday 6 February 2006

Qualities of Leadership

I did a quick search on google for a list of leadership qualities and found this.

1. Good communication skills: Nobody not even Simon's opponents and Critics deny that he has good communication skils. He is able to get his message across to people one to one and from a platform or television screen with equal ease and impact. The one differnece that I notice about Simon from Ming and Chris is tha the is able to engage and move people along with him sharing his contagious entusiasm.

2. A leader has honesty: People may criticise Simon for not being totally open about his past, however, looking at the reaction that the press are still giving someone with such a past can anyone be surprised that something that had no effect on his ability in his job and a private matter was best left that way. However, now that he has been honest about it it has not affected his standing with anyone I have met.

3. A visionary outlook: Simon has a vision for our party to grow by at least 66% to over 100 seats at the next general election. He also has a vision for our party to remain distinctive and not take the easy option of moving to the ground occupied by new Labour and new Tories. That's why he lauched his Agenda for Fairness in Bristol on 2 February.

4. Selecting a good team: A good team around a leader will make up for the skills that the leader lacks. Simon has not ruled out any of his parliamentary colleagues from forming part of that team, nor has he upset any members of other camps causing friction in how he has led his campaign thus far. If any of the leadership candidates is capable of utilising all groupings within the party to best of their abilities that man is Simon Hughes. Sure the young turks might have to wait longer for their chance at the leadership, but think how much better they will become for the the greater experience gained in the interim. Simon has also shown through the years that he is natual at seeking to have this party Reflecting Britain. The cross section of support shows just how broad he does reach.

5. Action speaks louder than words: Many of the promises from other candadates have yet to be backed up by action. Ming has laready been embarred in the Sky News debate over his concern about the environment while enjoying his Jaguar petrol guzzler. Chris Huhne has disproportionately reflected on a green agenda something which he was far less keen on while an MEP. Simon has not changed his spots he is standing for what he has also stood for a socially liberal country. At Meeting the Challenge he said:

I want a country which enables people to achieve their potential, not one which leaves them frustrated and unfulfilled.

I want to work with you, fellow Liberal Democrats, and to lead you, to inspire all those in Britain who believe in a fairer society, not only within our party but well beyond it.

6. Ability to motivate people around: Any member of the party who has come into contact with Simon knows that he is able to do this. I have seen him greet every one in a campaign headquarters and then get stuck straight in to whatever needs doing, whether writing addresses, stuffing envelopes or putting stamps on envelopes, all the while chatting away to the volunteers. Of course he will have been brought in for the change to meet the public but he will not waste any time while that next event is getting organised. He also can chip in ideas to increase the effectiveness of that campaign based on his own long experience and practicle knowledge.

7. Consistency: As I have said above Simon has campaigned on what we have laways known him to be. He is standing on his long held principles and is standing so that hte party will continue to stand on it's long held principles and seize the day and stride on forward as a result.

8. Ability to stand against critics: One of the highlights of the campaign was Simon's reaction to the news that broke that Thursday morning he was scheduled to appear on 'Question Time'. Under the circumstances it would have been understandable if he has decided not to appear to handle a live studio audience that evening. As it was he turned up and faced criticism in the first question and answers from others on the panle. It did not deter him and the subsequent interviews have shown him to be strong in this current heated situation. In time this will be old news but other criticism will arise about him, the party, our policies. Having seen what and how he has handled himself, especially in the last few weeks, I know tha the is more than capable of handling his critics and when it arises in the House of Commons he is more than a match for any of them.

It is for these various reasons that I decided as long ago as 13 January that Simon Hughes will get the first preference on my ballot paper when it arrives in the next few days. I have been unstinting in that support and would encourage others to not be swayed by current trends but look at the long term picture. Simon has the energy, passion and experience to take our party on to the next general election and beyond and to achieve even greater heights that we acheived under Charles Kennedy.

Annette Brook MP for Mid Dorset said:

"Simon is a great asset in winning votes from Conservatives in seats like mine"

Norsheen Bhatti who stood in Battersea last May added:

"In cities, towns and country, Simon knows how to connect with all our communities."

Sunday 5 February 2006

A Leader Who Will Listen

The Liberal Democrats are a democratic political party. It is our party conference that decides policy and each member of the party has an equal say in the leader of our party. Therefore the views of the membership are not something to be taken lightly.

The members of the party want as much information about the leadership candidates as possible before making up their mind. Not every member attends conference and therefore has like me seen each of the candidates in action on a number of occasions up close. Not every member has worked in a target seat and two by-elections in recent history to see the attitudes of the candidates when the party is doing all it can to win seats.

Therefore hustings are an important way for many ordinary members of the party to gauge which leader is right for the party. Many hustings events are springing up all over the country but not all are gathering all three candidates to give the attendees a balanced view. Also not all members are able to reach one of the hustings events either due to distance or possibly due to prior engagements.

Simon Hughes has promised to attend as many of the hustings meetings as possible in the coming weeks and already shown that this is what he is going to do. He has also set up an e-hustings on his website where members can ask him questions. Simon is only candidate to use the Internet in this way, allowing the every day folk to get the answers to their questions.

I wrote earlier last month that the reason I finally realised that Charles Kennedy could no longer sustain his leadership was that while he had support in the country he had lost the support of his fellow MPs. Sir Menzies Campbell is starting to have the adverse situation, a lot of the young MPs have signed up to his campaign yet Ming is not attending far more of the hustings events than other candidates. The party needs someone that they know cares for them by not giving them a chance to see you without just cause they feel remote.

I've said all along that the number one reason I am backing Simon Hughes for leader is that he is best able to lead the party as a whole and be the greatest electoral asset at the next and subsequent elections or those standing. His attitude to the party and his willingness to engage with us shows that he really is the only choice that the party can make.

Some Things About the Next MP

1. As Erland Watson said the other night in campaign HQ:

"Vote Willie Rennie for MP as he beat Tony Blair before he was elected"

Referring to the lost votes earlier this week when between 15 and 25 Labour MPs were up in Dunfermline instead of at the crucial vote on the Racial and Relgious Hatred Bill.

2. As The Times said on Friday:

"Willie Rennie, who, most people agree, is the best of the candidates."

So why settle for second best.

3. He is a Fifer fighting for Fife.

4. Dunfermline can either have someone who will stand up for them against the Labour government or have another yes man for Tony Blair. However, after the votes on Tuesday it appears that even the Prime Minister cannot be relied on to back his own policies in tight votes.

5. He is opposed to the £4 Bridge Toll.

However, just over £2000 more is needed by 9pm tonight to swell Lord Rennard's coffers for the final push to make sure Willie Rennie is heading to Westminster on Friday morning. Spread the word.

Friday 3 February 2006

The Best Candidate: Willie Rennie

There was excellent press coverage of yesterday's events in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election. The Times even said what we already knew on the ground that most people agree that Willie Rennie, the Liberal Democrat, is the best candidate in this by-election.

The message is getting out and there are too many people that I have meet over the last few weeks to name them all here. But more and more people are coming to offer what time they have. Next friday we could have our 63rd MP in place. If can get up to Dunfermline come the atmosphere is great as Lib Dems from all corners of the country are entusiastically doing whatever they can and whatever needs to be done.

If you can't come please make a donation to Lord Rennard's appeal, he is seeking to raise £10,000 by Sunday evening for the final push and we are already 2/3rds of the way there.

Whatever you can do make sure that Dunfermline gets the best person representing them after Thursday. Help send Willie to Westminster.

Thursday 2 February 2006

My Day in the Media Scrum

As you may have seen there was quite a lot of media attention in Dunfermeline and West Fife, especially as Charles Kennedy was back on the campaign trail, along quite a large number of Liberal Democrat MPs and activists.

Well I was there. In fact as I was leaving the campaign HQ Willie Rennie's agent handed me the campaign camera and asked to me to get as many pictures as I could. Now normally this would not be too big an ask, however, when I turned up in the centre of Dunfermline and saw the number of press assembled I knew I was going to be tough. We gathered waiting for Charles and Willie to appear, both the press and the party faithful anxious waiting to get going. After a false alarm when Danny Alexander MP and Jim Wallace MSP caused a media rush in the wrong direction the car eventually arrived.

My first few shots were more miss than hit and included a brilliant snap of the Mark and Spencer’s signage, some Lib Dem balloons and the tops of some super signs. I had to think like a photojournalist to get the right shots. So I started to look for vantage points and kept hopping ahead of the throng in the hope of being in the right spot. Sure enough I started to get better taking pictures of mikes, other cameras and the back of super signs or journalists head.

I was starting to share the camaraderie of the press pack snappers trying to get their shots. I also had one advantage I could shout at the odd Lib Dem to twist or lower a corex super sign to allow a good shot. Charles and Willie eventually made it to the other end of the street stopping at a charity shop, a bakers and the tourist information office. Along the way they stopped for several interviews and even met some brave souls who were prepared to enter the media scrum to say a few words to Charles and Willie.

Oh, I did get some pictures that were usable at the end of the day, but now I know why the press just keep snapping away.

Wednesday 1 February 2006

How West Lothian's MPs Voted Last Night

Well Michael Connarty who I stood against last May does not appear to have voted on the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill last night. No doubt Labour where putting his erudite and charming style to use in Dunfermline and West Fife.

Jim Devine proved that he yet again is no Robin Cook and lived up to that promise in his Livingston by-election literature by voting for the Bill. Obviously he is too rough around the edges to be risked on the doorsteps of Dunfermline and has not been released from his leash in Westminster. However, he has an amazing record of not rebelling since he arrived in Westminster so maybe they were trusted him to keep up that record. Well he did. So not a big surprise there.

And In Sports

Paul Dalglish, son of Kenny, and Livingston's highest goal scorer of the 2005-2006 season has been sold for a nominal fee and in return Sam Morrow. Now I'm no expert but if you are bottom of the SPL and struggling to get goals getting rid of the guy who scored most for someone who has scored none all season looks like a potential nomination for the Darwin awards.

Considering the club had offered Dalglish an extended contract in December this sudden turn around in events takes some understanding.

Too Many Fights For Labour

One of the excuses Labour are spinning for losing two votes on the Religious Hatred Bill last night, apart from Tony going home for his Cocoa, is that a number of MPs were absent from the House campaigning in Dunfermline. There are differences of opinion over how many Labour MPs were in Fife, the BBC say 15 however The Scotsman is saying as many as 25.

Now I have two questions for Labour.

1) Why were so many of your MPs away from such important business in the House of Commons, especially as George Galloway was there voting with the majority of the Labour Party? Especially as many of your members criticised George for not attending to Parliamentary business while locked in the Big Brother house.

2) With so many MPs away in Dunfermline during the working week are you scared of losing Dunfermline and West Fife to the challenging Liberal Democrat candidate Willie Rennie on 9 February?

I doubt I'll ever get the straight answers but I'll let you draw your own conclusions. However, I'm looking forward to seeing looks of anxiety on Labour faces on polling day judging by all that has gone before.

Or course some may have opted for Dunfermline to avoid having to vote in such a controversial and illiberal bill, if so I applaud them.