Wednesday 31 May 2006

MP's Urged to Rally Round Prescott

Good to see that Labour are returning to their working class roots and are orgnainsing a political rally. It seems too long since Neil Kinnock joined Billy Bragg for Red Wedge. Also good to see they are deserting the coffee houses of the M25 set to take the rally north to Lancashire.

Sadly however, it appears that the rally is not to be arranged around the Lancastrian town of Prescott but the Deputy Prime Minister of that ilk. Now I know John is not exactly swelte but surely a walk around his girth, even at 8 abreast, would not take the other 354 Labour MP's very long and nor is there really enough room for all of them on the parade route, even if he was flat on his back.

Alternatively of course they could sup up the two Jags and rally around Dorneywood. However, even that would hardly give all Tony's men and babes a chance to get behind the wheel. Apparently the jags are only used to going 200 yards in windy conditions.

Maybe the call to arms raised by Ann Clwyd the new Party Chairman is not hopeful of a full turn out. Maybe some of them will find croquet matches that need attending, or holidays that have to be taken or maybe their Russian contacts might warn them off attending.

However, I do like the clever use of the word rally by the Beeb in that article. Subtle enough for some of us to get a good laugh out of it and then share it with you.

Sweep Stake Blues

I found the following interesting letter in the Glasgow Herald on Monday:

I find myself in a quandary as to whom to support in the forthcoming World Cup. Last week in a sweep run by the Federation of (Scottish) Nationalist Students, I drew out both Paraguay and England. One of these countries is a right-wing junta, currently involved in suppressing human rights and kow-towing to US foreign policy at the expense of its own people. Should I therefore be cheering on Paraguay instead?

On the same day The Scotsman had a more laid back contributor.

Have Tories Given Up on Winning Already

Ok my understanding of Dave's A-List was that these people would have to apply for the party deemed to be their top target seats. However, in today there is a report that the uptake is slow for the first 35 seats.

The article says that the target seats for priority candidates will in future include only those constituencies that the party has a realistic chance of winning. Apparently the first trance of 35 seats are mainly Lib Dem held and the Times says we will hard to shift or else have a sizeable Labour majority. Hardly the talk of a party expecting to form the next Government.

There is also bad news for the A-Lististos. One of the hottest tickets, Finchley and Golder's Green local party (of course part of Margaret Thatcher's seat) where there is only a 741 Labour Majority are not going ahead with their selection despite numerous applications. They want to go ahead with a local candidate not on the A-List who will need the approval of Central Office.

With Bromley and Chiselhurst also seeking to select a local candidate on Thursday another plum seat looks out of reach of the 100 best Tories not in Parliament. Maybe they should practice their croquet more, as that appears to be the current way to get a plum job with no responsibility.

Tuesday 30 May 2006

Right to Cycle

A farmer near Blackridge has blocked off a section of National Cycle Route 75 which runs across his land, this is a major route linking the Forth and Clyde valleys.

The sustainable development charity Sustrans say that £150,000 of public money was spent on the tarmaced section that the farmer Roy Orr has blocked off. Mr Orr claims that this was done without planning permission and has fenced in the section to enable him to farm his land.

Under Scotland's new access legislation however West Lothian Council have ordered the route to be reinstated or appealed by 9 June.

Diversions are currently in operation until this dispute is settled.

Monday 29 May 2006

Second Weekend of Pre-Wedding Tradedy Hits West Lothian

The news that two West Lothian men died while attending a stag party in Blackpool came on the day David Livingstone, who was killed in car crash in Bathgate last Saturday, was due to be married.

Barry Bryce from Armadale and Scott Hunter from Blackridge got into difficulties when a wave swept them off steps on the sea wall.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families involved.

Saturday 27 May 2006

Tory A-List 31-40

Sorry for the break in this series but I've been having braodband difficulties at home. And the other night after 35 minutes on the phone to Mumbai they finally confirmed what I tild them in the first minute of the call that my modem was dead, deceased, fallen off this mortal coil, no more. Anyway after a number of enquires into what I'd found out I'm pressing on with the remainder of the list.

Vicky Ford: Stood for Birmingham Northfield in 2005, see is also a councillor on South Cambridgeshire District Council. In the Telegraph last November she was one of 16 women to sign a letter supporting Cameron as the only hope of the Tories to win over women voters (also signaturies fellow A-Listers Angie Bray, Jane Ellison, Pauline Latham, Amanda McLean and Laura Sandys). She hit the news over a lap dancing club billboard in 2004, for the record she was complaining not appearing in the poster. However, another of her campaigns was about changing the way planning permission for mobile phone masts is carried out.

Jackie Foster: Was MEP for the North West Region from 1999 but was only placed 4th on the list for 2004 thus losing out when the Tories only returned 3 for the region. However, like party leader David she is shortening her name from Jacqueline. She was considered one of the least Eco-Friendly MEPs by friends of the Earth in 2004. She may have to sharpen up her Greenish if she is to become a successful chameleon in the new model Tories.

George Freeman: Was Candidate for Stevenage in 2005. Although he hasn't left mush of a google-trail.

David Gold: David was Candidate for Brighton Pavillion in 2001. He hasd served as William Hagues diary secretary and is another gay man to make the list.

Zac Goldsmith: The son of the Late Eurosceptic founder of the referendum Party Sir James Goldsmith, Zac is the Editor of Ecologist Magazine and is Co-Chair of the Environment Policy Group. He certainly has Green credentials having donated £5000 to the Green Party candidate's campaign in Stroud last May some of the 3056 votes gained might have been better used in turning over the 350 majority by which his new party came second. But he has since said 'A Conservative who is not also in his heart an environmentalist cannot legitimately be described as a Conservative'. Start making your lists now of who's therefore not a legitimate conservative.

Ashley Gray: Has twice stood for Cornwall South East in 2001 and 2005. But though there was a Conservative swing he remained static against Liberal Democrat Colin Breed who actually increased his majority. He has signed up for a number of green campaigns in the region, even getting a mention by Tim Yeo in a debate on wind farms but is listed as a Eurosceptic.

Andrew Griffith: Is also a two time candidate Corby in 2001 and 2005. He is a media consultant. The Telegraph listed him as one of 23 Faces for the Future last year and was one of the authors of Direct Democracy - Agenda for a New Model Party in June 2005.

Andrew Griffiths: Has been Chief of Staff to Hugo Swire MP and worked for Teresa May, PPC in Dudley North in 2001 and European candidate in 2004 4th on West Midlands list although he had also gone for the Welsh list. He currently works for Neil Parish the South West Conservative MEP as his name appears on the website imprint.

Laetitia Gunn As Recess Monkey has pointed out Laetitia is the daughter of Bill Cash and as such has been on Tatler's most invited list. She was PPC for Salford in 2005 having previously been rejected by Wyre Valley with the cautionary statement from local group leader Stephen Cree 'She came to interview, but the association felt she was not at the standard we wanted. We had far better candidates and we selected the best'. Their best either dispite or because he was male failed to unseat Dr Richard Taylor.

Sam Gyimah: Was CBI Entrepreneur of the Future in 2005 and is co-founder of Clearstone, he previously worked for Goldma Sachs. He was born in the UK but raised in Ghana in a single-parent household and is another black candidate on the A-List. He has also edited From the Ashes - The Future of the Conservative Party last year. He was President of the Oxford Union in 1997 from where he graduated in PPE.

Friday 26 May 2006

10 Other Confessions That Tony Might Consider Making

Ok as Tony is getting all confessional how about some other thing he might want to get off his chest.

10. I'm not English after all and will be supporting Trindad and Tobago at the World Cup in Germany. (Don't know why Dave got invited to David and Vicky's bash but not me.)

9. I thought when Cherie first said she would introduce me to C. Chaplin she was talking about the famous film star tramp.

8. My last cabinet reshuffle was made by throwing darts at the usual suspects. I almost had Keyser Soze replace Gordon at the Exchequer.

7. I wish I'm made Robin Cook's resignation speech, people might like me more. But then George wouldn't so maybe not.

6. I am fallible. Just everyone else around me is more so and people don't notice.

5. I voted for Thatcher in 1979.

4. John Prescott gave me a Chinese burn when I threatened to take his priveleges away from him.

3. I wish Cherie had won a Parliamentary seat before me, then I could have followed my dream and become an internationally recognised lawy...rock guitarist.

2. I was really upset that Al Gore didn't become president, but also relieved as he would have hounded me about Kyoto targets all this time and George isn't bothered.

1. Yes Gordon it is unfair me making you pay the Granita bill and not letting you become leader.

Authoritarian Method Too Far

What do you get if you rush through sensitive legislation? What do you get if don't allow sufficient time for Parliament to scrutinise and debate such legislation?

Well obviously for starters parts of it get overlooked and the repercussions are not fully realised until something that should normally happen without a glitch goes wrong.

Step forward fourteen probationer Methodist Ministers from the USA. Hardly a part of the axis of evil, well at least not as defined by Bush and Blair. Now suddenly under the tightening of observation of anti-terror laws they have been denied work visa to work in some of the UK's Methodist circuits. The law that restricts unordained religious leaders was passed twelve years ago in 1994, it looks like the religious Shadow Home Secretary at the time, ACL Blair MP for Sedgefield, didn't realise the full extent of what Ken Clarke was proposing.

The Superintendent Methodist Minister for Wakefield, Dr Paul Glass sums up the situation very succinctly and astutely:

"This rule is meant to be for unqualified Islamic students. You could not imagine somebody less like a terrorist than a young American Methodist minister.

"It seems to be ludicrous and a direct attack on religious freedom. The Government is in danger of looking ridiculous.

"Faced with a Government that is acting in increasingly authoritarian ways, I would hope that we could bring as much pressure to bear as possible to change this restrictive action."

Personally I think the time that the Government is in danger of looking ridiculous has long passed. However, I do think that legislation of the most sensitive nature, especially in relation to law and order or terrorism is too often rushed through Parliament as a knee jerk reaction to recent events. The amount of scrutiny that people would expect on such sensitive issues is not carried out. There is an over abundance of lawyers in both Houses of Parliament surely these minds, some of whom spent their professional career looking for loopholes in the law. Should these people not be given time on these issues to scrutinise the minutiae of these things to get the letter right not just the spirit.

Thursday 25 May 2006

Scotland can be Green Hub of Europe

Nicol Stephen has laid down a challenge to Labour over nuclear power for Soctland. He stated that the Scottish Liberal Democrats will be distancing themselves from the policy that Labour are veering towards which is embracing new nuclear power stations for Scotland.

Nicol said that Scotland is ideally poised to harness its unrivalled potential in wind, wave and tidal power to make a major contribution to climate change. He announced that biomass, marine, offshore wind and hydrogen developments would be targeted with an additional £20 million funding support to ensure that Scotland's natural resources can be fully exploited.

While Tony Blair is making statements that nuclear power is the way to go and Scottish Labour are looking at a three pronged approach to energy provision including to "keep options open" for new nuclear power stations, this is a clear statement of intent. Scotland can beat the targets for clean energy creation by renewables without falling back on nuclear, which at present will still leave an unsatisfactory legacy for generations to come.

Jack at Odds with Gordon: Again

Earlier this week Gordon Brown told us that 60% of Scots would be doing it, along with him. However, Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell has revealed he will not be one of them. Jack has said that while he is personally disappointed he will be supporting Scottish based enterprise, determination and graft.

He will also be looking at those that provide flair and seeing how they progress with interest, possibly a veiled snub at Gordon and those that have merited the Chancellor's support. So yet again the Scottish Labour Leader is at odds with the heir apparent at Westminster.

I just hope Gordon doesn't ask for his ball back just because Jack is preferring to support Trinidad and Tobago or Angola with thier Scottish based players over the neighbouring English in this World Cup. Mind you as most of the teams with Scottish-based talent in their ranks are unlikely to get past the first phase of play it should be situation normal for the Tartan Army come the later stages of the tournament.

Wednesday 24 May 2006

25 Pence: The Cost of Sectarianism

UEFA have fined Ranger's Football Club have been £13,300 for the behaviour of their fans against Villa Real during their Champions League run. This works out to be about 25 pence per fan who attended each match at Ibrox last season.

I hear that UEFA have said it could not tackle sectarianism because it was a particularly Scottish social problem. Well this must be news to the various factions on the Falls and Shankill Roads amongst others in Northern Ireland. Also it must come as shock to Jack McConnell who earlier this week told the Northern Irish Assmembly that sectarianism had no place in a Modern Scotland.

Maybe if we start issuing on the spot fines at 25 pence for sectarian comments that we hear or see getting scrawled in the central belt of Scotland we might overcome it.

To Talk or Not to Talk That is the Question

Trouble is brewing, as always, at Stormont. This time it appears that the DUP aren't quite sure where they stand.

On 13 May the DUP's Peter Robinson said:

"The secretary of state suggested [a committee] in terms that are satisfactory to us.

"We believe that yes, it is necessary for the assembly to look at the issues which are an obstacle to devolution and how they can be removed... if parties aren't prepared to look at what the obstacles to devolution are and how they may be removed then what on earth are they into an assembly for and what on earth were they elected for?"

However, in his press conference after he turned down the nomination as First Minister Rev. Paisley said that he wasn't going to sit down in a committee with either Sinn Fein or the Ulster Unionist Party as both "had links to paramilitaries".

So the question has to be asked of Paisely and his party if they aren't prepared to look at hte obstacles to develution and how they can be removed what are they doing at Stormont? Why did they bother to stand in the last round of assembly elections?

Come on Dr. Paisley Mr. Robinson deserves an answer for asking this question.

Tuesday 23 May 2006

What has Prezza Done for This?

According to this morning’s Times John Prescott was so affronted by Tony Blair's suggestion that he give up Dorneywood that he dug and the PM reneged. He also retained the grace and favour appartment at Admiralty House.

Dorneywood is a nice 21 bedroom house set in 214 acres of Buckinghamshire and is in the 'gift' of the Prime Minister. It was build in 1920 and was gifted to the National Trust in 1947 by Lord Courtauld-Thomson. It has usually been used in the past by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although Alec Douglas-Home preferred to use it instead of Chequers while Prime Minister.

The six previous holders of the post of Deputy Prime Minister also had some other responsibility either running a department or as Leader of the House of Commons. Since May 5 John Prescott has done neither but still has his £133,000 and official jag.

So what on earth is John Prescott doing to earn all these perks? Why is he still drawing a minsterial salary and occupying two grace and favour residences? Probably because as the Times article indicates the entire reshuffle was a muddle and the PM wasn't entirely sure where he was going with it when he started to embark on it; even as the voters were still making their decision in the English council elections.

Monday 22 May 2006

Paisley Says No.

Some things never change.

As reported here last week Gerry Adams stood up to propose the Rev Ian Paisley as First Minister and his colleague Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister.

Then Paisley declined saying that his "reasons were well known and had been endorsed by the majority of the unionist voters".

Afterwards he also showed it was not sectarian when he added, "If Mr [Reg] Empey [the UUP leader] wants the support of a terrorist organisation [the UVF in the form of PUP's David Irvine], let him have it, but he'll not have my support".

So no movement there then. No Mr Paisley calling anyone's bluff and accepting but applying the rules he holds dear by forcing the withdrawal of the next two biggest parties and letting the SDLP retain the Deputy First Minister post. No that would have been radical. But then Paisley is only radical when it suits his way of being conservative.

Update:This is the view of Kevin Connolly from BBC Northern Ireland.

Brown Sides with St. George

Oh dear. Raith Rovers' most famous fan Mr G. Brown with residences in Westminster and North Queensferry has become overly friendly to the team of the three lions.

While he might have got away with supporting the only home nation qualifying for next month's World Cup in a survey of Scottish cabinet ministers he overstepped the mark when he chose his favourite footballing moment. Admittedly the moment was from a Scotland international but he states that Paul Gasgoigne's goal against Scotland in Euro 96 is his hightlight. A fine goal maybe but maybe this casts doubts over Brown's Scottishness as he seeks to emphasis his Britishness to become PM.

Other moments which Gordon might have selected.

1. The 1967 Wembley International when Scotland became the first team to beat the newly crowned World Champions.
2. Archie Gemmills goal in Argentina 1978 against the Netherlands which gave Scotland hope they might yet qulaify for the second phase of the World Cup.
3. 1984 East Fife Beating Hibs in the third Round of the Scottish Cup replay at Easter Road.

Keep up the English act though Gordon at present Labour's best hope next may is if you're the leader, but if your seen as been too much of a Sassenach who can tell. Of his fellow Scots Gordon thinks 60% will be supporting England, yet their group rivals Trinidad and Tobago are selling more shirts than the 3 lions. But maybe Gordon was just respoinding to a three lion whip.

Editors Note: We apologise to non-sport fans for the number of football related stories today it's just the way the news fell. Normal service will be resumed soon.

World Cup Gains 33rd Country

The vote for independence for Montenegro means that this year's World Cup in Germany has actually just gained another country in the draw. Having qualified as Serbia and Montenegro the narrow vote (as yet not finalised) over the 55% threshold means that the team will have representatives of two states in their squad.

In political terms it would mean that Serbia, once the hub of Yugoslavia, will be returned to roughly the same land-locked area it occupied before the outbreak of World War One. Montenego was last independent in 1918 and follows Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina in voting to secede from Serbia. Pressure might now also be mounting in the semi-autonomous Kosovo region to press ahead for their independence as well.

Auchinleck Final Thorn in Thistle's Ambition

Yesterday at Rugby Park Kilmarnock the Scottish Junior Cup ended in a narrow 2-1 win by Auchinleck Talbot over Bathgate Thistle.

Bathgate had been getting progressively more garlanding in Blue and White (Thistle's colours) through the week and for a change a guy was selling scarves and flags on St. David's Street on Saturday. While Auchinleck picked up their seventh Junior Cup title this was the first appearance for Bathgate in the final in their 60 year history. However they were unable to emulate their West Lothian rivals Whitburn Juniors and Linlithgow Rose who have both lifted the OVD Scottish Junior Cup in the last decade.

Maybe Auchinleck were taking revenge on West Lothian as the last time they appeared in the final Linlithgow Rose beat them.

Sunday 21 May 2006

Spin, Damn Spin and Labour Polling Data

If the figures published in today's Sunday Times really were presented to Labour MSPs earlier in the month they may well be deluding themselves. While the figures are bad for Labour they do not, on first inspection, appear to be as bad as those publised by Professer Curtice earlier this week there is some doubt to their accuracy.

The figures translate into the following seats (Curtice's figures in brackets)

Labour: 43 (35)
SNP: 37 (33)
Lib Dems 28 (27)
Tories: 15 (21)
Others 6 (13)

The problems I detect in the Labour estimates are twofold. Firstly while they are acknowleding that there vote will be down on both constituecy and list vote they appear to be overestimating the effect this will give them on the list. The reason I'm saying this is because of their short changing the other parties. Labour are right to be concerned about the twin threats of the SNP and Liberal Democrats they would be foolish to write of all the smaller parties quite so non-challently. With the exception of the SSP the other minor parties are not showing a sign of not being able to replicate their performance from 2003.

Labour have released these figures to talk up their case ahead of next May's elections. They have acknowledged that things are bad, also they know they can't fool people who know that the SNP and Lib Dems will be big gainers. However, they have massaged the non-headline figures to give their own vote the appearance of being retrievable eleven months out. Therefore personally I'm viewing these figures with a a hefty pinch of salt.

So while the Labour spokesman said they will not be commenting on or discussing this information but the comment was made by the article. Meanwhile the discussion is going on; behind closed dooors for now, just wait for the next strategically spun leek.

Saturday 20 May 2006

BAA Objects to Edinburgh Airport Rail Link

The British Airports Authority has objected to proposals to link Edinburgh Airport to the Scottish Rail network.

Trains already run past the end of the runway on their way north to the Forth Bridge and Glasgow/Edinburgh trains run to the south of the Airport across the A8. But the proposals are the build links from these routes to connect up to a hub near the terminal building. At the present with the exception of the dedicated Airport buses it is impossible to get to Edinburgh Airport by public transport. Buses do go past the exit but it does mean over half a mile of a walk to the terminal.

Strangely BAA are claiming that making their airport more accessible to people by transport other than car users could 'adversely affect' the airport's future operation and growth. Maybe however they are claiming this because it would affect the revenue flow that their new multi-million pound multi-storey car park would return, even if this is now being run by NCP.

Also bizarrely BAA are objecting on the grounds that building the tunnels required to create the links might cause subsidance and affect future expansion of the airport. I'm sorry but that is so lame. On a project of this type any civil engineer worth their salt would ensure that the tunnels would be strong enough to withstand simultaneous multiple landings on top of the tunnel to ensure that the ground would not give way. A argument that doesn't hold a great deal of weight when you consider other airports, Heathrow fow example, where all many of tunnels riddle the site.

However, the main thrust of BAA's objection appears to be the knock-on effect this rail project would have on their own plans for expansion with an eventual second runway. There seems as always with airports and airlines appears to be little consideration to the environmental impact anod seeking how it can me minimalised for the residents and costomers locally that they also serve.

The sooner that airlines contribute fairly for the pollution that they cause and airport operaters also seek to make their sevices easily available to non-car users the better. Once everybody takes responsibilty the more enhanced the chances we can have positive effects on dealing with pollution and fget on with the serious task of combatting climate change.

Friday 19 May 2006

Tory A-List 21-30

Ironically Eric Forth who was adamantly opposed to Dave Chameleon's A-list, so much so that he had stated his intention to stand on at the next election aged 64 or 65 to prevent one of the chosen few taking his plum Bromley and Chiselhurst seat. Now it seems very likely that an A-Lister will be parachuted in from somewhere for this secure Tory seat. Possibly one from our next installment of details of the most Toryish Conservatives not currently in Parliament. Especially as this set of 10 is bookended by two former MPs.

Numbers 21-30:-

Tim Collins CBE Was MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale from 1997-2005 when he lost to Lib Dem Tim Farron. He had been press secretary to John Major during the 1992 campaign. He has been a Tory Whip and Shadow Treanport and Education Spokesman. He is a Doctor Who fan and has appeared on several TV progammes discussing the show. But that is not sufficient reason to vote for him I think it is every Lib Dem Doctor Who fan's responibility to ensure that Tim spends more time with his dearly returned Doctor and tardis. He has already been mentioned on comments at Political Betting a a possible successor for Eric Forth in Bromley and Chislehurst.

Mark Coote: Has been candidate for Hastings & Rye in both 2001 and 2005, where he was just over 2000 votes away from winning from Labour's Michael Foster. He was endorsed by East Sussex and Romney Marsh Hunt to unseat Foster, but to a large extent it was Foster's vote going to the Lib Dems and not to Coote that made their contest so close.

Peter Cox: Was PPC for Exeter in 2005.

Caroline Dinenage: PPC for Portsmouth South 2005, however the Portsmouth Press seem to think that by reducing Mike Hancock's majority to 3,326 she made it a strong challenge and there was me thinking 404 in Edinburgh South was tight. She is the daughter of TV Presenter Fred Dinenage and lives in Portsmouth with her half-Spanish Royal Naval Officer Husband. She runs a marketing company with her mother, and she became the youngest ever Winchester councillor in 1998 when she was first elected, she did not stand for re-election this year.

Cllr Antonia Dunn: The Wandsworth Councillor stood for the Welsh seat of Cynon Valley in 2005. Her family has lived in Wandsworth for over 20 years.

Jane Ellison: Pendle PPC in 2005. She also stood in the 2000 Tottenham by-Election (to, for Barnsley East and Mexborough in 1997 and for Barnsley East in the 1996 by-Election.

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones: He is Britain's only black farmer with 30 acres near Launceston and was Entrepreneur of the Year at the Black Enterprise Awards 2005 for his Black Farmer brand. He recently wrote in the Times about the need for ethnic diversity in the Tory Party.

Dr Richard Evans: Was PPC for Hendon in 2001 and 2005. He is one of a number of names being mentioned a possible London Mayoral candidate.

Suella Fernandes: Was candidate for Leicester East in 2005, she is a trainee Barrister, educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and a school governor not bad for a 25 year-old. She is of Asian descent her father being raised in an India and Kenya her mother Uma has served as a local councillor and was Parliamentary candidate in the Brent East by-Election in 2003 and previously had stood for Tottenham in 2001.

Howard Flight: Was the MP for Arundel and South Down from 1997 to 2005 who was famously deselected by Michael Howard when Flight was honest about Conservative spending cuts prior to last May's election; although he later regretted his choice of words.. He had served as Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury 1999-2001, Shadow Paymaster General to 2002, then Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury for the remainder. He had also served as Deputy Chairman of the party. He too like Tim Collins has produced speculation about possibly succeeding Eric Forth.

Adam Crozier the Beeching of the Post Offices

Adam Crozier the Chief Executive of the Royal Mail has said:

That the current situation — where a thousand post offices have fewer than six customers a day — was “not sustainable”.

However, six per day comes to 36 a week which might actually be the whole population of some of the villages that are possibly under threat by mr Crozier's radical changes. Rural post offices are often also the only source of banking services in some rural communities so their universal provision is of vital importance to many people. He says these unprofitable post offices lose £2m a week, or £104m.

Of course all this talk of radically cutting post office services has also come the day after £1.7bn of Taxpayers money is being provided to bail out the Royal Mail's pension scheme.

Yet somehow dispite £1.3bn being injected for radical transformation of the Royal Mail Mr Crozier is talking of meeting his legal obligations with only 4000 of the current 14,500 post offices. But what about his moral obligations to provide customer satisfaction, not all of the 4000 offices he will be maintaining are going to be easily accessible especially by our most vulnerable citizens. This sounds like it might become as radical a cull of a vital service as that carried out by Dr. Richard Beeching on the railways in the 1960s.

We need the government to have a clear rethink on Post Office policy and provision and to lay down conditions on the way this £3bn of our money is actually being used. Surely this should be to improve the service not to further reduce it.

Thursday 18 May 2006

Eric Forth RIP

Colourful MP, in many ways, Eric Forth has sadly become the fifth MP since last May's election to pass away, the fourth of whom has succoumb to cancer.

Before entering Parliament in 1983 as MP for Mid-Worcestershire he was MEP for Birmingham North. He later became the MP for Bromley and Chislehurst. He served as a Trade and Education minister under John Major.

Although the substance of what he said was not always to my taste the way he said it was something that any parliamentarian could learn from. During the last Parliament he started out Shadowing my former MP Robin Cook as Leader of the House and occasion PMQs and the two eloquent performers were a match for each other. Their tongues being effective weaponry to reach across the divide often with sabre like wit.

His colourful ties and waistcoats will be missed from the Chamber as will those erudite performances. But maybe he'll be able to conntinue his famous verbal jousts with Robin Cook from beyond the grave.

The resulting by-election will the first by-election that Dave has to Parliamentary contest as the defender, however he is defending a 13,000 majority which even Livingston FC's defence should be able to defend

Tory A-List 11-20

Continuing from yestersday's start to delve into the backgroud of Chameleon Dave's A-Team. Here are the next 10 in alphabetical order from the hot 100, take care pop pickers.

Karen Bradley: Former CCHQ policy officer and Manchester Withington PPC 2005. She was one of the carefully named candidates that the Tories put up against Labour members and although she did not win some say she may have affected the result against Keith Bradley. She is a mother who works for the party part time as a policy advisor on Crime and the Metrolink. She has since stood for the Tories in Teddington, for Richmond Borough Council where she is from.

Angie Bray: Is a Member of the Greater London Assembly. A former journalist she was head of Broadcasting for the Conservative Central Office in the 1992 and 2005 General Elections. As mentioned earlier, she is a stand out candidate, irrespective of gender, according to William Rees-Mogg.

Steve Brine: Runs a Hampshire PR business and is a former Tory spin doctor and ghost writer of articles and speeches for the party leaders. Brine was also responsible for the Tories 2001 Election Website. He is a close associate of Dave Chameleon. Although he was the area agent over the troubled Southampton Itchen selection of a non-approved candidate for 2005.

Fiona Bruce
: Is sadly not the Dead Ringers lampooned newreader but was Small Businesswoman of the Year 2003. Famously became 2005 Warrington South PPC after winning open US sytle all electors primary. She is a family lawyer and features in Sandra Howard's campaign diary.

Sharon Buckle: Was number 4 on the East Midlands European list in 2004. Less well publicised by our Tory friends is that she narrowly beat UKIP and held on to her deposit in Liverpool Walton in 2005.

Dr David Bull: Is a regular TV Medical expert and author must famously for his appearances on Newsround.

Conor Burns: Twice PPC for Eastleigh 2001 and 2005 against our own leadership candiadate Chris Huhne. He was the first Tory gain on Southampton Council for more than a decade in 1999, where he has lived since 1991. He is a fellow Northern Irish guy seeking to make it in UK politics.

Martin Callanan MEP: Is an MEP for the North East Region since 1999. He has previously stoodfor Tynemouth 1997, Gateshead East 1992 and Houghton & Washington 1987.

Pam Chesters: Bristol West PPC in 2001. She is the Chair of the Royal Free Hospital Hampstead and prior to that worked for BP for 20 years and was Chair of Duckhams Oil. She was a Camden Councillor from 1999-2000.

Damian Collins: 2005 candidate for Northampton North. He is the managing director of an M&C Saatchi company and has contributed to the Cameroon's Little Blue Book.

Wednesday 17 May 2006

Tory A-List 1-10

Ok so I got curious and started to do my background checks on Dave's hot list of stars for the next election. But with my analytical technique this may take longer than expected so in alphbetical order here are the first 10 and some interesting titbits about each of them.

Caroline Abbot: PPC Sheffield Heeley 2001, PPC Barnsley East and Mexborough 2005 and Euro Candidate Yorkshire and Humber 2004 is from Sheffield.

Cllr Tariq Ahmad: PPC Croydon North 2005 is of Kashmiri descent from London, where he serves on Merton Council.

Dr Amar Ahmed: PPC Manchester Blackley 2005. Is a family GP who has been used in the past a Conservative spokesperson on Health although on occasion by means of stealth.

Clive Allen: PPC Devon North 2001 and Somerton and Frome 2005. Only 808 votes short of Lib Dem David Heath's small but increasing majority despite attempts to gain the support of the local UKIP branch and then trying to convince voters they had not stood when in fact they had.

Louise Bagshawe (Mrs Louise LoCicero): Is an author and screenwriter who was Young Poet of the year in 1989 and President of Oxford University Rock Society. You may have read her own comments on making the A-List in last weekend's Sunday Times.

Harriett Baldwin: PPC Stockton North 2005.

Steve Barclay: PPC Manchester Barkley 1997 and Lancaster & Wyre 2001.

Cllr Gavin Barwell: Until this month Operations Director for the Conservative Party now working for Lord Ashcroft Deputy Chairman of the party advising on winning targets seats. Former special adviser to John Gummer MP. Counillor in Croydon.

James Bethell: A founder of the Ministry of Sound and Tooting PPC in 2005. Who even the Telegraph pre-empted as an emergence of Luvviedom to the Tories as far back as 2004. Although for an inclusive A-List he has some interesting views on disability.

Nicholas Boles: Head of Policy Exchange and Hove PPC in 2005; which he narrowly failed to win. He is an openly gay Tory who founded a DIY store and is a former Westminster councillor, one of the Notting Hill set.

Tories Ton Up

Well the Tory a-list appears to have been completed by Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home. He writes more about his search and the secret society more commonly know as the 'modern' conservative party in yesterday's Grauniad.

More a Dave not convincing Code than any connection to Leonardo. Mind you with Tony looking to go nuclear we may have to beware mutant turtles.

Analysis to follow now that there are 100 names.

Labour Losing Grip of Power

No real surprise in this morning's Scotsman but the latest polling analysis from Prof. John Curtice at Strathclyde University suggest that Labour are in as much trouble North of the border as there were in this months council elections in England. In fact based on English results they fair better than recent results in Scotland.

The breakdown of his analysis based on the Moray by-election would leave:

Labour 30 Constituency MSPs 5 List MSPs 35 in Total down 15
SNP 22 + 11 = 33 up 6
Liberal Democrats 15 + 12 = 27 up 10
Conservatives 4 + 17 = 21 up 3
Greens 0 + 7 = 7 NC
SSP 0 + 2 = 2 down 4
Others 2 + 2 = 4 NC

Now of course it is difficult to draw conclusions from extrapolation of one by-election result and one shouldn't read too much into it. But the trend is there as well that both the SNP and Liberal Democrats look set to be big gainers from Labour's misadventures. The Tories are hardly bounding back and are still relying heavily on list MSPs to maintain their presence.

Interestingly Labour's confidence that they can ride the storm may seem to be on shakey ground. On these findings Prof. Curtice suggests that Labour may lose as many as 16 constituency seats. However, instead of Labour's current rhetoric that they can pick these up off the list he suggests that the spread of their loses and others' gains would mean they'd only make up one off the list system.

With the Lib Dems being the major gainers as they have been in both by-elections this year the effect is a concertina of the big three parties so that Labour are largest with 35 only two ahead of the SNP, and 8 ahead of the Lib Dems. The Tories also manage to emerge with 21 seats which leads to all sorts of permeations for discussions after May next year.

Tuesday 16 May 2006

Going Red

First off the news that Motorola have announced a red version of the popular L7 SLVR to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. The phone is available unlatched to networks so anyone can place their current SIM into it straight away. On purchase £10 and 5% of all call and text charges will be donated to Bono and Pat Shiver's (Product) Red Global Fund to help combat AIDS in Africa.

I was unable to get a copy of today's Red Independent guest edited by Bono but I'm glad to see that one thing in today's paper is him questioning Tony Blair and Gordon Brown about the African issues connected to their G8 commitments last year. In fact by the looks of things the entire front section of the paper is dedicated to Africa rather than the usual one or two stories slotted away in a side column in the back of the international news section.

Monday 15 May 2006

All Things Are Possible

Is is conceiveable that the Rev Ian Paisley was reading Romans 12:18 before he turned up at Stormont today?

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

The reason I ask is because to Northern Irish ears the following statement is earth shattering:

DUP leader Ian Paisley said it was not impossible for his party to work with Sinn Fein, but that republicans would have to "obey the rules".

Mind you the caveat that he applies seems to indicate that he is not taking the word of General John de Chastelain. So maybe it is as much a case of Dr. Paisley also obeying the rules as they are currently drawn up instead of being Pharisheeical about it and carrying out his own interpretation of those rules.

Mind you to show that the DUP aren't taking side they are now also taking exception to the Ulster Unionists accepting Progressive Unionist David Irvine into their group. The reason being the PUP's connections with loyalist paramilitaries the Ulster Volunteer Force. The UVF is not currently in a ceasefire and so therefore possible the DUP might be considering the Ulster Unioinists as worse offenders than Sinn Fein who at least in Paisley's eyes are making an effort. The speaker Eileen Bell is taking counsel on this issue and will make her ruling tomorrow.

In the staring competition that will be going on at Parliament Buildings Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has made it clear that he will no be blinking first. So we'll continue to watch with interest. There are rarely dull days in Northern Irish politics especially when so much might be at stake.

The A-List: Mission Disastor

Times columnist and new convert to blogsphere William Rees-Mogg has today added his concerns about David Cameron's so called A-List.

His first concern is that the Tories are saying they are for open politics yet have still to publish this list. Lord Rees-Mogg like the rest of us has had to rely on Conservative Home for the news as it leeks out. Currently there are 67 names available there.

He has also looked at the make up of the list, it does reach the objective of being over 50% female. However, he is disbuting the calibre of the women on that list. He singles out Angie Brays as the only female candidate who would be ideal for almost any seat. Considering the news that another woman on that list Sayeeda Warsi has sparked her own little bit of controvery regarding differences in what she is telling her white and Muslim audiences about terrorism.

But the calibre of candidates criticism is not solely aimed at the women. Rees-Mogg also points out that only one third of the list fought a constitunecy in 2005. These as he points out are people who are used to the grat of political campaigning, something he doubts the minor celebreties on the list are prpared for. Also by not recognising the support of the 400 who have stood before in this elite list those turned aside are being asked to graft without even a slim glimmer of acheiving a prize.

But very startling is the location of the A-List, 40% London centric, one Welsh, very few with rural connections. Rees Mogg doesn't even mention Scotland in his breakdown but it may be even worse than Wales. If these people are currently largely not experienced campaigners their lack of assosiation with the 100 key seats will only add to their ineffectuality in campaigning.

Lord Rees-Mogg finishes his article today with a very telling remark.

Francis Maude's grand strategy is beginning to look like a failure.

Friday 12 May 2006

The Calm Before the ...?

'The agreement provides for a democratically elected Assembly in Northern Ireland, which is inclusive in its membership, capable of executing executive and legislative authority, and subject to safeguards to protect the rights and interests of all sides of the community.'

So starts Strand One of the Good Friday Agreement establishing a Northern Irish Assembly. If I was still in one of my previous jobs I would no doubt have driven away from the Stormont estate tonight and been wondering what next week would bring up the hill. I'd probably be considering taking a few walks through the estate at lunchtime to get an idea of what might be going on inside Parliament Buildings.

That first sentence of Strand one raises some key issues as the people of Northern Ireland and NIPPLEs (Northern Irish PeoPle Living Elsewhere) wait with less than baited breathe for what next week will bring.

Firstly we do have a representative inclusive membership. In the three years since suspension there has been a shift however in both communities. The more compromising and prepared to work parties the Ulster Unionists and SDLP have been overtaken by the more extreme edges of their communities the Democratic Unioinists and Sinn Fein, in both polls (Assembly and Westminster). When the results came through everyone knew there would be difficulties but the recent schenanigans between Adams and Paisley are surely a soap opera too far. Yes surely Adams announced he would nominate Paisley possible to get a reaction from the big man. But what if Paisley had called Adams bluff and accepted. Well that might lead us on to point tow.

Are they capable of executing executive and legislative authority? Having seen them up close from the civil service side of the fence I can assure that the Northern Irish politicians actually really seemed to enjoy getting down to dealing with real bread and butter issues rather than their usual posturing. Also a number of them did very well in their job Brid Rodgers as agriculture minister did an excellent job of containing the foot and mouth outbreak and did a far more effective job that Westminster or Holyrood managed. Reg Empey, now the Ulster Unionist leader, did a fine job overseeing the newly vibrant Northern Irish economy and there are other fine examples. The assmbly members did actually love to govern if only they were prepared to give themselves the opportunity.

The safeguards are in place to protect the rights and interests of all sides of the community. At the moment the people of Northern Ireland are still paying wages to elected representatives who are doing nothing 108 of them, 6 per constituency. However, the best way to oversee the rights and interests of Northern Ireland is to have the same rights as the people of Wales and lesser rights but still similarly given to the Scots; the ability to decide what is best for the people of Northern Ireland locally.

Therefore one of my home town Members, Eileen Bell, has an unenviable task as speaker next week, and beyond hopefully, trying to establish some sort of order to discussions to allow for the re-establishment of an Assembly. I'll be trying to keep up with the proceedings from a greater distance than I would like and blog about the progress from Stormont as it develops over the days ahead.

Fourteen Years On

At 9:15 in the morning 14 years ago today the progress of the Labour Party was uncertain. The reforming leader who had only been chosen by the party less than 2 years earlier John Smith died when he suffered two serious heart attacks, the first in his Barbican flat the second on the way to St. Bartholomew’s. He was only 55 at the time.

Unlike many of the Cabinet that eventually took power again for Labour Smith had gained Cabinet rank under Callaghan as Secretary of State for Trade. While he was reforming the party he was seen as quite conservative in how he went about it much to the impatience of his Shadow Home Secretary and Chancellor, Messrs Blair and Brown.

There is much speculation as to what the outcome of the 1997 election would have been had Smith survived. The consensus was that he would have won after the implosion of John Major's government. This would have left Blair probably taking on the Home Office in the first Labour Administration for 18 years.

How long would Smith have carried on as leader? Obviously there would have been health issues to consider. He would have taken over aged 58 and sought re-election in 2001 when 62. He may have been happy to become the first Labour leader to have successfully returned Labour to two successive full term Governments and sought to step aside on his 65th birthday, just before the 2003 Autumn Conference giving a successor an 18 month run up to a 2005 election.

So who would have succeeded Smith in 2003? Blair and Brown would possibly have had over 6 years of Cabinet experience by then. Robin Cook would also very likely have been in the frame (depending on how his affair was handled without Alistair Campbell spinning away). Then you would have to have seen how Charles Clarke, Jack Straw and others might have faired. But I think the same five heavyweights would still have been around in the hunt and on the leadership ballot.

Would Smith have taken us into war with Iraq without UN resolutions in place first? I doubt it. As a result Robin Cook would very likely still be in a very senior cabinet post. But even if somehow Smith had gone in like Blair, against expectations, Cook's resignation on principle might very well have swayed it in his favour for a 2003 leadership contest.

So I think it may have been a close contest between Cook for his international expertise and Brown for his economic surety, with the slight edge to Cook I feel.

So if Cook had won the leadership in 2003 and taken us into a 2005 election there would not have been a concerted anti-war vote, as Cook was principled enough to stand up for international law. Thing may be looking very different now?

Would Cameron have won the Tory Leadership election, or would there have been one in 2003 to elect Howard? If not Michael Howard may have taken over after the disastrous 2005 General Election with a clean slate to try and revive the Tory party, who while they were started to doubt the leadership of Iain Duncan Smith in 2003 where no prepared to dump him while an new broom was taking over as Labour Prime Minister.

The Tories might well have suffered greater loses to the Lib Dems if IDs had somehow avoided the hatchet men. Possibly sufficient to break the 100 seat barrier.

However, as we all mow that is not what happened. One clandestine meeting in an Italian restaurant set the course of the last 14 years. Let us not forget that Gordon Brown stepped aside to give us Tony Blair, if he genuinely wanted to do things differently as the more experienced hand he should have stood himself in 1994. If he is now having second doubts about the man he handed the crown to he only has himself to blame. Gordon Brown is, as much a reason why we have had to suffer the years of Blairism as he now seems to see himself as the saviour from it.

So in answer to Mike Smithson yesterday, don't worry we know about Brown, we are preparing for the time he takes over. After all we like him have been waiting for that day for 14 years. But as James Graham pointed out at the moment Gordon does not exist.

We can take on the Green Blues we shall take on the Browns, in fact bring on the whole rainbow. We shall rise to the challenge that we face and deal with the inconsistencies of other's words from their actions wherever they are found.

Connarty on Post Office Card Accounts

I was catching on my emails and discovered an interesting statement by Michael Connarty, MP for Linlithgow and Falkirk East, regarding the Government's plans to scrap Post Office card accounts.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday he called on David Cairns, Under Secretary of State for Scotland, to meet with colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry to discuss withdrawing the proposal to scrap the scheme. He said that the proposals to scrap the scheme would 'save some money for the Department for Work and Pensions, but will cause deep offence and concern to the pensioners in our society.'

Strangely he has votely loyally with the Government over every post office proposal put forward including these interesting divisions from 15 May 2002 and the 24 May 2004 which appears to be contrary to what he is saying this week.

Thursday 11 May 2006

Who's Who on Tory A-List

Instead of shouting it from the rooftops with pride Conservative Central Office are keeping quiet about who exactly is on their A-list of 100 candidates being primed for their most winnable seats.

However, news of this nature never takes long to seep out. Iain Dale, who's not on the list, has rather nicely provided a link to Tim Mongomerie at Conservative Home who is keeping tabs on people as and when they become know.

As of 12:50 on 11 May there are 36 names on the list.

From the showbiz world Corrie Star Adam Rickett (future MP for Weatherby) is joined by Ministry of Sound founder James Bethell. There are also 2 Tory-Party Vice Chairmen, 2 MEPS and former MP Howard Flight.

Apparently one of the female half of the list is Maria Hutchings who famously challenged the Prime Minister, regarding education provision for her autistic son, live on Channel 5's Wright Stuff during last year's campaign.

The fact that Flight is on the list in interesting. He was ousted by then leader Michael Howard as the Arundel and South Downs candidate only a few weeks before last year's General Election, because of comments about Tory spending plans. So is David Cameron planning that the Tories can change to win by taking on the package off-loaded by his predesessor?

Don't Elope to Gretna This Saturday

If you were planning to elope this weekend it is probably best not to. Even the BBC have cottoned on to the news that the small border town is liable to be deserted this weekend.

A BBC Scotland trailer is basically showing a couple turning up in the town but finding the Old Smitty and various Churches in the area closed for business. There's even a glimpse of Brooks Mileson's greying pony-tailed head running off away from the couple.

The tag line is 'Gretna the only town in Scotland that can break Hearts'.

The reason that Gretna will appear to be a ghost town on Saturday is of course the fact that the Scottish Second Division Champions are facing Champions League qualifiers Hearts at Hampden in the Scottish Cup Final.

It is one of the most hilarious bits of Sports event advertising I've seen for a while so well done the guys at Queen Margaret's Drive for coming up with this piece of genius.

Wednesday 10 May 2006

Something Strange in the State of Stormont

There really are some strange goings on back home in the world of politicsNorthern Ireland style.

It looks like to get the Assembly up and running the leader of the second largest party is prepared to nominate the leader of the largest party for the role of First Minister. Nothing unusual about that you might think.

Until you realise that this means that Gerry Adams has offered to nominate the Rev Dr Ian Paisley for the top job. You can guess the reaction from the Free Presbyterian to the president of Sinn Fein, and you wouldn't be far off.

"I have very good news for Mr Adams - he can't do it," Mr Paisley said.

"There'll be no proposing of anybody who doesn't accept it and I certainly will not be accepting anything from Gerry Adams."

The offer was made to move things along at the business meeting when the Assmebly is recalled on 15 May, the plan is for the election of a new First Minister and Deputy First Minister to go ahead on 23 May. However, signs of how this may all turn out are conveyed by Mr Adams when he said:

"Do I believe Ian Paisley will be first minister? I don't know. I don't even know if he knows."

Many in Northern Ireland seem to have given up hope for the two biggest parties from the two extremes of the politcal divide getting their act together and actually getting down to the work that they were elected to do.

However as Mr Adams also said:

"But I'm sure [Dr Paisley] will be conscious of the irony involved in Sinn Fein preparing to go to Stormont to have him elected as first minister."

It's a shame that it is with irony and not reconciliation and progress that the offer appears to have been taken.

Monday 8 May 2006

More Scottish Call Centre Jobs Culled

As someone who works in the industry I'm again saddened by the announced lose of NTL call centre jobs which the media announced today.

However, the fact that worker found out from the media not their employers and that this appears to be another cost cutting measure whith the jobs being outsourced to India make painful reading. Unlike many people who complain about certain companied outsourcing their customer service I get a backlash of people coming to me saying ah you are English. Or course that fact that I'm Irish working in Scotland seems to pass them by they're just happy for a familiar accent.

The NTL employees at Belshill and Glenrothes must now be waiting for news of how NTL will make the one third reduction in its UK workforce. Both could be har hit and this probably does not reflect the quality of the service these employees have offered.

The knock on effect could loom large over West Lothian. Having for so long been seen as the Silicon Glen of Scotland the area has fact become a centre of call centres. Call centres havfe been a fast growing area of employment in much of Scotland and West Lothian is no exception. The thing that UK based call centres offer is in built local knowledge and understandability with the customers, some of the Indian call centres while they offer a cheap alternative do not offer the depth of affinity and ability to satisfy the very demanding UK consumer. It is a sad reflection when answering a phone the other person is almost relieved that you sound like a native, because you are.

Saturday 6 May 2006

Kennedy in Rehab After Crash

No not our Charlie.

This is more a case of like father, like son. Congressman Patrick Kennedy is the latest of the Kennedy clan to fall foul of the supposed curse of the American political dynasty. His father Senator Edward Kennedy was possibly denied his shot at the Presidency following the Chappaquiddick Island incident. Now his son was involved an a startling similar incident near the Capitol.

He crashed his car into a security barrier after swerving and narrowly missing a police vehicle. He was then not breathalised on the spot and is now also being accused of preferential treatment. He also had a similar incedent when he crashed into another vehicle six months ago in Rhode Island.

Hopefully now the six term congressman is seeking help like our very own Kennedy and is admitting there is a problem is that first step.

Friday 5 May 2006

Move Over Darling

I was about to write goodbye Darling as the first news I read was that Douglas Alexander had taken over the Transport and Scottish brief from Alistair Darling in the reshuffle today. But I've since found that the Edinburgh South West MP has Become the new Trade and Industry Secretary.

Other Scots on the move:

John Reid is new Home Secretary
Des Browne replaces him as Defence Secretary

Ian McCartney has been replaced as Party Chairman by Hazel Blears

Clarke has Gone

After the calls for his resignation appeared to fall on Tony's deaf ear the big news today is that Charles Clarke has gone. John 'Bulldog' Reid has taken over at the Home Office, I'm waiting for the outcry for a Scot having a say over so many matters that are devolved.

John Prescott has retained his title as Deputy Prime Minster but lost his departmental duties, no word yet as to how this will be filled or split.

Up All Night

Well after yesterday’s lie in I went and spoilt it by not sleeping all night but arrived at work this morning refreshed.

Obviously I couldn’t go to sleep until both the English council areas I’ve lived in had declared. Kingston was the later of the two to declare. Of the three wards I lived in Tolworth and Hook Rise and Chessington North and Hook both declared a full slate of Lib Dems. The first ward did so easily but the second saw fellow blogger Mary Reid just see off the strongest Tory challenge by only 18 votes. Old Malden the third ward I lived in sadly saw two Tories take the first two spots but Ian McDonald squeezed into the third spot by a mere 7 votes. However, it was good to see that the Liberal Democrats retain control of the council.

The other area where I’ve voted in English council elections is Coventry where I’m most be so out of the loop. I had no idea that the Tories were that close to taking control of the city when I was there in 1992 that would have been unheard of. Mind you last night they finally crossed the threshold for the first time in heaven knows how long and put the city of Lady Godiva into the Blue column. I think I'll go off and try and find out when the Conservative last controlled the city now.

Thursday 4 May 2006

A Dozen of the Worse

The Gruaniad online has this interesting little retropsective of six of some and half a dozen of the others of Tony Blair's worse weeks.

Who knows maybe a bakers dozen may be made by the end of today and this week.

Strange to Have a Lie In

Every year since 2003 around this time of year, and a a few by-elections as well, I've had one day I've got out of my bed at the crack of dawn knowing I wouldn't see it until I was near to exhaustion on most occasions the following day about 24 hours after leaving it, the exception being the European election. So it feels somewhat strange this morning that most of my fellow Lib Dem bloggers will probably have been out and out and about in their various council areas for hours while here in Scotland all is quiet on election front (first time all year some say it might appear). Not that I'm complaining, people might think I deserve a bit of a rest after the hectic 18 months I've just lived through.

Anyway all the best to the Lib Dem teams across England I'll be tuned in to my TV until the small hours following your progress tonight.

Wednesday 3 May 2006

Scottish Water Insurance Scam Bursts

Where in the UK would you, the costomer, have to pay should you water supply pipe burst at a point after it enters your property. The answer is only one place Scotland. In 1997 all the water authourities in Great Britain agreed guaranteeing free repairs of services into customers home, except for Scottish Water.

In fact Scottish Water have been sending out letters to costomers encouraging then to pay £16 for insurance cover on their supply pipes, if every Scottish Water took them up on this offer it would more that cover the cost of the few instances of water supply pipes bursting within costomers property boundaries.

So why is Scotland alone in the UK for facing these charges? If I could get an alternative water supplier like I can my gas and electricity and there was a service provided free by the others I would change or at least consider changing. This is not ano option with water however. Water is a basic necessity of life, however with the companies currently running our supply looking for profit in such scurrelous ways is it not time to return these area monopolies to be returned to public ownership or become a non-profit organisation?

Tuesday 2 May 2006

Can McConnell recover From Blair's Mess?

Well most eyes are turned to the elections 2 days away Peter Jones in The Scotsman has turned his attention to the election a year away tomorrow. With Labour imploding at Westminster he notes that this is having a knock on effect north of the border.

In Deunfermline first and foremost and in Moray last week he notes that the Liberal Democrats were the main beneficaries on both occasions. He says 'for political commentators and pundits, it all looks teerribly exiting'. He muses that once a party starts a slide downhill is is difficult to pull out of that slide.

He muses over the possible outcomes of next years Scottish Parliamentary elections and it make bad reading for Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond. He wrtites, and is possibly the first commentator to do so, that the Lib Dems might win enough seats of Labour for the Lib Dems to return to Governement, but with Nicol Stephen as first minister. Whether that is will an ailing Labour party, the SNP or an anti-nucleur power Lib Dem/SNP/Green coalition is open to debate, so he thinks.

Meanwhile in The Times Peter Riddell is drawing comparisons about the issues regarding Mr Blairs closest allies absence of badly bruised presence in his cabinet leading to a a similar isolation to Margaret Thatcher in her last days at number 10.

No doubt it will be easier staying awake on Thursday night for the election coverage than it was waiting for Graeme Dott to finally beat Peter Ebdon last night.

Monday 1 May 2006

Labour's Week in the Tardis

Labour’s last week was a real horror story, more like a script for the new Doctor Who series than normal political life.

So says William Rees-Mogg in today's Times.

Of course Rees Mogg is talking up Chameleon Dave in the article. However, looking at Russell T Davies latest plot-lines obviously John Prescott wants to avoid meeting or hearing about anymore Sarah Jane Smiths from his past and John Reid had better check his kitchen for vats of noxious liquids. But most scarily is has Charles Clarke released Daleks or Cybermen into the community instead of deporting them to Skaro and Telos respectively, never mind any other races.