Thursday 31 July 2008

They Want Mili-Banned

Two Labour backbench MPs are calling for Gordon Brown to sack David Miliband as Foreign Secretary after yesterday's will he, won't he stance over whether he was mounting a leadership challenge. The latest new on that front is that David told Jeremy Vine on Radio two that he is "not running a leadership campaign".

However, what would occur if Gordon where to sack Miliband from his cabinet?
For a start he would be accused of double standards. How often in his 1o year wait to become Prime Minister did Gordon not say, or leak stories to further the cause for his anointing as the divine Tony's successor. Admittedly he did wait longer than the first year of Blairs leadership before doing so, young David may be showing exceeding haste in copying his mentor.

The other thing is outside the cabinet would Miliband not become a stalking horse, unrestrainable, or at least more so that at present. The fact that rebel extraordinaire Bob Marshall-Andrews is one of the two calling for his sacking is strange when you consider the predecessors. Look at the almost constant threat to Margaret Thatcher from Michael Hesletine and then John Redwood when they were outside the confines of her cabinet. You also wonder, if not for his untimely death in 2005, just what role Robin Cook would have taken in the anointing of Blair's chosen heir. I doubt he would have sat back totally, indeed I think he would have given the Labour Party a contest, maybe even have won it. One thing he would have had over Miliband would have been the experience he was lacking.

So what will Gordon do with the questionable mini-rebellion of youth? Take him aside as a caution? Take him out for a meal to discuss when he will seamlessly pass on the baton? No can't do that Granita's been shut down. Gordon can't afford to have such talk within the ranks of his cabinet, at the same time he can't allow it to be unconstrained from the backbenches.

He faces a dilemma when he does return from Suffolk, and gets confortable by retying a tie around his neck. Cause he sure hasn't carried off the casual element of smart casual on his holiday so far, possibly because he can't truly relax with the knife's grinding on the stones at Westminster.

Who Do You Think You are Sterling Moss?

Whoops a daisy. A car dealer in Kent was looking up his security gate when a Fiat van sent him flying when it hit the end of it. Police were alerted to the scene and merely helped to two men swap details.

The driver of the vans other car is a Ferrari apparently and used to be this one.

The police apparently believed him, well who else has a jaw like that.

It's Not Just Football Clubs that Overspend for Sucess

The clash of the big two, no not the old firm, the Nats and the Socialists Labour Party saw wodges of cash thrown at the Scottish Parliament campaign in 2007. The Nats outspent Labour by over a million pounds.

So what you may ask? That is until you hear that labour traditionally the big spenders only spent £638,014. The extra seat at Holyrood appear to have cost the Nats £1,676,223 on the campaign and left them with a deficit of £240,590. Now election years always take a knock out of party finances as they tend to be biggest expenditure years on Party resources, they also tend to be the biggest time for raising funds as members and supporters.

Across the UK the Labour slashed £6m off their debt bringing it down the £18.9m. Some football clubs, my own included, go into administration for less. The Conservatives reduced their debt from £9m to £7.75m leaving only the Lib Dems in the black to the tune of £1.3m. It means that even any little hiccup would still leave the Lib Dems as the most prudent party when it comes to its own finances. Maybe the country should start to trust us with theirs as well.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

David Not Slinging the First Stone...Yet

Well David Miliband is in full rabbit eyes in headlights mode. Following his article in this mornings Grauniad in which he talked about the future of the Labour Party without mentioning the Prime Minister in that future.

Compare this from his article.

"The odds are against us, no question. But I still believe we can win the next
election. I agree with Jack Straw etc"

With this when pressed:

"Can Gordon lead us into the next election and win? Yes. I'm absolutely
confident about that."

So has David joined the heap of mangled metal of sports cars starting before the green light is given. Or as in the vintage last Yes Minster episode are we watching everyone deny that they have ambitions for the office of Prime Minister though all the while they are sounding out their support. Especially as when pressed further as to whether we was ruling himself out of a leadership bid he merely said he wanted to discuss "arguments, not personalities" and didn't use the words yes or no.

Oh just for the record at the time of writing the Prime Minister is Gordon Brown and there are no, I repeat no, leadership challenges being mounted by any member of the cabinet. The giant of a chancellor turned PM for New Labour is not about to fall to the boy David: possibly.

I couldn't possibly comment.

Ideas a Bottomless Pit

Is it just me or has the much beloved Ideas of Civilisation's skin update resulted in a horrible loss of body?

Watch Out Gordon We're Coming to Get You

Gordon Brown may be taking a vacation but everyone seems out to get him just now.

First David Miliband calls on his colleagues in an article in the Grauniad to offer the electorate real change. Many in the Main Stream Media see it as the opening salvo in a leadership bid from the one many see as Brown's likely successor. He talks about the need for change, "a new phase", that the summer shouldn't be about introspection. Saying:

"The odds are against us, no question. But I still believe we can win the next

Then sets out an agenda of what has been done wrong and what should be done better. Finishing off with a rallying cry of sorts:

"New Labour won three elections by offering real change, not just in policy but in the way we do politics. We must do so again. So let's stop feeling sorry for ourselves, enjoy a break, and then find the confidence to make our case afresh."

The speculation of course is just was does he imply by afresh?

Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister, Harriet Harman, is denying claims that she too is preparing a leadership challenge. Looks like the knives may well be being looked at in the draw if not yet getting sharpened in the Labour camp.

Then you have Nick Clegg stating that there is no such thing as a safe Labour seat and redirecting Lib Dem attention and funding to focus on the 50 most vulnerable Labour seats at the nest General Election. He says:

"And at the next general election, they will lose in their heartlands to the
Liberal Democrats. A Labour vote is now a wasted vote."

It is a shift from 2005 when the party looked at the vulnerability of Tory seats such as those of David Davis and Theresa May but reflects the gains on councils and control taken in some traditionally Labour dominated areas. With all the uncertainty over what Labour's next roll of the dice may be he warns.
"You never know how quickly things will change. Gordon Brown may find the
guts to call the general election we should have had last year.

may be replaced with yet another unelected Labour prime minister.

got to be ready for anything. Britain needs a break from Labour.

"Britain needs a young party with fresh ideas for today's families -
that's us. So let's make it happen."

So after having one by election taking us into the traditional slow period for politics it looks like we may well have an interesting summer season ahead of us long before the resort towns hold the party conferences in September.

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Lions Kick Off Season in Style

Oh dear, Mister Ideas said some nice things about my sport's input here and I didn't get around to updating you all on the start of Livingston's season on Saturday. What with the passing of Lord Russell, that's temporal Lord not time, it didn't seem right yesterday.

Anyhoo, Mister Stephen dressed in his football shirt without the need of additional layers turned up for this first visit to the new Italian themed Almondvale, yes they even have renamed the Lions Den the Carling Italia Bar. Just where is a cuddly Leone to rest up?

Well the first thing to note was that the new consortium of owners were all there in sharp suits standing on the edge of the pitch while the players warmed up. Obviously all out in force for the first competitive game of the season. The visitors were Stranraer for the first round of the Challenge Cup something the Lions hadn't got past the first round in since they dropped out of the SPL.

If Only the Economy Were a Game of Golf

image from The Times

Well there have long been concerns about the black holes in the SNP's budget, especially as their leader is an Economics graduate from St. Andrews. Well we now know why that isn't such a good recommendation as yesterday the First Minister himself said, "I was a student here at St. Andrews. I spent a great deal more time studying golf than economics."

Well that may have been £40 over 4 years idly spent but what does it mean for our economy. If like the Old Course we'll be constantly buffeted by the wind and go from bunker to bunker (as my mother says the best way to see a golf course) before facing a tough putt over an uneven surface to hole out we'd be fine; or so it would seem. However, the First Minster plays off 18 so we have to handicap him a shot per hole, which may be fine in golf but not advisable in economics where there are no gimmes.

One does however wonder what the Nats handicap would be in Economics as they seem to want to play on a different course than that set out by the tournament committee. Instead of playing on the old course they seem to want to play on Jubilee or maybe even are trying to play on the Castle Course before it is ready and cleared for play.

Monday 28 July 2008

Has West Lothian Seceeded from the Union?

Interesting flag related goings on have come to my attention from outside West Lothian House, home of the SNP/Save St. Johns Hospital coalition led West Lothian Council.

Now there are five flag poles out side the council offices so it is not as if space is at a premium but it has been murmurs that the Union Flag has not been flying like it used to outside. Apparently the Provost Tom Kerr of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party noticed that the Union Flag was not flying outside the offices, upon raising the issue with the other councillors it made a brief appearance before again disappearing from view.

The SNP love their symbolism, in fact all their vehicles in the recent Glasgow East by election proudly sported the Saltire. Indeed they almost had apoplexy when the Willie Rennie signs for the Dunfermline and West Fife by election contained a Saltaire. Now when the rules about flying the national flag all year round were introduced by Gordon Brown last year Scottish public buildings were except, allowed to fly the Saltire, for all but 18 days if they only had one flag pole. Although if two or more poles were present the the Union Flag should take precedence over the Saltire, therefore its absence at West Lothian House is something that needs to be answered. Do I need my passport to get to and from work from now on?

Lochaber No More: Russell-Johnston Dies

Lord Russell-Johnston of Minginish died last night of bone marrow cancer on the eve of his 76th birthday. He had been Liberal MP for Inversness from 1964-83 then for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber from 1983-97 when he was elevated to the other house. From 1974-99 he served as leader of the Scottish Liberal Party before becoming the inaugural President of the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 1988-94.

He was as Ming Campbell summed up a proud European and proud Scot and this showed in his concerns in both houses. Even his last utterance recorded in Hansard, only 11 days ago, relates to the EU. As well as Europe one of his key concerns was the treatment of the blind in our society and as a result he was the RNIB Parliamentary representative for 20 years.

Last October he also showed his strong stance of equality for gay rights when he spoke out against the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church when Patriarch Alexy II called homosexuality an illness at a human rights conference. Being almost Wildian in his juxtaposed retort Russell-Johnston said:

"Being a long-standing heterosexual I have no physical understanding of it, but
I am certain, however, that people of the same sex in loving relationships
should be respected."

The current incumbent to the closest seat to Russell-Johnston's Danny Alexander paid his tribute by saying:

"He was an immense servant and iconic figure in the area during his 33 years as
an MP. As I know from personal experience, he touched the lives of many
constituents. He was a committed European."

Sunday 27 July 2008

Two Immovable Objects Affect Fairness in Taxes

Look I know a week is a long time in politics but wasn't it just about 48 hours ago that the Nats were still saying they promised to axe the Council Tax? Indeed it is still on their party's website. Only for this morning's Scotland on Sunday to declare that they are to ditch Local Income Tax (LIT) one of their key election pledges of only last May.

It brings us to have to look at who is to blame for the failure of bringing in a fairer local tax system, which was to have been based on the ability to pay it. My conclusion is that both Labour and the SNP are too busy playing politics with each other to actual achieve something for the benefit of people who will gain most.

Now I have had elected Labour representatives agree with me in confidence that the Council Tax is far from fair, of course when talking to me they also add the caveat that they fell LIT is far from perfect as well. However, they also fail to provide anything that is radical and fair as an alternative and are happy to tinker around with the Council Tax. Labour in Westminster have backed up this by threatening to withhold the £400m grant payable to local authorities to offset bills for the lowest paid families, if the council tax was replaced with the LIT. Now surely that £400 million is needed to help provide the services that Scots need or else Westminster would not be offering it in the first place. Even with LIT to help lift the poorest out of paying that grant would still be required. So Labour are holding the Nats plans over a barrel.

However, the SNP may only have themselves to blame. As has been mentioned here before the Nats scheme was to set the level of LIT centrally at Holyrood, removing the tax level setting power from the local authorities who have to spend it. This caused the Labour administration at Westminster to make the threat to withdraw the grant as mentioned above. Now I'm in favour of LIT as over the lifetime of a local income tax payer it will spread the burden of their lifetime payments to when they can afford to pay it, and the majority of people will be better off under it. However, the Nats when they saw a good policy originating from the Liberal Democrats had to tinker with it to make it seem like their own, hence the setting of one level across Scotland set centrally.

Their refusal to budge on this is as much to blame for Scots looking to retain an unfair Tax as Labour refusing to budge on a different local tax system in another part of the UK, ignoring Northern Ireland. As said elsewhere in SoS by Kenny Farquharson Salmond is happy being in "government and opposition at the same time" however in so doing so and refusing to budge in his opposition to Westminster having any sway to get things through in Government is he costing Scotland a chance to change. More and more of his policies are coming up against a brick wall being concurrently built by the Nats on one side and Labour on the other. Maybe the magic of the juggling act of being opposition whilst being First Minister is starting to fade and the public's eyes are starting to open to the slight of hand for what it is a cheat, a scam, a slight of hand and mouth.

Saturday 26 July 2008

Bad Day to Attempt to Unblur Voice

Now we all knew, at least within Lib Dem circles, that Ross Finnie was away on holiday and that he wasn't going to formally announce his candidacy for the Lib Dem leadership until after the Glasgow East by Election but to do so yesterday with part of his message seemed rather amiss. In fact I myself missed it completely until I looked at this morning's papers, sorry Ross.

However, his launch speech did echo some of my own thoughts over recent days when he said the following:

"Our message somehow has become blurred, lacking a distinctive Liberal Democrat

"The party has made a number of effective attacks on the SNP
Government but we have failed to connect with the voters as to why they should
turn to the Liberal Democrats."
I don't object to those sentiments though Ross, however it is a little Walmington-on-Sea strategy wise to make the statement yesterday. There are days when I want my Scottish leader to seize the initiative, to grab the media by the throat and make them take notice of our message, our agenda and define our edge. Yesterday was not the day for doing this, not while the new honourable member for Glasgow East was being chaperoned everywhere by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

Good message to start your campaign but the impact is totally lost by the timing. Although Captain Mainwaring Ross Finnie is now at the blocks to get the next stage of the Scottish Liberal Democrats moving alongside Tavish Scott and Mike Rumbles.

Yikes I Appear to Have Become the Voice

I got up this morning to be greeted by Malc's second take on Glasgow East, in it he concentrates on the Liberal Democrat showing, or lack thereof, in the vote.

Now I know my recent return en force to the Scottish Blogosphere had a minor seismic (yes the Nats don't own the word) effect on the Scottish scene. First many of the other party bloggers started to comment on my blog, then add me to their blogroll (for many as their first Lib Dem link), then adding some of the others. Now they seem to have anointed be the chief spokesperson for the Scottish Lib Dem Blogosphere, Malc made reference to me three times in his little piece indeed begging my response. However he's not alone I seem to be constantly getting referenced from others whenever the Lib Dems garner a mention almost being asked to reply*.

Maybe it's because as Jeff at SNP tactical voting was kind enough to say I'm "unafraid to protest on other blogs at posts [I] disagree with. And that, after all, is what good blogging should be all about." Maybe, and if so I take it as compliment, as Kezia Dugdale said but I "occasionally come up with some absolutely stonking posts which knock many other blogs for six" which transcend party politics and lines. But for whatever reason without seeking it I seem to have somehow become, at least in the other Scottish Blogger's eyes, a voice for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, maybe I should adjust the font size and positioning of my disclaimer.

It's actually something I think that is more distinctly part of the Scottish political scene than the UK at large though that there is so much interaction between the parties. Being as my blogroll suggests someone who doesn't see a great divide in political blogs I don't see the same cross party interaction in the UK scene at large. That's possibly down to Duncan and Will and the way that they have the Scottish Roundup set up, making a sort of incestuous interaction between us Scottish Politicos brave, or stupid enough, to publish our thoughts on events online in such a public way.

Well if that's the way things are to be so be it therefore I can make no apologies to Scottish Tory Boy for being a "bit too Lib Demmy" it's clearly what he and the others actually want and they can "enjoy it nonetheless".

*BTW if I don't necessarily reply to all such comments it may be that I simply haven't seen it, we can't all be an omnipresent Iain Dale (that's the Tory one).

Friday 25 July 2008

Glasgow East Where Next?

Jeff had accused me of sour grapes* even masking my true feelings in humour about last night's result in Glasgow East because I posted this. Well all I can say it is easy to be a winner, not so easy to be a good winner (last night we didn't see one IMHO), but hardest of all is to be totally blown away by things going far worse than you anticipated. However, what I have done all day has been reflected on what other bloggers have said (yes I even painfully read my regular Nats) and looking to see just what happened. To do that takes time both to compose and, as it turns out, to write so bear with me.

I'll start with Scottish Tory Boy who if anyone had reason to gloat over some of my comments in recent days it was he. However, all he said was, "Yesterday I posted this suggesting that the Lib Dems would finish fourth and it seems that I was spot on with my prediction but I certainly didn’t envisage them losing their deposit but that is exactly what happened." Magnanimous in the small victory he had and greated appreciated for that. I still think that Ian Robertson was a stronger candidate that Davena Rankin however she was very cleverly packaged by a smart Conservative team. I can't recall whether it was two or three times that I saw her drag poor Annabelle Goldie off to some gym or other. End result she did appear to have more clips on TV news buletins than Ian seemed to manage; even last night in the clip of me talking to him, I have since been informed, he wasn't even in the frame.

Kezia Dugdale and the Two Doctors both offered congratulations to the new MP for Glasgow East. Although Kez's picture of John Mason makes him look like the Peter Pan of Parliament (that is a joke btw). She says it is time for reflection for the Labour party as indeed is the sinking to fourth and lost deposit for us Liberal Democrats.

Ideas of Civilisation sums things up thus:

"It's striking that the Tories moved from fourth to third in the Glasgow East election (albeit with a slight reduction in their voting share); this could suggest that people are growing more comfortable about voting for them again. Of course it could also focus minds that the next UK election will be between Labour and the Tories and not Labour and the SNP, meaning Labour would gain from this. An alternative view is that the Lib Dems were the recipients of protest votes against Labour, which have now transferred to the SNP."

It's that summation of us that draws my attention most and you'll forgive me if I don't quote any of the partisan Nat bloggers. I think, indeed hope, that the Lib Dems have grown up in the 20 years that we have existed and indeed the 20 years I've been associated with them, off and on, to no longer be seen as purely a party of protest. The party has a core direction, message and ethos that many people come to not out of protest but principle. Sadly in the world at large we are still seen as the great by election machine of protest, that may well have been the way we won Dunfermline and West Fife in 2006 with Willie Rennie but wasn't how we went on to take the Dunfermline West seat in 2007 for Jim Tolson that was because we'd made a change.

Now a lot was made of the fact that yesterday was the tale of two Parliaments. The Lib Dems are fully aware of how to utilise that line, for eight years we were able to highlight the differences we had made in Scotland to the Scots and were offering the same changes to the English and Welsh. So the Nats of course emphasised the things they had so far achieved in their first 14 months of power. However, like Labour in Westminster and every government before them there will come a time when then can't deliver on something and the electorate will remember them for it and tire of them, that's life in democracies.

Dunfermline of course we won without a leader in Westminster this time we did not have a leader in Scotland. Now I'm not blaming our result of Nicol Stephen but his almost ever presence in Dunfermline was a mighty effect, sure Nick Clegg was up on a number of occasions but unlike Nicol he wasn't almost always around, even if us foot soldiers didn't see him all the time. The enthusiasm that the Scottish leader gave last time was infectious maybe because it was holiday season, and many had already booked to be away, and because t was sort election we never seemed to pick up momentum in the same way. Myself I was unable to take weekdays off at all through this campaign as I was covering for one or other of my colleagues for the duration.

The other thing about the timing of this election is that it appears that the leadership of our party is seeking to reappraise our message. Which makes it harder to get your message across as you not quite sure where it is going to lead yourself. Now Ian was a good communication in the two debates he came across really well, as well as on Newsnight, but he can only be as good as the tools and narrative he is provided with. Recently I was discussing this issue of where we're heading with fellow Lib Dems and one thing we seemed to agree on is where are our few key policies that the electorate can hang their coat on. Those few key things that make the Lib Dems stand out, not as a party of protest but a party of progress. Some of the ones we, indeed I, have stood on in the past are under review and may no longer be out identifiers. Some of the things I've spoken with passion on doorsteps, in this blog, at hustings about may be taken from under me, we need to be careful just what we replace them with, if indeed we do replace them.

As Kezia said Labour have to go away and reflect, the Lib Dems had already started to do that before this by election was called, maybe from reflecting it was hard to refocus on just what we were trying to say at this point. One thing we do have is our gut of what it means to be a Liberal Democrat, therefore I trust that if a major refurbishment of that narrative is going to take place that we will get it right, make it clear and stand out distinctive in the way we promise to enact it. We need to, we owe it to those who have come to us in the past and who still want the things we have promised to deliver in the past.

Where is the Grin Control on Nicola Sturgeon?

Yes I'll admit it and go and collect my anorak now, I was there to the bitter end last night. That was when Newsnight Scotland finally deemed it time to show highlights of the campaign to round off conference and take the camera of Nicola's increasingly smug "I know something you don't" face. All through the coverage all the politicians in the studio Nicola, Douglas 'I'll defend my sister' Alexander, Murdo Fraser and Jo Swinson were checking for updates on their Blackberries. At times in wide shots we saw Nicola, Douglas and Jo actually looking at theirs. They were seemingly better informed than the reporter at the count on many occasions judging by their facial expressions and comments to questioning. Nicola smile grew in smugness to almost John Mason-esque proportions (you had to see the literature) as the night progressed.

I'll also admit I wasn't there at the start as me and some work colleagues were entertaining one of our South african colleagues to a meal down at Khubla Khan's in Leith. Although on my way home I checked into facebook to find that my one time near a TV camera all campaign had managed to make the national Newsnight coverage of the campaign. That's the last four Westminster Election nights in Scotland I've been spoted on telly, should I run and hide now.

However, the man who a few hours later entered the count to a guard of honour of Nat supporters, I thought I did spot ASWAS in the line, then entered the hall almost Rocky-esque hands raised aloft. Back in the Studio Nicola was trying her best to keep stoom after all the result had yet to be made official.

I think this is a great result to run this close as it appears to be from where we started. John Mason has run a good campaign etc.

But you could tell she was secretly waiting to have the part alluded to by a text messenger who later encouraged them to chill, kick back have a beer and cigarette. She quickly regained her sence that she was Health Minister when caught laughing a bit much though.

However, the dreaded r-word as it was referred to was mentioned by the BBC just as the candidates and agents were being called to the returning officers desk. This soon became not a euphermism but the actually word recount as while watching pictures of Margaret Curran, who couldn't really hide in bright red, an announcement on the stage used the word in full for the first time, quickly followed by about 7 uses in the studio in the next minute. Now Nicola said in good football speak:

"If you'd offered us to be in recount territority at the start we'd have been happy. But we'd have been expecting us to call it from behind."

Oh how the grin grew and grew. But we still had to wait for the official confirmation that Frances Curran pile of 555 votes didn't contain 366 of Margaret's in error. Nicola had by now returned to "siesmic" talk the word long banned by SNP after Alex promised a quake hitting Glasgow East before Labour chose Curran, M.

So Gordon had responsibilty for the Dunfermline and West Fife Campiagn and lost that, he was Prime Minister for the Glasgow East Campaign and lost that. I can still the looks of anguish on the Labour members at the Livingston as they entered the hall at the start of that by election, but that has been the only Westminster by election north of the border this Parliament that they have ended up leaving with even a smile of relief.

Labour are in turmoil and facing a crisis from whoever is best placed to dislodge them, the Nats last night, the Tories in Crewe of the Lib Dems in Dunfermline, it looking a lot like the lead up to 1997. Gordon can not be sleeping well in the few small hours his pencils in for such activities.

Thursday 24 July 2008

Is This a Northern Irish Breakthrough?

My former Minister, from when I worked at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment, Sir Reg Empey and Conservative leader David Cameron have today issued what may be an historic statement. The will set up a "joint working group to explore the possibilities of closer cooperation leading to the creation of a new political and electoral force in Northern Ireland. That working group will report to us in the autumn." Possibly
paving the way for full involvement in the mainland parties in Northern Ireland.

While there is the Northern Ireland Branch of the Liberal Democrats and Labour has allowed Northern Irish members full rights since 2003 none of the main UK Parties have made much of an impact in Northern Politics against the sectarian nature of the recent past. One exception may be the one term that the Conservatives were the largest group on North Down Borough Council but then my home area has always been a little bit maverick. Labour and the Conservatives both had representation, through the top up system, at the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement but failed to gain representation at the first Assembly Elections that followed. The Lib Dem NI Branch has not been actively seeking election while the Alliance Party has been seen as a more credible Liberal voice in the province.

Of course in typical Tory parlance they have set up another exploratory so like most of their policy aims nothing is firmed up yet. But is it the time? Is Northern Ireland ready to throw off the sectarian politics that have existed for decades?

When Northern Ireland first gained devolved power as an insider on the civil service side I was impressed at how the local politicians actually really relished the change to start talking about and dealing with the real bread and butter issues. They no longer had to posture for the sake of posturing, they had power to make changes and they wanted to use it wisely. In that respect the politicians I'm sure are still ready. It is the voters that have often inherited their voting patterns based not so much on policy but on religious affiliation where the issues may lie.

Again there was a willingness when the Assembly first gathered to give this a go, however the last elections did show a move towards the extremes yet again, which at the time I saw as a worrying sign. Personally I'd be glad to see the end of being a side show at Westminster but being able for Northern Irish people to fully engage as every other part of the UK can.

I will however, as with so much, wait and see what comes out of the Cameron started working group, nothing is really set in stone just yet.

New Maillot Jeune

The Tour de France reached the Alps at the weekend the stage up there on Sunday say subtle changes in the General Classification in what was turning out to be a very tight race. Monsieur Frank from Luxembourg had a narrow lead over Mister Cadel from Australia. After a rest day on Wednesday nobody really was able to attack when the fight resumed on Tuesday, but yesterday's stage was to finish on top of the famous Alp d'Huez.

It is often said that however wears the Maillot Jeune atop the Alp usually wins in Paris with this being the last mountain stage of 2008 only a time triallist could have changed that scenario after yesterday's stage. Well before the first of the 21 turns up the Alp Senor Carlos a teammate of Monsieur Frank made a break and nobody was able to go with him.
Senor Carlos isn't as good a time triallist as Mister Cadel and had to make up a lot of time if he wanted to go higher on the final podium than he had before. Whenever anybody tried to launch a counter attack after Senor Carlos either Monsieur Frank or Monsieur Andy his brother, and the third CSC rider in the leading group, would be the first to close them down and sit on their wheel. Monsieur Frank was wearing the Maillot Jeune and his brother was in white as the best young rider. Senor Carlos went further and further away before finishing over a kilometer and 2 minutes and 3 seconds over the next man. Mister Cadel was a further 12 seconds back.
It makes for interesting times in the penultimate stage Time Trail as Senor Carlos leads, Monsieur Frank is 1:24 down, Herr Bernard 1:33, Mister Cadel 1:34. Will it be as tight or tighter than Mister Greg beating Monsieur Laurent in the 1989 Tour remains to be seen, this may come down to seconds like it has been for most of this years race.

A Few Images for Election Day in Glasgow East

Firstly it looks as if Kezia Dugadale has been lending stuff to Labour candidate Margaret Curran.

Image from the Times

Yes is that really Kez's own soapbox making an appearance on the stump?

Then Peter Brookes cartoonist in The Times offers Gordon Brown some advise should it all go wrong.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

LGA Threat to Eco-Towns

Lawyers for the Local Government Association are casting legal doubts over the governments proposals to deliver up to 10 new eco-towns. Now no matter what the LGA may think the threat of climate change is something that should be support at all levels rather than fighting a territorial battle over who has the right to govern over planning.

Surely a properly thought out carbon-neutral town would not have any difficulty in basing a Local Authorities planning application. The LGA are arguing along old lines that "new developments have good transport connections alongside the schools, health and leisure facilities which are needed to create places where people would want to live". In my thinking of towns going forward these should have all such facilities within cycling and walking distance of the townspeople themselves, that is the point of a it being carbon neutral and eco-friendly, that is the new model going forward. Cars may even be restricted to the edge of town, or designated access points, with good public transport structured in and walkways and trolleys provided for taking heavy goods to the doorsteps of houses etc.

I agree with the LGA that the government needs to discuss and involve the local authorities in these plans, but that should be to envision them of the possibilities and show them that people really do want to start living in a different way, if provided the opportunity to do so.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Leaking of Postal Vote Results a Worrying Tread

Now I admit I've never attended a postal vote opening in Glasgow, though I have been a regular in West Lothian and also have attended in Edinburgh. Each observer under the other two returning officers, that I have been present at, has agreed to observe and carry out whatever tallying they want but not to make the results of those tallies known publicly.

Therefore I read with disappointment from North Britain that somebody is leaking that information to forums at and The Herald. Such an act of letting the voting trends be known before the polls close, if the figures leaked are correct, would be in contravention of electoral law and if either the Nats or Labour are up to dirty tricks of this kind for their own ends it is one of the most underhanded breaches of confidence in our electoral system and should be reviewed by the Returning Officer.

Monday 21 July 2008

Shame on You Mrs Robinson

Oh dear Iris is at it again, the report in Hansard, verified by an official say she said:

"there can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality, than sexually abusing innocent children."

Now let me get this straight the viler act is the legal one between two consenting adults. Which is worse than child abuse. Clearly Iris has been taking lessons from or giving them to Kenny MacAskill in her hyperbole.

Of course once this was pointed out to Iris she started to tread water and look to catch her breathe. She lessened the viler statement to comparable. Before she took a third bite at the cherry saying that in neither of her previous two utterances had she:

"intended to say that child abuse was worse even than homosexuality and sodomy ... at no point [had she] set out to suggest homosexuality was worse than child sex abuse."

Sorry Iris on reading back the original speech nor any subsequent reply do I see how you could come to that conclusion. Your previous record of utterances on this issue would also suggest that you first statement was exactly what you meant, and that just is not acceptable under the laws of this land or in today's society for someone in your position.

UPDATE: Here is a YouTube reworking of the song from which the title of this post are taken based on Iris's comments recently.

Is Ming Attempting to Rough Shod Democracy?

We are the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Following May last year we took a lambasting from the Nats because the party with the largest mandate at Holyrood backed a referendum and we refused to enter talks with them about issues we may have agreed on simply, seemingly because they did.

Now it appears that Menzies Campbell is saying that no matter what the Scottish Conference of members may decide on the question of having a referendum, the 16 MSPs should no matter what not vote for a democratic referendum.

There are two issues that our conference needs to debate against the changing political landscape. The first is whether we should allow the people of Scotland to have a democratic say in the future of Scotland, the second is should we back independence. The second issue I'm pretty sure that my fellow Scottish Liberal Democrats will say a resounding, though not unanimous, no to. The first however, should really be a fundamental of our principles and despite some of the leadership being scared of facing the possibility when have we ever shirked from other tough calls in the past.

Now I'm a little worried with the way the party leadership appears to be trying to take the party over the last wee. First Nick Clegg mentioned scaling down the committee structure of the party and now his predecessor is advocating that the MSPs should ignore the democratic vote of the membership should it not go the way of the leadership.

Policy Committee doesn't always get it's own way at Scottish conference, not because it hasn't come up with policies, but because sometimes their policies have ignored some issue out there in the wider Scotland that the root and branch membership feel that the solution that has been come up with is wrong. In those situation often an amendment comes it to make the necessary correction or occasion replace the whole motion or the motion is rejected. This is not a bad thing indeed it is one of the things that drew me in and keeps me within our party. If the leadership don't agree with a certain proposal they have to muck and give firm reasons why and win the debate and hearts of the membership. If they then go and ride rough shod over democracy there is likely to me mutiny in the ranks.

Ross Finnie in the leadership elections has not ruled out the possibility of the party backing a referendum following a full debate, Mike Rumbles has promised that this debate would take place at next Spring's conference. Two very democratic and open minded views. We haven't had such a debate since the 1990s and the landscape has changed. No longer is it abstract but now somewhat more focused, it is high time the party reassessed its view on allowing a referendum on the question, even if we don't back the ultimate outcome desired by those who want to ask the question.

But in liberal democracy 16 should never be allowed to ignore the majority view of the 4,000 members who help put them and keep them in place in the seats they represent.

Hattip to Stephen Tall @ Lib Dem Voice

Sunday 20 July 2008

Iain Dale Wants Your Votes

Yes that's right folks it's that time of year again for Iain Dale to start to compile his Guide to Political Blogging 2008-9. This year he is looking for the people votes for their top ten blogs to form the top 100 Blogs. You can read about the details here.

As Iain lays out what you need to do and how he will be compiling the top 100 as a result I won't go into details here. However, I will say that my top 10 is a cross party selection.

Carbon Footprints - Tales from the East End III

As I alluded to earlier I spend the greater part of yesterday being serenaded by the various tannoy equipped cars of other parties. Sometimes these were even in part of a convoy of 2 or three vehicles. It got me to wondering just what sort of carbon footprint the other campaigns are having as a result of the campaign.

From about 10am to at least 7pm I was getting a more or less a continuous intermittent or distant sound of one, or on occasion two such convoys going past somewhere nearby. It is also the second weekend I've managed to get over and the same parties are doing it both times. Therefore I'm guessing that all four parties (SNP, Tories, SSP, Solidarity) were running them pretty much non-stop. So just how much fuel are all of these parties using to run these electioneering tools. Also how much are they adding to Glasgow's carbon foot print in doing this a result, and is such activity actually productive if you have to be outdoors to hear "lo I'm Alex Salm" at all while it passes you by for example.

More to the point will the SNP, Conservatives, Solidarity and Scottish Socialist Party be declaring the fuel costs for running this mobile visual and audible displays. Fuel in cars being used to move campaigners to parts of the constituency would not count under election expenses but these surely are a public display and therefore should be fully recorded in expenses even if the car and fuel were gifted to the parties for this use, such gift in kinds have to be declared.

On a similar car related note I was actually taking a little break in the early evening when the Scottish Socialists came down Shettleston Road past the Lib Dem HQ in the longest convoy of the day with 3 cars including this one to the right. Not a bad car to able to afford on a average workers wage wouldn't you say? Ironic that the SSP tannoy was talking about the average workers wage when be tailed by a supporter in a car far more ostentatious than could be afforded by such means and running three cars in convoy at 118.9p per litre is also a little above the average worker.

Spotted out and About? - Tales of the East End II

Was out delivering in Glasgow East yesterday afternoon when came across an SNP canvasser trying to gain access to a stair. Was greet unusually by the question "Stephen Glenn, right?". Yes I'd stumbled across David Hutchinson one time host of North to Leith. Small world our political blogosphere even if a former blogger who has handed over the reigns crops up.

Also out an about I drove past Fiona Hyslop on a street on my way out past the SNP second hand car dealership, sorry HQ, with Robert Smith MSP.

Saw my only Labour activists on the street at about 7 PM, after seeing loads of SNP and being serenaded by Alex Salmond, the Tories, Solidarity and the SSP all day from their tannoy systems.

Desperate Times? - Tales From the East End I

Had a wee chat with an amazing East End of Glasgae woman yesterday. She was telling us a little about the Labour telephone canvassing 'strategy' from the receiving end.

Somebody with "a toffy voice",to quote her, called her up to ask her if she knew there was a by election going on in Glasgow East. Did she know, it was the talk in the shops, the doctors, the hairdressers and the street. Plus she told them she could hardly walk down the street without seeing a lamppost festooned or go out the door without tripping over the latest leaflet.

However, the second question was will you be voting, she said of course. Leading to next question of who. She told the telephone canvasser she wasn't going to disclose that. However, it was followed up by the following question:

"When you go into the polling booth which party will you be putting you x beside?"

Quite correctly this woman retorted with, "I may be from the East End but that doesn't make me stupid. You've just asked me the same question and it is none of your business."

You'd have thought that would have been the end of it but no, she was called back twice by telephone canvassers. Then she had a fourth call from Tom McNab who started with the same questions as the other 3, until she said before you ask me who I'm voting I'll not be telling you. She then filled in the MP on the background of the selection fiasco, apparently he was not aware of that. Gave her opinions on the reasons that no Glasgow labour Councillor (ie George Ryan or Stephen Purcell) would want to face the Glasgow East electorate.

All I could think at the end was way to go woman. You tell him. As well what on earth are labour playing at.

Friday 18 July 2008

By Elections and Fitba

Mister Stephen left for work this morning mutting something about football, by elections and wrong place, wrong time. So with the flat to myself I did a little research.
During the last Westminster by election, Mister Stephen took one evening off from heading over to Dunfermline, that was to see Dunfermline play Livingston at Easter Road in the CIS Cup Semi final.
Well with another by election is appears that Mister Stephen is going to be heading to Glasgow tomorrow to the constituency of the stadium above, when the team that plays there are heading to West Lothian to play our beloved Livingston in a pre-season friendly.
I guess I'll just have to wait a bit longer before doing my first match report of the new season.

Go Back to Your Corners: Scottish Blogosphere in Ear Biting Incident

Ok not quite Mike Tysonesque proportions but boy it is getting bitchy in the Scottish Blogosphere of late. The reason of course is a little matter that next Thursday is the first Scottish by election since 2006, and we're all focussing on one race rather than picking over our own turf.

In the red corner doing her sterling best to defend the title is Kezia Dugdale who is getting sources which are leading to worry is high places in the Nats leadership. She also not above mud slinging and name calling. For a change she is making Tom Harris MP look mild and considerate by comparison.

In the other corner, well take you pick. SNP Tactical Voting, Calum Cashley et al are hurling incendaries. While Julie Hepburn is giving a balanced Nat side of the campaign.

But the real fun comes in the comments of the various blogs. Oh I wish I could don an black and white striped jersey and grab a whistle to referee these gladiators.

A Tale of Two Drug Cheats

Yesterday Dwain Chambers took his case to the High Court to try and get an injunction against the British Olympics Association bye law, which state that any Athlete since 1992 to have cheated using drugs is ineligible for selection to the GB & NI Olympic Team for life. Today he will get the verdict of that court. Meanwhile across the Channel is news that the third and most prominent rider of this years Tour Ricardo Rico was excluded, banned and arrested by French authorities for using EPO.

Let's look at these two stories from the same day. Rico was a promising young rider, he actually was leading the young rider classification and had won two stages this year before his positive test came back. He will now find it hard to gain employment in a sport that is doing its best to be seen to be beyond suspicion, like the other two who were tested positive so far on this years tour, he had been targeted by the new system that compares irregularities against a norm blood sample stored by the sports anti-doping authority.

He is in a team sport and therefore unlike Chambers need to be employed to take part in his sport, once he serves his ban it is unlikely that this may happen as Astana were excluded from the premier cycle race this year because of a past history of doping, despite having the defending champion on their team. If Chambers wins an injunction today it is a travesty. Sport is trying to clean up their image in athletic, cycling, even golfers now being tested in the hope of gaining Olympic accreditation. Therefore Dwain should do the honourable thing and accept his ban for his past behaviour so that we can throw aside any doubt over his or a relay team's performance in a GB & NI vest at the highest level.

Vote Nat Brown Stays

After the Nats, and particularly Alex Salmond, accused Gordon Brown of trying the bribe the Glasgow East electorate and his previous warnings of a quake if the SNP were to win it appears a blip may be all that is left on the screen. Yes the leader of the fifth largest party in the House of Commons says that a win for his party next Thursday will not see the leader of the largest party resign.

Kind of the softly, softly approach of a poacher creeping up on unsuspecting Labour prey and saying it's alright I'm not going to harm you. Lend us you votes and all will still be well with the party you've backed for years, decades even. It also appears to be the sign of a desperate man from being all seismic at the start of the campaign, Alex is starting to imitate Gordon Brown impersonation of a Tim'rous Beastie.

You can imagine the Nats chapping on doors for the next week.

Nat: Hello I'm here on behalf of John Mason the SNP candidate.

Voter: Oh yeah the earthquake guy.

Nat: Er no.

Voter: Well I've been Labour all my days, but I'm nae to sure ye ken.

Nat: Ah but if you vote for us Gordon will still be in charge, just send him a message.

Voter: Ah right. I'll probably be voting Lib Dem then, maybe even Tory, that will really shake him up. (slams door)

Nat: Erm. I'll put him down as undecided shall I?

Thursday 17 July 2008

Prevention or Cure Prime Minister?

"The more important thing that we are doing is investing £15 billion over the next 10 years in trying to find cures to diseases including cancer and skin cancer."

Wake up Gordon!

Yes folks that is how our Prime Minster opened his answer yesterday to the following question from Jo Swinson:

The most rapidly increasing type of cancer in this country is skin cancer, of which there are more than 80,000 new cases each year. As the Prime Minister heads to Suffolk for his bucket and spade holiday, I am sure that he will be stocking up on sun cream. How can his Government justify charging VAT on that essential health protection item?

So rather that cut 17.5% off products already available as a preventative measure, the PM is quite happy that some of that £15 billion pounds which may well not be available is he were to slash the VAT on such a healthy option as suncream is more important to him. His answer to Jo carried on:

The action of the national health service in making it possible for people to be seen quickly when they are diagnosed with cancer means that 99 per cent. of people suspected of having cancer are seen within two weeks. Those are the actions that we can take, and they will get rid of skin cancer in the long run.

Diagnosis is also mentioned seemingly instead of prevention. What is prudent about that Mr Brown. Zero rating sunscream is hardly going to be a major dent in the governments coffers. However, it may well be marginal enough for some of our poorest citizens who ignore suncream and are most at risk of skin melanoma's to actually take some action to help themselves, rather than relying on diagnosis and then cure.

In the words of Baz Luhram:

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts and recycling it for more than
it’s worth. But trust me on the sunscreen…

Well this advise isn't for the sake of nostalgia. Nor is it recycling old truths. PM this issue may have been looked at from time to time, yet still the wrong sort of message is coming back. Get rid of VAT on suncream, free up a few beds, doctors' hours and whatever else as a result of doing the right thing.

Who's Bribing Who

The fact that yet again in a tight by election Gordon Brown's Government bring out a big policy decision; this time it is the freeze on oil duties.

Of course Alex Salmond and David Cameron are both up in arms that Gordon and his Darling sidekick are bribing the electorate of Glasgow East. But hang on one minute weren't these the same two party leaders who earlier in the campaign took great pleasure in informing us all that 60% of the Glasgow East electorate do not own cars. So obviously Gordon is only therefore concerned about the 40% down in Mount Vernon and other such locales that actually own their own transport.

Of course it is only a freeze and the Government will have already made up for it through the increased VAT they have already experienced on fuel since the start of the year. So hardly much sacrifice on the part of the exchequer just rearranging the money in the coffers really. In fact this was an orchestrated bit of teasing out a decision to do the right thing under current circumstances. Maybe the Government had finally noticed the the fuel price rises were already affecting their inflationary targets and heaping fuel, pardon the pun, on that particular fire wasn't very helpful.

The fact that they do wait long over such decisions and then turn them out at key moments does smell of hypocrisy, but then so does the Tories and Nats speaking at cross purposes about just what the electorate in Glasgow East is like and liable to benefit from most.

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Labour Can't Help Lying Over War

Yeah Guido has exposed Margaret Curran's war veteran for what she is. Far from being 93 and a veteran of the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, (of whom my late great uncle was padre) he appears to be 67 and a Labour party activist.

Now every party is liable to pack party activists into crowd scenes behind the candidate, as these people are most likely to agree to appear in that way. Although I have once seen the Tory agent posing as a normal member of the public. However, for the sake of the regiment to which I have family connections I glad this latest Labour deception has been exposed for what it is, a desperate attempt by someone who as the area's MSP should have some knowledge of the local community appearing to be a bigger part of that community than they truly are.

So either she can't remember who John Hipson and whov George McGuiness are or has managed to find not one but two 93 year old veterans of the 7th Armoured then she really must know Glasgow East like the back of her hand. Somehow I don't think that the latter is the case.

No Means No: Nats V Democracy

As regular readers will know I have no qualms about giving the people of Scotland a say over their future. But possibly John Mason, the SNP's candidate for Glasgow East, has let the real cat out of the bag. Could Scotland be the next Quebec?

If in 2010 Alex and his cohorts manage to hold their referendum and the computer churns out the result and says no, according to Mason that will not be the end. So no hint of abiding by the democratic will of the people, put pushing on, and on, and on in a neverendum to get the result they want; nay need. Therein lies another tale, we'd guessed this may well be the scenario but just how often, and how regularly, after that will they repose the question.

If we end up in a cycle of neverendae this is another cost that a Nationalist administration will continue to foist upon the people of Scotland. Maybe their intent is to bankrupt Scotland into submission.

However, if they cannot convince Scotland in 2010, when in all possibility there will be a Tory administration in Westminster, what hope do they have? Oh yes, we know just why Alex is waiting that long to 'bring it on'; the ghost of government's past. Although on Labour's current form that may be a bad move, as the ghost of government's recently deceased by 2010 may well be far worse than the Poll Tax memories, Tommy Sheridan excluded.

However, Mason may have scored a big own goal by saying this in such a high profile time. The fact that the national press have picked up on it can't be good. Following so slowly after the withdrawal of Alex's promise of a quake in Glasgow East are the Nats starting to unravel themselves with overconfidence.

Mason goes on to try and compare the referendum to a proposal of marriage. Sorry John but the question is one of divorce. If overtures of divorce are turned down normally both parties then try and work on the marriage as it is not ask again for a divorce. Of course he may be advocating bringing sharia law to bear on the SNP great marriage counselling session, sorry conversation.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

HIV Discrimination Shame in Schools

I was led to this shocking report in Sunday's Observer. It led me to wonder are we still living in the dark ages of the 80s over HIV and more to the point why?

The first shocking thing is that schools in Hertfordshire and Lancashire are able to turn away children looking for new schools after it was revealed that they were HIV+. Not only is this shocking but since 2005 under the Disability Discrimination Act it has been illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their HIV status. Also if this is county wide just where are these parents expected to school their children.

In a ideal world there is a limited need to know of a child's medical status and his should only need been known to staff in direct contact with the child and the school nurse. This should not be dissipated further without the parent's consent however reading the incidents that have happened it would sadly be clear why parents would not wish the school to know in the first place.

It is confidential information and has no need to be disclosed to school dinner ladies or other pupils. The fact that one child was told of their previously unknown to them status by a teacher, which led to bullying shows lack of professionalism by the member of staff involved. When there is a chance of an adult having a STI they undergo a private counselling session before taking the test, that session is dealt with by a trained professional in that field. How much more care needs to be taken with a child? Which may well have been why the parents had yet to address the issue with the child. The end result in that child's case bullying and forced to leave the school would indicate one of two things. The child may have been told in the presence of other children and neither the staff, nor pupils once that first error was made were given appropriate guidance on how to deal with the outcome.

What is also shocking is the tenor of the article that teachers themselves are ignorant, indeed fearful through that ignorance, of how HIV is transmitted. In the 1980s we started in ignorance but many of us quickly learnt our facts once these became known from the shrouds of urban myth. In my case the education came swiftly as the result of sharing a house with a Haemophiliac who contracted HIV through bad factor 8. HIV cannot be passed on by spitting, biting, small cuts or grazes, sharing utensils or toilet seats. The risk assessment of any school would reveal that the changes of any possible spread of HIV from an affected pupil or member of staff is so minimal to be be negligible under normal circumstances and normal first aid guidelines would normally be sufficient under those extreme conditions anyway.

That our educators are ignorant of this lead one to wonder just what else our educators are ignorant of in their training, homophobia, race etc are areas that these people need to be taught and trained about to be able to deal with possibilities in the classroom. Are they? And is that training sufficient?

For the sake of the 1500 children in the UK living with HIV, 1000 of whom are under 15 and the 100 new diagnoses in this age group each year we need to provide them with an educational set up that allows them to be who they are without fear of some disclosure that may result in bullying or ignorant fear from others.

The Cabinet Have Thier Picnic

If you go down Glasgow East today you'd better go in disguise.
If you go down Glasgow East today you may have a big surprise.
For Cabinet Ministers that aren't media shy
Are hiding there only Gordon knows why.
Today may be the day a cabinet Minister comes to Glasgow.

To be read in a David Attenborough voice:

Here in the East End of Glasgow we are witnessing the emergence of a new political animal. The once proud display of the cabinet minister, flaunting their plumage to the press pack, is not on display here. Under cover of darkness and secret rendezvous they are meeting the lesser MSP cum candidate for electioneering on the sly.

Last week tracks were found of the Deputous Prime Ministerious and the Defencious Ministerious. Both eluded the press pack, who were only aware of their presence when trackers pointed out that they had been in this urban jungle. The sibling of the late Escotia Primus Ministerous a more International creature these days was also in these woods twice in the last seven days, with such unexpectedness that the media failed to note its arrival. Also the lesser used Scottish Office Cairns and a plethora of lesser lights, normally who vie for the spotlight, all came and went in cognito.

This is not normal by election activity for these media whores. They normally strut up and down alongside the candidate bird. Grabbing sound bites, calling out policy, clucking up to the King Tim'rous Beastie that is hibernating in its London habitat.

My colleagues Bill Oddie and Kate Humble will be joining us here for By Election Watch. If you spot any of the cabinet ministers shirking the spotlight please let us know.

Monday 14 July 2008

Chambers Knew the Law

In 1992 I still held some hope of getting fit again to possibly challenge for Olympic selection. That was also the year that the British Olympic Association passed their eligibility bye-law which renders any athlete found guilty of a doping offence, from that date on, ineligible for selection to the Team GB.

Dwain Chambers in 1992 was 14 and therefore was yet to consider just how close he may have been to senior, never mind Olympic selection for his country. Therefore throughout his entire senior career he knew that the bye-law he is challenging in court this week was in place. Even when he was taking performance enhancing drugs he was aware that if found out his eligibility would be taken away.

Over the weekend we held the 2008 Olympic trials and chambers won the 100m in 10 seconds flat. A less than 3 years after he was banned by the IAAF. Sue Barkers two sparring partners Colin Jackson and Jonathan Edwards had their own opinions on the ban and these weeks inevitable court case after Dwain's success. Colin was of the opinion that the bye-law was clearly known by all including Chambers. It wasn't protested before by anyone who might be affected and then only rarely by those who have been affect. David Millar accepted his fate and knew he would never be able to pull on an Olympic vest again. Millar, the cyclist, was far more voluntarily forthright about drugs than Chambers was who almost at the last minute helped with further enquiries when he saw it as a a way to possibly sway a judgement in his favour.

Edwards on the other hand argued the case for a redemptive second chance, but only with a condition that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the other international bodies came down harder themselves of offenders. He argued for a 4 or 5 year initial ban, which as he pointed out would act as far more of a deterrent than the current 2. It would show that the world of sport really wanted to get clean. Then after that period if the athlete still wanted to compete, and was still good enough to qualify there should be nothing in their way to prevent it.

Despite all the drugs-free toil I went through I would have to agree with Edwards. A longer initial ban would act as an initial deterrent. It would also make it harder for someone caught cheating to maintain their level of fitness for the period of the ban to get back. They really would have to be determined to come out fighting. However, it would give a chance for the truly repentant people like David Millar to have a chance to make amends, I can see him still racing in 2012 and possibly up for being part of the GB team in London. He is an example of user turned advocate against in the best sense, I'd rather see Millar given a second chance than the chancer Chambers.

Scotsman Give TV Debate to Lib Dem

Parliamentary elections are meant to elect the best person to represent the constituency. Well the Glasgow East by election took on a slightly American feel at the weekend when it held a televised debate between the 4 main candidates.

Well the Scotsman has scored their performances today and place Ian Robertson the Liberal Democrat ahead of Labour's Margaret Curran with Davena Rankin of the Tories and the SNP's John Mason propping up the rest.

Of Robertson the paper said:

Emerged as the surprise star of the show. He was effective, forthright and intervened sharply across his opponents. A no-hoper in this by-election – one to watch for the future. 9/10

It's a sad state of affairs that someone so effective is written off as a no-hoper but there is still time, even in this truncated election to get across the star that is the Lib Dem candidate. After all let's not forget the 24th July is still in the future.

Friday 11 July 2008

Facebook and Leadership II

Further ot my previous I see that Ross Finnie now has a Facebook profile and also has an facebook group intersting called Ross Finnie Stands for Leadership of Scottish Liberal Democrats as opposed to the I'm supporting Mike/Tavish for Scottish Lib Dem Leader apporach of his rivals.

Ross has also set up a limited leadership part to his website here.

for the record the size of the respected groups is Tavish 37 Mike 10 Ross 7

Religion Versus Orientation Freedom

"Freedom to differ is not limited to things that
do not matter much. That would be a mere
shadow of freedom. The test of its substance
is the right to differ as to things that
touch the heart of the existing order."

Robert H. Jackson - Former US Attorney General

After a few days of the internet cafe at work blocking facebook I got on this morning to see an invite to a group calling on registrars should perform their public duty on civil partnerships or resign. As it was started by a fellow Lib Dem I noticed a fair number of my fellow Lib Dems have signed up. However, and this may come as a shock to some I'll not be following suit.

You see the news that Lillian Ladelle won her tribunal causes a dilemma in just what freedoms we enshrine. I'm seeking to safeguard a fair, free and open society which considering the pluralism of opinions and views is a difficult one. Yes the legislation that brought in same-sex civil partnerships was an essential one, however we still have to respect the views of those who hold alternative views. When the Sunday trading legislation was first brought in, those established employees with religious objections to working on the Sabbath had the option to opt out; I remember this as I opted out at that time.

Lillian had been working for some time as a registrar before civil partnerships were introduced. Initially at that time all the Islington registrars were freelance and there was flexibility within the group to swap assignments so that if they wished they could avoid carrying out same-sex partnership ceremonies. That changed in December 2007 when the local authority took direct control of the set up. She perfectly able of doing her job and doing the same amount of work as her colleagues under the previous set up the fact that she was passing these on to colleagues who would perform the ceremony shows she wasn't discriminating just didn't feel she could be a part of it.

Under the previous system there was no indication that same-sex partnerships were lewss able to be conducted by the registrars in the region and that is the fundamental right that needs to be given to those seeking to enter into one, the same access and availability of service as everyone else. But the employee's rights to their own freedom of expression, thought and religion also need to be maintained and that is where the dichotomy arises.

Just as employment law doesn't allow for discrimination on race, religion, gender, ability or sexual orientation grounds in hiring, that discrimination should not also then led to task assignment providing a service can be maintained. Similarly when Lillian first took her job the conflict with her beliefs did not exsit. The problem has arisen that this is a problem only in some of the Hebredian Islands where on occasions all the registrars have held religious views that they feel do not allow them them to preform same-sex partnerships. In those situations alternative solutions need to be sought.

While gay couples are enjoying their new found freedom there has to be care not to quash the freedoms of others, they may be different or contrary but providing they do not harm, discriminate, incite hatred they have the right to be present as well.

We tread a fine line in the need to balance freedom.

Thursday 10 July 2008

You are the Weakest Driver

That scary red-head Anne Robinson didn't bank on losing her licence for incurring a fourth speeding offence and 12 penalty points. The Weakest Link presenter seems to make an annual job of speeding past some speed camera the other 3 offences being in September 2005, March 2006 and June 2007.

Mr McGoldick her brief said she would suffer "significant inconvenience" to the winking one as she travelled between 40,000 and 50,000 miles a year in her car. She was only doing 43mph in 30 zone. If only she was more charitable like fellow red head Patrick Kielty who recently got off with a ban doing 101mph on a far more dangerous stretch of road.

Grauniad Fnuks Up

Stephen Tall obviously is more high up the blogging food chain that I. As Martin Wainwright the Guardian journalist has sent him a email regarding the quote yesterday that David Davis said us Lib Dems had funked it.

Just to alert you asap to the fact that the quote attributed to David Davis by me about the LIb Dems 'funking it' was my fault - putting you in with Labour in a rush - and we are running a correction. Sorry, age and haste. The Correct quote is on the Guardian audio material on the website. The draft correction I’ve just sent reads:

In a piece on the Haltemprice and Howden by-election published on July 9, we wrongly quoted the Conservative candidate David Davis as saying that the Liberal Democrats had 'funked' the poll. He has always made it clear that he is grateful for the Liberal Democrats' support for his views on the 42 day detention and related civil liberties issues. The mistake was made in transcription of the related audio report which carried his actual comments, and we apologise for that.

Sadly it means that in this electronic age the Grauniad is still as prone to errors as in the days they could blame it on the typesetter. But apologies to Mr Davis was writing this yesterday.

Dram Fine Double Speak

I know there is a new blog set up call Holyrood Crap Chat shame there isn't the same for Westminster where yesterday in the final Scottish questions of this session one SNP member seemed to counter the message of his party at Holyrood.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): The Minister will surely concede that raising duty undermines the efforts of the Scotch Whisky Association and others who are arguing to the likes of the Indian Government that they should reduce duties.

The Nationalist led Scottish Parliament may be talking about raising the minimum price per unit, yet their MP for the heart of the Whisky trail is arguing a counter argument.

Of course this is nothing compared to the double talking between Labour and the SNP about just how many jobs a politician (more specifically Alex Salmond and Margaret Curran) can hold.

Off the Mark

Yippee! Mister Stephen was jumping on thge sofa last night for the first time in 6 years a Brit won a stage at the Tour de France.
In recent times it has either been as a time trialist like David Millar or Chris Broadman, or as a part of a breakaway as happened with Sean Yates. But when you are the world madison champion the bunch finish of a long flat stage in le Tour is nothing to get too worked up about. So Mark Cavendish (on the right) saw off experienced tour sprinters Oscar Freire, Erik Zabel and Thor Hushovd to see his first stage win in this race to go with his two in the Giro d'Italia earlier this year.
It will go some way to make up for this disappointment he faced last year when he crashed on the aproach to Cantebury when he wanted to start his Tour career with a win on home soil.
The 23 year-old is set to team up with Bradley Wiggens for the maddison in
Beijing next month but he is likely to see out the tour first, maybe hoping to win on the Champs Elysées. That hold no worried for Rod Ellingworth Team GB's cycling coach who earlier this week told the Times:
"I want him to finish the Tour and he does, too. He’ll gain a lot from that in terms of experience and also form ahead of the Olympics. Am I worried about the effect that three weeks on the road will have on his track form ahead of the Olympics? No. He’s so good anyway — his speed, his cadence, his ability to ride the track — that it all comes automatically to him."

Wednesday 9 July 2008

David Davis Funking It

UPDATE ALERT: Please see here for follow up which actually makes the whole thrust of the below irrelevant and incorrect.

In today's Gruaniad David Davis makes a massive faux pas. Talking about the upcopming by election he perpetrated in Haltemprice and Howden he said about his stance of civil liberties:

"It's going to cost us some votes, but it's what I said I'd do. We're not here to score another easy 'Crewe and Nantwich'. I'm sorry that Labour and the Liberal Democrats funked it, but we're still having a good argument and getting the issue raised." This is true, sometimes to politically suicidal lengths."

Now come on Mr Davis, if you hadn't a wee word with that nice Nick Clegg fellow on the night of the vote on 42 days, gained an assurance that if you resigned we would not have put up a candidate from second place against you, would you have stood?

Just what sort of funk are you talking about? Funk is defined as to shrink from in fright or dread or to be afraid of. As a party all our MPs voted against the 42 days detention, not scared there. We didn't stand against you as you intitial said this was about a principle and you were challenging the prinicple or lack of the government. We weren't afraid to support you on that, yet now you wait until after nominations have closed to call us scared.

So David Davis I put it to you that it is actually you who has funked it not the Liberal Democrats.

Hat tips where due to Tony Greaves via Stephen Tall at Lib Dem Voice.

Schumacher Fast on Two Wheels

Mister Stephen is getting over the lack of Wimbledon on television this week by settling down to his month long trip round the roads and mountains of la belle France. He is very much hoping it is a clean race however from what I've seen those cyclists sweat a lot and must need a shower ever day.

Anyhoo, yesterday a German man named Schumacher (no not Michael or Ralf) won the first time trial of le Tour 2008. Unusually in recent years this was not the prologue but occurred on day four. You can see Herr Stefan Schumacher to the left holding one of my cousins.

Now ITV4 were quickly on Schumacher's case last night, in possibly a sad day for the sport. You see he didn't just beat the rest he smashed them. Schumacher is a one day racer and may have had a chance over a shorter time trial but over 29.5 kilometres he was 18 seconds quicker that Scot David Millar and Kim Kirchen both fancied time triallists and also 33 seconds faster than the world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara.

However as ITV4 and others were quick to point out last September the Gerolsteiner rider crashed his car while drunk as as well as a high blood alcohol content there were amphetamines detected. As it was a police rather than a UCI sanctioned test this has not affected his participation in cycling but until the statutory results of tests on the stage winner and other selected participants are known there will remain a cloud of suspicion in this sport that is trying to shake that image off.

Today he set off in the longest stage of this year's tour in yellow, 12 seconds ahead of Millar and Kirchen, 235km from Cholet to Châteauroux.

Update: There was sadly more to Schumacher's speed than the quality of his rice cakes, he later tested positive for EPO and was banned for 2 years from racing in France.