Friday 28 November 2008

Are We a Democracy in Disguise

The worrying news of the arrest and questioning of Damien Green, the Conservatives' Shadow Immigration Minister, over Home Office leaks yesterday raises serious questions about the execution of the anti-terror laws that Labour have brought forwards in recent years.

All through the process there has been concern raised that such draconian measures in the wrong hands could lead to major concerns over the democratic process. But who would ever have thought that those wrong hands would actually be those of the Labour party. A party that themselves were often under investigation for communist leanings, as any reader of Tony Benn's diaries will be aware. As Chris Huhne the Liberal Democrat Shadow for Home Affairs said:

"Receiving information from government departments in the public interest and
publicising it is a key part of any MP’s role. This is the most worrying
development for many years, with the potential to shift power even more
conclusively from Parliament to the Government. It is also extraordinary
considering Gordon Brown himself as Shadow Chancellor received and publicised
many leaked official documents."

When the civil rights of an opposition Member of Parliament to carry out his role of scrutinising are threatened because of information he may or may not have become privy to how can we effectively have a parliamentary democracy? Are we any better than that Zimbabwe? As David Davis put it on the Today programme:

"None of this put in any way national intelligence, national security, or international relations at risk - yet we end up with a situation that is in some way reminiscent of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, with an Opposition spokesman being arrested for nine hours. It is extraordinary, frankly."

Where is the government moving the line to? Are they deliberately trying to hinder scrutiny? If so, what do they have to hide?

There are a lot of questions about such legislation being used against a legislator and this latest incident means it is definitely time for the powers invested in these areas are properly addressed. This is just another step along the wrong path where too much alleged need to protect is impinging on civil liberties to go about as normally as possible.

The "Colonial" Times

Picking up my daily read this morning I was horrified to see on the Times front page the sub headline (since not searchable in the online archive):

At least 125 dead in Bombay [sic] violence spills into second day.

I'd not picked up yesterday's paper as I was walking to the newsagents on a day of when the express bus pulled up at my bus stop, so it may well have been the same yesterday. However, over 10 pages 7 of news, the leading article, the opinion piece of Maria Mistra and even the letters page, every single mention of Mumbai (the official name of the city since 1996) it is instead called Bombay.

Clearly the Times is still living in colonial Times.

Update: In the comments DG has tried to excuse the Times by saying they have used this because most British people now the city as Bombay. This is not much of an excuse as the Times being a broad street is generally read by the upper socio-economic groups. This is especially true when the equivalent MSM The BBC, The Independent and The Grauniad are all using Mumbai. Even the tabloid press the Daily Fail, the Scum* and the Daily Express have not deemed it necessary to so dumb down. The Times stands alone in its ignorance or deliberate editorial policy of using a rejected name of foreign imposition for the native name of the city making such sad news headlines over the past couple of days.

*As a Liverpool fan I had to break 19 years embargo on reading the Sun to check out their website for this piece.

Thursday 27 November 2008

Water Strike

Staff at Scottish Water will be the next public sector workers to strike over pay when they walk out for 24 hours at midday.

An agreement equivalent to a 3% rise over 15 months was agreed in September backdated to April. While this is within the public sector guideline it is not keep up with inflation, the consumer price index was 4.5% in October (the EU average was 3.7%) down from 5.2% in September and the Retail Price Index was 4.2% for October down from 5.0%. The RPIX which excludes mortgage payments was at 4.7% for the same period.

So while the employers at Scottish Water have stuck to their government directive on pay increases it clearly is a case that public sector pay is not pushing inflation but is sadly falling behind on that score. Maybe Labour really need to redress this target figure.

So employees are continuing to be crushed by the increasing prices and by not having additional money come their annual pay reviews to even hope to catch up.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Goodbye Woolies

If you were to look very carefully at the back of my shaven head you would see two scars. One of this happened when I was three as I slid down the step outside Woolworths in Bangor as my grandfather was looking after me and my baby (at the time) brother.

Well today Woolworths and MFI (upon how desks and surrounded by whose bookcases I prepared for the 2005 General Election) have both gone into administration. There was talk earlier in the day that the Government would wade in to bail out Woolworths but like an unlucky cricketer the edifice of the UK's High Street has lost its wicket one shy of its century. Now Woolworths 30,000 employees and 20,000 people covered by its pension fund, ,which has a £100m deficit face uncertainty.

Meanwhile MFI who had enjoyed a rent holiday in an attempt to stave off administration have been unable to turn things around and over another 1000 retail employees face redundancy. However, 261 employees were laid off with immediate effect by Galiform, the joinery firm who previously owned the company but are now one of the landlords.

VAT Cuts Favour the Rich More than the Poor

Darling has carried on the trend of being Dooh Nibor a reverse Robin Hood that his predecessor had at the Treasury. Darling had made much that the poorest pay a greater percent of their income in VAT that the wealthiest.

While this is true a bigger proportion of that is taken up by the VAT on fuel which at the 7.5% rate is already under the 15% VAT level, giving no benefit. An even greater proportion of their income also goes on zero rated necessities such as food again giving a negligible effect. The Financial Times is reporting that Robert Chote of the Institute of Fiscal Studies is pointing out that low-income households will not benefit so much from the VAT cuts if they are considered as a proportion of spending.

Yet again Labour are stealthily giving greater tax breaks to the rich than to the poor. Indeed many of the poorest households would have been better off with an income tax cut rather than a VAT cut as this would have given them cash in their pockets, which they could then of used to buy more of their necessities rather than getting a bonus on many of the luxury items that many have already have to cut back on buying due to the credit squeeze.

Hat Tip to the Treasury's Webmaster

The new idea of save now pay later which the government is going under may well be about to face a stealthy VAT increase. Hat tip to Guido via Peter Black.

Whilst the press release with the pre-budget report stated that the level would return to 17.5% from 1 January 2010. Their website had the additional line:

"and subsequently increase to 18.5% in 2011-12"

Now putting on my ex civil servant hat I would expect that despite denials that this was ever part of the plan it had to have been there in the original proposals and someone forgot to check the copy handed to the webmaster to publish. Maybe it was a photocopied piece which didn't copy a crossing out and the margin note/scribble:

"Not for release yet."

Or maybe it did and we've all been done a public service in finding out Darling's true intentions. Brown may have talked prudence, but he wasn't saving, or cutting the nations credit card bill. Now we've been told that the tax cuts that are being made will eventually be followed by tax hikes, watch out for VAT being just another one of those.

Notes: The author is aware that many last minute changes to key Governemnt documents are made up to the last minute possible before issuing due to have spent a number of years doing just that whilst working in a Civil Service department at Stormont. He is therefore not surprised that an different draft may have been used on the website, though it may be ommitted from the official release it does not exclude the fact that this may still be policy.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Sorry Darling I Haven't Got Time

Alistair Darling has rather inconveniently made his pre-budget report not just at the start of the week (my busiest period at work) but also at the start of a week when something new is also getting rolled out. Therefore at present I'm unable to give the details of yesterday's offering my full attention, at least for now.

I would recommend my readers to take a trip to Lib Dem Voice, James at the Two Doctors, Malc in the Burgh or Jonathan Calder for some diverse critiques of the PBR.

Expelled Councillor to Seek Appeal

Cllr Debra Storr who was expelled from the Aberdeenshire Council Lib Dem Group after what she claims was a witch hunt is seeking to appeal that decision. She has written to the Scottish Party President Malcolm Bruce asking for the case to be reviewed by the party's internal appeal process.

However, this does require agreement from the group that has expelled her. The leader of the Group, Anne Robertson has already said that she did not think there was any merit in "continued dialogue" of matters no connected to the council's future aims adding:

"The Liberal Democrat administration would prefer to turn attention to major
policies and initiatives being brought forward."

It therefore looks unlikely that such agreement will be made but as Debra said:

"If the council group leadership are confident in the probity of their decision,
then they have nothing to fear."

Martin Ford who's casting vote led to the overturning of the original Trump proposal at local level has withdrawn from the Council Group meetings in support of Debra. A move that may also lead to his own eventual expulsion from the group.

I notice there is a very uninformed correspondent in these week's Press and Journal who maybe should read Debra's precognition summary of the application to show that there always were alternatives to Trump's plans.

Monday 24 November 2008

Analyse This

I see that Charlotte Gore and Jonathan Calder amongst others have used the Genderanalyzer on their blog, my results come out as 92% male (maybe it's time to tone down the language somewhat).

So in order of maleness on Lib Dem blogs thus far then we line up me, Darell G, LibCync, Costigan Quist, John @ Liberal Revolution, Charlotte and Jonathan. Alex Wilcock is either 94% or 58% male, Jo Christine-Smith also is either 85% or 54% depending on whether she's talking about feminism and gender issues (the former) of about the GLA and PPC selection (the latter). All this is getting rather scary wonder what DELGA or the Genber Balance Task Force will make of it.

Nothing to Pay to 2010: Darling

Well it appears that Alistair Darling isn't going to start to attempt to pay off the latest borrowings on the country's credit card until 2010. It will also be the year after 13 years of Labour reducing the tax burden on the rich while increasing it on the poor that some sort of sorting out of the order of things and some fairness will be returned.

Yes once again after umming and ahing over what to do another plank of the Lib Dem proposals to make the rich take up their more than capable share on their highest level of earnings . Of course yet again Labour will be deferring this, rather that doing it to match the reductions it is proposing at the lower end and in VAT.

Whatever happened to dear Prudence? It appears that Darling has been given permission by Prudence's greatest suitor to leave her out in the cold, when the lack of her (from some quarters) helped to get us into this fine mess in the first place.

Sunday 23 November 2008

Actions Speak Louder than Words

As the saying goes actions speak louder than words, therefore my conclusion the way the SNP are using Holyrood they must be whisper. Of course with all the bravado and rhetoric that exudes from Alex Salmond's mouth you may be led to believe otherwise.

However, using a devolved Parliament as nothing more than a talking shop to knock down your main opposition's governance in the Parliament that devolved that power is a waste of resources. What is more that when the Scottish Parliament does have a vote over something it does have the power if that doesn't go the way of the largest party they then find some way or at least attempt to circumvent democracy.

So why did the people of Scotland bother to elect 129 MSPs?

Surely they didn't expect to sit some weeks and discuss nothing but what was going on at Westminster. Surely they elected them to make the decisions that they had been given control over, to make things better and different in Scotland under their devolved powers.

Maybe Johann Lamont, Labour's deputy leader in Hoylrood does have a point when he says:

"This is a deliberate strategy from the SNP. They are happy to use the
Parliament as a platform for attacking what Labour is doing at Westminster, but
they are not prepared to be held to account for their own decisions."

After 18 months in control it is starting to become clear that the Nats are still thinking like an opposition not a government. The way Alex Salmond behaved during the Glenrothes by Election was a case in point. His dozen visits to the seat why there were things that a leader of a country should have been diverting his attention to but were being neglected. Is Alex like that long surviving journeyman fighter, rolling away from the punches, dancing away from his opponents hoping that nothing lands on his chin? Does he have a glass chin, one that is just waiting to be landed with the killer blow? Is he trying to avoid doing anything that means that blow could spoil his aim?

Nicola Sturgeon said on Question Time on Thursday in relation to Strictly Come Dancing and John Sergeant that inviting the public to be involved in the decision and then not being happy with their response was like holding an election but only allowing it to be on certain criteria. What would she say of having run that election, not carrying out the duties invested in you or the others that had also won?

Friday 21 November 2008

Something Old, New, Borrowed..Oops

Yes it could be very blue for married women with regard to the latest lunacy to emerge about Labour's ID card scheme. Apparently failure to tell the authorities that they have changed their name after marriage will land them with a £1000 fine.

However, there is a major problem with this. There are a number of women I know, and some of them are elected representatives even, who continue to use their maiden name for professional reasons, but for other things use their married name. Let's take one famous example:

There is a top whizz international lawyer and speaker who wishes to present her credentials to appear at the High Court. Whoops however, her ID card is not accepted as it is in her married name, as she doesn't want to incur the wrath of a £1000 fine not that she can't afford it.

Now let's assume she wants to attend a major engagement along with her husband, also a well known figure. But let's take it that her ID card is in her working name. Oops her husband walks on by to his appointment with the Queen or the Prime Minister but she is not allowed to follow as the maiden name on her ID card doesn't match the guest list. She may be fined £1000 pounds as well as arrested for identity fraud.

Of course this is all unlikely to happen to Cherie Booth/Blair but what about the rest of womankind.

Sad Day

Today I read the sad news that my friend and fellow former Lib Dem campaigner and colleague Debra Storr has quit the party group on Aberdeenshire Council due the illiberal attitude of colleagues (???can I still call them that). Her crime was too look at the local issues affecting the Trump application and base her judgement on that, along with three other colleagues including David* Martin Ford the former chair of the planning committee who voted against it.

I did meet up with Debra at conference and had a conversation with her about how things were going. Then she told me that the party were planing to exclude her and her fellow no voters from the party, the meeting over Debra happened on Monday night, a meeting at which she was unable to attend, nor was she informed of the outcome.

It is a sad day that someone with such strong liberal and green credentials who stood up for many of the same fundamental values as myself has been treated in this way my members of the party I belong to. Where are their liberal and democratic principles?

* Must not mix up my Alliance Party Leaders and Aberdeenshire Councillors.

Jim Murphy Wants Sackings and to Decrease Unemployment

Scottish Secretary didn't have that good a night on question time last night. Whilst he attacked monetary stimuli as not saving people's jobs he failed to take any blame for the the banking sector failings despite Labour, and more crucially Gordon Brown being heavily involved in that line since 2007. Then to cap it all he want 4 more people to lose their jobs speaking on the John Sergeant scenario he said "I think we need to get rid of the judges rather than John". I mean there's off message then going off you own message.

But how long are Labour going to continue to blame the USA for everything regarding this latest situation. We had a chancellor, now Prime Minister, Telling us that the days of boom of bust were over. Fact is there was no buffer being built up in the good times in case any issue came up to alleviate the economy should bust be on the horizon.

Even Jim Murphy admitted last night that certain economies were in better shape that the UK is at present to face this crisis, but seemed adamant to not take any responsibility despite 11 years of Labour for this situation. However, his foreign policy experience may well rank with that of Sarah Palin as he also listed China, who currently are the world's lender of first resort, as being in financial crisis.

Maybe Labour, and indeed the whole banking sector, could learn a little from Sir Ian McKillop chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland. At least he has put his hand up and made his apology for his share of the difficulties.

Thursday 20 November 2008

The Funnies

To Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of User Friendly, Mickey Mouse's 80th Birthday and Noddy's upcoming 60th Birthday celebrations (will if he'll abondon driving his car once he's eleigible for a bus pass) I've deciding to lighten up a little bit. Thus like all good news outlets I've added my own comic section with links to daily updates of my favourite current running cartoons. This criteria means that Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts repeats miss the cut, at least for now.

Two Labour Takes on LIT

The latest comments from Norman Quirk of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce on Local Income Tax have drawn two different responses from the Labour Blogosphere. His comments that it would be "the wrong tax at the wrong time" and further and more disturbingly that it would be a "tax on labour" I'll deal with in a bit but first the Labour responses.

First there is former Railways Minister Tom Harris, who churns out yet again the old Labour line that LIT is people paying more income tax. Sad but true that Labour have for the last 11 years thought that people only focus on income tax. How else could one describe the fact that they have raised the overall taxation on the individual by stealth taxes and simultaneously closed the percentage of income paid in taxation between the top 20% and the lowest 20% of the UK population. Indeed Tom seems to miss that it is replacing another tax and shows very poor maths when he says:

"if they manage to implement it, and push Scots’ income tax up to three per cent
more* than what everyone else in the country is paying"

LIT (although as I've said whether the SNP really want a true local LIT is in dispute) is a progressive tax. With prices rising fixed percentage taxes such as VAT which we pay on our food, our fuel on top of our fuel duty etc are regressive especially to those on lowest incomes. For each 5 pence increase in their bills almost another penny goes to the exchequer. The council tax is a fixed rate tax. In hard financial situations you still have to find a way to pay it no matter what change you may find in your situation, only in the worst case scenario may you get social security support to assist you in that. Indeed should you be unable to pay it due to tight financial times it can cost those least able to afford it more either through fines, bank charges for a failed Direct Debit etc. as a few people have mentioned to me in recent months.

An LIT instead of course reflects you're ability to pay. Heck it can even been taken at the point of source therefore you'd budget around the net take home pay. Rather than face the possibility of paying your council tax or your fuel or food bill.

Take on the other hand the leader of Labour's group on Edinburgh Council, Ewan Aitkin who takes a more cautious view. He unlike Tom Harris seems to realise that this gift horse could turn into a Trojan horse very easily saying:

"Implementing the LIT is never the issue. Being seen to be fair and equitable is."

Aitken at least seems to realise that LIT would wash well the people if not the business leaders, and crucially says:

"it does make political sense because people feel, for good or for ill, unfairly
treated by the Council tax."

Of course he then go on to point out that the SNP plans figures for LIT do incur a shortfall, which is of course one reason why a centrally set rate does not account for local expenditure requirements, nor the ability of the residents of that local authority to burden the load.

So while one is blinded by one tax is headline grabbing the other at least is realising the fairness issue of taxation is important to the electorate. Possibly more so as we are buying more and more banks with our taxes. Of course if they (the voters) are not happy with the way the local authority finances, spends and runs things they can democratically have their say within 4 years. A more difficult task if, like me, the SNP do not represent your constituency in the first place to then unseat the Government.

*Seeing as it is only 3% on taxable income even the increase of a 3% LIT would not equate to 3% more income tax than someone else on equal income.

Step 2: Lloyds-TSB Vote for Takeover

After the first step of Westminster freeing up the process from any possible referral to the monopolies and mergers commission yesterday the shareholders of Lloyds-TSB voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the proposed acquisition of HBoS.

The vote was backed by 95.98% at a meeting in Glasgow yesterday, which drew two groups of protestors – the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who want HBOS to remain independent, and the Unite union, who want job stability for employees of both banks. No showing by the SNP who's leader has already vowed to do anything he can to stop this takeover, except of course vote against the enabling act at Westminster. Nor Calum Cashley who keeps blogging about the need to keep HBoS independent.

It is now up to the HBoS shareholders meeting on 12 December to decide the fate of the takeover. However, as the Times points out many of the major shareholders are the same as those who voted yesterday it looks like sadly a foregone conclusion at the moment.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Sergeant Quits: Children in Need May Lose Out


Political correspondent John Sergeant had put away his sequins, will click his dancing shoes for one last time on Satruday but will no longer be asking for the votes of the public. The reason is that the political correspondent has walked away from Strictly Come Dancing claiming winning would have been "a joke too far". Heaven forbid that he would ever have got that far, but there you go.

The man himself said he saw "no viable 'stop Sergeant' candidate". However, one possible downside of John walking away from the dance floor, may be that the BBC reimburse those who called to rang to keep Sergeant in the contest. A proportion of this money was to have gone to Children in Need so if as a result of him walking rather than being voted off the BBC are obliged to reimburse this money that will be a big hole in the money the show has garnered thus far.

His partner Kristina Rihanoff who has been hauled across the floor like a sack of potatoes or as the recycling being put out according to judges and celebrity fans will have one last excursion with him on Saturday but he will not be up for the vote.

Justice and Policing Stormont Breakthrough

One hundred and fifty two days, not the longest stand off in Northern Irish politics but possibly one of the most crucial with one of the greatest outcomes at the end. Many said it could never be done but the DUP and Sinn Fein have actually come to an agreement over moving forward the devolving of powers for justice and policing from Westminster to Stormont.

Announcing the programme of "modalities" that will lead to the eventual transfer of these powers appears to have finally removed the major stumbling block that was outstanding between the two parties. With the logjam about to be removed in the next few months.

The steps include appointing the Senior QC as the new Attorney General. A cross-community consensus vote in the Assembly would elect the Chairperson of the Justice Committee until May 2012.

There is also a sunset clause to review the arrangements in time to put in place a more permanent settlement on these issues.

So it's back to work for the folks on the hill.

Long Standing Stevens Ousted In Alaska

The Republican's longest serving US Senator Ted Steven's has lost out to the Democratic Mayor of Anchorage Mark Begich, after the recount. He is 3,724 behind with only 2,500 overseas votes to be counted.

In the lead up to the election Stevens had been convicted of about gifts he had received from an oil company. But the early voters and absentee ballots which would have been cast before this news was finalised did not in the end affect the outcome. Begich has become the first Democrat to represent the state in the senate for 30 years.

The Democrats are now on 58 out of the hundred senate seats just shot of the filibuster breaking 60 required for a super majority. With Minnesota about to start its recount where the Democrat Al Franken, a comedian, trails the Republican incumbant by only 206 only 0.007%* behind. The other contest still undecided sees Republican Saxby Chambliss, who had advocated then retracted arresting any Muslims who crossed the state line after 9-11, facing Jim Martin his challenger in a run off vote on December 2 after he failed to secure the 50% of the vote required to be elected on the first ballot.

* Very Bond-esque.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Churches Out to Invalidate Proposition 8

Yes I had to double take that as well when I read it on Liz Williams Singing My Song blog. However, it does appear that church and religious leaders in California have been one of the first groups to file a law suit against Proposition 8 which overturned the States Supreme Court Ruling, in March this year, that 2000's Proposition 22 violated the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and upheld the right held that individuals of the same sex had the right to marry under the California Constitution.

Rev. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director of the California Council of Churches said:

"Proposition 8 poses a grave threat to religious freedom. If the Court permits
gay men and lesbians to be deprived of equal protection by a simple majority
vote, religious minorities could be denied equal protection as well—a terrible
irony in a nation founded by people who emigrated to escape religious
persecution. If the Court permits Proposition 8 to take effect, religious
discrimination similarly could be written into California's Constitution."

Wow! I'm quite impressed that senior churchmen are prepared to stand up for the USA's separation of the powers of Church and State in such a sensible way. One co-signatory of the law suit Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ added:

"We believe our communities are strengthened and our religious freedoms
protected by ensuring that the principle of equal protection applies to all
Californians. Religious groups know from long experience the dangers posed by
placing unchecked power in the hands of temporary majorities."

The groups represented in this law suit are the California Council of Churches, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, two Episcopal Bishops (of California and Los Angeles), the Progressive Jewish Alliance, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California, and the Northern and Southern California Nevada Conferences of the United Church of Christ.

When you Wish Upon a Star

This West Lothian man went far.

The chairman of Disney Consumer Products Worldwide is Andrew Mooney originally from Whitburn, West Lothian and is today featured in the Edinburgh Evening News. The son of a late miner who then worked at the British Leyland plant at Bathgate.

Having left school at 16 to become a trainee accountant instead of going to college Mooney worked up his experience level while others were getting their qualifications. Via 20 years with Nike where he was worldwide head of marketing, Disney came headhunting for him in 2000.

After a recent trip to Scotland he reflects in relation to how we are placed to rise the economic downturn:

"Scotland is a hotbed of creative talent, for example in video

"I think there is a lot more opportunity than Scotland is taking advantage

"The good news is multi-national companies will see Scotland as a good
place to invest, but it is equally easy for them to take the money out of

While Andrew himself took life by the scruff of the neck, others can and probably will surely do the same in the current environment. We'll see who can ride the tide and come out strong at the other end.

West Lothian Labour in a Timewarp

Doing a little keeping up with the opposition I see that Labour in West Lothian are still encouraging people to vote for them on 3rd May....2007.

Sadly this is not the first time Labour websites in the area have been way behind. Mind you seeing as Tam Smith the Linlithgow and Falkirk East SNP Westminster PPC's own site is currently not available which at least is better that not updated since January like that of the Tory candidate Andrea Stephenson.

Taxes: What Goes Down Will Go Up

In quite the reverse to those magnificent men in their flying machines, that self proclaimed custodian of the world's economic future Gordon Brown has said that while taxes will be cut next week expect them to rise again after. David Cameron in response did come out with the rather good line:
"Tax cuts should be for life, not just for Christmas."

For it does seem that despite calls from the Lib Dems to make the tax cuts permanent and real to the lower paid through restructuring the system making it fairer and closing loopholes for the wealthy, this is a short-term cash bribe. It may well be the sort of cash bribe that previous chancellors have sought to offer just before a general election, whether real or phantom. Indeed while welcoming the tax cut Nick Clegg the Liberal Democrat leader added:
"The right thing to borrow for is not short-term cash bribes but long-term
capital investment in infrastructure the country needs anyway."

Worryingly the Tory's Shadow Business Secretary Alan Duncan said of the twinkled toed wannabe he is shadowing:
"He [Peter Mandelson] has fessed up to what Gordon Brown is not
prepared to admit, that unfunded tax cons now will leave taxpayers with a
cripplingly expensive bill later."

So not just will the tax cut be short-lived we'll be faced with even bigger bills to come. Thank you Gordon for encumbering us with increasing debt, and the bill for it, rather than looking at a sustainable and realistic restructuring of the debt and payment methods.

Monday 17 November 2008

Strictly Come Mandy

It appears that Lord Voldemort of Hartlepool and Foy is dying to get on his dancing shoes on a Saturday night.

Yes not content with being the Spectator's poitical 'newcomer' of the year the Labour peer is jealous of John Sergeant for being able to appear on Strictly Come Dancing every saturday night. While the economy may be the burning issue for most people, the Business minister while on BBC Breakfast was asked about the political correspondents appearances on the show and said:

"I was cheering for John Sergeant on Saturday with, I have to say, a degree
of... envy."

He went on to respond to a follow up would he compete in the show if asked he said, "It would be nice to be asked." Now if anyone should be capable of spinning the public vote in their favour more than John Sergeant has done so far this season it may well be Tony Blair's former spin doctor. Although if he really is as good a dancer as he boasts he may not need to rely on public support as much as John has had to in recent weeks.

Strictly Ridiculous

So the march (as his Paso was described) of John Sergeant goes on. Yet again the political correspondent was the worst on show on Saturday night, but he was spared the dance off yet again. Instead that fate went to Cheri Lunghi and Lisa Snowdon with professional partners James Jordan and Brendan Cole.

The Saturday before this weekend when Caron was out enjoying a well earned weekend off after Glenrothes, I texted her how appalling John was and that now was the time for him to go. He survived and again this week when I finally caught up with Mr. Bond only to come back and watch my recording of the show.

We're getting to the crunch end of the show. Yes John has survived thus far on charm and personality but now he really is starting to knock out the real contenders and good dancers. I'm sure even John is starting to feel guilty every time he defends him still being in the show by saying that the public have voted to keep him in. He must see that far better dancers are now suffering due to his continued tenure on the show.

New Parking Coming to Linlithgow

80 new free parking spaces are coming to Linlithgow turn centre under plans announced recently. Spaces will be created at Linlithgow Sports Club off the Edinburgh Road and an extension to the St Ninians car park, mainly for coaches.

Parking in the town has long been a concern that I have heard from local residents in the doorsteps and people will not doubt be welcoming these moves. If it comes along with continued improvements in public transportation provision for the town it will really help Linlithgow to combat climate change. These new car parking spaces are within easy walking distance of the train station and with increased ease of taking the train more people should be encouraged to leave the car at home at make the bulk of their journey to work by rail.

The Arabia of Renewables

Today marks the day that the Pentland Firth is being opened up by the Crown Estate to developers seeking to build marine renewable schemes in the area. Up to 700 megawatts of power is expected to be created by the area by 2020.

The Pentland Firth is the stretch of water off the north east tip of mainland Britain where the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea collide between the mainland and Orkney. It is the greatest potential for harnessing of wave energy but other main potentials exist at the ends of the Irish Sea, the Bristol Channel and English Channel. The last of course is least likely to be exploited imminently due the pressures of this as a shipping lane.

The move to harness the UK's maritime currents though overdue is welcome as we seek to get a sustainable, sustained alternative to fossil fuels generating our power needs through a balanced portfolio of renewable sources. Tidal power is more reliable than wind generation and adds to the ability to sustain renewable capability. While it is liable to be the big projects that first garner attention in the Pentland Firth this development of technology will hopefully lead to more micro marine projects as efficiency is increased.

Sunday 16 November 2008

West Lothian Marathon

It's amazing what you can stumble across purely by accident or through google alerts to be honest. The end result is that I'm considering coming out of retirement to take part in the inaugural West Lothian half marathon next May.

As the initial even it to be held in Bathgate, I shouldn't have far to go to the start line. So I'll be dusting off buying new running shoes. It will be the first time in ages I'll have run for charity (other than the entry fee) and the charities that I would run for would be Marie Curie and Cancer Research in memory of my dad. I had actually been considering some sort of charity run or cycle for these organisations since I've been fit enough to do something, and this one looks like the ideal first steps to do something at my own (rather slower than before) pace.

I'll be adding the site and blog for this event to my blogroll.

Hats Off to Alex Salmond

Watching BBC's Children in Need to other day I have to say hats off to the First Minister for his take on Ricky Fulton's creation the Rev I.M. Jolly for this year's cause. Definitely the man has a sence of self deprecation which is good to see. Well worth a look at.

Friday 14 November 2008

Informing Constituents Brings Electoral Process into Disrepute

Or at least so says Labour Councillor Nick Wallis.

"any kind of debate between the parties has been drowned out by the usual LibDem
Sturm und Drang"

That's his words not mine. Sounds like the words of a sore loser to me. Following on the SSCUP candidate in Glenrothes complaining that the parteis started to campaign too early, though after John McDougall was buried and the media had started to ramp up the by election process. I've had enough of people who don't engage in a particualr way complaining about others who do in a different way maybe but within the rules.

hat tip to Jonathan Wallace.

China's Arrested Democrat

Chinese authorities have arrested the founder of the New Democracy Party (New People's Party) Guo Quan in Nanjing on charges of subversion of state power. He has been arrested several times in the past since founding the party last year but the charge of subversion is one the Chinese authorities often use to imprisons dissidents for years.

He is a well known blogger, though now removed, and he is accused of being 'too radical' he radicalness in recent days has been for blogging about the need for democratic change in the world's most populous nation. He had also threatened to sue Google and Yahoo in February of this year after the US companies in compliance with Chinese Government requests removed his name from searches on their Chinese language search engines. In his own words he said Google have "become a servile Pekinese dog wagging its tail at the heels of the Chinese communists".

In February when he announced his legal actions Guo said:

"Through this I hope that the world will become more concerned to resolve human
rights issues in China. The freedom of the Internet should be realised all over
the world."

Sadly his fight for human rights in China have led to him being denied his own human rights of liberty, freedom of thought, right to question and have a say in his own affairs. It is nineteen and a half years on from the events of Tiannamen Square and the Chinese authorities have moved nowhere politically from that day, even though promises were made to enable them to host this years Olympics. They still seek to control political process by coercion rather than strength of debate.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Debt Collectors Coming for Missing Library Books!!!

Well apparently I live in the Scottish council area with more missing books from its library service than any other. West Lothian has apparently got £51, 218 of missing stock. I would like to assure you dear readers that I personally have no outstanding library books, at the time of writing.

It appears that the council in order to regain this missing stock are about to call in a debt recovery service. Now I've not seen any signs recently advertising a late returns amnesty or anything similar to attempt to draw in the missing stock (I may have missed it and this step could already have been taken). It may well be that some of that stock has been forgotten about and when found the possible late fine is too much for the person with the book decided that it was better to forget about the ensuing fine.

An amnesty of course may not totally work, but what is the cost to employ a debt recovery service to get these books returned? Has anyone done a cost benefit analysis of taking such action for these particular library books? Assuming an average cost of £10 per book, that would be about 5,000 books out there somewhere in West Lothian. The average Library user you would assume as between 3 to 5 books at any time. Say there are 1,500 households involved. The debt recovery service would then be mailing out, possibly with visitation is nothing is forthcoming after a number of mailings.

Seeing as I still get mail for the two previous residents of the flat I've lived in for 30 months depending how far back these missing books go back, in a transient, contractor style environment like West Lothian is at times. It is possible that many of those addressees are no longer present at the address where they registered for their library card. I hope someone at the council has done something obvious, like compare names and addresses of late returnees against say the electoral roll and written to them first if they matched. Rather than this simply being another case of Nationalists wanting control of all the minutiae of people's lives.

Fact Check for Gordon...

...oh and Yousuf.

There is a Channel 4 Factcheck brilliamtly unearthed my Lib Dem blogger of the year Alix Mortimer that should be essential reading for Gordon Brown, Havering Yousuf and all other Socialist Labour politicos before they start/carry on [delete as applicable] of misrepresenting the truth, because they know they're unto a loser.

Support Staff or Free Meals? That is the Question

According to Albert Henderson the head of schools for Inverclyde council that is the stark decision he will have to make. He cannot fully fund both if he is to meet the SNP's free school meals for all P1-3 pupils under the current budget he is facing. He told the education committee at Holyrood yesterday that there was £368,000, over and above the extra resourses made available, he would need to find to implement the scheme:

"If you were converting that into teaching staff, we're talking about ten teaching staff, so we may be faced with stark choices. We might be faced with staff shortages and that might mean looking at support staff."

The SNP can keep coming up with grand schemes but they have to also be affordable to the people at the delivery end of the scheme. If the Government is holding the purse strings, as with expenditure by local councils, they need to be willing to spend to allow their own multiple targets to be met.

Tickled by the Nissan Armadale

The Nissan Armada LE

Seeing this in the diary column of the Herald this morning about how one reader though the Nissan Armada LE was named the Nissan Armadale, and wondered whether a Nissan Bathgate or Whitburn were in the offing.

Of course one of the newest housing developments on the old truck and tractor works in Bathgate (1961-86) does pay homage to that car heritage in West Lothian as there is a Leyland Road. Not so much named after the Lancastrian town to the south of Preston but to the company it formed one of the branches that made up the company.

HIV Vaccine Fails Clinical Trail

With World Aids Day approaching on December 1st comes the news that an HIV vaccine developed my Merck has failed a clinical trial in the US.

The vaccine had been designed to trigger a protective response by "killer" cytotoxic T-cells, white blood cells that are a key element of the immune system. But while it proved sucessful in simian trials, the human trial was called off early in July, when MRKAd5 HIV-1 gag/pol/nef totally failed to protect against the virus in the 3000 strong human sample.

While this is one set back on the "long road" to finding a solution Professor Robin Shattock, an infexction expert from St George's, University of London, said:

"While the results of this trial were disappointing, this study was still an important step in determining what is required for an HIV vaccine.

"We now know that the vaccine approach tested in this trial produced a response against too few viral targets using only one aspect of the immune response — cytotoxic T-cells."

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Linlithgow Deserves Health Centre That's Fit for Purpose

There is no doubt that Linlithgow deserves the best health care facility possible, in that I agree with SNP councillor Martyn Day who has said:

"The people of Linlithgow badly need and richly deserve improved health facilities in the town."

Where I disagree with Cllr. Day is that these improvements can best be met by moving the town's health centre into the County Buildings, a proposal that NHS Lothian have now turned down. What Linlithgow deserves is a purpose built, modern facility not one shoehorned into an existing historic building. Whether that requires renovation and upgrade of the existing building or relocation to a new facility is something that should be explored. We're in the 21st century and the people of Linlithgow, future birthplace of the USS Enterprise's Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery Scott, at least deserve health facilities that are fit for purpose and fit for the present.

In recent years the council whether Labour of SNP led have neglected Linlithgow and whenever space has become available it has been used for residential rather than public use. Whether the old school at West Port (now flats) or the bus station (which was earmarked for more flats when there is an outcry for more parking in the centre of town).

West Lothian's area plan seems to care greatly about cramming in the housing and the ancillary services seem to be tagged on as a reluctant after thought. The current strain of numbers on Linlithgow Academy and the Springfield Development of yet another supermarket (without it seems now the initially planned nursing home) are two examples of neglect as the council seeks to centralise on Livingston.

Reviewing Malc's Challenge

WowI I've just had a look at how I predicted things in response to Malc's challenge regarding Obama's chances in the electoral college. Malc thought when I posted that I may regret painting "Colorado, Michigan, Ohio... maybe even Penn!" Blue so early in the prediction game. Boy! Back then were we both too conservative!

I didn't dream of Florida, Indiana or Nevada thinking they may just stay red. North Carolina and West Virginia would have been crazy talk, yet both went Blue.

Lib Dems Offer a Sustainable Fiscal Stimulus

Yesterday Yousuf criticised the Lib Dems based on how things have gone before. The fact is we all overstretched and overreached globally. Brown is determined to spend, spend, spend his way out of this without learning the lessons that brought us here in the first place.

Yesterday Nick Clegg outlined the details of a new way to provide fiscal stimulus when he addressed the Commonwealth Society. Calling for a multi-lateral global response to the current crisis he said:

"We need a cultural change. But I believe that change can be driven to a large extent by institutional and regulatory reform. Changes to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation could make an enormous difference…

"Enabling us to create a fairer, more sustainable economic model."

He critiqued both the Labour and conservative Tax proposals:

"We hear talk of tax cuts emerging from Downing Street, but they are likely to be small, and short term. Funded through borrowing, the money will have to be paid back later…

"So it’s meagre tax cuts today, giant tax rises tomorrow from Brown.

"Meanwhile the Conservatives want a piffling incentive for businesses to take on new workers that won’t put a penny in the pocket of a single family in Britain.

"Neither package comes close to what’s needed."

Before outlying the real alternative.

"Real tax cuts - big, permanent and fair - for the people who need them. Funded by making the wealthy pay their fair share, ending the special exemptions and loopholes they’ve profited from for so long."

Yousuf also said that the Lib Dems had no spending in their plan. Not so we're merely spending where it will boost the economy not on ego enhancing frivolities.

"We are identifying £20bn of government spending that can be redirected to our priorities.

"We need to redirect spending to the things that people really need in a recession: homes for hard-pressed families; good child care, so that people can go out to work; and training for people who have lost their jobs."

Chinese Take Away HBOS Offer

The Bank of China's bid to take over HBOS has been called off. The reason that China's second biggest bank walked away was apparently because of a cold shoulder from the Treasury who seem to be the only people still keen on the original, now stalled, Lloyds-TSB deal. Even the Lloyds-TSB board aren't as keen as the Treasury regarding their intitial proposal.

The Treasury have denied this saying:

"We wouldn't stand in the way of a serious alternative bid if one came forward and we certainly haven't put anybody off.

"We just want a stability package and that is what is on the table at the moment and has been backed by both the boards of Lloyds and HBOS."

However, while Scottish financiers like Jim Spowart, founder of Intelligent Finance who paved the way for the Bank of China approach, coming up with schemes better for Scottush jobs the Treasury does appear to push these alternatives aside too easily. There is clearly a preferred bidder and Gordon Brown is not playing fair. Tavish Scott the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats said:

"My deep concern is that the Prime Minister is pulling every string to stop any other rival bid. Journalists are being briefed, names are being released, bids are being discouraged.

"Vince Cable and I asked for a level playing field. There is no such thing from the UK government."

Other people are out there looking for alternative solutions to give the HBOS shareholders a choice of options at their AGM in less than an month. Osama Saeed, from the Islamic Foundation in Scotland has said that while he has spoken to interested parties in the Gulf they interest has waned because they are under the impression that the Lloyds-TSB deal is a fait accompli.

Gordon Brown may be right in saying that no serious bid with funding had actually come forward, apart from Lloyds TSB. But this may be down the the Treasury when approached with intial enquiries from China, the Gulf or elsewhere being let to believe that they mission is impossible from the offset.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Banking 101 for Calum Cashley

Calum Cashley in his latest post says:

"Hang on, says I, was it Burt and Mathewson who got HBoS into trouble? No, indeed it was not, it was Stevenson and Hornby, these are the jokers who got the bank hopelessly lost and are now claiming to have the map which will get the bank back out of the swamp. Who do you trust?"

George Mathewson may have retired as Chairman of RBS in 2006, while Peter Burt as Chairman of the BoS attempted to take over the NatWest and merged the bank with the Halifax. Seeing that as far back as 2004 Vince Cable was warning against the rising debt levels in our banks:

"We cannot avoid the fact that by this summer individuals are collectively going to be more than £1 trillion in debt and the relationship between debt and income is higher than it has ever been historically. Each month lending is increasing by around £10 billion of which a large proportion is unsecured lending.

"This is an issue which needs urgent attention, with interest rates predicted to rise by over 1% in the next year we need to decide what level of debt is sustainable or many will find themselves unable to sustain their debts as the costs of repayments rise."

Therefore neither man can be as completely exonerated as Mr Cashley would have us imagine. So while I say we have to do evenrything to save our banks lets be level headed and Barak Obama-like about this and not territorial and John McCain-like.

Westminster Attacking Devolution

Well Westminster is clearly attacking Scottish devolved powers both over Trident placement and new nuclear power stations. In two submissions made to the Calman commission according to reports in the Scotsman today.

Over Trident's placement there is cross party opposition, north of the border, to Trident's replacement, which is currently situated on the Clyde. In June last year Holyrood passed a motion recognising that defence was reserved but opposing the government's decision to maintain the deterrent capability.

The disagreement over energy provision, which is a fully devolved issue is that successive Scottish Parliaments have set far higher renewable energy targets than Westminster, have sought to achieve this without the use of new nuclear stations. Something that is achievable through the wealth of Scotland’s many natural resources. Indeed with the correct blend of generation systems continuity of supply can be maintained. Something that the wind dominated Westminster mindset fails to realise. The need for nuclear and for it's placement to have to be in Scotland are two fallacies that Labour in Westminster are trying to propagate.

However, Labour were one of the parties that launched the Calman commission into Scotland's devolved powers. But now their Westminster mandarins appear to be pulling in on the leash. Are London Labour doing this out of cowardice of the SNP?

Reigning in powers in Scotland is not the way Labour should be looking to counter a SNP threat. Giving more power while within the union mitigates against the need for independence, but Labour seem to be backed up to thier own wicket by Alex Salmond and seem incapable of seeing beyond their noses just now. Merely playing defensive strokes as far as Scotland is concerned, unable to come down the crease and attack.

Monday 10 November 2008

Is Labour to Follow Lib Dem Tax Policy?

Is Gordon finally going to listen to Vince Cable and the Lib Dem Treasury team? After months years of ignoring Vince Cable's warnings over the banking sector, and now for a couple of months rejecting Lib Dem pleas to cut income tax it appears he has not ruled it out and may be making an announcement soon.

With Dave and George planning to announce plans to call for a cut in Business rates to keep people in work, it may be that Gordon and his Darling are about to trump them. If they cut the basic rate of income tax allowing people to decide just where they need to spend money in these tight times.

Scarily it appears that the Liberal Democrats are leading the country and their economic thinking but the electorate are not realising it when they turn up to vote.

Labour Back Sensible Drinking Plans

The Government in Westminster is taking onboard some of the more sensible and enforceable plans from the SNP's drink policy* on in England and Wales.

In order to take on the problem of drink fuelled disorder they are looking at banning pub happy hours and ensuring that supermarkets do not sell alcohol as a loss leader. They said that the biggest problem faced by police forces was violence and disorder caused by excessive drinking of cheap alcohol. SNP please note this is not an age dependent issue.

The report also claims that increased police powers to tackle drunkenness were not working and powers to review or revoke premises' alcohol licences were not being fully used. This was emphasised last week when one sheriff overruled a decision by one Scottish council to revoke one off-licence owner's licence having been found on three occasions to sell to underage drinkers. If council licensing boards are unable to control this power at present without judges claiming that they are restricting trade how does the SNP ever hope top enforce the law with a different criteria.

*These are also some of the points highlighted in the recently passed Scottish Liberal Democrats policy countering the SNP's plans.

Friday 7 November 2008

The Media and Glenrothes

A few days ago I got a ressponse to my letter to STV and Ofcom, but due to being too busy actually with the election I didn't get around to tell you, my readers that. As I expected when I wrote the thing they would hide behind the defence that because the writ had not been moved they were not bound at the time to give balance.

However, looking at last night's result the early nod from the media to only two parties in this race are STV complicit in the squeeze that resulted in both the Lib Dems and Tories losing their deposits. If Jim Parker the Scottish Senior Citizens' Unity Party candidate can accuse the parties of starting the campaign shortly after John MacDougall was buried, he ignores that fact that at least in the case of two of us we were already fighting the perception that the press were putting about that it was only about two parties. Two be honest of what I had seen and heard of the two candidates for Labour and the Nats they weren't the best men for the job, indeed hearing Lindsay Roy too much in the early hours of Friday morning, while waiting beside the A92, even he seems to think so.

The Nats last night claimed a positive campaign, well seeing the attacks on daily of their literature I find that hard to believe they can say that with a straight face.

I'll dig out some example later and do an update.

But if balance in election coverage in the printed press is battling to get into the final paragraphs of their coverage, which the Tories seemed to fail to do more than us, then we need to look at the rules for coverage of elections more carefully. Yes there is the letter of the regulations but the spirit of them can be breached before the campaign even gets underway and can affect the battle and the outcome ahead.

Delusional Nats, Labour and the Press

How did they all get it so wrong?

I just have to say how come the SNP or Labour observing the same box openings as us could have been so wide off the mark. Many of the Nats either in the Blogosphere or on the street were confident of the result going their way. But to be so far out what went wrong.

The SNP were still adamant that they had it and Labour were less certain. If what I've heard is correct Newsnight at one point called last nights result for the Nats. Various of the bloggers and the MSM blogs picked up on this vibe even citing Brian Taylor. However, it wasn't what I or my fellow Lib Dems were seeing.

Maybe it had something to do with the over complications of their tally sheets. Mike Russell at 10:45 that he was "cautiously optimistic", Labour shortly after were saying "It's too close to call. We haven't had the bundles yet." However, by this time I didn't recorded the Nats ahead in any box that I was looking at nor did my nearest colleagues. Indeed as the initial surge of activity ended not one of us could recall any major SNP dominance. Yet the Nats were still adamantly proclaiming "Yes we can", yes we have and yes we will in the media section that was over my shoulder. More strangely the press and Labour were also believing them.

Yet the big two with all their canvass work and the press got it dramatically wrong 6,737 votes wrong approximately 19% wrong. I'll happily put my trust in the Lib Dem predictors and reading of events on the ground thank you very much. Much less hype, much more accurate. Even if it does mean you enter the last few days trying to get enough vote out to save a deposit that is lost, rather that heading for the tape as elsewhere in Fife.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Glenrothes Polling Day Update

Just two hours to go until the polls close. So time for a brief update.

Ran into my first Labour people on the street at 14:40 yesterday out in Leslie. However, shortly after meeting then the Nats swarmed in. However ran into a second set about half an hour later.

Today actually saw Alex Salmond in the SNP moving A-board to make the it's polling day speech. We're on you side in X, in this case Pitteuchar. Then ran in Kezia out running a canvass in the same street.

Anyhoo I'm off to get changed out of my wet smelly clothes, grab some lasagna and rest my swollen ankle ahead of the count. Watch out to see if you see some of us bloggers on the tele tonight.

I'll do a more thorough post at some point tomorrow or over the weekend.

Monday 3 November 2008

Here Today, But Elsewhere All Week

Having spent a the bulk of my waking hours over the weekend up in Glenrothes. I'm in my paid work today for a one day week, need to get the weekly stats done by 9am New York Time today. Then I'll be blogging light, if at all for the bulk of the rest of the week.

On Saturday we had a meeting of Linlithgow luminaries on the campaign trail. Out in Pitcoudie I ran into the Education Minister Fiona Hyslop and the SNP Westminster PPC for Linlithgow and Falkirk East Tam Smith. Unlike certain campaigners I met the other week this was the good old West Lothian bonhomie. It is now four Westminster by election campaigns this Parliament and in each one I have been on the same street as Fiona Hyslop at least once. Livingston for obvious reasons, in Dunfermline and West Fife while Willie Rennie and Douglas Chapman greeted each other elsewhere in their canvassing teams me and Fiona said hello. On the last Saturday in Glasgow East I was driven past Fiona while she was out canvassing, and then again on Saturday.

Saturday I also saw Annabel Goldie first as she arrived at the Tory HQ next door to ours, as I was being driven out to do some work. Then in Markinch town centre with their candidate Maurice Golden next to our favourite coffee house when we stopped to grab lunch, and finally as she left for the day.

While Caron has been stuck in the office in Markinch I have been out an about. But like her I have yet to run into any Labour campaigners on any of the streets I've been in. I gave seen some evidence of their existence. Leaflets on the mat behind the doors I get to, and yesterday evening in Lochgelly a Labour sticker on the ground. However, I have met on various streets SNP and Tory campaigners. I've even seen a SSCUP (Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party) deliver on my travels. But nowhere have I actually run across a Labour team, or individual actually in real time on the street. Well they have three days yet to make an appearance in my campaign, so I'll let you know on Friday.

I have however pretty much now done the compass points of the Glenrothes constituency. In the north Collydean, to the east Buckhaven and Leven, to the south Kirkcaldy North, looking across the road to Gordon Brown's constituency, and to the west Lochgelly. Though I didn't quite identify the grassy knoll green from where the threat of Sarah Brown's protection detail was aimed at the fourth estate when I travelled through Cardenden en route to Lochgelly.