Sunday 30 August 2009

Plucky Young Brit Goes Out Fighting

Miss Laura* finally got to the end of her match, started on Friday, yesterday. As I blogged earlier she had taken a lead in the first set before losing it on the tie break and then suffering the rain delay.

Yesterday she came out against Miss Eva Hrdinova to a slow start going 3-0 down. But then she showed the promise that has made her being talked about as the next big thing in British Tennis taking ten of the next twelve games, to take the second 6-4 and lead 4-1 in the final set. But the Czech ranked 257 places ahead of her pulled it back to take it the next four games to lead 5-4. But then Miss Laura took eight of the next nine point to lead 6-5 and a chance to serve for the match and a place in the main draw. But she was broken and lost the subsequent tiebreak 7-4.

However, it will not be long before we see Miss Laura getting into the main draws of the Grand Slams, she will remain in New York to take part in the Juniors event.

Fellow Brit Miss Elena** took the first set 6-4 in her final qualifier. But Australia's Miss Anastasia Rodionova took the next two 6-2, 6-4. So it is over to Mister Andrew alone in the final Grand Slam of 2009.

** Baltacha.

Fringe Review - Lady Bug Warrior #edfringe

Spaces @ Royal College of Surgeons 20:05 (Last show was last night)

Vicki Ferentinos is the Lady Bug Warrior, so big is her personality that our paths kept crossing even from a distance for much of this fringe, and I did feel somewhat guilty for not turning up to see her show. However, when Graeme Sharpe put out a call on Twitter for anyone to turn up for her last night I joined him, Adam Sawers and Andrew Gourley of the cast of Slice of Saturday Night. They turned up dressed as a Lady Bug tribute act, much to Vicki's delight (it was also their fourth time seeing the show).

The premise of the show is how she unearthed her inner superhero through a quirky, witty look at the characters that have made up, or influenced her life. The costume changes are merely an aide memoire that this is someone different in her monologue or observations about life, impoliteness and her failings as an Italian American from New Jersey, but told though her new found philosophy of telling the truth to herself as a Lady Bug Warrior.

My sides never stopped splitting as noted by Mr Sharpe, not for the first time this Fringe, I have a big laugh. It wasn't just the things she said but the way she said them and the hour just flew by. It wasn't so much a sprinkling of one liners but a flowing of observational humour and some short vignettes thrown into the mix. The set was minimalistic and wanted to get a starring role when it wobbled on the last night, but that was all part of the charm.

It was the sort of show you wouldn't know just how it would work from the description, even from Vicki doing her own flyering, but when you got into that room you saw just how well it did work.

Before we knew it us last nighters were given a special addition a hastily put together ode to Scotland. Which while telling the stereotypical stuff done by Vicki was delivered superbly and fresh.

Vicki will be flying home, not a favourite pastime, shortly having had a great time over here in Edinburgh, even with our weather this month. She certainly has lightened up a large number of peoples' day by her presence.

Fringe Review - Peter Duncan's Daft and Dangerous #edfringe

Pleasance Beyond 18:30

Yes Blue Peter's Peter Duncan is on the fringe with his Daft and Dangerous show. He's is doing a self deprecating look back over his whole career from his first nude appearance on the cover of a baby's knitting pattern. It is a real cabaret performance with audience participation. He mixes, humour, song, a Blue Peter make, pantomime, video playbacks and his tightrope skills learnt for playing Barnum.

Even seeing as it is a one man show, ok with interaction from his tech guy and pianist, he also uses the screen to interact with Brain Cant and Andy Hamilton, as God and the Devil. The reminiscences are some that all of us can share to differing degrees. Last night, and probably most nights, my audience shouted out 'Not that One' when Peter's scene from Flash popped up on screen.

As well as doing his own career he does an excellent transformation into Charlie Chaplin's little tramp, the star of cabaret discovering the character who would make his big, and a song sung as the late Danny La Rue about the plot of musicals.

But this is an hilarious rump and one where the talent is sweating because he is still an action man. It also may have been advisable for Richard Bacon to watch his fellow former Blue Peter presenter before doing his 10 minutes of stand up, because Peter did not have a silent room. Even we he is singing and walking the tightrope for his Grand Finale.

Saturday 29 August 2009

Rain Delay Hitting Young Brit

Mister Stephen is off up in Edinburgh to see about his fringe, heaven knows where he'll find it it's been missing for years now.

Anyhoo, as I wrote last night the young cubess of British Tennis Miss Laura* is playing in Blushing Meadow between the showers we'd be expecting at SW19, but didn't get this summer. She made a promising start leading 5-2 in the first set of the final qualifying round against world number 128 Miss Eva 'Lck of Vwls' Hrdinova. Unfortunately for British Tennis fans the Czech came back to force a tie break which she won 8-6, but the heavens have since opened. Here's hoping Miss Laura can get her mind ready for the restart whenever that happens.

Miss Elena** our other Brit hoping to join Mister Andy the second best man in the world in the main draw is still waiting to hit a ball in her match due to the rain.

** Baltacha.

Fringe Review - Pippa Evans - Your Evenings Entertainment #edfringe

Eek just found this still as a draft and it should have been published on the 15th. But having sent Ruaraidh to see the show it's a shame that mores haven't seen my review of this show.

Pleasance Beside 18:20

Even the build up to this show at The Pleasance's 'premier porta-cabin' is used for comic effect, the normal dour safety notices are springled with joke. Then when the lights finally go down we are introduced to the first of Pippa's three character of the night, the recently widowed cabaret performer. She sings some of the songs dedicated to her late man, including her part of their favourite song together, classic as you try and work out the rest of the words.

The songs are comedic, as are the characterisations. Pippa may well turn out to be the Victoria Woods of the new generation of comediennes. Her 'guest' performer from the states has turned her back on meat, depite some of her other violent lyrics. She asks for like minded people in the audience so I was the brave veggie to put my hand in the air (Update so was Ruaraidh) and ended up having a song sung to us, which eventually leads to her craving a Big Mac by the closing bars.

This show may have been in the porta cabin beside the Courtyard but there is nothing temporary about the act you will witness. Even Mr Horton of Horton Meats the show's sponsor (a poor unknowing member of the audience) gets a cameo role. In my case he was sat beside me and did a splendid job of reading out the letter 'he' had left in the dressing room. Get along to see it, you really will enjoy this evening's entertainment.

Friday 28 August 2009

British Tennis Would Rather the Rain was at Wimbledon

Well Mister Stephen certainly got the lioness's hearts pumping, and a few of the lions as well, earlier when his posted this pic of Mister Andy. It makes you think that the event may be played at Blushing Meadow.

But while Mister Nasty John is tipping the young cub from Dunblane to take over as king of the New York pride from Herr Roger, not Señor Rafa. There is a lioness cub and an other more experienced Brit lioness praying that the rain would go away and fall on SW11 rather that NYC. For both young Miss Laura* and Miss Elena** are one win away from joining Mister Andy in the main draw, but dark clouds of the literal sense are hanging over New York. Rain is forecast for today when they are supposed to be playing and again tomorrow. You can hear the Wimbledon fans roaring 'Get a roof!'

Miss Laura created a stir in New York on Wednesday when she shook paws at the end of the game a comfortable winner 7-5 6-1 over World 128 Mademoiselle Stephanie Foretz who is 332 places higher ranked. She was to play a lady who really needs a more even spread of vowels the Czech Slecna Eva Hrdinov. While Miss Elena is looking to take on the Aussie Miss Anastasia Rodionova.

It's all sounding rather Eastern European in the women's game even those that live elsewhere, and with Miss Martina junior taking to the dance floor in Sparkly Guys Prancing it really is the wrong time for New York to have a long rain storm. We remember Mister Goran against Mister Tim.


Fibbing Tory Bears in the Hood Today

I see that Tory Bear is up to his normal scare mongering, telling half truths and well.....fibbing about what the Lib Dems are up to.

He is taking issue with this article published last year prior to Autumn conference which said:

"The leaders of the Liberal Democrats plan to abandon the party's opposition to student tuition fees."

But went on to say:

"[Stephen] Williams acknowledged that he and Mr Clegg were likely to face strong opposition from many in the party who felt that its stance at the 2005 election, as the only mainstream party supporting free higher education, was an important distinguishing factor."

Well guess what Tory Bear before you accuse the Lib Dems lying about the policy you should check how the vote went to ammend the policy or look at policy on the party website.

You see Harry unlike at Tory Party conference the head doesn't move and the body follows. The head may suggest something but the delegates get their say, their vote to take action as the party decides. Not only do we not just want to keep up our opposition to Tuition fees we expanded the scope of that in March of this year.

Who's the fibber now?

It appears that the above advise may also be something that Irfan Ahmed needs to take on board.

Just for Caron - The Blogger Meet Gossip

Last night House of Twits retweeted Caron's Tweet:

So here, to the best of my recollection is any that is permissible for the public record.

Me and Lionel turned up early and secured a table under cover next to the Pleasance Courtyard bar. From here I could watch both entrances to the Courtyard while Lionel got on with reading this months copy of Total Politics which just happened to be in my bag.

The first blogger I recognised was Will Howells meandering across the Courtyard looking lost with his ear surgically conjoined to his mobile. However, he got close enough for me to head over and say hi. But he was looking for the queue to the Pleasance Above to go for the next show of his 7/8 show Fringe-athon.

Then to my surprise Ruaraidh Dobson turned up with a friend. They were looking to see a show and after trying to make up their mind asked me for a recommendation. I suggested Pippa Evans who I'd seen before. I also said that due to Ruaraidh's dietary situation that if he went she would sing a song to him. There was a bet of a pint on this outcome. They then went off to buy tickets.

In the meantime somewhere in the Courtyard were Jess the Dog and Andrew Tibbs, but obviously a Lion reading Total Politics wasn't working as a clue. Jeff resplendent in Golden Tie turned up, followed by Doctor Vee with Sarah. Malc then turned up for his soft drinks what with Saturday's 21 mile training run and the Loch Ness Marathon 5 weeks away. At this point Ruaraidh came back past the table with tickets on the way to the Pleasance Beside to find a table full of bloggers and some hasty introductions were made. Before he went to queue up in front of Marcus Brigstocke.

Jess and Andrew then found our crew. (Order of arrival is not easily remembered so apologies if the order behind Jeff is wrong. However, Jeff (aka courtesy of Malc 'Number Two' or 'jobby') announced that Tom Harris the only more popular Scottish blogger in the recent poll had donated £20 towards a round, providing we kept the receipt. Round duly bought and consumed Angry Steve turned up and snapped numerous pictures some of which you can see here. Then Wendy drove over with the Glasgow taxi carrying Yousuf and Holyrood Patter turned up. James of the Two Doctors was the final blogger of the evening to make our acquaintance.

So that's all who was there onto the gossip.

Lionel was flirting outrageously with the female flyerers. Duncan mentioned the future path of the Scottish Round Up. Malc and I had a chin wag about running and Wendy refused to divulge her times. Discovered that Jess the Dog is now a West Lothian blogger living as he does in Linlithgow. We talked about the support or otherwise we were getting over our various stances of Magrahi. Angry Steve was angrily tearing up any flyer that dared to get placed on our table. Tory Bear and Irfan Ahmed got absentia mentions, I think in the same sentence. Malc, Jeff and Wendy possibly others all asked me how Caron was and expressed how sad they were that she still is up to a night out like last night.

A big cheer went up when it got dark enough for Yousuf to break yesterday's fast. Then great debate over the merits of salt and sauce, at which the Weggie had turned his nose up at. Holyrood Patter and I discussed the nice chippy Babylon on the corner of Cappielow and how I may miss their chips if the SFA don't overturn the Livingston decision. On our celebrity watch as well as Marcus Brigstocke, Dara O'Brain was also spotted around the place, looking rather more svelte than was expected.

It eventually did get rather windy and wet to the group moved en masse down the hill to Holyrood 9A and the dry. Will Howells caught us up and a thank you card was signed by all (and PPed by me on Caron's behalf at Jeff's insistence) to Tom Harris. Slowly we all dispersed with me ensuring that Yousuf and HP found Waverley. Although having just missed my penultimate train I ended up getting just in time to avoid turning into a pumpkin.

Friday Blog Phwoar!!!

I opened The Times this morning and saw the picture to the right by Howard Bingham and knew that a few of my readers would appreciate me sharing it.

You know who you are!

Lionel having met the fellow bloggers again last is getting all excited about doing some more blogging and indeed asked "Can I write about Mister Andrew's attempt to take Mister Roger's shiny pot off him?" with a request like that how could I refuse.

Watch Lionel's take on proceedings at the US Open Tennis coming soon.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like.....

Hilton Community Centre in Inverness were running activities for young people that were proving so popular that is proving difficult for them to get them to leave at 10pm.

A councillor John Finnie said:

"There has been a lot of work which has gone into the facilities at Hilton Community Centre.

"They are very attractive to young people and that is down to the work of volunteers, the council but primarily the excellent work of Hilton Community Centre management committee."

He said sports, music and computer games sessions were on offer. But he added:

"They are so very much appreciated by the young folk that they are very keen to hang around and don't want to go home at 10pm."

So the organisers came up with a cunning plan to start playing songs from The Sound of Music and it works. If it doesn't the fall back plan is nursery rhymes. After all no self respecting teenager is going to want to be seen listening to nursery rhymes even if they are doing other activities.

All I can say is if you're sixteen going on seventeen, or any other age for that matter clearly the hills aren't that alive to the sound of music, or maybe it's just not your favourite thing.

Thursday 27 August 2009

The Bloggers Have Their Picnic

If you go down to the Pleasance tonight, you better go in disguise.

If you do down to the Pleasance tonight, you're in for a big surprise.

For every blogger that ever there was*

Is gathered there this evening because

Today's the day the MacBlogosphere has its fringe meet up.

Yeah, rumours that I will once again be propping up the bar at the Pleasance Courtyard may well be true. I've only talked to a few famous people there over the weeks Marcus Brigstocke, Lionel Blair, Paul Merton, Mike McShane, Stephen K Amos, Peter Duncan, Jon Richardson.

But tonight I add some other famous names from 6pm. Jeff, DoctorVee, Malc, Holyrood Patter, Wendy, to name but a handful. There will also be Lionel there (see pic) to help anybody who doesn't know us recognise us.

Was it really only last year that we had the first of our meetups and managed to collectively fail to leave the bar to get to a show. This year the vote went against a show but the banter will be up there with last year I am sure.

*Ok Not every blogger but not a bad selection of the best of the Scots.

Ted Kennedy - Mixed Feelings

My friend Caron wrote yesterday that the passing of the Senior Senator for Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy was the lose of a great liberal. Maybe it is because my first memory of him was somewhat different that the many liberal things he did were tinged with a rather darker side in my eye.

One of Ted Kennedy's last acts for to write along with 6 other Senators that letter asking Scottish Justice Mnister Kenny MacAskill not to release al-Megrahi. That letter cited the feelings of the American families. However, the man was also the same man who said the British should get out of Ireland and a United Ireland should exist.

From a country that has only been in existence since 1776 as an independent nation it sounds rather shallow. From that suppressed its own native peoples, confining them to reservations and taking up the best tracks of their land it becomes rather two faced. When some of us know our family has been working the same land we had first leased in 1710 it makes the sentiment stink.

Of course he did carry on the message on civil rights that his brothers championed, despite his wealth he sought to expand the nature of health care provision to those who could not afford it. So yes there were a lot of liberal ideals encompassed in the man. But like many of us I suppose there is a stumbling block to pleasing all of the people.

Ted knew his constituents had a large number of Catholic Irish-Americans. He came to the point of an Irish settlement late on in the day. Of course as Caron stated there was his, and other Kennedy's, influence over Gerry Adams, Martin Maginnis et al, he also was a voice that American Presidents and British Prime Ministers would listen to. In that one sense once he came to the ball game he was an influence for the peace, whereas in the 70s and 80s he was viewed with contempt by the majority in Northern Ireland.

None of the next generation of Kennedys, despite trying, seems to have the political stature of John, Robert or Edward. The one of the clan with most influence now is an Austrian former body builder and film star who married Eunice's daughter Maria. Though Ted's son Patrick is a congressman, Robert's son Joseph is also in the House and John's daughter Caroline failed in her attempt to replace Hillary Clinton as Senator for New York. There is a possibility that they or one of the other campaigners of business people in the Kennedy clan may well succeed to the seat that has been in the family's pocket since JFK first won it. Camelot though less influential now than it has been may still hold unto its foothold in this corner of their kingdom.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

The Bus Passenger's Prayer*

As regular readers of my Twitter feed will know I'm quite often Tweeting about how the bus driver may think he's Jenson Button but forget he has two decks of metal to navigate around the bends. It does make me wonder if on the bus of a newbie driver (who doesn't even know where Windyknowe is) is really the time to blog this.

I wasn't on a bus home yesterday evening, not that I would have been at Edinburgh Road in Bathgate by that sort of time either. However, I would have been wondering what was going on, why the diversion etc coming into town. Though I would admit that there are some drivers that I'm somewhat wary of.

However, as there are too many times for me to even contemplate that I or someone else has been viciously hurled around the bus or down the stairs (yeah I sit on the top deck whenever possible) I think we need to know. If you have had a particular dangerous bus trip. If the bus driver has used excessive braking or acceleration and left you feeling unsafe or caused actual harm, let the depot know. Get off and check the registration number of the bus, remember the time you got off it and the scheduled time (this may be harder with delays etc) of the bus that you think you're on. The write, email or call the depot.

On the reverse side if the driver has done a good job and got you home safely and comfortably let them know. Give a proper thank you rather a timid muffled one as you step off..

For the record this bus driver has just had a case of late braking which he then had to swerve out of to avoid a second crash for First Bus Scotland in 24 hours, as we came off the M8 and were heading towards Dechmont. Drivers especially of buses should really learn to drive to the conditions and within the envelope of driver and machine.

*The title is a take on the Ian Drury and the Blockheads song The Bus Driver's Prayer

Our Father,
Who art in Hendon
Harrow Road be Thy name
Thy Kingston come
Thy Wimbledon
In Erith as it is in Hendon.
Give us this day our Berkhampstead
And forgive us our Westminsters
As we forgive those who Westminster against us.
Lead us not into Temple Station
And deliver us from Ealing,
For thine is the Kingston
The Purley and the Crawley,
For Iver and Iver
Crouch End.

Fringe Review: Daniel Sloss -Teenage Kicks #edfringe

Pleasance 10 Dome 19:00

When you turn up to stand up with someone who knows the talent the safest place to be is cowering in the corner. So last night when Callum and I turned up to seen the teenage comic we obviously chose the sensible option and sat front and centre under the mike stand, after all what is the point of stand up if the comic doesn't engage you directly.

Don't be put off by Daniel's age. Obviously has he says his reminiscences are confined and he can't boast of his sexual conquests of women half his age but that doesn't mean that there isn't material to fill the hour; and what good material it is. He bounces, shuffles and runs through a string of material, of life for a teenager, both on the stand up circuit and in Fife. All good stuff, even defending his picture of Fife being rough against claims that St. Andrew's is in Fife and therefore posh. Yes he says there 'they beat you up with golf clubs instead of scaffolding poles'.

The laughs do come think and fast as did the audience engagement. We counted at least 10 people directly drawn in to the humour. Of course when he launched into bowlers I did heckle, he'd already established I was old, merely getting older and now but my 30 year on again, off again bowling career down to a mid-life crisis.

Yeah he tells one wank joke, but as he says he's a teenager and the show is an hour long what did we expect. He's already a 2 year veteran on the circuit but there will be a bright future for him. There are still tickets for some of the remaining shows he told up later. If you haven't already try and get along and experience teenage live, you own, your kid's as well as Daniel's through the masterful comedic phrasing and physicality that is Daniel Sloss.

You know at this stage I wish I'd started to issue star ratings at the start, but I haven't so just go. You know you want to.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Time to Stop This Political Fitba Match

"I think most opinion in Scotland is in favour of the decision to release him [Megrahi] on compassionate grounds."
Now that is the sort of considered, public listened to response I would expect from a Liberal Democrat leader. Unfortunately they were the words of Lord David Steel our former leader and not those of Tavish Scott who asked in the chamber:

"Doesn't Kenny MacAskill's comment on the need for Scottish compassion mean that no prisoner - however bad their crime - will ever have a request turned down?"

Although Kenny MacAskill's response to cite Jim Wallace's situation which was due to a loophole in The Mental Health Act (Scotland) 1984 which Labour and the Lib Dems since closed down was the wrong way to deal with it.

The answer to Tavish's question is of course no, each case should continue to be looked at on a case by case basis. Although it the severity of the situation that is to be considered, it should not be clouded by the response the prisoner received on his release. Some have asked how can a man with prostate cancer manage to climb the steps of a plane. Seeing as my father walking into hospital one Monday for a check up on his and was dead the following evening I'd say easily and horribly that is no indication.

The compassion being shown is not so much to Megrahi is as has been pointed out not so much to the man himself but his family. Some have pointed out that his wife and children have had access to him in Glasgow, but one other issue that the man himself made to journalists on the flight to Libya was his elderly mother. He urged the press not to let her know just how ill he was.

America with their more punitive justice system, if Megrahi had of be tried there, would most likely depending on state have been sitting on death row. But that doesn't give their comparative upstart of a youthful legal system the right to intervene in others. Of course they have the right to consultation and I understand that this did indeed occur. But just because you have been listened to and consulted with doesn't suddenly give you the right to have a say over another nations rule of law. That is lesson that the USA seem to be forgetting as they seem more and more to be turning the whole world into some lawless 'wild west' with them alone wearing the sheriff's badge.

While we are right from all sides to condemn the reception laid on for Megrahi on arrival at Tripoli, it is wrong to outrightly condemn the decision. It would have been easy for Kenny MacAskill to take the easy option and bow to international pressure. How anyone can see it, in light of the foreseeable reaction, as point scoring is beyond me. He made a tough decision, and bar visiting the prisoner personally, it would seem a considered one on factual criteria.

The fact that the three main* opposition parties didn't force a vote yesterday either indicates they are worried of a different public reaction against them, or aren't sure they'd carry their own votes. I don't necessarily think that Scotland's place in this world is in "tatters" not from the Americans I've seen around Edinburgh over the weekend. But the more we play political football with a legal football the more we will appear so.

*Sorry, James corrected as promised.

Monday 24 August 2009

Back to the Simple Life: A Guide for Americans to Boycott Scotland

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
So the Americans wish to boycott Scotland and all that means after the release of al-Megrahi last week, let me help you out.

First turn off the TV right now, as that was invented by John Logie Baird a Scot. You're just going to have to find other things to do with your time. But you're not going to be able to arrange it by telephone as that was invented by Alexander Graham Bell another Scot.

Yes America you are actually going to have to go around and visit people. But you can't go by car as the pneumatic tyre was invented by Scot John Dunlop and the tarmac technique of paving most roads was developed by another John Loudon McAdam.

If you get ill we can't prescribe you penicillin as Alexander Fleming discovered that. Also ultrasound, Ian Donald, and MRI Scans, John Mallard, are also out. If I were you I'd opt for the Obama health plan if you're doing away with the Scottish influence.

As for McDonalds well with a name like that it's bound to be Scottish.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Are Lib Dem Voice Readers Headline Whores?

I called on Queen Caron of the house of Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism on Friday night. When I called at the Royal residence I said that I thought, correctly it turns out, that this would make it into the top seven of this week's Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen. It is not in my opinion my best blog entry of the week, I'd say instead that these two about the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Magrahi are far better pieces of blogging, and indeed got a far broader (geographical and political spectrum) selection of readers.

I was looking at my google analytics for the week and taking into account the Dale effect of a Daley Dozen mention the number five Lib Dem post on outlinks is not even my most popular read of the week. The former of the two al-Magrahi posts is, prior to Scottish Round Up and Golden Dozen Sunday night distortion. It's not just both Caron and Andrew wrote excellent takes on different aspects* of the biggest world-wide story of the week, yet it is my correction of that young blogger from Pendle that makes the Dozen because it used his name. Link

LDV readers may mock those of the Daily Fail, yet they are still dragged into the sensationalist headlines rather than the real meaty stories. Now I know that many LDV users, especially my fellow bloggers, link to my blog entries by other means so I know a lot of you did find the al-Magarhi stories. But maybe it is the casual user of Lib Dem Blogs that causes this trend. Looking at the recent Golden Ton I can think of many well written Lib Dem blog postings that are more worthy of being there, although there are many of the Dozen that are worthy.

Of course the Lib Dem Voice Best Blogpost of the Year is one category where even a one off piece of sensationally good writing can be rewarded. Many of us, even if we are being mentioned by the odd individuals as the best blog, are considering the Blog of the Year to be down to three serious contenders, which may mean the Pachyderm packs his trunk without the award again, but the Blogpost award is far harder to predict and I suspect to judge. Will it be one of those read heavily at the time, maybe it will be a nominated entry into the Dozen or maybe it won't even have been featured at all?

There are times that the statistician in me is upset that a good, well crafted post doesn't get the coverage I think it deserves, whereas by some quirk of fate, linkage or random pick up something soars to the heavens in hits. But I'll keep writing the way I do, it's clearly upset a few people this year from the lack of repeat votes for the Total Politics Poll of Blogs, where my relative ranking shocked a number of people including Her Majesty Queen Caron. But as Andrew said, 'Stephen didn't tout for votes and his daily readership is enormous, which is a way better result for him.'

Having a large readership often means you don't blog it safe, you take on the big issues, indeed the other big bloggers, head on, you're bound to upset people along the way. With an election year that is only bound to continue after all policy will be getting written about and I know I'm going to be challenging the other parties more not less, taking the debate in directions they may not want exposed, but that is what debate is all about. Besides after all you can only please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

I'm personally looking forward to a year of keeping up the quality, keeping up the debate, keeping up challenging ideas not just of the other parties, but illiberal thoughts from fellow liberals. How often or how long I can get to it when the election gets closer is something I've yet to see, but I will not duck out for political expediency of that dear reader you can be assured.

*Caron and I taking international abuse for our opinions.

Where the Mockery Really Lies

Well my post on the release of al-Megrahi caused a little bit of a reaction over the weekend. Including this from an American reader (I've deleted the expletives):

"As an American I would just like to say.....You release a convicted murderer and then you blog about how the people in the states just don't understand how compassionate you are? F*** all of you highlander, lowlander, gaelic-wanna be, kilt-wearing, eurotrash. Thank God my ancestors left your stinking s***-hole of an island!"

As Callum replied in the comments 'Thanks for your constructive comment Lincoln County. Not showing a lot of compassion with your blatant racism are ya?'. Then today I have Jack McConnell the former Labour First Minister saying that the majority of Scotland is against the decision that the Justice Minister made. I'm not too sure on that, yes there is a vocal section against the decision, there is another vocal section against the way it was made. But the former is largely from Labour, with support from the Tories. So by accusing the Nats of politicising the release decision he appears to be also doing so in his attack.

There is also a letter today from former FBI director Robert Mueller in which he calls the release a 'mockery to justice'. I'm sorry I beg to differ, al-Megrahi was not given a release based on a judicial decision over the legal ramifications of his case. On regular occasions these appeals were quite rightly turned down. However, there is a situation where medical evidence can be taken into account for the grounds of a compassionate release in the dying days of someone with time still to serve.

The former head of the FBI has decided to take this occasion to break his own pledge of never 'comment on the actions of other prosecutors' to break his silence, concluding by saying.

"You have given the family members of those who died continued grief and frustration. You have given those who sought to assure that the persons responsible would be held accountable the back of your hand. You have given Megrahi a ''jubilant welcome'' in Tripoli, according to the reporting. Where, I ask, is the justice?"

Of course the neature of his return to Libya was outside our control beyond teh request for it to be low key. But as I did say on Friday there was no comment of the type of the start of that concluding paragraph, it's on the the back of the letter from seven US Senators, including Ted Kennedy. However, Kennedy is only recently a convert to the case that terrorist should serve out their sentence and not be shown compassion. Up until then he was largely supported of the Irish Republicans in Massachusetts for his own political gain. Indeed it was only after 9/11 when Gerry Adams and Martin Maginness were actually moving towards democracy over violence Kennedy actually distanced himself from their cause.

So of course there was no outcry about a mockery of justice from America about early release of Northern Ireland Terrorists who had killed in total more than that fateful night, many of whom showed no remorse. Indeed when Mo Mowlam stalled the release programme in 1999 when the IRA had broken the terms on arms procurement it was the Americans who spoke to urge her to carry on. Of course the Northern Ireland release programme was the right thing to do in the light of the peace process just as al-Megrahi's is right in terms of his own imminent death.

But of course the Americans, either collectively or on occasion the odd individual, this week are showing signs of selective memory over justice as far as killing by terrorism is concerned. That sadly is what is the real mockery, not the actions taken impartially on medical evidence by the Scottish Justice Minister

Friday 21 August 2009

MacAskill Makes Sound Judgement in Face of Emmotive Opposition

On the 12 December 1988 I was about 5 minutes further towards London Waterloo than the Clapham Rail disaster occurred.

On the Saturday of that week the 17th me and a friend were driving past Lockerbie on the then A74 at about 7pm. Wednesday the next week Pan Am Flight 103 came crashing out of the sky there.

Also that Christmas while I was home I was out for a run, came in showered, went down to watch the news and saw a bomb had gone off in the last hour along my route of that night.

December that year was a memorable one for that young student at the end of his first term of tertiary education. Being raised in Northern Ireland of course I was also used to seeing the families of victims of terrorism on TV all the time. Therefore the reactions to the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate got me thinking back to those more troubled times.

On the TV those families had one of two reactions, there was either bitter anger or a forgiving compassionate response. I long knew which type of person I'd far rather spend more time with. The latter weren't hurting any less than the former but showed compassion, maturity, not wishing to escalate what was often a volatile situation any further.

If like many other times this year there was a story about a terminally ill prisoner being given compassionate release from prison, it may have made the front page of a local paper, but a column inch, if that, in the national's other news section. It is because of who it is and the nature and extent of the crime that this got this attention.

I was mischievous earlier about Kenny MacAskill sounding more like a Kirk Minister than a Government one. But unlike Daniel Hannan's playing to an American audience and forgetting the home viewers reaction, MacAskill was playing to both. He attempted to appease both sides with the promise that the decision was hard come by.That he eulogised about a higher power and a greater inescapable sentence being imposed, but it failed to quell the anger of some of the American families.

There were issues with the handling of the build up but the resultant outcome was the right one. America can shout and scream all it wants to but they have a legal system lacking compassion. In reality they have an Old Testament legality overlooking the New Testament, there an eye for an eye still holds true, here we believe in re-education and reintegration.

Back to the Northern Irish situation the peace dividend, after many Americans supported the IRA cause, has led to many of those who carried out killings to be released. Did we see a hoopla in the States about any of the IRA murderers being released early, not even on grounds of compassion due to imminent terminal disease? No, of course we didn't, but then these releases were also right in a different way.

The Americans are sadly,to an extent, largely, a selfish people, it is part of their inward lookingness. Their national champions in some sports after all are called World Champions. But some of the squawking about the shame to Scotland and the Scottish people shows the shame to the American people.

Back to those scenes on the TV in Northern Ireland and just over a year before Lockerbie one of the most emotive appearances for Gordon Wilson who held unto his dying daughter Marie's hand under the rubble of the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bomb. He was a victim physically and emotionally as someone present and as someone losing a dear one. His initial and lasting reaction was not to condemn those who had carried out the atrocity but to work for a lasting peace. After the release by Scotland of al-Megrahi some American statesmen are saying this will change how they deal with Libya. Why? How? Surely that is the wrong way to build a lasting peace. Libya are trying to get involved in the global fight against terrorism these days, steps have been made to a reconciliation, so why do Americans react this way?

A nation that shows compassion finds it easier to look past the past, one that hold grudges finds it harder to let it go. So while the triumphalism of al-Megrahi's return to Libyan soil was over the top so too has been the heightened of tension, deepening of old wounds that the American political class and media has stirred up.

MacAskill made a tough decision, but made a right one based on the medical evidence and leaving emotions out of it. If emotions cloud our rationale in making these sort of decisions we end up getting involved in trying to justify those actions with dubious facts (WMD in Iraq anyone?).

Thursday 20 August 2009

I Relinguish my Crown......For Now

The Total Politics Top 50 Scottish Blogs have just been released on the Web. Tom Harris MP retains his top spot over the strong challenge of SNP Tactical Voting* who supersedes the falling Greek Baby down to 4th as Underdog Bites Upwards takes the final podium spot.

On the Lib Dem front we have a new top blogger in my good friend Caron climbing 23 to 7th heaven. I am a non-mover at eleven again this year. Just can't break into that top 10, although I was getting worried after I failed to appear on a number of the published Scottish bloggers top ten votes that I'd been on last year. So I probably have to thank more of my non-Scottish readers this year (of course the votes that did come from Soctland are also appreciated). I also know I shan't be top Lib Dem blogger in the UK this year.

The rest of the Top 10 (ie the blogs that voters think is better than this):

5 (8) Two Doctors GP
6 (28) Malc in the Burgh
8 (NE) Yappinng Yousuf LA
9 (NE) Scottish Unionist NA
10 (4) J Arthur MacNumpty NA

Also flying the Lib Dem bird are Andrew Reeves up 18 19 to 18 17, Bernard Salmon up 4 5 to 25 24, new entry Willie Rennie MP at 26 25, Fraser MacPherson the top Scottish Councillor is at 29 28 a drop of 7 6. Iain Dale (ours) is at a respectable 39 38 seeing he hasn't blogged a lot recently and Katy Gordon is at 46 45. The Young Uns probably need a little more frequency in their infrequent blogging, although they have had some cracking posts this year. All in all not a bad Lib Dem showing, apart from Ruaraidh, Callum and Kieran.

Although Iain Dale is at it again this year making Freedom and Whisky a Lib Dem when he's an SNP voting Libertarian and Peter Cranie Green MEP for the North West is in the Scottish list at 12. So everyone behind me move up one spot (unless someone like Greener Leith maybe should be there).

I've also now wound up Jeff by linking through to all the Lib Dems in Scotland with correct spellings to aid their Wikio rankings.

I'm off to console myself by looking at how stupid my blind write up of the MacBlogopshere for the book looks in comparison to how the list turned out.

UPDATE: Andrew Reeves seems to be in more shock than me with the outcome, so much so he neglects to congratulate Caron in this blog post: surely an oversight. Though he does have kind words about me. I'd just like to assure our Director of Campaigns that I am capable of 'touting for votes' where it really matters in this election year.

UPDATE 2: I see after causing a 4 letter DM via Twitter from Dale Towers that Peter Cranie has been removed from the Scottish list. I've put a not on my google calendar to remind him not to copy and paste the same designation for the Green MEP again next July.

*He deserves all the links he gets after this.

Thane of Buchan's Feudal Ransom

In the past I have called the First Minister the Thane of Banff and Buchan but this isn't about him but the actual 17th Earl of Buchan. The ransom in question is £67,250 of West Lothian Council money for signing over the feudal deed for the former Broxburn Primary School.

In today's West Lothian Courier the story of how the majestic, though now boarded up and vandalised, building on Broxburn Main Street has unfolded since it was last used as a school 10 years ago. The Council who owns the building tried to sell it on to a developer for £140,000 to turn in to a private nursery and leisure facility. However, during the sale negotiations it was unearthed that the original title deed prevented any other land use other than for educational purposes. The feudal deed goes back 150 years and the current Earl of Buchan, Malcolm Erskine lives in Hampshire with no interests in West Lothian at all.

There are a number of feudal deeds still around, as I found out when I first had an offer accepted prior to mortgage arrangement when I first moved here, but generally these are easily dealt with. The spirit of this original deed was obviously that the then Earl wanted to ensure that the children of his tenants were receiving an education. So with the children of Broxburn well served with local primary schools the spirit of that title deed is no longer required. The council faced a similar issue with the deeds of the old Bathgate Academy a few years ago, but that was settled a the site was developed for residential use, whilst maintaining the listed old school building.

The issue that the land has not been of direct use to the Earls of Buchan for 150 years but now the present title holder is demanding £67,250 to basically finally sign away his forefathers clause is maybe a sign that for some the feudal system still exists. In the meantime the building itself remains empty and a growing eyesore on the Main Street.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Tory Not Honest Over Second Job in Health

They want to appear to be the 'honest' party of British Politics, after all that does seem to be their latest mantra to throw into every sound bite.

They want to appear to be fully behind the NHS after Daniel Hannan MEP saying the the NHS was a '60 year mistake'.

They want openness and honest about their members second jobs, even as in the case of John Lamont seeking his second mandate after they have used such two-jobbing as a tool to attack.

Yet it has emerged that Shadow Health Minister Lord Ian McColl hasn't been open about his conflict of interests. The ignoble Lord is a paid consultant for Endeavour Health a private health care company, offering a private GP and Dental network to the best while beating NHS queue. They have also been quick to turn a profit out of fear from the potential Swine Flu pandemic.

Apparently the news that Lord McColl was a paid consultant to Endeavour Health was news to David Cameron, whose office said he was unaware of the Minister's role with the GP network. The Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was also out of the loop saying that his colleague had never raised the issue with the health team of which he has been part of since 1997.

Cameron has so far been treading a line of non-action (no surprise there from these Tories) over the NHS. No action has been taken against Hannan. However, what stance will he take over deceit and failing to disclose an interest, not merely in one speech or question on a subject, but on the entire portfolio Lord McColl is supposed to be shadowing.

UPDATE: I see that Mr Dale has waded into the defence of Lord McColl but is broadly missing the point on a few scores.

It is not the fact that he has a second job that is the major concern but that the fact that it has direct conflict with running the Government funded NHS. A position he has been shadowing for 12 years so how a former Tory PPC can fail to know part of their health team astounds me.

Also Iain shows part of the Tory dilemma he points out that in attendance allowance the Lord would have earned £27,840, saying "unless you have private means, you have to have outside work". I guess me and millions of other still have a lot to aspire to, and a lot more work to do to even get to a level to think about having an outside job then as well, to make ends meet.

But of course bravo to Iain for using his private health insurance to free up a spot on the NHS waiting list. At least he can afford to unlike many others, either here or in the USA, who would/are not be able to get the health care they need with a national health care provision that is free at the point of entry.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Target Seats were Based on Evidence at the Time Irfan

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Irfan Ahmed (who no longer deserves links for stupidity) is today asking 'Who Picked the Lib Dem Target Seats?'. Why? Because leading Tory blogger Iain Dale is questioning the decision.

Now I don't have my scrawlings on me from 6-8 May 2005 from when I started to see which seats we were strong in after the last General Election. Nor have I been too up on the change to boundaries in England, with Scotland pretty settled for Westminster this time, I've been more concerned with council and now Scottish Parliamentary boundary changes. However, I'm sure I’m not the only Lib Dem anorak who drew up an order of attack of winnable seats.

It must be remembered, although I doubt Irfan looked at it like that, that in 2005 the Tories made little inroad into Labour after making none at all in 2001. They had pretty much at that time flat-lined. Of course Labour have since gone into freefall which somehow in our two party focused media makes no idea’s Tories the team to push rather than the brimming with ideas Lib Dems.

Also the reason that most of the targets were Tories is that we lost a few of our seats narrowly to the Conservatives in 2005. They were places of strength that we could fight to win back. A lot of our gains were also in Labour seats. So by winning in Labour seats and losing to Tories a policy of equidistance to both parties obviously leads to the conclusion that I, other and the campaign team did of which were the most winnable seats next time out.

Or course electoral calculus is a constantly shifty art as opinion polls can rise and fall like the spring tide. But to set out to win a seat is a task of years Of course there are also the few surprises each time based on local conditions, remember Manchester Whittingham, did any Lib Dem see that coming? The fact is the list is split 16-14 Conservative to Labour is based purely on swing required to win, of course there are others on the list of target that Mr Dale hasn't even listed.

Irfan before you put all your faith in Conservatives talk of targeting seats look at a few object lessons. Personally I present Edinburgh South. In 2005 two of their held wards (under the old single councillor boundaries) moved into the Scottish seat. They were still only third in number of held wards in the seat but they said they were going to win. They missed by about 4,000 votes the Lib Dems missed by 405. They still consider it a target seat but across the Scottish seat they trail the Lib Dems by 6,000 votes now as opposed to 5,000 in 2003 dropping to 4th in the process, and that was a bad night for us. Of course the Tories want to talk up their chances against us as much as possible, we are in election year after all. Not everything that the party of 'honesty' has been saying recently should be taken at face value it is loaded to the core.

So object lesson before you start to question based on opposition propaganda best to look at the facts from the time decisions were made. Look at how poorly the people spreading the propaganda also get things wrong.

Salmond's Illusion of Freedom

In the Scottish edition of today's Times there is a look at Professor Tom Gallagher's new book The Illusion of Freedom: Scotland Under Nationalism. In it he compares Salmond's leadership to that of Tony Blair, surrounded by a band of loyal advisers more closely than the party machine. He writes:

"Salmond rules through a small group of loyalists, some of whom have been by his side for a long time while others, still in their twenties, have only recently hitched themselves to his star."

Also the book looks at just who hope Scotland would have should he ever achieve the goal of independence. His summary of the team that would take us on in such an event is not inspiring:

"A look at the SNP reveals few builders or people driven by compassion and concern for the condition of Scottish society in present times. Instead there are many people motivated by driving ambition, ideological obsessions and a few who find it hard to contain their disdain for three centuries of the British experience or indeed the broader story of Western achievement which Scots contributed to in disproportionate numbers."

There is also cutting remarks, as if comparison to Blair was no enough that the Nats are actually Unionists in disguise. What has been revealed in their planning for independence is that there is no plan to replace some of the national institutions that derive from the rest of the UK. The whole central bank debacle in recent times. The desire to cling to the Union's monarchy rather than looking at potentially the rightful heir to Scottish throne disbarred by the British Parliamentarians by the Act of Settlement.

But most tellingly of all is that along with maintaining some of the functions of the Union what will sustain an 'independent' Scotland isn't so much oil revenue but an even greater reliance on unionism, European Unionism. The smaller state is going have to rely on greater handouts from Brussels than from Westminster, and hand over more sovereignty than the UK is prepared to do so.

One lesson Prof. Gallagher seems to be telling not fully committed nationalist inclined voters is be careful what you wish for.

Monday 17 August 2009

Beware the Men (and Women) in White Suits

If you are a discredited Member of Parliament over the expenses scandal and not one of those that is standing down, beware the man in a white suit is organising. The MP for Tatton from 1997-2001 Martin Bell and the former Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy Terry Waite are organising a concerted effort of independent anti-sleaze candidates for those that are determined to stand again.

For certain Liberal Democrat PPCs this could spark bad news. As the party that has been pushing for reform of the whole system, expenses, voting, contributions, House of Lords etc, some of our candidates were well placed to make the most of the party's historic stance on such issues, rather the Johnny come lately and lightly approach of both the Tories and Labour parties.

The independents will be looking to bring back honest politics, the mantra that is being high-jacked by the Conservative Party of late. Seeing as the Tories through George Osbourne are claiming to be the 'dominant progressive party' when their spending cuts are going to be regressive to the poorest in our society. As Danny Alexander MP said:

"A progressive party would not cut taxes for multimillionaires, stand in the way of reforming parliament or side with bigots, homophobes and climate change deniers in Europe."

Even Lord Mandelson recognises how 'laughable' their approach is:

""Would they really consider it would be progressive to do that, with the economic and human consequences that their actions would have now?

"At one level it is laughable. At another, I think it is frankly irresponsible for them even to put forward these ideas."

But the Tories approach to the truth, their twisting of language and there inaction over reform is where honesty is needed. But it is not coming from them, it has not come from Labour and looks unlikely to emerge.

The Lib Dems have said we need change, have said how it can be achieved, admitted it will be tough. While sticking to our principles realise that in current times some of that will have to be aspirational rather than deliverable immediately, because of the mess we are in. This is in deference to the Tories thinking progressive for the rich won't be regressive for the poor and Labour who are denying everything, and still blaming the Tories 12 years on.

So there is a need for honesty in politics. The big two haven't got it. The men and women in white might do enough to keep them in if it splits the vote for reform.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Fringe Review: Marc Hogan -Actions Speak Louder than Birds #edfringe

Cabaret Bar, Zoo Southside 19:15

So what makes a corporate speaker become a stand up at the Fringe?

The influence of Dave Gorman? No.

Copious amounts of alcohol and an open mike? Well possibly but not in this case.

A bet for £1? Could be!

Yeah Marc Hogan himself persuaded me in the Fringe Box Office queue to go and see his show. He wasn't speaking directly to me but to he people stood behind me. But it was enough for me, even if a PowerPoint presentation based comedy show is a bit of a busman's holiday. But hey I like Dave Gorman and the guy in the queue was funny.

Funny he remained. He basically did a presentation on how to give a presentation, but was self-deprecating on the number of jokes included. They were not merely confined as his 'agenda' stated to the slot between 19:50- 19:55. Along the way we learnt about safer sex, and how cuddling Koala's may not be be best idea to remain STD free, as well as an interesting way to determine Good and Evil from the side of their entrance. The latter brought up some interesting observations. Who'd have thought it of Mary Poppins?

But as Marc said when taking the best last year a pound was a lot of money. However, with the credit crunch maybe hitting on corporate luxuries maybe corporate presentations may dry up, to a sigh of relieve from many desk jockeys. However, even with the box office's share of the takings taken out I'm sure that the original £1 bet is the least of Marc's financial rewards for this show, though there were still a few empty seats last night so I suspect tickets are still available, so get along and have a right old laugh.

UPDATE: I found through backlinks that Marc has a blog about his endeavour, and has linked to this blog. If I tell him that I was the person he looked at to his extreme right on Saturday he will know just why he got such a 'good' review off me.

Saturday 15 August 2009

Fringe Review - A Slice of Saturday Night #edfringe

The Space @ The Royal College of Surgeons (no more 16:45 slices remaining)

Well it is Saturday night, or at least early evening when I finally catch my slice of Saturday Night, by the Why Not Musical Theatre Company.. As the audience walk I'm greeted by a frozen cast tableaux one of whom has his trousers down by his ankles revelling his Union Jack boxers, only once we are all seated does the music begin and the cast all complete preparations for their night at Club a-Go-Go.

But when they get going you are toe-tapping along with them intermingled with an hilarious mix of lyrics from the Heather Brothers. If you ever wanted to hear a song about premature ejaculation song with total professionalism and comic expression and timing, amongst other teenage angst, this young production certainly shine. There is the hesitancy of shy love, the over confidence that a girlfriend will forgive all indiscretions and the bravado that one can pull any girl 'even frigid Brigid'.

Of course while the boys are over compensating for lack of wham bam thank you ma'am, the girls are trying to appear more innocent than they are. But they can rely on Eric de Vene their host to help out his regulars with some advise, if not always sound. Advise for the guys on how to cope with tenting in the groin through dance steps, or that the best way to keep the girl is the 'pork pie'.

All to glorious music the tunes of which are strangely familiarish but the lyrics most certainly are not. Or at least not when you first hear them, me I'm still humming them.

However, no matter how much you like this review sadly I was one of those indulging in the last Slice of Saturday Night for this fringe. But I will be looking out for their future productions. If they are of this standard I'll be back.

Our Disenfranchised Soldiers - Lib Dems Seek Solution

Earlier this week Jess the Dog an ex-RAF officer turned blogger highlighted the fact that our service men and women on active service are currently effectively disenfranchised under current election laws. As he points out that under the current voting system there are only 11 days, inclusive of weekends, from the point at which candidates’ names are confirmed, to printing in the UK, delivery of papers and posting to the overseas destination and back to the chosen constituency. Quite simply this does not work for those serving overseas.

He would be glad to know that on the 21st September this is one of the things that are being address in the Liberal Democrat conference. Under the motion Reaffirming the Military Covenant on the agenda for that day there are 8 actions being called for:

  • The basic pay of the lower ranks and NCOs to be brought in line with the equivalent police ranks, so that a private in Afghanistan is paid no less than a newly qualified police constable, funded through the MOD staff restructuring
  • A doubling of the number of forces' family homes refurbished from around 800 to 1600 per year, halving the length of time it will take to achieve the highest grade, funded through reasonable reductions in senior armed forces officers in the MOD.
  • A review of the current arrangements for repair and maintenance of the of forces' accommodation with the feasibility study on returning to a warden system for military housing estates.
  • The military covenant between the state, society and the army to be codified to guarantee real entitlements for service personnel of the three services and their families.
  • Proper medical provision for all service personnel including post-conflict debriefings and counselling, with particular emphasis on post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Reform to voting arrangements for service personnel so that they and their families can exercise their democratic rights.
  • Savings to be sought from fighter jet procurement and operational costs and invested in helicopters for Afghanistan to provide additional capabilities.
  • A full -scale Strategic Security and Defence Review.

Admittedly the one line about voting somehow seems lacking in detail compared to some of the other actions. So what exactly can be done.

The recent America elections of course had some close counts delayed while the absentee ballots (often of forces personnel) arrived to be counted. This is one possible solution but can you imagine the disappointment on Dimbleby's or Kyle's face if a barracks, port or airbase of active personnel fell within one or more of their marginals on the night and they'd have to wait for the Service Post to get back with the papers to give them the full result, rather that at some point in the early hours of Friday morning.

A lot of our personnel now have some sort of online connection to the outside world. If not directly where they are stationed at least at home base. The actual delivery and return therefore of a vote to these personnel need not take too long. If any section of our community were worthy of an expansion of the franchise into electronic voting the forces certainly are a prime case.

Surely some secure server connection to a central online polling station in the UK which could link the service persons service number to their registered address would allow them to vote on all the relevant elections taking place that day where they are based. This could also be set up like the early voting in America to allow personnel who are destined to be on missions on polling day to cast their vote. Then at 10pm on election night all these ballots can be sent out to the relevant returning officers at the counts to add into their tallies.

We're toyed with the idea of electronic voting and this is one group that would benefit most from its introduction in my opinion. Yet somehow the Government do not seem to have moved the position on since 2006 when as Jess pointed out Total Politics ran a report on the issue which included the following:

Douglas Young, of the British Armed
Forces Federation
(BAFF) says: "The run-up to the 2005 general election was
an utter farce. There's still anger about it". His report 'Silence in the
detailed the problems faced by members of the armed forces including
legislative changes in 2000, website information and postal voting problems.

Andrew Robathan MP for Blaby criticised the government for being dismissive:
"I firmly believe the government didn't want people in the armed forces voting
because of the large numbers who wouldn’t vote Labour. The government dragged
its heels deliberately", he says.

What has changed? Nothing. Are the government still more scared of losing the votes of the forces than being fair in allowing their democratic voice to be heard? It looks like it and that is something that seriously needs to be redressed.

Fraser MacPherson Top Lib Dem and Top Scottish Councillor Blogger

Total politics have released the top 30 councillor's blogs and I'd like to congratulate my Lib Dem colleague Fraser MacPherson for coming in at number 16.

This makes his top Lib Dem ahead of Brain Robson, Anders Hanson and the councillor for my old ward from University days Mary Reid at 28, 28 and 30 respectively.

He is also if my reckoning is right top Scottish Councillor Blog ahead of Andrew BurnsLink at 19 and Ewan Aitkens* at 21. So no right wing councillor blog for us north of the Border in the

So well done to one the the Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism team on doing do well in the Councillor's list on the Total Politics Poll. In total alongside the 4 Lib Dems there are 9 Labour, 14 Conservative, 2 Plaid Cymru and 1 non-alligned counillors making up the top 30.

Personally I do think it is shame that there are no SNP councillors in that list, but then I can't think out of all the plethora of SNP blogs that there is a councillor amongst them.

*Labour man Ewan is listed as Conservative on the list whoops. Correction has been sent off to Mr Dale.

Friday 14 August 2009

Fringe Review: Johnny Meister + the Stitch #edfringe

The Spaces @ The Royal College of Surgeons 20:35

This is a fast, frenetic drama carried out as two monologues by the young stars John Travers as Johnny Meister and Brain Markey as David 'Stitch' Brown. That someone can bring together the humour, pathos and poetry of a Belfast brogue in a mark of the genius of Rosemary Jenkinson the writer, and the two young stars are able to hold the audience draw them in (even those for which the slang is not native) and excite and lead them on a emotive journey. To do that in isolation for most of the hour is true greatness in the writing and brilliance of the acting.

The world these two bad lads inhabit is a little mixed up to say the least there are drugs, underage sex, sex with MILFs, fights and drink. But despite wanting to stay out of each others paths they are inextricably linked in so many ways. Their lives are brutal, yet both want to be a father. There is an amazing amount of poetry through the play, couplets of fierce Belfast tones, the street talk of the fighters on the streets. The hoola hoops* they encounter, the tatty crisps. young lads going on the tare.

The stars move the show along both physically by their movement around the stage at the end they were both dripping sweat having given it their all. You are drawn into their world through their language (no doubt the Americans would want to subtitle it). By letting us inhabit their space, learning of the conversations they have, what makes them tick, what riles them, what burns them up, the audience is taken on a roller coaster so luxuriant that the end, though you see it coming, still hits you by surprise; while doing the same to the characters both figuratively and narratively.

This show is only on for the week so the last night is tomorrow, but if you see the show or the Jigsaw company in anything, anytime give it a try. It deserved a bigger audience than it got tonight, but you would never have told that from the standard of the acting. They could have been filling the Waterfront Hall with all the gusto they give their performance, indeed with this show they deserve to fill the Waterfront in Belfast many times over.

This blog hasn't been giving stars put it it did I'd need a few constellations for Johnny Meister and the Stitch.

*Celtic fans

Is Lack of Equal Marriage Rights a Form of Apartheid?

Now I know that some members of my own party who consider the issue of same sex marriage a matter on conscience and not one we should form a firm policy on. However, with the aid of Calum Cashley the SNP PPC for Edinburgh North and Leith I’d like to prick that conscience just a little.

We as Liberal Democrats are the party of equality. The preamble to our constitution opens:

"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives."

So let’s look at the parallel that Calum draws between Civil Partnerships and marriage designation in Apartheid era South Africa. There was a designation of interracial marriage which was viewed as substandard, below other partnerships. There were plenty of Liberals whose conscience led them to protest against that state of affairs, a young Peter Hain among them. There was no problem in forming policy against the Apartheid regime.

Calum says he not sure what the differences are between a Civil Partnership and a marriage, there are a number.

He gets the first one that there is a distinction in the name just as same sex couples cannot have a marriage; mixed-sexed couples cannot get a civil partnership. The Government claims it is the same yet there is a distinction there, one group is set aside from the rest of society with a second class designation.

The next issue is that while you can have a religious, humanist or civil marriage as a mixed sex couple, a religious or humanist celebrant is not able to solemnise a same sex union, if they want to. The assumption is that because you are in a same sex relationship you are outside the religious flock and would not want to join with your life partner in a religious context.

The final thrust of the equal marriage campaign is dealing with gender recognition and the anomaly that they face should one partner seek to alter their legally recognised gender under the terms of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. They are no longer able to remain either married or civil partnered once that event happens even they remain in love and wish to remain together. They then of course would also face the issue if they wish to re-union in not being able to have the same type of union as previously.

So while Calum and I have a different idea of the governance style of what form a fair society for Scotland will take we can agree on this issue.

Update: I Uhmed and Ahhed about the title for this post since I wrote it, but decided to change it from "A Nats Backing For Marriage Fairness" to the new one to reflect on Calum's comments. In the end I decided to take a leaf out of Charlotte Gore's book.

Well Tory Bear Some Reasons Why #WelovetheNHS

Last night Tory Bear posted two tweets the first:

The NHS is not free. You end up paying far more than you ever take out. Free
healthcare can be achieved without 500,000 bureaucrats. ARGH

Followed by this:

In America you get far more than you ever pay for. Here you get taxed to shit
and then die on a trolly.

Now there is some truth in the first point are 500,000 bureaucrats really needed in the NHS, but he ignores that tdue to the legal mitication nature of America that there Health Care Provision employs a larger army of lawyers to protect their practitioners than we do here.

The thing is that in the US as he points out you do have to pay for it. As at the moment under a recession where you health insurance contributions may have been paid for by an employer finding yourself out of work can lead to a sudden reduction or end in that provision. The tax we pay in the UK goes towards an all incompassioning welfare system, which Mr Cole after just qualifying from University has yet to actually need to experience the full benefit off.

I'd hate for him should he ever live in an American style system of healthcare to be out of work or even between jobs when he needs emergency life saving surgery. While he is lying on the gourney they check his insurance cover and then debate what provision they can make for him when they find out he has none.

My Garden Shed Another Footballing Day

Callum Leslie did warn the LYS readers that visiting my blog they would have to endure Livingston news well the news from my club recently it's been busy, its whinger gone and phenominal.

Yesterday there were three pieces of news in order:

  • Almondvale was granted its Safety Certificate to host matches.
  • The Livingston 5 consortium took control of the club from the Administrator (before the last piece of news was finalised.
  • The SFL voted 16-10 in favour of upholding their earlier decision to relgate Livingston to Division 3 in Scottish Football.

Basically although the club did appeal immediately the SFL decision to the SFA to avoid too much more fixture confusion it look likes the club has been saved no matter what by the investors even if the fans will be singing a lot about the size of garden sheds*.

On a lighter note one of my fellow fans favourited this on You Tube and it is hilarious. See we are starting to laugh about it now, good sign.

*As in the chant:

My Garden shed, is bigger than this,

My Garden hed is bigger that this

It's got a door and a window

My Garden shed is bigger than this.

Thursday 13 August 2009

My Guitar Gently Weeps - RIP Les Paul

Legendary electirc guitar innovator Les Paul has died at the age of 94, he sure got plenty of sustain just like his hand crafted long necked creations loved by many. Although I have never owned a Les Paul Gibson amongst all my guitars I still feel the following is the only appropriate tribute.

Tory Clean Fight Deja Vu

I see that the Conservatives like the SNP have selected a former BBC journalist as their PPC for Glasgow North East, in Ruth Davidson. However, with echoes of Chloe Smith in Norwich North she went straight for the "fight a clean and honest campaign" sound bite. As Norfolk Blogger, Nich Starling, points out the Green who insitigated that pledge and the Tory who signed it have both proven to be less honest, clean and open than they pledged to be.

So is it just me or does having to say I'm looking for a clean and honest campaign out in the public domain, rather that doing what she also said she woud do and focus on the issues. The fact that the Tory leaders David Cameron and Annabel Goldie both feel the need to emphasis the point I think says more about Tory Parliamentarians than anything about that campaign. I have so far heard all three candidates and leaders over the word honest. It's a little like the cockney spiv saying 'onest Gov, innit?

I hope that my initial reaction is proven to me wrong, but for this to be the first step and so overly played at that, it does make one wonder, sadly.

Fringe Review: Scratch - The Reduced Edinburgh Fringe Impro Show #edfringe

Pleasance Baby Grand 20:15

I suppose after doing reviews of the two shows I saw last night I should really back track and do the one I saw on the first night of the previews. After sweet talking the flyer for a bit I did manage to get tickets for myself, LYS President Ruaraidh Dobson and Kieran Leach to see an improvisation show.

Some people say you should never expect much if you've been given a free ticket, but then that is just how I got to see Michael McIntyre's first ever fringe show so I'm never that way inclined. The premise of the show is simple, one Fringe Festival programme is available for members of the audience to rip a page out of a circle a show they would like to see, but are sitting in a different venue. In fact if you want a grand tour of the fringe it is as good a way as any to take a high speed sightseeing tour, just don't expect the real things to bear any resemblance to what you may see in this show.

The Scratch team mix up the ways they set up the sketches, including one three parter that they will come back to throughout the night. Of course with improv one of the best ways to tell how good it is happens to be seeing how hard the performers themselves are trying to prevent themselves corpsing* just look at Peter Cooke making poor Dudley Moore crease up when he improvises. There were numerous times this lot were fighting to stay in the scene, if you colleagues don't quite see it coming despite setting you up it's good.

Even the keyboard player was bemused at some of the directions the sketches veered off in and often looked into the audience as perplexed or laughing as loud as the rest of us. Considering one of our party was being a grumpy guts, saying he'd walk out if it was no good, yet came away after staying the whole way and liking the show I think speaks volumes for the work these guys did.

Improv is hard but they did at times make it look effortless, at times darn awkward but their persevered, at times just downright funny, especially when imagined props were forgotten or transferred to another character.

*That is laughing on stage and breaking down the fourth wall of this being some bizarre reality.

Fringe Review: Marcus Brigstocke - God Collared #edfringe

Richey Hall, Assembly 20:40

It wasn't until I started to hear Marcus speak for this long on a religious theme that I realised just how much he sounds like the Rev. Steve Chalke, Baptist Pastor and often TV Godspot personage. I recall me and my friend Rob performing a skit about Chalkie in front off him in Nurneburg in 1992. But I digress.

As the title of the show suggests Marcus does indeed talk about one of those things you shouldn't talk about, religion, and does so more or less for the entire set. For the more sensitive among you look away now.

He has a go at all belief systems especially atheists and worshipers of the iPhone. For Richard Dawkins whose book The God Delusion is on the stage he gives the following review:

"When I started reading it I was an atheist when I finished I was agnostic."

Oh but don't think because you're agnostic that you are going get away from Brigstocke's tongue lashings, oh no. For most of you he says you haven't done enough research, which clearly he himself has as the content of the show bears out.

But he meanders through the various belief systems use of buses, the Humanist's with their "There is probably no god" slogan, the Christian response and the muslims.....yeah we all groaned at the third one too, at least once everyone caught up.

Brigstocke manages to lead us through his theme though linking comedy, with tragedy. With personal familial anecdotes as well as observation. If you are of faith, of none or just not sure you'll still laugh even when the humour is directed at you.

I know this is a popular show and close to, if not already sold out. But if you have a ticket, hold unto it, not like Callum Leslie who decided to drop his in the already tight gap between shows requiring search and recover, and enjoy the show. Though as it is premiering in Edinburgh you may catch it around the country later.

UPDATE: Damn you Marcus Brigstocke! I didn't sing "I am C., I am a C.H. I am a C.H.R.I.S.T.I.A.N." at all last night. But haven't been able to get it out of my head since I wrote this review.