Wednesday 30 September 2009

My Political Journey

My cousin Rachel on Facebook has tagged me in a note call My Political Journey (actually she has tagged me in a two parter). In the first part she listed reasons why she is not as involved in politics today as she is now, in the second she traces the foundations of her political roots. In it she says:

"I've been reflecting on Peter Mandelson's words on Monday when he said he didn't choose the Labour Party: he was born into it. I have often thought the same thing about myself – that the Labour Party is so much part of my DNA that I seem congenitally incapable of supporting the Conservative Party."

Yet hang on a second, she also cites one of her cousins on the other side who lifes in the ex-council house my uncle was born in who is a Conservative supporter. There there is me the son of her mother's brother who is a Lib Dem. So clearly, as I believe inherited voting, through the DNA or whatever isn't all it is cracked up to be. Looking at the state of the Labour party today and their prinicples of the past that is clear to me. But I digress, I'm meant to be talking about my political journey.

Rachel started talking about her grandparents. The ones we shared in common are the ones from inner city Londonderry. My Granny Glenn moved as a child from a small village into the big city and it was there that she spent most of her live, in the same two up, two down terrace in the Fountain area on the City side of that divided city. My Grandfather married her and moved into the house to involve looking after my blind by then great grandmother. Gran worked in a shirt factory, he sold Calor gas. But when my father was 14 and my aunt just 9 he passed away. The fact that both her children went to University in such conditions was a sign of how hard working they all were, as well as a testement to free University education. From my father's early pay packets he paid for the installation then bills of a telephone. He's moved to Belfast which was the ends of the earth for the family at the time and it made it easier for him to continue to look after his mother and sister.

On my mums side her father rose to be a Bank Manager, having failed to get to University as he lacked a foreign language a prerequisite at the time. But he was the son of a police man, living at the time of the 1911 Census only about a mile away from my other grandfather. My Grandmother on that side was the daughter of a Baker who had helped in running the store and family when her mother started her long period recuperating from cancer. The result was that of all three of the families that my cousin and my parents came from only my mum could be deemed to be anyting other than working class and then only just on the first rise.

The fact that when my parents married they were gifted my maternal grandparents' retirement bungalow meant I was born into suburban, mainly protestant Bangor, they retired elsewhere in town a couple of years later. However, when I was growing up my neighbours six kids, me and my brother used to play together. We thought nothing about being different every afternoon, but in the morning we'd often pass each other heading in opposite directions as we headed to our respective schools. You may have guessed by the number of them that they headed to the Roman Catholic Primary.

Bangor of course didn't escape the troubles, our church was in the town centre and no sooner had we paid off the damage from one bomb than another caused even more damage. But by in large Bangor was a peaceful place to spend the worse period of the troubles, despite being only 15 miles from the centre of Belfast. The earliest election I remember following was the 1983 General Election both on the Nothern Ireland and national level, don't forget the two types of politics were and still are different. While I couldn't stand the sectarian nature of Northern Irish politics I liked what I heard from the SDP/Liberal Alliance. To be honest if I hadn't joined the Social and Liberal Democrats at their one and only freshers before the name change, I'd probably have joined the SDP. To be equally honest there were only really two parties I would have joined, the others might have been the Greens but being an economics A'level student I already knew then that their economics didn't, and still don't, add up.

So in that essense to associate with a party that had grown out of disatisfied members of the Labour party perhaps there is some genetic make-up to my cousins and my political believes. However, I was off to England to escape, I never intended to return my 5 years back were accidental, from Northern Ireland and the system that I was already finding repressive. There were only three of the multiple societies I joined that first year that I stayed with throughout my three years at Poly (as it was then) the Christian Union, were with 8 years bible self exploration based experience I was deemed somewhat an elder statesman, the Lib Dems (to be) and the Athletics Club. One thing that none of my friends at Uni knew that one of the reasons I was glad to escape was to get space to wrestle my own inner turmoil about my sexuality in relation to everything else, but that wasn't to be resolved for many years yet.

Studying economics with my belief system my tutor worked out I was Christian in tutorial two and a Lib Dem in the sixth. I clearly wore both like a badge even then. Of course being on such a course also meant that a lot of my early politcal debating occured as much in tutorials as anywhere else. Although militant were strong in the Student Union I also took a lot of flak for standing up against them in union debates, even helping to run campaigns in the student magazine and in sabatical elections to break their almost monopoly on power, missing out by the narrowest of margins in one election. Good preparation for Central Belt Scotland.

My first election outside of stedent politics was a Lib Dem win in my council ward, the first political leaflets I saw that were meant for me not my parents was from my local Focus Team, little did I realise I'd deliver my body weight many times over in Foci et al: some have even had my name and picture on them, many more have contained my words. Out on the doorsteps I also learned to battle the Conservatives. By the time I'd left Kingston we'd yet to win the Westminster seats, but we were winning there having taken the council for the first time.

However, after months of being without work I used my last pennies to get home. Where for most of the five years I was there I worked in the civil service. It didn't seem right to be that politically active.

Only when I moved to Scotland did my political journey take off big style. With my ex down in London she suggested I get involved with the local party. I did, I don't think she guessed how much I would. Standing for the council elections in a former coalmining town in 2003 (a link to my uncle somewhat), then the aim to get elected. Standing for the General Election in 2005 and nominally the candidate for 2007, before personal circumstances intervened.

One thing that struck me about my Grandmother in Derry was that though she lived in a protestant enclave she couldn't be totally branded a Loyalist. When she could no more live in the terraced house that was home there was a Catholic family recently firebombed out. With no furniture and neither of her children needing hers see donated what she didn't need to them. It was so like how my father had brought me up, indeed in Lagan College the first integrated secondary school had been more established rather than a start up I'd probably have been sent there. Although if I recall they turned be turn when I suggested it, having been given free reign with my choices following recieving the top selection grade.

In fact that is the thing that struck me most. My parents let me and my brother come to our own decisions, he may have been the more rebellious one in his teens, but they let us think for ourselves. What we did music, sports, qualifications, where we went to Uni. Indeed I don't recall them ever openly talking to us about politics until after I first mentioned I was involved in the Lib Dems, then I found out they'd supported the Alliance Party. The fact that from parts of the same DNA have come Labour, Tory and Lib Dem suggests that we're all intelligent folk who have come to our own political home.

As a Lib Dem I obviously don't believe that your politics is in your DNA, I though though think that a lot of it come from your heart. In my heart I'm a natural Liberal and I'll often spurt off on my blog without checking party position, because I know what I feel to be the liberal response. It's why I enjoy being a Lib Dem and on this journey, we are allowed to think for ourselves, to make not follow the party line, it is a journey that forging Liberal Democracy will never end. There are always more debates to be had in the party, more battles to be won on the doorsteps with people who think they are born to vote only one of two ways. Oh and of course there is always that next walk of deliveries to be done.

So I say mine is a personal journey, maybe forged by my environment, but mainly a choice of my my head not a part of my blood.


I guess I'm on a song lyric re-writing burst myself. One wonders what Gordon Brown would come out with if faced with the threat of a Jeremy Paxman interview on Newsnight. After all the blogopshere has already taken Brown to town. Would a nervy Prime Minister see the menace in Paxo's eyes and fess up? Maybe: though probably not as musically as the Sherman brothers' lyrics to Mary Poppins which I've rehashed below though.


So Prime Minister your speech went down well in the hall but the Sun are saying you’ve lost it. Have you really lost all ambition and hope of forming the next Government.


No Jeremy
No Jeremy
That’s not what I see!
Because I’m as plucky
As plucky can be

So Jeremy
So Jeremy
What you say isn’t true!
The people will decide
It’s not up to you
And the Sun is remiss
If they think so too


Now in Mori’s opinion poll
You’ve been stung
It shows that Labour’s
On the bottommost rung


Though Prescott spends time
Dreamin’ of chaps he could choke
In the next Parliament
It’s the people who vote

Now Jeremy
Now Jeremy
Can we talk policy!
It’s how we can win
And winners be


Your policy
From what I see
Aren’t really that new!
You’ve made some often
But not seen them through
As for teenage mums
It’s workhouse renewed


Ah Jeremy
Err Jeremy
Ask the BNP!
It’s their policy
We nicked it you see

So Jeremy
Oh Jeremy
Voting change too!
Lib Dems will love us
When that we review
We'll give them AV
Yes that's what we'll do.

But Jeremy
Lord ‘reditry
‘istr’y they’ll be!
When people place their vote
For Labour and me

No where is there
A more 'appier crew
Than them wot sings
"The Red Flag, me,
Labour new!"
But you've shown Jeremy
Our policy
Is see through!

Lyrics Stephen Glenn
Music Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman

*Working out the title maybe I chose the wrong song, or maybe I'm just still being inspired.

Is it Really People that Decide Elections Mr Brown?

OK I see that Gordon is putting a brave face on the Sun setting on the brave New Labour world of the past 12 years. He is saying that 'it is people that decide elections' not newspaper editorials. As Mr Dale, who is seeking to join the Commons for Bracknell, points out though we heard that before the last time the Murdoch empire lurched towards where the power maight lie.

However, as I pointed out just the other day ably backed up by Mark Thompson that isn't so much the case as the Electoral Calculus on the Ipsos Mori opinion poll highlighted it ain't necessarily so, even with us on 25% over Labours 24% we'd have more people yet less seats. Indeed the 1983 general election result also graphically illustrated this point. It isn't so much the people that decide elections as the politicians in the parties in power decide to sew that support up between then.

Take for example the last General Election Labour and the Tories won 67.5% of those who bothered to turn up and vote, yet between them managed to grab 85.8% of the 646 seats.

Labour had 35.3% vote share yet 55.1% of the seats
Tories 32.3% for 30.7% of the seats
Lib Dems 22.1% for only 9.6% of the seats.

Indeed there are estimated to be only 850,000 voters in swing seats that are targeted in a General Election there are too many safe seats, something that Brown's proposal of an AV system to elect a single person for a constituency is going to do little to rectify. As Mark pointed out (in what should have been Blog Post of the year) when MPs are comfortable in their seats as the vast majority of Labour and Conservative MPs tend to be they get lax. They tend to see it as what they can get out of it, rather than what is best for the people they are meant to be serving. The safer they are Mark pointed out the more they abused the system.

So Gordon no matter how much you think it is 'the people' who decide elections it really only is 646 people that really do. The MPs have the power to decide the system in which the people's votes and views are fairly taken into consideration. There is something you can do about that rather than just promise it. Hold a referendum before the next lot (whoever they are) come into power even if that is on election day, there actually is enough parliamentary time to make this so*. You've promised a referendum on voting reform to the Commons since 1997 and three historic full Labour terms have thus far failed to deliver. Why should we trust you with a fourth to make it happen? If you want to do it do it now, don't promise it in yet another manifesto.

*Several fellow Lib Dems will appreciate the geekishness of that phrase.

Lib Demming Across the Universe

Who says Glee Club is a waste of time? It certainly seems to inspire the songwriters amongst us Lib Dems. You may have read my posting from last night, this one is buried by anonymous commenter on Jennie Rigg's blog, I feel it needs a wider audience. Whoever wrote this is a genius, though as Jennie says 'has WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much typing time'.
Lib Demmin' across the universe,
On the Starship Libbyduck under Captain Clegg.
Lib Demmin' across the universe,
No longer coming third because Labour's polling worse.

Lt. Swinson, report.
There's defectors on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
there's defectors on the starboard bow, starboard bow, Nick.

Analysis, Mr. Huhne.
It's P.R., Nick, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it;
it's P.R., Nick, but not as we know it, not as we know it, Captain.

There's defectors on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
there's defectors on the starboard bow, starboard bow, Nick.

Lib Demmin' across the universe,
On the Starship Libbyduck under Captain Clegg.
Lib Demmin' across the universe,
Only going forward, still can't find reverse.

Polling update, Mr. Davey.
It's worse than that, we're stuffed, Nick, stuffed, Nick, stuffed, Nick;
it's worse than that, we're stuffed, Nick, stuffed, Nick, stuffed.

It's P.R., Nick, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it;
it's P.R., Nick, but not as we know it, not as we know it, Captain.

There's defectors on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
there's defectors on the starboard bow, starboard bow, Nick.

Gunnery officer, Hilary Stephenson:
Ah! We come in peace, Focus to kill, Focus to kill, Focus to kill;
we come in peace, Focus to kill, Focus to kill, men.

It's worse than that, we're stuffed, Nick, stuffed, Nick, stuffed, Nick;
it's worse than that, we're stuffed, Nick, stuffed, Nick, stuffed.

Well, it's P.R., Nick, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it;
it's P.R., Nick, but not as we know it, not as we know it, Captain.

There's defectors on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
there's defectors on the starboard bow, scrape 'em off, Nick.

Lib Demmin' across the universe,
On the Starship Libbyduck under Captain Clegg.
Lib Demmin' across the universe,
Only going forward, and things are getting worse!

Engineer, Mr. Alexander:
Ye cannot change the manifesto, manifesto, manifesto;
ye cannot change the manifesto, manifesto, Nick.

Ah! We come in peace, Focus to kill, Focus to kill, Focus to kill;
we come in peace, Focus to kill; Hilary, beam me up!

It's worse than that, we're stuffed, Nick, stuffed, Nick, stuffed, Nick;
it's worse than that, we're stuffed, Nick, stuffed, Nick, stuffed.

Well, it's P.R., Nick, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it;
it's P.R., Nick, but not as we know it, not as we know it, Captain.

There's defectors on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
there's defectors on the starboard bow, better calm down!

Ye cannot change the script Nick.
Och, #!*& Nicky.

It's worse than that, it's national swing, Nick.

Bridge to engine room, deploy Cable.

Och, if I give it any more she'll blow, Cap'n!

Lib Demmin' across the universe,
On the Starship Libbyduck under Captain Clegg.
Lib Demmin' across the universe,
No longer coming third because Labour's polling worse.

Lib Demmin' across the universe,
On the Starship Libbyduck under Captain Clegg.
Lib Demmin' across the universe,
Never passed a policy the leader can't reverse.

Metro Lays into Cameron.....BOTH!?!

Splashed across the copy of the Metro I've just picked up for free on my bus is the headline:

'Workhouses' for teenage mothers
Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

I'd hoped that this headline was going to be seen on every bus and train across the country but the Metro site indicates that the story is carrying the more conciliatory headline 'Gordon Brown Accuses Tories of having no hearts'.

After the headline sentence in my copy of the Metro it goes straight on to lash even further in to the 50,000 family ASBOs that Brown promised yesterday.

'What is the news in that?' you may ask. The Scottish Metro goes out into the Labour heartland of Glasgow and the central belt. So I'm wondering if the two different Metro headlines are being aimed differently at Labour and Tory territory? If so does this imply some sort of unspoken, burgeoning support for the Lib Dems from the nation's biggest circulating free newspaper?

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Consider You're in the Poorhouse w' All of Us

Following Gordon Brown's speech Charlotte Gore has a wonderful post, about him returning us to Victorian Dickensian Britain, not that he'll call it that of course. Also after what will be 13 years of Labour promising to reform the Lords and the Commons, we're going to have to wait for a fourth Labour term for them to fulill those promises of the spring of 1997.

So I was insired about what is a poor single teenage mum called Olive, ends up being led to one of his poorhouses by the queen dodger Woeful Monica.


So, Olive and wean, you're coming with me.

[OLIVE (spoken)]
Are you sure Mr. Gordon won't mind?

[MONICA (spoken)]

Consider yourself at home.
Consider yourself a scourge of society.
We've taken to you so strong.
It's clear we've messed our lives up wrong.
Consider yourself locked in
Consider yourself making the furniture.
There isn't a lot of space.
Who cares?..What ever we've got is ace!

If it should chance to be
We should see
Some Labour days
MPs have their ways
With us?
Always a-chance we'll meet
Who passed the bill
While their voting at the House!
Consider this house your fate.
We don't want to have no fuss,
For after some consideration, we can state...
You're in the Poorhouse
Now with us!

Consider yourself...

At home?

Consider yourself...

A scourge of society

We've taken to you

So strong

It's clear...we're...

Not gonna to get along

Consider yourself...

Locked in!

Consider yourself...

Making the furniture

There isn't a lot to space

Who cares?
Whatever we got is ace

Nobody tries to be lah-di-dah or uppity--
There a hit-o'-E for all.

Only it's wise to be handy wiv little 'ne
When the social comes to call!

Consider yourself
Our mate.
We don't want to have no fuss

For after some consideration we can sate

I'm in the poorhouse


W'all of us!

Consider yourself at home...
We've taken to you so strong.
Consider yourself locked in...
There isn't a lot to space
If it should chance to be
We should see
Some Labour days
MPs have their ways --
Always a chance we'll meet
Who passed the bill --
When they voted in the House!

Consider this house your fate.
We don't want to have no fuss
For after some consideration, we can state...
You're in the poorhouse...
W'all of us!

Consider yourself

At home.

We've taken to you

So strong

Consider yourself

Locked in.
There isn't a lot to space.
Nobody tries to be lah-di-dah or uppity.
There's a hit-o'-E for all
Only it's wise to be handy wiv the little 'ne
Wen the social comes to call

Consider Brown's house your mate
We don't want to have no fuss
For after some consideration we can state
You're in his poorhouse
W'all of us...

For after some consideration we can state
You're in Brown's poorhouse
W'all of us...


If it should chance to be
We should see some Liberal days,
Happy MP ways,
For us.

[MONICA laughing then speaking]

Olive, get real next you'll be saying. "Please Nick can I have some liberty?" or, "Where is Chancellor Vince?" Don't you know that the voting system means we'll stuck here. We've as much chance of Ole Brown of Cameron actually rather than reviewing changing the situation.

Fisking the Car Scrappage Extension

Cars and vans like all consumer products have built in obsolescence, in other words there is a time frame at which they are expected to run down. I don't know about many of the rest of you but I have successfully driven, looked after and nurtured cars that are over 10 years old.

The fact that Peter Mandelson announced government plans to extend the car scrappage scheme to an additional 100,000 cars and vans, may be good news to the car manufacturers, but not to environmentalists or young, poor, first-time motorists. The thing is seen as a greening up of the economy, but cars at 10 years old are only slightly more polluting than new vehicles, and the carbon cost of scrapping them offsets any advantage of taking them off the road.

The shortage of second hand cars as a result of the initial scheme has pushed second hand car prices up due to the scarcity of the remaining cars of a certain age. Its simple supply/demand economics. What the car scrappage scheme is doing is in essence pricing the lowest paid out of car ownership. They cannot afford to pay the price of a new car even with the scrappage payment and cannot afford the inflated price for the second hand market.

As for the environment by placing an arbitrary lifespan on vehicles of 10 years (and the motor industry actually wanted this lowered) the government is going contrary to the British culture of make do and mend. Young men who used to buy older cars to do them up, keep them running are no longer able to do so. Are finding newer cars which need less maintenance are all that is available.

So the only net gainers are the manufacturers and retailers of cars. The Government is paying out with our money, yet we and the environment are suffering. Of course Lord Mandelvort of Hartlepool and Foy's reputation is enhanced as a result, do his dark arts know no bounds.

Monday 28 September 2009

One Foot in Brown's Grave

Peter Brookes from the Times 29 September 2009
The lastest Ipsos Mori puts Labour in 3rd place in an opinion poll for the first time since Michael Foot was leader in 1982. With the Tories on 36% down 7% on last month, the Liberal Democrats on 25% up 8% and Labour on 24% down 2%.

Of course the media are going to put this down to a Lib Dem conference bounce, but don't forget this is the same media that said that the Lib Dem conference was a disaster for the leadership only last week. Maybe it is a conference bounce and if it is it shows that the people can see past the media spin and realise that the Lib Dems listen to people whether the party members for forming policy or as Katy Gordon proved the people (women) on the street.

Rumours tonight are also circulating that Gordon Brown is going to announce at last that he is prepared to take part in Prime Ministerial debates ahead of the next general election. However, there are also hints that he is seeking to exclude Nick Clegg from some of the series of debates he proposes. Here in lies a fault there are currently just 8% points between the three main parties in this latest opinion poll. Not as close as in 1982 when it was wafer thin between the three. Then the other two parties tried to exclude the Alliance to hinder the birth of three party politics, now 25 years on Labour are trying to do the same again from an even weaker position.

The only bright spot of the Labour conference so far it seem was Lord Mandlevort of Hartlepool and Foy's speech this afternoon. From what I saw yesterday it look like a wake. They truly are a party on the downward slide. Now the Prime Minister is worse off than they were in there darkest hour in opposition. Not only is he in third place but has less than a quarter of the support of those polled. He truly does have one (Michael) Foot in the Grave. Things can only get worse, one expects.

However, the hegmony of our current electoral system is once again shown when the opinion poll is put into Electoral Calculus. On this opinion poll the Tories would have 327 seats, Labour on 209 and the Lib Dems with 82. So even having overhauled a sick Labour Party in the opinion polls the Lib Dems would still have less than half the seats. How the apologists for First Past the Post can call this a clear, simple, easy-to-understand outcome is beyond me. Even when they are in third place Labour would still maintain a strong second place in the number of seats. Just how safe are some of those that wear a red rosette?

The answer sadly is that leaving the Tories as they are on 36% even if the Lib Dems reach 30% and Labour sink to 19% they will still have more seats than the second most popular Lib Dems. The split is 341, 141, 135. Surely that cannot be right?

SNP Want to Fine You and Keep Your DNA

They only last month the SNP were claiming that we had a compassionate, human justice system. Yet now they are looking to close a 'loophole' in the capture of DNA of offenders.

Up until now only the DNA of those convicted of a crime could be taken and kept on the Government data base. However, if the person chose to take a direct measure, such as a fine, as an alternative to being prosecuted in court then their DNA could not be kept. The SNP are saying this is a loophole that must be closed. One does have to ask does this include points for speeding, parking fines or fines for dropping litter?

SNP West of Scotland MSP Stewart Maxwell has brought an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill to try and bring this about. He claims that DNA retained by such measures does not infringe anyone's human rights. Of course direct measures can also be used in cases of in vandalism, breach of the peace, theft, assault and other alleged offences as well as those listed above.

The Association of Chief Police Officers and Scottish Police Services Authority have called for forensic data taken from those who accept a police fixed-penalty notice to be retained. Something that does not seem to be taken into account in Mr Maxwell's amendment which calls for such gathered information to be retained indefinitely.

Saturday 26 September 2009

My Speech At #ldconf

Yeah you may have watched all the BBC Parliament converage and wondered just where was my speech. Well I did have a couple of speaker cards in for debates, but I never got called.

Mark Valladares however does have the historic footage of my only speech made in Bournemouth this year. As Millennium says it is actually me (mostly) not being Mr Slugger O'Toole.

Friday 25 September 2009

Muggles are Following JK Fast

I got news not from the Daily Prophet but Muggle.Net that a certain someone was starting to Tweet. Less than 10 minutes ago I became JK Rowling's 4458th follower on Twitter, however we noticed that her followers were growing fast. I guessed she would pass through the 5000 mark within 10 minutes by 19:48. I was wrong she made it at 19:43 and I managed to capture the moment for posterity*.

With the time now 19:52 she has 5,547, she's getting approximately 100 followers a minute at the moment.

* I'm quite good at guessing these things, but at the rate she was gaining followers even I was impressed by catching her at the moment of her 5,000. We were on constant refresh for a while and getting 3-6 every time we did that.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Trump Reducing Ownership Rights to Superstition - David Hume

"Rules regulating property are absolutely necessary for the well-being of mankind. But remove the interests of society, and ownership rights would be reduced to forms of superstition."

David Hume from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: On Justice

So a date has been set for Aberdeenshire Council to decide on Donald's Trump to use Compulsory Purchase Orders for his own commercial gain, that date is October 1. It was one thing that I wasn't able to tell all those interested fellow Liberal Democrats while I was down at Bournemouth as I have only heard about the setting of the date today.

Due to refurbishment of the Council Chamber the actual decision on what is Martin Ford's motion calling on the Council not to allow CPOs is being held elsewhere. It will be in the Gordon Suite, AECC at 10.15am , Thursday 1st Oct.

Today was also the day that a group called the Menie Liberation Front also added masks of Donald Trump and children's golf clubs at some of Scotland's most iconic statues in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Sterling. Of all the possible images I've used the picture of David Hume as it is appropriate.

A spokesman for the protest group said:

"We are dressing up famous Scottish statues as the American tycoon to symbolise the way Trump thinks he can walk over Scotland.

"This development has gone too far. Throwing families from their homes for a private development is outrageous."

Trump's organisation branded the protest, in which no statues were damaged just one American's ego, or superego. Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International Golf Links Scotland, said:

"This publicity stunt is perpetrated by a handful of individuals, and can only serve to tarnish our regional and national profile.

"Gimmicks such as this illustrate the lack of credibility of those involved and do a great disservice to local people.

"We are dealing with serious issues that need to be handled in a responsible and mature manner."

If the first bit of that about a tarnished Trump image I'd say good. Although it is already being tarnished by the immature and irresponsible manner that Trump is currently walking over local people, Scottish law, Aberdeenshire Council, aided and abetted by the SNP Government.

I'm sorry Ms. Malone while the protesters may indeed have merely been a handful the threatened erosion of ownership law is something that affects a great many more of us. The use of CPOs for commercial ends is wrong and everyone who stands against your organisation on this issue is right. This is a major issue and if Trump gets his way we truly will as David Hume said be reducing the rights to own the land were we all live to the level of superstition, not a binding contract.

Woot! I've made a Lib Dem Top 10 #ldconf

The stats for the last week on the #ldconf hashtag reveal that I was Tweeting quite a bit, not as much as Caron from her sofa mind. But there did seem to be a fairly steady amount of Tweeting going on over the days as the chart below shows.

So the scores on the doors:
So Caron from her sofa at home was the Top Lib Dem activist. At Number three was the Councillor who started a raucous chant for her use of Social Networking etc at the BOTYs, of course the Jo Swinson response was laud, and poor Mark Reckons had to chant all by himself (he'd already won one BOTY by then).

The official Twitter account for conference as blasted all over the programme only came in 4th. Really must do better.

However, with 2 of our councillors, 3 of our top Bloggers, the party's official Twitter accounts, Lib Dem Voice from their broom cupboard and two of the leading followers of politics Tweetminster and House of Twits shows the spread of interest in the conference and views that were being given.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

The Leader Speaketh: Live Blog #ldconf

Well the auditorium is filling up, my laptop is charged and willing. Here we are assembling for Nick Clegg's speech to conference.

I Think Tory Bear Owes me an Apology

I'm not sure what lessons one recent graduate picked up at his time at Edinburgh University, but he appears to have not attending any lesson on democracy. Yes, folks it would appear that Mr Harry Cole either thinks that the elected dictatorship or politburo approach that the conservative party deal with policy and manifesto writing is the way these things get done.

Earlier this week Mr Cole who blogs as Tory Bear, and doesn't like his readers to remember that, posted an article called Liberal Lies. In it he quoted Nick Clegg saying:

"Ending tuition fees would cost billions of pounds every year. We need to be certain we can afford it before we make any promises."
He carried on accusing Liberal Youth of lying saying:

"Liberal Youth built their entire freshers recruitment campaign around this issue. Proudly boasting that they were the only party who would fight for free education...

"Too bad for Elaine Bagshaw and Liberal Youth that their postcards full of lies and false promises have already been handed out across every university in the country."

He even demanded that instead of going about the business of policy discussion and decision at Lib Dem conference I should apologise to him for calling him as liar after he suggested that the pledge to scrap tuition fees was to be dropped.

What I did know, that Harry didn't, was the composition of the Federal Policy Committee. This is the democratically elected body that formulates the parties policies into a coherent manifesto. Having voted on a number of occasions for some of the members who sit on that committee I know where their Liberal hearts lie and how they would feel on this issue. Actually yesterday during the Fresh Start for Britain: Choosing a Different, Better Future debate some of them took to the podium to speak against certain lines in their own motion.

In fact we don't all need to guess at most of their views because this morning a majority of them have signed a letter in the Grauniad. In it they say:

"Not all our policies make it into the manifesto, which contains a carefully costed programme for a full parliamentary term. The manifesto will shortly be produced by the 29-strong federal policy committee (FPC), after an open and vigorous debate about the priority we attach to different spending commitments balanced against the savings we have identified to pay for them.

"We have yet to have that discussion but, as a clear majority of members of the FPC, we think it would be valuable to clarify now that we predict that our commitment to scrap tuition fees, as part of our plans to create a fairer society, will indeed be included in the manifesto and that the party will be united in strongly campaigning on this in the run-up to and at next year's general election."

So I think that Mr Cole owes me, Elaine Bagshaw and Liberal Youth an apology, not the other way round. We, and others, have been in Bournemouth going about the business of manifesto forming.

The same offer you offered me erroneously will suffice please feel free to apologise, even a Tweet will do.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Real Ale, Good Chat, Bloggers et al #ldconf

Real ale and drinking in liberal measure was the order of the day last night in Bournemouth. Following on from the report to conference from the LOGOC with 3 years to go to the Olympiad (see picture) which also helped to line the stomach it was off the the Goat and Tricycle for a slightly less crowded bar, that Old Harry's on Sunday, for the Lib Dem Blogosphere and friends to met up away from the bustle.

There was a rumour that Mick Fealty of best non-Lib Dem blog of the year Slugger O'Toole was going to appear, but a scoop on the Lisbon Treaty poll kept him at his keyboard just down the coast. His BOTY is still in my careful possession, after accepting it on his behalf while he was mistakenly told the main bar at the Marriott was where he wanted to be on Sunday. The Lib Dem Voice team and myself and still trying to investigate which of our elected representative's staffers didn't know where the BOTYs were taking place and misdirected a man with an Irish accent.

Anyhoo back to last night and with a full menu of guest ales on tap, the Lib Dems had a very sociable evening coming from either being armchair athletes like me, or getting deluded about the god that is Richard Dawkins (Lib Dem Voter) or some other Fringe event. It was nice to not have to compete with the personal space and noice of hundreds of other delegates and have a good chat. Of course being in England the pub started chucking us out before midnight and before Daddy Alex* turned into a pumpkin we retreated either to bed, or the Marriott.

*It may have been someone else who said that.

Sunday 20 September 2009

An Evolution of Devolution #ldconf

This morning I was in the hall bright and breezy for the Future of Devolution debate which was moved by Alistair Carmichael MP. When I say bright and breezy not quite early enough to hear Alistair moving the motion, after all it isn't every day one turns forty, but present for the rest of it.

It started with Simon Hughes moving an Amendment calling for:

"Urgent initiatives to address the democratic for England, and the replacement of the Barnett formula for allocation funding to the countries of the UK with a needs-based formula."

This was accepted by the Welsh and Scottish Lib Dems who were the movers of the motion. But as the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark pointed out, there is a desire for more power in England. It may end up with a devolution to a 4th larger nation, but that is an issue the details of which need to be addressed. If we as Lib Dems with our Federal nature don’t deal with it, it will play up to the cause of English Nationalism, rather than the reverse case as put by some of our opponents.

There then followed a stream of familiar Scottish faces, some excellent Welsh ones and a few English ones. First up for Bev Hope who pointed out quite correctly that "Scotland doesn't need independence, doesn't want independence, and wouldn't benefit from independence". She also said we have to set out our stall clearly as we are up against as very clear and concise message, we need to lose the jargon and tell the people in accessible terms what we want for them, and for them to have.

She was followed by another first time speaker at Federal Conference who bookmarked his speech in Welsh, as he said the language of heaven. He called for the need for respect for Wales, so that people would stay or come home to Wales rather than being lost to jobs in London. Urging us all to chose a different devolution for a better future.

Kevin Lang the PPC for Edinburgh North and Leith was the next to speak. He said that now was the time to have the debate on independence because under a proper debate (i.e. not the national soliloquy) with proper and true analysis we would win the argument of what Scotland wants and needs. We should therefore support a referendum so that we can put this issue to bed for a generation.

Frank Kindel from the NE of England, welcomed Simon's amendment but stated that the people of NE England didn't want to have one form of government from Westminster replaced with another. If there was to be a move to devolution in England it had to address those issues. Roger Roberts of Abercowry then rose to speak of the need that even with devolution we have to address the issue of borders. The people of North Wales rely on the hospitals of Liverpool, also tend to use Manchester and Chester. The net result is that although they have their own provisions given by the Welsh Assembly they have to work with the neighbouring region which is in a different country for some of their provision. The issue of devolution doesn't merely end at the borders, something that those that want independence often overlook. He also pointed out that we should trust the Tories especially on powers for the devolved bodies, nor for that matter on anything else. He called for us to embrace an evolution of devolution.

George Lyon MEP for Scotland then pointed out that Donald Dewar had said that devolution was a process not an event. But what was a shame in Scotland was that the minsters on both side of the border were no longer talking to one another, things were being dealt with in isolation which wasn't in the best interests of Scotland. If the SNP were prepared to work with the UK Parliament they could have a booming voice in Europe but they don't and only have their three voices. The SNP are wanting the UK to fail in Europe and Scotland to fail in the UK for their own selfish ends.

Mark Hunter MP for Cheadle pointed out that the opening lines of the motion:

"Conference believes that Scotland and Wales are distinct nations with distinct identities and longstanding political, cultural and social identities."

Applied to England too and must not be overlooked.

Kirsty Williams AM summating welcomed the amendment bringing the English devolution question to the motion. But added it would be presumptuous for the Welsh and Scottish parties to tell the English party how to best go about doing that. She called on them to get it together for next time and bring the debate to the floor. Now there is a challenge if ever I heard one, and one that fits into our Federalist nature.

Oh What a Rally!! #ldconf

Conference rallies are by their very nature there to inspire the troops. Ones just before heading off into the autumn and winter before a General Election even more so. Last night after the build up through the week of first Vince Cable's and then Nick Clegg's pamphlet's many of us were already somewhat inspired about the future months before taking our seats.

The evening started with Ros Scott introducing Chris Rennard who got a standing ovation before he even opened his mouth. After 27 years of service to the party there was probably hardly anyone in the hall that didn't offer some debt of gratitude to Chris, and indeed his wife Anne, down through the years. He admitted himself that he is now getting around to putting the life into the work-life balance equation. He was clearly deeply moved by the reaction he got from his Lib Dem family at the end of his words.

Then Sarah Teather took over the compering, let me assure you world that Westminster's gain is the comedy circuits loss as the Brent East MP would not have been amiss at the Edinburgh Fringe last month. Anyhoo, she introduced Floella Benjamin, who didn't come to us through the round, square or triangle window. Twelve years ago the former Play School presenter was one of those who through that things can only get better under New Labour, she is like many of those who have since been let down, but she's realised that there is hope and that is through the Lib Dems. I'm really glad that someone who campaigned for 20 years for a children's minister is firmly on our side.

Next up was the bostin Karen Hamilton PPC for Birmingham Perry Barr. She shows the path that so many Lib Dems have found themselves on. She got involved in local politics to clean up the litter on her street. Now as the councillor part of her role in the cabinet is to look after all the streets in Birmingham.

Charles Kennedy was the final warm up event. However, he also shared with us Eric Pickles' letter to us Lib Dems. Clearly poor Eric doesn't know who is wooing as his letter of love was met with derision in the hall and his love will be unrequited. How Pickles, can think "Liberal democracy has always formed an important part of the Conservative family" or that "the Conservative party will always be the home of progressive liberal democracy in British politics" is beyond us? If you really want those things Eric we can send you a membership form for the progressive liberal democracy in British politics, but you'll have to earn you're position in our party not inherit it like you do in the Tories.

Then we really were ready for Nick. Some of what he had to say I had already read in his The Liberal Moment or heard from his own lips in the morning at the bloggers interview. But the hall hadn't all had the time or the opportunity.

In the 21 years since I first signed up at the Social and Liberal Democrats stall at Kingston Polytechnic a lot has changed. We have dropped the word social from the party's name, my Poly is now Kingston University, I've lost a bit of hair, Labour has lost its heart and soul, the Tories have lost the ability to make policy it seems. But most importantly the Lib Dems have found their voice, they are brave enough to talk about their philosophy. It hasn't changed that much but what has changed is that the public are starting to realise that we are right, have been right and kept to our guns despite the buffeting we've had from the other two parties. We've been a fulcrum that the others have see-sawed over, but the people now are looking for that stability, because they have been scared by the alternatives a bit too much.

My Birthday Muffins, Cake and Interview with the Leader

Well I turned up to the Blogger’s interview with Lionel and Schnauzoo in tow, they both got on well with Millennium. Met the fellow blogging interviewers in the lobby then headed up through the maze to the room where we were to meet the Leader to pose our questions. Both Linda and Jenny gallantly making their way on crutches.

Once we were all assembled with Nick Clegg in position Daddy Richard produced a yummy chocolate cake (as well as the muffins us Scots only normally hear rumours of like Brigadoon). So before the questions started I had a happy birthday from the leader. How many other conference attendees can say that? Anyhoo on with the questions.

Jenny opened with a question about the length that some people seemed to think our party took to respond when the whole expenses scandal started to unfold. Nick was a little taken aback by this and he was getting messages that he was coming out too hard, too fast from some quarters. He actually told us that a whole month before the Telegraph started to print their encyclopedia of expenses claims he had met with Messers Cameron and Brown to say that the whole MPs working the property market was one thing that had to be dealt with. We know now with hindsight how little action the other two leaders are prepared to take on property speculation, flipping and capital gains claiming our MPs are involved in.

He added that as Lib Dems we tend to once we occupy seats not take people for granted. The old adage there is no such thing as a safe Lib Dem seat keeping us more honest than the other parties where a person can be given as seat for life. To keep politics honest we need to reform the system to ensure that safe seats for life by FPTP, when the Government wants to hold them are a thing of the past.

The volunteers from vinspired asked why some employees do not take volunteering seriously. Nick said this was a shame as being a volunteer wasn’t a sign that you couldn’t do real work, but that you were prepared to put in the hours. He said that as a small ‘employer’ himself he did like it when someone had volunteering experience and wished that more people did so.

Ali Goldsworthy
asked a question about controlling the agenda. Nick said that obviously one way to get the media to cover our agenda more equitably was to keep on growing. We need to keep making the assertions of who we are. Six million people voted for us at the last election more than any other Liberal party in Europe. Also he added that he seriously doubts that at the moment Gordon Brown seems to think that he is really in control of things.

The press are also buttering up the Tories, but all their talk of change is just that it is a fake change as when you scrape off the butter you can see the scorch marks in the toast*. We truly are on the change size of the equation. We have to say to those people who want change, what kind of new change are you looking for, and show them what we are offering. Power needs to be earned from the people not inherited. Labour seem to think that they should inherit the progressive mantel in this country, but they have started to lose their self confidence. Many of their great ideological bearing have been lost and many of their followers are lost without a compass of reference that they once had.

Daddy Richard raised the issue that this week while Vince was outlining our concrete proposals the press was more concerned about whether Gordon would use the word cuts. But added that if Polly Toynbee says the Lib Dems are coming we must be doing something right. Nick said that while he liked Polly as a person for someone who wants PR she has a very narrow view of what progressive really means? There are two distinct approaches, but she really is lacking in her pluralist thinking by ignoring our stance so much. But the people have been given a litany of failure and a broken progressive promise by New Labour over the past 12 years.

Mr Quist asked about the Grauniad headline about us making savage cuts. Nick said that ‘national debt had become a fact of life’ in running our countries finances. However, we are not bankrupt like the Tories are claiming. We are however in a completely new form of structural deficit, the likes of which we have not seen since the Second World War, if not worse. We don’t have the currency protection we had back then and people therefore have lost faith in UK PLC. The choices we have to make about spending have to be bold. But it would be foolish to affect the spending on our young people for example.

I said that I was glad to see that despite the difficult choices mentioned in Nick’s pamphlet we had not lost our emphasis on the need for Environmental change. Especially as Linlithgow is looking to head to be a carbon neutral town how can we keep this key focus on the agenda when other parties are cutting back on it because of the financial crisis. Nick said this time meant that our economic recovery was an opportunity to have all the chips up in the air and resettle them in a different way. We could look at tax redistribution, our basic core values and this crisis could be we could and should do a whole lot of things differently. Labour and the Tories before them had focused too much on the financial centre and our self interests in the City, ignoring manufacturing and the provinces. We need to come out of this with a sustainable plan. It is not sack clothe and ashes but an opportunity.

Dr Pack asked about Internet piracy and Lord Voldemort of Hartlepool and Foy’s three strike rule. Nick responded that from what he has seen every attempt to control the uncontrollable has failed. The people who are coming out in favour of giving it away for free are those who have already made their millions and it is the up and coming performers that will suffer. As Jenny pointed out some of the new artists are happy to give away their music for free but charge to see them live.

Back to Ms Toynbee and her claim that we have dropped our pledge to scrap tuition fees. The issue isn’t that we don’t want to it is sadly like other of our policies that cost money an issue that due to the mess that Labour have gotten us into it is a matter of how and when we can afford to bring them to be. It clearly is not possible for us to pretend that they are affordable right now, but we do have principles that will govern our choices and priorities.

  • A sustainable green economy
  • The future development of our young people
  • Reinventing politics

The final question fell to Daddy Richard who said it was good to see we were putting forward our philosophy, but that a barrier to us inheriting the progressive mantel was the unionism and tribalism that shored up Labour. Nick agreed that the Union say over Labour was probably now again the main thing that was keeping them going. But added that so heavy a vested interest by any group or individual was a bad thing for our politics. However, he disagreed that tribalism for the past 20-30 years was breaking down. Look at the last few elections and you will see that tribalism has been replaced with anger, disinfection and outright apathy.

So I had a birthday interview with the leader, Lionel has now met both Mister Viking Leader and Captain Clegg. I do apologise for the delay on getting this online I had it written by lunch time yesterday, but a birthday at conference is just one of those things that trying to get online just doesn't seem to happen.

*My carrying on of the analogy not Nicks.

Saturday 19 September 2009

It's My Birthday, It Must be Conference #ldconf

Four decades and nine months ago my parents could not have known the inconvenience that their nocturnal activities that night would lead to their firstborn son. Now all these years later I have been on my way to, or back or at some venue on (usually) the Southern English coast more times than I can remember.

This year I pass one of the milestones but the conference has laid on some treats. The leader is meeting me (OK and some of the other bloggers). There is a big reception for the occasion this evening (rumour has it that the codename of conference Civic Reception and Rally is only a cover to keep the paps away).

So I'm off now for the first of those appointments. Catch you later if you are in Bournemouth. Have a good day if you're not. Turrah for now. More later I'm sure.

Friday 18 September 2009

Let's Get Ready to Conference #ldconf

Well last night after a 'pint' with LYS President Ruaraidh Dobson and Kieran Leach I headed to Edinburgh coach station. I did so on the off chance of getting on the supposedly full 22:00 Coach heading to London instead of the 06:45 from this morning I ended up getting booked on. Basically I hate having a long trip somewhere arriving late and not having time to relax before the action begins. Which answers Caron's question of why I'd left last night already.

I was lucky, I got on the coach, but the overhead lights were working so my continuation of reading Nick Clegg's excellent The Liberal Moment had to wait. However, then on arrival at London Victoria Coach Station despite being told in Edinburgh just to show you're ticket they'll take you as standby. Sadly they didn't and the queue by the time I got to the ticket office was already longer than the 8 minutes I had remaining to get unto the 07:15. Though I was ready for the 09:00 and Bournemouth bound.

I haven't been to Federal Autumn Conference since 2004 for one reason or another (two years it was by elections), when again we were in Bournemouth. This year I''ve got to remember to head West to the BIC rather than East, although my walk is closer. So I'm ready for conference to kick off tomorrow. My schedule is already getting fuller by the email.

There is a small quirk of irony when I was registering at my hotel earlier. I literally burst out laughing and then had to explain to the guy on reception just why the number 11 is haunting me this month.

However, a quick shower, a stroll along the Cliffs and lunch has revigorated me. Though my neck could do with one of the promised massages in the BIC at the Health Zone, I think I'll be queuing up early tomorrow for one.

Thursday 17 September 2009

The Misogyny of the Scotsman

Oh dear, Ian Swanson is having his misogynistic and sexists wiles again. Remember back in July when I took exception to his failure to mention any potential female candidates to fill John Barrett’s Lib Dem seat in Edinburgh West? Well he’s at it again.

The shortlist was announced yesterday, to be honest I was sitting on the news, at least until the party made any formal announcement. But the names are out in the Scotsman. In alphabetical order there are Mike Crockart, Paul Eadie, Siobhan Mathers and Euan Robson. All four are names that have been before the Edinburgh Electorate before at council, Scottish, Westminster and European levels. All are very able and capable candidates. All have sizeable CVs full of experience that would be helpful to be the next MP for Edinburgh West.

However, Mr Swanson used the following picture of one of the above:

“has a background in such and such profession, finished second to Labour's X in this election. Is married to Lib Dem councillor Y and has a two-year-old son.”

I’ve only hidden the identifiers for now all the other words are there. The others have:

A)     The word key used

B)      Deputy such and such

C)      (Surprisingly) strong second in Z Election

Of course the second in the above quote was actually 1000 votes closer to winning than the one that was listed as strong but as you may guess from the tone of this piece, the quote is all Ian Swanson deemed to write about an able, energetic and strong female candidate.

He didn’t mention the marital or family status of any of the other candidates, no why should he? But also why should it be a matter for Siobhan? Margaret Thatcher was asked about her young family before she won her first election, but that was in the 50s.

Sexist, misogynist men of the world I’d recommend a job at the Scotsman, there you can live your idyll of 1950’s Scotland it would appear, where women could be kept in their place. Is it any wonder that the Scotsman is losing readers?

If Baroness Scotland were a Football manager

The BBC News online scrolling headline at the moment says:
BREAKING NEWS: Gordon Brown's spokesman says PM has 'full confidence' in Baroness Scotland.
In football parlance us fans knows that 'full confidence' from the board usually comes a matter of days before the manager leaves the club by 'mutual' agreement.
She may be hopeful that the Raith Rover's fan isn't a football club board, after the news that the Attorney General's housekeeper did not have the legal right to work in the UK. Or then again...

The Liberal Moment

"Nick Clegg’s suggesting that his party can lead the Left seems presumptuous. Yet his is right to make it and has made it in the right way."

So says the lead editorial comment in this morning’s Times. It comes on the day that Nick launches his pamphlet The Liberal Moment with Demos as well as writing an article in the Times outlying his themes.

It opens with the questions:

"Are you one of the millions who turned to new Labour in 1997? Were you excited by the progressive promise? Did you believe that the ideals of fairness, social mobility, sustainability, civil rights and internationalism would finally have their day?"

Going on to say then:

"If so, you face a real dilemma. The choice between a fading exhausted Labour Government and the ideologically barred Conservatives."

The pamphlet and the article both look at the shifting sands of progressive politics. It was about a century ago that the Liberal party started to lose that all out progressive nature of British politics. The outcome was the emergence of the current Labour vs. Conservative struggle in the intervening years. Nick acknowledges that our predecessors then deserved to lose but then looks at the current situation.

The progressive party of the last 100 years, because no matter what the Tories try to paint over their past , progressive and conservative do not sit side by side in the same phrase, have been Labour. Yet look at them now.

"Labour's basic reflexes — central state activism, hoarding power at the centre, top-down government — are the wrong tools to meet the challenges of the modern world. We live in a society where people are no longer rigidly defined by class or place, no longer trapped by a culture of hierarchy….

"Labour have never fully reconciled itself to how power now flows down to individuals and communities that no longer accept a relationship of obeisance to central government. From frenzied target-setting in public service to the demolition of civil liberties, Labour has misread the demand for individual and grassroots empowerment in contemporary Britain."

Just as in the later part of the 19th and early 20th century the ideology battles for progressivism were battles being fought by Labour, long before they won the political battle, so now Nick thinks the battle to be the progressive party in thinking is ours. The battles on thinking are being won on the economy, environment, civil liberties, Iraq, Ghurkhas, and other issues we led the ideological crusade and others are latching on. The war to become the progressive force in politics in the country may take longer, but its day too may be coming.

Nick says:

"So the real choice at the next election is not the old red-blue/ blue-red pendulum of British politics. It is between yellow and blue. A choice between a liberal movement — led by the Liberal Democrats — that is attracting disaffected progressive voters from a Labour Party which will take years to recover, if at all; and a Conservative Party that parrots the language of change to maintain the status quo. In short, an opportunity for progressives to do something different, and finally change things for good."

So with that message ringing in my ears and Nicks vision set out before me, I'm really excited about heading off to Bournemouth for conference. Maybe the old adage is true. Maybe life truly does begin at 101000*.

*As Mark so kindly suggested this blog is now looking at using binary in light of my Total Politics rankings.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Body Found in Bathgate House

This news item may explain what a little of what the police activity near me was last night.
A body has been found in a house in Balbardie Crescent in Bathgate reports say today. It appears that a body was found in the house according to a police spokesman for Lothian and Borders police has confirmed but investigations are currently at an early stage. In a statement L&B police say:
"We can confirm that a major inquiry ahs been launched on Wednesday, following the discovery of what appears to be a body within a house in Bathgate, West Lothian."
Neighbours have said that the couple who live in the house have not been seen since Friday.

Blue the Only Colour for Former Benetton Boss Briatore

The most colourful boss on the Formula One Grid Flavio Briatore and his executive director of engineering Pat Symonds are walking away from the Renault Team.

It comes days before the team of the Italian former boss of the Benetton team was to answer questions about Nelson Piquet Jr’s crash in last years Singapore Grand Prix. An incident that required the safety car to come out as there was debris all over the track in the early stages of F!’s first night race. His team mate former World Champion Fernando Alonso had come into the pits early two laps before an took on a big fuel load. Under the safety car conditions he gradually climbed up the field to take a surprise win in that race.

Briatore and the Renault team had threatened legal action against Piquet and the former World Champion father only last Friday. Now with the two principles accused of asking the driver to deliberately crash his car to help his team mate the suspicions of where the blame falls have shifted.

News reports say that the FIA will still meet to hear the allegations on Monday. The extent of the action taken by Renault to rectify this situation has on any outcome has yet to be seen. There is possible suspension of involvement in F1 being discussed for Briatore, who’s been around the paddock for 21 years, and Symonds who have been through the Toleman, Benetton and Renault stages of the team since the early 80s.

There may have been united colours at Benetton, but Briatore and Symonds are currently blue. Renault have showing they aren’t yellow. The FIA may still be seeing red. There may be a green light at the end of all this for Piquet.

It's a Matter of Trust

Peter Riddell in today's Times looks at a Populus Poll on the most trusted politicians. Top of the list comes Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable who is more trusted by Tory voters than William Hague, George Osbourne or Boris Johnson. He also scores over 53.4 on the scale of 0-100 of trust with Labour voters too.

The only other leading politician to score over 50 with the supporters of another party is Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who is also the third most trusted non-Labour politician behind Cable and Johnson, only just 0.1 behind the London Mayor. Overall the rankings have Cable ahead of, David Cameon, Hague, Clegg, Johnson, Osbourne Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Alistair Darling, Michael Gove, Harriet Harman, Peter Mandelson.

One thing this Populus poll does show is that the Lib Dems are being trusted on the big issues of the day like how to handle the economy across party divides. Of the three potential people to help the UK emerge from recession after the election and deal with the debt Brown and Darling have gotten us into Cable is the man the people would like to see at the helm. Seeing as he scored 6.8 points higher than Osbourne from his own supporters why are the press talking about the Tories as being the best party to take Britain forward? The country seem to not really trust that idea?

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Nearly One Of the Best Blogs Thrice

Well I now have the complete set. This blog is now official nearly one of the best blogs.

After coming 11th in Scotland, then 11th Lib Dem, this morning I complete the set of being a nearly blog by being 101st in the Overall Total Politics Tops Blogs List 2009. Never in the history of political blogger has one blog come so close, so often to being in the lists that everyone decides to copy and paste. Yes folks one spot away from fame on all three counts.

Thank you everyone for reading and voting to make this minor mathematical miracle come to pass. Congratulations to the 10 Lib Dem and Scottish Blogs that did make it into in the top 100, well done all 19 of you. Yes, the maths is correct Caron was in both lists.

Indeed I'm also proud of the fact that Caron has be shortlisted for Lib Dem Blog of the year, also announced this morning. Also Cllr Fraser MacPherson and Willie Rennie MP are representing Scotland in the Best Blog by an Elected Representative category. Jo Swinon's tweeting may have made the 3rd page of Soctland on Sunday at the weekend but it has also earned her a place in the Best use of blogging/social networking/e-campaigning by a Lib Dem category. I'm sort of represented in a very small percentage in the fact that Northern Irish blog Slugger O'Toole to which I contribute and insiders outside looking perspective from time to time make the best non-Lib Dem Blog category.

I know that a few of my readers said they were nominating me for those awards, so thank you, even though I did not make any of the shortlists. Also thanks for all the vote in the Total Politics poll I went up in every category bar the Scottish where I stayed at 11th. I hope you have had an educational, inspirational and thought provoking year reading this blog, and even the odd laugh. I'll do my best to ensure that you continue to do so over the coming year.

P.S. Oh and look out for my piece on the Scottish Blogosphere in the book.

Government to Think Again Over ISA

While the Detective Chief Superintent, Chris Stevenson, responsible for the Soham investigation says expanded ISA powers as going to far and called for a return "back on an even keel" the Government position softened. Possibly unlike Tom Harris MP they listened to public opinion from more than just parents, people like the NSPCC, senior Police Officers acting and retired.

Retired Mr Stevenson said:

"The furore that has gripped the nation since [Soham] has made us all paranoid. Is it in the interests of children?

"Commentators keep referring back to Huntley and the events in Soham, citing this as the cause. I am sure Sir Michael Bichard did not intend this wave of recrimination over one case"

He recalled the tale of he a retired former police office was ordered to delete pictures of his own Grandson from his camera after taking pictures playing in the village team. One of the team managers said he would need the permission of every child present to be able to keep them. he said:

"I felt humbled. I am now a suspected paedophile. Along, I suspect, with millions of other parents and grandparents."

Being from a sporting family a quick look through our family album shows all manner of pictures of me and my brother in sporting settings. Vivid images of past triumphs and defeats which the current generation of children will not have to look back on when their muscles give way and (as in the case of my brother) middle age spread sets in.

Mr Stevenson though does have a stern word for those who use Soham as a reason for such over regulation, like Tom Harris and Ged Robinson (who debated with Mark Thompson). He pointed out:

"What he did to Holly and Jessica was as high as you can get on the offending scale, but did he come into contact with them through his appointment as a caretaker? Not exactly. You see he was caretaker of Soham Village College, the senior school for over 11-year-olds.

"How do we prevent such chance encounters happening? You can't. No amount of legislation, record keeping or checking can ever totally prevent this type of crime. Thankfully they are extremely rare.

"Are we feeding the paranoia that stops a grandfather taking a picture of his nine-year-old grandson playing football? Surely this cannot continue, someone needs to put things back on an even keel."

Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of the NSPCC, speaking on the Government's rethinking of its strategy said last night:

"Ed Balls has made the right decision to check the vetting and barring scheme to ensure it strikes the right balance.

"People want to make sure children are protected but need to understand fully and buy into any major new plan that helps to do so. This review and improved information about how it works will hopefully allay confusion and misunderstandings about what the scheme is meant to do and lead to its successful introduction."

Monday 14 September 2009

Crossing the Lyon of Expectations

Yesterday Jeff drew our attention to a story in the Sunday Herald about Lib Dem MEP George Lyon employing his girlfriend in a £36,000 job in his new office. As I couldn't find the story on the online edition of the paper I wasn't able to make comment, but thought it strange (until Jeff pointed out otherwise) that the story from the print edition had not made the online copy.

Sadly the only other paper covering the story is that Red Top that all Red's fans have boycotted for 20 years. But from that I've cleaned the response through his spokesman from George insisting he did nothing wrong. The spokesman said:

"There is no official document saying George and Flora are non-married partners.

"He understood employing a close friend might be against the spirit of the rules.

"But there was an independent interview and the appointment was made on merit."

However, the new European Parliament rules do apparently apply to the banning of employment of spouses and "stable non-marital partners". No matter what the protestations of George about an independent interview in this era of politics of post MP expense this just isn't good enough especially as his official statement says that he acknowledges that it may be against the spirit of the rules. It would appear to be worse than that.

As Jeff rightly points out when Nick Clegg calls for 'politics free of corruption in which power is shifted to the people' on the same day George really needed to thought how those people would have perceived this before even contemplating spirits of laws or otherwise.

I hope that this matter is dealt with swiftly.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Strictly Come Royalty

Congratulations to Lord Freddie Windsor and his new bride actress Sophie Winkleman. Not only has the 32nd in line to the throne and his bride, half sister to It Takes Two presenter Claudia, tied the knot but they have also refused to let the celebrity press pay £600,000 for their wedding day pictures. Instead of taking £100,000 more than 11th in line Peter Philips last year, apparently with the Queen's disapproval, they gave one of the Royal magazines Majesty exclusivity for free.

A spokesman for the newlyweds said they had turned down the "life-changing" amount of money for the exclusive rights adding:

"They certainly thought hard about it but in the end they decided it wouldn’t be right. I’m sure the reputation of the royal family was part of their thinking."
Sophie in her career played Princess Eleanor in the ITV drama The Palace the elder and somewhat scheming sister of the fictional young King Richard IV. The couple are now preparing for a life in Holywood as she embarks on a new US comedy series 100 Questions for Charlotte Payne. The groom, only son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, is to continue his banking career in California with JP Morgan.

Although the most senior Royal to attend was Princess Eugenie, the King and Queen from The Palace Rupert Evans and Jane Asher did read a poem in the ceremony at Hampton Court.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Irish Labour Party Supports Marriage Equality

The Irish Marriage Equality campaign have produced this excellent video to aid their cause seeking equal civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. It has even got the support of the Irish Labour Party.

The Scottish Campaign for Equal Marriage could well try something similar to get the message across in such a charming and appealing way of just how the inequality still exists through the 'equal' but different approach that has been taken in the UK, so far.

Hat tip to Slugger O'Toole.

Latest Clamp Down By Child Catcher Brown

First we may not be able to drive them to sports or other clubs without a criminal check, now they may lose some of their factual television output due to over reactionary Government clampdowns.

A leaked memo from the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)is aiming to ban children from appearing on TV unless they are singing, acting or dancing. The aim is noble because of some of the reality shows that have shown children such as Channel 4's Boys and Girls Alone, but the implications yet again go far further than Labour seem to think, or have thought. Factual shows like Blue Peter or Newsround rely on their young viewers input.

The memo sent to local authorities who have to licence children to appear on TV is the first to update the rules since 1968. It moves the latest time which 5 to 16-year-old can perform from 7pm to 11pm, but compulsory 'emotional risk assessments' would be introduced, as well as programme makers having to engage child psychologists to ensure the child's well being. However, it is the ban on certain types of appearance that is going to hit factual children's TV hardest. The memo says:

"We will highlight the application of existing primary legislation that says that many more factual programmes must be licensed, and that children under 14 cannot take part unless they are singing, dancing or acting."

The broadcasters are up in arms at this advise another Government tightening of control, the BBC issued a statement saying:

"The BBC understands the need for sensible licensing of child performers but is very concerned that it looks like the participation of children under 14 in factual entertainment shows could be threatened by an over-bureacratic and over-extensive system.

"This would have a direct and negative impact on such shows as Newsround's Press Packers, and CBBC's Me and My Movie as it would prevent children’s voices being heard in entirely appropriate circumstances."

All sorts of programmes would be affected, even Children in Need and Comic Relief would be affected as the documentaries to show the needs that they aim to help would surely not fit within the letter of that statement.

John McVay, the chief executive of the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, which represents the Independent Producers considers the latest Government clampdown 'absolutely chilling' saying:

"It would be a disaster for the young children of Britain if they weren't able to see themselves on television doing the everyday things that they enjoy."

What is telling is that even those groups that were lobbying for tighter control have said that the Government has gone too far. Melanie Gill, the forensic child psychologist who led the complaints against Boys and Girls Alone said:

"It takes it too far, it's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We think that children under 14 should be allowed to be on television, as long as it’s done in a psychologically safe environment."

The DCSF rather that denying or clarifying the ability for factual TV makers to use children sensibly and appropriately issued a statement saying:

"This is not about clamping down on popular talent programmes but making sure that the regulations and guidance, which haven’t been updated in 40 years, enables children to take full advantage of the opportunities television and other forms of entertainment can offer in a safe and sensible way."

How are they going to take full advantage if they can only perform on TV? Think of all the stuff we would have missed under these rules. Why Don't You? or Jim'll Fix It couldn't have been made, now could Swap Shop or Tiswas. On Blue Peter we wouldn't have seen young Lewis Hamilton racing a remote-controlled car but the fire taking light in front of the Girl Guides would have been fine as they were singing. There would be no more Junior Mastermind candidates under 14. Even schools educational programming would take a hit in some aspects unless we start having singing and dancing Maths programmes.

For those of us who remember Margaret Thatcher as the milk snatcher it seems that on Gordon Brown's watch our country is rapidly turning into Vulgaria from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which him child catcher in chief.

Friday 11 September 2009

Parsley Goes Blue

News from back home is that Alliance Euro Candidate and North Down* Councillor has joined the Conservatives (not quite merged with the Ulster Unionists yet).

I'd been following the news on the Northern Irish blogs when I could during the day, held out a little hope when one story pointed to substantial inaccuracies in a report in the Mirror that he had defected to the Ulster Unionists. Something he refuted on his blog. The only inaccuracy appears to be that it's not the UUs he has joined but their soon to be bride Cameron's Tories. The move comes with speculation that Lady Silvia Hermon upset with the UU and Tory wedding will not be seeking re-selection under that ticket.

Announcing his reasons for the shift to the press Parsley said he saw it as:

"the best means of delivering a shared future and a genuinely new type of politics would be through David Cameron’s Conservative Party."

Personally I don't see Conservative politics as being a new type of politics, especially not one I'd want to see take over in the land, or constituency of my birth. Speaking later on his blog he said:

"With a heavy heart, today I left the Alliance Party. I was, however, delighted to join David Cameron’s Conservative Party, and to become involved in politics at a UK level."

He goes on to say:

"Far from negating my commitment to the causes the Alliance Party believes, my move should be seen as an attempt to drive forward those values. Without the party’s work, in which I have played a small part, on the promotion of issues such as integrated education, costs of division and shared neighbourhoods, it is unlikely the prospective next UK Government would be making any of these issues a priority. I understand that many in the Alliance Party will not share my preference for a Conservative Government after the next General Election, but I trust they will recognise the value of having many core Alliance issues placed high on its agenda for Northern Ireland after it."
It is not just members of the Alliance Party that would look at such a statement with bemusement. I've lived in an council that had Alliance as the largest party (North Down) and in two one by majority one largest party being Conservative (Kingston and again North Down). You know something I don't see how anyone could put core Alliance issues into the heart of a Conservative Government. My views are shared by Alliance leader David Ford:

"There are huge contradictions between the delusions of some Conservatives that think they are anti-sectarian, and the 1950s-style bigotry still coming from Ulster Unionist elements.

"I fear Ian will find this contradiction more and more difficult to live with as time goes on."

As I speculated earlier this year is the time right for the Northern Irish branch of the Liberal Democrats and the Alliance to officially become one. Bring UK-wide Lib Dem politics to Northern Ireland. The Tories are doing it, Labour are considering it. You know if that does happen I'd be tempted to seek selection as the Lib Dem candidate for North Down and show Mr Parsley just what new politics on an United Kingdom wide level really does entail.

*So literally back home.