Saturday 31 October 2009

Heading Over the River for Failed Rebellion....Apparently

According to the Times some senior members of my own party view me as being in a minority of 'referendum rebels'. They are saying in the press that to change the party stance on a Referendum for Independence is a 'betrayal of those who voted for the party in the 2007 Scottish election'. Interesting choice of words ahead of events in Dunfermline later.

Strange that on the day that we are discussing the party's constitution and making line by line changes to parts of it one phrase from the preamble sticks out that the 2007 election pledge is actually a betrayal to our constitution.

"We [the Scottish Liberal Democrats] believe that sovereignty rests with the people and that authority in a democracy derives from them. We therefore acknowledge their right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs."

Of course the next line goes on to say that:

"We commit ourselves to the promotion of these aims and beliefs in the Scottish and UK Parliaments."

As Alistair Carmichael says:

"These discussions are not abstract or academic. They are a hard political choice for the party. Do we support Alex Salmond’s rigged referendum or do we keep faith with those voters to whom we gave a very clear commitment at the 2007 Scottish elections?"

Of course and this is the point I argued back in 2006. If we had taken courage in our convictions that Scotland is better with a stronger parliament but within the UK we should have made sure that was asked of the people, either before 2007 or by getting involved with the SNP working on what we agree with and forming the words of their referendum White Paper so that it was not rigged. Giving the people the right to determine their own future is what we stand for.

In my opinion, and sadly many who may vote for us, what 2007 was a betrayal of was our party's constitution and the name Democrat that exists in our title. Calling those of this view a minority of rebels may prove dangerous, it often is a sign that the leadership is actually quite scared that they are losing the argument.

Friday 30 October 2009

It's the Weekend So....

Let's let the old hair down. Every Friday from now on at 5pm I'll be posting a bit of fun.

This week a short clip of Eric Cartman backed on Guitar Hero by Kenny and Kyle giving us Lady Gaga's 'Poker Face'.

Hang on why is Stan interupting only to stop the Japanese killing whales and dolphins. So here is an extended version.

Make G......g.....granville's Vote C....c...count

It's the 9th February 2009, it's dark, it's late after 8pm at least. Having delivered the third or fourth leaflet of the day climbing numerous back stairs to flats in the dark, we return to car to find a postal ballot paper under the windscreen wiper. Certain we'd pass near a polling place on the way back to the committee room we head off with the sealed envelope, looking for somewhere to deposit this one vote.


I rush into the committee room and ask for the location of the nearest polling station. Finding out it was at Carnegie Hall so I ran across Sinclair Gardens.

Now imagine what would happen if I or the actual voted had done that before 10pm to find that the polling place or station had shut up shop for the night. So that instead of casting that vote on time it would have left a voter disappointed and disenfranchised.

However, the Ministry of Justice is suggesting just that, early shutting of some polling stations. If that were to happen and you couldn't make the hours of opening at your polling station what do you do? Where do you go? Is there an alternate? Can you personally get there? Do you have time?

Admittedly I have long been the person, if I vote in person and not by postal ballot, who is normally the first to post their vote into the box. I once even was told by the police on the door in Bangor that they weren't ready yet. I asked what time it was, to be informed 7:01. So I walked on in. My democratic right is to vote at a polling station near my place of residence from 7am to 10pm on General Election day.

Although the Ministry of Justice are also looking at shutting some of them down too. To be fair there are two other polling stations about as far from my flat as the one I actually vote in. But that is because I'm on the edge of one boxes area in an urban area. There are a lot of boxes in West Lothian and I'd say they are all necessary to enable everyone to vote in their locality and in urban areas to vote unrushed, unhurried and in a timely fashion.

Like all things there are peak times and slow times. When I worked in retail in the West End the shop was open to 10pm. But people still turned up right to that time. The same applied to voters. They will still turn up right to the end. Some of them may be party workers who do it on the way to a quick shower before heading to the count after a long day. Other's may have waiting until putting the children to bed to get some peace before heading off. Other's may be workers who work away from home but have grabbed a train to enable them to get there even if only just before 10pm on a Thursday night.

The reason for these proposals is apparently money. You can imagine there is outcry that of all the ways government want to penny pinch it is in giving the people their say especially in light of recent months.

John Turner, of the Association of Electoral Administrators, told The Times:

"There is a real danger that despite years of trying to get the voter to engage, the Government is doing the opposite."

Ken Ritchie, of the Electoral Reform Society, added:

"The health of the democratic process is more important than saving peanuts. We risk turning an economic recession into a political one."

I would say panic not as the Ministry of Justice are saying this is only a working paper and not policy right now. Sadly I don't trust a Government, with a healthy majority, that has asked for such a working paper to be drawn up that does seem to vote against the public on issues such as 10:10 will do the right thing. I may of course be surprised.

"G...g...g...g....granville! Did you g....g....g...g....g.....go and"

"I went Mr Arkwright but I didn't get to vote they had shut up early."

"Well that's b....b....b....bad. g..g...get b...b...b...back to work then. Still a c....c....couple of hours for us."

Rangers: What if? Worse Case Scenario

Here's an intriguing thought. I know Rangers Football Club are in financial difficulties following issues with their bankers Lloyds. They are looking at doing all they can in an attempt to stave off administration as a result, even considering a fire sale of the entire first team over the next 18 months. But my thought is what happens if they don't stop the worse?

I mean big teams have gone into Admin before now most notably Leeds. So what if Rangers were to do so? Being a supporter of a Scottish Club that has entered Administration I know what the precedent is that has been set. So if Rangers enter Administration will they face the same fate as Livingston, relegation to the lowest level of Scottish Football, with trips to Berwick, Montrose and Elgin to look forward to. Of course they'd also be guaranteed two trips to Hampden in the season to take on Queen's Park. Yeah Livingston are going to be at Hampden three times this season having already been there in the Scottish Cup to knock the hosts out last Saturday. But I digress.

If Rangers do go into administration and they are not relegated to the lowest tier, the owners of Livingston and indeed the creditors of wound up Gretna would have a case for a legal challenge that would throw the whole of Scottish football on its head. It would be challenged on the grounds of favoured status for the haves another for the have nots. I'm not even saying one rule for the rich one for the poor, Rangers's debt is £30m over 15 times what Livingston are said to have owed under Angelo Massone. So it would reek of the big cache of the Rangers name and any penalty not equivalent to the one that killed Gretna or the one that is disadvantaging Livingston's creditors would not go down well.

So after the precedent was set and voted on by a majority of the Scottish clubs who'd have thought that one half of the Old Firm may well have been next into the spotlight. I hope the worse doesn't happen this summer was a nightmare for me and all Livi fans, but if it does Scottish Football must be seen to be fair, no favourites.

Is this Postal Strike Just an Excuse for a 3-Day Piss Up?

The reason I'm asking is because yesterday I passed the picket line at Sighthill depot and saw this on the right.

Today exactly 24 hours later I didn't see swarms of disgruntled postal workers looking for justice, fighting for their jobs, indeed I didn't even see one. No what I did see was this below.

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Yeah an empty gazebo, a still warm oil drum the remains of their fire pictured in the main picture. But loads of empty beer and cider cans strewn across the whole area, not just at the entrance to the Royal Mail depot. Also startlingly there was not a sign of a single worker manning the picket line at the start of day 2.

Seeing as this is also the vehicle maintenance location for Edinburgh I suspect that even if the strike had of come to an end none of the workers would have been legally allowed to drive any of the vehicles anyway.

Therefore the question is rightly put, is this strike just an excuse for a 3-day piss up. Because I'm guessing there may be a few with hangovers this morning.

President Blair's Titanic

Well Capt. Brown had ordered the stoking of the engines and it was full steam ahead for the 'good' ship Blair to sail to the European Council Presidency.

Whoops! Mere hours after the captain gave a strong backing in a press conference, just as news that Vaclav Klaus appears ready to sign up the Czech Republic sign up to the Lisbon Treaty, it has run aground on an iceberg.

Neither Nicolas Sarkozy nor Angela Merkel are 'terribly enthusiastic' about the idea of President Blair. His main backer outside of his good captain is Silvio Berlusconi guess all those holidays in the Italian leader's villa haven't quite paid off as expected for the Blairs, as such an endorsement may as well come from Silvio Briatore or John and Edward in today's political circus.

Indeed Sarkozy, the French president, and Merkel, the German chancellor,discussed the position over dinner at the Elysée palace on Wednesday. They are understood to have agreed the post should be filled by a central right member of the EPP grouping in the EU, so there goes the hopes of any UK Tory as well.

The reason for the French lack of support was summed up by Jean-David Levitte, Sarkozy's most senior foreign affairs adviser who said:

"The UK is not in the eurozone, nor in the Schengen [free travel area in the EU] and it has a number of opt outs. These are not advantageous in this search for a candidate."

Very valid points, hard to lead Europe if you keep asking for exclusion. The list if the Tories take over would be even longer, opting out of the EU convention on Human Rights, pulling out of the cross border police agreements, even seeking to unravel the treaty that is about to be signed.

Bizarrely of course both Labour and the Tories say they want to lead Europe, but on their own terms. It is clear from the view of our EU members that is not the view that is tenable across the rest of the members. The decision of David Cameron's party to pull itself away from the mainstream centre right grouping is putting even more distance between us and the people who should be our closest allies.

Does this bode well for Labour's fall back of David Milliband for the the other new position, that of high representative for foreign policy? Personally I think Milliband is right to distance himself from seeking the role, as he is likely too to fail on similar grounds. Add in there though the view of the UK as a foreign aggressor by many in the world and this role surely is beyond the hope of any member of the ruling party in the UK just now.

So while the cabinet plays on it looks like the Brown/Blair Line's ship Titanic is sinking in the cool, cold waters of European politics.

Thursday 29 October 2009

My Power2010 Ideas

I've been tagged to do the Power 2010 meme. I'm actually quite chuffed that the tag came not from the usual list of suspects but from Tim Trent who I first stumbled upon during the great Heinz caving in to homophobes debacle and have kept up to date with every since through various social networks etc.

The flying I picked up from their stand at conference which I came across the other day while tidying up says:

"POWER2010 gives you the chance to have a say in how our democracy works for us all. Do you want cleaner funding? Fairer voting? More accountability? You decide.

"Tell us your ideas for changing the way we run our country."

So what is my big idea? Some of the Lib Dems have already nicked some of the obvious stuff, desks in front of members, electronic voting, removing the whips' power, reducing numbers and fairer votes. Even some out there ideas like age group specific MPs. So I really have to get a long way outside the box.

1. Prime Minister's Questions: There is a hint in this title to what the purpose of this half hour on a Wednesday is all about. There are questions asked to the Prime Minister. One thing that is often lacking is Prime Minister's Answers in response. What I would like to see is the Speaker to sin bin the Prime Minister if he fails to answer a question. I know that sometimes he does not have an answer to hand and promised to write a response to the questioner. That should have a time limit on it too, and if an answer is not forthcoming the PM enters the sin bin as well.

What will the sin bin entail. I suggest a session on the Thursday, where the speaker will ask the question(s) that have not been adequately answered by the PM. If again he fails to answer the question Paxman like the Speaker will persist. I'm sure that after the first couple of occasions this happens the PM will actually start to give PMAs during PMQs.

2. YouTubing Democracy: I'm right behind Jo Swinson on this one I think it is appalling the way Parliament restricts online clips of goings on in the chamber just to a members own website. Ruling out sites such as YouTube which would have a search ability that when sed correctly when placing a clip could potentially reach a far bigger audience than BBC Parliament, or the people who keep visiting the MPs website. It would also allow others of us like They Work for You or bloggers to embed a clip an highlight the strength of some of our parliamentary debate.

3. Britain's Got Opinions: Currently we decide who puts forward a Private Member's Bill by ballot. Once an MP comes high up the list they then decide what policy to bring before the House. How about along side this having a Public's Bill. Either a list drawn up by the opposition parties and/or put forward by members of the public. Which are then voted on in a public vote. OK maybe we might get a John and Edward policy getting debated in the chamber but it would also connect with what the public actually want to see politicians make decisions on.

4. Job swap: The MPs take on a community volunteer from their constituency for a weeks work experience but in return they also spend a week volunteering with that charity or organisation during the summer recess. I think it will keep a number of MPs real, I know a lot already are but there are still some who see politics as what is in it for them rather than being there to help people.

So those are my ideas what I have to do now is tag five others. Well as there are five parties represented in Holyrood I'm going to tag five bloggers who have some connection to each of them. So over to LYS President Ruaraidh Dobson, James at TwoDoctors, NatStudent at Advanced Media Watch, Yapping Yousuf and recently (ie today) non-aligned Ben Austwick the Cardiff Blogger*.

*But he was on my potential list anyway.

Sentanced Before Chrages Read Out

It's the sort of activity you'd expect in an kangaroo court, not Perth Sheriff Court.

However, yesterday Sheriff Robert McCreadie sentenced Redding resident Lance Barrell to jail for 80 days before hearing the charges against him. After court staff stopped the Reliance guards taking the accused off to the cells, the Sheriff said "I suppose, for technical reasons, I should hear the Crown narrative." He then on hearing the fact upheld his original judgement.

Sadly this isn't the first incident that this Sheriff has been guilty of. Only last month he was forced to release a man sentenced to four and a half months for breaking an entering after also failing to follow procedure and hearing the prosecution read the charges. There have also be a catalogue of incidents involving McCreadie in the chair.

It is not merely a technical reason but a judicial reason that the charges are read out in open court. The failure of this Sheriff yet again surely must call into doubt his competency to carry out the role.

Fact Checking Nick Griffin's Claim

Much as I liked to see Jeff squirm at the fact that a casting vote may lie with a BNP member for Glasgow in the next Scottish Parliament I thought he really should have done fact checking before taking the word of Nick Griffin for granted.

Jeff refers to this article in the Times so lets look at the facts.

Griffin said:
"We [BNP] were 4.4 per cent in Glasgow North East in the European elections."


Minor niggle, I know, but the BNP's 545 out of 12705 votes in Glasgow North East is actually only 4.29%. That is one very poor round up a whole tenth of a percent higher than they could claim (i.e 4.3%).

Griffin then said:

"In Glasgow there is a [Holyrood] seat to be taken with probably about 6.5 per cent of the vote and we believe that is a do-able thing."


OK 6.5% was the vote for Patrick Harvie who was in that 7th place last time out. However the Green vote was up to 9.98% given them the biggest protest vote away from the Westminster parties on the night. 7.11% was the position on the night in June of the lowest ranked party who gained a seat in Holyrood on the list.


The BNP were only the 7th ranked party across Glasgow on the night behind the five Holyrood parties and UKIP, hardly a good place to lift the 7th top up seat.


Across Glasgow as a whole they only polled 3.25% which was not even their highest council area return on the night in Scotland. I had the unenviable position of witnessing that on the night in Falkirk; even there it was only 3.77%.

I'll not even bother fact checking Jeff's claim of 54 seats for the SNP. That would be fun to do, but needs a little more work. Maybe later.

Hyslop Announcement Step in the Right Direction

Yesterday the SNP Education Minister Fiona Hyslop announced £30 million of student support of increased grants and loans. Grants of up to £1,000 are to be introduced for independent students – those unsupported by parents and mostly over 25. And she said the maximum level of the income-assessed student loan, which has a current interest rate of 0 per cent, will go up by £442.

Liam Burns the President of the National Union of Students Scotland welcomed the news saying:

"For years, we've been calling for student hardship to be prioritised over graduate debt, getting money into students' pockets when they need it most."

However, he did also caution adding:

"But we still have a long way to go. Even with this money, students will still be living below the poverty line, and we know levels of credit card borrowing and other commercial debt have increased to unprecedented levels."

As I blogged earlier this year there is still a high student reliance on commercial debt. While an extra £442 per year interest free from the Student Loan Company it only goes part of the way to pulling some students out of poverty. Ms Hyslop ignored calls for a comprehensive review on student funding by Sir Andrew Cubie, whose report 10 years ago led to the scrapping of tuition fees in Scotland. The SNP entered Government promising students that they would 'drop the debt' Deputy Conservative leader Murdo Fraser points out that to fulfill that pledge totally the current expenditure required is actually £2bn rather than a £30m drop in the ocean.

Margaret Smith the Lib Dem education spokeswomen added:

"It has taken hard work by the opposition parties and NUS Scotland to drag the SNP kicking and screaming into the best deal for Scotland’s students. Today's decision absolutely vindicates our refusal simply to go along with the government's options and campaign instead for a better option that puts more money into students’ pockets.

"The Education Secretary promised to replace loans with grants, but today's statement is clear. The SNP has abandoned this key election promise."

So maybe this is one small step for the SNP, but we're still awaiting the giant leap for student debt.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Griffin Questions were Commercial Suicide says Lanarkshire Radio Station

Derek McIntyre programme director of Lanarkshire Radio Station L107 based in Hamilton has admitted to 'commercial suicide' by arranging to interview Nick Griffin this morning. Fifty people emailed the local community station withdrawing support and a few advertisers have also backed out from Poultry farmers may have had a little bit more success as a number were thrown at the BNP leader.

The station must have known what they were facing as their website had advertised this morning's mid-morning James Russell show as:

"This Wednesday on the mid-morning show...probably the most controversial interview ever on Scottish radio."

Mr Russell also described the scenes outside the station as peaceful, yet 3 people were arrested for breach of the peace offences, one also for resisting arrest. the BNP leader had faced a total of eight calls in the hour.

It's been a mixed week for Griffin following his appearance on Question Time. His own supporters either want him to resign as leader for failing to press the attack on air or are flooding the BBC forum with comments. But whatever the outcome his party didn't appear to get any bounce in the opinion poll either out of sympathy from the protests or for his performance on the show.

Deal or Too Slow Deal

I've just seen Gordon Brown's response to Nick Clegg's questioning in PMQs about the Copenhagen summit and raising the issue that Labour is doing too little (I'd add too late) on the Climate Change.

Brown replied that ALL parties should campaign together for a deal at Copenhagen. Strangely that only last week all parties bar one, plus Sammy Wilson of the DUP, did vote positively for their own responsibility, agreeing to vote for Parliament signing up to 10:10. Of course we know the one that was largely against was Brown's own party. Ed Milliband tried to explain this anomaly in talk and action away by saying (my comments in red):

"10:10 is a campaign which Labour supports: all Cabinet ministers have signed up to try to reduce their CO2 emissions by 10% in 2010. It's a great motivator of public action to cut carbon emissions through individual and collective behaviour change and I hope it helps to build public support for action by governments to agree an ambitious, effective and fair deal at Copenhagen. This is a great opening paragraph one I cannot fault.

"It's also true that signing up can be an important step to sustaining long term emissions cuts. That's why Labour-run councils and Labour groups are signing up to 10:10; we want local authorities to have local carbon budgets, and signing up to 10:10 is an important step towards that goal. Again bravo!

"But Oops! as a government we have a much bigger too big to take personal action?, long term goal that we set out in the framework of the Climate Change Act last year. Five months ago we put flesh on that framework when we agreed - with the support of the Lib Dems and the official ouch! Opposition things have changed in five months – the first three carbon budgets for this country. Those budgets are 3 five year cycles moving from last year to 2022. The problem of course is that the whole thrust of the 10:10 campaign is that we no longer appear to have the luxury of waiting until 2022 hence the need for drastic acceleration starting NOW!

"So every government department is committed to a long term reduction in carbon emissions – not just in 2009, not just in 2010, but through to 2022 and beyond failing to recognise the fact that 10:10 also believes these need cutting beyond as well. The public sector has already reduced its emissions by a third between 1990 and 2007 this has shot up from 21% or 18% from last week circa one fifth. Impressive or lies? and the Government is on track to meet and exceed its carbon emissions target of 12.5% as I said last week that is inclusive of carbon trading actually 8.5% reductions from across its estate by 2010-11.

"We're now allocating £20 million pounds to cut CO2 emissions from both the government estate and its transport to achieve those goals." Again while it looks impressive spending to save the planet but isn't really that much especially when but beside the £1.5trillion to save the banks.

So I think that Nick's question was very well justified, and Gordon should really have taken his own answer to heart only last week, instead of playing a political game of football.

SNP Losing Support of Business

While it may retain some high profile businessmen like Sir Tom Hunter and Sir George Mathewson the SNP are losing the overall support of Scottish Business says CBI Scotland leader Iain McMillan.

Talking to the Scotsman he cites episodes such as Diageo being "bullied" over its restructuring plans, the cancellation of the Glasgow airport rail link (GARL) without consultation, the blocking of private sector involvement in running hospitals and prisons and the slashing of the enterprise budget by £74 million next year. He says the SNP are pushing a very public sector agenda at the expense of local private enterprise. A position that was not helped by Nicola Strugeon saying at the recent conference in Inverness:

"We will never put private profit before public services."

One possible exception recently might have been if you were an American property developer. McMillan says there are 'grave concerns' across the business community and that the minimum pricing of alcohol recently was just the tip of the iceberg, saying:

"Minimum pricing is only the latest in a long line of matters coming from the Scottish Government causing businesses serious concern," he said.

"The appalling way Diageo was treated over its plans to restructure its business, with the First Minister going on the protest rally even though the company was investing £100m in Fife was quite outrageous. We are also angry about the cancellation of GARL with no prior consultation, and then we have the fiasco over the Scottish Futures Trust."

He added in response to Ms Sturgeon's speech:

"Ms Sturgeon's speech that private profit should not come before public services completely misses the point that the two should work in tandem."
McMillan is not alone in his criticism David Watt, head of the Institute of Directors in Scotland said:

"We were quite disturbed over the treatment of Diageo and over the taking away of money from the enterprise budget. The Scottish Government does not seem to have grasped the ramifications of this.

"It also seems completely wrong to cancel infrastructure projects such as GARL when we should be building as much as we can to support the economy and prepare it for the recovery."

While Liz Cameron chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce added:

"If you see the health budget increasing by £94m and the enterprise budget reduced by £74m, it does not suggest the government's first priority to grow the Scottish economy.

"This is not about greedy businesses wanting more money. It is about supporting the economy and social wellbeing of Scotland, which can only be done if people have jobs and an income."
Even the Federation for Small Business is saying that despite it members benefting from a cut in small business rates that it believes small businesses in England are actually receiving much better support.

That was certainly something that we looked to achieve in the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland when I worked there. The heads of the CBI and FSB in Northern Ireland was often consulted and indeed worked closely with that department to encourage business development and sustainability in Northern Ireland. The need in tough financial times for the public and private sectors to work in closer tandem are even greater.

Therefore for the head of the CBI in Scotland to make such a direct statement against the policies here shows a clear break down somewhere. For a party that says on one hand that Scottish business is worthy of world consideration but on the other hand they fail to heed it themselves shows where their priorities really lie.

Trump Gains Right to Stabilise Nature

The European Policy for Coastal Dunes states:

"Management towards dynamic dunes should be promoted. A dynamic dune system is more resistant to erosion processes, is cheaper to maintain, has higher natural values and is more sustainable than fixated dunes."
Later today however work begins to stabilise part of the fifth largest dune system in the UK (pictured) after a decision by the Formantine area committee to give the green light to work to go ahead to stabilise them. When Donald Trump first saw the Menie Estate he thought:

"As soon as I saw it there was no question about it. I looked at 211 fantastic sites all over Europe, but here it is - the dune size and the ocean front. There is no piece of land that I have ever seen that is comparable to this."

Sadly soon not even Balmedie will be comparable with what he first saw. The prime example of a dynamic dune system cited after the above quote from EU policy is the Slowinski National Park in Poland (pictured right) which has had a dynamic dune system for thousands of years.

The Balmedie Dune system stretches for 14 miles and Trump's golf complex along 2.5 miles of that length will seriously affect the eco systems of the other, by removing the dynamacism of the dune system. It may even led to serious erosion and dame to the system in other locales. While the EU is aware of the need to protect dunes, the fact that from today work will start to lead to the loss of one of the few remaining dynamic dune systems in the EU is a sad day.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Blood Ban is to be Reviewed

Earlier this year the Scottish Liberal Democrats called for a review of the lifetime blood ban on gay and bisexual men.

When I spoke in favour of the motion I highlighted that the ban was on perception of risk rather than actual sexual practise. It appears that this reappraisal of 'risk' is something that the NHS will be looking at. HIV- gay and bisexual men who have not recently had unprotected sex may well find that they will be able to give blood. It would bring us into line with New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Japan and Australia all of whom have recently lifted similar lifetime bans, and some of whom we rely upon when there are national blood shortages.

Peter Tatchell welcomes the review saying:

"This review of the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood is long overdue. The truth is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV. Their blood is safe."

Of the current 7,734 new HIV cases a year (in 2007) 55% are in heterosexuals and 75% of these invections were picked up overseas.

Monday 26 October 2009

Cross Posting: Guest Spot In the Burgh

Earlier today Malc published my guest post. Find out what one Parliamentarian for Abderdeenshire and Kincardinshire had to say about Scottish looking after its own affairs, and not the usual suspects you may guess. Plus see how that leads into events coming up this weekend.

Time to Name and Shame Says Devine

Regular readers had better sit down before reading further.

Are you sitting comfortably?

I'm going to agree with Jim Devine. Not on everything you understand, but he has said today that employers who do not pay their staff the national minimum wage should be named and shamed. He goes on to tell of one 18-year-old constituent who has worked six 12-hour shifts per week as trainee hairdresser for £20 a week. At the £4.77 rate for an 18-21 year old this should have been £343.44 (if the hours stated were all payable), even if the employee had only done the 37 hour week, that most full time employees expect as the maximum, it would still have been £176.49.

So do you know of an employer in the West Lothian or Falkirk area who is failing to pay minimum wage (i.e. £3.53 per hour for 16-18-year-old, £4.77 for 18-21 and £5.73 to anyone older than that)? Please email me. I will investigate and publish any offenders on this blog.

One Politician who has been Called D*******

One politician has been called by a derogatory term. It was not Caroline Righton the Conservative PPC for St. Austell and Newquay. The word that is not present here was however used by the man who has volunteered to be the first President of an Independent Scotland.

What is surprising is the word was used against the man who is currently the First Minister and the man who wants to pave the way so that the other man may be able to fill that role. Let's get it clear though the man who has spoken is Mohammed Al Fayed. Speaking of volunteering to be President Mr Al Fayed said as reported in full in the Metro:

"When you Scots have you Independence, I'm ready to be your president.

"You have been living in a coma for too long.

"It is time for you to wake up and detach yourself from the English and their terrible politicians. But I don't want this Alex Salmond. I asked to meet him but he refused. Salmond would be better off fishing for salmon than being a politician. He is a d*******."

Well of course the rant of Mr Al Fayed may well be a backlash to him not being given a UK passport after all these years. Maybe the fact that the expenses issues is making it harder for him to buy questions from MPs but he looks at how easily that other tycoon Donald Trump seems to be flashing the cash north of the border with envy.

Although he has also claimed that Scotland was founded by the Egyptian Princess Scota 3,600 years ago. That will come as a shock to many. But is also like a lot of Mr Al Fayed comments easily discredited as having no foundation in fact.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Aberdeenshire Council in Cahoots with Trump

Is it any wonder that Aberdeenshire Council have not been taken action to protect local residents from the threat of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs)? As far back as April this year they have been preparing to help the billionaire property developer overcome the public outcry of such an action.

A letter from the council's senior planning officer Dr Christine Gore dated 7 April reads:

"In terms of public relations and management of the inevitable media interest, I would request that we be given at least a week’s notice of your intended submission date. Thereafter, close liaison will be required . . . in order that we can have a managed approach to what is inevitably going to be a difficult and emotive reaction."

So the council have for months been willing with Trump to pave the way for his use of compulsory purchase orders, rather that being neutral and yet to make a decision on the matter as recent events in chambers would have us believe.

The Glasgow based organisation spinwatch is accusing Aberdeenshire council of a "conflict of interests". Prof. David Miller professor of sociology at Strathclyde university and head of Spinwatch said of the discussions being discussed in this way three months before they became public:

"The question of probity and governance is raised by these documents. The council is supposed to protect the public interest, not the private interests of a major corporation. These documents suggest Aberdeenshire council is too close to the Trump Organisation."

The voters of Aberdeenshire Council deserve representatives that will look after their interests, but sadly appear to have a majority of their representatives that have fallen under th Trump spell, for whatever reason, and are ignoring those they are supposed to be representing.

This week work is expected to start on stabilising the dunes at Menie which could affect the area's site of special scientific interest (SSSI) status. RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) have both lodged objections, but with the council appearing to have been largely at the beck and call of the Manhattan Billionaire it is doubtful that the go ahead for work to start will be blocked on Tuesday.

Friday 23 October 2009

The Mob that Didn't Lynch

I see that Nick Griffin has said that he faced a 'lynch mob'* last night. Strangely I didn't see him swinging from a tree in the Blue Peter garden so I must assume he doesn't mean literally.

He's also complaining that the format of the show changed last night. Well I agree. It gave too much airtime to the opinions of one party, namely his. It didn't really show him up as lacking sensible ideas outside his pet subjects, and even then he didn't do too well on some of those. (Having been asleep at the time of airing I watched on iPlayer this morning).

He's also complained that the show shouldn't have been held in London. Well I'm sorry on that one but looking at the baying crowd yesterday evening, and sadly we couldn't avoid it on the wall to wall live coverage on all the news programmes from substantial and overlong periods of time, it made most sense. Only the Metropolitan Police had the strength in numbers to allow Griffin to appear on the show in a studio of peace. If that sort of protest had erupted in some more provincial BBC studio, or worse some civic centre or theatre heaven knows what would have happened, maybe Griffin really would have been lynched, not that I'm condoning that sort of action.

Mind you to consider London as 'no longer a British City' as Griffin said is surely a treasonable offence. Off to Tower with him. Oops built by the Normans. Well maybe the Queen can sort it out, if she weren't descended from German stock as is her husband 'the Greek'. Mind you it was established by the Romans so maybe he has a point but then surely it wouldn't have been British at all. Maybe he can find solace just to the west at the Kings Stone in Kingston, only that was for crowning the West Saxon Kings and of course they are yet more Germanic people. Clearly what he wanted was a studio audience somewhere in the North like one BNP heartland urban Yorkshire, plonk at the northern reach of the Danelaw.

One does start to wonder where the population of the UK and probably Griffin himself would have to go when all of these half bloods or less are repatriated to wherever they come from. Indeed can we really find someone of true British pedigree. Maybe he and indeed us could end up somewhere in the Empire he yearns for. The Empire that sent its Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and others to fight in two World Wars as heroes.

*Definition: lynch mob n : a mob that kills a person (usually by hanging) for some presumed offence without legal authority.

The Hardest Word Lacking Feeling: Jan Moir has Spoken Again

So Jan Moir has spoken again, below is her article in full with my comments in red. yeah I've pinched the format straight off Cardiff Blogger from her first article.

Last week, I wrote in this column about the death of Boyzone star Stephen Gately.

To my horror, it has been widely condemned as 'homophobic' and 'hateful'. Obviously, a great deal of offence has been taken and I regret any affront caused. This was never my intention. Interesting then that the whole opening tenant was to build up from Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger. Then to speculate about the demises of Robbie, Amy, Kate, Whitney and Britney.

To be the focus of such depth of feeling has been an interesting experience, but I do not complain. After all, I am not - unlike those close to Stephen Gately - mourning for the loss of a much-loved partner, son, family member and close friend. Oh yeah, that was clear they were prepaying to bury the guy the next day, when you wrote this piece, even casting aspirations at the mother saying her insisting of the family heart history was irrelevant.

To them, I would like to say sorry if I have caused distress by the insensitive timing of the column, published so close to the funeral. Pity you didn't think of distress in you timing of publishing.

The point of my article was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, Stephen Gately's death raised many unanswered questions. What had really gone on?

After all, Stephen was a role model for the young and if drugs were somehow involved in his death, as news reports suggested, should that not be a matter of public interest? You not heard of Richard Gasquet whose toxicology results indicated partaking in cannabis but was cleared after supposedly kissing a girl who had. I dread to think how my toxicology tests would look after delivering leaflets on certain estates.

We were told that Stephen died of 'natural causes' even before toxicology results had been released. This struck me as bizarre, given the circumstances. Actually you're own article said the lawyers stated they believed. Also those present had more idea of what actually went on leading up to that incident that you did, with your spurious remarks.

Absolutely none of this had anything to do with his sexuality. If he had been a heterosexual member of a boy band, I would have written exactly the same article. Well I doubt you would have had a go at civil partnerships, gay activists, mentioned the sad suicide of Kevin McGee. Nor the coming out story.

Yet despite this, many have interpreted my words as a 'bigoted rant' and suggested that my motive was to insinuate that Stephen died 'because he was gay'.

Anyone who knows me will vouch that I have never held such poisonous views.

It is worth stressing that the version of events I recounted in my column had already been in the public domain, having been described in detail in several newspapers. Surprising I remember reading that there was a three bedroom flat. That Dochev found Stephen on the sofa and went into Cowles room to wake him. Normally I find that leaving a bed I've shared with someone they would have been stirred no matter how careful I've attempted to be.

What had been reported about that night is that Stephen and his civil partner Andrew Cowles went to a nightclub and brought back a Bulgarian man to their apartment. Yeah as I've done numerous times with friends because otherwise I'm on the 23:18 home, no fun. I don't sleep with all of them as a result. Dochev had actually been a friend of the couples for years.

There were also reports of drug-taking. Yet the official report, the one that matters, denies drink or drugs were any part of it. Following this, it was reported that Cowles went to the bedroom with the Bulgarian, while Stephen remained on the sofa. The eye witness statements that Dochev went to a guest bedroom leaving the partners on the sofa, then woke Cowles in a different room. Such speculation is denied in a court of law. I have never thought, or suggested, that what happened that night represented a so-called gay lifestyle; this is not how most gay people live. Oh yeah, well you've jumped to your own conclusions, most of those press reports came before any toxicology tests and didn't feature on the official post mortem.

Rather, I thought it a louche lifestyle; one that raised questions about health and personal safety. Wow, guess I shouldn't be allowed to stand up then

There have been complaints about my use of the word 'sleazy' to describe this incident, but I still maintain that to die on a sofa while your partner is sleeping with someone else in the next room is Objection! (see above), indeed, sleazy, no matter who you are or what your sexual orientation might be. Again no. We have your partner and another asleep somewhere in the flat, you

My assertion that there was 'nothing natural' about Stephen's death has been wildly misinterpreted. Well seeing as the coroner said cause of death was natural, to even deny they was a natural enough cause places you in an area of unearned expertise.

What I meant by 'nothing natural' was that the natural duration of his life had been tragically shortened in a way that was shocking and out of the ordinary. Certainly, his death was unusual enough for a coroner to become involved. Anyone's sudden death that has not been seen by a doctor in the past week is referred for post mortem, d'oh.

As for Stephen's civil partnership, I am on the record as supporting same-sex marriages.

The point of my observation that there was a 'happy ever after myth' surrounding such unions was that they can be just as problematic as heterosexual marriages. Don't know where this happy ever after myth idea comes from. Nobody expects all civil partnerships to last just as nobody expects every heterosexual marriage to last, but we all hope that each one does.

Indeed, I would stress that there was nothing in my article that could not be applied to a heterosexual couple as well as to a homosexual one. What nothing? You sure? Care to reread, see above comment about linking a suicide to a death of this nature. Only link both gents happened to be gay. Would that have been applied to a heterosexual couple in the same boat?

This brings me back to the bile, the fury, the inflammatory hate mail and the repeated posting of my home address on the internet.

To say it was a hysterical overreaction would be putting it mildly, though clearly much of it was an orchestrated campaign by pressure groups and those with agendas of their own. Sorry Jan it wasn't orchestrated. My agenda would have been to end such hatred bile and uninformed opinion about the health issues as much as the homosexual ones. Indeed what was orchestrated was the Mail's campaign against Ross and Brand about their comments on Andrew Sachs and even that didn't have the same impact.

However, I accept that many people - on Twitter and elsewhere - were merely expressing their own personal and heartfelt opinions or grievances. This said, I can't help wondering: is there a compulsion today to see bigotry and social intolerance where none exists by people who are determined to be outraged? Or was it a failure of communication on my part? Well answer that second question yourself....could you have worded it so that it didn't reek of bigotry and social intolerance? You covered a lot of ground and used a lot of phraseology that suggested the former. But you're paid for communication skills, as am I, you work it out.

Certainly, something terrible went wrong as my column ricocheted through cyberspace, unread by many who complained, no I read and reread it getting more disgusted with each reading yet somehow generally and gleefully accepted into folklore as a homophobic rant. I've seen some rants in my time and they were nowhere near as abhorrent, factual inaccurate and speculative as what you wrote.

It lit a spark, then a flame and turned into a roaring ball of hate fire, blazing unchecked and unmediated across the internet.

Yet as the torrent of abuse continued, most of it anonymous, I blog under my own name I also had thousands of supportive emails from readers and well-wishers, many of whom described themselves as 'the silent majority'. The outcry was not as one-sided as many imagine. A 'silent majority' of thousands. Wow! Must have been really underground I've seen very few people saying anything positive. Also was this majority more than the 25,000 who took time to write to the PCC.

Their view, and mine, was that it was perfectly reasonable of me to comment upon the manner of Stephen Gately's death, even if there are those who think that his celebrity and sexuality make him untouchable.

Can it really be that we are becoming a society where no one can dare to question the circumstances or behaviour of a person who happens to be gay without being labelled a homophobe? If so, that is deeply troubling. No. We put when they question the official reports, statements and even the words of grieving relatives irrespective of sexuality of the deceased we do. Add to that innuendo in the way the questioning is done and well...yes.

Finally, I would just like to say that whatever did or did not happen in Majorca, a talented young man died before his time. This, of course, is a matter of regret and sadness for us all. Hardly surprisingly a statement lacking from the original and failed to be said in your first response to this issue.

So after all that self justification no admission of factual inaccuracy. No acknowledgement that 12 young people do die of sudden coronary disease every week in this country. I've since learnt of a cousin of someone close who has also passed away at 20. No apology to Margaret Gately for inferring she is a liar about familial medical history.

There is an apology for the timing. But a failure to realise that the framing and language used really does look like a homophobic rant. The fact that a similar piece was carried by Christian Voice (run by a suspiciously similarly initialled person to Ms Moir's anonymous partner) and clearly was homophobic in intent does not bode well.

Sorry may be the hardest word, but Ms Moir has only used in relation to the timing of her article not its content, rumour mongering or emotive language.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Tory's True Colours Shining Through

It appears that the Tory's are taking drastic action with someone who doesn't agree with them. No not Nick Griffen. In this case it is Keir Starmer the director of public prosecutions. The issue is the Human Right's Act.

Before the MPs expenses scandal distracted all voters from the parties' European messages this was one of the key planks to the Conservative manifesto. Yeah they didn't want to have the rights of UK citizens protected equally across the length and breadth of Europe, they wanted to tear it up and make it "more British". Mr Griffen would have been proud.

What Mr Starmer had the audacity to say at the Crown Prosecution Service annual dinner last night was:

"It would be to this country's shame if we lost the clear and basic statements of our citizens' human rights provided by the Human Rights Act on the basis of a fundamentally flawed analysis of their origin and relevance to our society.

"I am proud to be part of a society that regards these rights as part of my entitlement as a member of that society.

"They are basic; they are fundamental; and I venture to suggest that, for the majority of us, they are so much a part of our way of life that we take them for granted.

"I cannot think of any way in which such basic human rights are either so foreign to England and Wales that they do not reflect those principles that we hold dear, or which for some other unspecified reason are thought not to be relevant ... to each and every member of our communities the English Channel is odd and, frankly, impossible to defend."

Hardly inflammatory stuff you would think. Well unless you are David Davies MP (that's with the 'e', not the one who resigned as a liberty champion last year). Speaking to the Torygraph he said:

"We should tear up the Human Rights Act and replace it with something that protects law-abiding citizens from violent criminals. And we should tear up [Starmer's] contract as well."

Another Davies, Philip the MP for Shipley added:

"Keir Starmer is wrong. He is out of touch with public opinion. While he is qualified to be head of the CPS, this has nothing to do with him. His job is not to tell us what the law should be but to prosecute on what the law is. He should concentrate on doing his job rather than lecturing parliament."

Interesting that a DPP has to execute sound judgement based on the law. If he believes it is grounded in basic honourable principles surely that makes it easier to fulfil that role. We hear a lot of Tories recently talking about the rules of natural justice which is something that Starmer seems to suggest the Human Rights Act is far more than any decision over MPs expenses.

In fact considering the number of lawyers in the Conservative's list of candidates I wonder how many of them would be qualified to be head of the CPS. But of course these lawyers are wanting to get elected so they can tell us what the law should be.

David Cameron says he wants rid of the Human Rights Act saying it puts the rights of criminals before those of law-abiding citizens, yet at the same time his party wants to withdraw also from the European cross-border policing agencies. Guess that makes it easy to avoid the Tories' British only Bill of Rights then. Have a Eurostar ticket ready before you commit a crime against the law-abiding Brits on their wee island state and toodle-loo.

Rudduck: She's Not a Perfect (or Complete) 10:10

One of the most cited reasons from the Labour benches in yesterday's Climate Change (Political Response) debate was how well the Government had done since 1990. Indeed the Minister Joan Ruddock said:

"Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions in the UK have reduced by 18 per cent., or 21 per cent. if we add in the reductions made through the European Union emissions trading scheme, but we are in no way complacent."

Hardly a confusion as she is using both figures as pointed out in today's Telegraph. It wouldn't have been such a big deal if a few lines later she said:

"The Government are already on track to meet and exceed their carbon emissions target—I ask hon. Members to listen to this—of 12.5 per cent. reductions across their estate by 2010-11. We have already put that in place and we are already on track."

What she did moments later was to only publicly state one figure whereas earlier she had pointed out both. Why? Well, as Sir Michael Scholar, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority pointed out if offsets from international carbon trading are not included carbon dioxide emissions fell by 8.5 per cent. Headline grabbing to try and appease Labour over 10% but underlying far short.

As Robin Oakley, Head of Climate Change for Greenpeace said:

"If we are going to tackle climate change we have to do it for real, not just fiddle the figures."

Sadly this is what Labour attempted to do last night. They are negating their responsibility.

Worse still is that the Government figures are even double counting the professional insulation installations and sales of loft lagging from DIY shops when the two are for the one outcome.

For the record the Scottish MPs who fell for this line of figure fiddling rhetoric rather than voting for real action were

Douglas Alexander Paisley and Refrewshire South
Gordon Banks Ochil and South Perthshire
Anne Begg Aberdeen South
Des Browne Kilmarnock and Loudoun
David Cairns Inverclyde
Tom Clarke Coatbridge, Chyston & Bellshill
Michael Connarty Linlithgow and Falkirk East
Alistair Darling Edinburgh South West
Ian Davidson Glasgow South West
Brian Donohoe Central Ayrshire
Nigel Griffiths Edinburgh South
David Hamilton Midlothian
Tom Harris Glasgow South
Jim Hood Lanark and Hamilton East
Eric Joyce Falkirk
Mark Lazarowicz Edinburgh North and Leith
John McFall West Dumbartonshire
Jim McGovern Dundee West
Ann McKechin Glasgow North
Rosemary McKenna Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintillock East
Sandra Osborne Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
John Robertson Glasgow North West
Frank Roy Motherwell and Wishaw
Lindsay Roy Glenrothes
Mohammad Sarwar Glasgow Central
Jim Sheridan Paisley and Refrewshire North

American Health Failure for Rape Victims

Came across this from the Huffington post shared by one of my American friends on Facebook.

Apparently a rape victim who was drugged before being sexually assaulted followed sound medical advise and took a months worth of Anti-AIDS medication. You would have thought in the word of the memorable line from Trainspotting to 'Choose Life' would have been the salient choice.

Not so her health insurance company. They refused to sell her a policy as the HIV medication asked too many health questions, this despite the case being explained to them. So now you know it people, do not get raped in the USA, or if you do don't take preventative measures for STDs, if you do your insurance company will leave you without health cover.

While a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans the trade organisation said that insurers do not discriminate against victims of sexual assault and ordinarily would not even know if a patient had been raped. The exclusion of some of the people who have taken this medication is from those who have been victims of a sexual crime and therefore is discriminating against them.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Labour's Failure by Ommission #1010

I've already written that I couldn't see details of the Labour amendment to the Lib Dem motion on

Here is what Joan Ruddock moved as the alternative to the Lib Dem motion which Labour voted down earlier:

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “House” to the end of the Question and add:

"welcomes the 10:10 campaign as a motivator of public action to cut carbon dioxide emissions through individual and collective behaviour change; recognises the value of such campaigns to build public support for action by governments to agree an ambitious, effective and fair deal at Copenhagen; further recognises the significant effort made by individuals and organisations to cut their emissions through the 10:10 campaign; supports the Climate Change Act introduced by this Government, the first such legislation in the world, and the system of carbon budgets that enables Britain to set itself on a low carbon pathway; notes that carbon budgets ensure active policies by Whitehall departments and the public sector that deliver long-term sustained emissions reductions not just in 2010 but through to 2022 and beyond; further supports the efforts of local councils to move towards local carbon budgets by signing up to the 10:10 campaign; further welcomes the allocation of up to £20 million for central Government departments to enable them to reduce further and faster carbon dioxide emissions from their operations, estate and transport; and further welcomes the cross-cutting Public Value Programme review of the low carbon potential of the public sector, which will focus on how the sector can achieve transformational financial savings through value-for-money carbon reductions."

Now there is one thing that the Lib Dem motion didn't do. It didn't supercede the relevance and importance of the Climate Change Act. Nor did it over-ride the operations of Central Government departments to reduce their own omissions.

What the Labour amendment didn't do was to include the House itself.

As Don Foster asked Ms Ruddock:

"Can [the Minister of State] explain why the amendment praises everybody else for signing up to the 10:10 campaign, and yet it refuses to allow this House to join in with it?"

Well in her response I think I found the answer:

"We know that action is required at all levels, which is why we applaud the efforts of the 10:10 campaign and encourage greater ambition and getting ordinary people involved. We also agree with 10:10 that the public sector must lead, and have put in place a raft of mechanisms to make that happen. The Liberal Democrat motion calls for all the public sector to reduce its emissions by 10 per cent. in 2010 and for the Government to produce a delivery plan by the end of this year. I regret to say that that is typical Liberal Democrat posturing. Only a party that never expects to be in government could propose a motion for a totally uncosted, unthought-through programme for a single year cut, as opposed to the sustained actions already under way to meet our carbon budgets—carbon budgets that are designed to deliver three times as much, and that were proposed by us in Committee on 18 May and agreed by the Liberal Democrats."

Wow! I just hope Lembit never has to bring to the House news that he was wrong and that a meteorite will destroy the planet earlier. I'd hate to see a similar response while a big ball hurtles through space at us quicker than anticipated.

In replying to an intervention by Jo Swinson it got even more bizarre.

"Regrettably, the hon. Lady has not been listening to what I have said. I have been making it very clear what is already under way and why signing up to the 10:10 campaign does not make sense—[HON. MEMBERS: "This House."] This House can choose to do what this House wants to do, but the Government are clearly not committing the public sector as a whole—this is what the motion seeks—to the 10:10 campaign."

Now forgive me here for looking confused here, but didn't the amendment she moved say "that carbon budgets ensure active policies by Whitehall departments and the public sector that deliver long-term sustained emissions reductions not just in 2010 but through to 2022 and beyond"? Doesn't that mean that they can influence the public sector as a whole? And didn't her motion also omit the House of Commons itself from 10:10?

So therefore the power that she wanted to claim in her opening words is now not a power she professes to not have less than 15 minutes* later. Yet the one piece of central Government she cannot possibly argue she doesn't have jurisdiction over she has chosen to omit. Maybe this is what Linda Gilfoy means by a "stronger amendment" but many people out there are shaking their heads in disbelief.

In a separate paragraph of his letter to me last night Michael Connarty wrote:

"[This motion] reminds me of the Militant in the Labour Party in the 1980's, who didn't want an improvement or progress, but only to score points against the Party for not being 'Socialist' enough. Obviously if the Opposition Motion is couched in a manner that attacks the Labour Government, which has actually done so much to prioritise reversal of Climate Change, I will vote against such a motion, even if is attempting to hijack the 10:10 campaign."

Now forgive me Michael for again looking confused. From reading and watching the debate the only way the motion was couched as an attack on the Labour Government appeared to be by the Labour Government. I'm sure my MP knows me well enough to know that I have actively looked for improvement and progress on Climate Change including being in at the outset of Linlithgow Climate Challenge. Rather than hijacking the 10:10 campaign the motion was seeking to endorse it an expand its reach.

Having seen the result I'm sure Michael stood in the No lobby (I await confirmation from Hansard). But I hope that when he stood there 'point scoring' that he was working out how to face the many who have already made great steps across the constituency to combat their personal and civic carbon footprint whom he has let down today.

PS Ironically one Labour group in Westminster is not scared to commit themselves to 10:10 today.

UPDATE: No confirmed that Michael Connarty voted no. As did three of Labour's Edinburgh MPs Alistair Darling, Nigel Griffiths and Mark Lazarowicz, plus Falkirk's Eric Joyce.

* I'll get more detailed timing when the official full record is reported tomorrow.

Just who is playing party politics with climate change

I wasn't going to post the contents of the email I got back from Michael Connarty last night until I heard the same refrain from elsewhere. Here is the motion I asked him to back:

"That this House believes it is vital that the UK demonstrates political leadership at all levels in response to the climate crisis, and that this is particularly important ahead of the United Nations Climate Change summit in Copenhagen if there is to be an international agreement which will avert the worst effects of catastrophic climate change; further believes that immediate practical responses to the crisis should include a massive expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency and a commitment for all homes in Britain to be warm homes within ten years; acknowledges that action taken now to tackle the climate crisis will cost less than action taken in the future; notes the declared support of Labour and Conservative frontbenchers to the objective of the 10:10 campaign which calls for 10 per cent greenhouse gas emission reductions by the end of 2010; agrees that the House will sign up to the 10:10 campaign; calls on Her Majesty’s government and all public sector bodies now to make it their policy to achieve a 10 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2010; and further calls on the government to bring a delivery plan before this House by the end of 2009 on how these objectives will be achieved."

Looks pretty much like what the Lib Dems called for at our Autumn conference. However, Michael's opening salvo in his email back to me was:

"I support the 10:10 proposal, but sadly the Lib Dems in the UK parliament have decided to make it a point scoring exercise rather than getting cross party support on a useful target to try to set public authorities, councils and Quangos. I have spoken to your Scottish MPs about their Party's sillyness."

But surely I read in the above 'calls on Her Majesty’s government and all public sector bodies now to make it their policy to achieve a 10 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2010'. So Michael do you support 10:10 or not? I merely ask as that is the core of the message in a nutshell and is what Government can legislate for. If not what useful target do you want to set public authorities, councils and Quangos? Be careful how you answer that as even I recognise that the 10% is going to have to be achieved through tough measures. So higher seems unlikely, therefore I'm guessing based on the past 12 years experience you'll be asking less.

There's even acknowledgement that both the other major parties front bench teams have given their backing to the objective of 10:10. The fact that they have and have yet to talk about, let alone bring a delivery plan to be is an issue that needs to be addressed.

What draws me back to the subject I blogged about earlier was that Labour Internet Tsar Kerry McCarthy MP tweeted about a stronger Labour amendment that she would be backing. She's not alone, Plymouth MP Linda Gilroy used surprising similar language to that of Michael Connarty and Kerry. Indeed she says:

"I think the Lib Dems are playing politics with something that should be above politics.

"I would hope to be in a position to vote for a strong motion as amended by the Government to reflect the leadership role it continues to play. We were the first country in the world to put into law such a comprehensive framework."

So let me get this right as the motion may not reflect the strong leadership (see the graphs from earlier folks) that Labour have given they will not be backing a 10% reduction in public sector CO2 emissions in the next 14 months. The reason I stumbled across Mrs Gilroy's comments was of course trying to find the wording of the Labour amendment. Silly me after yesterday's I should have guessed that was a vain hope.

Piecing two and two together, it would appear that the amendment will be looking for a useful target to be set. By that I'm guessing they'll not impose 10% by the next year, maybe even leave it up to individual departments to come to their own figure. It will praise the Labour Government for setting targets, buying carbon credits, holding off doing much constructively until near the target dates. After all a landing on the magic figure however it is achieved is better than not setting the targets at all, right? Wrong.

The longer we put off reducing our emissions on target for the final deadline the closer the unfortunate deadlines move forward too. Those unfortunate deadlines include the earth's temperature rising, climate being irreversibly changed and weather patterns being distorted. The irony for the UK is that global warming is liable to lead to a UK cooling and the Atlantic Drift Current diverts away from our shores.

I look forward to seeing the wording of the Government amendment I doubt it is as clearly put as the Lib Dem motion and therein lies the crux of just who is playing party politics with the climate. Are Labour really above politics in this issue themselves, or are they just wanting to count up past points ignoring demerits in their own achievements?

10:10 Chance for Parliament to Lead by Example

Today the Lib Dems have secured an opposition day motion to call on Parliament to commit to 10:10 cutting Parliaments carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.

It will be a real test of the greenery of the Tory party. while their front bench have signed up to the premise the rest of the party are lurching forward less keenly. Unlike the Lib Dems who passed a motion at conference calling for Parliament, councils and individuals to sign up, and Labour who followed as a party down in Brighton. Only last week the Tory members down the river at the London Assembly walked out of the discussion on signing up to 10:10 and left the meeting inquorate. Of the 41 councils to sign up or are waiting to do so only two are Tory-led councils, Stroud and East Sussex which considering they have the majority is shockingly poor.

But even Labour are hedging somewhat. From talking to friends last night some Labour MPs are being non-committal, while other are accusing the Lib Dems of playing party politics with the issue and threatening to vote against if Labour are attacked in the debate. There does seem to be some pre-emptive ground work going on in some Labour camps to excuse saying no. Is there some whipping agenda afoot?

While Labour have set targets for carbon reduction they are leaving much of the work to the end rather than a steady reduction. The real effect of their slumbering towards climate targets is shown below.

However, 10:10 is a real effort to shift that balance and make a real impart in a short term, to get us ahead of the curve, show us what is doable. Indeed worryingly if you look at the split by industry you will see that the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions our power stations have actually increased their emissions over the last 10 years and only just started to come back down but are still over 20 Megatonnes over their 1999 low point.

Worryingly today it may well be that party politics gets played with the future of our planet. But if it is it will be from the tired old Labour party trying to look like they won't be pushed and the Tories who will be revealed for who they really are. There is still time to visit the 38 Degrees Website and get an email off to your MP before he goes through the lobbies this afternoon click here for an easy way to let your MP know the importance of this issue today.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Click Click Weep

(Hat tip to Jennie Rigg)

Sadly there is more sad news, not only have we lost Ludo but we have also lost Vic Mizzy who was slightly older at 93.

As Jennie says who he? Well without him there'd be less finger snapping in the world, because he gave us this...

Interesting aside is that one Addams adopted a Hobbit. Yeah when John Astin married Patty Duke he adopted her infant son who still bears his name and considers the star his real father.

Champagne Conservatism from Linlithgow's Candidate

For those of you who don't know, and that is probably most of you, Angela Stephenson the Conservative Candidate in Linlithgow and Falkirk East (pictured right) has a day job as Operations Co-ordinator for the Scottish Conservative Party.

You would expect in such a role that she would have been privy to the Party Chairman Eric Pickles edict about front benchers and PPCs not to be seen drinking champagne at the recent Party Conference in Manchester. After all it is an operational procedure to keep an eye on that and their limit of one unit a night of less upper class alcohol. However, the day after Cameron was snapped quaffing champagne the London Evening Standard had another picture (see below).

In it you will see Andrea seated flute in her left hand, behind her from left to right: Cllr Jason Rust, Conservative candidate for Edinburgh South West an unknown as yet Scottish Tory Boy wasn't giving away the identity; John Lamont, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Roxburgh and Berwickshire; and Cllr Mark McInnes, Director of the Scottish Conservative Party.

Now it would be hypocritical of me if I did not point out that I did enjoy the occasional drink, none of it champagne, at my own Party's Conference whilst relaxing in the evening. However, the Tories made a song and dance about not being seen to be drinking champagne, either to be celebrating too soon, or to be too ostentatious. So it really must have been a bad covert operation for the Operations Co-ordinator to manage to be snapped with two of the target Scottish candidates surrounded by bottles of the bubbly and charged flutes in hand.

There still also has been much change on her dormant website since I last reported it's inactivity. One really does wonder if she know what matters to the people of the constituency.

A Great Edinburgh Liberal: Ludovic Kennedy 1919-2009

The Edinburgh born writer, broadcaster and campaigner Sir Ludovic Kennedy died yesterday at the age of 89.

He spent four decades fighting miscarriages of justice, including that of Timothy Evans who was hanged for a crime that was almost certainly carried out by the serial killer John Christie. He also thought that Stephen Ward who hung himself during the Profumo affair was another victim of injustice and that the man hanged for the abduction of Charles Lindbergh the aviator's baby was framed. But in fighting these causes he was also became a great force behind the abolition of the death penalty, a sentence from which there could be no remission for the falsely accused.

He wrote the book 10 Rillington Place about the Evans case, as well a Trial of Stephen Ward and Presumption of Innocence: Amazing Case of Patrick Meehan about some such cases amongst others.

In his later years he was also a champion of voluntary euthanasia, a position that led to his temporarily resigning from the Liberal Democrats when he disagreed with the stance of then leader Charles Kennedy, to whom he was not related. He wrote another book Euthanasia: the Good Death about his views on the matter which many believe were forged from watching his own mother Rosalind's last painful months.

He had stood as the Liberal candidate in the first by election to be televised in 1958 and although he did not win that seat in Rochdale, the strength of support for the Liberal party that had not stood in the previous general election would eventually lead to Cyril Smith taking the seat.

He was also made regular appearances on television both as a journalist with ITN and as presenter for some years of the BBC's Panorama as well as This Week, Midweek and 24 Hours. He even played himself interviewing the fictional minster Jim Hacker in Yes Minister.

He also had a love for jazz apparently playing with that other sadly missed Humphrey Littleton while the two were both at Eton. While at Oxford he was a member of the Bullington club. Private Eye referred to him as Ludicrous Kennedy.

Michael Mansfield QC sums him up with these words:

"He was an eternal supporter of true justice. At a time when no one was questioning the British system, he was there. He opened everyone's eyes. He challenged miscarriages of justice based on confessional evidence and people had to look again at the role these played in the justice system.

"There aren't too many campaigning journalists who are prepared to stand up to the system in the way he did. There is an important need for investigative, courageous journalists and there are fewer people than ever following in Ludovic's shoes. Somebody needs to pick up the baton where he left off."

Monday 19 October 2009

Is Now the Time for Balanced Election Coverage?

The bias of the media towards two party politics has been highlighted and condemned by Chris Huhne writing in the Independent today. It comes after Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative Party's media spokesperson accused the BBC of Labour bias and demanded they employ more Conservative-inclined reporters.

Chris point out:

"A hiring policy that sought out particular views in people who are meant to be professionally impartial would be a dangerous step towards a Berlusconi-style system. It would probably be illegal under anti-discrimination law."

What is needed is not a biased load of journalists for one of the big two parties but to a genuine impartiality. As Chris points out in all bar one election since 1979 the Liberal Democrats have climbed in support from the opinion polls one month out; the average increase being 3.9%. This is due to the media at that point having to drop their two-party view of politics in the UK and becoming more impartial. If the same happens again this time, on current opinion polls it would result in 22 more Lib Dem MPs.

At the heart of Chris's piece is the message that the media are already prejudging, indeed helping to ensure that General Elections in this country will return one of two parties as the main party and the other as the main opposition. He says in conclusion:

"Britain's broadcasters should not prejudge the voters, let alone the electoral system. The only fair approach, at a time of heightened political sensitivity, is to apply the rules as they would be applied in the general election.

"After all, both Labour and the Conservatives have recently announced their election campaigns have begun. It is time for broadcasters to begin election-style fairness too, and let the contest of ideas begin."

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the fairness of not of the proposed leadership debates prior to the next Westminster election. Alex Salmond even says it is unfair to exclude him from such a meeting.

However, one thing that Salmond doesn't have to contend with is being sidelined or excluded from mainline political discussion in the years between elections, here in Scotland the SNPs views are widely covered on Scottish news and politics shows. Yet the Lib Dems are often fighting for a voice on the national stage.

How often do you find Labour or the Conservatives not having a representative on Question Time? Never, but the same applies to the Lib Dems on a regular basis. Following that every Thursday you get This Week which has Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott as the two main foils to Andrew Neill, the Lib Dems get the even more infrequent guest slot on that.

It is an issue that Alex Salmond and his SNP don't really encounter, they are included on Newsnight Scotland and the Politics Show Scotland and therein lies an essence against Alex's argument to be on the UK-wide debate. The BBC already does make allowances for the SNP here in Scotland, indeed to some extent here too they focus on two party politics only this time between Labour and the SNP, there is however less exclusion of the others but it still occurs subliminally on the amount of airtime or positioning of the parties.

So with the main two parties, and for that matter the SNP declaring at the weekend that the General Election race is now on, why must we wait until the election is called to get fair representation of views in the media. For five months the Lib Dems could, on past evidence, be losing ground where they have been so close in recent times to overtaking Labour in the popular vote.