Monday 30 November 2009

Stealth Unmasked from Within and Without

If you go down to the 'Rood# today, you'd better go not in disguise
If you go down to the 'Rood today, you'll not get a big surprise
For every Nat* that ever there was
Is gathered there this morning because
Today's the day the SNP launch their stealth bomb.

I say stealth bomb as this is basically what Independent Nationalist MSP Margo MacDonald called the SNP's tactics with the Referendum Bill, launched today on St. Andrew's Day. Indeed from someone who has supported independence for Scotland all her political career, she was quite scathing in Saturday's Times about the whole scenario, calling it 'half-baked' and saying she would only vote for it through gritted teeth.

She went further by saying:

"I will hate the Referendum Bill because the strategy and tactics which have gone along with it have been so wrong.

"The SNP have failed to make the case for independence; they thought we would get there by stealth. What we are asking the Scottish people to do is not a stealthy thing, it is a big bold brave thing."

Of course getting on the bus this morning, there is news breaking that another Nat blogger has been exposed, this time Universality of Cheese.It is not often that the Blogosphere dominates the front page of any newspaper and then has a two page spread inside. But as the blogger in question, was apparently working for Mike Russell, the veil of anonymity to launch potentially libellous slurs is similar to the Draper-Gate scenario that hit Labour earlier this year. However, I don't think there is going to be anyway to totally control all cyber contributors to the political debate.

As Jeff was quoted as saying across the MSM:

"My personal belief is, as mentioned in my previous post, blogs and new media are overall a good thing, potentially a great thing, and if you believe what you’re writing is true, fair and can be backed up then go for it but if you’re indulging in rants and venting untapped rage behind a pseudonym, then maybe you should think about another hobby."

There is a certain grain of truth and commonsense about that. Looking across the main Lib Dem blogs not only in Scotland but also the whole UK, there are less
pseudonym's in use. There is less hiding and the words are easily traceable to an individual. There are still rants on such blogs but they do tend to be more carefully structured. The anger that is expressed from being a known entity is still there on occasion but is grounded in fact, stating your case through argument of the case rather than creating fictitious attacks. The end result of course is that people who comment also realise they have to win the argument in such a way rather than creating a rant.

The question is are the SNP attempted to rule by stealth? A strange position for a ruling party to take. Surely stealth is more a position for the losing side, Guerrilla warfare etc. Labour were losing the argument so thought that Draper and McBride's stealth in the cyber-war would work. The SNP may have kept up their cyber stealth campaign since taking office, but also seem to be doing it in Government. Margo MacDonald doesn't like the tactics employed, indeed she is echoing the sentiments of Tavish Scott about this Bill being a backdoor stealthy approach to Independence.

Is Alex Salmond really running scared? Surely Bute House isn't some cave in Tora Bora?

# Truncation of Holyrood.
*Not Cyber.

Friday 27 November 2009

It's Friday......So.....

With the Presidential Turkey Pardoning Thanksgiving earlier this week, I'm sure mine and other West Wing fans went back to certain episodes for Thanksgiving so thanks to the West Wing wikiquote page I serve up the following

First up from Shibboleth we have the dilemma that apparently Press secretaries have to

C.J. Cregg: They sent me two turkeys. The most photo-friendly of the two gets a Presidential pardon and a full life at a children's zoo. The runner-up gets eaten.

President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet: If the Oscars were like that, I'd watch.

Of course you can watch the fictional White House Press Secretary coming face to face with the two finalists for consideration here.

Then from the Indians in the Lobby Episode, we have these little incident of the President himself calling a help line for some advise regarding the cooking of a less fortunate bird that was to grave the first families table. The quote is on the site as well, but then you may as well watch that clip for full effect and the swift thinking of Director of Communications Toby Ziegler as he does his best to serve at grace of the President whose hasn't thought through the implications of calling a helpline from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Postcard From Cumbria

I've just recieved an email from Westmorland's MP Tim Farron which I am going to share with you all.

This is what the weather's been like in my constituency in Cumbria this last week:

I'm sure you've heard about the floods which have forced hundreds of families out of their homes. A life has been lost and repairs could cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

Sadly, as the climate changes over the coming years, events like those of the last week will grow more and more frequent. The cost to society, both here and all over the world, will continue to grow. That is why I need your help to tackle climate change.

There is a big demonstration planned in London next Saturday, December 5, to help persuade the Government to go further in cutting carbon emissions.

It comes ahead of the vital United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen the following week.

Hundreds of Liberal Democrats have already signed up to come on the march. If you haven't yet said you will come - I would love you to join us. If you're one of the many who are coming along, please bring your friends as well, helping provide a real show of force and a fantastic message to both the Government and the public.

You can let us know you're coming here.

All the details of the day can be found on Act, our new social action network. On Act, you can sign up to the event - as well as talk about how to tackle climate change with other Lib Dem supporters, and much more.

Hope you can make it next Saturday.

Best wishes,

Tim Farron MP
Lib Dem Shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

While I won't be making it all the way down to London for a Climate Change Rally, I'd have to fly to make all my committments and make it in time. I am attending the simultaneous one in Glasgow from Bellahouston Park to Kelvingrove Park, details can be found on Facebook. If you're Scottish based and you care see you there.

Strictly Come Jailhouse Rock

The frontrunner for most of this season's Strictly Come Dancing Ricky Whittle, star of Hollyoaks, found himself behind bars last night on suspicion of assault. It is an unusual case of fact imitating fiction as Ricky's character is Calvin Valentine the cop who has been led to the other side of the law by resident bad guy Warren Fox.

The incident which occurred in the small hours of this morning involved a collision between a motorist and a male Pedestrian in Liverpool's Duke Street. It is not clear how his arrest will affect his appearance on Saturday nights show, even if he were to be released on bail, the BBC may well prevent the star appearing on the family entertainment show on Saturday night.

The show has already lost one of this season's favourites for the final Jade Johnson when the long-jumper suffered ligament damage in her knee during the dress rehearsal 3 weeks ago, hours before the live show. That was the same week that Ronnie Corbett appeared as the purveyor of Bruce Forsyth's catchphrases while the host was invalided with flu.

This week is the Charleston and Rock week, it may be that if found guilty Ricky may be facing some jailhouse rock.

Update: As Caron has pointed out in the comment Ali Bastian , Brian Fortuna's partner is also on the injurt list with a bad foot.

Dubai Crisis as a Spider

I had to say that when I opened the Times today I was impressed by their spider diagram (this is a link to a PDF) showing the interconnectiveness of businesses to the Dubai World difficulties. Unlike the previous map of islands that they showed, when reporting on the venture at the start up, there is less enthusiasm about the state of some of these islands.

Time to Question When the #BBCFail

Earlier this week Jo Swinson tweeted that she had been dropped from the BBC Question Time panel in Edinburgh less than 48 hours before it was scheduled. What we ended up getting was the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, up against Blair's good mate Derry Falconer, David Davis of the Tories, comedian Marcus Brigstocke and Daily Fail columnist Melanie Philips. Apart from part of Lord Falconer's education being in Scotland none of the others has much Scottish experience.

The questions were largely predictable.

  • The Iraq Inquiry - but the one party that wasn't fooled by Blair's dossier weren't on the panel.
  • Jim Murphy's White Paper - Neither Falconer nor Davis seemed to know what their parties were up to on this, and the most pro-Calman party of the three co-sponsors was not represented.
  • There was the question of the leaked emails over climate change - to be fair most of the others handled Melanie Philips quite well on this question.
  • There was a question about the bank winning their supreme court appeal - the former Lord Chancellor took the bankers side, others including David Davis did say there was more to the issue with banks. One of the audience members ended up having to bring the Lib Dem point about the banks being penalised for their own overdraft rather than the tax payers.
  • There was also the issue of the SNP's alcohol plans. Only two of the Scottish parties that I am aware of have had a debate on these issues at full conference. Both were in the Autumn of 2008 and there were different road maps drawn up. Of course one of those parties was not represented by the dropping of Jo Swinson.
All in all it was a disgrace for the BBC to unilaterally stifle the angle of debate by omitting a Lib Dem when we already knew the areas that were going to come up for discussion. They also brought in four English based representatives unto the panel in Edinburgh. Jo Swinson once she was up in Scotland would have stayed up for constituency business so would not have been a wasted journey for a one hour show.

Also the question on Calman and indeed alcohol allowed Nicola Sturgeon free-reign to tar all the other three main parties in Scotland with the same brush, when as I've pointed out above on a number of occasions that is not so.

This is the second time in the last month that there has not been a Lib Dem on the Question Time panel. The BBC are already shifting into two party politics before we get to the stage where they have to be balanced before the general election. They are setting their own narrow political agenda and ignoring the fact that there is active, visible and viable difference of opinion to issues.

Were they running scared of debate, or was someone else on the panel running scared of debate? But to drop a political representative with less than 48 hours notice, especially when their party had differing views on a number of the weeks topical debates is a disgrace from the BBC. It never happens to Labour or the Conservatives. But it has happened in a city where the leaders on the council, with two MSPs, one MP and challenging for two more, is just the sort of city where Lib Dem opinion is strong.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all

It's been a nice quiet day at work, our contacts at the client's HQ are all busy basting their Turkey's etc for Thanksgiving.

So happy thanksgiving to all of you and Courage the Turkey who is heading to Disneyland, not merely to have fun on the rides but to live.

For sports fans there are of course a few traditional Thanksgiving Day games on.

In the NFL Detroit Lions host the Green Bay Packers, my own team the Dallas Cowboys are hosting the Oakland Raider and in the Mile High City the Denver Broncos are hosting the New York Giants.

If hoops are more you thing, the Atlanta Hawks have Orlando Magic calling, while the Utah Jazz are playing cordial host to Chicago Bulls.

But for those who like their American sport on skates you are going to have to head to Canada who have already had thanksgiving. Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Ottawa Senators, while the LA Kings are making the trip all the way up the West Coast to play the Vancouver Canucks. No action for Courage's new neighbours and cousin the Anaheim Mighty Ducks though.

SNP's Micawber-ish Approach to Education

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery."
Mr. Micawber from Charles Dickens' David Copperfield

So more or less sums up the SNP's policy on how the Scottish Local Authorities are to help them get out their education quagmire. In the 2007 Manifesto Fiona Hyslop told us that a Scottish Government would "Maintain teacher greater emphasis on recruitment for the early years, languages and science." They also promised smaller class sizes for Primaries 1,2 and 3.

Now however, she is asking the Councils whose tax raising power has been frozen by the Parliament to borrow £10m to help early retirement of older teachers so that the newly qualified can take their place.

Hang on. Does this mean that currently we have a surplus of teachers in Scotland? Does that mean that we have people who if they could all be employed could actually enhance the standard of education of our children? Does that mean that there is also £10m that is available for education which the SNP Government is willing to loan out? Why only loan out?

The SNP made all these promise about education, they said that they would foot the bill. However, whilst restricting annual income to a certain level they are encouraging local authorities to borrow to provide for funding which they themselves had promised to give for education. Not only that they are determining how it should be spent, rather than how it can best be used locally.

It sounds very much like Mr Micawber to me, and we know that he ended up in the poorhouse. Is that where Scottish education and our Local Authorities are going to end up thanks to Fiona Hyslop and the incompetent SNP education policy.

What is telling is that Fiona Hyslop is saying that the scheme is designed to break even by replacing teachers at the top end of the pay scheme with those at the lowest. Hang on again. Isn't this the SNP who in last weeks Queen's Speech Party Broadcast slammed the other three main parties for making spending cuts. This sounds like a cut to me.

Not only that but a cut that will place the education of our children and young people out of the hands of experienced hands and more into the hands of newly qualified teachers. Those experienced teachers are also people who are needed to mentor younger members of the profession.

So if we are training a surplus to our current replacement requirements, can't gainful employment be found for all, to help increase our level of education? And why are we making the Local Authorities pay for something else, this case by borrowing, when the SNP have asked them to hold their level of taxation. When the freeze is finally lifted, what hike will the Council Tax Payer (as the SNP have reneged on Local Income Tax) have to face to pay for all this.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Banking Double Speak

The Supreme Court has ruled that earlier court rulings that allowed the Office of Fair Trading to investigate the fairness of charges for unauthorised overdrafts will be overturned. The Banks are happy, obviously. They have said there had been major changes to current account packages recently, and pointed out that these unplanned overdraft fees could be avoided.
I assume by that they mean that you can arrange to increase or arrange your overdraft facility to enable you to avoid having an unauthorised overdraft. Well I have attempted to do just that 3 times in the last 18 months and been turned down every time. Even when such a facility was only requested for one month on one occasion. I have also calculated that the amount of my overdraft is actually less than the total value of bank charges I have accrued through their practises of bouncing and charging each payments separately and irregular account activity fees occurred when I have gone overdrawn. In some months solely because their charges were taken out in the week before my regular pay check is lodged.
Yes I have gone into an unauthorised overdraft situation because the banking month doesn't tally with my pay month. So at the end of their month they take charges out within 14 days, whereas I get paid 15 days later. Angela Knight, from the British Banking Association said:

"The banks are mindful of their customers, they know the concerns of those who have paid the unauthorised overdraft fees and those who have not.

"Individuals can avoid any charge by putting their overdraft arrangements in place first."

However, I wonder how many like me in recent months have been met with indifference or rejection when trying to do just that.


Inverness Valentine's Night 50 Years Ago

Caron has been speculating a lot about the past Valentine's Night activities of various of our friends' parents in recent days. She even mentioned it when by anybody's reckoning it had nothing to do with marking one birth.
I'm wondering how she will of the goings on at a croft near her own home city Inverness by Ian and Mary 50 years ago on that fateful night?
Yes today we wish Charles Kennedy a happy 50th Birthday, former leader of the Lib Dems. All I will add is that all the best people were born in a year with a nine at the end.

Queen's Speech Lie on Scotland

Only last week the Queen was made to read these words from her Government:

"In Scotland, my government will take forward proposals in the final report of the commission on Scottish devolution."

This was meant to be in the programme for Government before the next General Election, both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives said that much of what was promised last Wednesday would not be deliverable in time. Well the Independent is reporting that Jim Murphy the Scottish Secretary is going to announce the proposals to deepen devolution in Parliament today, but will concede that this will not take place until after the General Election.

Last week top Scottish Labour Blogger Yousuf was all full of joy over the impending white elephant paper that Murphy was going to bring before the House. Well he will bring it, but he has already conceded there will not be time to bring it through.

Therefore the party that Yousuf says is the party of Home Rule are not prepared to follow through. That leaves us with the Tories another sponsor of the Calman Commission in Scotland, but their too are running scared of the white paper elephant in the room. One senior Tory has be quoted as saying:

"It's a headache for us. No doubt that's what Gordon Brown intends it to be. We will consider our options carefully."

B...b...but Annabel Goldie was pushing David Cameron to give full-hearted support for the Calman plans in the Commons when the report came out in June. Of course even then she was facing problems from her own MSPs, of course one of them John Lamont wants to be one of the people deciding on that.

If you want deeper powers for the Scottish Parliament a few things are clear, if you vote Labour they'll procrastinate, if you vote Tory they'll have a headache, if you vote SNP they'll decapitate (with out a clean slice and too many unanswered questions). Therefore the only way to get constructive real change and more power for Scotland is to vote Lib Dem.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Troubled Borders

Almost a year ago on the 26th November last year, Woolworths went into administration

Today there is more potentially sad news for the High Street, today there is the first sign that Borders, the bookseller, is faltering. Their website has stopped taking new orders and there are rumours that they do not have enough money to make it through to Christmas.

Borders of course suffers doubly, they are dwarfed as far as High Street bookselling goes by Waterstones' 303 stores to 45. Online they are obviously small fry compared to Waterstones. Of course unlike MFI that also disappeared around the time of Woolworths last year there is no disparity in product. The books that they sell are identical in every way to those of Waterstones or Amazon or any other bookseller of course. What may be their undoing in the matter of economies of scale. They are a smaller purchaser, and therefore seller of the same items and therefore may not be able to get the same deals to undercut in price the other stores.

Of course my most accessible Borders store is in Glasgow, without a car Fort Kinnaird in Edinburgh is bit of a trek, especially when there are three Waterstones either on or close to Princes Street, even Blackstones isn't that difficult to get to from the city centre. Plus I also have another Waterstones in Livingston and one at the Gyle close to where I work. So yes there is a case of near Tesco-like saturation of the local market of the biggest bookseller in the UK.

It may well be a sad day for Borders, and I shall miss being able to browse their shelves when I do get a chance, as every so often I do find something different there, like you do when you visit somewhere that is laid out different from your normal shopping location style.

Rupert's Wonky Newspaper Factory

Subrosa has highlighted the fact that Murdoch is looking to remove his news content from Google and place it exclusively on Microsoft's Bing search engine. Personally I think this is a retrograde step even if he is going to have pay only content on his news websites (another retrograde step).
During the expenses scandal in May I changed the details on my Jim Devine Google alert. I sent it not just to my Google address but also to my work email, I also changed the frequency from once a day to every mention. The reason for this was so that I would know just when his threatened resignation, or even worse (for him) he exclusion from Parliament took place. Being on by election watch for a resignation puts you on a strange footing I guess. Well I haven't changed those settings.
So last night I had eight alerts for Mr Devine after I left work. I know that 50% of these are News Corp sites, so I might have clicked on any one of them to get the News. If Murdoch removes his content from appearing on Google, I guess I'll never know what turns up on his papers and will use other sources to get my headlines, therefore not being tempted to pay for his content (apart from the pulped wood and recycled paper form that I do currently).
His loss.
People get their news feeds through all manner of ways these days, something that Murdoch doesn't get. If his content is good, it should attract people in from the way we search for news these days, by locking it away in its own little coral is he committing publishing suicide? Google also have plans to release their own phone, again steps, leaps or bounds ahead of Microsoft, in a world increasingly on the move, getting news on the move is one thing that Murdoch may be missing the boat on. If he shuts his empire away Willy Wonka like behind steel fences from a media hungry internet savvy public is he going to survive.
I doubt he'll produce a newsprint river behind the gates and all kinds of tasties getting produced by Oompa Loompa's if he does lock his media away. The media smart generation won't direct people to his paid media via their blogs or Twitter accounts, basically because many of them will not be paying to read it themselves. The news that the public get hold of first will be from his competitors.
Oompa Loompa doompety doo
We have another puzzle for you.
If the Aussie shields news away
How will we get the news every day?
Will people pay when others give it free?
That is a question he will have to see.
Once he diverts the googlebot's eyes
Will he can financial prize?
We Oompa Loompa's doubt he will.
Oompa Loompa stupidy fool
Murdoch is stubborn as any mule.
But it may be the end of his reign
If Newsreaders have to sing his refrain.

DNA Database is Racist

With chilling echoes back to the data collected in Nazi Germany on genetics the startling truth about the criminal database is that 3 in ever 4 young black, British males finds himself on the DNA database. In total there is also a third of all Black men.

Of course the computer itself is colour blind. But as each entrant on that database at present has been stopped, arrested and sampled, even if released and not charged with any crime, shows the latest findings in a horrifying light. The Human Genetics Commission who drew up this report gets this figure from a question asked to the Home Affairs select committee to Baroness Scotland in 2007 when she responded to the statement that "as many as 77 per cent of young black males will soon be on the DNA database" with "The figures in relation to 77 per cent, I think, are correct." This figure does not tally with those officially released by the Government.

However, the Guardian focuses on the part of the report that Police are routinely arresting people with the purpose of adding their DNA to the police database. But as those targeted for such action are overly representing Afro-Caribbean young men their increased stigmatism from the police. There is also the tale of a 12-year-old schoolboy who eleven years ago was swabbed and added to the database of an alleged incident involving Pokemon cards. Or the black man who was arrested for not wearing his seatbelt.

Database evidence is not the be all and end all of police work, nor should it ever be. It is only part of the process, but also what has happened to the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. The fact that there are 5 million individuals on the crime detection database, many of whom have never been charged or found to have been involved in a crime is a backdoor way to lazy policing. It is not a coverall for the lack of policing on the streets, all of us would agree that prevention is better than detection after the event.

But all this picking up, swabbing and cataloging of data of people who aren't doing anything criminal is wasting police time. The section 60 powers that give the police this amount of power to stop anyone at anytime and arrest without just cause is merely farming DNA unto the Government's pet database project. With the report that has been produced there is a clear reason that innocent peoples DNA should be struck from the database. This is not being used to prevent or detect crime, this is being used to target certain groups in our society without just cause being given.

Monday 23 November 2009

Labour the Home Rule Guard! - Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Yousuf Hamid?

Yousuf yesterday blogged about the latest opinion poll saying how it could lead to a hung Parliament. He also pointed to his post from Friday about how only, in his eyes, a vote for Labour would deliver Home Rule as laid out by the Calman Commission.
Now I'm not someone you whose eyes you can easily pull the wool over so lets look at the facts. Yes Labour brought us devolution, but the main goal wasn't so much to give Home Rule to Scotland and Wales, it was a way they saw to deal with the Northern Ireland situation and a small price (even smaller in Wales's case) to pay. You only have to look at how committed some of the same Labour MPs who were still sitting on the green benches when Tony Blair pushed through the devolution Acts were to the no campaigns in 1970 to see how deep their commitment was. The party was split on the issue in the 1970s. As I've blogged before both here and on Malc's 'vacationing' blog the Lib Dems or their predecessor parties really are the party of Home Rule, with over a century of talking about it, bringing bills before Parliament and attempting to make it happen.
Not convinced then you only have to look at how much central control the Labour Westminster administration has taken in, even with varying degrees of devolution in some of the outer reaches. They are trying to micromanage education (12 different Bills in 12 years), health, crime etc from London instead of letting the local authorities have responsibility for their own regions. Where a bespoke approach based on central tenants is what is needed, Labour have offered the regions of England and to a lesser extent the devolved parts an off the peg answer.
Look how the greater power that has been given to the Scottish people, the variable tax raising powers given to Scotland were not a Labour initiative but came from the other members of the Constitutional Convention. Fairer votes for Local Government came from the 2003 Partnership agreement with the Lib Dems. Indeed so did much of the policy differences they brought in, some of which like a personal care-lite they announced in the Queen's Speech. They are not a Home Rule party they are a centrist party, always have been and continue to be so.
However, Yousuf is right to mention about the only way to ensure Home Rule in a post titled Hung Parliament. If either Labour or the Conservatives were really committed to Home Rule they would have brought legislation ages ago to bring it about. After a 75 year gap from the previous Bill for Scottish Home Rule the Scotland Act came before Parliament. However, when they are safe they don't think about such things, the 1970 Scottish referendum came about because Labour needed the backing of the Liberals the help them through tough waters. It was another Scottish born Labour MP, George Cunningham, who set the bar high enough for the referendum to fail. Indeed it was only the threat of a hung parliament in 1997 that made Tony Blair let Robin Cook sit down to discuss electoral reform, Lord's reform and devolution with the Lib Dems.
So therefore if you want you see Home Rule in Scotland the best way for any move to come is liable to be through a hung Parliament, not an overall majority for either of the parties that are backing away from the Calman Commission's report. Then the power to help see it through will lie in the Liberal Democrats, not that I'm advocating a hung Parliament, we'd get a far more sensible, sane and progressive agenda carried out under a Lib Dem majority, than either of the other two.

Parish Notice

Blogging has been light for the past fortnight for a couple of reasons. While I was off work for that time firstly in week one my broadband gave up on me, then in week two once that had been sorted my laptop decided it was only going to survive for a max of about 15 minutes a time before freezing, but more often between 5 and 10 minutes.

Therefore to have made last week's Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen despite all the difficulties in getting anything published makes it is somewhat more warming that my previous mentions amongst the most popular and best Lib Dem posts of the week.

Thank you everyone for bearing with me. As regular readers will now today is a Monday so I'm not likely to get into any heavy posting today but hope to resume some sort of semi-normal posting again from tomorrow while my laptop visits the Doctor's surgery.

Friday 20 November 2009

It's Friday So......(Thiery Henry Special)

Well sorry I was not posting my usual 5PM Friday snippet for the last two weeks. Last week I had no t'internet. This week my little laptop has been playing up. However, as this weekend I'll be spending Saturday at the Lib Dem Blogger's Unconference in Edinburgh, I thought I better do my usual weekend tweet.

So courtesy of Dublin FM104 radio with a little help from Norwegian stars A-ha

For my non-Irish, or non-football following readers here is what has made the former Arsenal playing Ireland's most hated man. Having lost 1-0 to the French at Croke Park in Dublin. The Irish were in Paris for the second leg of the play off for the World. The got the equalising goal in normal time. But towards the end of the first period of extra time, the "hand of frog" incident occurred.

When the wife of Kevin Lang Edinburgh North and Leith Lib Dem PPC saw Thierry Henry over breakfast a few months back in their hotel, I know wish she's chopped off his left hand.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Debating the Empty Speech

As I blogged earlier the Queen's speech lacked ways to improve Government accountability, or any concrete ways to meet their aim to cut the deficit by 50%.

Well David Cameron in his response has just pointed out that there are 11 Kelly Commission recommendations still to pass into law. He asked where were these issues in the speech. He also offered to give way to the Prime Minister if he said he was going to implement these before the election. He did this not once but twice, the Prime Minister's only movement was to turn and whisper the the Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, sat on his right had. Cameron then also went on to point out where was the action to cut the deficit as promised. He was ready to give way again for these details to be given. Again the Prime Minister refused to oblige. He also asked where were the three important letter's NHS.

Coming on the PM's response however, hoping to hear some response to these matters. He approached the issue of the Copenhagen Summit and the issue that Cameron has agreed with him upon. He also touched upon the Afghanistan issue and the elements that again they agreed on. In the end though the Prime Minister reiterated the Bills that he was bringing before the house, he failed to mention the Kelly proposals or how he was going to cut the deficit saying Labour are "the only party with policies" to lead us out of recession, strangely none of them in his previous list, or outlined in the speech. So where are these policies?

Only when questioned did he say this would happen by raising the top rate of tax, reviewing pensions and raising National Insurance contributions. So all raising more money, but surely some tightening of the belt is also required to reach such a target so quickly unless these tax increases are going to be majorly prohibitive.

The Prime Minister is still mixing up clean(er) coal and carbon capture and storage as a ways to attack climate change. Both are merely cleaner not clean, CC&S for example still has a 60% carbon footprint of a conventional coal fired power station, clean coal is even higher.

After a reprise of the list of bills however, the Prime Minister sat down still without addressing the remaining Kelly recommendations and still without any firm government savings to help reduce the deficit.

Nick Clegg then rose to respond to the 'fantasy Queen's speech'. The called the employment plans what they were, reannouncements. Getting the banks lending again, setting out a clear Afghanistan strategy. He mentioned that of the policies in last years Queen's speech only two made it unto the statute book by May of this year. He also said that the making of laws is doing nothing, but what is needed is action. He called for real radical action in splitting up the banks on the recommendation of the Bank of England*, instead of the displacement policies they have come up with.

He said the improving schools bill, the twelve in 12 years, which so far have not yet improved skills. There are some bills that offer more than they will deliver, the bill on doing away with (some) cluster bombs, the provision of free personal care (to some). He did however point out that reductions are needed for credibility.

He asks what it should be doing? It should be looking at political reform, this should have been giving a clean bill of health to the next Parliament. The issues he outlined in his article on Monday. These reforms could transform our threadbare political institutions. But that opportunity to do the right thing has yet again be squandered.

Charles Clarke went on the back Clegg and Vince Cable's approach on banking, and the Lib Dem and Conservative claims to bring in more political reform, including bringing in fixed term Parliaments. he went on to say that while there some good points in it, there were things in it or omitted from it that made it hard to support.

*The splitting of retail and casino (investment) banking was backed by Charles Clarke immediately following Nick, and John McFall then agreed with Chris Huhne that the example of Canada wasn't appropriate as their investment portion was so small.

The Queen's Speech - Initial Thoughts

For the last time in this the 15th Parliament of her reign the Queen has delivered the words that her Government's wishes. Well after all the pomp and circumstance has led to the Queen taking her seat on the throne in the House of Lords. When Black Rod entered the Commons though it was surprisingly sparsely populated on the Labour benches.

Frank (Oops*) Dennis Skinner shouted out "Royal Expenses are on the way!" in his traditional role as mischief maker in chief. Then all the Members, including the Lib Dems showing they still respect the authority of the crown just not the the content of this speech, followed the Speaker to the other place. But what did the speech contain once they all stood at the back of the Upper Chamber?

Well the main thrust was the economy but how was that to be done? Fostering growth through education and training. International collaboration for Economic Growth and Climate Change (strangely of course the rejection of bring 10:10 to the House recently grates against that, can't get their own House in order). Though they have mentioned their new buzz cleaner fuel Carbon Capture and Storage, but no mention about utilising other renewables and to there was an announcement to help the poorest households with their energy bills. There is also going to be the legislation laid to bring about a high speed rail link between London and Scotland.

Regulation of the financial service industry to be brought in over the governance and benefits that the banking sector currently enjoys. So Gordon Brown is going to sort out the mess of the regulation of the financial sector that he brought in as Chancellor. There was also the vague promise to bring lgislation forward to half the deficit. Wow! That will be a lot to achieve in 70 days, and it is also very wishy washy, it is hardly a line that can be thrown away, yet the speech component of this would be able to fit into a Tweet.

Free personal care, but only to those in highest need. Parents to take responsibility of children's anti-social behaviour, so an even greater tightening of civil liberty you may not be judged by the sins of your fathers but those of your children. This from the Government that wants everybody to work full time, encouraging people off benefits with a stick, so parental supervision is going to be harder to achieve in some cases. 'Continue' to narrow the gap between rich and poor, equality of pay between men and women. Neither of these two have been effective attacked in 12 years of a Labour government surprisingly and now in their dying breathe they want to resolve the issues they have ignored or on occasions made worse over the last 3 parliaments. But there is to be movement on temporary agency workers, something that I've seen first hand for the last 8 years or so and needs greater protection, long overdue.

Constitutional reform, will continue to be brought forward, a democratic mandate for the Lords. Sadly there appeared to be very little in this section of reforming Parliament, not enough to please the people. Though Parliament will work with the Northern Irish to continue the devolution of Police and Law and Order, the one outstanding devolution from the Agreement from the start of Blair's years. There is also a promise of more powers to Wales and a continuation of working with Scotland, I didn't hear anything to implement any of the Calman proposals so Labour are dropping the ball on Scotland, and the Tories are unlikely to pick it up if they take power.

However, how this Government can work towards a world without nuclear weapons while being committed to replacing Trident is something we all want to know. But they are to bring an end to cluster munitions, after 12 years they have finally got around to tyring to deal with one Princess Diana's legacies and do away with landmines.

There is a lot of noble talk but there are some things that are too big to have been left to the end, the Equality Bill for example surely should have been a first term commitment rather than a rump achievement. They are taking steps towards the Lib Dem policy of free personal care. There was some mention of education as well, so the mantra from the pre-1997 election of "Education, Education, Education" is still looking for a resolution over 12 years later, surely some sort of failure of their Prime objective. Lord's Reform is still a draft bill, nothing about fair votes, getting big money out of politics, stuff that could have given a clean bill to the next parliament but no steps in that direction.

These are purely my initial thoughts of what struck me from what was said, as it was being said. I may look at the full text later and pick up some other things.

*May have something to do with the watching the repeat of BBC Children in Need's Frank Skinner narrated Round the World in 80 Days just before sleep last night.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Dave Leads by Chasing Down a Bolted Bandwagon

The man widely tipped as the next Prime Minister has yet again shown his lack of 'leadership' by following Nick Clegg's attack on the Labour publicising Queen's speech that I gave an alternative for yesterday.

Mind you Cameron's posturing is also just that, he says "What we need is radicalism and the Conservatives have proved that we are the only party to possess it."His radicalism is aimed at conquering the recession, social problems and the political system.

However, look at some of that radicalism, on the national debt, they are revisiting the child credit on the highest paid, good so are the Lib Dems. Yet they are also looking to reward the highest paid with perks in inheritance tax. They are looking to freeze public sector pay, the Lib Dems have also promised that for the top end jobs. The conservatives have promised to do so for all but the lowest paid 1 million, that is all the public sector workers paid under £18,000. It may be radical but is hardly improving the lot of social problems, especially for the low paid public servants who have to work in London.

On our broken society Cameron admits that his triumvirate teenage pregnancy, addiction and crime won't be fixed overnight. Strange that he is attacking Labour of bringing things they won't have time to achieve by offering up an alternative that is also unachievable. However, they are saying that any suitably qualified organisation can set up a new school anywhere they wished. Those that mean Ronald McDonald or Disney High Schools, after all those these multinationals have educational programmes within their corporate structure, indeed for that matter so do most multi-nationals.

If these qualified organisations can set up a school anywhere they want, surely won't they be looking for where they may most benefit to the organisation? Surely these will not be set up where the new school is most needed. Yes Cameron then mentions his pupil premium to encourage schools to take on pupils from less advantaged backgrounds, but what if these new schools are getting set up too far away to be of use?

As for Parliamentary reform he says he will cut ministers’ salaries by 5 per cent, scrap the perks and subsidies of parliamentary life, reign in the quango state and give power to local government, communities, families and individuals.

Ok the first is in line with Public Service restructuring the Lib Dems have proposed. But just what does Cameron mean by the perks and subsidies of parliamentary life? How far reaching those that stretch into necessary expenses to ensure that being a Member of Parliament isn't just a job for the well off, as it was in the 19th century? We've already seen that some of their radical reforms will hurt aspirant MPs from less well off situations, potentially losing a level of representative and experience to the House.

Unlike Nick who yesterday gave a number of concrete proposals to make real change is giving power to the people Cameron is (as the Tories have so long) being vague of the specifics. You really must wonder just when anything concrete, and fair, will actually come from the Tories rather than homilies and aspirational words on this.

Monday 16 November 2009

A Question of Sexuality - or Not

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
As a family genealogy geek I've spent a lot of time recently looking through the PDF files of the Irish Census from 1911. Indeed some friends will doubtless tell you of my excitement as the time for the County Londonderry returns to go online earlier in the year.

I know the importance in history of the accuracy of the information that is given. I also like the fact that some relatives have given extra information* not required, but which for history makes things easier to look into a verify. Therefore when I heard that the Government were considering adding a question about sexuality to the 2011 census I thought about whether this was a good idea or not.

There are two official takes on it, first there is the one of my former colleagues at the Office of National Statistics (ONS) who say that it won't provide a true reflection of the number of gay, lesbian and bi-sexual members of society. Then there is view of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who say it is vital to know how many gays, lesbians and bisexuals there are in Britain, where they live and what jobs they do so the progress of equality legislation can be measured.

I'd say that both are partially correct. The inclusion of the question isn't going to give an accurate reflection, indeed one of the most misrepresented groups would be the bi-sexual population. Anyone who spends anytime around the gay community will know that they are people out there who will say 'I'm not gay but...' the but is of course that they will happily engage in sexual acts with those of the same sex. There will be bisexuals out there who are in monogamous (or not**) 'heterosexual' relationships and not all of them will be totally open telling their partner that is the case, so to fill it in on a census form would definitely be out.

The census is there to gather an accurate picture of the population, the question of sexuality is not even one that every member of society is able to answer. Coming out is hard enough for many of us, to possibly feel obliged to do so, or lie about it on a census form when others around you are filling it in is an issue. In fact looking to see what would have happened in previous census returns for myself in 1991 I was denying my own sexuality, so would not have given an accurate return to that question. In 2001 I had just moved in with my ex-fiancée's parents, who fortunately did know my sexuality, but could have been embarrassing otherwise. That is just me, and while I don't wear it on my sleeve it is not something that is hidden from people around, people who will also appear on a census return.

What about people in residences of multiple occupancy? I notice the wording of the question appears to only cover straight, bi or gay. So what about the whole grey area of transgender/transsexual identities? Or what about asexuality or polyamorous relationships? Indeed it is a very complex issue and not one that can be passed of in one question and tick box. A spokesperson for the ONS said:

"A suite of questions would be necessary to collect data on the different dimensions of sexual orientation, including attraction, behaviour and identity."
Even then are we using the Kinsey scale for each of the three aspects? Indeed passed on the three question option my answers will have been changing over the last two census years and will be different again at the next one.

Yeah I know we already have the optional question about religion, but people are more prepared to talk about that, or simply write in Jedi. However, there is talk of rephrasing that question as a two-parter, the first asking "Do you identify with a religion?" then the yes respondents filling in which.

Obviously I'm not advocating 'don't ask, don't tell' as that hides more things behind the scenes than a level of openness will provide. However, I'm with the ONS on this one. The question cannot be worded in a way that will provide an accurate measurement, at this time. For starters it is not a complete question, second while there many out there are gay and proud, there are also many who are bi and shy.

From personal experience I would say that many straight and especially religious people may be opting out of answering the question. Indeed many religious groups are already saying it is an invasion of privacy. There is also as I pointed out liable to be a skew to the gay and straight responses and the bi-sexual (and others) segment of identity is going to be under-represented through a number of reasons. Or course that is personal anecdotal opinion and not quantitative (which some will argue is the point of the census question) but I think if there was a way to measure it (which I don't think there is) it would bear out in practise.

*Examples include cities rather than just County or other UK Country. Widow(er)s including length of marriage and children details when this was only requested of couples.

** Though I'll focus on the monogamous ones rather than those that also cheat, not a condition restricted to gay or bi but also present amongst the straight community, in case Jan Moir is reading this.

Make It So - The Reforming Queen's Speech

The Labour Pre-Manifesto Queen's speech is being attacked in today's Independent by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg as a "waste of everyone's time" over the next 70 days of Government sitting before a General Election is called. Merely acting as window dressing for a lot of what Labour want to do beyond the date of the poll.

Here then is what Nick and the people want want to hear when she takes her speech out of the pouch on the throne in the Lords on Wednesday.

My Government would like to apologise to the my subjects for the way it has flagrantly mistreated them, and their money, over their expenses claims. They have listened to One's subjects are will be putting together a programme of wide sweeping reform to remedy this lack of trust, accountability and transparency before they come to One ready to go to the people in the spring.

Over the next seventy days my Government will start by enacting all the proposals of the Kelly Commission without exception. (gasps from those standing at the rear of the chamber). Oh yes you will. (aside: Can One still send them to the Tower?) As many as can be will be in place immediately shall be, the remainder will be enabled ready to come into effect on the resumption of the next Parliamentary session.

My Government realises though that the Kelly Commission report is merely a way of capturing the horse after it has bolted, so is proposing with the rest of Parliaments time to shore up the stable and paddock as well, so that the temptation or ability to bolt in this way is not presentable again to its members.

Therefore My Government will bring to both Houses legislation to curb the power of the whips offices, enabling more power to be placed in the hands of back bench MPs and therefore those of One's subjects whom they represent. Further to this they will present a Bill to set the length of each subsequent Parliament Term to occur on the first Thursday of may every four years thereafter, thus removing the ability of my Government to benefit from a favourable mood in the nation, something which their monarch has never had the ability so to do.

Legislation will also be brought before both Houses to install a Member's code of conduct, including an independent commission to adjudicate on members maintaining of said code. They will then also move a Bill that any Member in serious breach of the code, can when one in ten of their electorate deem fit face a recall election, in which they are entitled to stand either with the backing of their party, or falling that as an independent and any who choose to challenge them on their record.

This brings my Government to the part of how such elections will be carried out. Firstly by the end of this session my Government will pass a Bill to fully elect the House of Lords. The current Life Peers will take on the title of Working Peers. Each party representation will decide amongst their current Membership, by lot, three thirds measures of their membership. Their representation will be distributed evenly dependent on electorate across geographical areas in line with the European Election regions. The first third will present themselves to the public in 2012, for election for six years, the subsequent thirds in 2014 and 2016. The same rules of Code of Conduct and for procedure when they are breached shall also apply to One's Working Peers.

Finally my Government proposes to bring legislation to this place and the other place that all elections to seats in this Palace will be contested by proportional representation, using a Single Transferable Vote, for multi-member wards. The first for working peers will be in place in 2012, and the Boundary Commission with draw up 5-6 members constituencies for the lower chamber in time for the election that shall occur on the first day of May in the year of our Lord 2014 D.V. which may be the sixty-second year of One's reign if One is spared.

All this shall come to be for the sake of One's subjects, for sake of restoring trust in My Government and My Opposition and all who deem to represent the people of this United Kingdom in these places.

(At the point Her Majesty adjusted the royal robes, leaned forward slightly in the throne and looked down the chamber to where the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, Rt. Hon. David Cameron, Rt. Hon Nick Clegg and other leaders were standing. Looking them in the eye she raised her right hand and pointed the four fingers in their direction) Make it so, number ones.

Update: See also Stephen Tall's reflections at Lib Dem Voice.

Local Investment Secured for Town Centres Welcome

Tam Smith has posted a question for me on an older blog entry. He asks:

"Stephen,What do you think of the almost 3 million pounds worth of Town Centre regeneration funding provided by an SNP administration for the constituency we represent.

"We have all been working hard with local groups and our partners in Holyrood to secure such funding thus providing much needed jobs in construction as well as adding a facelift to local shops etc.Where were the Lib Dems when all of this was going on.Come on Stephen let's be positive and work together for the benefit of our local areas.I can assure you it wasn't easy taking part in the bids but it was more worthwhile than critisising [sic] ones web page postings. Tam."

Firstly I welcome the the £2.345 million investment that the SNP administration are earmarking for the town centres of Linlithgow, Bathgate, Armadale and Whitburn. Also for the extra funding that Bathgate's Business Improvement District (BID) Company, Enterprising Bathgate, have also secured from the Scottish Parliament. Although neither of us currently represent any part of the constituency, although very shortly we may both be seeking to do so for all of it.

As for where the Lib Dems have been Tam should ask local business owners just who turned up at their crisis meeting here in Bathgate in June 2005? I'll give you a clue it wasn't any of the local councillors, the MP, MSPs, or 3 of the other parliamentary candidates of the month before. The Lib Dems truly did show they worked for local interests all year round not just at election times. As well as that I've attended meetings about the impact of paid parking to business, residents and others in Linlithgow. As well as meetings that led to Linlithgow becoming a shining beacon of environmentalism in the county.

I've been advocating and been fighting for a fair deal for Whitburn, Armdale, Bathgate, Linlithgow and the other West Lothian town centres that have seemed to suffer in the eight years I have lived here while the Livingston shopping experience grows and increases in size and pull. I've always been there to offer advise and support in their attempts to get a fair deal for themselves, something that the businesses have driven themselves moving forward. I've been working away hard, on the ground, moving things forward for years.

Indeed there are councillors on both side of the council chamber and our independent councillor who know that I already will happily work with them on issues of mutual interest. Tam should have known from our meetings, or from discussion with his colleagues, that I would have been happy to discuss involvement with such an incentive, yet he lays it down as a challenge, almost as if I and the Lib Dems have done nothing.

Sadly knowing as I do the number of businesses that have already disappeared from many of these town centres the investment is too late for some local business owners. But this investment is better late than never.

In March 2008 the Council said it would be matching the BID funding in Bathgate to make a total of £750,000. Though at the start of this year Enterprise Bathgate valued at £990,000 the benefit their funding would bring to the town where I live. Tam, himself, does seem a little confused about the exact benefit of the Enterprising Bathgate portion of the funding, he starts by saying that West Lothian Council and Enterprising Bathgate are investing a further £800,000 into the pot, then later says that it is £935,000 from Enterprising Bathgate topped up with £260,000 from the council. Maybe he would like to clarify which of the three figures is the correct one.

With so many conflicting figures it is hard for the electorate to discern just what level of investment is to be given. The news was too late for this weeks local papers, so I will get the facts straightened when they are available for everyone.

I've borrowed from Tam's website the full list of the projects that will be included:


● develop transport and town centre connections by improving access and developing the streetscape, pedestrian walkways and cycle routes.

● refurbish the Goth Tower clock, together with town centre shopfront improvements and signage.

● develop the public realm at The Cross.


● improvement to connections between the town centre/rail station/union canal, focusing on Low Port as a gateway.

● improvements in the Conservation Area to retail and business shop fronts together with improved signage.

● in partnership with Historic Scotland develop better connections between the Town Centre and Linlithgow Palace, including improved event access, signage, heritage conservation and other physical developments.

● re-location of new heritage facility into the Burgh Halls.


● address safer connections at The Cross and links to residential areas, transport sites and car parking sites, including measures to enhance mobility, pedestrian and cycle use.

● improvements in the town centre to retail and business shop fronts together with improved signage and better streetscape layout.

● acquisition of derelict land site in Whitburn Town Centre and restoration for development.


● The creation of a town centre Wi-Fi zone in Bathgate for customers and businesses.

● Develop town centre cycle network linking park and ride/transport interchange/town centre, regal conference/Arts Facility/Lindsay house including cycling provisions at each site along with signage.

● The provision of new and improved signage/retail frontage within core business to in Bathgate.

● The provision of a transport interchange to connect Bathgate and Airdrie including new signage, lighting and public information.

There is also £350,000 for Bo'ness and Grangemouth at the northern end of the Westminster constituency which had been secured in the first tranche of funding earlier this year as part of the BID pilot projects.

UPDATE: I notice that the BBC indicates that the Scottish Parliament is investing £1.7 million in to Armadale, Almondvale (what more!!!) and Broxburn. Now I know Linlithgow have got £94k from the Climate Challenge fund, even if Enterprise Bathgate is a seperate endeavour, I take it then than Council funding is coming for the Whitburn elements.

PS I notice that the criticism of Tam's use of quotes on his webpage was taken on board and was actually praised for doing so last night. I'm hoping for an honest campaign heading into the Westminster election, the people deserve transparency and openness in their Westminster representative when they get to decide on who that should be.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Ronan Speaks About Loss of 'Lil Brother' Steo

In this morning's Observer Ronan Keating gives his first interview since the sudden death of Stephen Gately last month. I'll warn you now have the tissues ready before you click this link to the story.

He tells of the little things that make things hard, the missing laughter of Stephen, his number appearing in his mobile, the book they were both reading that Stephen never got to the end of and the feeling he had when he did, the premiere they had planned to attend together. Gately may have been a year Keating's senior but his boyish charm made Ronan, from a family of sisters look on him as his little brother.

He was in Chicago preparing to run the city's marathon when he heard the news. He couldn't believe that the Stephen who had passed away was the bands 'Steo' it surely had to be another Stephen. But then he threw himself into preparing for the funeral. In a way I fully understand that. It was like me and my mum at about 2:30am after my father had died, she came to my room because the light was still on and was working on her to do list to check if there was anything else, of course I added a few things. The practical things sure are a way to keep focus, but there is also a strange sense like Ronan has now looking back on things how surreal your actions are to carry on with some sense of normality or activity when everything has suddenly been shaken up like that.

Going on he says that the funeral was hard. Getting out of the car with people clapping didn't seem right. The normal celebrity reaction to turn wave and smile wasn't right. He says he and the rest of the band didn't want to appear rude, but also didn't want to appear disrespectful, so just kept their eyes on the ground.

However, he did say:

"When times are at their worst, it's amazing what people will do for you. I've seen, this last couple of weeks, the genuine support from the public – it has been incredible – and from the media, bar one. It's been amazing."

Oh yeah the Jan Moir elephant in the room was touched upon. This is the first time that anyone who was close to the story has actually spoken candidly about it. Ronan went on to say:

"None of us read the article because we were told 'You wouldn't want to read it' so we purposely didn't, we ignored it. But obviously it was unavoidable to hear what comments were being made, and I think it's disgusting. It was just wrong; one, for her to write it, and two, for the paper to print it. It shouldn't have been allowed. It was wrong. It looked to me like someone trying to make a name for themselves out of a terrible situation, a devastating situation. And what was worse was the apology – the alleged apology, that was written a week later, was her defending herself! It's just disgraceful. Again, for her to do it and for the paper to allow it. I'm dumbfounded. It's bizarre.

"But anyway, again, I wouldn't dwell on it. I wouldn't want to give her any publicity for that. He was a human being. A human being with feelings; a husband, a family that have feelings. At what point do people cross that line? Incredible," he shakes his head. "Incredibly insensitive."

Guess that unpology was recognised as such by more than just me.

However, Ronan has got himself back into work. When his mother Marie died of breast cancer 11 years ago, he hide himself away for a bit and turned to drink, which he admits wasn't good for him. This time he is back working, promoting his new album Winter Songs which is out tomorrow. Also there will be two tracks on the new Boyzone album which will feature the already recorded voice of Stephen. One of the tracks is going to be the next Boyzone single and Ronan has predicted this tribute is liable to be the biggest hit of 2010.

Saturday 14 November 2009

It Ain't Necessarily Bercow

I see that the Common's speaker John Bercow's wife is to stand as a Labour candidate for Westminster Council in the ward where they live. Malc asked the question via Twitter, will he vote for her? My response is it ain't necessarily so.

As anyone who knows my dating history knows the hardest vote I always seem to have to win at any election is that of my other half, whoever they may be. Either if I am merely campaigning or especially if I am standing I have always had to fight for that one vote, it probably has something to do with the fact that I've never (knowingly) dated a fellow Lib Dem supporter. In the 2003 election I actually sat there while my partner at the time went through the postal vote forms. As both the constituency and list seats for Parliament slipped out of my grasp I eagerly waited for the one for the council seat. In the Croftmalloch ward where we lived there were 4 candidates the Lib Dem one being Stephen Glenn. Would I manage to persuade that final vote to go to such a worthy and trustworthy candidate? After a fair amount of teasing it finally did, so I at least knew I had two votes on the day, if only because the preferred options weren't standing a candidate in our area.

It leads back to the point that even though you live with someone, share many aspects of your live with them, when it comes do to political philosophy you may not be able to swing their vote your way. It may be one of those things that you agree to disagree on. I personally always enjoy the fact that one of the toughest audiences I have to argue policy with is at the other side of the dinner table, sofa or bed. I'm not sure what would happen with my own political edge if my partner was of the same political persuasion, I get to rehearse certain arguments in defence of some of our stances (dependent on political allegiances of the OH) on an ongoing basis.

So to answer the question, I think John Bercow should vote for who he wants to vote for, whether that is his wife or the conservative opponent, or anyone else for that matter, its up to him. It is a secret ballot after all.

PS On that note there is recently a vacancy opened up for the position described above. Anyone with a keen interest in politics, prepared to put up with me in full out election campaign mode for the next few months grabbing 'us' time when it is available, may apply. A non-Lib Dem political affiliation is preferable, though not essential (maybe). ;)

Other SNP Luminaries Speak - Tam Smith

I've been quiet all week, not able to keep an eye on t'internet. So I've only just checked on Tam Smith the SNP candidate for Linlithgow and East Falkirk's website. Since one of my last posts before the crash was looking at Tam's propensity to speak the talk of other SNP luminaries I'm pleased to see other's are now speaking on his blog.

In the last week he appears to have learnt the lesson and is quoting Angus Robertson from this news story. I'm glad to see that honesty has finally come to the SNP candidates website about just who is saying what. I hope that this is a sign of integrity in his campaigning techniques over the coming months.

Although he doesn't seem to have used the quoted in the story that says that Glasgow can end 74 years of Labour neglect that was posted on the SNP site on Wednesday.

"In the last few days Labour’s campaign has collapsed as revelation after revelation has shown up Labour’s hypocrisy.

"In the last four days it has emerged that Labour are planning 4000 job cuts in the city, slashed 300 teaching posts, are withholding £300 million of funding from the Glasgow Commonwealth and are cutting more than 40% of seats on a vital rail link into the city.

"In contrast, the SNP is winning support as we offer a fresh start for the constituency with a strong voice to speak up for Glasgow North East and to stand by the people of this area"

So if the SNP where gaining support and Labour were collapsing, just how bad were they this time last week? After all the end result was a 3:1 difference in support on the night. Was it 4:1, 5:1 just how bad were their canvas returns looking. One has to wonder just what the figures in Alec Neill's pocket were in the STV studio on Thursday night. I witnessed how far off their prediction was at first hand in Glenrothes, remember their similar quotes before Dunfermline and West Fife. Of course in fairness I also saw Labour appear to have got it wrong first hand in Livingston, I'd never seen such faces as long as Lurgan spades from the Labour mob in West Lothian before that night, and that was before the boxes started to arrive.

I'm Back

I was in the middle of writing up a piece on prostate cancer, it is Movember after all, in the early hours of last Saturday morning when I suddenly lost all Internet connection. So despite being off all of last week I have been startling quiet.

Douglas Adams used to take extremely long baths, he claimed so that the good stuff came to him, others claimed that he was merely procrastinating. Well this morning I was taking a long soak in the bath when the postie turned up with my new dongle, so maybe there is something to that.

While that is the case my replacement mobile dongle is already proving to be sporadic in its performance and I keep flitting on and offline. I'm sat on the same sofa where I suddenly realised I had changed Scottish Parliamentary Region without moving so it may well be that something is seriously wrong with the 3 network coverage in my area. Of course they are denying that is the case but it would appear to be a more sensible suggestion, especially as my dongle had lit up.

Anyway it meant I had to watch last weeks Strictly Come Dancing and X-Factor in Twitter silence. I also had to watch the results from the Glasgow North East by election with only BBC and STV for company, in the end I stuck more with the STV coverage as it seemed more interesting and diverse than Brian Taylor et al could manage on the BBC.

Tonight though I'll be heading over to Caron's for a veritable smorgasbord of television a Brucie-less Strictly (get well soon Mr Forsyth), Sky-plussed X-Factor, then The Thick of It. All served up with a Chicken Curry, I mean how could I say no.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Scientist Farm

Drayson was one of the smarter pigs on Manor Farm he was an Oxford Sandy and Black by breed. After Mr Nutt the Pharmacist was driven away from Manor farm by Johnson the Eastern Yorkshire, Brown the Scottish Saddleback charged Drayson with creating some rules by which all the animals could settle their grievances.

After a few days of thought he came to Brown and said he was ready. All the animals assembled from both barns met down by by the river and listened to Brown as he read out what Drayson had previously written up on the side of the big barn in whitewash.

  1. Whatever goes against science is an enemy
  2. Whatever comes from open views, or has proof, is valid for consideration.
  3. No animal mind shall be closed.
  4. No animal shall heap scorn on the views of the living or dead.
  5. No animal shall think another a fool.
  6. No animal shall sack any other animal for their opinion.
  7. All scientific opinions are equal.
All of the animals nodded and thought that they were a good set of rules by which to bring things before the council of elders that Brown had established. Some of them felt they could advise as to the needs of the sheep for fresh grass, or the chickens for little tabs of feed. Even old Benn nodded his approval as he supped on some of the fermented berries.

However, as time passed some of the ideas brought by some of the other animals were rejected by the elders. But when they were they were taken to the barn and told to look at the rules. Sure enough they read.

  1. Whatever goes against our view of science is an enemy
  2. Whatever comes from open views, or has proof, is valid for consideration.
  3. No animal mind shall be closed to the way of the elders.
  4. No animal shall heap scorn on the views of the living or dead with snouts.
  5. No animal shall think another a full advisor with his own say.
  6. No animal shall sack any other animal for their opinion shared by the elders.
  7. All scientific opinions are equal.

One day however, two of the goats got all uppity about never being taken seriously on the matter that some interesting mushrooms were ideal for the animals, and not as dangerous as they had been led to believe. They went to the council of elders and said but didn't you get rid of Nutt so that we could get on with thinking for ourselves. Wasn't all opinion of equal, isn't all open views something you have to consider.

The elders said we have considered and rejected your view, the troll is more dangerous that the fire that comes from the sky, or the festered water that if you drink too much of you can die. And those mushrooms are not to be eaten.

As they walked away from the council the goats looked back at the writing and they thought there was less of it, but Brown's bodyguard assured them that they were mistaken, this was the way it had always been. The white letters read:

  • Whatever comes from open views, or has proof, is valid for consideration, but will be rejected if it is against our goals.
  • All scientific opinions are equal but some are more equal that others.
With apologies to George Orwell.

Friday 6 November 2009

Tonight Matthew I'm Gonna Be....

....David Kerr candidate for Glgasow North East, John Mason MP for Glasgow East and Stewart Hosie SNP Tresury Spokesman.

Yeah, Tam Smith SNP PPC for Linlithgow and Falkirk East is back at his Rory Bremner act, this time taking on all three without crediting any.

Today he is saying:

"Scotland's banking workers deserves more than a direct line to the breadline. These reforms must not jeapordise jobs in this industry. [Kerr see here]

"As an SNP MP for this area, jobs in Linlithgow & East Falkirk, and in the city of Edinburgh [said about Glasgow North East here*], which have a direct impact on this consitueency[sic], will be my top priority and I will speak up strongly and loudly against any threat to them.

"Since Tuesday's announcement voters on the doorsteps in Bo'ness, where I am campaigning on behalf of Ann Ritchie in the local by-election have been telling me that frontline workers should not pay the price for the problems their bosses caused.

"It is clear the best way to secure a strong future for jobs in West Lothian and Falkirk district in financial services is to send an SNP MP to Westminster to speak up for this constituency and to speak up for our jobs.

"The UK Government is the main owner of these banks and any sell off that puts this constituency's jobs or Scotland's economy at risk is unacceptable." [Compare those two paragraphs with John Mason's words here]

Tam Smith continued [apparently]:

"We must have competition in our banking sector but the potential loss of local branches and uncertainty of ordinary workers in financial services is worrying for many. [Make that Mason]

Retail workers in our banks are already facing up to job losses. A vote for the SNP will tell the UK Government that West Lothian and Falkirk District's workers will not pay for Labour's broken economy." [Make that Hosie]

Let me make it perfectly clear, many people who live in Linlithgow and East Falkirk are affected by banking jobs. Some of those that get on and off the bus with me in Edinburgh Park work in some of the banking offices situated there. Lloyds have been instructed to off load Intelligence Finance which could affect the jobs of 300 people employed at Kirkton Campus in Livingston. The 3,700 frontline bank jobs that are being cut by RBS to take 14% off their staff wage bill will undoubtedly affect others.

However, the SNP had at the initial outbreak of the banking crisis pledged money from a fictious Scottish Bank in some future independent Scotland to deal with this situation. The amount they offered was £50m which now seems small fry compared to what was needed. All the while Vince Cable had been warning that the futures of our banks was not sustainable from years before, though like John the Baptist he was ignored and his pleas almost thrown out into the wilderness.

Sadly we have got to a stage where the overstretched banks may need to offload staff to survive and protect the jobs of the majority. Other industries have also gone through that sort of situation over recent months. Not all have had the benefit of a Government injection of money to see them through so the job losses have happened earlier. Rather that merely speaking 'up strongly and loudly against any threat' of job losses, Linlithgow and Falkirk East needs an MP that will look to the future, getting those who have already faced or will face the inevitable into a job. It means encouraging jobs to come to the region, using the skills that our people have got, and a lot of recent redundancies in the area have been in skilled positions.

According to the West Lothian Courier West Lothian and Falkirk are currently ranked equal 10 out of all the Local Authorities in Scotland when it comes to unemployment. At 4.4% it is 0.4% higher than the Scottish average and 0.2% higher than the UK average. There has currently been a slip to 900 vacancies listed at local job centres, but there are 4,651 people claiming Job Seekers Allowance, that is 5 people for every job that is going.

We need to hear of real action to real jobs into the area. We need to utilise the workforce's that have been or are about to lose jobs from some of the firms locally that have been laying them of. People with IT, production and financial skills are here in our area desperate to get back into work. We need to seek out those green shoots when they do appear and persuade companies as they recover that investment here gives them a skilled and dedicated workforce. Skills in some of the sectors that have been hit are transferable to other sectors, there is more to a financial job that just what it says on the time managers, IT workers, accountants, data analysts etc are also amongst those that will be losing their works. But all will have transferable skills.

So rather than a short-sighted narrow view of Smith-Hosie-Mason-Kerr we need to get others to think outside the box, see what is available, see what they can offer. Just like many of us who graduated in the early 90s had to do we had to be imaginative it what we did next, throwing off our narrow pre-conceived ideas of where we were heading.

*Sadly again on the De Havilland subscription site, but check out the key phrases on google.

Stonewall Hero a Humble Man of God

I'm quite sure that Scott Rennie the minister of Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen wouldn't consider himself a hero, he is far too humble a man to do that. In fact I have very little doubt that he would merely consider this year merely one of trying to do the job he wants to do and fulfil the calling that he has.

However, at the Stonewall awards last night Scott won the hero of the year award. You may well recall how early this year his calling to his present charge caused some controversy at the General Assembly, Westboro Baptist Church members were even threatening to turn up to protest outside the meeting to decide his future. Liberal Youth Scotland arranged a counter demo to show support for Scott which has the the bigger attendance despite less notice. But Scott was no doubt most happy with finally being allowed to take up his new post and get on with looking after his flock.

Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone didn't win the Parliamentarian of the year award for her work but I know her work on things like the Equality Bill and lifting the blanket blood ban will not cease. It's not about awards for either of them but getting on with work. Lynne did however lose out to Ben Bradshow the first openly gay cabinet minister.

There was also the award that nobody wants to win the bigot of the year award shared between two people. Father John Owen who has said on BBC's The Big Question that the majority of child abuse was carried out by gay men. The other recipient was Jan Moir for her ill timed, ill aimed, ill informed and vindictive piece not just on Stephen Gately but gay men and the lifestyle in general. A rather late comer to the voting as it was already under way when she wrote her poisoned pen piece.

Other awards went to:

Broadcast of the Year - Corrective Rape in South Africa

Entertainer of the Year - Boyzone (accepted by Stephen Gately's husband Andrew Cowles who said thanks for all the support in recent weeks)

Journalist of the year - Johann Hari and Joan Bakewell

Publication of the Year - g3

Writer of the Year - Sarah Waters

Community Group of the Year - Allsorts youth project