Sunday 31 January 2010

Poor Footballing Decision of the Week

Togo's reserve keeper Kodjovi Obilale (pictured) still lies in a bed in Johannesburg with bullet lodged near his spine. He has been in intensive care since the shooting incident on the Togonese coach on the 8 January in the Cabinda province of Northern Angola. Three families the coach drivers, one of the teams assistant coaches and their press relations officer are not so lucky their men never made it alive.

Yet 24 hours before the final of the Africa Nations Cup the Confederation of African Football (Caf) announced that Toga were suspended from the next two stagings of the Africa Nations Cup and fined an punitive US $50,000 . Caf will be claiming that they are upholding Article 78 of the Nation Cup Regulations which specifies such a punishment for teams withdrawing shortly before the competition. However, Article 80 state they will tolerate withdrawals 'in cases of force majeure accepted by Caf'.

A force majeure allows for an extraordinary event or circumstance, surely the death by terrorists of two team officials in the view of the entire team and support staff, the injury to one of the playing members as a result should surely qualify Togo for a force majeure dispensation. It is not after all as if the team took the decision because of a threat that never happened they took the action because of an actual event that had an effect on their team.

Togo are going to be appealing this decision and like many in the footballing community I hope that common sense prevails and that their appeal is upheld. As a Liverpool fan I know that there are occasions that football is not more important than death. After Hillsborough the Liverpool team didn't play a game within the time scale that this evening's final would have allowed. The Liverpool were not out on the pitch for a full hour while the Lepping Road end fans fought for their lives, whereas the Togo players were pinned down in their coach facing their own possible deaths.

If they don't get to take part in the next two Africa Nations Cup Cardiff Blogger has a cunning plan to show up this ludicrous decision from Caf. He says let UEFA allow them into the 2012 European Championships, after all a lot of their key players are European based.

Personally I hope we see Togo qualify for the 2012 Africa Nations Cup to honour those that have died in their presence, but just in case....

BTW The final of the Africa Nations Cup finished Egypt 1 Ghana 0, and Egypt aren't one of the six African teams that will be in South Africa this summer for the World Cup.

The Overlooked Man of the New South Africa

On 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela finally walked free after 26 years of captivity. Today's Observer has an interview with Frederik Willem de Klerk the then South African President about the lead up to that day.

On the 9th Mandela was taken to Cape Town to meet the President in his office. FW de Klerk says:

"I told him he would be flown to Johannesburg and released there on 11 February 1990. Mr Mandela's reaction was not at all as I had expected. He said: 'No, it is too soon, we need more time for preparation.' That is when I realised that long hours of negotiation lay ahead with this man."

In the end the date was of course kept, but instead of Johannesburg at 4pm on the day the world's most famous political prisoner walked to freedom directly from Victor Verster prison, in Paarl, near Cape Town.

Four hours later he addressed a rally of supporters when he said, "The factors which necessitated armed struggle still exist today."

The following day he addressed the world's media for the first time.

De Klerk himself had launched what he called 'a new South Africa' 9 days before the release.

"There were gasps in the house, yes, but not at the news of Mr Mandela's release. The gasps came when I announced the unbanning not only of the ANC but also the South African Communist party and of all affiliated organisations, which included the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe. There were gasps then and, from the far-right party, protests and boos."

FW de Klerk had only replaced PW Botha in September of 1989 but as he says the wheels were already somewhat in motion before he took the helm. He says:

"I wanted us to take a more adventurous approach to the nation state concept, but the project ultimately failed because the whites wanted to keep too much land for themselves.

"The third phase – which coincided with my entering cabinet but was not started by me – was a shift towards reform. It focused on making separate development more acceptable while still believing it was just. But by the early 1980s we had ended up in a dead-end street in which a minority would continue to hold the reins of power and blacks, outside the homelands, really did not have any meaningful political rights. We had become too economically inter-dependent. We had become an omelette that you could not unscramble."

In 1986 the National party abandoned the concept of separate development.

"We embraced the idea of a united South Africa with equal political rights for all, but with very effective protection of minorities. Then my predecessor lost his enthusiasm. When I took over, my task was to flesh out what was already a fairly clear vision, but we needed broad support. We needed negotiation."

So it was that when he came to power de Klerk arranged to meet the man that had been the nemisis of his predecessors for years. He talks of their first meeting being a feeling out, but then as negotiations carried on the different philosophies, his National Party's free market policies and the ANC's communist centralism showed that there were difficulties ahead. But there was persuasion for the ANC to maintain free market principles for the sake of the country. The victories that he negotiated potential saved South Africa of the post-colonial void that other African states suffered.

Looking to the future de Klerk says:

"You cannot say we are a healthy, dynamic democracy when one party wins almost two-thirds of the vote. We need a realignment in politics. I am convinced there will be further splits in the ANC because you cannot keep together people who believe in hardline socialism and others who have become convinced of free-market principles."

He also points out that in some cases of affirmative action black Africans are getting more that brown or Indian South Africans. The spirit of Mandela's reconciliation he says need to be revived.

Despite the international recognition of his brave moves following his speech on 2 February those twenty years ago there are still some white South Africans who accuse him still of giving away the country. The last National Party President of South Africa realises the truth of where South Africa was and was heading when he took over compared with what has come after.

"To those people I say it is a false comparison to look at what was good in the old South Africa against what is bad today.

"If we had not changed in the manner we did, South Africa would be completely isolated. The majority of people in the world would be intent on overthrowing the government. Our economy would be non-existent – we would not be exporting a single case of wine and South African planes would not be allowed to land anywhere. Internally, we would have the equivalent of civil war."

They say it takes two to tango and that is certainly true of South Africa. De Klerk took the lead and bravely twenty years ago. Wuthout him it is hard to say what path South Africa may have taken, Mandela may have had a longer walk to freedom, or maybe none at all.

De Klerk was a key part in the new South Africa, the one that we see today. He also see yearns to see his nation grow in stature going forward.

More Gallant Than We Recognise

There could be a lot more recognition of bravery of our troops in Afghanistan than is currently the case. But currently the chests of our brave men and women in the field are being kept emptier than their commanding officers would like by over 50%.

The issue is a Whitehall quota system that restricts the number of medals to a certain number per tour based on the number of troops in each brigade deployed. Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan says:

"The way the quota is used at the moment is very strict, the rules are very inflexible. Commanding officers are lucky to get a 50% strike rate for their medal recommendations due to the conservative nature of senior officers who sit in London and decide these things."

For example in every six months:
  • Only two or three Distinguished Service Orders for outstanding combat leadership are now usually awarded to officers in each brigade.
  • No more than 19 Military Crosses for bravery in each period.
  • Just two Distinguished Flying Crosses for bravery in the air have been awarded.
  • The only Victoria Cross awarded in Afghanistan was awarded posthumously to Para Corporal Bryan Budd who was killed in August 2006.
The same ratio was allowed for troops in the first Gulf War but the actual conflict lasted a matter of days. In Afghanistan there is year round bravery since 2003 a period that is longer than either World War, with all the troops deployed constantly on full alert.

One senior officer back in London defended the process saying:

"The fear is we will end up like the Americans and people will get a medal for putting their boots on in the morning.

"We study recommendations very carefully and always err on the side of caution."

But Colonel Kemp counters that by saying:

"Medals are good for morale. They encourage people to go that extra mile. The army is too precious.

"The opinions of regimental commanding officers and brigade commanders on the front line should carry more importance than at the moment."

So even our awards for gallantry are tied up in red tape over the individual merit of each action. What may have earned a medal in another conflict is not maybe not enough if that quota has to be factored in.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Head to Head - Murray v Federer

"I didn't aspire to be a good sport; 'champion' was good enough for me."
Fred Perry (1909-1995)

There are now less than 12 hours before Andy Murray faces Roger Federer in the final of the Australian Open. The Scot goes into the final knowing one thing. Win or loss he will still have a better win-loss record against the worlds number one and not a lot of people can say that. But of course as Andy himself has said he wants to chalk up another in that win column. Here are the 10 previous encounters.

Bangkok Final, 2005, hard court: Federer wins 6-3, 7-5

Andy's first tour final when he was only 18 but he came up against the world number one. Andy had just broken into the top 100 at the time. But taking 8 games in a 2 set defeat was still nothing to be sniffed at in his first meeting.

Cincinnati Masters, 2006, Second Round, hard court: Murray wins 7-5, 6-4

This was the second week of the teaming up with Brad Gilbert and Andy faced Fed in the second round. He was one of only two players to beat Federer that year, the other being Nadal.

Dubai, 2008, First Round, hard court: Murray wins 6-7, 6-3, 6-4

Federer has just lost to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open Semis and game up against an unseeded Murray in the first round. It isn't often that Federer loses in the first round of any tournament but this was a sign that Andy was a real contender.

US Open final, 2008, hard court: Federer wins 6-2, 7-5, 6-2

Andy's first Grand Slam final, but unlike this fortnight he'd had a tough time getting there. This time he has really only played half a set over the minumum requirement to get to the final. This time he is fresh in New York he was tired as this demolition proved.

Madrid Masters Semi-Final, 2008, hard court: Murray wins 3-6, 6-3, 7-5

Andy had won the Cincinnati Masters Event before the US Open and this was his first event after that defeat in the Final. So in the semi-final they meet again but this time the Scot fought back after losing the first set to take a second successive Masters but this one by beating Fed.

Masters Cup, Shanghai 2008, hard court: Murray wins 4-6, 7-6, 7-5

Over three hours of grueling tennis that knocked Federer out at the Round Robin stage of the season ending tournament. Tomorrow might well be a long old slog and this is a sign that Andy can win such encounters against Federer.

Doha Semi- Final, January 2009, hard court: Murray wins 6-7, 6-2, 6-2

Andy recovered from a back injury in the third set to record yet another win on his way to the final.

Indian Wells Masters, March 2009, hard court: Murray wins 6-3, 4-6, 6-1

Murray fended off a second set fightback to snare his opponent for a fourth successive time in the semi-finals but went on to lose to Rafael Nadal in the final.

Cincinnati Masters Semi-Final, August 2009, hard court: Federer wins 6-2, 7-6

Federer finally wins one again over the newly-crowned world No 2 and defending champion in this semi-final encounter but brushes aside his poor head-to-head record against his rival. "It doesn't matter to me, I'm past that point."

ATP Tour Finals, London O2 Arena, November 2009, hard court: Federer wins 3-6 6-3 6-1

In London Andy starts well taking the first set having broken Federer twice. But his serve deserts him in the final set as Federer gets revenge for his defeat the previous season.

So there you have it. Their record is 6-4 in favour of Andy. My prediction is that it won't be over in three sets. I think Andy will edge it in 4 or 5 sets.

The Scot Blogs Number Two Lib Dem Blog

When you come second in a national list of any type it is an honour, when that second also make you second in your own county it can be upsetting. Although when the winner is my good friend Caron in the Scot Blogs list of the Top Liberal Democrat bloggers I can't complain.

Chilcot's Blair Damb Squib

Well what exactly did we learn from Tony Blair's appearance before the Chilcot inquiry yesterday.

Pretty much nothing, as Jackie Ashley writes in today's Guardian:

"the inquiry members had failed to nail him on the central issue of their quest – why had he taken the country to war when the Attorney General's advice had been lukewarm at least, on the legality of such action?"

So what was the point?

Blair even tried to turn on to the offensive asking where Saddam would be in 2010 if he hadn't taken action. Well a decade on from the first Gulf War we saw exactly what a decade of sanctions against arm deals to Iraq had left him. Jonathan Freeland puts it like this:

"To which the answer is surely that the 2003 invasion exposed Saddam and his ragtag army as a toothless tiger, whose rusting arsenal would be even more useless seven years on than it was then."

The former Prime Minister:
  • gave no substantial ground over why he sent 40,000 UK troops to war to disarm Saddam of weapons he did not possess
  • blamed blamed 'the very near failure of the Iraqi occupation' on Iranian interference
  • arguing that if the west had backed off Saddam would have reassembled the invisible WMDs
As for regrets. He had none saying as his parting statement:

"Responsibility – but not a regret for removing Saddam Hussein. I think he was a monster."

This led to the jeers and calls of 'murderer' and 'liar' from the public gallery.

But then did we expect anything else key questions were left out from Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith's questioning. There was the lack of the Paxman punch to get any answers to the tough questions. The real answers that needed to be got at were left out, there wasn't that sense of digging any deeper. Fern Britton proved to be a tougher, if shorter, inquisitor of Blair than Chilcot.

How Rainbow are the Tories? Part II

Earlier this month I asked how truly gay friendly were the Tories. Tim Trent a blogger from Devon wrote to his local representatives about the Ugandan 'Anti-Homosexuality Bill' and got this response from Giles Chichester Conservative MEP for England South West and Gibraltar, I've highlighted a key phrase.

Dear Mr Trent,

Thank you for your round robin email to South West MEPs of 8th January with regard to Ugandan proposed legislation. I am replying on behalf of my Conservative colleagues because under the arrangement we have for constituency cover on a geographical county by county basis I am the initial point of contact for correspondence from Devon.

Yes I am aware of the press reports. I have the impression that being against homosexuality is not the sole or even major part of this draft legislation nevertheless I can well understand the concern it has caused in the wider world

My Personal opinion is that homosexuals have human rights like every other person. I have not made any representations in this matter up to now because I regard it as a matter for Ugandans to decide.

Of course as Tim correctly points out the name of the bill is 'The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009". If the sole purpose of locking up anyone who has taken part in same sex sexual activities isn't a sole purpose of being against homosexuality I want to know what Mr Chichester thinks would be. Maybe his allies in Europe are clouding his judgement, or maybe that is just his Conservative party philosophy.

Tim goes on to criticise the sentiment in the last paragraph it is just a form of words. He wrote back asking the MP to imagine he was in the 1930s, instead of 'homosexuals' use 'Jews' and instead of 'Ugandans' use 'Germans' and read the paragraph again.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

McFall Steps Down from Westminster

From Andrew Reeves I learn that John McFall has just announced his intention to step down from his West Dunbartonshire seat in 96 days time.

From 1998-9 he was at the Northern Ireland Office and one of the Departments he was responsible for was the Department of Economic Development before it was devolved into the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment. Therefore my first time seeing the man was at the Department's offices at Netherleigh.

As Andrew points out this isn't just another MP stepping down he is the Chairman of the Tresury Select Committee. He is also one of those backbench MPs that Labour haven't been concerned about making appearances on TV.

In McFall's Statement he says:

"After twenty three years representing my local area in Westminster and having reached normal retirement age, I see this as a natural time to move on and explore other areas of interest."

So that is another seat that Jeff is going to have to add to his list of missing candidates with probably just over 2 months until the election is called.

Friday 29 January 2010

It's Blair Pre-Chilcot

It is Friday and no doubt the event of the day is Tony Blair's appearnce before the Chilcot Inquiry. But here are a few things from before today.

First up is this contempt of Parliament bing carried out here, we may already know.

Here is what he revealed to Fern Britton, wonder if he was as open today before Chilcot.

But as this is a heavier Friday take than normal how about some Bird and Fortune.

And finally a Culture Show look back at Tony's reign.

Update 2 on Baby Ben

There is good news for Kerry Robertson, Mark McDougall and their baby Ben. As I reported last Friday when Ben was just 4 days old he was snatched from his parents by Irish social services upon the request of Fife Council's team who had deemed that Kerry was incapable of raising the child.

Yesterday mother and baby were reunited in a mother and child unit in Ireland. While that does mean that they will be under constant supervision it mean that the bonding process between mother and child can resume.

Fife Council it emerges have never carried out a formal psychological assessment of Kerry, who readily admits to not having many qualifications from school. However she was employed as a childcare worker in a local school in Fife before becoming pregnant and does hold a certificate in child care.

Now at least I'm glad that a proper appraisal in the mother and baby unit of Kerry capabilities as a mother can be assessed, though why this wasn't the first port of call from Fife or Ireland is beyond me. I hope that this period of supervision is successful for the family and they can then get on with the normality of raising their child.

UPDATE: To help raise money for the family and Mark to be able to get to the mother and baby unit you can bid for some of his pictures on ebay (via Morgan Gallagher).

War! Iraq! What is it Good For?


Frankie Says

What is it Good For?


John Says
To return sovereignty to Kuwait
From illegal occupation


Tony Says
To stop WMD getting here
In 45 Minutes


Tony Says
Well, err, actually what I meant to say.
Was, well, you know.
It was to stop Saddam
Building those WMDs.
Yes the ones I said he'd had
Ready to fire in 45 minutes.

Still Talking at Hillsborough

I know a lot of eyes will be on the Queen Elizabeth exhibition centre today, but don't also lose sight of what is going on at Hillsborough. Even though the Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen have left the Northern Irish politicians are still talking.

If there is no agreement made by later today the British and Irish governments have said their own proposal on policing and justice. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said naming two controversial parade routes:

"Anybody who thinks that the price of policing and justice is a walk down the Garvaghy Road or Ardoyne is just ridiculous."

While Alliance Party leader David Ford said that the politicians were not "merely going through the motions". Of course Northern Ireland politics would be that if not for the one dissenting voice, step forward Jim Allister, Traditional Unionist Voice Leader:

"The manner in which Sinn Féin seeks to advance its agenda, not through accepting the processes within devolution, but by loading its gun to the DUP's head with every pet project, is a reminder that even if the present Stormont crisis is sorted, Sinn Féin will be back for more and more."

Of course the devolution of policing and justice powers is not merely the Sinn Féin agenda it was agreed upon in St. Andrews before the resumption of devolved powers. It would be a sign of maturity in Northern Ireland politics if such powers could be devolved. The fact that the TUV leader is still using the language and symbolism of war when others are trying to negotiate a settlement shows a lack of productivity on his part for a stable Northern Ireland.

Is that a true voice of Northern Ireland? I for one don't think so. I'm hoping that the talks are at a substantive stage where agreement may be met once they resume this morning and come to a swift conclusion.

A Little Bit of Murray Magic

Possible the shot of the day from yesterday's match between Andy Murray and Marin Cilic.

But that wasn't all from yesterday The Times take a look at another wondershot.

Thanks to my brother for unearthing this footage of that shot.

He will on Sunday become the first British male since 1977 and John Lloyd to appear in the Australian Open final against either Roger Federer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. But Andy says he'll be disappointed after the tournament he's had if he doesn't win.

UPDATE: I do apologise for the lack of video no on this post Tennis Australia have decided that the couple of minutes of Scottish genius that I wish to show should not be available on You Tube are stopping almost every stream that was showing this.

Thursday 28 January 2010

A Positive, Serious Contribution Deserves a Serious Answer

No my ears were not deceiving me. That is what Alex Salmond replied to Tavish Scott's question regarding colleges admission (or not) findings and youth unemployment in Scotland.

Basically Tavish pointed out that 85% of colleges in Scotland have had to turn away applicants this year, many for the first time ever with some having seen a 800% increase in applications. In West Lothian the number of applicants has increased by 41% over last year, Oatridge college who have never had to turn away applications before saw a 74% increase in applications and turned away 300. These findings came from a Liberal Democrat survey of the the 43 colleges in Scotland looking at the numbers of applicants each has had to turn away over the last 3 years, the first of its kind to be published. On top of this the number of our young people claiming Job Seekers allowance over the past year has risen by 35%.

Jeremy Purvis the Finance Spokesperson has said about the findings in the report:

"Too many young people have been hit twice. They can’t get a job and now they can’t get a college place. What government can do is give them the opportunity to gain the skills and experiences that will help them get the most from economic recovery when it comes. Scotland as a whole will benefit from having more people ready and active for the workplace."

An increase in college places and training opportunities is one of the issues that the Lib Dems have been applying pressure on the SNP Government to provide for to help in this recession.

Alex Salmond's response to the actual question "Will the First Minister agree that action taken by his Government in this Budget must increase college places across Scotland?" is encouraging as is his acknowledgement that a recession inevitably increases the demand on college places.

Jeff has already pointed out that he thinks the answer "dropping the jousting" he gave Iain Gray and Annabel Goldie is a "clear signal that the budget would reflect Tavish's concerns" I would tend to agree, it seems that lessons have been learnt over the last 12 months on both sides.

End of Nearlyhood

When the Total Politics poll of political blogs was announced in September of last year I jokingly started to refer to myself as a nearly blogger. The term "The Stephen Glenn Position" was coined and reused by many for that position just outside a chart. Because there were ten published positions for the Scottish Blogs and the Liberal Democrats, I was eleventh in both (for Scotland that was a on-mover).There was the top 100 blogs overall, and my name wasn't on that list but at the very top of the 101-200 blogs. Even the other day Mark Thompson issued a list of the top 20 Lib Dem Twitterers by followers, and you guessed it, I was 21st.

Therefore I'm quite pleased (and shocked) to find I am actually not just on a list but on the podium in the first of the Scottish Round Up Scot Blog categories that was announced today. In the Top Politicians' Blogs for Parliamentarians, Councillors or aspirant PPCs I come in at number three, behind Anne 'Ingygal' McLaughlin MSP and Callum Cashley SNP PPC for Edinburgh North and Leith.

More surprisingly the three of us are all ahead of Tom Harris MP who was the top Parliamentarian, top politician and top Labour blog in the Total Politics poll.

I'd just like to say thank you to everyone who voted and to Duncan for running the awards plus counting the votes. Imagine a bottle of champagne is being sprayed liberally from my step on that podium.

UPDATE: Joy of joy, day of listings. After, as mentioned above, failing to make the Lib Dem list of Twitterati I'm in at number 5 on the Scottish Politico Twitterers, which is only 3rd best Lib Dem.

Murraymania for Breakfast

No doubt there will people at work with radio headsets in, others looking at the BBC live text update, some may even be watching the live stream. Today is Andy Murray's third Grand Slam semi-final against the man who denied him a chance to repeat his previous final when he beat him in the 4th Round at the US Open last year.

Maran Cilic is the number 14 seed but he is coming up against the number 5 seed in form. Murray has not dropped a set and took the game to Rafael Nadal in the last round, and was leading and playing well until injury to the Spaniard robbed him of a win in normal terms, instead of the technical knock out.

Murray mania will be coming to an office near you in less than an hour.

Forth Bridge Worker Dies in Fall

Sixty three men had been killed in its construction, but you rarely in these days of health and safety hear of the number who die maintaining the Forth Bridge being added to. Last night a construction worker fell 150ft unto scaffolding at about 2100 and despite the efforts of police, paramedics and lifeboat crews he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Maintaining the Bridges across the Forth is an important, year round role in keeping the communication channels open. Us mere passengers or car users (on the Road Bridge) forget how potentially dangerous such upkeep can be if something goes wrong. This is the first recorded death of a worker on the Forth Bridge for 32 years.

My thoughts are with the family, co-workers and friends of the construction worker who died on the bridge last night.

UPDATE: A second worker has been reported to have fallen from the Tay Rail Bridge also to his death.

UPDATE 2: The names of the men have now been revealed as Robert MacDonald, 52 of Harthill in the Forth incident and David Rodger, 44 of Cowdenbeath in the Tay incident. My thoughts are before are with their respective families.

What is 1.7 on the Richter Scale

There is news that two 'earthquakes' or 1.5 and 1.7 on the Richter scale have hit the land of my father's County Donegal in the last 24 hours. But what exactly is 1.7 on the scale?

You wouldn't even feel a thing. An express train going past you on a platform has more effect on you. It also is hardly news 8,000 hit the world every day of 2.0 or less, they are described as micro and not recorded. Compared to even the aftershocks that have been hitting Haiti this is nothing to write home about. Apart from in this case by the BBC.

However, Thomas Blake of Dublin's School of Cosmic Physics said that some people felt the event. So either the measurement is wrong or they were having a different type of earth moving experience.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

How's This For a Broken Society

One of key things about being an MP is to represent the constituents of your constituency and their issues and concerns with dignity and in confidence. (Of course you may approach a constituent for the right to use their case to get much needed publicity for a particular cause).

One thing you should not do in publish the address details etc. or someone writing to you asking a question that you do not agree with. The Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Leyton and Wanstead Edwin Northover has however got such details published in the Telegraph.

The question that was asked was one of those campaign cut and paste questions. In the lead up to 2005 I received quite a number of these, and replied to every one, even those that I did not agree with, but with what was the alternative we were offering and why I felt that was better.

If Edwin Northover can fail to respect those he wishes to represent over such a simple matter. Also if James Delingpole who wrote the article considers it stalking for constituents to ask their perspective candidates questions in order to guide their voting intentions he clearly doesn't understand representative democracy. Or maybe doesn't want a difference of opinion to his own.

No question from a concerned voter/constituent should be treated in this way. The fact that the email came from Northover's office means that he and his team are not worthy of the public support they seek (It also asks questions about the training of candidates and staff that the Conservatives carry out). The poor constituent now has those who disagree with his views posting his personal details on line, so from a enquiry being deemed as 'stalking' the shoe now is on the foot and harassment is being carried out.

So much for caring conservatism.

'Ey Up Helly Eck

A guest from the Kingdom of Jorvik took part in the Jarldom of Hjaltland festivities for Up Helly Aa last night. I would ask the local MP for a comment, but at this time of year...... can never be too careful.

It is probably just as well that the Kingdom of Jorvik born Stephen Lamming's profession* didn't exist when the Vikings really did terrorise our shores. They were scary enough in their long ships without coming sub-marine.

UPDATE 21:37: The MP has made this comment via twitter. "nice story by the BBC but riddled with inaccuracies!"

* Diver.

Brown Proffers Packages Tied Up With String

Police powers to Ulster,
Or is that "six counties".
Hours after hours of discussion and nothing.
Brown proffers packages tied up with string,
This is an old Northern Irish thing.

Forty eight hours to mull over the offer,
Then Brown will decide what becomes of the coppers,
Marches and justice are all in his hands.
Peter and Martin are on shifting sand.

When the times up
Loggerheads or not
They could be feeling bad.
They'll have to remember the thing that unites
And then they won't feel so mad.

Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein but as Brown flies out of Northern Ireland without the deal being signed, I'm sure you'll agree it was worth it (the song not Brown's 48 hours in Hillsborough).

READ ALSO: Alistair Carmichael* the Liberal Democrats Northern Irish Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary of State gives his own view on the current situation on his new blog.

* By linking to him I'm not expected to escape his tap on my shoulder to prepare at Federal Conference Glee Club for enditions of either Flower of Scotland or Danny Boy.

Fisking Harriet Harman

So today in (Deputy) Prime Minister's Questions Vince Cable stepped up to ask Harriet Harman about the widening inequality gap, which I'd picked up on earlier.

So in response Ms Harman said it had got wider under the Conservatives.

Well to be honest it did, but that is not the end of the story, it got even wider under Labour. Indeed the differential (equivalent to 100 times the wealth) between the top 10% of earners and the lowest 10% is greater than at any time since 1961.

One wonders just how Harriet can justify her statement that her Government have helped the poor when the opposite appears clear.

My Letter and Response from the Guardian

On Monday I wrote the following letter off to the Guardian pretty much as soon as I opened my copy of that day.
Dear sirs,
I've been enjoying  your series on the romantic poets and was looking forward to the appropriately  timed Robert Burns collection inside 25th January's paper.
However, I was  skunnert (pardon my Scots) to find that you were more concerned on this day, and  night, of all nights to publish an address to Scottish dental care (Address to  the Toothache) than to the "great chieftain o' the puddin-race" (Address to  a Haggis). Surely the poem that is most recited of Rabbie Burns' at this time of  year should have been included so our Sassenach friends could join with us in  Scotland in the spirit of today?
Slainte  mhath.
Stephen Glenn

While it wasn't used for publication I did this morning get the following response from Nicholas Wroe of Guardian Review.

Dear Mr Glenn,

Many thanks for your letter which has been passed on to me.

We did have a debate about including To A Haggis, but in the light of Don Paterson's views expressed in his intro, we eventually decided against. But at least it allowed for slightly lesser known - but equally terrific - poems to get get in.

So glad you're enjoying the series. Coleridge is a real cracker of a pamphlet today. Hope you had a good night on Monday.

Best wishes, Nick

Of course it was after I'd written my letter, indeed not until I'd got home that I could actually settle down to read Don Paterson's introduction and remarks about the poem of the day (I will add them later as the pamphlet is at home). But in response to Nick I did have a very good night on Monday, not just enjoying my own haggis, neeps and tatties but reading about many of my friends all over the place (not just Scotland, nor indeed Scottish) enjoying themselves too.

This post has been sent via email therefore spacing and fonts may not appear at my usual standard. Also there may be links to other relevant blog entries or other content added later today along with adding the correct tagging.

Why We Need Fairness is Two Easy Lessons

Two findings that make interesting reading today.

First up the pay gap between rich and poor is wider than it 40 years ago. Despite Labour saying they constantly doing something about poverty and helping people aspire, their tax regime of regressive tax increases seems to have had the opposite effect.

The other one I heard on the TV before leaving the house on the BBC was that family conflict not whether the parents were together or apart had more impact on a child's well being. Therefore the Conservative incentivisation, through a tax-break, to stay married may have repercussions on the child if conflict ensues.

Indeed their policy only would affect 14% of the poorest families where only one parent works full time, fail to help 230,000 children living in in poverty in one parent families who juggle work to care for them. Nor will it help 29,000 children living in in poverty where both parents work. In total four out of five adults of working age would fail to benefit from this tax scheme, as well as the above 46% of adults living in poverty are single.

Of course the Lib Dems have a message that is clear regarding both those issues. We want a see a fairer tax system. We will lift the tax allowance threshold to £10,000 lifting 4million out of tax altogether and giving £700 to those lowest paid. We'll balance it with taxes on those that can afford it and on how we pollute.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Impasse Buster?

When there's something strange in Northern Ireland's neighbourhood,
Who ya gonna call?
A Clinton.
Yeah Northern Ireland has been at the impasse stage before. Leading up to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement Bill Clinton was in the White House. Now with the latest empasse which could wreak devolution in the Province guess who's getting in to give Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen a hand? Only the US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

You What? Religious Civil Partnerships?!?

Ok forgive me for being a little confused here but how can a commitment ceremony carried out in a place of worship still be considered a civil co-joining?

Well that is effective what the Government have agreed to last night, in the Equality Bill. It totally throws out any illusion that the Government consider same-sex relationships to be equal but different. Mix sex commitment ceremonies are religious marriage in a place of worship, a civil marriage when carried out elsewhere. Therefore to allow a place of worship to carry out a civil partnership shows that there isn't equality at all. They are just looking at the place and no the far reaching issues of equality.

Nick Clegg got it right earlier this month when he said that all unions should be called marriage. The religious monopoly on such a phrase has long been outmoded through the Marriage Act amendment in 1949 to allow Civil Marriage. Along with the name there is still the essence that a partnership is purely down to the signing of both partners of the partnership agreement, words, oaths and promises do not have to be exchanged.

The being able to carry a same sex union out in a place of worship is a step forward, but it is still different. The term civil partnership was one that was struck upon because of the need to differentiate between the religious and in civil (quasi-religious) perception of the union. Being able to have a same sex-union in a place of worship and still not be able to call it marriage shows up the ludicrous nature of the circular argument that Labour have tied themselves up in.

There is still the issue of gender reassignment that needs to be looked at. But I'll leave that for another day.

Chancellor Sneaks in with One Budget Prediction (The 3.5% Myth Part 3)

Well the Chancellor must be breathing a slight sigh of relief. In his Budget speech  in April he said:
 "I expect to see growth resume towards the end of the year."
Well today's announcement is that the third quarter was one of growth, just, by a whoopingly small 0.1%. But it does mean that after 18 months of recession that monkey is sort of off the Chancellor's back. I suspect it is still clinging to his trouser leg though. So therefore he said we are on the path to recovery, though as George Osborne rightly points out this is "about as weak growth as you can get." However, Vince Cable hits the nail on the head:
"Far from the quick recovery the chancellor has been praying for, the economy is only just staggering back into growth."
Indeed it wasn't just his prayers but the predictions from Alistair Darling. As I reported back at the time, Darling had come up with figures for the recovery that greatly exceeded anything the IMF had in stall. Indeed I pointed out that the sustained 3.5% growth he predicted we'd get to, being a whole one percent over the mean sustained from previous recessions. But look also at the figure that the Chancellor came up with for 2009 as a whole:
"my forecast for GDP growth for the year as a whole will be -3.5 percent"
Well the actually figure was -4.8% so even the IMF were being generous in their prediction of -4.1%, but nowhere near as optimistic as the Chancellor was with his. So before Labour get too carried away about taking us out of recession and how well they did in doing so, lets not forget that in 2009 we still did worse than they promised we'd do and made just one of their predictions by the skin of their teeth.

Northern Ireland Update

In chess terms the parties are in adjournment.

Nobody is really sure if we are in the end game, or the more complex middle game at this point. Both Sinn Féin and the DUP left in the small hours without speaking to the press. As these are the two main players we don't know what their sealed next move is going to be.

The bright news is that nobody appears to have knocked over the board yet. Although listening to the press statement from Arlene Foster and Sammy Wilson last night they seemed most likely to do so, already laying down the back story for why that would be justified.

In the meantime something more exiting watching paint dry

Monday 25 January 2010

Final Farewell to Bard of Scottish Rugby

You may have had to make a "wee shimmy" today in Hawick to get a glance at the coffin carrying the voice, nae the bard, of Rugby Bill McLaren on his final home match.

On the birthday of the Bard of Ayrshire what more appropriate day to lay to rest the Bard of Hawick. There may be dancing of the streets all over Scotland tonight at Burns' suppers up and down the land. It will not be because McLaren told them so, but it seems a fitting way to mark his final journey earlier to day. I just hope nobody is like they have "kicked 3 lbs of haggis" tonight that is for the eating tonight.

Thankfully the hearse didn't "take off like a frightened" anything but carried the voice, now silent, at a sedate pace.

Crunch Time In Northern Ireland

I may be having Burns' Night keeping a track on events in Northern Ireland, good job my tatties are in the form of colcannon then.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Irish counterpart Brian Cowen were meeting in London earlier this afternoon. But as 45 minutes of talks between Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness only appeared to make matters worse the two Prime Ministers decided they needed to be in Northern Ireland for face to face intervention, they are not in Hillsborough Castle and the parties are coming to talk with them.

No doubt I will have updates when they come along. I expect a long night.

Update on Baby Ben

The Irish Times this morning are running a story by Ronan McMcGreevy into the baby Ben story I ran with on Friday.

It appears that things are looking hopeful from the stance of Ireland's
Health Service Executive (HSE). The baby's father Mark McDougall is saying:

"We are expecting some good news by then. It looks like the Irish HSE are very keen to try everything they can for the most positive outcome, which they agree is to have us all together as a family. The Waterford HSE are so much more understanding than the UK social services."

And is comparing it to George Orwell's 1984.

"Not intelligent enough to raise a child, what next? Not middle class enough? Too old to raise a child etc etc."

I'll keep you posted of developments, thanks to everyone who has read this and joined the Facebook Group that has been going to show support.

Bursting Dale's Bubble

Yesterday modesty almost forbid Mr Dale posting some glowing comments about himself from the Daily Mail including this (readers of a delicate anti-Dale deposition should look away now):

"There are many reasons to celebrate Iain Dale. The author, journalist and aspirant politician for the Conservative Party is not only a much-valued contributor to GQ, he’s also the publisher of Total Politics magazine and has become something of an online deity because of his celebrated blog, Iain Dale’s Diary."

Well of course Total Politics is holding its own Election Question Times* at a selection of City Inns.

  • 4 February, Birmingham - Andrew Mitchell MP, Jacqui Smith MP, John Hemming MP, Marc Reeves (ex-editor Birmingham Post)
  • 11 February, Manchester - Hazel Blears MP (tbc), Graham Bradley MP, Mark Hunter MP, David Ottewell (Manchester Evening News)
  • 18 February, Leeds - David Davis MP, Hilary Benn MP (tbc), Greg Mulholland MP
  • 25 February, London - Tony McNulty MP, Eric Pickles MP (tbc), Lynne Featherstone MP, Steve Richards (The Independent)

You notice something about that list?

Not a single venue is Scotland....and....not a single SNP panellist on any of them. But do I hear Alex Salmond up in arms? Was my February copy of Total Politics confiscated at the border in its clear sleeve? Are Nats taking Total Politics down from the shelves of WH Smiths across Scotland and burning this promoter of only the Unionist parties and their politics in the streets outside?

So I guess Iain Dale is just a minor deity. One that fails to register on the great ego that is Alex Salmond's radar. In the words of Terry Pratchett but a small god.

*Panel line-up may change without notice.

Skunnert as Grauniad Forget What Day It Is

The Grauniad are on day three of seven of their series of Romatic poets, appropriately they have the poems of Rabbie Burns. However, they omit the one poem that will be read over and over today. So here to make amends is Address to a Haggis (click the link if you need the English translation

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!

Then horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit!' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As fecl;ess as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Tho' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

I'll be having my haggis, neeps and tatties later with a wee dram. Slàinte mhath.

Is Martin Amis in the Year 3000?

Maybe Martin Amis has been watching too much Futurama when he came up with his statement about euthanasia booths. But to come out with the suggestion of such contraptions on street corners at the end of a week that Margo MacDonald produced a sane and grounded bill on assisted suicide in the Scottish Parliament is crash mistiming on the authors part.

While Amis talks of a 'silver tsunami' and a 'civil war' between young and old and lays out a retail mentality. Margo has safeguards in her bill to prevent Scotland becoming like Switzerland and a home for assisted death 'tourism' by including the 18 month residency and registration with a domestic GP for 18 months. Margo also has build in safeguards the GP and psychiatric appraisals at least 15 days apart, and the proviso this is only insists that the patient must be diagnosed as terminally ill and finds life intolerable or be permanently physically incapacitated to such an extent as not to be able to live independently and finds life intolerable.

Margo maintains the human element, and the rationale. The GP must minister the lethal dose and it cannot be administered by a family member. Amis will just have a machine carry out the deed, no feed back no last minute chance to back out.

Of course Amis is never one to shirk controversy as his comments show:

"They'll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops. I can imagine a sort of civil war between the old and the young in 10 or 15 years' time.

"There should be a booth on every ­corner where you could get a martini and a medal."

Of course dementia sufferers are actually excluded from Margo's position as the old legal requirement of being 'of sound mind' is one which in legalese is still important. It shows that Margo has put 18 months of thought into the specifics while Amis was just making an off the cuff comment. Maybe he really shouldn't have watched the pilot of Matt Groenig's sci-fi series just before giving the interview.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Goldie Fingers

She wants public sector workers who earn over £18,000 to have their pay frozen.

She wants government agencies to cut back on "non-essential" spending.

Yet she has been claiming £10,000 in first class travel between Edinburgh and Bishopton in Renfrewshire

Of course she doesn't really care what you think saying that David Cameron can get by without support in Scotland.

Step forward Annabel Goldfingers.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Camo the Clown

Matthew Parris writes a memo to David Cameron today urging him to lay off the custard pies and stop hurling tomatoes at Prime Minister's Questions. In fact the former Conservative MP tells the party's current leader to 'settle into something more grown-up'. The image is almost that the leader of the opposition is coming in wearing oversized shoes, slap on his face and a red nose, ready to reach across the dispatch bow pull at the Prime Minister's belt and pour water down inside.

Matthew says that this week Dave got bogged down in the detail of the Edlington issue and therefore had lost momentum when it came to the Prime Minister's time to respond. Indeed it did take the two of them half of the allotted time for PMQs to get through their exchange. Compare that to Nick Clegg's two clear concise showings (well he does have four less questions) which struck a cord with the public and the media. Week one Nick asked about the Prime Minister appearing before the Chilcot inquiry on Iraq, now we know that had the Prime Minister on the ropes and he is now to enter the ring properly before the general election.

This week he wound up with a three punch combination bankers, job losses and divisions in the ranks. The Royal Bank of Scotland which we basically own, lending money to but a British institution to a company that the Business Secretary had said he would stop doing so.

The PM is hurling back jibes at both Cameron and Clegg. He knows that the next time he hits the canvas he is unlikely to get up again. But the number one contender is up there at this level yet to flick these back. Nick only gets one chance for a come back to the sneering Brown. After the 'little economics lecture' jibe he came back with the punch "Is that not just plain wrong?".

The first two PMQs of the year Parris says were knockabout stuff from Cameron when the public are not looking for knockabout stuff. They are as he says looking for a Prime Ministerial voice. Of course there is one proviso to using the Prime Ministerial voice, you have to be Prime Minister, to do that you need to express your message to the people, and it has to resonate with them. Cameron has got bogged down in that to, Nick however is instinctively getting that right too.

Friday 22 January 2010

Fife Council Child Snatchers

I used to say "I" and "me"
Now it's "us", now it's "we"
Ben, most people would turn you away
I don't listen to a word they say
They don't see you as I do
I wish they would try to
I'm sure they'd think again
If they had a friend like Ben

from Ben by Michael Jackson

The problems is for one little Ben that chance may not be forthcoming. Earlier this week Fife Council put him on at risk-register once they were aware that he had been born last Friday. At four days old Irish Social services came and took the baby away from his mother and father.

His mother 17 year-old Kerry Robertson has mild learning difficulties, but Fife Council consider that she is incapable of raising the baby. The fact is that they found the mother and her 25 year old partner Mark McDougall because having fled Scotland when she was 29 weeks pregnant she kept up all her checks and scans in Ireland. So the fact that the couple were capable of looking after an unborn babies well being led Fife Council to them in Waterford.

John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, actually believes that the removal of baby from his parents under the protection order in Ireland is actually illegal. And says:

"There is no evidence that Mark and Kerry cannot be good parents and I just hope that the Irish authorities can resolve this as quickly as possible."

Now I know there has been some slop handed social services work in protecting real at risk children but the evidence in this case is not proven. As the FTO the South African News Blog points out:

Lets just say things was different and Kerry had no learning difficulties and she died at childbirth, no one would take Ben from his father. Why is this so different? Even if Kerry was unable to care for the child she is not alone, she has a partner who is committed and loving with a supporting family.

Indeed they also report:

When Mark McDougall saw Ben's care order there was a different name on it and date of birth. He believes social services has kidnapped his baby. Who can blame him?

So we come to Fife council whose executive director of social work, Stephen Moore said:

"I can confirm that although the Robertson family are not presently within Fife, we are committed to working closely with professional colleagues elsewhere to ensure safety and welfare of the child and indeed the whole family as this is of paramount concern to us.

Now herein lies a major fault in what they say. Kerry had been doing just that. The two midwifes who had been caring for her and Ben fled the room in tears when the social services took the infant away from his mother and father. David Cameron may want to lock single parents up in the poor house, but here is a father who has stuck by the mother of child, even though the council had also stepped in to stop their marriage. Both parents are being denied the chance to prove they are capable parents because of an arbitrary decision made by some council official.

Had they asked the medical staff for evidence of their ability in the days since Ben's birth? It doesn't appear that they did, or if they did they went against that advice. With a sister-in-law who is a midwife I know how carefully the early days of a child's life are observed by those around the ward. They insure that the child and the parents are going to get the best start. They are the experts, they can spot if there is going to be any difficulties, not some paper pusher who thinks that someone's IQ is below a line in the sand.

Each case should be assessed on its merits. Fife council have not done so in this case, they made a decision long before full term as to the mother's ability irrespective of other situations such as her partner it appears.

Here in GMTV's report into the case back in October. You can even see how much Mark cares for Kerry and the unborn child at the time. Mark Goldring the expert from Mencap says that Fife at that time said they would look at all the facts and circumstances. Judge from yourself if that is the case. I feel that they have not.

UPDATE: Here is a letter from Morgan Gallagher of 'Nursing Matters' to Mr Moore of Fife Social Services and Nicola Sturgeon the Scottish Health Minister.

UPDATE 2: If you have been touched by this story join the Facebook Group to show your support. One comment from Mark MacDougall on there:

"Kerry has already proved Fife very wrong as all the medical staff at hospital nothing but praise for her parenting skills."

Read Also: A similar tale from Essex which makes you wonder just what can spark such decisions even more.

It's Friday so....a Good Day for Our Future/Present

Well it is that time on Friday to head home for the weekend. Put away the mouse on the desk in the office, which links in very well to this weeks first clip.

On the 22 January during the Superbowl a small computer company announced the arrival of their new computer being released the following week. Directed by Ridely Scott the advert was a landmark in advertising circles as well as for the product it was announcing. It was the product that popularised the "mouse".

As all good sci-fi fans know 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything so therefore the fact that 42 years ago Apollo 5 took off to test the lunar module in space conditions. So therefore we really were looking into the Universe.

Meanwhile back in 1952 on this day the first Jets went into service for B.O.A.C. (British Overseas Airways Corporation). So here is a pre-service look at the de Havilland Comet.

Tough Action Only When Left with No Option for Labour in Livingston

I suspect the emboldened line from a comment from a party spokesman earlier this month is going to be appearing on Labour election literature of whoever of the four candidates gets selected.
"There is a very strong Labour vote in Livingston (so strong that they lost the Holyrood seat of most of the constituency in 2007 mind)*. At the last general election Labour had a very significant majority and we would expect to hold that.

"Labour took very tough action and we are providing Livingston with a new candidate because we expect the highest possible standards from our MPs."
I would urge the people of Livingston not to be so easily thrown off by such a comment about the highest possible standards of their MPs. Back in June the local party gave Devine their "unwaveringng support" after he explained his expenses back in June, before he appeared before the Party's "star chamber".
*My comment, not the spokesman's.
This post has been sent via email therefore spacing and fonts may not appear at my usual standard. Also there may be links to other relevant blog entries or other content added later today along with adding the correct tagging.

It's Friday...Have a Cadbury Break

Don't worry my usual 5pm clips are on their way. But seeing as the news this week has been dominated by Britiain's premier chocolate manfacturer I thought you'd like these for your elevenses (after all the Stephen Glenn position has it's own hour).

Modern Classic

School Boy Memories

That first sex symbol

Frank Muir making it up as he goes along

But then there is also this.

A Secret Plan My Lord?

Baldrick: You had a cunning plan my Lord?

Lord Straw: Yes Baldrick, one so mind numbingly cunning and secret that I didn't mention it on 18th March 2003 when we debated the issue, nor mentioned to cabinet. But at some future point in my defence will produce it in an 8,000 word memorandum.

Baldrick: But what about Cook?

Lord Straw: What's Mrs Miggins got to do with this?

Baldrick: Not Mrs Miggins, my Lord, but Robert Finlayson Cook.

Lord Straw: Ah well the red, beard, Robin, went bob, bob, bobbin' along.

So Jack Straw had a secret plan to keep us out of the war on Iraq, or at least it was secret until yesterday.

Of course his predecessor as Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had a far more open plan to keep us out of the Iraq War. He announced his resignation as Leader of the Commons the evening before the vote on sending troops and then voting against the Government. Straw of course trooped through the Government lobbies. Like Cook Straw claims to have had disagreements with Tony Blair.

So what was the secret plan? Well apparently it was to offer support to the US-led invasion but not to send troops. Of course reading Robin Cook's memoires you know that he made his feelings known in Cabinet, there was no mention of Straw doing the same. Indeed in response to just that question yesterday he responded:

"Was there a cabinet or a cabinet committee at which my alternative to the prime minister was discussed? The answer to that is no."

So therefore his cabinet colleagues did not know that there was an alternative, (forgive my scepticism) if there was one, from the Foreign Secretary, even though his predecessor was expressing concerns.

However, compare such aspirations with what he said in the chamber on the evening of the 18 March, 2003;

"My hon. Friend has many arguments against military action, and I respect her for them. ..... I know that if we fail to take action in the face of an obvious evil and an unresolved problem, the costs not only to the international community but, over time, to this country and the rest of the world will be calculable and high."

So there appeared to be no concerns about regime change being an issue, there was an 'obvious evil and unresolved problem'. Was that alluding to the First Gulf War when regime change wasn't carried out?

How staunchly was he for sending troops into Iraq, well also in that debate he said:

"Like my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and many others, I have worked for months for a peaceful resolution of the crisis. However, I am as certain as I can that the Government's course of action is right."

And later

"The fact is this: Saddam will not disarm peacefully. We can take 12 more days, 12 more weeks, or 12 more years, but he will not disarm. We have no need to stare into the crystal ball for this. We know it from the book—from his record. So we are faced with a choice. Either we leave Saddam where he is, armed and emboldened, an even bigger threat to his country, his region and international peace and security, or we disarm him by force."

and to conclude

"Our forces will almost certainly be involved in military action. Some may be killed; so, too, will innocent Iraqi civilians, but far fewer Iraqis in the future will be maimed, tortured or killed by the Saddam regime. The Iraqi people will begin to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that should be theirs. The world will become a safer place, and, above all, the essential authority of the United Nations will have been upheld. I urge the House to vote with the Government tonight."

I clearly am missing something here as for the Iraqi people to 'begin to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that should be theirs' surely suggests the regime change that yesterday he said he had arguments with the Prime Minister about. That was the tenant of his closing remarks as he dispatched the Government's troops into the Aye lobby.