Sunday 28 February 2010

Land of Hope and Tory?!?

All this talk of David Cameron's "patriotic duty" to oust Labour reminds this Northern Irish born blogger of his Ulster Unionist partners too much.

In 1995 the Orange Order march at Drumcree claimed it was their right to march down Queen's highway, through the Garvaghy Road estate. One of the prominent marchers on that day and the subsequent marches was the then local MP for Lagan Valley and now Conservative Peer David Trimble.

So as you can imagine I've had far too much of flag waving patriotism in politics. In 2001 William Hague was counting down the number of days to save the pound. Strangely by staying out of the Euro we appear to have nothing better to protect our economy that some of those nations within the Eurozone so that appears to be misplaced patriotism. Also before the Tories complain they backed all the loosening of controls on the banking sector along the way.

This talk of patriotism that only the Tories can sort out Britain is coming when opinion polls are showing that the Tory lead is down to only two points. It is because the top two hero of Conservative candidates are Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill, two people related to patriotism. With the Falklands issue brewing evoking Thatcherite patriotism is one thing, that Cameron may be hoping turns his fortunes around.

I'm just fearing the time that the Conservatives rejig the lyrics to Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 to "Land of Hope and Tory".

Change George Still Can't Give Us Specifics On

George Osborne has just been asked a simple question on The Andrew Marr Show, "How are you going to be able to afford this change."

Now for years the Tories had been telling us that they wouldn't be giving us specifics as it wasn't the time until we were in an election. But remember back at the start of January when David Cameron fired the starting pistol on the election campaign. Well now we are even 2 months closed to the inevitable election that is coming before June.

So how did Osborne respond?

"Well you know our values."

Actually as I blogged yesterday it appears that the candidates are split over those values and aren't sure where they stand on them. Those as you say that are part of Cameron's team since his has been leader appear to have one set of values while those that are coming in may have something different.

Just as last weekend Gordon Brown tried to pass off his party's past but look to a vague fairness in the future. So the potential future Tory treasurer is unable to tell us what figures he will do to sort out our economy, he's going to be budgeting by values.

Budgeting by values!!! Stop the world I want to get off.

Saturday 27 February 2010

Daniel Radcliffe to Record Ad for LGBT Youth Helpline

There were two things that struck me about Daniel Radcliffe's interview in Attitude magazine last year. The first was obviously that he'd said he would be voting Liberal Democrat in his first general election vote, the second was how tuned in and comfortable he was for such a young, straight star with LGBT issues.

Therefore it isn't really a surprise that Daniel is willing to record an ad for a LGBT youth helpline in the US. Speaking of the project on MTV Radcliffe said:

"The Trevor Project is the only [US] nationwide around-the-clock crisis- and suicide-prevention help line [of its kind]. [It's designed] for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. There will also soon be a 'Trevor' iPhone application."

Summing why he should tie himself to such a cause Daniel said, "You don't have to be gay to be a supporter — you just have to be human."Going on he said:

"Some are gay, some are straight — didn't make any difference to me. When I went to my secondary school, I heard terms like 'poof' and 'homo' getting thrown around. It never occurred to me that some people might have a problem with it."

It is liable to cause some shock that a prominent, young star is so willing to associate himself with a LGBT charity. But I think it is just the kick up the backside that some American's need. In this months Gay Times, American Idol runner up Adam Lambert told how unlike Danyl Johnson he refused to gender sensitive a lyric and hide his sexuality. Speaking of the song Fever by Lady Gaga on his new album For Your Entertainment in which he references a male love interest he says:

"She asked me, ' What shall we do about it?' and I answered 'I think I should say it.' 'So do I,' she said. It was funny because we realised a lot of radio stations out here probably won't play it because of that gender reference, literally because of that one line, they won't play the song.

"The bit that I think is really f***** up is that we as the entertainment community could help if it just said 'Deal with it people.' But instead it is so fearful tat people are going to object, boycott and complain that they cave in."

So well done to Daniel for not being afraid. I'm sure I'll soon see the American Family Association having another reason to complain about the last Harry Potter movies now, but I'm glad that the young Brits can show what it means to be human. Indeed living up to Matthew 25:35 'I was a stranger and you took me in' so much more that certain 'christian' groups seem to want to extend their charity to 'least of men', or rather of course not.

Two Sons of Stars Show Depression Can Strike Anyone

The news in the last couple of day of both Andrew Koenig, 41 year old son of Walter, and Michael Blosil, 18 year old son of Maria Osmond, killing themselves after suffering depression highlights the issue with the illness.

Both were at different parts of their life Koenig had established his own niche in the film and televsion industries, Blosil was just starting out on his adult life but had already had a lifelong struggle with depression.

There is help out there and if you are suffering from depression or suspect that someone you love does you can contact Depression Alliance Scotland on 0845 123 23 20 or visit their website for advice.

Change We Can't Believe In

So David Cameron has gone with the slogan "Year for Change" the day after The Times exposed just how little change [pdf link] there was in his list of candidates.

Yesterday it was revealed that of 167 candidates questioned by The Times 83 gave their idea of a political hero, 32 of which chose Margaret Thatcher. Indeed Mo Mowlam with 4 was double the number who had suggested the new 'change' hero of the party David Cameron was their hero. Of course the Cameron/Osborne urge to cut the deficit quickly and bugger the consequences to the workers is right up there with Thatcherite thinking at the start of her time of 'change'.

There was also a Populus poll of 36 sitting MPs and 34 prospective candidates, which did show that the new guard may have some hope, but the problem is that they will be backbenchers to the sitting MPs filling the cabinet spots if they form a Government. 16% of the MPs believed multiculturalism was a good thing whereas 52% of the PPCs did. That is better but only over half, and therefore hardly a sign of total change for our multicultural Britain. On gay couples having equal rights there was 35% of the sitting MPs in favour to 65% of the PPCs. However, on cllimate change it was the sitting MPs who were more in line with public opinion 27% of them believed it was man-made only 9% of the potential new members.

So the new intake will be less opposed to multiculturalism (but still the majority will think it isn't all good), less homophobic, but bigger climate change deniers than the Tories currently are.

There is change but not the seismic shift that Cameron tells us has happened. It's also hardly change that many should be believing in

Friday 26 February 2010

Jobsworth Stealing Children Memories from Parents Part 632

The latest in the line of taking camera security too far has arisen in Sunderland, at the Bridges Centre. Kevin Geraghty-Shewan was approached first by a security guard and then by the police for taking pictures of his own son Ben having a good time. The reason was that they thought that Kevin might have been paedophile.

The fact that young Ben was fully clothed for winter and that the adults accompanying him as he rode the fun ride where his parents shows how little common sense the jobsworths are showing about this. While there is a need to stop people taking and distributing pictures of children for sexual gratification there are occasions that are being lost to the collective memory of today's children.

The Etymology of the Dynamics of Politics

Helen Duffett got me thinking in a Tweet earlier. Why do we stand or run for office before we take a seat?

So I decided to look up the online etymology dictionary to see when and where the sources of the various words we use to describe the various dynamics of politics come from.

Run Meaning: to seek office in an election This appears to come from American English dating from 1826. Ironically that was the year that the second and third men (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) who ran, though obviously didn't use that term etymologically speaking, successfully for President of the United States died on the 4th July. That lead to the often erroneously quoted last words of Adams 'Jefferson survives' despite the other passing 4 hours before. Long before the days of 24 hour news blasting from every room in the Presidential and former Presidential abodes.

Standfor Meaning represent, be in place of This would appear to be the derivation of standing. It comes from 1567 it would be the represent the area or (in the case of a rotten borough) the patron you represent. It was also the year that the infant James VI (later James I of the United Kingdom) was crowned King of the Scots following his mother Mary's imprisonment initially at Lochleven Castle.

Therefore as you can see stand is more of a English expression while run is a young-ish upstart Americanism though they are both interchangeable despite the former being a dynamic word and the second a static. Maybe that speaks something of the infant nation seeking to be set apart from the former colonial power.

Seat Meaning place in a parliament or other legislative body Stems from 1774, the last month of 1773 of course saw the Boston Tea Party when there was outrage from the Colony of America about British imposed taxation. Ironically of course there is only sitting room for 427 of the 646 successful candidates seeking a seat in the House of Commons.

You can tell that we are all chomping at the bit for Gordon Brown to actually call the election now can't you?

IFA Looking to End All Ireland Eligibility

The IFA, that's the Irish Football Association the governing body for Northern Ireland, is going to the Court of Arbitration in Sport(CAS) to try and stop a player drain to the Republic of Ireland

The recent case of Everton's Shane Duffy would not have been stoppable under the grounds that the IFA are seeking. Duffy who had played under 21 games for Northern Ireland was included in the republic's full squad last year. He like myself though would qualify under the FIFA ruling that you can represent the country of birth of yourself, your parents or any of your grandparents. Under that rule I would have qualified for either even though the then non-existent border only ran through the River Foyle less than 100 yards away from where my grandmother was born.

It would though have affected the cases of Manchester United's Darron Gibson and Portsmouth's Marc Wilson who have also switched to the southern team in recent years. All of their qualifying ancestors were Northern Irish born. It does however have an impact on those that claim all 32 counties of Ireland are the one as opposed to the twenty-six to six split that was imposed in 1922.

However, under the letter of FIFA's rule the IFA do have a case to stand on. The two are recognised as separate organisations under birth FIFA and UEFA and therefore for the purposes of football are recognised as separate states. There have in the past been all sorts of geopolitical recognitions and agreements beyond the boundaries on both sides to be inclusive of those that wish to recognise with one country or the other or both.

Strangely it is a case of the political football of Northern Irish politics actually having an impact on football. Who ever said such phrases and 'political football' was merely a euphemism?

The East Lothian Question

I see via Jeff that James MacKenzie (aka blogger Two Doctors) for the Greens is joining the race alongside Lib Dem Stuart Ritchie, my Conservative opponent from 2005 Michael Veitch, SNP blogger Andrew Sharp, and Gordon Norrie from UKIP to take on whoever the Labour candidate is for East Lothian.

The reason I of course say whoever the Labour party decide is that Anne Mofatt the sitting MP has lost the confidence of the Local party and the party's National Executive is due to make a ruling on whether to deselect her next week, following a 25-5 vote of the membership to take that course last month.

The result in 2005:

Labour 18,983 41.5%
Lib Dem 11,363 24.8%
Conservative 7,315 16%
SNP 5,995 13.1%
Green 1,132 2.5%
SSP 504 1.1%
UKIP 306 0.7%
Christian Vote 178 0.4%

A swing of 7.5% from Labour to the Lib Dems.

While I obviously won't wish James too much luck, and he knows the reasons why (look above) I'm glad t see another blogger entering the political fray and in James's case a back stage guy taking to the stage itself.

SDLP Stalwart Steps Down

Eddie McGrady has been the the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) MP for South Down since I was one of those new voters on the register with my date of birth beside me but unable to vote in the 1987 election. In that election he succeeded Enoch Powell who had moved to Northern Ireland politics after his time as the Conservative Member for Wolverhampton South West came to an end at the first 1974 election.

At the age of 74 I do not begrudge him taking his leave of Westminster at the next election. He has also been a Councillor since 1961. Rumours are that he is stepping aside so his party leader, member for the same seat in the Assembly Margaret Ritchie, who had served a time as his constituency aide, can take up his seat. In his own words she is part of the 'new dynamic' of the party he helped found in 1970, serving as the first SDLP Chairperson from 1971 to 73.

Although he is not endorsing any candidates for his succession Eddie has said:

"[The local party] have been very astute in selecting me over the years,so why should they not continue that wisdom?"

He has also served as the party's chief whip in Westminster since 1988, was elected to the 1984 Forum and served as an MLA between 1998 and 2003.

In recent elections the SDLP share of the seats has shrunk and after the last election they were jokingly dubbed the South Down and Londonderry Party and two of their three Eddie plus Mark Durkan for Foyle represented area that could almost fit the abbreviation of the party. Only Alasdair McDonnell in Belfast South prevented the Westminster party truly becoming the SDLP on geographical grounds.

As one of the members and leader of the first Northern Irish party to publicly speak out for the principle of consent over the governance of the Northern Irish people Eddie will be greatly missed as he heads into a well earned retirement.

Probe Into Bullying Helpline's Action - But Main Issue Still the Bullying

Fear over public trust in charities that run confidential helplines has led the Charities Commission to launch a probe into the National Bullying Helpline (NBH).

The Commission said it had a duty to "promote public trust and confidence in charities, and is aware of the potential impact on other charities that run confidential help lines". Also that is sought to "ensure the trustees continue to protect this confidential and sensitive information" and have also made an order "preventing the transmission or disclosure of information, including details about the nature and source of the confidential calls it has received" without its permission.

NBH founder Christine Pratt had at the weekend identified in all but name members of Downing Street staff who had called in confidence seeking assistance. All the charities patrons had resigned by the end of Monday over the leakage of information. The Charity Commission had received 160 complaints and the service of NBH was suspended yesterday.

The action had also come after Max Clifford has told Mrs Pratt she needed to provide evidence to back up her claims. The action taken by the charity commission will be a stop of such information becoming public and the protection of those who sought advise.

The one issue though is that there may yet be a case to be answered to within Downing Street, the way the information has been released is not following due process. The denials from Downing Street even starting before the allegations in Sunday's Observer from Andrew Rawnsley's book show that there is over sensitivity there on this issue. The crux of the story is still whether there was bullying at the heart of Government. So while NBH have done themselves and confidential helplines some harm in the public perception from their actions they have highlighted an issue that needs addressing.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Nicola - I Made a Mistake Over 'Mistake'

"I regret the use of the word 'mistake' to describe Mr Rauf's offence.

"As I hope will become clear from other parts of the letter, I did not intend to downplay the seriousness of the crime that had been committed.

"However, I accept the use of the word mistake was open to that interpretation."

So said Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday in her ministerial statement about her letter to the court regarding Abdul Rauf. She also went further to say that her appeal to the sheriff to consider an alternative to a custodial sentence was more in keeping with her former occupation as a solicitor than as an MSP.

The other week the First Minister saying he supported his deputy's letter 110%. Saying she was duty bound to write everything that she did. As Annabel Goldie pointed out admitting that she did not do everything right showed her candour, humility and courage. She contrasted this with the last First Minister's Questions before the recess saying:

"We got the usual Alex Salmond decibel delivery of rhetoric and arrogance.

"Where there should have been humility and reflection all we got was bluster. Where there should have been an apology, all we got was defiance."

The problem of delaying a statement from Nicola until now, and not having a plan to deal with this on Thursday 11 February when it broke was now that the First Minister has shown his knee-jerkedness once again. Instead of being a head of reason looking at the full picture, he jumped immediately to the defensive. If Ms Sturgeon had indeed been prepared a similar statement to Parliament she should have been allowed to make it then. As it was the First Minister was prepared to let this boil fester.

Sadly this is the head of the Government that is meant to be dealing with Westminster on a number of issues regarding Scotland's future. How can we trust a calm approach from him to such sworn enemies. We already know the mantra he shouts at Westminster, they are cutting Scotland's budget he proclaims, while at the same time he is arguing that Scotland can stand on its own two feet as he heads onwards with his desire for independence.

Maybe all the calls for resignation after that particular Thursday were for the wrong head. Maybe the First Minister should resign making way for the candour, humility and courage of his deputy, then maybe things can get done a little easier around here.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Not for Wool, or Fish, but for Oil, Latin America Stands Together

The last time the Union of the Provinces of the River Plate actually governed the Islas Malvinas was from 1820-1833, but they only installed a Governor for the Islands in 1829. Twenty eight years ago there was an long diplomatic negotiation which had been going on before on the 2 April the Argentine army invaded.

Therefore the fact that Hugo Chávez the Venuzuelan President and other Latin American leaders have back Argentina and are heading to the UN is a throw back to the 70s and early 80s. Chávez and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner the Argentine President wouldn't have been a main concern to the UK Citizens on the Falklands but when Brazil and Chile are also backing calls for a return of sovereignty. The fact is that in 1820 the Islands only became of interest to some men of the Union of the Provinces due to a French wreck on the shores. Even those early claimants were aware of a conflicting claim of Britain to the islands, whose garrison had departed in 1776 because of the American War of Independence.

Of course we long expected that more wars over oil and then war could erupt. Most people thought these would centre on the Middle East or Central Asia. Now it appears that the South Atlantic has come into play. One of the lest fought over units on a Risk board but an area of many incursions from Argentina over recent history.

Almost 30 years ago it was just a case of Argentina against the UK, although some other nations provided logistical support. This time it appears that the whole continent has reared it heads. Mind you last time it was mainly about sheep and the self determination of the people who shepherded those sheep, this time there is the inclusion of oil into the equation.

In 1983 the people of the Falklands were granted full British citizenship, though in 1989 there was a UN resolution passed for the two nations to discuss the sovereignty of the islands, though despite diplomatic relations being restored such talks have never taken place.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Comedian Jason Wood Dies Aged 38

A few years back I caught Jason Wood at the Pleasance during the Edinburgh festival. It was a very enjoyable night but sadly one that none of us will ever live through again as the 38 Comedian, who was also the first person to ever be voted off Strictly Come Dancing, died in his sleep on Saturday.

For those who did see him or those who didn't here he is at what he did best; making us laugh.

And this his 2007 showreel.

Jason Wood 1972-2010

***BREAKING*** Only MP with two Premiership Teams Steps Down

One of the aspects of Liverpool Walton is that it contains both Goodison Park and Anfield. That makes it unique in the country as the only constituency with two Premiership grounds within its boundaries (also making it the constituency with the most League titles and European trophies).

What doesn't make it unique is that its Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle has joined the long list of late members to step aside at the General Election expected in May. As yet I do not have any more details, this news is just breaking. But he isn't walking alone.

Kilfoyle has been the member for Walton since the 1991 by election to succeed Eric Heffer, who like Kilfoyle was an Evertonian. He'd played a key role as Labour's North West Regional Organiser in the fight against Militant that was exceptionally strong in that area. In 1994 he served as Tony Blair's campaign manager for the leadership.

Upon Labour entering Government he had a role in the cabinet office before becoming a junior minister at the Ministry of Defence a role he resigned from in 1999 at a protest of Labour neglected their heartlands. In 2006 the 63 year old MP suffered a heart attack which had lead to a quadruple by-pass so it is expected that his health is the major reason for his stepping down. However, again the question must be asked why leave it so late if health was a major deciding factor.

New Northern Irish Terror

The first car bomb to go off in Northern Ireland in over a decade was detonated outside Newry Court House last night. The timing just after the agreement to devolve policing and justice to the Assembly speaks volumes as local Sinn Fein councillor Conor Murphy said:

"The fact that we're in the process of devolving policing and justice powers and there's an attack on a courthouse will not be lost on people.

"These people are trying to drag us backwards and ensure we have the British army back on the streets."

There was also only a 5 minute warning given by the dissident republicans who planted the bomb. Police were still evacuating the area when the blast occurred. It was "a cowardly action by those who want to drag Northern Ireland back to the past" said DUP Assembly member Willie Irwin, and it is a past that most Northern Irish people don't want to revisit.

My friends are the generation with children who grew up there not knowing the daily occurrence of bombs going off or suspect cars being detonated. Their children have grown up without the stringent security and armed checks getting carried out in certain areas. If even parties from the two extremes of the political divide have realised that they have to work together to make peace, justice and the police work within local frameworks, they did so because that is the mood of the people.

Many of those that I mentioned indeed moved back after a certain amount of security was secured in Northern Ireland. Some of us myself included found ourselves elsewhere when someone we loved wouldn't be in Northern Ireland because of the threat that they feared. So therefore the lesson of history is clear, it would seem, peace is good for the people, retention of your own and bringing in of others. Terrorism isn't and many will merely flee from both sides of the community.

Monday 22 February 2010

Bullying Helpline Patron Quits - Update Make that two, no three

Professor Cary Cooper has just announced that he has quit the National Bullying Helpline (NBH) the organisation at the heart of the Brown bullying enquiries and concerns about the confidentiality of those who have called it. Prof. Cooper an expert in workplace stress told the BBC that he was "really upset" adding:

"[As] a helpline or counselling service you never, ever reveal anything to do with when a client calls you in any way."

Another bullying charity Bulling UK had said on its website yesterday it was "horrified" that Christine Pratt CEO of the NBH had "all but identified" one caller in media interviews. Speaking of the serious nature of such disclosure they said:

"It's hard to imagine a more serious breach of confidentiality."

With Professor Cooper's departure today serious questions need to be asked about this incident, not just the leakage of the material but now that they have been exposed the claims of those who had called.

UPDATE: A second patron TV presenter Sarah Cawood has also announced that she has stepped down. Another Patron Ann Widdecombe MP has also expressed concerns about recent events:

"The helpline is supposed to be confidential and while no details were revealed I do not think it is a good idea."

UPDATE 2: No sooner had a published the last update than tweetdeck alerted me to the fact that Ann Widdecombe is also stepping down. In a statement Ms Cawood said that the reason she is stepping down said:

"In light of the recent events where confidential phone calls were made public, I feel it is no longer a campaign with which I would like my name to be associated."

However, Christine Pratt apparently fire fighting said:

"Her role as a patron has been disappointing and she has not got involved in spite of making many promises," she said.

"Appointing her as a patron was with hindsight a mistake."

Is Today the Day?

After Gordon got up on Saturday to launch a campaign slogan the one thing he didn't do was launch a campaign.So the rumour mill has gathered heat that today being the first day of the working week he will get in his car and drive down the mall to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen for a dissolution.

Will it be or won't it?

I may well jump at the first text message I get at work today*. Afterwards I may settle back to what I need to do at work, or start rearranging the leave I'd already booked off and wandering to an other election related to do list. It will all depend on one man's decision, whether I ramp up now the activity I've been doing recently or carry on with the gradual ramp up I'd been doing anyway. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

One thing I'm fairly certain of, if it does kick off today it is liable to hbe in the run up to my 2:30 deadline and my busiest period of the week.

* That is not a cue for those of you who know my number to send me innocent or spoof texts.

Sunday 21 February 2010

When Was Alan Johnston Last at a Hippy Commune

So the Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said that, "Liberal Democrat Conference is a Hippy Commune". So when was he last at a hippy commune?

I have to say it must be one of the most expensive hippy communes going, hotel prices are steep, maybe we should set up a yurt village in the Bullring in a few weeks. Hotel bar tabs are nowhere were as hippyesque as homemade alcoholic Dandelion and Burdock, or oak leave wines. Looking around at conference there are some mightily impressively dressed hippies around these days in the opinion of the Home Secretary. Of course there are some Lib Dem members who could still slip out of the conference centre straight into a squat and nobody would notice, but they are the minority.

Maybe the only thing that a Lib Dem conference really has in common with a commune is the collective decision making process. Unlike the staged party pieces that Labour and the Conservatives offer the Lib Dems will actually decide policy and the direction of the party at conference. So if that is what links us to a hippy commune rather than our dress sense, lack of drugs, exorbitant bar bills, or lack of yurts to sleep in.

Well if Labour can't get democracy today, the day after they failed to spot the irony over them not getting fairness, I just think that speaks volumes.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Brown Loses Whip who is a 'Titan' of Politics

In what is almost a daily announcement of the latest Future Retirement for Me from the Labour benches today it is the turn of Labour's longest standing whip, Tommy McAvoy the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton. He has been a whip for the last 13 years of his 23 in the House of Commons. Gordon Brown himself has described McAvoy as a 'Titan' of politics.

At 66 it is the time that many people look forward to retirement, but in the run up to 2005 those who were retiring from Labour's benches for that reason left a longer built up for their replacement to be found and bedded in. The fact that so many this time are leaving it so late shows that in certain seats Labour are taking it for granted that you can put a red rosette on anyone and the seat will remain Labour's.

While some of the seats that are selecting last minute replacements will be selecting people who have campaigned locally others will be parachuting in people who the Labour party want in their team after the election. But the people are not going to have much change to get to know who some of these people are. Many of them have yet to be named and selected, I just hope none of them do turn out to end up sticking a rosette on a chimpanzee so that we prove that particular theory.

UPDATE: Iain Dale has written a post why he wonders if McAvoy leaving is because he is allegedly the whip that will be mentioned by Jim Devine in his defence in court over his expenses.

If true, and the coincidence of a long standing Scottish whip giving such advice to a new Scot seems highly probable. It gives added nuance to Jim Murphy's validictory to McAvoy:

"His job has been to steer laws through parliament to change people's lives. It is because of his work that Labour has been able to introduce so many changes which help so many people in different ways."

Could the last bit include MPs, their families and their constiruency parties?

Not Even Bartlet Sank So Low

During Gordon Brown's speech he said:

"We will cure cancer within a generation."

Of course fans of the West Wing will recognise the policy if not the full rhetoric around it, clearly Gordon's speech writer didn't want to totally wrip off the West Wing.

Bartlet in the end despite being in a desparate situation at the time didn't use this jaw dropping announcement. He decided that the people would see it as clutching at straws to say something so radical, and uncosted to try and regain popularity. It was even going to be a major part, a major build up and full stop to his State if the Union. Brown, who appears not to have had the qualms of Barlet, mentions it only in passing and you could have missed it. Big announcement buried, why? Out of shame? Out of saying you'd said it but the world had missed it?

He also said that Elections are not judgements on the past, put decisions for the future. So does that mean Gordon is not standing on his record. Well it would appear he wants you to forget about that.

Although he did say take a fourth third second look at Labour, and a long hard look at them [the Conservatives]. I would say take a long hard look at Labour as well. He said that the Conservaites were not going to anything to get rid of the hereditary peers in the Lords. Well the opposition party in 1997 promised to get rid of them, they are still there after 13 years of power. Care to explain that one Prime Minister.

Gordon was launching the phrase a "progressive future, fair for all" so I was wondering if he was going to announce his defection to the Liberal Democrats. After all the ones that are offering the fair future to all are the Liberal Democrats, a fair tax system, a fair political system, a fair start for your children's education.

But no there was no big announcement of the Brown defection, no annoncement of the General Election date. The Labour Twitterverse was all a twitter last night that this would be a big day, their Labour "Future Fair Freefall for All" slogan had been let out of the back last night. So rather a damp squib if that was the hyping.

As Alistair Carmichael says of the slogan:
"Labour's latest message to voters is 'A future fair for all'.

"I would anticipate that voters' message to Labour would also begin with an 'f'.

"The problem for Gordon Brown is that he will be judged not just on his intentions but on his record.

"13 years of Labour Government have let down those who need fairness and equality most."

Friday 19 February 2010

A Future Freefall for All #Labourslogan

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Labour have just announced their election slogan as "A Future Free for All." Surely if we are facing a double dip recession they have edited the third word a little too much for accuracy.

It's Friday so...Happy Birthday Prime Minister

Well tomorrow Gordon Brown celebrates his 59th Birthday. So lets have a little look at how other's see him.

An intriguing take as Gordon as Skeletor.

Classic John Clushaw turning Gordon in a rapper.

Meanwhile Rory Bremner sees Gordon more as Mika singing the music to Grace Kelly, of course the lyrics aren't the same.

Finally Jeremy Vines looks at Vince Cable's phrase "From Stalin to Mr Bean" one that Piers Morgan brought on Sunday. I wonder if we'll have an updated version on election night 2010, this from the council election night in 2008.

Fasten Your Seatbelts: Economy Facing Turbulence

Just when Labour thought they had pulled off a feather soft landing it appears that the UK economy is still up in the air and is still facing turbulence

A number of indicators are suggesting that the possibility of a double dip is even stronger that was initially feared. The oh, so small recovery in December, may end up being also oh, so short lived. So what are the figures that are causing concern.

  • A £4.3bn deficit in public sector borrowing - first time on record Treasury ahs not recorded a January surplus
  • 1.8 per cent drop in sales volume from December to January - three times worse than expectations worse month since June 2008.
  • Sale on household goods down 13.4% fastest drop since 1988
  • Fuel sales down 11.1% as a result of the poor weather.

Of course VAT going up in January may well have meant that the recovery in December was spurred by people buying stuff before the price went up. Looking at the household good which are often a January sale stalwart this may well have been the case. The possibility may have been that the recovery in December may only have been a blip ahead of the Governments own tax proposals taking effect. It might just be that the recovery hadn't really started, but people were making the most of the last month of 15% VAT, while this was still a stimulus.

If we were in an airplane no doubt the chief steward would come on the tannoy telling us to refasten our seatbelts as we will be experiencing turbulence ahead. Sixty of the wise passengers, who have a fair idea how to fly this plane have passed a note to the chief steward, a man called Darling, agreeing with his decision to delay Government spending cuts until 2011. The concern it that there may be a change of aircrew mid flight, that may not heed their memo and head straight into the storm.

The potential replacement crew's chief Steward, George Osborne, is saying that it is a lack of a logged flight plan to get us out of this mess that is losing the confidence of the passengers and indeed others who may be looking to invest in the airline. A former close follower of that band of sixty with more air hours than George when it comes to such decision, Vince Cable, has said that yes there needs to be a clear plan to deal with the deficit, but also considers that when to make to begin to make those cuts should be determined on the strength of the economy in a years time. Indeed he is itching to get on that tannoy to say:

"We've got to look at what is happening in the real economy and not be based on political dogma."

The replacement crew seem to have been on an easier that is sufficient simulator, to get ready to take over, and still seem to be blinkered by that rather than what is going on around them. Possibly spending too much time in first class and not enough checking what is going on in coach.

Yet Another Labour MP Steps Aside

James Purnell a former aide to Tony Blair and a former Work and Pensions Secretary is the latest on the lengthening list of Labour MPs to step aside from Westminster. With the time getting shorter and shorter to a General Election it most be disturbing some Constituency Labour Parties if their MP is next to have a sudden change of heart.

It is somehow hard to work out how the MP for Stalybridge and Hyde can be tired of the Westminster machine, he is only 39 and only been an MP since 2001. Although as he says he has spent all his working life in and around Westminster which maybe does mean that career politicians from University to election are facing premature born out.

Although your Tam Dalyells, Tony Benns or Dennis Skinners all seem to have survived quite long and meaningful careers within politics even with a younger start than some of these young whipper snappers. Maybe the fact is that too many of those who are coming through the political career path see is a stepping stone for themselves and not as a means to help those in the constituency that they end up representing. Maybe that is the difference between those who want to work for a constituency and those that want merely to work for the party.

Grouchy Demons, Selfish Tiger

Why oh, why has Tiger Woods chosen this Friday to break his long silence, since November, to make a public announcement? Indeed why has he chosen a Friday at all?

Thursday through to Sunday are the competition days in a golfer's life, Woods may have forgotten this is his short absence from the game, or maybe not. As Ernie Els has said:

"It's selfish. This takes a lot away from the tournament.

"I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday."

Just who is the sponsor of this week's match play event in Arizona? Well it is Accenture who until last November were a sponsor of one T. Woods of Orlando, Florida.

Brit Oliver Wilson joins the condemnation of Woods' timing:

"It just seems very poor from everyone involved to have it organised. You have a brilliant event here and the sponsors are owed more to that.

"And for the Tour to be setting up on their own headquarters, I don't think it's very good."

Sergio Garcia who is also taking part in Arizona added:

"The timing of it is not the best, but he has to do what's best for him, I guess."

So I guess all the world's a stage but the spotlight will be on US PGA Tour at the Sawgrass Clubhouse in Ponte Vedra, Florida and not at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Press Self Regulation Fails Time to Disband the PPC

Earlier today Mark Thompson wrote what is the point of the Press Complaints Commission in light of their ruling on Jan Moir and her Stephen Gately piece which lack cajones? Well now his view and mine are both being backed up by Peter Tatchell he says:

"The Press Complaints Commission should be disbanded. By failing to uphold its own standards and enforce its own Code of Practice, the PCC has demonstrated that it is unwilling, unable and unfit to regulate newspapers. We need a new press regulator with principles and teeth.

"Jan Moir's commentary on the death of Stephen Gately was factually inaccurate on two points. His death was not unnatural or lonely, yet the PCC has rejected a complaint concerning this inaccuracy by Stephen's civil partner, Andrew Cowles."

As I argued earlier the case for homophobia was the hardest of the three main clauses that the PCC may have had to judge on. Surely the timing of the article showed a lack of sensitivity to those close to the singer, the PPC merely said that the timing was "in questionable taste". But surely the factual accuracy should have been upheld more than anything else.

The PCC acknowledged that Jan Moir mentioned the coroners reports, that right the one that said he died of natural causes, to be precise Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome (SADS). The whole push of her article was to use unfounded, homophobic stereotypes to prove that is was "not natural".

Of course as Millennium Elephant points out the PCC is paid from by the people it regulates. Why? We have independent bodies to regulate almost everything else. This decision to even ignore the blatant things like accuracy in the face of opinion writing shows what a failure the self regulation of the press, by the press is. It really only serves to help the press.

As Dave Page wrote on today's Lib Dem Voice:

"Had Moir’s comments been made in the average workplace to a colleague who had complained, would she have been let off the hook?"

I think we all know what we hope the answer to that question would be. So in one workplace where such comments only affect a few to another where it clearly affects 25,000 who bothered to speak up, yet no action is taken.

As the PCC clearly have no cajones, there is nothing to really cut off apart from their ability to pass judgement on their own. Let's set up an independent body, with some clear standards (the current ones work for starters but could do with strengthening and broadening in some areas). Today they failed, show them the door and get somebody in that will actually do the job that is required.

READ ALSO: Of course not all Grauniad opinion is of hte abolish variety. Jonathan Heawood poses the opposite stand point. Of course I still say freedom of speech is one thing but being allowed to propagate deliberate falsehood, even in an opinion piece, is quite another.

MPs Can Travel by First Class Rail...

If Sir Nicholas Winterton wants to travel up to Macclesfield in a first class carriage he is more than entitled to do so. This is after all a free country and we protect people's liberties. Of course the fact that "They are a totally different type of people" would not entirely endear him to the masses of potential voters who inhabit standard seats, or the future voters running up and down the aisle, who will all still be children when Sir Nicholas retires this year.

Of course some of his other arguments for coming down from Macclesfield do not make a lot of sense, so maybe he really is out of touch. I didn't for example realise that the greater Macclesfield metropolis extended far enough for local councillors to have the option to travel first class between their ward and the council offices. I really must try and stay awake next time I travel through on the train, I've clearly missed vast swathes of Macclesfield, and another mainline station.

He can overcome the being unable to get a seat by that wonderful convenience of a reservation, it is small extra amount he'd have to pay to guarantee the seat of his choosing, then he would "always get a seat" in standard if he wanted. I believe this reservation system has been around almost since the advent of the first steam trains. Wonderful what you can do these days.

As for peace and quiet I believe there is a quiet coach in standard on the Macclesfield to London trains so he could reserve a seat in there if he wishes. Just woe betide him if he starts up him laptop not in quiet mode and the Microsoft ident whistles out around the coach.

Although as I said should he, or any other MP, still be desirous to travel by first class they should be allowed to do so. Buy a standard ticket, and keep the receipt, and then purchase the upgrade that many of he rest of us do if we are a particular long journey.

As I said we live in a free country and the option is there for them to do so, just don't expect us to pick up the tab for that desire to be a class apart.

The PCC Chickens Out Over Jan Moir Article

So the Press Complaints Commission PCC have reached their verdict on Jan Moir's piece after Stephen Gately's death, the timing of which they said was "in questionable taste". They said:

"It would not be proportionate to rule against the columnist's right to offer freely expressed views about something that was the focus of public attention."

They had also passed it on to the Crown Prosecution Service who ruled that it was not unlawful:

"In December 2009, the Metropolitan Police passed the article and statements from two complainants to the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether or not any crime had been committed through publication of that article.

"Having considered that material I have decided that there is insufficient evidence that any offence has been committed.

"In coming to this conclusion I have paid particular attention to Article 10 of the Human Rights Act which protects individuals' freedom of expression. It is an established legal principle that this freedom applies equally to information and ideas that are favourably received as to those which offend, shock and disturb.

"Though the complainants and many others found this article offensive, this does not make its publication unlawful."

So if I'm reading the CPS right the government legislation against incitement to racial or homophobic incitement is null and void next to Article 1o of the Human Rights Act. So too it would seem are the laws of liable, they were suppositions in Jan Moir's original article which she presented as fact.

On her saying that the singers death was not "natural" the PCC said that while this was controversial and speculative, "could not be established as accurate or otherwise". But surely the point was that on that particular Friday only days after the incident a newspaper columnist with no medical or forensic training or access to the corpse would be in a far less likely place to know what was accurate than family or medical professionals. She actually dismissed the comments of these to give her own slant on things, saying is was factual. The thing that could not have been established was what Jan Moir was saying on that point, so the PCC chickened out on the one point that was open to censure on accuracy grounds rather than opinion to incite hatred.

The PCC said that there was a fine line to be drawn "between critical innuendo which, though perhaps distasteful, was permissible in a free society – and discriminatory description of individuals, and the code was designed to constrain the latter rather than the former". The problem is as Sara Bedford pointed out yesterday this is not an isolated incident with the Daily Fail.

Almost every story that features a gay man leads to some sort of stereotyping and discriminatory description of lifestyle. There is always some slur in the way they put the story across. The latter is prevalent within that particular publication. The problem is that they spread it around and only individual stories can be raised at a time rather than the whole library of unfounded innuendo that they splurge out over and over and over again.

So while the PCC keep saying they cannot condemn one individuals freedom of speech the whole ethos of the paper is slanted in a particular way which does discriminate. Unfortunately the Code is also incapable of dealing with the largess of such views across an entire publication.

UPDATE: Reading the PPC's full findings I was particularly interested to see what it had to say about the cause of death SADS (Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome) which Moir dismissed so fully as "not natural".

"It was clearly the columnist's opinion that "healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again". This was a general and rhetorical point, based on the view of the prevailing health of young men. It admittedly did not take into account the possibility of SADS or similar, but the Commission did not consider that it could be read to be an authoritative and exhaustive statement of medical fact. Equally, the Commission was fully aware of the widespread objection to the reference to Mr Gately's death as not being "natural". This was undoubtedly a highly provocative claim which was open to interpretation, and many people had considered this to be distasteful and inaccurate. It was a claim, nonetheless, that could not be established as accurate or otherwise. The article had set out the official cause of death so it was clear that this was a broad opinion rather than a factual statement."

So Andrew Cowles complaining thus about Moir saying the family were distorting facts:

"Although a post mortem had been conducted and the results published - confirming that Mr Gately had died from natural causes through an acute pulmonary oedema, believed to have been brought on by a heart attack - the thrust of the article was that this was questionable ("something is terribly wrong with the way this incident has been shaped and spun"; "the sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath")."

Appears to have no protection under the law. Journalists Columnists are at will under freedom of speech under the Human Rights act to deny facts, accuse the family who want these facts out to be liars, or indeed trying to obscure something. This is twisted and the PCC really has failed horrifically to defend factual representation today. The claim that Moir quoted the cause of death, she did but then only to rebuke it as nonsense. How that can pass accuracy under the PCC code dumbfounds me.

Read Also Andrew takes a look at one of the other clauses in depth. While a rather fluffy elephant renames the PCC the Press Cover-Up Cronies.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

The Attitude Check - The Leaders' Responses Part II

Yesterday I started to look at the common questions that Johann Hari posed to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown over the last three months in Attitude. I'm initially going to look at the common questions and each leaders response.

The second such question was:

Who were the first gay people you knew?

Point of information: All three leaders are of roughly the same generation, though Gordon is of course slightly older. Gordon in 59 this Saturday, David Cameron is only a few months older than Nick Clegg who recently turned 43.

That is a difficult question for me as I don't think there was a particular moment. I had a very liberal upbringing, a very open upbringing, I was lucky. I had very liberal parents, an international upbringing. I had gay friends at school and worked with gay colleagues for a long time, so there was no sort of "Eureka!" moment when I said "oh!" - it wasn't like that. I think that's in keeping for someone of my generation. I'm blind to this. My closest friend at university who I lived with, came out, but, you know, I never thought of him as "My Gay Friend". He was just Luke, my best friend, that was it.

Nick's answer is very much like most people of my sort of age. It sort of happens around you from school up. No big deal, but being able to place one time or one person is tough, but he does talk a little about one friend. It's very much a relaxed answer, spoken in a chit chat sort of way. You can tell he's at ease with the question and merely answers it.

Cameron: Openly gay? I suppose friends I made particularly after I left university. I went to the Conservative Research Department and since then [I have had] quite a lot of [gay] friends, actually. It's difficult to know sometimes, going further back.

Ouch! I have to say it that opening is something that most Attitude readers will have also cringed at, most of us may well have experienced the first person we knew who was gay was letting us in on a secret possibly, a true friend hoping you'd keep their confidence. Failing that I don't believe any one could have gone through University in the 80s without having at least one gay friend. Somehow that is just what Eton and Oxford educated Cameron seems to have done. Now they may not have been friends but surely they were known to him.

Brown: Good friends at university. I went to one of the first civil partnership ceremonies in Britain, and it was very moving. I thought - here's something that wouldn't have happened in Britain ten years ago without there being a Labour government to bring it about. It demanded such courage from the people who campaigned for it for decades and then it took legislative decisions to make it happen. It showed our country is far more tolerant that people thought - we are ready to embrace the dignity of every individual. The gay community in Britain should take credit not just for winning rights for themselves, but making our country a better country. People respect individuals more as a result of the achievements you have had. And to have changed not only your own community but also to have changed the country itself over the last ten years - it's an incredible achievement. And that message has gone out across the world, everyone can see it.

That's why I spoke out so strongly when there were moves to roll back civil partnerships in America. There are people who have made a commitment to each other and clearly loved each other, who are now faced with this idea that it is going to be rescinded. It's totally unacceptable. And that's why I'm fighting to get all the countries in Europe to recognize civil partnerships carried out in Britain. We want countries where that hasn't been the case - especially in Eastern Europe - to recognize them. We're negotiating agreements with France and then with Spain. But I think we can actually go further than that. And if we could show, in Eastern Europe as well as Western Europe, that this respect for gay people is due, that would be really important. Of course it will be tough, and it will take many years, but that has never ever been a good reason not to fight. Every single change we've delivered for equality we started off with people telling us it couldn't be done.

Brown started well with his opening four words, they answered the question in part. He carries out about going to one of the first civil partnerships. But this launches him off into a tangent, rather than talking about any of those friendships he lurches into a treatise. There is repetition from question one of key words individual, rights community/society, equality. There are all sort of abstract concepts, speaking in a general rather than a specific. Rather stilted as if learnt rather than from personal experience. Also for quite a long answer only the first four words and possibly the second sentence actually deal with answering the question. Like an examination answer or a political answer picking up a key theme and running with it in totally a different direction.

Neither Brown or Cameron come across well in this answer, Cameron stalls with his question, before working out where to go. Brown starts with the answer but in four words is off talking generalities rather than about the friends, the object of the question.

My rating of this answer:

  • Clegg 7/10
  • Cameron 3/10
  • Brown 2/10

Where's the Reader's Digest Prize Draw When they Need it?

Tom Champagne may have stopped writing the cheques for the Reader's Digest Prize draw in 2003, but the 117 employees of the UK arm of Readers Digest would love to see an envelope landing on its doorstep in Swindon with his cheery signature saying you have won £125m.

For that is the deficit in the Reader's Digest UK's pension fund which has led to the company that first started trading here in 1938 to enter administration. The US parent company is expected to come out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection shortly after struggling with interest on its own £1.4bn ($2.2bn) debt.

Fact Checking Nick Herbert and the "Gay Friendly" Conservatives

Earlier today Nick Herbert spoke at the Cato Institute on the theme Is there a place for gay people in Conservatism and Conservative politics?

Mr Herbert told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

"I think David Cameron has taken the view that we need to broaden to appeal of the Conservative Party - that you can't be a party that is seeking to appeal to the whole country unless you are properly representative of the whole country.

"And that the position that we had been taking in the past towards gay people had been one that appeared to be hostile and that we were wrong."

So that's the talk but how did they walk the walk.

In 2003 on the Repeal of prohibition on promotion of homosexuality (Section 28) in the Local Government Bill 71 (plus 2 tellers) voted no, only 23 voted along with Labour and the Lib Dems to rescind it. One notable name in the no lobby was the newish MP for Witney David Cameron along with a third of the "current" shadow Cabinet.

The year before in 2002 to allow homosexual couples to adopt, even more 118 (plus 22 tellers) voted against, including that great champion of liberty when he resigned David Davis, William Hague. In total 7 members of the current shadow cabinet, congratulations to Kenneth Clarke and the current Speaker John Bercow 3 of only 7 Tories to vote aye.

In 2007 one third of the current Conservative party in the house 83 (+2) voted against the Equality Act. The act was to allow the Secretary of State to make regulations defining discrimination and harassment on grounds of sexual orientation. Those against included 33 of their front benchers 4 of the Shadow Cabinet, they included Dominic Grieve, but also Eric Pickles and Iain Duncan Smith. Admittedly this time David Cameron did vote for gay rights along with 28 others.

Most recently in 2008-9 the Conservative Party objected to the Equality Bill. In fact 19 members of the Shadow cabinet attempted to block the legislation.

These are not old, historical situations can be put off as the intentions of the party of another age, these are the votes of many who are in the current Conservative team, standing for re-election again this year, people who should be showing loyalty to the leader's grand idea. But they are not, indeed their leader himself hasn't even been fully signed up to the idea over recent years.

Herbert attempted to also say:

"I think this has been a rapid conversion but the change is definite."

Looking at the voting record I'm sure an impartial observer would say where is this conversion?

How Green are Your Tories?

The other day the Conservatives listed their 10 reasons to vote for them.

  • 1. The NHS - our number one priority.
  • 2. Dealing with Labour’s debt crisis.
  • 3. Creating new jobs.
  • 4. Protecting the poorest.
  • 5. Supporting families.
  • 6. Giving every child a good education.
  • 7. Helping keep bills down and clamping down on consumer rip-offs.
  • 8. Fairness for pensioners.
  • 9. Fighting back against crime.
  • 10. Building more affordable homes.

In 2006 David Cameron wrote:

"Since becoming leader of the Conservative Party I have sought to push the environment up to the top of the political agenda."

Now it doesn't even make the top ten. So much for Dave's promises to a pack of huskies.

If he can't be trusted over promises to Canis lupus familiaris how much more can us Homo Sapiens expect to trust his promises.

Oops She Did It Again

Lindsey Jacobellis must be the unluckiest Olympian there is.

Four years ago in Torino she was leading by a country mile but decided to do a grab off the last jump within sight of the gold.

This year having won everything in between she crashed through one of the control gates in the semi-final and ended up having to content herself with winning the B-Final for 5th place overall.

Meanwhile the main event saw more Canadian gold as Maelle Ricker who lives in Vancouver won not just on home soil, but her home mountain. As with the men it was the junior French team member who was here for 'experience' who experienced silver in Deborah Anthonioz. World champion Helene Olafsen of Norway and Switzerland's Olivia Nobs crashed out half way down.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

She's Going to Vote Tory.....Cause Neither Have Got Devolution

Hat tip to Miserable Old Fart

Only at the weekend in Scotland David Cameron was saying how he and the Conservatives got devolution. Yet new poster girl Julie Fallon lives in Llandudno, Wales. She's voting Conservative at the General Election because of:

  • schooling DEVOLVED ISSUE
  • community development DEVOLVED ISSUE
  • support for children DEVOLVED ISSUE
So maybe she's only going to be voting for them in 2011 at the Assembly elections.

But then we didn't really expect the Tories to get devolution. Did we?

I mean their snuggling up in bed with the Ulster Unionists has upset some of their Catholic candidates in Northern Ireland. Annabel Goldie has said that David Cameron can effectively have sway over Scotland even if there is no representation in Scotland for the Tories at Westminster. The other week in Westminster they clearly didn't get proportional voting systems.

The Attitude Check - The Leaders' Responses Part I

Johann Hari has now completed his set of three interviews in Attitude with the three major party leaders. There are some questions which are specific to one leader and his party but several which are generic across all three. Over the next few nights I will be looking at those and giving my opinion on how they responded. Here is how Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg responded to the opening question they all were asked.

Why should people vote for [your party] at the next general election:

Because we [Labour] are the anti-discrimination, anti-prejudice and pro-equality party. We've always been determined to protect and defend the rights of the people who need the protection of the law. I think the whole history of the Labour movement has been to take on prejudice, discrimination and vested interests where they exist. If we've not done enough until 1997, we are to blame for that. But we have done a huge amount since, we've got a lot more to do, and in our blood, in our DNA, is a determination to speak up for equality and against inequalities and against injustices. I am really proud that once people have won rights, you can't ever humiliate them again. You can't ever go back. My view is: you start from the dignity of every individual. You want a society where every individual has the chance to realise their potential to the full, and any barriers that exist - like prejudice - is dismantled. And so, my position, starts from a principled position. Some people might think - this guy is a son of the Manse, brought up in a very Presbyterian environment. But I've always been very proud that the Church of Scotland has a much more egalitarian view about gay rights than others.

Sadly for the Prime Minister the way he speaks even comes across in the written word as dour. Also this is a position statement there is a lack of clear reasons why we should vote now, apart from the one line "we have more to do".

Clegg: I want anyone from any community to vote for us because of the values we [Liberal Democrats] represent, not because they think we tick a particular set of boxes. We are a liberal party who believe in tolerance. We have the longest and proudest record of campaigning for gay rights in British politics. The main reason I want people to vote for us is not some sort of segmented appeal because we've got a vision of Britain could be that I believe lot of folk - gay, straight, white, black, Asian, women, men - can support.

Nick Clegg is the only one not wholly cuffed by the fact he is speaking to a gay publication. He's setting out the ideals, elsewhere in the interview come some of the specifics. He's showing the tolerance that he talks about by not pigeon holing, the other two talk of some other worldliness but Clegg is all encompassing, not boxing you in don't look at us just for tick boxes.

Cameron: Above all because I think the country needs change. Change in terms of sorting out our economy, in terms of improving public services, and in terms of some of the things that are going wrong in our society. I think I can say to gay people that not only is it change we need, it is a changed Conservative Party that faces you at the election. Not that we have a perfect record on all of these things, I know. But there have been some major changes that have taken place under my leadership.

I know there are gay people who have conservative values, such as wanting us to be supportive of business and enterprise, wanting to have strong defense believing in strong defense of liberty and so on - but in the past they have felt held back [from voting for us] because the Conservative party was sending them a signal that we didn't support them or their lifestyle. That has changed. I think we can look gay people in the eye and can say you can now back us both for the values we have but also because we now support gay equality.

Initial thoughts on David Cameron is that he is trying to overcome the legacy that his party have established through their past actions. Hence the apology, however twice he says "I think we can" either say or look at gay people differently from before. Think and can together are two soft words which may hint at a certain uncertainty. Cameron also hits out at the wider agenda though.

Overall it is a tough start for Cameron, indeed Hari doesn't let him off later in the interview so maybe he is guessing the course that the interview will take. Brown sounds like a lecturer in political history, laying out the history of the party but not giving much of a vision for the future no reason to vote Labour to move forward. Both Cameron clearly and Clegg by implication which is later fleshed out give a reason for hope. It may be that Labour is basically out of ideas but the other two both show an enthusiasm, the snappiness of Nicks answer to the first question being a prime example of bring it on.

For openers I'd give
  • Nick 7/10
  • Dave 6/10
  • Gordon 4/10
More tomorrow at the same time

They're changing guard at Westminster Palace

After A. A. Milne in light of news of Westminster plans for civil partnership for MPs and members of the public as result.

They're changing guard at Westminster Palace -
Christina Robyn is marrying Alice.
They're getting married in the Jubilee Room.
"The Speaker's really a moderning broom,"
Says Alice.

They're changing guard at Westminster Palace -
Christina Robyn is marrying Alice.
We looked out over Cromwell Green.
"A smiled thinking the puritan wasn't so keen,"
Says Alice.

They're changing guard at Westminster Palace -
Christina Robyn is marrying Alice.
We looked for the Gordon he never came.
"Well, God take care of him, all the same,"
Says Alice.

They're changing guard at Westminster Palace -
Christina Robyn is marrying Alice.
Members all parties can do this too.
"Be Civil Partnered like me and you,"
Says Alice.

They're changing guard at Westminster Palace -
Christina Robyn is marrying Alice.
A face looked out, but it wasn't the Dave's.
"He's much too busy planning what to save,"
Says Alice.

They're changing guard at Westminster Palace -
Christina Robyn is marrying Alice.
"Do you think Nick Clegg knows all about me?"
"Sure to, dear, but it's time for tea,"
Says Alice

I have Voted Tory Before But

I see there is a new hashtag going round. #IveNeverVotedTory, well you see I have, on more than one occasion.

Before my Lib Dem friends hang me out to dry I must say that on none of those occasions was my vote an X it was merely a number (on one occasion 2 digits) and thinking back I do not think my vote transferred to a Tory on any occasion.

You see no matter what the Conservative party think about proportional representation it is just one vote, I've actually had more votes in electing multi-member councillors in Kingston and Coventry than I do in electing my multi-member seat representatives in Scotland. Indeed I had three votes to elect three Lib Dems the last time I voted in England, I had only one vote to go toward the 3 councillors that now represent me, and yes it did move as none of them is a Lib Dem.

Indeed when I lived in Coventry my one vote never elected anybody either to council or Westminster, indeed nor have my votes to the Scottish Parliament. Which just shows that the additional member system which is one of Labour preferred options is also a flawed system. My party is stronger elsewhere in the region than here so we only once have the people outwith certain seats in Edinburgh had Lib Dem representation, and then only briefly in 1999 before Lord Steel was elected to be the first presiding officer.

In all my adult life only in Northern Ireland (except Westminster), the last Scottish council elections and the last couple of European elections has my vote actually elected anybody (outwith internal party elections). Is it any wonder that so many people are turned off by politics. There is no need for parties to be actually different just have the air of being different. It is what David Cameron is doing now and what Tony Blair did in 1997. They were not that radically different from the Government of the day, they were just not them.

With proportional systems you have to show where you are different, people will consider how to vote down the list. They may not go all the way down the list, I didn't for the first Assembly elections. I didn't vote for anyone who was anti-Agreement though my vote never transferred anywhere after my first preference, but the thought was there.

So there you have it, I have made a vote that included a preference for the Tories, they just have never benefited from it.

What a Finish

Yesterday in the men's Boarder Cross final the Canadian's thought they were on to a another gold. Most of the way down the track Mike Robertson (red bib) had been in the lead. Defending champion Seth Westcott (black bib) had a poor start away from the gate. Indeed at the turn that had been the unseating of many through the rounds he was lying in fourth spot of the four.

But his compatriot Nate Holland fell leaving room for the unexpected French finalist Tony Ramoin who had never podiumed at any event sitting in silver. But the experience of Westcott showed as he carried speed through the technical end to the Whistler course, overtaking first Romoin and then on the last corner overhauling the Canadian. As you can see from the picture above over the last jump it was still close but a perfect landing saw Westcott take the gold once again and Canada had to settle for a silver.

It was better than they fared in the men's downhill where Eric Guay coming in fifth. But American Bode Miller attacked the top of the course to become an early leader, but he was later edged out by edged our Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal by 0.02 of a second. But the cowbells were soon ringing in force as Swiss Didier Defago took another seven hundredths out of that lead for gold.

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo had a very happy start to the Chinese year of the tiger lifting gold in the figure skating pairs, fellow Chinese pair Pang Qing and Tong Jian took silver and Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy the bronze.

Monday 15 February 2010

Zero Tolerate as I Say Not as I Do

"Anyone contemplating fraud against the NHS should be aware that they will be caught, and if they are caught, they will have to face the consequences of their fraudulent actions.

"Let me be clear today about what is a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and to fraudsters. Fraud perpetrated against the NHS is, in my view, a fraud perpetrated against each and every one of us and that is why it is so important to combat it. So it does make sense for all of us, in our own ways and in our own roles, to act as counter-fraud champions."

So spoke the SNP's Scottish Health Secretary to more than 100 delegates at a conference aimed at combating NHS fraud. Of course that role is one that is filled by the MSP for Glasgow Govan, the other being Deputy First Minister, for all three hats belong to Nicola Sturgeon.

This was 4 months after she first became away of the case of her constituent Abdul Rauf, but before she wrote that letter. In the letter she asked that even if the consequences of his fraudulent actions against the Department of Work and Pensions merited a custodial sentence that alternatives should be considered.

It adds another question to the list that she will have to answer after the current Scottish Parliament recess. Why is zero tolerance OK against fraud in the NHS but not against the DWP? Is it not also a fraud perpetrated against each and every one of us? Should we not also act as "counter-fraud champions"?