Friday 30 September 2011

What about the soldiers and premature babies Eric? #No2AV

There is something about the figure that Eric Pickles (pictured left in a role he fulfilled when I was working for the other side) has magically plucked out of the treasury to ensure the 'front line' services of weekly bin collections are brought back.

It seems vaguely familiar.

Oh yeah that was it. Has that £250 million been offered to buying bulletbroof vests for our soldiers? (Especially on the day that Liam Fox announces MoD job cuts). Has it gone into maternity units especially cardiac units after all it seemed to be all that Labour were moaning about all week?

I haven't seen those pledges made anywhere since May 5th. Therefore I think Eric Pickles should do the only honourable thing and give up that amount which is actually quite a lot more than a vote under AV would have cost the tax payer extra to one of those noble causes that only months ago he was claiming could have done with the money.

After all I don't recall seeing Eric launching the following ad anywhere, do you?

Hat tip to James Shaddock for sparking this idea

Eric in a pickle over waste

Eric Pickles says it is a basic right for people to have their rubbish collected weekly and therefore is looking at ways to spend £250 million to 'restore' weekly collections.

Of course what has happened in most locations is that alternative weeks are taken up with general waste collection and recyclable waste. the example of flats as a case were weekly or more than weekly collections are made is of course an anomaly as there of course there are communal waste facilities and what you provide for residents has to be empties when it is required. Of course people in flats can of course recycle, look at the scheme in Edinburgh where different types of communal bins are provided for tenements for different types of waste.

Take a look at the size of the average wheelie bin. Compare that to the size of the old style bin that we all used to get by with being collected once a week. With the size of families going down and more single occupancy it is clear that we are actually each producing more individual waste every week. Most of us have more than one for different types of waste, so sort it out properly. If your general waste is too full look at what should and could go in other collections. Therefore it is not so much the right of each individual to have weekly collection but the responsibility of each individual to reduce their waste.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

What were your ancestors doing 99 years ago today?

Susrprising I know what 7 of my Great-Grandparents were doing at least at one point of this day 99 years ago. They were either signing the Ulster Covenant, if they were male, or the Declaration, if they were female. Only one of my Great-Grandparents signatures can I not find, that may have had something to do with the nature of his work. His wife also only signed with her initial to try and hide her identity a little, and that took some detective work.

However, as Michael has said we need to learn from our history. The covenant that they signed read:

BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V., humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognize its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.
And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.

It was a time of unrest in Ireland and considering that most of my family at that time was living in largely Catholic areas, Donegal or Derry City they probably had a greater understanding of the tension that a lot of the signatories. Of course the party of Home Rule was the Liberal Party one of the precurser parties of the Liberal Democrats. Ninety Nine years on I find myself part of that party still fighting for devlovement of powers away from Westminster.

Also more importantly after those 99 years I find myself working for close working relationships across the whole of Ireland, even though the parts of Ulster in which my family signed are now in two separate states. Even though most of it can be driven between in less than half an hour. Equal citizenship within Europe rather than the UK is what I find myself holding dear now and that expands well beyond the British Isles or course as many of those who live amongst us now come from elsewhere.

We have moved on a great deal in those 99 years. Indeed we have moved on a great deal in the last 15 to twenty years here in Ireland. Not least in that many of those whose forebears also signed the Covenant and Declaration are also looking for a shared furture with those whose ancestors welcomed the idea of Home Rule in Ireland with open arms. There are even some who have relatives on both sides of that argument, how confused are we?

It appears to be the way today to share those signatures. Here is the one of my Great-Grandfather Robert Glenn.

And across the Foyle and some miles upstream that of the father of his son Alec's future wife John Lapsley. That is the Townland of Dundee not the one in Scotland.

Elsewhere my Great-Grandfather Campbell

And finally my Great-Great-Grandfather Henderson, although most of the other names on here are related to me somehow as well.

In total 237,368 men singned the Covenant, and the Declaration by 234,046 women. It is part of our history just as is the Easter Uprising in 1916, the Belfast Agreement and many other events. We should all learn together from them of how to build a better future.

Is Rory Weal really just the son of Baron Hardup?

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceWas young Rory Weal's hard times a result of the welfare state. Actually his father Jonathan Weal ran an City-based employment agency so his hard times were as a direct result of the banking crisis. If his father had no savings from a quite well paid job that is his fault, many of the poorest on the minimum wage cannot afford to save at all.

He did say that "Two and half years ago the home I lived in since birth was repossessed." That would have been a £950,000 house in Chislehurst (pictured to the right) sold after repossession for only £500,000. Indeed his father apparently owned over £2.25m of property. It was only then then his mother separated from his father. So hardly the poor pressed upon single parent unit that so many who do rely on the Welfare State day in day out, tear in year out. Indeed his mother is now an administrator in a cleaning company in Maidstone. The family home now is described as a modest semi-detached*! Semi-detached many on Income Support cry out, "Luxury!"

He also asked:

"What does [Cameron] advise when I can't afford to go to school in the morning?"

Maybe that would have been the Colfe school in Lee South London where he was a £13,788 a year pupil until the 'upheaval' in his family circumstances. He's now at Oakwood Park Grammar, hardly one of the worse academic locations for the hard put upon Rory to land upon indeed in 2009 100% of its pupils acquired 5 A* GCSE poasses! Rory himself has six A* and four A results in his GSCEs. No doubt he can enjoy the school's rowing club on Monday and Thursdays. Indeed one of the 32 Grammar Schools in Kent which is one location that has maintained selective education.

So the darling bud of Labour conference may well have exaggerated the extend of his hardship and made it look like he was hard done by. However, he has fallen from a great height unlike many who have spent their lives struggling to get unto that first rung.

Maybe young Rory should take heed of some of the advise that Tam Dalyell received from his fellow Labour Etonian when he arrived in the House. "Never be afraid of who you are and don't try and hide it."

Read also Lib Dem Child asks us to Leave Rory Weal Alone

* Value a mere £300,000.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Just who is infantile Richard Littlejohn?


You'd expect the Daily Mail to condemn us Liberal Democrats it is something that they do on a regular basis. However, Richard Littlejohn takes the biscuit today.

He says that Lib Dem delegates at conference, so that by that he includes me, are infantile for cheering Nick Clegg for defending Human Rights and the Human Rights Acts. Only of course Littlejohn doesn't call it that he calls is yuman rites, when it comes to terrorist suspects.

Here is news for Mr Littlejohn all suspects are just that suspects until proven otherwise. What is worse even if they are convicted they are still human.

But Littlejohn suggests being able to detain terrorist suspects indefinitely without trial or with a trail but before a kangaroo court. We've done that before in the UK it was called internment and it took place in Northern Ireland in the 70s. You know what it did, it acted as a major recruitment aid to the terrorists groups as others saw those interned as martyrs. So go on Mr Littlejohn learn nothing from recent history, don't try and learn anything from the present and just stoke the fires of hatred see how much safer that makes the people of the UK.

What sort of bargain is this "New Bargain"?

Calm down, calm down! It's only a bargain. A New Bargain
So Ed Miliband wants to offer us a new bargain. But what sort of bargain is he offering? The problem is that his speech today gave very little clue as to what that was. After all speech is cheap, quite the bargain really and if you can fill 55 minutes with platitudes and nothingness. Ok saying "something for something" and attacking one part of the opposition's approach to the NHS without ignoring that the other part is doing the sort of things you're saying you want to do.

So just what is a bargain:

an advantageous purchase, especially one acquired at less than the usual cost: The sale offered bargains galore.
an agreement between parties settling what each shall give and take or perform and receive in a transaction.
such an agreement as affecting one of the parties: a losing bargain.
something acquired by bargaining.
Informal an agreeable person, especially one who causes no trouble or difficulty (usually used in negativeconstructions): His boss is no bargain.

Well looking at part one above, is that code for the fact that as he said elsewhere in his speech that he wouldn't undo all of the cuts of the government. He also said that if the current government hadn't sorted out the deficit by the end of the term he would do so. Yet this seems odd as Labour and Ed were all saying that this was a global issue and not one that the current government should be taking measures to deal with themselves. Now forgive me for getting confused here, unlike the PPE that Miliband got from Cambridge I only have an Economics degree from Kingston. But surely either something is global and you can do nothing about it, or it is internal and you can promise to sort it out, surely it cannot be both!

Part two seems to go contrary to the Labour party saying this week that they are a party of principle. How can they have any give and take if they are sticking to their principles. Indeed wasn't this the issue they found themselves in last May. They didn't do any giving and were doing plenty of taking. The Lib Dem negotiating team said that the Labour team didn't seem to want to be in government anymore because they refused to discuss things, refused to give any ground. That led to the only sensible option being taking give and take between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. That is pluralistic politics something that surely a PPE first from Cambridge should have picked up on, if not him he maybe should have asked Douglas Alexander's sister Wendy about that.

The third definition talks about a losing bargain affecting one of the parties. If that is the sort of new bargain that Miliband is offering who is losing out? But surely if the principles have to stand there is no give and take, therefore who is it that will end up losing out? Maybe Labour themselves if they are unable to cope with a change in the landscape. Maybe the people the ones who lost their 10p tax rate, the pensioners who lost their indexed linked pension before the Lib Dems put it back in place, maybe those promised a working wage which may well be taxed like the so-called minimum wage that Labour brought in and taxed. Indeed it is the Lib Dems who are promising to make a living or minimum wage outside of tax. If it is the minimum it should be outside of direct tax, of course indirect taxes like VAT and duty may be accrued, but that may well be up to the individuals choice as far as possible.

The fourth definition talks about something acquired by bargaining. We've yet to find out what Labour are prepared to bargain with. Miliband talked about social housing, well increasing the competitiveness for it, but nothing about increasing the supply of it. How is this really going to benefit the people he talks about helping. He said that taxes were increased for the poorest, yet the tax threshold has been increased lifting thousands of the poorest out of tax. As I said above the minimum wage that is still taxed fails to live up to it's name, yet this is just what Labour did.

The final option may well define Miliband a person who causes no trouble or difficulty. Because without any substance he really isn;t going to cause any trouble. The Liberal Democrats have already proven to cause more trouble for the Conservatives that Labour seem prepared to do.

Maybe what Miliband was offering today was a plea bargin, he didn't quite get around to saying sorry, but he did say that Labour had over the years got a few things wrong. Maybe he is looking for a lesser charge to be brought against Labour.

Seven go for President

The news this evening that Dana Scallon and David Norris had both secured the support of four councils means that there will be seven candidates for the Irish Presidency.

Dana was the first of the final two to acquire the support of four councils before the 12 noon deadline on Wednesday. With the support of Carlow, Roscommon, Donegal and Offaly county councils. Norris still seeking to be the first openly gay president of Ireland secured the support of his fourth council Dublin City late this evening to add to Laois, Fingal and Waterford. Cork had refused to support him earlier.

They join the five already nominated Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell, Labour's Michael D Higgins, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness and two independents, Mary Davis and Seán Gallagher. Labour and Sinn Féin nominated their candidates from their Oireachtas relatively smoothly. However, Fine Gael's selection of Mitchell ahead of more popular Mairaed McGuinness and leadership choice Pat Cox, he is not showing well in the polls despite Fine Gael topping the poll in February's elections.

Mary Davis had secured the nomination of 13 councils including Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan and Tipperary North. While Gallagher had the support of Leitrim, Meath and Clare County Councils and Cork City Council.

It means that the three independent council nomiated candidates Davis, Gallagher, Scallon and Norris will take on the figureheads of three of the four major parties Mitchell, Higgins and McGuinness. Although McGuinness is not running under the Sinn Féin banner but as an independent under the banner of "The People's President" having been nominated by the 14 Sinn Féin TDs and 3 Senators plus some independent members to get over the 20 required.

The election will be held on 27 October and is an instant run off, or really an AV election.

Labour call in the thought police

At least that is one implication of what shadow culture minister Ivan Lewis could bring about with a register of journalists. You only have to look at what Labour's Socialist cousins around the world have done by allowing only certain publications to publish news down through the years.

So while I agree that something needs to be done in light of hackgate a register of journalists and a striking off of some of those is not the way to go about it. Where would this register end? How would it affect freedom of speech and thought? Would it be used to expand to bloggers?

The expansion to bloggers is something that Labour and the Tories have both toyed with. Bringing in some regulation on the press that the politicians have control, even a quasi control over is not the way that we should be going.

What we need is an independent press authority that has the power to inflict punishment on the press and by that I do not need expelling them from expressing a thought in print. We need a complaints procedure that anyone can activate not just someone who has been directly affected as in some circumstances by the time the hurt party/parties get around to taking action it is already too late and too much hurtfulness can already be caused even as they are grieving.

I expect the register of journalists to go the way of Ed Miliband's £6,000 tuition fees and be buried very quickly as is the way of trying to make policy on the hoof that Labour appear to have adapted this week.

How to summate in a debate #ldconf

Last Sunday morning at about 8:50 I entered the conference hall in Birmingham and was asked by Gareth Epps if I could summate on amendment 2 on the Accreditation for Conference Motion. I did have a card in to speak on the motion, but knew that being asked to do this I would be throwing out a lot of what I had to say and dealing with arguments raised by a lot of people during the debate.

I was shocked by the number of people who said well done, either in person, on twitter or text. Yes my pocket kept vibrating as soon as I sat down after leaving the podium. One thing that even some respected speakers said was how well I had done in raising points from everyone in the debate, and naming them by name, something that Geoff Payne summating on the other amendment failed to do referring only to the first time speaker from Cambridge. On the right is page one of my notes from that morning. Here is what I was doing.

At the top are the main points that I would have made if I were speaking in the motion itself. These were the main points of my speech. One of them the Transgender element was so well covered by Rachel Coleman-Finch (that first time speaker from Cambridge) and Jenny Barnes that I only mentioned them in passing, but the issue that LGBT+ Lib Dems (Delga as was at the time known) had been consulted was something that I did speak on, and got the new less than 14 hour old renamed organisation its first mention from the platform.

As each speaker was called, I took a quick note of their name on the right hand side of the page. Then any point that they made that need commenting on either rebutting or praising was written on the left. There are heiroglyphs and scribbles as I try and link together speakers and create a flow to what I am about to say. If you notice from the top and recall all of my points as intended were raised in my summation of the amendment.

I also over the page have just one comment next to Chris White "being blown to pieces" this made me start with my current party positions as part of the Northern Ireland party. I had to lay out just what authority I had on the terrorism issue. At the point that was brought into the debate with both the speakers before me, my grand opening line got cut and and my speech took on a whole different structure.

These notes are but an aide memoire, most of what had been said was still fresh in my mind. I never even transcribed my speech from BBC iPlayer and it is too late to do so now. But I hope this may be helpful if you ever find yourself required to summate on a motion or an amendment. Although one final word of advise, don't try and do this unless you are able to improvise on the spur of the moment and have some idea where you want to go to anyway.

Update Thanks to Zoe O'Connell I managed to upload the speech unto my YouTube channel so you can watch it there.

Monday 26 September 2011

Initial thoughts on 'The Importance of being awkward'

Sometimes looking forward to reading a book for so long can sometimes disappoint. Thankfully that is not the case with Tam Dalyell's autobiography The Importance of Being Awkward.

Now you may ask how I as a Liberal Democrat could have been looking forward to a book by such a Labour stalwart. Well of course in 2005 I stood for the seat of Linlithgow and Falkirk East which took the majority of the retiring Father of the House's seat within its boundaries. As I wrote in a letter to Tam, which I intended to give to him on election night* if he were there, I hoped his beekeeping wouldn't keep him from telling his own tale. Finally over 6 years later here it is.

I'm still in the chapters of his early life but already I know this book will be inimitable Tam. Here are just a couple of extracts.

During the Second World War along with other six-to-eight year old at Edinburgh Academy Preparatory School Tam was evacuated to Grantown-on-Spey.

Alas my time at school came to an end when I suddenly got searing pains in my tummy. It was my appendix and the situation was urgent, the local surgeons having gone off to the British Expeditionary Force in France. What to do? my mother was out of contact. Mercifully, the local vet was available and willing to deal with my perforated organ. Had the vet not taken rapid and decisive action, and the teachers accepted responsibility, there would surely have been no me to tell this tale.
The second is the tale of the guides for the House of the Binns, the first country house in the Scottish National Trust gift and the ancestral home of the Dalyells. After a sucession of military guides things changed in 1953.

When my father died in 1953, my mother, alone in the house as I was at university, decided that she would rather have seasonal students. The first of these students was the sun, then at Edinburgh University, of the minister of St. Michael's in Linlithgow and a distinguished future moderator. The guide was therefor the future leader of the Liberal party, the first Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and much else, Lord Steel of Aikwood.
David became a great favourite of my mother's and was extremely kind to her. He accepted the wearing of the specially measured black uniform with its silver buttons  with aplomb but understandably forgot to tske the baton with him when showing parties of visitors round the house. The baton was 'de trop' to a younger generation and remains on show beneath my father's portrait.
This is just a taster as I only started to read the book yesterday as a birthday gift from my brother but I shall share more later on, I trust.

*As it was it got posted to the House of the Binns and I still have the kind response from the man in pride of place.

Thoughts on first full day of Labour Conference

Something that has struck me from watching the 'debates' at Labour Party conference so far is the anarchy of the system to getting called to speak. If you go with red hair, wear a red tie, jump around, dance in your place you may, or may not, get the eye of the chair.

Now conference halls are big, but a lot of the people called to speak were called seemed to be first time delegates, maybe their had the enthusiasm to dance in place until they got called. As for 'debate' as I use the word advisedly there was very little to it and how can you structure a balanced debate if those who want to appear on TV dressed in red, dance around or do something to get the attention of the chair. It is almost like the X-Factor for politics. It is why I like the fact that at Lib Dem conference we have actual debates and our chairs will balance the arguments by the cards that are put in and the debate covers the aspects that the hall wishes to cover. We also don't leave it down to the best/worst dancers in the hall to have a word.

Then there was all the media hype about Rory Weal a 16 year old delegate. There was comparison of him to a young William Hague. But I wrote earlier in passing about three of the five Lib Dem conference speakers who I could rattle off who were younger this year. Not all of whom were first time speakers either. None of them had to jump up and down to get noticed, all of them offered sensible contributions to debates down the years. yes even though as 14, or 12 have spoken on a number of issues. Speaking on issues like education, drugs, blood ban and sometimes making a difference to party policy as they speak in controversial debates at times.

I appreciate that Rory got up and talked about the Welfare State, threw in a personal anecdote. But it was the sort of speech that was guaranteed to speak to the party faithful. It was in a debate that I believe did lead to a vote, although only to accept a paper, not on forming a policy brought by a local CLP or branch to the floor. That is another difference I have noticed this week. There are these debates, then to close there is a set piece from a front bencher to finish. Most, though not all Lib Dem debates are summed up by ordinary members. Often we have to address disagreements from the floor. Things don't always go through on the nod and indeed this year there were a great number of close votes.

If Labour insists on having people speak in a session in which there is no vote surely it is a conversation and not a debate. If the chair does not know if someone is against what is being said before they step unto the platform how is that a debate. And if you are merely selecting people to speak based on them catching your eye on the floor you will get the TV wannabes and not necessarily those who may have something to add to the 'debate'.

L, the U and Everything: A-Z of the Music I have B is for Bon Jovi

As this is the year that I should know all about Life, the Universe and Everything I'm continuing with the music that has got me this far in the hope that it may help provide the ultimate answer. There were a number of possible B's but there will Always only be one option.

Sunday 25 September 2011

End of the High Road but top of the World

Team HTC-High Road may be extinct at the end of this season. But the podium in their final year at the World Road Race Championships ending with three sprinters who have worn their colours on the podium.

André Griepel of course had to go elsewhere, to Omega Phrama Lotto, to get out of the shadow of Mark Cavendish. Matt Goss was happy to stay and help or take the honours when he could. So the three of them were a mark of just how strong the High Road set up has been down the years.

But the other mark of today was how the GB pulled together. Chris Froome, 2nd in the Vuelta a España, Bradley Wiggins who was second in the Time Trail earlier in the week, David Millar who had to return his world Time Trial silver after a doping positive. Geraint Thomas an Olympic Pursuit Champion, plus Ian Stannard, Steve Cummings and Jeremy Hunt. All of these guys sacrificed themselves for most of the afternoon to bring their one man to the line. But also all the British cyclists through the seasons gaining points to get the strongest national team possible here in Copenhagen.

Cavendish may have been upset when Bradley Wiggins was unable to help him win Olympic Gold in the Maddison in Beijing, after he had left his Tour de France early to go an take part. But Brad was on the front of the peleton for about 7 minutes not looking for support this afternoon, to bring the last breaks together and leaving it up to the rest of the team. He sacrificed himself 100% for his colleague, who may well be his team mate next season.

Cavendish in the first British winner of the World Professional Road Race Title since 1965. He's won it in the same year he's won his greatest desire the final Green Jersey in the Tour de France. He truly is the top of the world right now. What can next year and the 5 man Olympic team bring about.

Saturday 24 September 2011

The press and me at Conference #LDConf

I may not have the youngster factor of Alex White, Matt Downey and Maelo Manning (pictured above)* so the chances of me being picked upon by Huw Edwards, or Matthew Paris for a press call or less at Lib Dem Conference. After all I'm another white man, or a certain age in a suit, even though I'm an openly out one (which again ain't that unique at Lib Dem Conf). However, that doesn't mean that I didn't get a few media hits over the week.

First there was my way into the ICC on Saturday I got grabbed by Winkball who were there all week.

Then on my birthday the BBC grabbed me for this piece on their website.

Finally in the queue for the leaders speech I was interviewed by the Time magazine reporter who happened to be in front of me in the queue. There are just a few short words from me in this but still I've gone international.

* Indeed scarily their combined age is less than mine, excluding Huw of course.

Friday 23 September 2011

It's's post conference time

Well the Lib Dem Party conference has been and gone. Sleep deprivation has been restored but the mood in this conference was so great that conference as a whole. Meeting many new friends as well as catching up on old ones, drafting speeches, one that was made and a couple that were not. But here are some of my highlights.

First up is my friend Greg Judge speaking on the Employment Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments motion.

Now here is a message for Edwin Poots our Northern Irish health minister about blood and science from another friend Chris Ward. Watch out for the test for gayness of blood cells, and yup that is me in the background of the reaction shot.

Now there has been great rejoicing in the press about us attacking our coalition partners in song at Glee Club. But we also attack Labour and make fun of ourselves. Indeed Simon Hughes was on stage leading one of the songs that mocks him during the evening. However, this final clip is a piece of history. The evolution of a glee club song captured on 'smuggled in' hacks camera. The Twelve Days of Coalition has only been around for 2 Glee clubs (Liverpool last Autumn and Sheffield in March) but here you can see it being amended from the floor with amendment one. Amendment 2 adding the word badly came on a second rendition later in the night. And that is what Glee Club is all about, members writing and amending songs in satire. Not only about other parties but about ourselves. Live with it.

Note to Editors: Glee Club is a self deprecation and steam letting off aspect of Liberal and later Liberal Democrat conference

Unite against hate: All hate

The group Unite Against Hate is there to create a zero tolerance Northern Irish approach to all hate crime and discrimination. Whether that is sectarian, racist, homophobic, transphobic, religious or disability related hate crime. Anyone who has seen me for the last year will have seen me wearing their white wristband, it never leaves my wrist.

Therefore I was as shocked as anyone to see the sign pictured reported in the news yesterday. It was on display in an off licence in Draperstown, County Londonderry. However, can one tell it someone is a foreign national. If a Nowegian, American or Australian were to turn up in the shop would they have been requested to provide ID? What about someone from the republic? Official they would have been a foreign national, many living in Draperstown probably hold Irish citizenship.

Or course the sign was probably in reaction to one individual of ethnic origin being suspected of the theft that may have occurred in the shop. But as with anything of this type it is discriminatory to tar every foreign national with the same brush, what the store should have done was up its own security measures to deal with this theft or state of thefts.

However, we also see similar signs about school children, restricting the number into shops, or making them leave their schoolbags at the doors. Are we teaching discrimination and that you are guilty until proven otherwise to our young people at a young age?

The sign has since been taken down and is being investigated by the NI Equality Commission, but such racism should not be happening in the first place.

Thursday 22 September 2011

In which the Alliance health spokesperson doesn't get it

I've been reading the reactions of the various health spokespeople on the position taken by the DUP's Health Minister Edwin Poots not to join his colleague in Wales and Scotland in following SaBTO's recommendations to introduce a 12 month deferral period on men who have sex with men (MSM) from giving blood.

However, I am shocked of the reacation of the Health Spokesperson of the Lib Dems so called sister party here in Northern Ireland. Kieran McCarthy has said:

"I am extremely annoyed that Edwin Poots is not going to lift a ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. It is disgraceful that he is refusing to lift this ban. What sort of message does this send out?
"We must have a society based on fairness and this refusal to lift this ban is deeply troubling. This refusal sets a very worrying precedent.
"The Health Minister should be encouraging more people to give blood instead of maintaining this despicable ban."

For a start some of those currently banned would identify as straight, bi or gay. Some of those who would be allowed ot give blood after 12 months deferral would identify as gay, straight or bi. SaBTO's definition is MSM. The Blood Transfusion Services definition of MSM is men who have had sex with another man, either anally or orally, with or without a condom.

Let me explain to Kieran just who that covers. Of course there are gay men that is obvoious, it includes those who have been and are in monogamous relationships, which is part of the reason the Lib Dems voted this week that even the 12 month deferral period was not based on science.

There will be bisexual men. But the SaBTO recommendations will only allow those who over the last twelve months been with exclusively female partner(s) to give blood, those with a mixture of exclusively male partner(s) over that time would not be allowed to donate.

Then there are straight men who are currently banned from giving blood. They have have had an experimental MSM incident or period while they were younger and didn't like it. Therefore they know they are exclusively straight and would identify as such.

There are indeed even some gay men, who have not had sex for 12 months who will be allowed to give blood after 12 months either voluntary or involuntary sexual abstinence.

There are also the straight female partners of bisexual men who will be lifted out of their lifetime ban (although it is really only their 12 month deferral from sleeping for an MSM) should they stay together in an monogamous relationship.

What the Alliance Health Spokeperson has got wrong with the basic language of which MSM groups are affected throws doubt on on much he really gets the depths of the issue. The refusal doesn't so much set the precedent but follows on the precedent of various DUP elected representatives in relation to LGBT issues. Personally I'm shocked that a Unionist politician such as Poots should want to take an independent look at science from the rest of the Union, surely that is sepratist talk!

See also Stigma not Science: Keeping the Blood Ban in Northern Ireland

Trains, Planes and Linda Jack #ldconf

I do have some serious postings to write about the Liberal Democrat Liberal Conference but in the meantime here is the tale of Linda Jack and I on our journey from Birmingham to Belfast.

After conference I went to collect my case from Nitenite the hotel I was staying in (all the rooms are windowless but then I was hardly in there). I was heading towards Linda's hotel when she said did I fancy a drink at the Hyatt. So I turned back went back past the Mailbox and made my way back to the Hyatt.

We after a drink with friends headed by Taxi (I know it is not in the title...tough!) via her hotel to New Street Station. Where we ran into Hilary Stephenson from the Campaigns Department in the queue for tickets. As we tried to get unto the 17:33 train to take us to Birmingham International on platform 3A. We must have just missed it leaving, but there was one going at 17:36 from Platform 1A, I proceeded to head in the wrong direction before Linda stopped me. As we were heading down the stairs we came across Adam Stachura the new Scottish Campaigns Director.

So the three of us got unto the train and headed to the Airport. We did our Fast Check Ins then headed off to find the FlyBe package drop, which seems to be at the other end of the airport from the Monorail connection to the train station. Anyway when we got there Adam kindly let us go first as our plane was earlier than his and if there was a rush we'd need to get through quicker.

However, we discovered that Linda's company who had booked the tickets for her had not ticked the baggage option for her. So she was delayed a bit as she then had to pay the surplus charge. Then we headed up for everybody's favourite bit of airport action these days the security scan. Well I've never seen a security scan take so long. All the times I have flown from Belfast (both airports), Edinburgh and Luton in recent days at times far busier than today I have not moved so slowly towards the scanner. There may have been only three teams on, but they were the slowest three teams I have ever experienced. Plus there was room for at least 5 more queues.

It took about 20 minutes for us all to get through the scan. So we carried on through to departures where me and Linda said farewell to Adam as we had to get to Gates 1-20 in about 10 minutes. So off we trundled. Only for there to be shortly thereafter a 10 minute delay displayed on the board, followed by one of a delay to 20:30. That would leave us getting into Belfast at 21:30 so we decided it was time to eat. So we went back into the main departures lounge to get some decent, hot food.

We sat down in Yates and ordered the food, charged up both our iPhones off my Laptop and ate. I'd Foresquared our location and tagged Adam. Who comes by as we are finishing eating shocked to find us. We explained the delay and he said he would carry on window shopping. However, there was there an announcement over the tannoy, the first we'd heard for the Belfast Flight, only this was a last call. We were miles away from the gate area and hadn't finished our drinks. It was only 19:30.

We quickly packed up and started to walk briskly towards the Gates. On the long corridor down to the gates we heard a final call for passengers Glenn and Jack. Then as we got slightly further along one which was even more bitchy say "Final Call for passengers Glenn and Jack you are personally delaying this flight". I had already taken one of Linda's bags and said I would run ahead to ensure that they kept the gate open for us. This I did but the gate was the furthest I had to go. I checked in and told them that Linda was on her way. I asked about the time delay that had suddenly been cancelled without any announcement on the tannoy. I was told that the 20:30 was the time of the later flight so I was mistaken. The later flight is actually at 21:00 so unless it was miraculously half and hour earlier I doubted this.

They then proceeded to tell me to go on and if Linda, who I'd already told them was going as fast as her little legs in heels could manage. So I said, "Then I'll have to leave her back with you." I got a rather nervous, oh from the gate guard. But just about that time Linda had appeared. It was now 19:40 it had taken 10 minutes to get across the airport, at speed.

Thankfully we got unto the plane.

But as I sat down I told about the incident at the desk to the woman sat beside me. She said no it had shown a delay to 20:30, but then only about 19:20 did it call them to the gate but no announcement. Surely if you are going to change an already stated delay of over 90 minutes you should announce a correction over the tannoy not wait until you have to give a final call.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Lib Dem Blogs (and bloggers) in the Total Politics Top 100

Today is the last day of Lib Dem Conference which also coincides with the announcement of the Total Politics Top 100 Blogs and Bloggers.

It is meant to have been a year that the Lib Dems were falling away, yet Lib Dem Voice is up from 27 to 12 the year AFTER Cleggmania. Caron is up at 25 from 44th last year, that spot being taken by the late Andrew Reeves who was only 106th last year. In between them is Liberal England at 38 also a riser from 62. Fraser Macpherson's blog Dundee Westend is another climber from 165 to 92.

This blog despite relocation is up slightly from 65 to 63, which considering I spent half the year working on the AV campaign is some going, though I am tipped for top Northern Irish blog by Slugger O’Toole rising to 49 after last year's fall to 100. 

Liberal Vision the Lib Dem blog most in bed with the Tories out of the ones in the top 100 has sunk from 55 to 72. 

New this year was the added category of blogger. Mark Pack and Stephen Tall at 20 and 79= represents Lib Dem Voice, Caron comes in at 29, Andrew at 43, Jonathan Calder of Liberal England at 49. I come in at 55 (just 4 behind Melanie Phillips and one ahead of Olly Grender so I'm awaiting by BBC Question Time invites). Mark Thomspon at 66, Andrew Page at 70, Peter Black another of those in 79th, Fraser Macpherson 94 and Martin Shapland at 98 round out the Lib Dem representation.

Mick Fealty of Slugger is at 62 so we have split the honours for who is top in the two categories. Also Jeff, James and Malc of Better Nation come in at 47, 67 and 76 resepectively, the blog being 21.

So well done to all. That is quite a lot of good Lib Dems blogging and being read and appreciated by a wide audience.

Thank you one again for your readership and your votes.