Saturday, June 21, 2008

Henley - looking good for the Lib Dems

No, I haven't been to Henley - a bit too far away when your daughter doesn't let you stay away overnight yet, but the feedback I've had from people who have has been very positive. Even grumpy people who never believe we are going to do well have been astounded by the warmth of the reception we have had. Apparently the Henley people are exceptionally friendly and polite.

The Tories seem to spend more time whinging about our literature and threatening to issue writs than actually promoting their candidate. What does that tell you?

Seems like they know that things aren't going quite as they liked. The people of Bromley saw through David Cameron 2 years ago when we came within a hair's breadth of winning there. It looks like the people of Henley are similarly unconvinced by him.

It could be an interesting result on Thursday. If my uber-pessimist friend thinks that we are all going to want to say we were there, then there's a chance we could do it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Boris can't find what's under his nose......

I am still fairly gutted that Londoners elected Boris Johnson as Mayor a little over a month ago.

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that already the new Mayor is having a few problems mastering his brief. Yesterday he went on the Today programme to say that he couldn't find an agreement that previous Mayor Ken Livingstone had signed with the Government on funding for the Olympics. It wouldn't have been quite so bad if a few moments' googling had not revealed that the said document is in broad daylight here

Ken showed he was back to his old form by phoning the Today programme and kicking Boris' backside.

New SNP Age Limit for alcohol

My tribute blog doesn't accept abusive posts, but, boy, can it give them out

Thing is, (and please don't let him hear I've said this), but he's absolutely right. In Scotland you can marry at 16, but to have to wait 33% of your life again to be able to toast your nuptials does seem a bit weird.

I have to say that I was less than chuffed when Lib Dem MSPs defied party policy and voted in favour of the cigarette purchasing age to be raised to 18. I am therefore delighted to see that Health Spokesman Ross Finnie has condemned the SNP's proposals.

If there were enough test purchasing schemes and enforcement of the current laws, then it would make a serious dent in underage drinking.

There's a reason that Liberalism and Nationalism are polar opposites.........

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

E-Mail Nightmare

I've had a bit of a catastrophic e-mail failure. For some reason the e-mail server I have been using is allowing me to send, but not receive, messages. Therefore I've had to spend hours on end configuring all my settings on all the websites that are important to me, including this one, to a new e-mail address. There should be one single product that allows you to do all this at the touch of a button - maybe there is and I'm too stupid to have discovered it.

I am quite proud of myself for seemingly managing to configure Outlook to my new address.

It just shows how reliant I, and no doubt you too, have become on the Internet....... It's fine until it goes wrong and then it affects every area of your life, from your bank account to Facebook, to Amazon, Tesco and the people you've got your holiday booked with. Hell, we might have won the lottery last week and I wouldn't have known.

No doubt, I'm going to keep remembering things over the next few weeks which will need changing. Let's hope I don't forget anything important................

Monday, June 16, 2008

Another needless tragedy

There hardly seems to be a week go by at the moment without the awful news that children have been killed in some horrific way at the hands of a parent, usually their father, on a contact visit.

I know that what I'm going to say will be controversial, but I am concerned that perhaps the courts are too keen to make contact orders in favour of people who simply are not stable enough to be trusted with the care of their own children.

I'm not quite sure what to do about this - perhaps some sort of psychiatric evaluation should be part of the investigation process to identify whether the father could be a potential danger to his children.

There is no justification for what these men do, but perhaps the whole process of family law needs to be based on counselling and mediation rather than an adversarial courtroom process which just invites divisive mud slinging. Both parents need to be aware first and foremost of the needs of their children.

I am in no doubt that there are some circumstances in which the children would benefit from having no contact with the absent parent. There are other situations where they would suffer without that parent in their lives. The courts have been following a slavish adherence to the theory that it is in the best interests of the children to retain contact with their absent parent. In some cases that is extremely undesirable for all sorts of reasons. If there is any doubt at all about a child's safety in the hands of a parent then they should not be allowed to be alone with that parent. End of story. Often the best judge of that is the parent the child lives with, whose views are not always taken into account.

My daughter could not do without her Daddy - they have a lovely relationship, and he would always, unquestioningly, put her needs ahead of his own. I am lucky enough to have complete trust in him as a father. Similarly, many of my friends are terrific fathers, even though they do not live with their children's mothers. They've had to work hard to maintain that relationship, and they are all sane, reasonable individuals whose rights the family law system should protect.

It must be horrible, though, for a mother to be forced to hand over her children to someone she fears would harm them. The system has to be better at identifying the people who would harm their children. Too many are dying at the moment and something has to be done about it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bishop Gene Robinson to visit Glasgow

I was absolutely delighted to see that Bishop Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire, is going to be visiting Scotland in August to preach at St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow. Bishop Robinson is the only Bishop not to have been invited to the forthcoming Lambeth Conference with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is the only Bishop to acknowledge that he is living in a gay relationship.

I am glad that he is going to receive a warm welcome here in Scotland. I know Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost of St Mary's - he is one of the warmest, most genuine, wisest and most tolerant people I have ever met. It is hardly surprising that the services at St Mary's are so packed that they run out of consecrated communion hosts. Just out of interest, I wonder what happens then.....

Thursday, June 12, 2008

David Davis' Empty Gesture

Before we all get swept away on a tide of hysteria about what a saviour of civil liberties David Davis is, we maybe want to take a long, hard look at his record. Here is a man who quite happily voted for 28 days' detention without charge not that long ago - a huge increase from the then 3 day limit. He is pro hanging. He has voted, as well as more recently created, the Tory line on immigration. I suspect that if he is re-elected he will continue to vote the Tory line on pretty much everything.

I wonder if he would have had such an unsurmountable attack of principle if he had represented a Tory/Labour marginal, where just a few votes switching could send him down to the Job Centre. Now that the Liberal Democrats have given him a free run at his own seat, he only really has to defeat a fairly negligible Labour vote.

I don't believe that this is some sort of heroic plan, hatched last night, to stand up for our rights as citizens. Election campaigns take time to plan, even with the modern by election sprint campaigns we have been used to. This is just another Tory opportunistic stunt.

Remember the Tories are the people who banned unions at GCHQ, introduced Section 28, failed to take effective action against South Africa during apartheid, failed to support devolution, fair votes, and equalities laws. They supported the Iraq war while the Liberal Democrats have consistently stood up for human rights and civil liberties as part of our core philosophy for a very long time.

Part of me wants us to take Davis on and beat him. If there is any sign of any Conservative management of his campaign, then I think we could honoourably change our minds and enter the contest. We are in a reasonable second place and could do it. Why let him fight a by-election on an issue of his choosing? If he wants to face the people, he should do so on his whole record, and that of the party he is still a part of.

The result of this unnecessary by election will be completely meaningless - Labour couldn't win if they tried there. Maybe we are right to refuse to dignify this opportunistic charade, but I can't help feeling it's an opportunity lost.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A humiliating victory

Tonight's vote, won by the Government on the back of the support of Anne Widdicombe and the DUP, is another much more important travesty.

It was rightly described by SDLP MP Mark Burdan as a humiliating victory.

I have to say, though, that Nick Clegg's overtures to the DUP, on the grounds of their supposed commitment to civil liberties, stuck in my throat just a wee bit - has he met Iris Robinson, DUP MP, who, last week, while being questioned about a homophobic attack in Northern Ireland, suggested that homosexuals could be turned around with psychotherapy?

Shame on you, Sir Alan

To choose a mediocre man over a brilliant woman once was bad enough, as Simon Ambrose won over Kristina Grimes last year, but two years in a row smacks of vile misogyny. Claire Young seems to have missed out tonight simply because she speaks her mind. She was by far the best candidate - she has listened, taken and acted upon difficult feedback throughout the 12 weeks and carried Lee through the last task.

It was a travesty of justice that she did not win tonight.


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