Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Falling out with Oxfam

I am not best pleased with Oxfam at the moment. There's no doubt that they do a whole load of good work across the World, but they have, in my view, made a catastrophic error of judgment in a video to promote their very laudable In My Name campaign.

Look at this video, especially round 1:58 in, where you have Mel B, signing her name on a baby bottle and holding it up to the camera.

The explanation from Oxfam is that this is a symbol of motherhood.

Tell that to the mothers of the 1.5 million babies who die every year from being fed formula in places where there is just no sanitation and where the mother's own milk would do a much better job of nourishing her baby.

Morgan posts an extract from a letter to Oxfam from an aid worker sent to Burma to help women relactate after Cyclone Nargis asking them to reconsider.

I really do feel Oxfam should know better than to use a baby bottle in any of its promotional material. The charity has had a fair bit of my money over the years, but not a penny more unless it accepts its mistake on this.

If Vince Ruled the World........

......we probably wouldn't have got into the mess we're in in the first place.

Rather than just sit back with his feet up and say "I told you so", though, he and Nick Clegg have come up with a comprehensive, people centred, practical plan to get us through the hard times and, long term, to get our economy on a more sustainable footing.

For now they suggest help for homeowners, extending the social fund to help people on low incomes pay off debt, cutting the rate of income tax by 4p and switching the emphasis to taxing pollution and the super-rich, proper, individual help for those who lose their jobs, not the one size fits all treatment currently meted out by JobCentrePlus, forcing energy companies to cut prices for the poor and action to insulate more homes.

For the long term, they ban short selling, include housing costs in inflation calculations, forcing banks to act more responsibly, a massive investment in green technology and providing more social housing.

There's a lot of good, sensible stuff out there - much better than the lily livered members of the US House of Representatives have managed to deliver in the last 24 hours.

As an aside, John McCain has not come out of this well at all. He rushes back to Washington to be the saviour of the economy and can't even get half of his own party to back the recovery package. His face is covered in dripping egg yolk. It shows that he is not in good standing even with his own side. He needed to deliver on this and he has failed miserably. And if an experienced Senator can't get the Republican Congressmen on side, Sarah Palin would have no chance.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

John Mason and his Grizzly Imagination

New MP for Glasgow East John Mason debated, among other things, the issue of ID cards with Dunfermline by-election victor Willie Rennie and Aberdeen South MP Anne Begg on Scotland at Ten.

He and Willie were obviously on the same side. Now, there are very many reasons to oppose ID cards and the biometric information they hold. Put simply, they are an expensive, ineffective waste of time. It's an easy case to make.

I am told that the argument advanced by John Mason was that they might be prone to forgery by the unscrupulous cutting people's eyeballs out to get round the iris scan. This certainly did happen in a Dan Brown novel once.

Mind you the ability to separate reality and fantasy has never been particularly valued in the SNP.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ros Scott - a Manifesto to grow the Party

Presidential candidate Ros Scott has today published her manifesto.

What strikes me is that this is a programme to expand and develop the Party, from increasing members and enhancing their experience of the Party to making sure that the grassroots are represented properly at the highest levels.

It is clear that this manifesto will take a huge amount of time to implement and that Ros is prepared to be a full time President. She has given up her front bench role in the Lords and is willing to devote herself, during her term of office, to making the Party bigger and helping it to work better.

We need that day to day, hands on, professional approach and Ros is, in my opinion the best person to deliver it.

The Information Commissioner and some Lib Dem Market Research

If I pick up the phone to a pre-recorded call, it's back on its cradle within nanoseconds. If my evening is going to be disturbed by a marketing call, then I want another human being on the end of the line who I can tell to get me of their list asap.

I recognise, however, that I'm a bit of a traditionalist about these things and we have to keep up with the times. Way back in the nineties I saw good Councillors not being re-elected because they refused to telephone canvass - and Labour did everybody in the ward, despite doing nothing on the ground.

It was with something of a heavy heart that I heard about Nick Clegg's 250,000 market research calls to households across Britain. I know I have to accept this as the future, but I don't have to like it.

Now, however, I'm spitting mad at news reports that the Information Commissioner is about to come down on the Party like a ton of bricks, saying that it was not market research.

During the Livingston By-election in 2005, Alex Salmond's dulcet tones went to many voters across the constituency in a pre-recorded message and nothing happened to them. A non political friend of mine actually called me in astonishment and asked if she was expected to listen to this and why.

Now, I can't imagine for a second that the clever people in the Liberal Democrats who devised this scheme would have broken the rules. That's the first issue - I think that the party is the victim of inconsisent treatment by the Information Commissioner.

Secondly, I think there is a very strong case for political parties to be exempt from the rules relating to such matters. It's not right to be bombarded with calls every day trying to sell double glazing, loans and various scams, but why shouldn't calling by political parties be accepted as a part of the democratic process? People still have the right to put the phone down, but I think that the law should be on the side of allowing the communication.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Liberal Democrats Soar in Glenrothes

Liberal Democrat hopeful in Glenrothes Harry Wills was joined in the skies above Glenrothes by keen aviator and MP Lembit Opik. The duo were at Fife airport to give Harry's campaign a flying start.

The Party is working hard in Glenrothes with new Scottish Leader Tavish Scott leading the entire contingent of MSPs and many Fife Liberal Democrat councllors campaigning there last night.

School Governors Block HPV Vaccine

School Governors at St Monica's RC High School, Prestwich, Greater Manchester have banned girls from receiving the potentially life-saving HPV vaccine on its premises because, they say, they do not believe that school is the right place for these injections to be administered."

They also cast doubt on the efficacy and possible side effects. Even if they were a particularly skilled group of research scientists, I have no idea what right they think they have to deny girls the chance to receive their vaccinations in the easiest way possible, or their parents the chance to decide for themselves what is best for their children?

The huge amount of media coverage Jade Goody's plight is receiving at the moment shows just how devastating this illness can be for young women. There's a chance to prevent it. Every girl should have the right to have free and access to this vaccination, at school, without interference from the school authorities.

Troy Davis given Stay of Execution

When I posted the link to ask the authorities in Georgia to stop the execution of Troy Davis last night, I had no real expectation that this would happen. I just felt that we should at least try to save a life from killing by the State which I think is always wrong, whatever the circumstances, but especially when there is clear doubt as to the safety of the conviction.

It was with some relief that I see that indeed a stay of execution was granted with less than two hours to go.

This is the second time that Troy Davis has woken up in the morning knowing that his life is scheduled to be ended by the end of the day. Can you imagine what that must feel like? It must be so awful to go through. Obviously it's better that the execution was halted on each occasion, but putting someone through that trauma is cruel and unusual punishment in itself, let alone the actual ending of their life.

You never know whether your actions have had any effect at all in these sorts of situations - the weight of public opinion may have been a factor in ensuring the authorities thought again. I think it's always worth trying though.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nice Irony from Brown....

Gordon Brown says today that today's difficult global economic situation is "no time for a novice." Cue to shots of Miliband looking about 12 years old and to footage of Cameron looking like he's never run anything more than a bath in his life.

Gordon presumably wants Barack Obama to win in November - can't imagine the McCain/Palin ticket exciting too many Labour people. John McCain's big line against Obama - is precisely the one Gordon is using against the pretenders to Number 10 - that he has no experience.

Of course this logic slightly falls apart when you consider Sarah Palin. Our hamster has a wider knowledge of international relations than she does......

Help stop unjust execution.....

Not much time so brief outline of the facts:

Man sentenced to be executed at 7 pm tonight.

7 out of the 9 witnesses whose evidence led to his conviction have recanted.

This has never been tested in Court.

The conviction isn't safe by anyone's standards.

So where exactly is this happening?

You guessed it - the good old USA.

There's probably not much chance of success, but if you feel as strongly about this as I do, you can do something about it

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Ultimate in Wishful Thinking

I've just seen a Facebook status update from a Labour person saying that he was wondering if the rumours were true that Barack Obama was going to address the Labour Conference tomorrow.

I remember my mother once, at a time of huge tension in the family, inviting some guests over for Christmas in the hope that that everybody would behave with visitors in the house. In the unlikely event that this rumour is true, then it would be that kind of thing on a bigger scale.

However, I am fairly certain that Obama associating himself with a dying Labour Government would not go down so well with the voters back home.

I guess this is just a bit of wishful thinking, or too much booze at the lunchtime fringe.......

Fairness with Tips

When I eat out, I never, ever leave a tip by credit card - that just sounds a bit remote to me and I'm not confident that it will actually reach the people it's supposed to.

It seems that greedy and unscrupulous owners have developed an imaginative range of ways to keep some of the cash I leave instead.

Thanks to Kezia Dugdale for raising awareness of Unite's Fair Tips campaign which aims to ensure that more of the tip money is actually given to the staff and not pocketed by the owners.

This is just part of Kezia's crusade to quiz coffee shops in Edinburgh about a variety of things, including their recycling policy. I shall look forward to seeing the results.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Has Labour given up on Glenrothes?

Tales of tension and woe in the Labour campaign in Glenrothes have been appearing in several newspapers over the last few days. Frank Roy, the MP charged with running the campaign has gone running for the hills. Apparently they are too scared to let their candidate Lindsay Roy within a million miles of a journalist cos he's a political novice and might make a gaffe. Why on earth did they let him on the shortlist then? The last time the Labour Party had to defend a seat, they looked around and the only person who could be pressganged into being their candidate was an extremely capable former Minister, Margaret Curran, and she couldn't win it for them. They might as well let Lindsay Roy face the press - he's a respected teacher and rector, and you don't get to be in that position if you can't keep your wits about you and think on your feet. What exactly do they think he's going to do wrong?

It's so typical of the Labour Party to be like that - they've picked their candidate, why can't they just trust the guy to do his job for goodness' sake.

Also mentioned in the press is the spectre of interference from number 10. Gordon, you know what happened the last time you stuck your nose into a by-election in Fife - Willie Rennie stormed to victory in Dunfermline. If you had any sense, you'd just butt out and let the people on the ground do their best. I can't imagine that happening any time soon, though.

Labour's own canvass returns apparently show that they are going to lose, and they seem to be so demotivated that they are just giving up. That's not the attitude they need to have. Someone, somewhere should find a backbone, tell Gordon and No 10 to get stuffed and start running a good local campaign. It's their only chance to avoid yet another humiliation.

In the meantime,the Liberal Democrats' Harry Wills and his energetic team have been working hard. New Scottish leader Tavish Scott has been several times, Nick Clegg has been up, People from all over Scotland have been coming to help. Vince Cable's wise words throughout this crisis have been respected by many and Tavish Scott's tax cut plan has seized the initiative.

You Couldn't Make it Up

Honestly, all over the world, ordinary people are suffering because of the irresponsibility of banks. So what happens to the people who carried out these ridiculous practices of lending money to people who were never in a million years going to be able to pay it back just cos their bonuses depended on the amount of money they could lend out rather than the long term stability of the institution?

Are these wealthy senior managers going to be sent away with their tails between their legs, out of work, just like the many thousands of others who have lost their jobs?

No. According to the Sunday Times says that while we'll all be paying higher taxes (up to 5p in the pound more), pushing even more people to the point of homelessness and joblessness, part of the deal with Barclays taking over some of Lehman Bros was that 8 senior New York Execs and 200 key staff will get a total of $2.5 billion dollars in bonuses for their performances over the last 9 months.

This is a complete abomination. Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor got it right as usual when he said "This is outrageous and completely cynical. They are being rewarded for business behaviour that has wrecked their own bank. The wider public that is ultimately paying for this let alone lower paid employees will be furious."

There has to be some getting together of world leaders to try to do something about the way banks operate. The global economy can't be held to ransom by the likes of the short sellers. The rewards system has to be linked to sustainability and community in some way, so that people aren't raking in huge bonuses harvested from other people's misery.

Ros Scott for President

I have long been a supporter of Baroness Ros Scott's campaign to become President of the Liberal Democrats. I have been impressed by the tireless and enthusiastic way she has travelled the length and breadth of the UK, from Orkney to Cornwall and pretty much everywhere in between over the last two years.

She was invaluable in her help during the Scottish elections last year.

She is ideally placed to be a highly effective President. The job of the President is to represent the grassroots at the heart of the Party establishment. I feel that I can totally trust her to do that. She has a wide understanding of Government as a hard working peer and spokesperson on Local Government. At a time when the party is undergoing change in its structure, we need someone wise to evaluate what is going on and protect the interests of the members. She would also be a credible face of the Party, complementing Nick.

If you aren't already one of the many people who are backing her, check out her blog, and her Campaign website . She has backers from all over the Party - a reasonable spread of the great and the good including Paddy Ashdown, Alistair Carmichael MP, Alison McInnes MSP, Shirley Williams and, despite what you might read elsewhere, Ronnie Fearn, and here is the video evidence to prove it.

The crucial thing is that, more importantly she has the backing of many ordinary activists and members - as well, of course, as the overwhelming majority of the Scottish Lib Dem blogosphere in Stephen Glenn, the real Iain Dale, Cllr Fraser MacPherson and I.

Rich Labour Supporter in £1million donation shock

I'm not quite getting why the Labour Party think it's a big deal that J K Rowling has given them a million. This admittedly generous gesture is hardly a surprise as Ms Rowling is a long time Labour supporter and pal of the Browns.

She clearly doesn't meet many struggling low income families these days. In my office I see people who are really struggling with tax credit overpayments which arose through no fault of their own, yet the Government insists that they pay them back. I see people struggling to make ends meet who are just above the threshold for benefits. I see families of 6 who are squeezed into tiny 2 bedroomed flats because there is simply not enough affordable housing to go round.

I am very glad that Joanne Rowling found a publisher to take on the Harry Potter stories, which have brought great enjoyment to millions around the world and financial security for her and her family for generations to come. If she were still in the situation where she had to write in Edinburgh cafes to keep warm, I wonder if she would still feel the same about the success of the Labour Government.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Strictly Sequins and Sparkles

The first live show of the new series of Strictly Come Dancing took place tonight. As some readers know, I am a bit on the obsessive side of Strictly. I thought it might be kinder to the hardened politicos who read this blog to set up a new one devoted to Strictly at Strictly Sequins and Sparkles. I do not promise never to mention Strictly on this blog again, but at least it has an outlet for its excesses.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Stephen Glenn

Have a great and restful day because tomorrow you leaflet like a demon in Glenrothes..........:-)))

How quickly the spammers work....

This came through at 23:02 this evening:

Dear Valuable Customer,

During our regular update and verification of the LloydsTSB Online Banking
Service, we could not verify your current information. It's either your
information has been changed or incomplete, as a result your access to
use our services has been limited.

To restore your online banking access, kindly update your information by
following the link below.

Click here to update your account

Thank you for banking with Lloyds TSB Bank .

Customer/Technical Services,
Lloyds TSB Bank

And I post this, Ian Hislop is suggesting Vince Cable as Chancellor on Question Time...


Angry, not scared

Rather than being scared by what's going on in the financial markets, it makes me angry that taxes paid by ordinary people in the US might be going to some trillionaire capitalist who has been speculating on the money markets, not caring whether the western economy goes to hell in a hand cart.

Is this really a sane way to run our lives?

Cowardy Custard Bucks the Trend

I don’t know if you will have formed any opinion of how brave I am as a person by reading this blog, but I have to tell you that I am a State Registered Coward. I am pretty much scared of everything. My boss says that being in a car with me driving makes him want to murder people – apparently I should drive faster or overtake more, but why? I don’t like the outside lane, I feel vulnerable, so why should I use it?

The list of things I’m scared of includes, but is not limited to, snow, ice, anything that slithers along the ground on its belly, wasps, overtaking, the dark (oh, you should have seen me at Brownies last night trying to pretend I was sane while leading 25 girls along a pitch dark corridor to clean their hands, cos someone had decided it would be a good idea to let them finger paint), the bit in the Sound of Music when Fraulein Maria goes back to the Abbey and virtually every episode of Doctor Who.

If you listened to these researchers, you would expect me to be David Cameron’s best friend instead of a peace loving hippie leftie liberal.

I don’t know that much about statistics and scientific research, but I do think that this research is a bit simplistic. True, I have seen evidence in my own circle of friends that psychologically vulnerable people can cling to narrower social parameters and be more intolerant of others.

The author of this research says that he wants to bring people together and promote greater understanding.

To me what he says is the essence of liberalism. My core instinct is to try to work out and understand where the other person is coming from, even if they are expressing views far from mine. Empathy promotes understanding. What I don’t accept is that views can’t change because of some psychological or physiological factor.

So, I won’t be asking people if they’re scaredy cats when I go around canvassing. I’ll listen to them and where they’re coming from.

Kezia and Tom try to make themselves feel better

It's entirely understandable, given the shambles and chaos in the Labour Party, that Kezia Dugdale and Tom Harris have tried to make themselves feel better by having a wee pop at Tavish and Nick.

Now, let's look at the comparative state of Labour and the Liberal Democrats to see why this is the pot calling the bone china black:

The Lib Dems leave Bournemouth invigorated, united and motivated having come up with various radical strategies to help resolve the crises facing the country. They have Federal and Scottish leaders who are united and who are grown up enough to understand what devolution actually means.

Compare and contrast with the seething mass of bitterness, resentment and conspiracy edging its way to Manchester next week. Talk about fiddling while the markets burn.... I'm talking about the Labour Party collectively, for the avoidance of doubt, not just Gordon Brown....... I can't imagine the week there will be anything other than stressful for them....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Sarah Palin related bit of fun

Just in case you were looking for a new way to waste a minute or two on the internet, with thanks to the Yorksher Gob and Will Howells who gave the link to her, I present the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator.

Given the rather obscure names she has given to her children, Track, Bristol (for a girl!) and Trig - in that context, Willow and Piper are almost conventional - this gives a suggestion of your name, should you have been unfortunate enough to have her as your mother. I came out as Plank Castle Palin.

Have fun!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cairns deserts the sinking ship

So, global markets are in turmoil. AIG looks to be following Lehmann into the graveyard of financial institutions. Millions of innocent people are suffering real financial hardship and there's more to come as a result of inanely stupid and irresponsible management practices by banks over many years.

If you ask me, the very last thing we need right now is the markets going even more nuts than they are already 'cos they're panicking at the thought of political instability. A leadership election in the Labour Party now is a luxury that as a country we couldn't afford. If they change leader again, the pressure for a General Election will probably insurmountable. Constitutionally there is no need to have one - the Prime Minister is not directly elected and is instead the leader of the Party who can command a majority in the House of Commons. However perception is everything and people will want the chance to have their say.

Frankly, I want the minds of Ministers to be concentrated on guiding as steady a course as possible through the economic mire and not on internal Labour party score-settling and, well, bickering seems to be too mild a word.

If they all got a grip of themselves, got their heads down and were seen to be doing something positive and practical to help, then there's a chance that they might avoid complete meltdown at the next general election, whenever it might be. If they carry on the way they are going, they will not be forgiven. They will have presided over two catastrophic failures of Government in 30 years and will not be trusted easily again.

David Cairns' resignation today because he effectively has no faith in Gordon Brown may be honest but it's irresponsible. As a senior Labour Party person in Scotland he must have been heavily involved in the Glenrothes by-election plans. Maybe he wanted to avoid blame for a defeat which, by resigning, he has made more rather than less likely.

Gordon Brown needs to find someone he can trust, who has more interpersonal skills than he has, who wouldn't be stupid enough to turn a Cabinet meeting into a lecture on loyalty, to try to build bridges for him in the Party and to quell the voices baying for his blood.

That person needs to have more sense than to think leaking the names of the rebels to the press is a good idea. It's divisive and shows that Number 10 is on a war footing. It looks like Brown has given up the chance of a peaceful solution and is just blustering his way through it.

The global economic crisis isn't all Labour's fault - but their histrionics could make it worse.

I certainly don't think people are convinced that David Cameron and George Osborne could get us out of this mess, either. They haven't shown a huge amount of understanding of the issues or demonstrated any competence at dealing with them.

There are times that you just wish Vince was Chancellor - he has the experience and the judgment to deal with this and we would be as safe as we could possibly be with him in charge.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Laura - a wonderful niece reaches 16

It was 16 years ago tomorrow, 16th, when I was wandering idly through Harrogate Conference Centre at Lib Dem Conference, that I saw a notice on one of the screens that I should contact reception. It turns out that my mum had been trying to contact me to tell me that my sister had had her baby, Laura, 6 weeks early, 2 days previously. As soon as Conference was over, I high tailed it up north to see this new baby. I feel in love immediately. She was in an incubator at the time, having phototherapy for jaundice, but I don't think I had ever seen anything quite so beautiful. She had a full head of hair and a gorgeous wee face. My sister, only 17 herself, was the most perfect caring, responsive, wonderful mother. I was so much in awe of how in control she was and how focused she was on the needs of her baby.

Today, that tiny wee tot is an extraordinarily beautiful, ballsy, quirky, funny, clever and utterly fabulous young woman. I am incredibly proud of her. She goes off to rock festivals and sleeps in a tent for entire weekends, which I never had the courage to do at her age, even if I would have been allowed to. She is trustworthy, loyal and honourable and I think she's fantastic.

She's hoping to come down to Edinburgh Uni in a couple of years so I expect our washing machine, home and bank balance will be her's whenever she needs it:-)

That Making it Happen Vote

I was very proud of my old friend Paul Holmes today as he proposed the amendment in the Make it Happen debate. I fear that his argument was lost in a rush of empathy for people who really are struggling to make ends meet. I'm not saying that feeling of solidarity is wrong, just that we need to make sure that we see the bigger picture. Allowing co-payments in the NHS is not the same thing as wanting them to happen. Like Paul said, a tax cut of a few hundred quid a year isn't going to mean much if you can't get the drugs on the NHS to treat your Cancer, or your father's Alzheimers.

The debate itself was extremely high quality - the Party at its best. I thought another old friend, Arnie Gibbons', intervention at the microphone was superb and passionate.

I was struck by the speech of the chair of Liberal Youth, Elaine Bagshaw, who spoke for the other side. She is one to watch for the future. She spoke eloquently about the difficulties she faced - not being able to even look at the bottom rung of the property ladder because of the £15,000 she owes on leaving university.

It strikes me that in Scotland, our students are very much luckier, thanks to the Liberal Democrat commitment, delivered in Government, to scrap tuition fees. I hope that our Party does not let that commitment go south of the Border. There has to be enough money for a free education for all.

Humiliatin' the Fat

Mr Eugenides had me, and my entire office in fits of laughter today with his hilarious and irreverent take on news that teams of nurses have been taking to Ayrshire's streets to seek out the obese and give them advice on diet and exercise. I'm sure the excessive guffawing must have burnt off a few hundred calories, so he's probably done us a good public service. Even by his standards, this rant was a fine example of the genre.

It's not often I say this about my right wing friend, but I totally and absolutely agree with him - but maybe for different reasons.

As, to put it mildly, a bit of a porker, I would be exactly the sort targetted by these women. They might well choose to refer me to weight watchers - but I expect I know more about every single slimming club/diet in the history of time than they do. Most overweight people know exactly what they have to do in order to lose weight - it's not rocket science. Eat less and exercise more. There, I have just saved NHS Ayrhire and Arran a fortune.

Can you imagine, though, what it would feel like, though, to be approached by one of these lumimously clad lades, no doubt under a banner with NHS Obesity Busters emblazoned on it and publicly handed out information on diet and exercise? How humiliating would that be? It would be worse than the day I met my daughter's head teacher while standing in the queue in WH Smiths clutching the GQ with the Nick Clegg interview quite openly, not realising that the other headline was "You Porn. The sleazy side of internet sex."

The serious side of this is that many people with weight problems struggle with self esteem too and this sort of public dressing down would cause them no end of distress. I wonder, too, whether this violates nurses' professional conduct in some way. Effectively what they are doing is bullying often vulnerable people. What's next? Going into pubs to take drinks out of the hands of those who have had more than a oouple of pints? I don't think so, somehow.

There are more subtle and effective ways of dealing with the growing problem of obesity - and it is a problem which is going to cost the NHS more and needs addressing. This is not the right way.

Going back to Mr E's article, I do hope that, should he ever need to have an enema administered by a nurse from Ayrshire, that she has never read his take on her and her colleagues.............

Keeping up with Conference

If you haven't already read The Yorksher Gob's acounts of Conference, do so immediately - they are extremely well written, funny and give you a flavour of what Conference is like.

I am not in Bournemouth as Anna doesn't yet let me have overnight passes but it's good to know how things are going outside the BBC Parliament Coverage.

The advent of social networking sites such as Facebook also gives an insight into what people are doing. Alistair Carmichael complained at one point yesterday that he was tired but then he must have discovered his second wind because he was still up at 1 in the morning posting that he "was with the grouse Club minus Lord Thurso". I'm not sure what kind of Grouse he meant, the whisky or the bird, but either way, his mood seemed to have lifted.

My friends are even worse than usual at texting me with gossip - I can only assume that they are too busy creating it..............

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tax Cut Tavish

While Labour not so quietly self destructs, the SNP Government spins and the Tories huff and puff, Tavish Scott comes up with an idea that could easily and practically help everyone in Scotland. A 2p in the pound tax cut.

We've all talked about supporting increased powers for the Scottish Parliament, but there are powers we already have that we could use.

My personal preference would be that we should also raise taxes for the very, very wealthy as well to offset some of the cost, but Tavish's idea has lots of good points.

A tax cut would help to bring children of working families out of poverty - for the first time, more children in poverty come from families where someone is in work.

It would give hard pressed Scots, struggling to pay all their bills, a bit more of a cushion.

I spent the downturn in the early 90s working in an office where I saw families turned out of their homes on a daily basis because they couldn't pay their mortgages. I never want to see anything like that again, especially at a time when we have even less social housing than we did then. If we don't want to see families of 5 cooped up in one room in bed and breakfasts, chucked out during the day, and with no cooking facilities, then maybe we should be looking at a radical solution like the one Tavish has outlined.

He is the first Scottish politician to have a decent, practical, easily implemented idea which would really help struggling Scots. Let's see if the SNP Government has the guts to use the powers it has before it asks for more.

Gray Skies ahead for Labour

It doesn't matter what they do at the moment, but Labour just can't seem to get it right.

I suppose we should really give Iain Gray a chance, but I'm not sure he has what it takes to bring people to Labour. I think Cathy Jamieson, despite her faux pas last Thursday would have been better in terms of portraying that Labour actually understands what's happening in people's lives at the moment.

However, the Labour Party in Scotland has managed to get through its leadership campaign without too much bloodletting. They now need to really get their act together at Holyrood. They haven't really been functioning as a proper opposition for the last year or so because they have been firefighting on their own turf. It's always better to subject Governments to vigorous and effective scrutiny - and this SNP one sure needs it.

The UK Labour Party slithers seemingly inexorably towards meltdown. There is a bit of Devil's Advocate in what I'm about to say, but in many ways this lot have been lucky to get away with so much for so long. Gordon Brown had a sustained period of fairly benign economic circumstances as Chancellor only to see it all fall apart the minute he gets the top job. Frankly, the global economic crisis isn't entirely the UK Labour Party's fault. Sure, they failed to curb the banks' irresponsible and clearly unsustainable lending habits which led to the credit crunch, but there are bigger global economic players who chose to make their hay while the sun shone who should share the blame.

Let's not forget that Tony Blair's new Labour led us into what was probably an illegal and certainly an immoral and expensive war in Iraq in the face of unprecedented opposition on the streets, they have been responsible for attacks on our civil liberties such as ID cards and 42 days' detention.

Labour backbenchers were bitching and whinging over all of these things in Tony Blair's day. Hell, he lost a darned good Cabinet Minister in Robin Cook over Iraq, but he coped. I guess he had what Brown lacks - the Bullshit Factor. He could sit there and look all sincere and tell a story - and nine times out of ten that's exactly what it was, a piece of carefully woven spin - about what was going on. And while people didn't always buy it, they accepted it.

When Gordon Brown tries to explain something, he just sounds a bit awkward and lumbering - he just doesn't have that way of telling that story that makes you feel that he has everything sorted.

Maybe we don't need that, though. Sure, when we're headed for bad times, we want reassurance and somebody to tell us it isn't happening. We don't want Captain Darling telling us we're all doomed.

Times are tough, though, and they will get tougher until we can find a more sustainable, less oil dependent way of living. This is going to require some common working amongst politicians of all parties but I don't have much hope of that happening any time soon.

As for the whinging on the Labour benches, I suspect it's not just about people being worried about their own seats. It's the continuation of the Blair v Brown feud which marked virtually all of Blair's premiership. There are scores to settle and the Blairites are going to enjoy raining as much misery upon Brown's head as they can.

It's all a bit pathetic, really. They are saying they want a contest, but don't say who they want to be the challenger. I guess all potential challengers see the spectre of Michael Heseltine before them - he was earmarked as the clear challenger to Thatcher, they used him to get rid of her and then chose someone else. Nobody wants to make that kind of sacrifice of their career.

If Labour are ever going to get anywhere, the whingers need to shut up, no elected Labour official should say anything that isn't directly related to understanding and dealing with people's troubles at the moment and they just need to get their heads down and deliver. While we're at it, they shouldn't allow stories to build around things like a planned £150 payment to every family - if it's not true they should kill it immediately. Cos a few weeks later when all they end up giving out is some lagging for your loft, people will feel disappointed.

I'm not optimistic that Labour are going to be capable of digging themselves out of their current mess. I think it's possible, but it will involve effort from everybody, including their backbenchers. Changing their leader will do them no favours. Ok, they might scrape back in like John Major did for the Tories. But at what cost?

We need a grown up Government dealing with the current problems, not being preoccupied with the knives aimed at their backs.

Good Egg Awards 2008

It's always good when someone you respect pays you a compliment. I was surprised and pleased to see that Paul Walter had given this blog a Good Egg award

Good to see fellow Scots Fraser MacPherson and Stephen Glenn getting awards too, as well as Duncan Borrowman.

I am impressed with Paul's insights into politics at home and in the US presidential elections and his has become one of the first blogs I check every day.

Anyway, Paul said that this is "an increasingly active and engaging blog."

Many thanks!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Paul Holmes MP on Make it Happen

I can't do anything better than agree 100% with Paul's article below. It speaks for itself. If you are a Liberal Democrat going to Conference, please vote for his amendment.

"It would appear that Liberal Democrat policy has changed to one of cutting public expenditure to fund tax cuts rather than switching wasteful or less desirable New Labour expenditure to fund needed investment in accord with Liberal Democrat policies. This has been announced at various press conferences and interviews since the 17th July – but has neither been discussed by the Parliamentary Party or passed by Conference.

Given that – as the Times, Independent, Telegraph and Financial Times have all pointed out – this is a major shift in our policy, it is strange that it is not even mentioned in Monday’s motion on ‘Make it Happen’. Instead the assiduous Conference Delegate has to spot 20 innocuous words, buried among 4,000 in that document, in order to realise what they would otherwise be inadvertently nodding through on Monday afternoon.

Two reasons have been advanced to the press and in speeches as to why this massive shift is taking place - a shift which is all the more extraordinary given that the economy is hovering on the brink of recession and tax receipts falling, which already leaves any imminent Government facing either expenditure cuts, tax rises or increased borrowing. Even the Conservatives until now have said that they would need some years in office before they could envisage tax cuts which would otherwise be based on damaging public service cuts.

First we are told that taxation levels in the UK are now excessive and so cuts are more important than otherwise desirable public investment. This year’s taxation level of 36.8% of GDP in fact puts us at the Western Europe average and at 15th position out of 30 among OECD countries. For 22 out of the last 30 years UK taxation has been in the range of 35-38.7% of GDP and for 16 years in the 36-38.7% range. For eight of the last 30 years the UK tax take has been higher than this year’s level. Seven of those record levels were under the Conservatives who were unfortunately using the money to fund the mass unemployment they had caused, rather than on much needed public investment in health, education or transport.

So in fact this year’s ‘excessive’ levels of taxation have pushed us up only to the middle of OECD and Western European levels and firmly in the mainstream range of UK levels over the last 30 years. Of course we do have higher levels than the USA but the USA has appalling provision of welfare and health unless you are personally wealthy and can buy your own. Not a model that I – or I thought the Liberal Democrats – ever wanted to emulate.

Secondly, we are told that ‘all the extra money’ spent by Labour has been wasted with no visible improvement in health or education. This of course is palpable nonsense. New Labour have certainly wasted money on failed IT systems, over expensive medical contracts and the destructive impact of centralised control, target setting and inspection regimes. Clearly, though, there HAS been improvement in state health and education provision as a result of increased investment as anyone who is a regular user of such services can testify. I taught in state schools from 1979 to 2001 and my children have passed through the state system between 1988 to today – the improvements are undeniable. Can the critics really not remember the dire straits we were in by 1997, when Liberal Democrats, Labour, voters, and even most of the press were condemning the appalling levels of investment in public services and the marked appearance in Britain of JK Galbraith’s “private affluence and public squalor”?

I am not of course opposing our EXISTING policy of funding a basic rate tax cut to 16p (the lowest since 1916), via the Green Tax Switch, and closing off pension and tax loopholes that excessively favour high earners. That policy, along with replacing the regressive Council Tax with a progressive Local Income Tax, goes a long way towards ending the ridiculous situation whereby the poor pay a greater share of their income in tax than do the rich. Neither am I opposing our EXISTING policy of identifying £16 billion of Labour spending (such as ID Cards, Baby Bonds, third tranche of Euro-Fighter, etc) that we would switch into areas such as more police on the beat, scrapping tuition fees, or increasing education spending through the pupil premium

I am, however, fundamentally opposed to the proposed policy of making as yet unidentified spending cuts in order to fund as yet unspecified tax cuts. Especially when we are already being told that ‘we may have to abandon our opposition to Tuition Fees as we can’t afford it.’

We have among the worst primary class sizes in the developed world, and some of the highest secondary class sizes too; one of the lowest state pensions in Western Europe; fewer oncologists or radiographers and a worst cancer survival rate than most comparable European countries; among the worst funded childcare systems; fewer doctors per head of population than countries like Italy; we deny patients cancer and Alzheimer’s drugs available at public expense in better funded Western European systems.

I hope that Conference delegates will attend the Make it Happen debate on Monday afternoon and prevent this particular part of an otherwise excellent document becoming party policy. I for one would rather we funded the NHS adequately out of progressive taxation rather than supporting ‘top ups’ for the wealthy, and I have yet to meet a constituent who does not share that view.

* Paul Holmes is the Liberal Democrat MP for Chesterfield.

UPDATE:I and the other movers of the amendment (Evan Harris MP, Richard Grayson and Duncan Brack) agree with 99.9% of Make it Happen. We do not however support the twenty words that are a vague and open ended commitment to reducing overall public spending in favour of unspecified tax cuts. I have written about this in the conference edition of Liberal Democrat News and both Richard and I have both written about this in more detail in the latest edition of the Liberator."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Childless and in a Park - whatever next?

I've seen headlines saying things like "childless banned from parks" a few times over the last few days but thought it was a joke - nobody could be so stupid.

Or so I thought.

Apparently the enlightened Council at Telford and Wrekin had decided to interrogate people who went into its parks without children. So if you're out jogging, or walking your dog, or just enjoying the sunshine, you could be questioned by park staff.

You actually couldn't make something like that up.

I hope that the official, or councillor, who thought up this daft idea is not left in their post to think up more ways of infringing our civil liberties.

The erroneous idea that there is a paedophile behind every tree ready to harm our children is clearly nonsense, but in the last week I've become aware that the swimming pool attendant at the school where my daughter has swimming lessons was jailed for having more than 5000 images of child pornography on his PC. I have to be honest and say that the whole thing made me feel uneasy, but I am convinced that at no point was my daughter in any danger. I don't like the fact that anyone might have looked at her or thought of her in an inappropriate way but no harm was done to her or any of the other children from the school.

That, unfortunately, is not the case for the children in the images.

Lipstick on a Pig?

If you are as easily offended as those delicate creatures, the Repulicans, you might do well to read the whole quote before jumping to conclusions.

When Barack Obama made the remark about lipstick on a pig, he was talking about John McCain. He was essentially saying that although John McCain kept saying he was for change, he was actually for more of the same on "economic policy, healthcare policy, tax policy, education policy foreign policy and more Karl Rove style politics". It was then he started to talk about how you could put lipstick on a pig but it was still a pig.

A cynic might say that the Republicans knew he'd landed a blow so they started getting all hysterical about him being sexist and attacking their gentle, sensitive little pit bull.

Did we hear the Republicans complain when the Swift Boat people actually smeared John Kerry's distinguished record in the dying days of the 2004 campaign?

Thought not.

It's the Economy, stoopid

I think Cathy Jamieson could learn a lot from sitting down and watching the DVD of The War Room, the inside story of the Clinton Campaign in 1992. This was where we got to see, posted on the wall, a scrap of paper with "It's the Economy, stoopid". It was there to remind people that what people were really bothered about was would their job be safe? Could they afford to pay their mortgage? Would they have to make the choice between heating and eating?

James Carville's old maxim is as true now as it was then.

Why, then, did Cathy Jamieson use a valuable appearance at FMQ to ask a question about suspended SNP Councillor Jahangir Hanif, whose firing of a Kalashnikov in Pakistan in 2005 has caused outrage?

Why use the few minutes of guaranteed media coverage to talk about something that most people don't really care that much about? I'll be honest, I'm not keen on anybody who gets that close to guns - and using guns anywhere near children is, as far as I'm concerned, criminally irresponsible. Someone I know once gave a 4 year old a gun to play with - utterly mad. The Nats on the blogosphere who are rushing to Hanif's defence are maybe overloooking his irresponsible behaviour in their rush to score a point.

However, people worried about rising food and fuel costs, jobs and mortgages are probably not going to care two hoots about some internal wrangle in the SNP and they will care less about having it exploited by Labour.

Tavish Scott, on the other hand, asked a pertinent question about what the Government was doing to help people in fuel poverty. At least he understands what's important.....

It's all a shame because I quite like Cathy Jamieson - she seems warm, genuine and competent and would make them a half reasonable leader. Last week I was surprised to find myself on the same table as her in the cafe at Holyrood just after FMQs. Good for her to muck in with everyone else. Unfortunately, she seems unlikely to win and to be beaten by a man whose personality matches his name - Ian Gray. Yet another case of a good woman being beaten by a mediocre man, which happens all too often in politics.

Hamster Poll results - Rose wins, a duck for Fluffy

Thanks to all who voted in the poll on Anna's new hamster's name. The results were as follows:

Rose 31.4%

Linda 22.9%

Gemini 17.1%

Ace and Snuggles 14.3% each

Fluffy 0%

She still hasn't made her final decision on what the hamster is to be called. In the meantime, the wee thing is being referred to as Powder Puff. When Anna finally makes her mind up, I'll let you know:-)

I've had the expected grief from various Lib Dem sources for not making this an STV poll - well, if someone shows me how to do it.......................

I suspect the reason that Fluffy got no votes is because there can only really be one Lib Dem ambassador of fluffiness

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Is Clegg right on Co-Payments?

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is never good, and it's worst when the sufferer has young children. You can understand why the mother of a 2 year old might want to do anything it takes to find the money to provide herself with the drugs to extend her life, even for a few months. Those few months might make the difference between her child having memories of her or not. If she is stuck somewhere the NHS does not provide that life extending drug, then she has an awful and cruel choice - she either sells everything she owns to provide herself with the drug and plunge her family into financial uncertainty as she then foregoes the right to all NHS treatment, or takes her chances with the disease.

Nick Clegg has today said that he doesn't think that she should have to forego the NHS treatment if she buys the drug.

So far, we have managed to create the fantasy that everyone actually has this choice. Of course they don't. If the woman in question is a single mother on income support, or a school dinner lady, or, frankly, me, then she would have more chance of being named as a vice presidential running mate than being able to afford the drug.

This, therefore is a choice that is open only to the considerably wealthy, and in the land of the Credit Crunch, the number of people who could realistically opt for it is getting smaller.

Should a small elite be able to buy themselves advantage and still be treated on the State?

If they were enabled to do so, would this not ultimately reduce what was available on the NHS?

Let's take the elite argument first. Many parents supplement their child's state education by sending them to places like Kip McGrath. Should their children be expelled from the State education system? Other children at the same school might have the same learning difficulties except their parents might not be able to afford the around £20 per lesson cost of these places.

What about parents who opt for private education and then for example go through a redundancy or a divorce? Should we refuse to re-admit their children to the State system?

Come to think of it, I already purchase private health care, despite really quite disapproving of it - I don't have an NHS dentist. I would love to, but places on an NHS dentists' list are like hens' teeth round here. I take the view that, because we are able to afford more than the basics in life, although we are not rich by any manner of means, that I should not take up a scarce place on an NHS list. The £24 a month I spend on a private dental plan is a source of irritation to me, but, thankfully, not financial hardship. It also doesn't de-bar me from NHS treatment should my private dentist muck things up, or should complications arise.

We have already accepted the principle, even in the NHS, that co-payment is an option.

To me it is the compassionate thing to do to allow people to top up their treatment and continue to get the same as anyone else would get - treatment that is free at the point of delivery.

Nick mentioned some important safeguards: that the NHS should have to bear no cost as a result of the decision to purchase the extra drug - so if it causes an unexpected side effect you're on your own. To be honest, I would probably be inclined to let this one go, otherwise you could have lawyers arguing forever about whether it was the drug or the illness that caused the problem; that the treatment should have been recommended by your physician - very sensible; and nobody should be able to jump the NHS queue; that no PCT should use this as an excuse to reduce the number of treatments available. That is fairly easily policed and should be enshrined in law.

I think that Nick's ideas on co-payment are humane, compassionate and sensible. It actually means ultimately more people might have access to those life extending drugs which can be no bad thing - this means that the amount families would have to think about paying can be put in thousands rather than tens of thousands.

One of the things I do know about Nick is that he is very people-centred. He sees people as human beings and not numbers or statistics. He understands and empathises what life is like for people. He gets out there and talks to people, in his Town Hall meetings. This is the essence of Liberalism. The Tories aren't brilliant at society and community, and Labour have this appalling collectivist approach, even under new Labour, that really annoys me.

I am not wildly happy, to put it mildly, with his £20 billion cut in public services idea - we are only just recovering from the last Conservative Government's period of under-investment, for goodness' sake, but I still stand 100% behind my vote for him as leader. His Town Hall meetings were no nine day wonder election winning gimmick. Every few weeks I get an invitation on Facebook to one in some far flung part of the country. He's getting out and about, and not allowing himself to become immersed in the fantasy that only what goes on in Westminster matters.

Another Tory U-Turn

But for once a rather welcome one.

Scottish Tory Boy is back and on form!

Monday, September 08, 2008

An invasion of privacy too far.........?

There are lots of good things about devolution. One is that we in Scotland are not currently being asked

"Question 12: Do you believe that more should be done by the Government to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke within private dwellings or in vehicles used primarily for private purposes? If so, what do you think could be done?"

in a Government consultation. Mind you, there is some irony in the fact that the SNP Government seems to be following blindly the path of the English Department of Health in many ways - the move to put cigarettes under the counter being an example. Little corner shops don't really need to have to spend the £2000 this would cost them.

We may not be out of the woods on the smoking one yet, and I certainly don't trust Alex Salmond and Co to protect my civil liberties.

Now, I have some fairly strong views about the quality of parenting which results in exposing children to cigarette smoke. I don't think people should do it,end of story. I, who loved smoking, manaaged to give it up as soon as I saw a positive pregnancy test. I am pretty weak willed and if I can do it, I believe anybody can.

However, if we banned exposing children from smoke at home, what next? Banning anyone with a body mass index of 26+ from going to the chippy? Mountain rescue's expensive - shall we ban hillwalking? Most violent crime is committed by men - shall we lock them all up? Of course not!

There are loads of things I think are undesirable - regime orientated parenting methods for a start, which can do as much harm to mental health as smoking can do to physical health, and there is evidence to back up my antipathy towards them. However, I don't think the State should have the power to interfere at that level.

Apart from anything else, how on earth do you enforce a ban on smoking at home? Do you fit a smoke detector to every home, wired to every Police station?

I would hope that a Liberal Democrat administration would never even ask such a question because our core philosophy is to allow individual freedom unless there's a compelling reason to curtail it. I expect no better from Labour who relish in centralist control - a trait they, ironically, share with the SNP.

When the Marketing People get it so wrong

Anyone who is over 50 is probably fairly mortified at the sort of junk mail they receive on a daily basis, for things like stair lifts, motorised scooters and SAGA holidays. The letter my husband received today made him cringe. What was worse was that the product it was advertising was printed on the envelope so the postman knew he'd got it. Maybe it's a good thing that the post doesn't come until lunchtime so that Bob has little chance of meeting the postman.

I should probably tell you that Bob is a huge fan of very modern music - you know all the stuff they play in the nightclubs in the Balearics? That's his kind of thing. His taste ranges from various types of what I call thumpa thumpa rackets to serious chillout, deep house, acid jazz and all that genre - very much a niche market, but good on him.

He's a modern man, end of story. The offer he received today was worse than a funeral expenses plan, or a week's free care in a nursing home - it was an incitement to buy the complete hits of Cliff Richard.............

Of course, I didn't immediately ring him to laugh when this thing came through the letterbox, and no way would I spend the evening going round the house singing Living Doll and Mistletoe and Wine under my breath - I wouldn't be that cruel!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Online Poll - what should Anna name her new hamster?

Anna got a new hamster today and is very excited about this little powder puff on legs who is well on the way to capturing all our hearts:-). The wee rodent is very adventurous and loves playing in the tube attached to her cage.

However, Anna can't decide what to call her.

I thought I could extend my skills and try an online poll. I have to say that this is purely advisory in nature.

As some of you will know, Anna is mad on Doctor Who. Therefore some of the nominations have a Who flavour - Rose, cos she's an adventurous blonde, Ace after the 7th doctor's plucky companion and Linda, after we watched Love and Monsters, the modern season 2 episode this morning.

The other names are Fluffy - cos she just is, Snuggles, although I'm a bit dubious about whether you could, given the nature of hamsters' teeth, snuggle her without getting shredded, and Gemini because she would have been born about 3 months' ago, around the time of Anna's own birthday.

Please take part in this poll and give Anna a bit of help in this important decision. She may decide to ignore you all, but then she wouldn't be a proper liberal if she just went with the flow of public opinion and ignored her own instincts.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

More on SNP sellout on HPV vaccinations

I had a bit of a rant a couple of weeks ago about how the SNP had sold out to the Roman Catholic church by agreeing to their demand that no information on how to protect themselves from other diseases should be given to girls in their schools receiving the HPV vaccination.

An example of what can happen when teenagers don't have access to that vital information can be found in Ed Pilkington's article on Sarah Palin in today's Guardian:

"Most poignantly, she will not countenance sex education for teenagers, preferring instead to preach that abstinence is the only complete protection against pregnancy or venereal disease. It would be a cheap shot to suggest that this week's bombshell revelation that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is herself pregnant was Palin's comeuppance.

But it would not be unfair to point out that Alaska has the highest per capita incidence of chlamydia in the country, and that the rate of teenage pregnancies across the US, including within her state, has just risen for the first time in 14 years - a trend many blame on George Bush's preferment of abstinence-only education. "It's frustrating we aren't doing more to inform our children," said Brittany Goodnight of the Alaska branch of Planned Parenthood."

So, Shona Robison, this is potentially what you have let us in for - our teen pregnancy rate is already too high and you may have just made it worse.

Pipeline though Alaska God's Will - Palin

Look at this article from the New York Times

Oh dear.

This, I think, was the worst part......

"Among other things, she encouraged the group of young church leaders to pray that “God’s will” be done in bringing about the construction of a big pipeline in the state, and suggested her work as governor would be hampered “if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.”

So, if she should bring about the destruction of civilisation as we know it in some misguided religion motivated war, she has the best excuse ever - it's all the fault of heathens like me for not being right with God.

Scary stuff.

I once read a book by Chuck Colson, an adviser to Nixon who ended up in jail and subsequently found God. In it, he describes a situation where a fundamentalist Christian President interprets all sorts of events in the Middle East as a sign that the day of judgment is coming and that completely coloured his judgement and actions. Let's hope we don't have to ever find that one coming true.

Democracy for Dragons

The lucky people who are going to Federal Conference - I'm not, as you might have gathered - will have the opportunity, courtesy of the Electoral Reform Society, to put forward their one big idea for democracy. Conference representatives will then vote on the best at the ERS stall over Saturday and Sunday before the top five get to pitch their ideas, in true Dragon's Den style, to Julia Goldsworthy MP, Stephen Tall of Lib Dem Voice fame, Ken Ritchie, the Chief Exec of ERS and Richard Reeves of DEMOS on Monday lunchtime.

The competition is open to all Party members attending conference and should be submitted to democracy@electoral-reform.org.uk by next Friday.

My one comment is that what makes Dragons' Den work is the occasional shockingly bad idea, so there has to one absolute howler on the shortlist for the dragons to rip to bits:-) Suggestions, anyone?

More about Sarah Palin

This profile on Sarah Palin, from a Guardian journalist who has done some digging in Alaska. He makes the point that it's religion, not politics that makes her tick, finds out how she deals with people who disagree with her and there's even an evaluation of a shootout with Putin which should please Duncan Borrowman.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Congratulations, Nick and Miriam.....

...on the impending arrival of your third child.

And well done for planning this so well that the birth is unlikely to collide with either Spring Conference or election season:-)

The Alexander Vote - there has to be a better way

I was actually in Holyrood today to see Tavish's debut on FMQs - more of that later so I felt some of the highly charged atmosphere. You could feel Labour's anger from the earlier debate on Wendy Alexander's one day suspension from Parliament for failing to register donations to her leadership campaign.

This one has always been a bit of a grey area for me - to me, if she was advised that she didn't need to register the donations to Parliament, then that has to count in her favour. However, she did break the rule, and the punishment meted out, ie a one day ban, was pretty light. She could have survived it and I don't think she actually needed to resign just for that.

I just wonder if debating these things on the floor of the Parliament is such a good idea. The MSPs I talked to based their vote on the debate, as they should have done, and didn't vote on partisan lines. Now, I didn't come down in the last shower and I know bullshit when I see it, but I believe them. It just doesn't look good. Should it not be the case that issues like this are resolved by an independent, non partisan body?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Goodbye, Scottish Tory boy

Sorry to see that Scottish Tory Boy has decided to call it a day. I've enjoyed reading his blog, even though I obviously don't agree with him on very much.

He will be missed and I hope he re-appears in some other guise in the future.

No More Nice Guy from First Scotrail

My husband turned up for his usual train this morning to find it had been cancelled. He was annoyed, but this is a markedly less usual occurrence than it was under the previous holders of the franchise.

What he did grumble about was the fact that there were five ticket inspectors on the platform. He asked them what they were doing and they told him they were there to clamp down on fare dodgers and stop people travelling without tickets.

At the moment you can't buy a ticket from Livingston North Station - the machine has been removed while they upgrade the line and build the new platforms on each side. When this was pointed out to them, they basically said that they were just following orders.

Bob says that customer service has definitely slipped since the company was told to cut its costs by 2%. Politeness costs nothing, though. Why did the inpsectors not say that they were there to meet customers' needs by selling them tickets - that would have been so much more positive given that passengers are fed up of having to queue to buy tickets at Waverley and Haymarket.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Madness of Team Hopeless-Ness

No, this isn't another post about the Republican Presidential campaign.

Loch Ness is one of the most gorgeous places on earth, as far as I am concerned.

Most people choose to visit it either by boat from Inverness, bus or car. They amble down to Drumnadrochit, maybe take in the Loch Ness Monster exhibition, stop off at Urquhart Castle to take some photos, continue on to Fort Augustus and then wend their way back through the more barren, single track roads on the other side. They might decide to stop off and see the dramatic Falls of Foyers before heading back to Inverness through the picturesque village of Dores.

This is not how the heroes of this heartwarming tale are going to do it on 13th September. Fraser, Gavin, Matt and Graeme have branded themselves Team Hopeless Ness. They are going to take part in the Loch Ness Monster Challenge. This involves each of them taking a turn at running and cycling their way round the Loch. Have a look at the site and watch the stunning fly through video of the route.

Seriously, they are doing all of this to raise money for Alzheimer's Scotland, so please give lots of money to sponsor them by clicking on this link.

Glenrothes by-election - Kezia Dugdale makes shortlist

Congratulations to Kezia Dugdale on making it onto the Labour shortlist in Glenrothes.

This is a tremendous achievement for Kezia. This by-election is so crucial to the future of the Government. It's a vote of confidence in her abilities from the powers that be in the Labour Party. They would not have let anyone onto that list if they weren't 100% sure that they had what it took to pull of a victory for them.

It's not looking good for Labour in Glenrothes - both the Liberal Democrats and the SNP are already campaigning hard and the newly anointed Labour candidate will be playing catch-up.

Glenda Jackson MP

I was shocked to read this on Lib Dem Voice which shows that Glenda Jackson MP has produced a magazine paid for by the Parliamentary Communications Allowance which has a survey in it. So far, so good - but the survey has a question which asks about voting intentions.

Why on earth would an MP in the course of their duties need to know how people are going to vote? A political party might want that information - but public funds are not allowed to be used for campaigning purposes. It was particularly appalling to see in the small print that the Labour Party might use the information.

MPs are supposed to get anything that comes out of the Communications Allowance checked before printing by the House of Commons. I think the Serjeant-at-Arms needs to investigate this and take appropriate action. This either was checked and Glenda Jackson's office was advised incorrectly, or it wasn't checked at all. I think the taxpayers of Hampstead are entitled to know which it is.

I wonder if this industriousness on Glenda's part is anything to do with the fact that at the 2005 election she only just hung on to her seat by 474 votes ahead of the talented Ed Fordham.

I don't think this incident is going to help her cause much.

Duncan Borrowman wants to start World War Three

I have to say that I am very impressed that a Bexley boy knows how to spell teuchter. Then again, he is married to a lovely Scottish lady, but at least he has taken note of these things.

His suggestion that Putin should invade Alaska to test her mettle as Commander in Chief of the Alaskan National Guard did make me laugh. It is perhaps going a little far to start World War Three just to discredit a political rival, but I understand the sentiment.

This picture shows just what the Russian Army would be facing.....


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