Sunday, October 22, 2006

Strictly Voting Systems

Since I'm revealing guilty secrets, I should possibly also reveal my bordering-on-the-obsession passion for Strictly Come Dancing. Every Saturday night, and every weekday evening, my video now knows to record every ronde, every tantrum, every chicken walk and every bad joke of Bruce's.

As a stalwart of a number of online SCD Forums, I have been quite amused by the analysis of the votes which goes on every week as somebody's beloved couple gets knocked out. I would love to see such interest in the vagaries of the political system. Indeed, I am reminded of the many electoral systems anoraks within the Lib Dems.

In SCD, it isn't in the early stages the worst dancers who leave. The celebrities and the professional dancers each have their followers who vote for them and the person at the bottom of the table can be guaranteed to pick up sympathy votes in proportion to how horrid the judges have been to them. The middle of the table is the worst place to be, as last night's result shows. Spoony and Ola were almost in the middle, yet 4 couples at the bottom overtook them in the public vote so they were the ones to leave.

They lost out to someone who a judge described as not being able to walk and chew gum, to my personal favourites whose dance had not been wonderful, but who were fab for entertainment value, despite them both being dressed in ferrari red lycra and to the avowed bad boy who had teased us through a filthy jive.

It's funny how people can see injustice in the voting system on a Saturday evening light entertainment show, but not appreciate that they are effectively being done at local and parliamentary elections. Ultimately the councillors and MPs make decisions which affect all our lives and should be elected in such a way that reflects our opinions. The Liberal Democrats in Scotland have assured fair votes for local councils up here - how long before our friends in England enjoy their chance to break up the unfair Labour and Tory monoliths?

Farewell, Schuey

I know the Party has just launched its Green Tax Switch campaign and we're really not in favour of wasteful burning of fuel, so it's not the best time to reveal my guilty secret - my almost lifelong passion for Formula 1.

However, today was a sad day, being the end of Michael Schumacher's 15 year career - particularly sad as I feel very old as I was there at the beginning. From his very first race for Jordan, through his seven world championships, his sometimes inexpicably bad behaviour, I have followed every chicane, every pit stop.

His hope of departing with his 8th world championships effectively ended at Suzuka two weeks ago when his engine blew, but today was typical of his competitiveness, his spirit and his sheer driving talent. Coming from 10th on the grid to suffer a puncture, he ended up at the back of the field to pull himself back to one step shy of the podium.

Whatever he does in the future, I and many other fans wish him well.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Veils and Crosses

This week two employees have been suspended from their jobs because of the clothes and jewellery they wear. I have to say that I am quite appalled to see Government Ministers call for Aishah Azmi to be sacked if she doesn't remove her veil at work. She has agreed to take off her veil while teaching the children, but to wear it while male colleagues are present. Why can this not be an acceptable compromise?

Now BA has suspended a check in clerk for refusing to cover her necklace with a cross on it. They say that all jewellery, including religious symbols, should be worn underneath clothing.

Now, when I check in for a flight, I expect this to be done quickly and efficiently. I also like the check-in clerk to be friendly and to smile. I don't care what they are wearing. I understand that need for corporate identity and wearing uniform, but there is place for individual expression within that.

When I send my daughter to school, I expect her to be taught in a positive environment which encourages her to learn. I expect the staff to treat the children and each other with respect. Similarly, I don't care what they wear.

I am quite concerned about the quality of the management decisions which have been taken in both of these cases. Employees perform better when they are treated with respect and given a certain amount of autonomy. There seems to be a move to completely depersonalise work areas in some places, with employees being forbidden to bring in pictures of family to put on their desks. A happy employee is a productive employee, so, unless there is a very good reason, why interfere with what they wear or display?

These are both rows which should never have got this far. They will now presumably be settled in the Courts, at great financial and emotional cost to those involved. What a waste.

A Bright Future

It was very heartening to see a packed Scottish Liberal Democrat conference embrace the radical and positive Bright Future pre-manifesto document yesterday. With its focus on opportunities for young people, innovation and investment and its commmitment to produce 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2050.

The mood was optimistic. Everybody is aware that we can be the largest party in May next year and is committed to playing their part to make that happen.

Ming Campbell made a strong speech, reaffirming our commitment to ensuring fairness within the justice system, pledging that we would continue to oppose plans to retain people in custody for 90 days without charge.

I did not support Ming's campaign to be leader, but I have been continually impressed with the clarity of his public statements, the new green tax switch proposals and the common sense he has used in the internal decisions and appointments he has made in the Party.

Here's to a bright future for the Party and for Scotland.

Pink Dog: Playground action movie

Pink Dog: Playground action movie

Nice to see that our canine friend is enjoying her holiday in Australia. It will give you motion sickness, though, so be careful.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Veiled Threats

Jack Straw has beautifully illustrated that fundamental Labour inability to respect individuality. If he finds it difficult to communicate with women who are wearing a veil, then I would suggest it is he who has the problem.

Where would you draw the line? One could argue that wearing a Celtic shirt in certain parts of Glasgow is "a visible statement of separation and of difference." I've been the only Lib Dem wearing a rosette at a count surrounded by Labour people. Maybe Jack would say I should just have conformed and joined Labour so I was the same as everybody!

You would never find me wearing either a veil or a Celtic shirt (I'm not picking on Celtic, by the way, I could just have easily have used the other lot as an example) but I worry very much when politicians show such blatant contempt for individual expression.

We should respect each other's right to show whatever allegiances, interests or beliefs we hold dear. We might not like them, but so what. Labour have never been able to really understand diversity, which is a shame as we can all learn something from other cultures and ideas. To close your mind to dialogue because of what someone is wearing is to lose the opportunity to understand and share.

There are times when I truly despair of that lot being in charge of civil rights issues.


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