Wednesday, October 31, 2007

People's Veto and ID Cards

When I first heard of Chris Huhne's plan for a People's Veto my initial instinct was that he had gone absolutely mad. In this hysteria-filled media misinforming technological age, how on earth could you ensure the veracity of a petition against a piece of legislation to start with? We should surely place greater store on our Parliamentary democracy and seek to strengthen that rather than give credence to what looks on the face of it like populist pandering. You only have to look at what goes on the ballot in American elections to see how discriminatory, prejudiced laws are passed. In fact, the Bush campaign in 2004 was instrumental in using referenda against gay marriage to ensuring people came out and voted for their candidate.

The issue Chris mentioned was the Iraq war. It's clear that although Pariament voted against it, a huge number of people in the country opposed it. However, with the best will in the world, even if you count the most optimistic assessments of the numbers who came on to the streets do not account for more than 3-4% of the population with the rest not really bothering to engage in the process.

What would happen, if Chris were PM and a vocal minority wanted to ban homosexuality? We have no need to kid ourselves that there are probably enough people who feel that way to at least equal the number who opposed the Iraq war on the streets. Would he let "the people" veto a freedom and a core principle that we hold so dear? I can't imagine that he would, but he needs to answer the question. I can see how the idea might engage people in the political process but the laws that Parliament pass might well become bland and inoffensive when they need to be more radical.

When I heard Nick's refusal to have an ID card, I jumped up and down with delight. This is more like it. Our leader would defy the law like an old fashioned radical Liberal. At the moment he has 8.5 years left on his passport. What happens when it comes to May 2016? Is he seriously going to restrict himself to these shores when he has close family in other parts of the World? If so, I applaud him. But has he really thought this through? The framework for ID cards is in place. Much as I would like to see the whole infrasctructure overturned, realistically we have to face the fact that it might not be and I suspect Nick will be enjoying holidays in the UK for a long time to come if he honours his pledge.

Happy Hallowe'en

A particularly happy Hallowe'en to the evil swine who nicked my husband's carefully carved pumpkin from our doorstep before I had even had the chance to take a photograph of his handiwork. He has been consoling himself this evening by looking at its doppelganger

Otherwise it's been great fun. I do love Hallowe'en even though I know it's all over commercialised and American. I can't abide Trick or Treat - it's a dreadful, rude, disrespectful custom, but I do allow my daughter to do a bit of supervised guising. She and 9 of her friends went out en masse and they all took singing their song very seriously.

I do have to thank our friends from across the Atlantic for giving us a much more user friendly vegetable to carve. I remember the olden days when it used to be a turnip. You had to have one hell of a work ethic to scoop them out. One SNP minded friend of mine wanted his children to have turnips rather than pumpkins but demurred when his wife suggested that he be the one to actually transform this rock hard vegetable into a work of art.

Many thanks to Anne and Stevie for hosting such an imaginative party tonight. They both looked great in their costumes and had transformed their house into a perfect habitat for all types of ghoulish creature. Anne is a zillion times more fastidious than I am in the house cleaning department so it was great to point out the cobwebs and spiders in her house, even if they were fake. I particularly loved the "find the sweet in the green worms game."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Madness of Gabbygate

If insulting the electorate worked, political parties would have tried it long ago. Clearly, telling people that they would have to be really stupid to fall for Labour/Tory spin would be counter-productive.

That is a lesson the judges and some of the dancers on Strictly Come Dancing would do well to learn. Calling the viewing public all sorts of names for backing underdog Kate Garraway over the likes of Gabby Logan and Penny Lancaster-Stewart is only going to persuade more people to vote for her.

There are some who take Strictly far too seriously. If it were just a dance competition, it would be televised at midnight and would be watched only by the 27 die hard enthusiasts who could be bothered to stay up that late. To be sure, the dancing is a part of it, but so is the entertainment of watching the celebrities learn a new and useful skill. Kate clearly can't dance for toffee, but her attitude is great. She has a very supportive partner who, as always, laughs his way through every situation. Their samba was truly terrible, but it was choreographed and played almost exclusively for laughs. It's the relationship between partners that is so fun to watch and the way their stories develop that excites the audience, not just what they do for 90 seconds every Saturday night.

I was shocked that Penny and Gabby were in the bottom 2 - both are great dancers and also seem to be like reasonable human beings. I think that there are a few bland boys in the middle (sorry Gethin and John) who should have gone before anybody else.

Anyway, the public will take who it wants to its heart and Craig Revel Horwood and co will just have to get over themselves and get properly into the spirit of the programme.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nick or Chris?

I still haven't finally decided who to vote for in the leadership contest, although it does seem that Nick wants my vote much more than Chris does. Maybe it's because so many of my friends have endorsed him and are trying to suck me in that I feel that way.

My big dilemma is that I like Nick and I know he could do the job. However, I'm not sure I would want to go down all the policy routes he might want me to. There are just some things that market forces can't fix and I want to be sure that his way of doing things properly protects those who need it. I also want to see a strong commitment to social justice.

I also take slight issue with his attack on the SNP yesterday. Yes, they are a one trick pony, yes we were probably right not to go into coalition with them this time(though we could have tried a little harder). However, we should not rule out partnership working with them in the future as we are doing in a number of local authorities across Scotland. All political parties contain competent people with good ideas and we should be seeking to make the most of common ground and work with them where we can. Of course, the Nats have completely let the people of Dunfermline down - their candidate promised to reverse the changes to the local hospital, but now they have power, they've dropped that idea. Also, Nick needs to realise that it's up to the Scottish Parliamentary Party and not the Federal Leader, who we do or not go into Goverment with.

To smack or not to smack

I am appalled, but not surprised, at the decision by minister Kevin Brennan not to outlaw physical punishment of children in England and Wales. The Scottish Executive took the same view a few years ago. I think it's an absolute scandal that politicans view it as acceptable for a grown adult to hit a child.

If I were to hit Kevin Brennan, even with just a small tap on his backside, I'd be dragged off to prison, or worse. I'm probably fairly equal in size to him and he would have a fair chance of fighting me off or running away. A small child doesn't have that ability to protect themselves from a violent approach from an adult. It's all very well to say that a smack isn't really very hard. I'm sure a grizzly bear's light tap on my backside would hurt like hell. I was smacked regularly as a child and as I grew older was on occasion slapped across the face for no good reason. The physical pain dies down reasonably quickly, but the humiliation and feeling of worthlessness that comes with it is completely disproportionate to the original transgression.

Of course it doesn't always have to be that way - you have to look at the experience of childhood as a whole. A loved child who is occasionally smacked is probably not going to come to too much harm if they grow up in a happy home. Some of my friends, who are fabulous parents, have smacked their kids sometimes. That doesn't make it right, though. A law banning corporal punishment might just make people think twice about how they relate to their children.

To be fair, smacking is just the tip of the iceberg of cruelty towards children that we not only accept, but almost celebrate. The recent Channel 4 series "Bringing up Baby" showed scenes of newborns being left to cry in a room and parents being advised not to look them in the eye or show them any affection. It would be interesting to go back to these babies as adults and see how they compare with those whose parents placed importance on secure attachment from birth. It's shocking to think that this is all fairly mainstream parenting guidance.

We have way too much violence in our society and children are bombarded with images of hitting, shooting and all sorts from a very early age. All that smacking does is to teach a child that it's ok for a big person to hit a little one. When they take that lesson forward by bullying a smaller child in the playground, should we be surprised?

I despair at the lack of imagination and knowledge of those who consider corporal punishment an integral part of discipline. To me, discipline is about guidance, of modelling good behaviour and of teaching respect and consideration for others. I am far from being the perfect parent, but we decided right from the start that our daughter would never, ever be hit - and we have stuck to it. Anna knows that we never would hit her and, although she has her moments, the vast majority of the time she's a lovely, kind, considerate girl. I am clearly biased, but her teachers would agree with that assessment.

This debate has been portrayed as being about the rights of parents. What about the rights of children to grow up without fear of violence?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Would you like vanilla or vanilla?

So far we've had two competent campaign launches for leader. No embarrassments, no technical failures, no farcical elements at either. No sparkles, but you would get the impression that both of those guys could organise a civilised tasting session a vineyard.

Both of them seem to be saying similar things in slightly different ways. From Huhne it's "a fairer society, people in charge", from Clegg it's about empowering communities and ordinary people.

There are subtle differences, though. Huhne talks about being our champion and taking the fight to our opponents. That's nice, and subtle. We're right already and he's going to make the rest of the world believe it. A good thing to do if you want people to vote for you. I want to see from him that he's looked beyond the leadership election to the general election.

On the other hand, Clegg talks about taking us out of our comfort zone and inviting in all those people with liberal values into our tent. We have to change to fit in with them. Bit more worrying, there. We might have to adopt things that we are slightly uneasy about, but it's probably a bit more realistic. He used the liberal word a lot and the democrat word not once. I want to see from him that he will take the Party and its activists seriously and will lead by inspiration not by diktat and indifference.

Both of them get a minus point from me for failing to mention Scotland or Wales at all in their pronouncements so far. Remember we ran this place for the last 8 years and did some good stuff. They both need to prove that they understand Scottish and Welsh politics and realise that there is less appetite for the economic liberal model up here.

The devil will, of course, be in the details of their ideas. This is only the start of the campaign and a lot could change.

I still fervently wish that there was a wider contest - I'd quite like a bit of choclate and strawberry, or even some pistachio. For no other reason than it gives us the opportunity to showcase our talents and ideas. I suspect the media won't bother much with a contest between 2 such similar contenders so we need someone else in there to mix it up a bit.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I need an undecided column.........

If you had told me a week ago that I would even contemplate voting for Nick Clegg, I'd have cheekily retorted that I would rather take up rugby than do any such thing. Don't get me wrong, I like the guy and worked hard to get him selected at the top of the European list in the East Midlands for the 1998 elections. His excellent credentials are, however, blighted by his stance on economic affairs. I have a lot of affection for public services and social justice and I don't think the economic liberal model works for things like healthcare - look at the US where most of the poor and vulnerable have no access to decent health insurance.

I haven't got the first clue how I would vote in a Clegg/Huhne fight. For the first time in my life I have sympathy for those who have told me on doorsteps up and down the country that they don't know who they are going to vote for. I have never participated in an election in that position - I've known right from the start of the campaign where my loyalties lie.

I'm quite looking forward to the campaign that nobody really wanted to have right now.

Battle of the Babies

Facebook now has 3 groups supporting babies to be Liberal Democrat leader - Magnus Dundas, Noah Maxfield and Donald Kennedy. It's all a bit of harmless fun and a good way to celebrate how lucky we are to have these lovely children in our midst.

Maybe in 30 years time these three boys will be in the Lib Dem cabinet, with my Anna as Prime Minister:-)

Don't let it be a Duel

Rumours reach my ears that the leadership contest may only be between Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg. Neither of these would be my first choice and I don't relish the prospect of choosing between them. This isn't to say that I don't like them - both could do the job, but it's a bit like having to choose between cheddar and double gloucester - we need some gorgonzola, or some brie in there.

I think it cheats the members to prevent them having a full debate about the future direction of the Party. I don't know where people get the idea that Huhne is a leftie from - a Huhne/Clegg contest is simply a duel between the centre right and a little bit more centre right.

I hope that MPs reflect on this and don't just rush to back either of these without exploring other options. Who is going to be this contest's Huhne? Remember he came from nowhere last time so there is still an opportunity to steal the limelight from the two frontrunners.

It is particularly disappointing that no candidate of the left of the Party has yet emerged. I would have hoped to see either Steve Webb or Paul Holmes on the ballot.

The Party needs and deserves a wider choice and I hope that the MPs will realise that and reconsider their positions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An ale filled evening

I couldn't have wished to learn of the sad events of yesterday evening in a more appropriate venue. I was in Glasgow on a course yesterday and had planned to meet up with Norman Fraser and Amy Rodger at The Best Pub in the World, the Station Bar near G-Cal Uni.

It's a fab place with a lovely atmosphere and a mixed clientele - people who work or live locally, or who are rehearsing or playing at the Royal Concert Hall. The beer last night was not as spectacular as it has been in the past - Hydes Brewery's Thriller and Timothy Taylor's Landlord.

However, when we couldn't hear the sound on the tv, they let us go into a wee corner with another tv with the sound turned up. It was good to share such a sad evening with like minded friends in one of my favourite venues.

Thanks to Amy for walking me back to the station and getting soaked on the way back.

Campaign Period not long enough

I am angry at the FE's decision to impose such a short campaign period on us. In 2006, after Charles' resignation, it was vital to get a leader in place for the start of the local election campaign. I am not sure that announcing our new leader at the start of the Christmas holidays is going to give them the right sort of momentum. They will hit the ground running and everything will stop for Christmas.

I think they would not have lost anything by announcing the result in mid January. That way, ballot papers would not get bogged down in the Christmas post and we would have longer to decide the direction in which we want to go.

The Perfect Leader

On logging onto Facebook this morning, I was inundated with requests to join groups in favour of various potential leaders - Reid to Lead, Nick Clegg, Alastair Carmichael, Lorely Burt. I was surprised that there was not a Pink Dog for Leader group. I can only assume that he was so snubbed at his failure to get on the ballot last time that he has simply gone off in the huff.

Anyway, I haven't made up my mind who to support yet, but there are a few qualities which I think are essential in the next leader:

  • an ability to connect with people, both individually and through set piece speeches and interviews. This is probably the most important thing - if you can get people liking you and on your side, if you can make them think that you care and understand about them and what's going on in their lives, then they will be more willing to listen to what you have to say.
  • although connecting is the most important thing, on its own it's not enough. We need some big ideas on housing, climate change, young people, poverty and social justice. We need to keep up our opposition to ID cards, nuclear power and to any military action against Iran. We need to ensure that local communities continue to be served by their Post Offices where they want them.
  • my heart lies on the left of the party and I want to see social justice and tackling poverty right up there at the top of the agenda. I do not believe that the economic liberal approach alone is one which will serve people well - it needs to be tempered with that social democratic thread running through our policies.
  • the new leader must not cut him or herself off from the rest of the party. They must respect conference as the sovereign policy making body and must be prepared to listen to those of us at the sharp end who are talking to people on the doorsteps.

In short, we need a great communicator with a distinctive radical agenda who recognises that leading the Party means keeping the members and activists onside.

The Curse of Liberator?

Liberator has never held back about criticising leaders and calling for their resignation in the past. Although the esteemed radical organ had had some stern words to say about Ming's dithering after Gordon Brown's job offers to Lib Dems, only a few days ago I received my copy in which it gave its opinion that he should stay until the next General Election.

So what happens? As soon as Liberator takes his part, the leader goes and resigns:-(

I have to say I agreed with Liberator's position - much to my surprise. I would rather have held a worm in my hand and then gone skiing (anyone who knows me will know just how much I hate those things) than have had him as leader in the first place. I thought he would not be inclusive and would forget the party and the activists. I have had to eat a few words. While there were some aspects of his public performance which were sometimes not as dynamic as I would have liked, he had done much to make the Party's structures more professional and his office was more friendly to the party at large. This was a vast improvement on previous leaders who allowed their offices to treat party members and activists as if they were something he stepped in.

I don't believe he was pushed - although I don't doubt that some people wanted to see him go. I think he looked at the polls and the media stuff about his age and realised that there would be another two years of this and then he may have to face a general election on the brink of his 68th birthday. If the papers were portraying him as a skeleton now, then maybe he foresaw that the cartoons would get ever more macabre as time went on.

No doubt he looks older than he is. However, I'm 40 and I reckon he is more physically fit than I am. I feel quite enraged that the media has effectively perpetuated this ageist nonsense. The heart of our belief as Liberals is that we think everyone should be treated fairly regardless of gender, age, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Ming is 100% a Liberal and could be relied upon to defend these core values. He has dignity and integrity. We have to be aware that it was his influence that led to our opposing the war in Iraq, securing us our best result for years in 2005. His political courage is probably unrivalled. He took a huge gamble at Harrogate this year by speaking in the Trident debate - his support for the motion swayed he waverers and ensured victory for his side. Even though I am passionately opposed to the replacement of Trident, I had to admire the gamble that he took. If the vote had gone the other way, his leadership would have been over, messily, at the start of the Holyrood campaign.

What Ming does not have, and I doubt anyone could really say otherwise, was the ability to connect with the electorate, either individually or in media interviews. There's no getting away from the fact that he did seem awkward and shy on walkabouts. People want their political leaders to be approachable and Ming's aloofness was the biggest problem of his leadership. Unf

I wish him and Elspeth all the best for the future and I hope that we as a party are able to ensure that he is given a prominent role in his area of expertise - foreign affairs.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Grand Old Duke of York

The Lib Dem Geeks have done it again - created a very funny video to remind us all of The Election that Never Was.

Do watch and laugh.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Will Nigel never learn?

One of the most amusing moments of the day was listening to Nigel Griffiths, MP for Edinburgh South (majority over popular Lib Dem campaigner Fred Mackintosh 405), bang on about how he would have beaten Fred by 2500 now and would by 4000 in 2 years time.

For someone who has been very careless with the 11,000 majority he had, which was reduced down to 405 by Marilyne MacLaren, this is reckless talk indeed. And how arrogant to assume that he would increase his popularity by such a margin. You'd think he'd have learnt by now not to take people for granted.

I have done a lot of campaigning in Edinburgh South over the past 7 years and there is a lot for genuine affection for Fred - I never found that sort of spontaneous admiration for Nigel.

I know that Fred will work tirelessly over the next however long to serve the people of Edinburgh South as best he can. He would make a worthy MP, but would never assume, even after election, that he has an automatic right to the title. When you are in that sort of job, you are constantly seeking to gain and retain the trust of the people you serve. Fred clearly gets what it's all about. Nigel doesn't.

Gordon Bottles It

Who would have thought it? Last weekend I cried real tears at the thought of another month away from home, and at the thought of missing Hallowe'en - after all, Anna is only 8 once.

Today a bit of me feels cheated cos I'd really psyched myself up for this campaign and the adrenalin rush had started. I was still burnt out and knackered, but I knew that some unknown strength would propel me towards polling day and I'd just collapse afterwards. Now I have the chance to do normal things, like go to the cinema, and the gym (which would be better).

Thanks to the efforts of Team Rennie, we were ready for an election in Dunfermline, and other key campaigns across Scotland had performed miracles to be ready for the off. We got there at the crack of dawn this morning and had been putting the finishing touches to our preparations.

It shows us what we can put together in a short space of time. We've had a good idea about the timing of every election in my living memory and the plans have been drawn up and implemented a year ahead of time. I have to pay tribute to all the staff and activists who put in superhuman effort to do a year's work in a few weeks.

Elspeth and I were sitting having lunch in Dunfermline today, just like most Saturdays this year, it seems, sure that we'd not have a day off till polling day. It came us a huge shock when Stephen texted her to tell her to put on the BBC website now. We thought it had been called. Neither of us did much work after that:-) It was good to be able to go to her's, put our feet up and watch Strictly Come Dancing:-)

The Brown Honeymoon is now well and truly over. He's made a fair few mistakes this year. This week has shown up the Honest Gordon stuff for the baloney it always was - now the Labour administration has gone back to business as usual - every day is Spin Day.

Ming was great on BBC News 24 - he's right about fixed term parliaments - not just for my blood pressure but because the speculation is destabilising and detracts attention from the important issues.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Strictly Come Election

Put away the anti-depressants, dust off the dancing shoes, get out the fake tan - Strictly Come Dancing is back. This year's line up is very strong. My great worry is that there isn't a girl I want to see leave. I love Kate Garraway. She's actually the niece of one of the stalwarts of West Lothian Lib Dems. They even got their photo in Ok magazine when Kate got married. However, even without the excruciating pain of Tendonitis, she probably isn't a great dancer. I don't think it matters because she's paired with the very funny Anton Du Beke. I suspect they will be good for entertainment value and I hope they stay around for a long time.

I'm looking forward to seeing Matthew Cutler and Alesha Dixon and Penny Lancaster-Stewart and Ian Waite hit the floor.

In terms of the men, Erin Boag unfortunately is most likely to take an early bath. Willie Thorne looks uncomfortable standing upright, let alone dancing. I hope Brian Capron stays in for a while though. I had a huge crush on him when he played Mr Hopwood in Grange Hill about a million years ago. He doesn't have the same effect on me now but I suspect Karen Hardy and he will have a very entertaining relationship.

I've been involved in politics for so long that I do tend to see conspiracy theories in everything and I'm not so sure I like the idea that the Judges have the ultimate choice in who leaves each week. They usually have a favourite, and this enables them to keep them in even if the public doesn't warm to them.

I suspect that the one thing which will get me through this election campaign is the prospect of sitting down for half an hour every night and watching It Takes Two. Claudia Winkleman is definitely a bit bonkers, but absolutely hilarious and very good at getting the best out of her guests.

I succumbed earlier this year to the infernal wickedness of Sky Plus. It is a true delight to know that hours of fun and frolics are going to fill up the hard disk at the touch of one button.

I've just had a thought - who would we pair off for a Strictly Election Special. I think Ming Campbell would cut a fairly dashing figure with Erin Boag, dancing a Foxtrot in tails. I suspect Karen Hardy would be the one dancer who could get anything remotely resembling dance and human interaction out of Gordon Brown. The woman who made Bill Turnbull do his cucarachas would work her magic on the Dour One. Alex Salmond - well, I reckon Lilia Kopylova and he would be a wicked and quite amusing partnership. Their salsa would be embarrassing and cringeworthy but I suspect the training would be fun to watch. And for David Cameron? I find him so false and slick and deeply unpleasant, but I suspect Camilla Dallerup could get him under control. I'm not sure I wouldn't burst out laughing at his Tango face, though.

One pair I would seriously love to see would be Darren Bennett and Jo Swinson. Jo can move very well and I suspect they would do incredibly well.

Who would I put with my favourite dancer, Anton? I reckon Amy Rodger, Lib Dem PPC for East Lothian. She has such a wonderful sense of humour and I reckon she would completely have him under control. I would actually love to see her get elected - she is a remarkable young woman and would certainly stir things up in the House of Commons.

I'll Be There For You

Thirteen and a half years after everyone else (well, I never was an early adopter), I have finally developed an addiction to Friends. I'd watched odd bits before but it never really did it for me. During the Holyrood campaign, my big thing was to come home and watch two episodes before I went to bed and I found that they could have me in absolute hysterics, laughing until tears rolled down my face.

Everyone else had 10 years to watch every episode, but we seem to have managed it over the Summer. Amazon had a reasonable deal on DVD boxed sets so we now have all but one. Anna loves it too, although some of the humour goes a bit over her head.

Favourite episodes? In no particular order, The One with the Giant Poking Device, The One where Everyone Finds Out, The One where Ross got high, The One in Vegas, The One with Chandler in a Box, The One with all the Thanksgivings, The One where No-one is Ready, The One where Ross and Rachel take a Break and The One with the Morning After. Good, not quite clean fun.

Time to decide, Gordon

Gordon Brown may well be crying into his Horlicks tonight, wondering how he had managed to make such a spectacular muck up of the snap election. He's now taking a risk if he does and looks like a great big scaredy cat if he doesn't.

I suspect it all started out as a bit of a ruse to try to get the Labour Party to behave itself and to think about an election either next Spring or the one after. The speculation was then allowed to get out of control and now it's going to be difficult to re-bottle the genie and emerge with dignity intact.

The only way out really is to use the postal strike as an excuse. After all, if they can't guarantee the distribution of the postal votes, the legitimacy of any poll is immediately in question.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that a solution to the dispute will, entirely coincidentally (yeah, right) be found at the beginning of next week, or the week after and an election called.

I also have it on good authority that one Council has closed down a suite of rooms, and sent round an e-mail saying that the election team will be using them from 9th October to 22 November. Make of that what you will.

I now have two bottles of wine at stake with different people - I still say it's going to happen. I just want the waiting to be over and the campaign to begin...............

Hong Kong or Leith?

Kevin and Jennifer Lang should be living it up in Hong Kong on the holiday of a lifetime at the moment. Instead, they are at home in Granton, putting the final preparations to an election campaign.

Kevin is the prospective Liberal Democrat candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith. When he and Jenni booked their holiday to see Jenni's sister in China in March, nobody could have predicted that there would be an election in November. They made the decision to cancel on Wednesday, the day before they should have left, when an election announcement next Tuesday looked virtually certain.

Not only has this cost them money, but you know what it's like to be all geared up for a break and then for some reason you can't go. I am full of admiration for both Kevin and Jenni for putting the people of North and Leith first. Kevin only requires a 2.5% swing to unseat the sitting Labour MP and would make a first class MP.

He is very sharp and astute and has a sometimes scary amount of energy. I see quite a lot of similarities between Kevin and Willie Rennie - he would be the sort of MP you would see about in the street and would always be approachable and dedicated to helping his constituents with their problems.

Today's polls make an election look less likely, but I don't think that his decision will have been in vain in the long run.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Free Burma

Just a few days ago, I was really pissed off at the prospect of a free election in this country and of how it would inconvenience me.

In complete contrast, 200 people have lost their lives in Burma fighting for the right to have a free election, away from the tyranny of a brutal military regime.

I salute the bravery of all those who have taken to the streets and share in the mourning for those who have brutally lost their lives.

I call on the international community to take whatever measures it can to ensure that democracy is restored to Burma and that those who lead the call for freedom and human rights, including Aung San Suu Kyi are freed to enable them to build a free nation.

I add my voice to the many bloggers who are calling for a Free Burma today, 4 October, 2007.

Turning 40

I would be lying if I said that turning 40 had been completely stress and depression free, but the actual day itself was so special.

It started at 6:50 am with a phone call from my sister and cousins on holiday in Canada. I was as sober as a judge, they were completely off the planet. I hadn't laughed so much in years.

The effort my husand and daughter put into the day was wonderful. From choosing a lovely organic, maple cured kind of bacon for breakfast (and subsequently, unexpectedly, lunch) to ensuring I had enough dark chocolate to sink a battleship, to providing me with beautiful drawings and cards, they made sure I had a perfect day.

Bob gave me a beautiful rose quartz pendant - apparently the symbol of both fertillity and unconditional love.

My friend Anne gave me the most beautiful willow tree figure called Mother and Daughter in an embrace.

And just when I thought I'd opened all my pressies, the doorbell rang and the Interflora man was there with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, with my favourite lilies and roses.

I had kind of wanted to head off to the Gallery of Modern Art for lunch, but my Inner Capitalist Ruthless Bitch got the better of me. Bob and Anna had given me the Edinburgh version of Monopoly and we ended up embroiled in a long game before going for a walk.

In the evening, Anna chose to go and play with her best friends while 15 of the people I care about most in the World gathered at my favourite restaurant. I am lucky that this place is just across from where I work - it's Oohla's in Dunfermline.

I had the most succulent spiced king prawns, followed by the most luscious, flavoursome and perfectly cooked fillet steak. The desserts they do in that place are to die for - you can have tarte tatin, chocolate brownies, strawberry cream meringues the size of small Balearic islands, fruit tartlets of so many colours and varieties, a cheese board assembled with love and proper thought. My friend Pippa had baked me a cake and covered it in a deep chocolate icing made with Green and Black Maya Gold. Could that be any more perfect?

One very non political and very special friend had been scared that she would be overrun by intellectual Lib Dems and had to be persuaded that political types could be normal sorts who liked reading OK magazine and the like. I was so glad that she made the effort to come even though she was a bit worried about it. I think she had a good time too, and I would not have wanted to be without her.

All in all, it could only have been more perfect if it had gone on for another 24 hours.

Battle Preparations

I have long been convinced that we would see a General Election this Autumn, particularly as Labour's lead over the Conservatives grew and grew. I can't say I relished the prospect with much enthusiasm. Once every couple of years I can handle, but twice in six months is a big ask. I spent much of last weekend in doleful and tearful frustration at the thought of having to give up my much anticipated school holiday at home with Anna to pound the streets on freezing cold, dark nights. However, the adrenalin rush has now kicked in and I'm ready for it - in fact I now just want to get on with it.

I might be whinging about my holiday, but spare a thought for the dedicated person I won't name who should be on holiday now on the other side of the World. They cancelled yesterday so that they would be available for the campaign. I know how much they had been looking forward to being away and I thoroughly admire their dedication to duty. I will be so annoyed with Gordon Brown on their behalf if this has all been a great big wind up.

I am quite amazed at how ready we actually are to fight this election, should it be called. It's my responsibility as Campaigns and Candidates Convener to make sure we have candidates in every seat. I have had some help with this, (thanks to all involved) and have been really impressed with how everybody has worked together to assemble a full slate of candidates ready for the off.

Back to the Blog

I can hardly believe it's been over 4 months since I last posted on here. I had meant to but a frenzied work schedule, holidays and illness have kept me away. I hope to be able to post a lot more regularly now - although, come next Tuesday, an election announcement might put paid to that for a while.


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