Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stephen Glenn's New Blog

Being of a sensitive disposition, I nearly choked on my Earl Grey this morning. I can't remember why, but I found myself looking at Stephen Glenn's Facebook profile and saw that he had two blogs, the second having the seemingly provocative name of

Well, I just had to have a look. I suspected that I was on fairly safe territory, but even if I hadn't been, my curiosity would have got the better of me. The blog itself, although entertaining, is not quite as exciting as it sounds. It's all about Northern Irish Professional People Living Elsewhere!

I remembered my other internet nipple story. A few years ago when I was training to be a breastfeeding counsellor, I very naively put nipple pain into google. Sure there were millions of sites - none of which, sadly, had anything to do with human milk or babies........

Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Magnus

Today marks the first birthday of my little friend Magnus. He is a wonderful, curious, energetic, happy little boy.

He brings so much joy to his parents' lives, and it's obvious how much he is loved by all of his family.

So, happy birthday, Magnus. You won't remember today, but those of us who love you will:-)

What's in a gloat?

I have to give credit to the person whose message to Radio Scotland was read out just before 6 tonight. Unfortunately, I didn't get their name. However they asked the question that if Scotland got its independence, would its currency be called teh Gloat?

The old ones are always the best:-)

Glasgow East - putting the result in perspective

There are few more annoying sights in life than a gloating Scottish nationalist. Apart from, maybe, a room full of them. I was struck by the lack of dignity of their victory celebrations in Glasgow East, with their candidate doing a wee victory dance before the recount had even been declared. It was kind of Rambo come embarrassing middle aged male relative dancing at a wedding. Compare and contrast with the way Willie Rennie reacted when he won the Dunfermline and West Fife by election. Sure, he recognised the political earthquake he had caused, but he did so in a way which showed humility and gratitude at receiving the trust of the people.

The voters in Glasgow East had a choice between a Government which had kicked the poorest people there with the 10p tax, benefit cuts and had nothing to offer except more rising food and fuel costs and its Scottish counterpart which is nothing but hot air. Removal of tolls on the Forth Road Bridge and a minor cut in prescription charges isn't really that much to show for a year in office. I guess a blast of hot air is nice in the middle of a wet and miserable Summer, but the SNP bubble will soon burst if the Government doesn't start making real progress on the issues which concern people - housing, education, health and crime.

I suspect Labour and the SNP will have spent close to the £100,000 limit each on their campaigns. The Liberal Democrats will have spent a tiny fraction of that. Ian Robertson was a good candidate with a fantastic team around him - but there's just no way he could compte with that sort of money being spent by the others. However, I am sure that this campaign is not going to be the last we will hear from him. He has actually listened to the concerns of local people and I am sure that he will continue to campaign on issues like the Parkhead fire station long after the by election circus has left town.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Leadership and Listening

Well, I guess you have to admire Ming Campbell's honesty and fair play to him for being so upfront about his views. In a Sunday Times article, he urges the new Scottish Lib Dem Leader, and he's supporting Tavish Scott, to vote against a referendum on independence even if the Party votes in favour of it.

The Lib Dems have a great tradition of the Conference being the sovereign policy making body of the Party. Clearly the Conference only meets twice a year and the Party needs to respond to issues a bit quicker than that. However, on something as fundamental as a referendum on independence, I would prefer it if the leadership stuck to the will of the Party. The Sunday Times could be seen as an indication that a Scott leadership would ignore Conference backing for a referendum.

That's not the sort of regime I would feel comfortable under. We have to keep in mind that our finest performance in recent years came when the leadership listened to the members over Iraq.

For the record, I have long favoured a referendum on independence, although I am opposed to independence itself. While I thought the stand we took during the 2007 election was wrong, it was right to stick to that position when it came to talking coalitions.

Let's hope that the new leader listens to the view of the Conference.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ian Robertson for Glasgow East

I was lying in my bed on the first morning of my holiday when I received a text message from Andrew Reeves, the Party's director of Campaigns in Scotland, telling me that there was going to be a by-election in Glasgow East. I spoke to him later that day (whilst lying by the pool) about how to go about candidate selection as I had been in charge of the last few by-election selections. He certainly did a very good job, because in Ian Robertson, we have a fantastic candidate who is even managing to impress the media.

I know Ian from when he stood in 2005 and was impressed with him them - he's very genuine and hard working and would be a dedicated MP for the people of Glasgow East. I watched him on Newsnight the other night and he really came across as someone who really understood, from first hand experience, the issues facing the constituency. He is campaigning to save the local fire station, he has raised the issue of rising living costs and his experience working with young people and involvement with the Glasgow Council on Alcohol would stand him in very good stead as he tries to find solutions to the problem of crime and violence in the area.

Ian and his amazing team have achieved a great deal with their positive and energetic campaign in a few short weeks and deserve to win on Thursday.

Daft Idea of the Week - Performance Bonuses for Surgeons

Of all the daft ideas I've heard this week - and there have been a few - this has to be the daftest. Complex surgery on human beings can't really be given the piecework approach. There's also an argument to say that senior surgeons are paid enough, if not more than enough anyway. Recovery from surgery of any kind is determined by a huge number of physical, environmental and psychological factors. The surgeon may do the fiddling about with your internal organs, but it's nurses who are responsible for your hour to hour care, auxiliaries and domestic staff who keep the hospital clean, and physios and other specialists who aid your recovery. I don't see any mention of them being included in the bonus scheme.

Patients' groups are up in arms about this proposal, not surprisingly. Who's going to want to perform the high risk procedures with high mortality rates under such a system? Would they get forgotten as managers incentivise conditions with the longest waiting lists?

If the objective is to provide the best possible service to patients, surely we need to ensure that everybody involved in patient care is fairly rewarded for the job they do on a day to day basis and ensure that we have enough staff to enable all the required operations to be carried out in a reasonable timescale?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rediscovering Doctor Who

I have loved Doctor Who ever since the first episode I ever watched - the last of Planet of the Spiders, when Jon Pertwee regenerated into Tom Baker. I have attended several conventions where I have met Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, as well as Sophie Aldred (Ace) and Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah-Jane Smith).

My daughter's middle name is Elisabeth, partly in tribute to my favourite Doctor Who companion. Imagine my delight that she is now becoming a huge fan of the programme. We have spent the last few nights watching the last half few episodes of the series and we enjoyed the brilliant finale tonight.

It has been so good to watch the programme through the eyes of a child. I remember how petrified I was of Davros when I first came across him in Genesis of the Daleks. An adult maybe would have seen the obvious unreality of the situation, but my 8 year old self did not. Likewise Anna was terrified of the Vashti Nerada and was in tears at the end of Stolen Earth as she thought she was going to lose her beloved Doctor. She is so disappointed that there are only going to be 4 new episodes next year, but I have convinced her that there are many years of episodes that she hasn't yet seen to catch up on.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ross Finnie for Scottish Lib Dem Leader

We are very lucky to have 3 such strong candidates for the leadership in Scotland. All of them have their qualities, however I think Ross is best placed to take us forward up here.

He is very wise, excellent with people whether it's chatting on a one to one basis in the street or talking to a hall full, he's capable of listening and knows and respects the Party. He has a proven track record as a Minister - he mastered the rural affairs brief easily and was commended for his performance during Foot and Mouth. I think he is simply the best Minister, bar no-one, we have had in Holyrood so far.

He has credibility, experience and judgment I can trust. I think he'd be a superb leader of our party.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chocolate Heaven

I've just returned from almost 3 weeks relaxing in Mallorca and should really get round to doing some serious blogging about events on the Scottish political scene in my absence, but am still too chilled out to think about it.

Instead, I am going to tell you all about the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. I had it in the lovely village of Valldemossa in Mallorca, where Chopin once spent a Winter with his lover, who produced a whinging book about how harsh Mallorca was in the Winter. I wonder what she would have made of Winter in Braemar in Scotland.

There are some quite upmarket eateries there, but we used to go to a place called Sa Foginaya on the main street which claimed to be the home of the traditional Horchata de Almendra, or almond milk shake (think sipping liquid marzipan - bliss). It was quite reasonably priced, but last year, without warning, we were rather rudely ejected by the proprietors because we didn't want to have a full meal. Anyway, it was with some satisfaction that we returned this year to see that establishment almost empty while Bar Meriendas, across the street was bustling with atmosphere. I had ordered my horchata de almendra when I saw someone else's hot chocolate. It looked so velvety and delicious that I had to have some as well. It was every bit as good as it looked - thick, smooth, dark, slightly bitter with the richest chocolate taste. Very reasonably priced compared to the snootier establishments in the area. Pink Dog should get out there immediately...........

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Woman Bishops - a simple truth

I do hope that the Church of England isn´t going to tear itself apart in an undignified way over gay clergy or woman bishops, although, sadly, that looks increasingly likely. I do still have a great deal of affection for the Church in which I was raised and the current wrangling is hard to watch.

One of the things I always liked about the Church was its tolerance and understanding and I hope that these qualities shine through as they debate these issues.

I do have one simple observation about woman bishops, though. The argument against them is that Jesus only chose men as disciples. In those days, most women were subject to the will of either their husband or their father and would simply not have been permitted to disappear off with some male stranger. I am sure that the opponents of women bishops would not wish to return to that sort of world, so I´d be interested to see how they would answer that point.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Goodbye and Thanks, Nicol

I am currently on holiday in Mallorca, having a great time becoming subject entirely to the timetable decreed by the hotel´s entertainment team. Last night they organised a truly fabulous chillout party by the pool. However, I didn´t stay chilled out for very long after I received a text from my friend telling me that Nicol Stephen had stepped down as party leader.

In a way I´m not surprised. I was an office bearer of the Party until the end of December and even though I loved the job, the commitment to that, my day job as well as being a mum was just too much. Nicol has done the right thing in putting family first. His children will thank him for it, he will be happier and he´s still young enough to come back to the front line in the future.

My favourite memories of Nicol as leader are all around by elections. Just as he was elected, the Livingston by election happened. I couldn´t have asked more from him as he rearranged the MSP´s weekly group meetings to take place in our campaign HQ on a Tuesday evening and they would all go out canvassing afterwards en masse. He was totally engaged in the campaign and was a massive support to me as campaign manager.

Then there was Dunfermline, still one of the best campaigns ever. He would bring his family over at the weekends and devoted every single spare moment to getting Willie elected.

These campaigns showed an energised, passionate Nicol at his very best. He was also bold enough to make some huge commitments on renewable energy which nobody else has the courage to fulfil.

Nicol is a decent bloke and I wish him well for the future.


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