Friday, October 31, 2008

What has Harry Wills got to do with Leonardo Di Caprio and Archbishop Desmond Tutu?

I've got to know Harry Wills, Lib Dem candidate for Glenrothes and his lovely wife Trudy quite well in recent weeks. I have been very impressed with how he has handled his role as by-election candidate and I'm sure he would be a fabulous MP. I've seen him come back from meeting people passionate about the problems they are facing and determined to do something about them.

Anyway, much as I like him, never did I really think of him and Leonardo DiCaprio in the same headspace. Now, I'm annoyed, because I know I saw this on my computer at work, but can't for the life of me find it at home, but I'm going to post this anyway.

I will update with the links when I'm back in the office tomorrow.

Some local Glenrothes genius has a blog and made a few comments about the by-election. They put the pictures of all the candidates through some Celebrity Look a like website. Harry's came back as Ernest Borgnine, Peter Sellers, Leonardo DiCaprio and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I can kind of see where they are coming from with Borgnine and Sellers, but it's maybe a little more difficult with the other two.

Update a few minutes later - I should have been more patient, as I found it very quickly after I posted this. Here is the link.

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I love Hallowe'en - I'm not so keen on the Americanisation of the event and I think that Trick or Treating is an abomination, but I love the dressing up, the dooking for apples, and the decorations, not to mention the sweeties.

This year was slightly different - for the first time, the school's parents' association decided to hold a disco for the kids. I got back from Glenrothes, where I met no ghouls, demons or ghosts, although I had passed myself off as the Green Tax Witch all day, a short while before the disco started. The last thing I wanted to do was help out at this disco, but, not wanting to let the side down, I went along.

My job was to sell glo-sticks to the masses. Last year, my friend sparked concern by blowing more money than planned on glo-sticks. People thought we'd never sell them all. However, the investment into the glo-stick futures market proved highly successful and more profitable than my HBOS shares, for example. Kids just love them and we sold loads tonight. My mood improved with the music - who can listen to Don't Stop me Now without feeling good?

The only blot on the evening was one parent sending a taxi to pick up their child, even though we had specifically, and in no uncertain terms, on several occasions, requested that this should not happen. It's really hard when we have to decide whetehr it is safe to send a child off alone into the night - it's just not fair to put us in that position. Thankfully this child knew their home phone number, but I got a flea in my ear when I phoned to confirm the arrangements with his mother.

Am I over-reacting?

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama takes over networks to ask people to knock on doors.......

I've seen some pretty awful Party Political Broadcasts in my time, not least from my own Party - does anyone remember Rosie Barnes and her rabbit?

The video below is a bit of a masterclass in how it's done - the last bit from the Obama 30 minute ad last night went live to his speech at a rally in Florida.

I'm still not entirely convinced on the substance of what he'll do, but he knows how to inspire, engage and empower - and how good was it that he asked people to go and knock on doors for him?

Anyway, enjoy.

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Obama, the baby Socialist

Barack Obama definitely has the most likeable manner of any Democratic nominee since Bill Clinton. This clip from a rally in North Carolina shows him taking the mickey out of McCain's excessive attacks on him. If you read the article, you will see that he gave up his own bottled water to help two people who were taken ill at the rally.

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Labour Supporter backs Labour in Glenrothes by-election shock

Labour have been putting out a leaflet in the Glenrothes by-election which has Sir Alex Ferguson showing his support for Lindsay Roy, the Labour candidate.

This isn't some great celebrity coup, or anything. Sir Alex has been a Labour supporter all his life, so it's hardly surprising that he's done this.

Maybe it's just me, but the phrase that he used, that the Labour Government ".......deserves support at this difficult time" just doesn't sound right. It's that "now, children, behave" tone from Labour which has always rankled with me. If they'd said something like "times are hard, this is how we're going to make things better for you" that would have been different. Despite all they have gone through, that old arrogance is still there. It's almost as though they think that the electorate has a duty to support them.

Will they never learn?

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama to air 30 minute TV spot.........

Barack Obama is splashing some of the millions he's raised on a 30 minute ad to be aired before the big match tonight.

This sounds like quite a change for Americans used to bite sized 30 second ads - and I hope that they have made the film interesting and varied enough to hold people's attention.

As long as they stay away from leaving messages on Sarah Palin's voicemail, it should all be fine........

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Strictly beats X Factor

Strictly Come Dancing beat the X Factor tonight in the best talent show category at hte National Trash Awards. Simon Cowell was not happy, although there was some comfort for him later when he was given a Special Recognition Award.

The saddest moment was confirmation of what we already new - the four specials next year will be David Tennant's last as Doctor Who.

He really is quitting while he's ahead, and no doubt the audience will want a whole load more.

Other highlights of the night include Austin and Erin doing a bit of Quickstep on the stage and Blue Peter presenters John, Peter and Valerie reunited to present an award.

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James Graham's Daily Mail Post

Every so often, a fellow blogger puts up something so darned good that you just have to draw attention to it.

James Graham's robust analysis of the Daily Mail is one such article. Your blood will boil.

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SNP’s Glenrothes Hopeful wants home within five years

Aww, bless. Peter Grant, SNP candidate in Glenrothes, doesn’t really want to spend too much time in Westminster. I sympathise. There’s no way on earth I’d want to leave my lovely life and family in Scotland to work 500 miles away every week. I spent 11 years living in England, which taught me to appreciate how fabulous Scotland is.

However, I have no intention of standing for election to Westminster at any time in the foreseeable future.

Peter Grant is asking people to put their trust in him next week. What will he do if, as expected, Scotland rejects independence in 2010? The referendum might not even happen. What then? Will he stand down as MP, or will he continue grudgingly attending a Parliament he really doesn’t want to be a part of? Would he just stay at home and not bother turning up for vital votes on things like taxes, benefits and ID cards?

The people of Glenrothes deserve an MP who will fight their corner at Westminster. Harry Wills would feel privileged to serve the people of Glenrothes and would be a welcome addition to an already strong Lib Dem Parliamentary team.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Brand and Ross - Boys will be Boys

Anybody allowing Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross in the same room together must have known that something outrageous would happen.

Some people like outrageous things, which is fine. If anyone has the right to be pissed off, it's Andrew Sachs, whose voicemail was the subject of some rather ripe messages suggesting all sorts may have happened between Brand and Sachs' granddaughter, and, of course, the granddaughter herself if she was unaware of what was going to happen.

What's interesting is that the programme itself generated only 2 complaints. The thousands that followed came after the Mail ran the story.

There's probably a good chance that very few of these thousands of people actually listened to the programme.

Cameron and Brown have jumped on the Daily Mail bandwagon, which is predictable but disappointing.

I would rather be personally be made to listen to an outrage by Brand and Ross every day for a year, even though I really don't have much time for either of them, than have to endure the sanctimony of Brown and Cameron.

It's just a shame that this is taking up so much of top politicians' time. Even if there wasn't a global economic meltdown, there would still be the idea of world peace and ending hunger and poverty to get their teeth into. Priorities, people....

Update after watching the Ten O'Clock News - aren't the BBC craven for buckling so completely to the Daily Mail lobby?

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Joe Lieberman polishes his crystal ball

Senator Joe Lieberman, the guy who would have been Al Gore's VP had a few votes in Florida gone the other way, and who is now a McCain supporter, has been showing off some hitherto hidden talents - as fortune teller. He has confidently predicted that John McCain will live until he's 85 years old.

It's a sign that the McCain camp are seeing people turn away from them in their millions, as evidenced by virtually all the polls, in part at least because of concerns about Sarah Palin being that heartbeat away from the Presidency.

I am starting to feel a bit more confident that McCain is going to have a long retirement to leisurely repent his hasty choice of Palin as running mate.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

PCs are just too darned clever these days

Yesterday when I left our HQ in Glenrothes, I forgot to log out of my e-mail.

Another colleague came in this morning, fired up the e-mail site and just assumed it was his that was logged in.

He then started sending out e-mails to people, and responding to messages that had been sent to me by people we both know.

Neither of us would have been any the wiser if I hadn't noticed that e-mails from me were appearing in my Outlook inbox at home.

For the first couple, I actually did wonder if I was going mad because these messages appeared that I couldn't remember sending - and then I sussed out what was going on.

Fortunately, the colleague in question is someone I trust and there was nothing in my inbox that I wouldn't want him to see - but the potential for disaster in this type of situation is very high.............

You have been warned......

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The Erotics of Lib Dem Economic Debate..... a topic insufficiently explored.

So says Stuart Jeffries, here, in a long interview with Vince Cable in the Guardian. That phrase actually makes sense when you read it, but it is a true classic.

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What could happen if you don't vote for Obama on November 4th - Register now

Everyone's playing with this one - Tom Harris and Duncan Borrowman to name but two. Thought I'd get in on the act.......

It's apparently not partisan - I haven't seen a McCain version yet though..........

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stravaigin' in Glasgow

I am really getting to love Glasgow. Every time I go there I learn something new. My favourite pub in the whole world, the Station Bar, near GCal and the Concert Hall is there, and last night I went out with my sister, my second cousin, my gorgeous niece Laura and her friend Beth. The girls went to a Mystery Jets gig. I'd never heard of the Mystery Jets, but I guess that's how it is with 16 year olds and 40 something aunts.

Honor, David and I hit the West End, starting off in the Ubiquitous Chip where we got a table and were served immediately with some decent red house wine. We then went to eat in Stravaigin 2 on Ruthven Lane. The food was marvellous, probably one of the best meals I'd ever had in a restaurant. I started off with a Vietnamese dish made with pork mince, vermicelli noodle and packed full of flavour with lemon grass, chilli, coriander - it was truly fabulous. David loved his duck pate and Honor's haggis was wonderful.

We all had steak for main course. I am very wary of where I eat steak, but David's confidence inspired me. It came perfectly cooked, they remembered whose was the medium and whose was the medium rare, and it came with a delicious rich celeriac and beetroot dauphinoise, chanterelles and kale.

I was persuaded by the others to try a pudding. They both had lemon and almond cake, while I plumped for the bitter chocolate and grand marnier tart which was smooth, velvety and very rich.

Sometimes menus don't live up to their promise - this exceeded it. The service was unnintrusive but extremely good and the atmosphere in the place was perfect. We had such a laugh.

Just as we'd finished eating, the girls rang to say that their gig was over. Laura was in a state of sheer bliss after meeting the band and having them sign her new t-shirt. She reckons it was the best night of her life.

We took David home to his flat on the South Side and then had fun with my sister's satnav. I think I did a better job of finding our way home than the disembodied voice did - it kept turning us to turn left now when there was nowhere to turn left and when we took the next road, we'd get so far and then it would say "make a U turn".

It was the best fun I'd had in ages and a welcome break in my Glenrothes activiities, which resume very shortly..........

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What the Lib Dems Want.....

In response to J Arthur MacNumpty's question, I can't speak for all Lib Dems, but I know what I want, not just for the Glenrothes by-election, but for the future:

- Harry Wills would be a first class MP, fighting for Fife, standing against the illiberal excesses of both the SNP and Labour. Both have disappointed in recent years. ID cards, the SNP pandering to the Catholic Church over the HPV vaccine, 42 days and banning under 21s from buying booze are equally illiberal. The choice between them is kind of like having to choose between eating a wichety grub and a kangaroo's testicle - either way, I throw up. Harry would strengthen further the already excellent Fife Lib Dem Parliamentary team of Ming Cambpell and Willie Rennie at Westminster, Jim Tolson and Iain Smith at Holyrood and Elspeth Attwooll, (and hopefully George Lyon from next June when Elspeth retires).

- Alex Salmond to implement Tavish Scott's tax cut plan. We already have it within our power to do something to help people struggling with rising food and energy costs. We can take meaningful action without picking a fight with Westminster. We can use the Scottish Parliament's existing powers to improve the quality of people's lives. So why haven't you done it, Alex?

- Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling to implement Vince Cable's economic recovery plan to boost the economy, regulate the financial services sector and ensure that reposessions only happen as a last resort - and, Nicola Sturgeon, can you please listen to the lawyers who are saying that legislation is needed in Scotland on this issue.

- The Government to deliver on affordable housing. I see people every week in dire circumstances, families living in bed and breakfast accommodation because they have been make homeless, families struggling to cope with four children in a 2 bedroomed flat, people desperately needing repairs to their homes. Someone has to do something fast.

- Fife's commuters to stop being penalised by season tickets costing £20 more than comparable journeys across the rest of the country. It's not fair and needs stopping. There is no excuse, First Scotrail.

- People to live in peace and safety without the fear of anti social behaviour - which would be a lot easier if the SNP Government had delivered on its pledge to put 1000 more Police on the beat.

I could go on, but that'll do for now.
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Alex on his travels - again

Alex Salmond was in Glenrothes again for his 7th visit today.

This week he has been there twice and managed to get down to Peterborough to attempt to wow the rest of the UK on Question Time.

Sadly he didn't make it into the voting lobby on Wednesday night to try to stop the Lloyds HBOS merger.

It's not so much I'd do Anything, but I would do anything for HBOS but I won't do that.

Nancy to Meatloaf in a few short weeks:-)

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Friday, October 24, 2008

SNP Councillor slammed for "inappropriate" campaign e-mail

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Mike Rumbles has written to Alex Salmond to complain about a, frankly, disgusting e-mail sent out by Highland SNP Councillor John Finnie alerting fellow nationalists to what he described as three potential by-elections, including one in the Ross, Skye and Inverness West seat held by John Farquhar Munro.

I should make clear that John Farquhar Munro has stated his intention to serve for his full Parliamentary term.

The text of his e-mail is copied below.

"Fellow Nationalists

As you may be aware the potential exists for three local by-elections and the Party requires YOUR help. Those election are;

Highland Council:

John Holden, Labour, Inverness South, faces ongoing criminal enquires - presumption of innocence must apply.

Jimmy MacDonald, Independent, Inverness West remains seriously ill and absent from Council duties for several months.

In the last Council Multi-Member Ward elections our Candidates comfortably won both seats and we can, indeed must, win any by-election.

Scottish Parliament:

J. Farquhar Munro, Lib Dem, remains unwell with continual suggestions of a Spring By-election. Dave Thompson secured a huge increase in our vote at the last election and this seat and can and will be won.

This coming Saturday WE will distribute a newspaper in the Dalneigh area.

This is an important area because it covers the Inverness West Council seat, the Scottish seat plus the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Westminster seat, for which I am the Candidate.

WE meet at 10am, this Saturday 11th at the Highland Council Car park on Glenurquhart Road and will work until 1pm.

I look forwarding to seeing you on Saturday.

Kind regards

Yours for Scotland

(Cllr) John Finnie, SNP Group Leader, Highland Council"

He mentioned that he was the SNP candidate for the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey seat held by Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander.

You have to question the political judgment of someone who can send out an e-mail like this, inferring the potential demise of a local parliamentarian. Is it appropriate for this individual to remain in a senior position on the Council and as a Parliamentary Candidate? That will be for Alex Salmond to decide but the very least that should happen is that Cllr Finnie should make a full public apology for this and the SNP leadership should publicly disassociate themselves from these quite sick comments.

I come from Inverness and I know that Highlanders have a reputation for hospitality, courtesy and respect. It's sad when a senior public official does something which is so much the opposite of all of these qualities.

Government backs down on Pensions

At last, the Government has decided to make the pensions system fairer for people, the vast majority of whom are women, who take time out of the workplace to care for children or sick relatives.

This doesn't help the many women pensioners who are living in poverty now, though.

It shouldn't have taken this long to stop penalising those who give up work to take on some sort of caring role.

Read here, though, why Steve Webb reckons why this might not be all it's cracked up to be.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

How to raise $1.3 million - for your opponent

Elwyn Tinklenberg can't really have thought he would have much hope of unseating the incumbent Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in her Minnesota district - until she went on MSNBC last Friday and called for investigations to root out the anti-American members of Congress. For anti American, you can pretty much substitute the word Liberal.

I didn't believe it until I heard it for myself

Since Friday, the money has been flowing into Tinklenberg's campaign coffers. $1.3 million will buy a lot of air time in 2 weeks so it looks like Ms Bachmann's jacket is on a very shooglie peg.

The Republicans have pulled the plug on Bachmann's campaign.

This will be another one to watch.

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Who is running the country while Three Jobs Alex hits the campaign trail?

Alex Salmond has 3 paid jobs - MSP for Gordon, MP for Banff and Buchan and First Minister of Scotland. A formidable workload, wouldn't you think?

Despite that, the Glenrothes by-election seems to be one of his top priorities at the moment - he has been there 6 times so far. Who is running the country while he's out there putting his political interests first?

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Palin spends $2700 a day on clothes............

While millions of Americans are struggling with the economic downturn and wondering if their jobs will survive, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been splashing the cash on clothes at the expense of the Republican National Committee and a Republican consultant. We have known her for some 55 days now and in that time $150,000 has been spent on clothes for her campaign appearances.

Apparently she hasn't worn the same outfit twice.

I'm sure hockey moms all across America will feel that the carefully crafted "I'm Just Like You" image will be wearing a bit thin.

Anyway, she has to give all the clothes to charity after the election or she'll have to pay tax on their value - anyone up for a shopping weekend in Anchorage?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Hampshire - a Democrat gain on Nov 4?

I never did much like John Sununu when he was the older George Bush's chief of staff. His subsequent record in Congress has been less than inspiring. He voted for the charade that was the attempt to impeach Bill Clinton, gaining the approbation of the New Hampshire Christian Coalition in the meantime. He has opposed abortion and increasing the minimum wage while favouring school vouchers and the death penalty. Exactly the person you would want replaced by a good old fashioned Democrat.

Former Governor Jeanne Sheehan is his Democrat opponent on 4th November. Electoral Vote has her ahead today by 8 points.

Here's hoping that Jeanne's luck holds.

UPDATE: Thanks to those who have pointed out that this Sununu is in fact the son of Bush 41's Chief of Staff. His Senate record still stinks, though.
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High School Musical 3 - first impressions

I'm just back from seeing the new High School Musical movie with lots of little girls - we had about 10 of them, ranging in age from 4 to 13.

The HSM Brand is all about making Disney stacks of cash by tuning into the desires of young kids, mainly girls, and this new offering is likely to be every bit as effective as its two predecessors in doing so.

The movie is shallower than a Conservative Party policy document, formulaic, and entirely predictable, but is redeemed by being energetic, charming and full of catchy songs that I'll be hard pushed to get out of my head anytime soon.

I don't want to give out too much of the plot for the sake of my nieces and friends who haven't seen it yet, but it's safe to say that if Anna ends up in a relationship with someone who doesn't bring her chocolate covered strawberries to cheer her up, then I'll be very cross.

I can't help loving the HSM movies - yes, they're cheesy and trashy but they are enjoyable to watch. It is entirely idealised. Troy's dad is a teacher and they live in a mansion, for goodness' sake. I do quite like the innocence and chasteness of it, too. Although the innocence doesn't extend to the adults amongst us who are now starting to understand The Graduate. While star Troy BOlton doesn't do it for me, his mate Chad certainly does......

I can't help comparing it to its predecessors which came out when I was Anna's age. Grease, 30 years on, is still watchable. My 10 year old self didn't really get the more adult stuff, like Rizzo's pregnancy scare, until much later, and sure as hell couldn't understand why Sandy did that to herself at the end, but I grew into it as I watched it over and over again as I got older. I don't think that today's 10 year olds will be watching HSM with the same affection in 30 years' time.

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We know what George Osborne did last Summer.....

I personally wouldn't trust George Osborne with the contents of my daughter's piggy bank - especially as she's absolutely loaded as she's fantastic about getting her pocket money and not spending it, getting Mummy and Daddy to fork out for the essentials of a 9 year old's life. As Tory Shadow Chancellor he has been shallow, opportunistic and brings nothing to the debate. He is the flat coca-cola to the vintage claret that is Vince Cable.

The Tories are trying to pretend that they are just like us and they understand what life is like for ordinary people - hence Cameron's bucket and spade break for the media. However, his shadow chancellor is in the Med hanging around with squillionaires.

I don't think we'll ever find out what really went on there - it's all he said/she said kind of stuff, but the whole affair does not make me think well of either Osborne or Peter Mandelson.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rennie tries to close Sex Offender Loophole

Willie Rennie MP today launched a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament which aims to end the scandal whereby a driving instructor who has been convicted of sexually assaulting a client can continue to work while the process takes place to remove them as an approved instructor.

He had been made aware of this loophole by a brave constituent who had endured an assault by her driving instructor. She assumed that when he was found guilty, that he would never have the chance to prey on anyone else. Imagine her horror when she found out that he was back working the next day.

The process to remove an instructor in this position takes around 6 weeks. However, there is no facility to suspend someone while this goes through all its stages. This Bill seeks to remove that anomaly and ensure that no convicted driving instructor every has the chance to claim an other victim.

The Bill passed its stage today and is up for discussion again next Monday.

This is the sort of measure which should attract support from all sides of the house - and indeed its sponsors included Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

From Friendliness to Thuggery

Stephen's account of his encounters with the opposition in Glenrothes on Saturday reminded me of a couple of hostile encounters. I have to say that most of the time, especially since we've been back in Scotland, (the Chesterfield Labour Party of the 90s had its own special brand of brutishness), my exchanges with the opposition have been very friendly.

Occasionally emotions run high - I remember a Nationalist friend barely being able to look at me after their disastrous showing in the 2001 election, because she was so upset by our relative success, but we got over that pretty quickly.

The most frightening experience I ever had was in Littleborough and Saddleworth in 1995. While knocking up on polling day I came across a couple of Labour thugs who basically invaded my personal space and told me to f off out of the street - which, I am ashamed to admit, that I did. I don't know what they would have done to me if I had ignored them, but as a woman on my own, I wasn't taking any chances.

A few years later, I was on a polling station during a council by-election in Edinburgh and got completely verbally abused by a Nationalist. I think his main problem was that I existed and that I had a slight English accent from my years down south. Delightful.

In the main, though, there is a certain bond between political activists across the board - we all know what it's like to give up huge amounts of time, money and energy to further our ideals. The rest of the world thinks we're mad - and they're probably right.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

One of the most liberal and reasoned statement ever

Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama today, in full, is one of the most liberal and reasoned statements, and could have historical significance. It's therefore fitting that I turn the 300th posting on this blog over to him.

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Colin Powell, ex senior soldier and Secretary of State, backs Obama

There haven't been many good things about George W's almost 8 years in the White House, but his appointment of the wise and likeable Secretary of State was one of them. It was said at the time that Powell's dissatisfaction with the direction of the administration was the main reason that he left at the end of the first term.

Powell has led men into battle. He has dealt with foreign leaders at the highest level.

It is highly significant that he has today confirmed that he will be voting for Barack Obama.

It strikes me that the Democrats have lost Joe Lieberman to the McCain campaign - but Powell's endorsement is definitely a net gain for them.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

I've always believed the Golden Dozen is the ideal place for me

I shouldn't think that as an argument will get me there any more than Lembit's assertion that he's always thought the Presidency was the ideal job for him will work in his campaign. It's not much of a killer argument, really.

Anyway, I have been amused by the increasingly sensationalist headlines used by Jennie and James to try to dominate the Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen. What next? "Ros Scott eats Pan Fried Baby with shallots and tarragon for Dinner!"

Stephen Glenn has got in on the act too, although I suspect he left his sense of proportion on a street in Buckhaven when he was delivering last Sunday. Nestle, Jennie and James don't quite go in the same sentence. I did wonder whether it was wise to have a wee pop at Stephen, even in jest, when I am about to go and pick him up to take him to Glenrothes by election HQ for the fifth weekend in a row. The boy delivers leaflets like a demon and I don't want to upset him - especially seeing as it's pouring rain.

Mind you, he won't see this till Monday morning, so why not?

Anyway, some people have been a bit sniffy about how popularity doesn't necessarily mean quality. So what - we all like a bit of trash in our lives every now and then. The whole point of the GD is that the top seven are determined by click throughs and the rest are hand picked by those discerning folk at LDV. Quite a good compromise, I think.

I should point out, of course, that no babies have been eaten in the creation of this post............

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Nats Carry on Regardless with Booze Restrictions

Oh, what an illiberal bunch the SNP are. Holyrood, where they are in the minority, very clearly consigned their unfair, discriminatory and completely unnecessary plans to ban under 21s from buying alcohol in off sales to the dustbin. The Nats showed their disrespect for the will of Parliament by deciding to carry on with their plans anyway. They persuaded their conference to back their plans, albeit not overwhelmingly.

There is a glimmer of hope, though - their youth wing put up a spirited opposition to the proposals.

If I were them, I'd be wondering if independence would be all it was cracked up to be if I had to live under such an illiberal Government.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Palin as President

Thanks to LibCync for finding this wee gem - you just wave your mouse around and click. I liked the names and the bridge best.

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What if? Some questions on the US Presidential candidates

Thanks to Sara for drawing attention to these questions going round the blogosphere about the presidential candidates.

I am fairly sure that if these things had been true of Obama, we'd have seen them in numerous Republican attack ads by now - indeed, would he even have made it to being the Democratic nominee?

It has a point - now, particularly in terms of marriage, some of these questions would be irrelevant here, but you have to remember that the US is generally much more socially conservative.

What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, following the debate,including a three month-old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his college graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if Obama couldn’t read from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to publicly display a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama’s family had made their money from beer distribution?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected a reality, if the tables were turned, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are? This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative characteristics in
another when there is a color difference.

And, think of this - the candidates’ educational backgrounds:

Barack Obama:
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse Unive rsity College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

John McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin: Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tavish - I Hope Ros Wins

I thought today, as the ballot papers landed, would be a good time to give you another snippet from the Bloggers' Interview with Tavish.

When asked who he was backing for the Party Presidency, he smiled and said "I hope Ros wins."

So, he's joining man of the moment Vince Cable, Party legends Shirley and Paddy and hundreds of activists from around the country in giving Ros public backing.

This is very good news for the Ros campaign....

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A good way to ruin my day

Thank you, BBC, this
is just not what I want to hear, especially first thing in the morning.

I can cope with normal house spiders - they eat flies after all, but I don't like the idea of finding the poisonous critters under my sofa.

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Labour's sour grapes on 42 days

It is undoubtedly a good thing that the Government has decided not to go ahead with its draconian, illiberal and unnecessary proposals to detain terror suspects without charge.

I did not like Jacqui Smith's tone, though. Basically she said that we opponents of the measure are a bunch of wimpish soft lefties and woe betide us if anything happens. And if it does happen, woe betide us if we don't pass this special piece of legislation in it that will have 42 days and heaven knows what else in it.

42 days' detention without charge is just plain wrong. There is nothing that will make it right, but it seems that the Government would quite cynically repay one assault on our liberties with another.

Smith's comment that "I don't believe that it's enough to cross our fingers and hope for the best" - well, for all the good ID cards are going to do, their massive cost is the equivalent of doing just that.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Tavish Scott meets the Bloggers, Part 1 - Taxing Matters

On Saturday afternoon, 4 intrepid Scottish Bloggers, myself, Stephen, his blogging partner, Lionel de Livi (a very cute little Livingston FC supporting lion, and Bernard met over coffee (actually Earl Grey for some) with Tavish Scott, newly elected Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader. My first thought was to wonder what on earth it is about lurid pink ties that makes our leaders want to wear them - Nick wore a horrendous one on the leadership Question Time last year and Tavish chose a taking-no-prisoners shade of bubblegum pink on Saturday. It wasn't unpleasant - maybe it's symbolic that subtlety won't be a feature of this leadership.

I have to confess that Tavish is a bit like Obama for me. I suspect he would prefer I just left it there, but I will elaborate just a wee bit. Tavish is one of us, he's a decent person, and he's a million miles better than anyone any of the other parties has to offer. However, I'm still learning to love him, much the same as I am with Obama - I just don't quite get him yet. I was worried that his leadership would keep us on the same course, that we wouldn't develop the narrative we needed and internally that he might not quite remember that there's a party he has to take with him, preferably as painlessly as possible.

I certainly got my backside kicked out of the notion that we might stagnate under his leadership when he surprised us all by announcing the 2p tax cut plan at Bournemouth conference. I was worried about public services though, and I put to him that it wasn't really credible after the events of the last week to talk about cutting taxes any more when we'd surely have to put them up to pay for the bank bailouts?

Tavish was reassuring on this point: "The Scottish block grant is a fixed £30 billion which we are given to spend. We can make the savings and cut taxes in Scotland to help people now. This is a way we can help people now - this cut could be brought in next April if the other parties agreed."

Bernard asked if this was instead of or in addition to the Party's plan for a 4p tax cut - the Green Tax Switch. Tavish replied that the Federal Party's proposals won't happen now, but that this was a tangible thing that we in Scotland could do to improve people's lives.

Moving on to the Local Income Tax, Tavish was asked whether he thought that we should be less hung up about LIT and look at a range of options for local taxes. Tavish referred to Calman's suggestion that we need to consider "a basket of taxation." He said that should be flexible about how we approach taxation but clear on the principles which should underpin the system - taxes should be fair.

I asked about our position on exemption from LIT for students. Currently students don't pay Council Tax but there are worrying suggestions that a student working more than about 20 hours a week would have to pay LIT. A working week of 20 hours suggests that that student really needs the money whereas his flatmate with rich parents may not have to work. Tavish agreed, explaining that under our minimum student income proposals, students would be lifted out of paying any income tax unless they earn more than about £14000. He wants to "lift students out of financial difficulties that the current system creates for them."

More to follow in the next instalment.

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Scottish Conference 4 Ros

Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, like Bournemouth, was awash with those bright I'm 4 Ros badges. Conference Reps, from Parliamentarians, to Councillors to activists, wore their badges with pride.

While Ros has support in Scotland, Lembit had to send Stephen Kearney, the Henley by-election candidate all the way up north to hand out leaflets for him.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tax Cut Tavish interview - the highlights

Yesterday a small group of Scottish Lib Dem Bloggers, myself, Bernard Salmon and Lionel de Livi accompanied by his companion Stephen Glenn interviewed Tavish Scott MSP, new Scottish Leader, at the Party's Conference in Edinburgh.

I'll write it up properly in the next couple of days - no time now as I'm off to sunny Glenrothes for another day's campaigning - but watch this space to find out:

What Tavish thinks we can learn from Obama

How we will help struggling students

How our tax cuts are possible


Who Tavish wants to win the Presidential election.......

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Liberal Democrats Launch Glenrothes by-election campaign

Aided by a rather majestic looking golden eagle, Liberal Democrat candidate for Glenrothes Harry Wills launched his campaign today accompanied by Tavish "Tax Cut" Scott, Dunfermline by-election winner Willie Rennie and Dunfermline West MSP Jim Tolson.

Willie's comments reminded me of the last cold and wintry Scottish by-election - his own, in Dunfermline, in February 2006. That campaign was fought in difficult circumstances, but Willie Rennie listened to local people, campaigned on the issues that mattered to them and won through because people saw that he was a hard working, genuine person who would fight tirelessly for his constituents. He has continued to do that as MP as has Jim Tolson as MSP. Harry Wills is made in the same mould. Already he has taken up people's concerns about (among many other things) their housing repairs, anti-social behaviour, fears over the soaring cost of living and anger at the injustice of high rail fares.

The Liberal Democrats at both Holyrood and Westminster have shown that they can provide practical and credible solutions to the problems that people are facing at the moment. As Willie Rennie said, the Liberal Democrats have another good candidate and we have it all to play for.

The photo shows Jim Tolson MSP looking very much at home with the golden eagle.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

SNP and Tories forge unholy alliance in Glenrothes

I wasn't especially surprised to read this little titbit of gossip on Andrew Reeves' blog. So the Tories are basically going to work with the Nats to try to ensure Labour lose Glenrothes. Given their de facto coalition in Holyrood and Alex Salmond's recent hagiographic admiration of Margaret Thatcher, it's not that much of a revelation that they are working together. I'm just amused that they are not even bothering to hide it.

I agree with Andrew that the only way to send the Labour Party a message on November 6th is to vote for Harry Wills. Remember what happened the last time there was a by-election in Fife. Harry who has already been helping local residents with a whole host of concerns. He would be the kind of MP who would work tirelessly for local people and would be an excellent choice to work with fellow Fife MPs Willie Rennie and Ming Campbell. Got to be a better choice than the Government which only looks alive when you compare it to the banking system and the financial markets or the Tartan Tory Twins.

Blame it on the Boogie - the search for a new breakfast show

As many of you know, I like a good bit of trash - I watch more reality tv than is good for me and I have been known to spend my hard earned cash, even during the credit crunch, on rubbish magazines which do not increase my intellectual ability. And you can tell, too - my mental arithmetic when adding up prices at the school book fair both today and yesterday was shockingly bad.

My mornings are usually spent waking up to Good Morning Scotland, then watching BBC Breakfast, especially when the utterly wonderful won't hear a word against Bill Turnbull is on. On my drive to work, between around 8:50 and 9:30, however, I have been a huge fan of Forth One's Boogie in the Morning breakfast show.

At its best, this show made the journey to work a pleasure. I would arrive in the office so crammed full of endorphins that I was just the epitomy of loveliness to everyone (heavens, I hope my colleagues aren't reading this). The interraction between DJ Boogie (real name Andrew Bouglas) and his then team of Jill McLaren and "Dingo" Dave Konov was the best I'd heard since the days of Steve Wright in the Afternoon and Simon Mayo and the Breakfast Crew on Radio One in the early 90s.

Basically at some point on my journey to work, you could guarantee I would laugh out loud. Some of the old classic Boogie, Jill and Dingo stuff is here.

Then, around a month ago, the cold chill of Winter set in. With hardly any notice, Jill was sent packing from the show, Dingo was banished to be producer, never to be heard from again and Arlene Stuart was shipped in from Forth 2 to take over.

I hated it from the start. Arlene is not a bad person and I'm sure she's a very accomplished broadcaster, but I just don't think she fits into this genre. She's the woman who's advising us how to cope with the Credit Crunch, or reading the news, she's much more GMS than Boogie. Coupled with that is the fact that she and Boogie have absolutely zero on-air chemistry. They have even had to re-admit Dingo Dave to the fold to try to get the show going.

Basically the show seems as if it's been completely sterilised. I have barely laughed since the changeover happened and never out loud. The riotous, warm and jovial atmosphere has gone.

Anyway, it got from bad to worse this week. They have been going on about Page 3 of the Sun and in particular taking the mickey out of the tabloid headlines that are attributed to her. Now, the first ever uni debate I attended was "This House would ban Page 3." We had even got Clare Short to come up. It was the first real time I had been confronted with feminism and thought about the issue behind this degrading and demeaning treatment of women. So, I wasn't particularly pleased to hear Page 3 talked about as if it were something socially acceptable.

Then, today, to put the icing on the cake, they started talking about David Duchovny's exit from rehab after 6 weeks of therapy for sex addiction and speculated as to what form the treatment might take. Boogie suggested that he might be shown photos of ugly women to put him off.

All of a sudden I felt I was back in the Benny Hill/Carry On world of the 1970s where this kind of stuff was acceptable. So much for 30 years of progress.

There is a serious side to this - there is so much pressure on people, especially girls, to conform to a perfect body image which isn't achieveable for most of us, or arguably any of us without real trouble or potentially risk to our health. When you can be bullied at school for being fat - and fat can be a size 12 - or having spots, it's just not appropriate to legitimise taking the mickey out of anyone who doesn't meet the expected standard of appearance.

Now, it's not as if I can't take offensive. Heck, I read Mr Eugenides which is not for the faint hearted. Most of the time I can forgive him because he is so funny, but the new Boogie is just stale and I feel like I have just lost my connection wtih the show.

Anyway, I got to work in seventeen kinds of rage and decided that I had to do something about this. I rang up Forth One, which I've never done before, expecting to get someone on reception to whom I could very quietly and reasonably say "I know this is not your fault, but I want to register my feelings about......." So I rang the number, and ended up going straight through to Boogie himself. Not live, obviously, but I said how I felt, he said "oh, come on it was only a joke, I said I thought his show wasn't as good any more and he said "you have a choice." I said yes, and I'd be using it.

So, I'm on the lookout for a bit of light and funny trash to listen to on my way to work. Suggestions anybody?

Supporting Candidates

Duncan Borrowman and Mark Valladares have both written thoughtful pieces on how to avoid situations where the relationship between PPC and local party breaks down. Mark calls for more support for candidates. Duncan goes further by outlining some of the situations, including bullying and harrassment by small groups within local parties, that leads to selected candidates quitting.

There are two sides to this - prevention and cure. Local Parties sometimes have way too high expectations of the amount of tme a PPC can give to them - and will accept no less than 24/7. Perhaps the selection preparation should include detailed guidance to all key players in local parties about what they can reasonably expect from a PPC with similar guidance being given to approved candidates.

The easiest way to prevent tension is simply just not going to happen any time soon. At the moment, there are just too few people carrying out too many roles within the Party. We all need a bit more Party/Life balance. Burnout and stress are significant factors in relationship breakdowns. If we can't solve the problem, we at least need to be aware of it.

In terms of cure, if a PPC has resigned, particularly in a key seat, should there not be some sort of intervention to work out what has gone wrong with the aim to prevent the same thing happening again? The local party should not be allowed to select again without it and the candidate should have a long debrief. If there has been obvious fault, the party needs to have a sanction, to

Finding a way to deal with this issue sounds like a job that a full-time President of the Party could and should take on before any more good people, from both local parties and PPCs are demoralised and demotivated.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Is the Rail Strike Justified?

RMT members across Scotland are holding 2 24 hour strikes this week, which effectively mucks up the entire week's services for the loss of only a third of the week's pay.

I'm normally a fairly fierce critic of unions because I think that in general they do a fairly rubbish job of representing their members, particularly when these members are low paid women - during the nursery nurses' strike of 2004, I felt that the union had let their members down by engaging in a protracted dispute that was always on a hiding to nothing. And don't get me started on home care workers.......

Network Rail and the RMT don't even seem to be able to agree what the dispute is about - NR think it's voluntary safety assessments and the RMT think it's about Network Rail being able to play havoc with people's lives. If you read here, you will see that the union is saying that the new working practices give Network Rail the opportunity to drag people who had been told they had particular days off into work at the drop of a hat.

The idea that an employer should have the right to do that is clearly ridiculous. If you are told that you have, say Wednesday and Thursday off, you arrange your life around that. You may have children to look after, much sought after doctor's or dentist's appointments to keep - or even golf to play or a dog to walk. It's not the employers' or anybody else's concern. Whatever, if you have been told that you will have a day off, then that should be the case. I don't believe employers should ever interfere with annual leave, either - although I understand it happens.

If that is in fact the case, the union has a very strong argument in its favour.

Kezia steps down from her Soapbox

There aren't so many of us women political bloggers up here in Scotland so I feel a bit of a sense of loss tonight at the news that Kezia Dugdale has decided to stop blogging. She explains her reasons here.

I liked her style, I agreed with her on a few things and I found that she always had something orginal and relevant to say. The Scottish blogosphere is dominated by men and nationalists, neither of which are mecessarily bad concepts in themselves, but we need more balance. She showed that it didn't need to be that way and built up an admiring readership from across the political spectrum. I am somewhat at a loss to work out how she thought that her blogging would harm the Labour Party when she was actually able to represent them well even in these turbulent times.

I hope we see her back in the blogosphere one day.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Please to Remember the 6th of November

I have to say that I'm not wildly chuffed that the Government has set the date of the Glenrothes by-election for 6th November. I would much have preferred it if they'd gone for either the week before or after.

Given their other major failings on 10p tax, child poverty, pensions, encouraging a responsible and sustainable financial sector and data losses, my gripe that they have now ruined my long standing plans to thoroughly enjoy the climax of the US Presidential election is quite insignificant, but it's still annoying. Now, rather than sitting up all night with my friends watching the results, we will all be campaigning hard ourselves and will need what little beauty sleep we can grab. Oh well, I suppose that's what the infernal wickedness of Sky Plus is for.....

They should actually have broken with tradition and had it the day before - after all the result may well cause some fireworks...........

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Prescott and the Nats - Misbehaviour at the Station

So John Prescott has the misfortune to turn up at Glasgow Central Station just at the same time as a proud SNP Crowd is waving their new member for Glasgow East, John Mason, off on his first trip to the House of Commons. He gave them a gesture that can only be described as rude.

I would say from having watched the clip here that the dishonour is fairly equal. Sure, Prescott should have just walked on with his head held high. We can probably be grateful he didn't repeat his wee faux pas from the 2001 election because that could have been ugly. I wouldn't have put money on him against a baying mob of gloating Nationalists, that's for sure.

To be fair, he was getting a fair bit of verbal from the said baying mob so we probably should give him brownie points for being restrained.

Whatever happened to manners?

How low can you go, Sarah Palin?

Well, it was bound to happen, wasn't it. The McCain/Palin Campaign is in freefall after McCain appointed himself saviour of the global economy and then botched it by failing to ensure that his own party backed the bailout early last week. Sarah Palin herself hasn't helped with her performances in tv interviews which have raised concerns about her ability to mind the shop if McCain were incapacitated for some reason.

You would have hoped that they would have stuck to the issues rather than play dirty, but this is the US Republicans we're talking about.

Sarah Palin has now started throwing accusations about former associates of Obama.

Sadly, we can assume that this sort of mud-slinging will only continue as the McCain/Palin bandwagon sinks in the polls.

Mixed Messages from Labour

So Gordon can still surprise us. Pulling off Mandelson's return to Government was quite spectacular. Everyone expected Mandelson to be put out to grass, not brought back into the Cabinet. Now, rather than the media pulling him apart, they will be constantly looking for and stirring up conflict between him and his old enemy Mandelson. It will be like Blair and Brown all over again.

However the audacity of this move was not matched by the decision to keep poor old Jack McConnell in this country. Everyone has been waiting for his posting to Malawi for ages and I'm sure he and Bridget must have got around to choosing the curtains for the High Commissioner's residence in Lilongwe. It would have been quite the thing to split the SNP's resources and present them with a real conflict between Glenrothes and getting a majority in the Parliament in Motherwell and Wishaw.

Nor did they dare risk a by-election in Ashfield where the Liberal Democrats have gone from strength to strength in recent years, so Geoff Hoon gets to deal with the British trains rather than take the Eurostar to Mandelson's old job.

It looks again like they've encouraged the press to think something and then bottled it at the last minute.

So the bold new reshuffle has not been matched by bold strategic thinking. It's too early to say whether bringing Mandelson back will be a net gain for them or not - I suspect not. Whatever happens, we can guarantee it won't be boring in the Labour Party.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tom Harris to leave Government

Commiserations to Tom Harris, a fellow Scottish blogger, on his forced exit from the Government. He seems to be a genuine human being and from what he writes on his blog has a great sense of humour and a wife who keeps his feet on the ground.

What gets me is how come BBC News 24 are only just revealing this now, when he has had it on his blog since at least 9.40 last night?

Keep up at the back.................

The Nats and Underage Sex

Of all the stupid ideas the SNP Government has ever had, their idea of equalising the law to make 13-15 year old girls as well as boys criminally liable if they have consensual sex has to be up there with the worst. Stephen Glenn has already explained the dangers of this measure deterring girls from seeking proper advice and help, but I want to concentrate on the lunacy of getting us into this position.

We are now in the situation where we have two options: Holyrood either criminalises young girls as well as boys for having sex or it takes this measure out of the bill which could give the message that the Parliament condones underage sex.

The second option is clearly the sensible solution, but we should never have got into this mess. It's so typical of the Nats not to have thought things through. Thank goodness the Children's Commissioner has intervened in this. She too thinks it's ridiculous to drag these teenagers into the criminal system.

Of couse we need to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies, but this is not a job for the judicial system - it's for health and education to provide the information and support to both teenagers and their parents so that young lives are not harmed by pregnancy, sti or the emotional turmoil that too early sexual activity inevitably involves.

Yet another example of how the Nats cannot be trusted on the vital social issues we have to deal with.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Common sense prevails at Holyrood

I've been really upset several times in recent years to see profoundly illiberal measures such as 42 days' detention without charge, control orders and ID cards being passed by Westminster.

So I was pleased today that the Scottish Parliament rejected the illiberal SNP plan to stop under 21s from purchasing alcohol at an off licence.

I may have said this before, but the Lib Dems are the only party people can trust with their civil liberties. Labour is hardly a byword for fairness if you think that they defied all professional advice to push for 42 days, the Tories are a joke - they will only be for civil liberties if it is politically opportune and the SNP have shown on so many issues that they will not safeguard freedoms we all hold dear.

Well done Holyrood! This decision is up there with the smoking ban, abolition of tuition fees, free personal care and STV for local Government.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Sun doesn't shine on Iain Gray

I almost feel sorry for Iain Gray, new Scottish Labour leader. He got a bit of a pasting from Matt Bendoris in today's Sun

His crime? Basically being boring. The Gray by name and Gray by nature thing was an easy an analogy to come up with and Iain does seem to think that he has to live up to it. The problem is that for all his talk of re-connecting with the people, he just doesn't have the interpersonal skills to get them to take notice.

It was an act of collective stupidity for the Labour Party to elect him as leader. He's the guy who should be locked in a room with a balance sheet, not let loose on the street to meet people. Cathy Jamieson would have been a much better choice with Gray being given a senior shadow cabinet portfoliio.

It's difficult to see who he is going to appeal to. Salmond, for all his faults, is very good with people, Tavish Scott is also comfortable out on the stump and you know he's got that bit of Viking about him to kick his opponents into touch, and it's very difficult, despite her being a Tory, to dislike Annabel Goldie. Iain Gray has not much to offer.

I'm sure he's very decent and respectable, but he just doesn't seem to have any energy about him. Maybe that will grow as he gets more comfortable in the role. We'll see.


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