Friday, April 30, 2010

Breaking News - the Guardian backs the Liberal Democrats #nickcleggsfault

I used to buy the Guardian avidly, but I gave it up as I was disillusioned at its slavish backing of Labour despite everything.

Now, at last, they are saying that they are "if the Guardian had a vote in this election it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats."

Chances of me having time to read Guardian tomorrow = 0

Chances of me buying the Guardian tomorrow and from now on = definite.

This is really quite a major moment for the Liberal Democrats and it's all, as they say on Twitter, #nickcleggsfault for the fantastic way he's led the party since his election just 28 months ago. That's not entirely fair, because the Almighty Vince and lots of other people who've gone to Conference and helped develop policy (have I mentioned that any member can help make party policy given that we're a genuinely democratic party?) have had a part to play in the programme we have put together.

If you want to join us, just click here.

Dog Whistle Dave and the Debate Deception

There was an altogether depressing tone about last night Prime Ministerial debate. Not from Nick Clegg, who presented our positive vision of fairness transforming our taxes and our politics, but from the other two, who barely proposed anything positive between them, but spent the entire time attacking each other and, predominantly, Nick.

I wish I had the time to analyse their contributions minute for minute because I guess the largest proportion of what Nick said would be positive and largest proportion of the Labservatives' would be negative.

I guess that we should feel complimented by the attention. We don't mind scrutiny. Heavens, there aren't many parties who wear their hearts on their sleeve like we do. We're pretty open. We're also generally people who are hardwired to question everything they're told anyway, so we actually welcome the debate. What is wrong, though, is just to tell lies about us like both David Cameron and Gordon Brown did last night.

Dave's dog whistle had been polished and put in pride of place. I'd heard his manifesto described earlier in the campaign as a hard bound version of the Daily Mail. He was almost like Paul Dacre's poodle last night.

On immigration, I wonder how concerned people really would be about the subject if they weren't being told on a daily basis how bad it is by the right wing press. I mean, I've heard the Daily Mail line on doorsteps in places in Scotland where you could go days without meeting any immigrants. People are saturated in this sort of nonsense and in my experience, sitting down with them quietly and explaining the facts tends to reassure them that Sharia Law isn't going to be introduced tomorrow.

I have to claim an interest of sorts in that I've helped numerous people who have had horrendous difficulties with the immigration system. Decent people, often vulnerable, every one of them, whose treatment at the hands of our immigration authorities has made me ashamed to be British: the mother sent to the other side of the world from her breastfeeding baby (against their own Home Office policies) essentially to fill in some forms; the gay man told he would have to go back to his home country to face persecution and possibly death; the newly married couple split up on a technicality, unable to enjoy their lives together because one can't get in here and the other can't get into the spouse's home country. There's also the case of Rima Andmariam, a 17 year old Eritrean girl who could be separated from the loving family she's found in Glasgow and sent to Italy. Help her, please, if you can.

The disgraceful pandering of the Conservative Party to the Daily Mail line has led them to come up with a completely unworkable policy that they can't enforce. As Nick Clegg pointed out last night, 80% of our inward immigration comes from the EU - and many more British people go out to live in various places of the EU, too. Those figures quoted by Nick and which David Cameron refused to accept when challenged stack up as the Economist shows:

"Workers from outside the EU make up just one-fifth of all immigrants when students (who pay valuable tuition fees) are excluded."

David Cameron alluded to an extra 1.2 million people who would be straining our public services under our anmnesty, based on 600,000 people being granted citizenship and all of them bringing in one person. Let's be clear:


The truth is that since the Tories abolished exit controls, nobody knows how many illegal immigratns are here, although the LSE reckons it's around 725,000.

Our manifesto talks about an earned route to citizenship for those who can show they've been here for 10 years or more. Brown and Cameron seized on this as something that would open the floodgates to people to come here and get rewarded for doing the wrong thing. I wonder which part of

"this earned route to citizenship will not apply to anyone arriving in the UK after 2010"

they don't understand.

Only a small proportion of people would qualify for the strict conditions of that earned route to citizenship - have been here for 10 years, speak English, have no criminal record and want to commit to Britain in the long term. Even those who do qualify are unlikely to have a spouse or child abroad as they will have been living and working in the UK illegally for at least 12 years (after they have done our 2 years of probationary citizenship). In fact, it's much more likely that they will have formed relationships and had children in this country who are using public services but who they are not paying for because they are not paying tax.

I am actually doling out a small smack on the wrist to Nick for forgetting to remind people that there is already a "secret amnesty", operated by both sorts of Labservative government, for those who can prove they've been here or 14 years. He spoke about this on Andrew Marr last week and it could have done with another airing in front of a larger audience.

Moving swiftly on to the Euro, which David Cameron tried to portray us as drooling to join, again what part of

"We believe that it is in Britain's long term interests to join the Euro but Britain should only join when the economic conditions are right and in the present economic situation they are not. Britain should only join the euro if that decision were supported by the people of Britain in a referendum."

can they not read and understand? Ok, we are better disposed to the Euro if it's in Britain's interests, but isn't that better than a refusal to consider it on principle even if it would benefit Britain? And, under our plans, you get the chance to have your say - the Tories, by the looks of it, wouldn't give us that choice. I have to say I was a bit surprised by my 10 year old, just as she was about to fall asleep last night, saying "Mummy, I want to join the Euro." Seriously, that just came out of nowhere.

Oh, and before you dismiss anyone on benefits as a scrounger, imagine how it would be if your only income was around £65 per week. Most people trapped in that life desperately want out and the Liberal Democrats offer a way out. Alistair Carmichael spoke in the debate on Sunday about how a chap in Shetland had explained to him that if he took a job, he'd only have £19 per week to feed, heat and clothe himself. If he stayed on benefits, he'd have £45. What a disgrace that that situation has existed under Labour and the Tories. Imagine what a difference our positive policy of raising the tax threshold to £10,000 would make to him!

Anyway, can I make a suggestion? If you hear the other parties talking about us negatively, come back to our manifesto and our website and read it for yourself. Ask your local Lib Dem PPC. That way you will be able to get the truth of the matter.

Dog Whistle Dave has failed to scare the country into backing him by casting spectres of economic apocalypse in the event of a hung parliament. He's going to revert and scaremonger on immmigration, Europe and "benefit scroungers" (copyright Daily Mail, not me). Don't let him steal this election with lies. The truth is that it's now a choice between David Cameron and Nick Clegg as PM - Labour seem destined to crash and burn now - do you want a Government based on the Daily Mail worldview, or one based on fairness and cleaning up politics up. Like the man on Big Brother says, you decide........

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to help the #LibDems win!

Maybe you've been inspired by Nick Clegg's excellent, common sense performance during the election campaign.

Maybe you were impressed by Vince Cable's wise and credible proposals for the economy.

Maybe you have been helped by a local Liberal Democrat Councillor like Daisy Benson or Allan Knox and were impressed by the work they did.

Maybe you're just sick to death of the Labservatives - the red lot inferring you should be lucky to have them and if you don't vote for them the nasty blue lot will come and eat your firstborn, the blue lot forecasting an apocalyptic economic future if you don't vote for them.

Perhaps this has motivated you to get involved for the first time, to help in a campaign. It is a great experience. Some of the best fun I've had in my life has been amidst the pressure of an election campaign. There are all sorts of things you can do from stuffing envelopes to delivering leaflets to telephone canvassing to putting a poster up to entering stuff onto a computer to knocking on doors. You can do as much or as little as you want to and you meet all sorts of fabulous people.

Wherever you are in the country you can volunteer here.

I just wanted to mention a few campaigns where friends of mine are standing and who have a real chance of winning. First there are the two energetic Edinburgh candidates, Kevin Lang in North and Leith whose HQ at 5 Bonnington Road Lane is now up and running and who can be contacted on 07786 062 302 (they even have a campaign theme song and lots of cake) and Fred Mackintosh in Edinburgh South, only 405 votes behind Labour who have only just selected a candidate, is based at 4 Grange Road Edinburgh, 0131 662 1513. One of the most disappointing moment of my political life was coming so close in 2005. This time let's hope Fred can win. I've spent loads of time canvassing in his former council ward in my time and the people there have a huge affection for him because of the way he fought for their area.

There's also Katy Gordon in Glasgow North, contactable on 0141 221 3167. In Aberdeen South, local campaigner John Sleigh, who was instrumental in the effort to save Doonies Farm has only 1348 votes to make up. He can be contacted at 173a Crown Street, or 01224 571959.

South of the Border, if you happen to be near Watford, Sal Brinton is in a very good position to beat the sitting Labour MP. The added bonus of helping in her campaign is that fellow blogger Sara Beford keeps the Army marching on its stomach with a delicious array of home baking.

Ed Fordham in Hampstead and Kilburn needs only 474 votes to win. He also has been fighting an energetic campaign for several years. I knew him way back when I was in England and he's fantastic.

Finally, Bridget Fox, in Islington South and Finsbury, heroine of the emergency motion at Liberal Democrats' Spring conference, whose work has helped to ensure that Lib Dem MPs are opposing the controversial Digital Economy Bill would also make a fabulous MP.

These lovely people will all be able to find you something to do - you never get to the end of your work in an election - there is always more you can do to get your message across or help local people.

It was during the 1983 election that I as an idealistic 15 year old casually wandered into the SDP HQ in Wick looking for a copy of a manifesto - and I've never looked back.

If you want to make a difference in this election, come and join us!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A few words about Gordon Brown's faux pas

Sure, Gordon Brown mucked up big time. Like Neil Kinnock's tumble on the sands at Brighton, his remarks as he left after a conversation with Rochdale voter Gillian Duffy may well go down as the defining moment of his leadership. It may even go down as the moment this election irrevocably turned.

Before you criticise too much, though, can you hand on heart say that there has never been a moment in your life when you have said something you really shouldn't to let off steam privately?

I'll bet you there's not a politician on this earth who hasn't said something similar at some stage. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that there's not a person on this earth who hasn't irrationally cursed their boss, or a customer or someone who doesn't really deserve it when they thought they couldn't be heard.

There is so much pressure on political leaders. They're all absolutely exhausted. Hell, I was actually in tears earlier because I'm so tired at the moment and I don't have to go out in public and smilingly greet loads of people every hour of the day when I'm not staring at the likes of Jeremy Paxman or travelling. They must all be pretty wrecked and in some ways mistakes like this are inevitable.

That said, one of the reasons I can't abide the Labour Party is that they seem to have a very narrow vision of what is acceptable and what isn't. If you don't agree with them 100%, they think there's something wrong with you. I could never deliver that sort of conformity to anyone or anything and I'm deeply suspicious of an organisation that demands it. Maybe if they just relaxed a bit, they could cope with dissent a bit better.

There is however, a small part of me in that very soft mother hen type psyche of mine that just wants to give Gordon Brown a cup of tea and a cuddle (purely platonic for the avoidance of doubt). It could have happened to anyone, but only he was unlucky enough to have a mike from a media empire that hates his guts strapped to him.

Liberal Democrats and Tax Credits - the truth exposed

Gordon Brown has been following David Cameron's example of how to deal with his party's inability to engage the public in his campaign - when in doubt, scare people. Yesterday it was tax credits. He painted the Lib Dems as nasty people who would take money away from poor children, an assertion that has zero credibility given that Vince Cable's tax plans do more to help people on the lowest incomes than anything Labour has ever done. Our plan for fair taxes will take 4 million of the lowest earners out of paying tax altogether and will give £700 a year back to every other working adult in the household.

Ok, let's have a look at exactly what the Lib Dems will do as regards tax credits. Basically what happens now is that you get quite a lot of help with tax credits and child care costs up until your household income is around £16000, which isn't really that much. Then, from £16000 until around £50,000 and in some cases up to £75000, you get a minimum award of around £545 per year. What will happen under Lib Dem plans is that the highest earning 20% of claimants will no longer get this minimum award. They will, however, benefit from the £700 every taxpayer would get from the raising of the tax threshold. That would give them either a net gain of £155 or £855 depending on how many taxpayers are in the household.

We get this minimum award on an income signifcantly higher than £16000. If I really think about it, we don't really need it. It's nice to have, but it's not essential. We are not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but when public finances are stretched, I don't see why we and those who earn a lot more than we do should get this extra tax credit, especially as we will also benefit from the £700 from taking the tax threshold to £10,000. Actually, under the Lib Dems we would still be £155 better off.

4 out of 5 people who currently qualify for tax credits would continue to get them and they would also benefit from the raising of the tax threshold and be a whole £700 better off per taxpayer who earns more than £10,000 and anyone who earns less than that won't pay any tax at all.

That to me seems like a good deal. I am better off and it also means that the most vulnerable people get more help - and they will. Liberal Democrats will give the Winter Fuel Allowance to disabled people, something Labour has failed to find the will or a way to do. If you're disabled and can't move around much, it's much more difficult to keep warm and you really need the extra help.

Don't for a moment think that Labour's tax credit system is actually perfect - as I blogged recently, they are taking thousands of the poorest families to court to recover overpayments that a lot of the time were the result of official error.

Now for the next bit of scaremongering put about by our opponents - that we are going to restrict Child Benefit. No. It's just not true. It's not going to happen. End of story. We will not touch Child Benefit. Have I made myself clear?

What we are going to get rid of is the Child Trust Fund - the baby bonds introduced by Labour in 2002. Any money we've put into them already will be safe, but for the future, we just can't afford them. The current system puts in £250 at birth and another £250 at age 7. At current prices, when the child is 18, that would barely pay for a month's rent in halls of residence. We'll put the money from that into cutting class sizes and making sure that the poorest children are not disadvantaged in education by their postcode. We can't afford them and we can do a lot more good with the money they cost us.

I personally think that Labour have a darned cheek having a go at us when we are doing more to help the people they have let down the most - working families on low incomes. They've created a situation where the poorest children come from those families where someone is working because they don't qualify for the full range of benefits like free prescriptions, grants for school uniforms, free school meals and so on. That's an absolute disgrace. Labour should just shut up and stop trying to scare people into voting for them.

Yes, Duncan, it is worth voting. - every single vote counts this time!

Duncan, the Scottish blogosphere's highly talented Doctorvee, asked if it was worth voting, given that he lives in the PM's seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath where his vote according to the Voter Power has the power of 0.09 votes.

Now, I have to say that this Voter Power website is talking rubbish in this election where you have Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Tories within not much more than the margin of error in most opinion polls.


Every vote for a Liberal Democrat candidate, even if it doesn't elect a Liberal Democrat MP, will strengthen Nick Clegg's chances of getting to introduce meaningful change. Your vote could be the vote that pushes Labour into third place. Your vote could be the one that forces the Labservatives to realise that they are going to have to take the will of the people seriously. They can't get away with ignoring a huge desire for change from across the country.

And, of course, if we get electoral reform, particularly our preferred system of STV which gives most power to the voter, then everybody's votes will count where they live in the future.

If you stay at home because you think your Liberal Democrat vote will be wasted, you are playing into the hands of the Labservatives and nothing will change.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In which my vile day was brightened by an elephant

I have not had a good day. The bits of it I have been awake for have been vile. But mostly I have been sleeping.

I got up to pick Anna up from school and then spent some time working.

Now I am about to limp back to bed.

It would probably be better if I could learn to pace myself, but that wouldn't get the work done.

Anyway, one thing did cheer me up today. Actually, two.

If you are getting scared by what Gordon Brown and David Cameron are saying about a hung parliament, read these two articles. The first is by a very wise elephant who explains why the Tories are just wrong, and the second is by our favourite blogging bruiser James, for Comment is Free, who has a left hook for Labour.

Always keep in mind that 49% of pepole want to see a Lib Dem Government and would vote that way if they thought we could win. Well, we're second in most polls at the moment, and all the parties are pretty much within the margin of error. If there was ever a time for your vote to make a difference, this is it!

You CAN turn things upside down - fabulous election video

Well I don't know who nathankw is, but he or she has made one of the best videos of the election. It's beautiful and very clever.

Share with everyone you know!

#Libdems Nick Clegg launches manifesto for the Armed Forces

Not that you would have guessed from the BBC News coverage yesterday, which tried to make out that Nick Clegg and David Cameron were slugging it out over a hung Parliament while the saintly Gordon Brown concentrated on policy, the Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto for the Armed Forces.

Typically, this concentrates on righting the wrongs meted out to those who have least power - those at the bottom end who have to suffer low pay and poor housing. We've all heard about how horrendous some military homes are, with kitchens and bathrooms not changed in decades, damp, mould. We will double the rate of refurbishment so that troops don't have to go to fight on the other side of the world knowing that their families are stuck in poor housing which affects their health.

We'll also pay troops a decent wage. It's not right that young men and women come into the army earn less than new police constables. We will increase their pay and taper up an increase through the ranks from the bottom.

It's the Liberal Democrats who have been speaking up for troops all through this last Parliament - whether it's about housing, pay or the disgrace of them being sent out to fight for the country without even decent basic equipment. Again we are standing up for fairness in the way the lowest paid and those with least power are dealt with.

Monday, April 26, 2010

At a Glance Guide to what the main parties offer Scotland

As the last full week of the election campaign dawns, I thought I'd do a quick ready reckoner of what the four main political parties offer Scotland. Please don't expect this to be in any way objective, but it will be fair.

The Liberal Democrats:

If you vote Lib Dem, you get Nick Clegg. Yesterday on Andrew Marr he was brilliant, answering questions openly and honestly and sounding like he he could run the country. Go here and watch the whole interview.

Fair taxes: taking everyone earning less than £10,000 out of tax completely and giving everyone else £700 a year back. The situation where a city banker pays proportionally less tax than his cleaner on the minimum wage will end.

Clean up politics: a fair voting system for Westminster so we don't have the disgraceful situation where majority Governments can be returned on not much more than a fifth of the eligible vote, where some seats are guaranteed to stay in the same party's hands for generations.

A fair start in life for every child: meaning that the scandal of poorer children falling behind richer children at the age of 7, affecting their whole life chances, will end.

A sustainable,green economy: banks that dance to the government's tune, not the other way around, investment in renewable energy to make us carbon neutral in 40 years, jobs in sustainable industries,the Almighty Vince in charge.

Oh, and a Freedom Bill, already drafted and ready to go before Parliament which gets rid of the appalling erosions of civil liberties enacted by Labour, many of them with Conservative support.

AND taking the iniquitous Digital Economy Bill off the statute book and replacing it with something better.

An ambitions, positive programme, wouldn't you say?


Vote for us because we aren't the evil Tories and if you're lucky we might just get around to doing stuff we promised in 1997 like properly reforming the House of Lords. Oh, and we'll give you a referendum on electoral reform, but not on a system that actually gives you any more power. And we'll clean up politics by introducing measures we've already blocked.

The Conservatives

Vote for us because we aren't the evil Labour government and we don't want another 5 years of Gordon Brown, do we now?

Oh, and if you don't give us a clear majority to protect our rich friends and do nothing to help the poorest, well, the four horsemen of the apocalypse will be just around the corner.

But, Scotland, it doesn't really matter what you do, because we don't need your pesky votes anyway to get a majority. Mwahahahaha


If you don't let us in the leaders debate, we'll take you to court. Because we think that standing candidates in less than 10% of UK seats means we should have a place, despite the fact that there have been three debates between Scottish leaders.

You see, we need you to vote for us in outrage at this perceived injustice because, let's face it, we can't really offer you anything else.

We will stick our heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge that there's less money available rather than actually looking carefully at how Government operates and how we could protect the vital frontline services on less money.

We have no serious detailed plans on how to deal with the tax and benefits and pensions systems

We support the Tories' plan to stop Labour's NI rise, which'll cost a fortune and we can't tell you how we'll pay for that but we will and there will be less cuts as well.

So there you have it - a brief smorgasbord of what's on offer to Scottish voters this election. Many votes will be cast today as ballot papers start landing on people's doormats. A vote for the Liberal Democrats, in any seat, will be a vote for real, positive, permanent change and even if you don't directly get a Liberal Democrat MP, you'll help to bring about that change. Without the Liberal Democrats, things will stay pretty much the same.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Caron's Corkers - 25 April

It's now 10 days since Nick Clegg transformed this election with his stellar performance in the first leaders' debate. The Lib Dems are still riding high in the polls despite the best efforts of the Conservatives and their media pals and the rather pathetic sight of some Labour commentators (that's you, Polly Toynbee) making a case for them to cling on to power because they aren't the Tories.

Here's what Liberal Democrat bloggers are saying about the campaign:

Steph Ashley, in a passionate post that brought tears to my eyes, talks about her disappointment in 2005 and her hopes for this election:

And you are the toy they're fighting over. So, this time around then - stripping you of your rights and liberties, and stealing your money to pay for second homes most of you couldn't afford as first homes: does the government STILL get to win? Please say they don't. Please say you're going to choose something else. I want to wake up on the 7th of May with tears in my eyes, knowing that I am free.

David Matthewman talks practically about what freedom really means and how the Liberal Democrats would deliver.

Clegg and Cameron both talk about change. Wondering who to back? Read Cicero's comparison before you decide.

James takes Polly Toynbee to task in inimitable style.

If there is a clearer and more productive way forward than that in the case of a hung parliament, I haven’t heard of it. So let’s stop all this talk about tactical voting and the risks of getting both Brown and Cameron if you vote Lib Dem. The only thing we know for sure in this election is that a vote for the Liberal Democrats will get you Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, more Lib Dem MPs and a stronger Lib Dem mandate for change. Everything else is just noise.

Finlly, from the man of the moment himself, in his own words, from his closing statement last Thursday night: "people are beginning to hope that we can do something different this time."

Why the Tories' marriage tax break is rubbish

In some ways the argument's moved on from the Tories' plans to give a £150 tax break to newlyweds. Partly because it's been eclipsed by the surge in support for the Liberal Democrats and partly because they're not really talking it up because it is, to coin a good bit of Scottish vernacular, pish.

A couple of weeks ago, Nich put huge amounts of work into producing this cartoon which illustrates very well how rubbish the Tories' plans are on their own, but also how our's are much, much better:

There's far too much work gone into this for it to be forgotten - please share it with everyone you know by blogging, facebooking, retweeting, or anything.

Top Tweets - #nickcleggsfault

I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite tweets from the massive thread on Twitter which takes the mickey out of the way the Tory press is going for Nick Clegg.

"my betterware catalogue is taking the words classy and stylish to new levels. must be #nickcleggsfault" from rachelogerisso

"Nick Clegg was seen two weeks ago poking Eyjafjallajokull with a stick #nickcleggsfault" from urbancyclist

Just thinking, next Thick of It eps will be even better! #nickcleggsfault alexaamy

was going to take the girls to the beach tomorrow but now it's going to rain, that's #nickcleggsfault Yes, Mammy Dalby, but the sun will come outin very many ways if the Lib Dems win!

Who says Lab & Tory web campaign has been a disaster? They came up with biggest 2 tweetmemes: #iagreewithnick & #nickcleggsfault ssamani

There's a Libdem balloon following my wife around the house - I kid you not...we think it maybe a Weeping Angel, defo it's #nickcleggsfault agit8or

I should also say that there were very many tweets yesteray featuring blisters, sore feet, sunburn (honestly, slip, slap, slop, then wash your hands in case the leaflets get greasy), exhaustion, cheeriness, hope and optimism which really are Nick Clegg's fault.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Eclipse Trailer

Fairly near the top of my list of things to look forward to after the election is the new Twilight Saga movie, Eclipse, out on June 30th, which is coincidentally the day Anna breaks up for her Summer holiday. Eclipse is my favourite book in the series, and contains a lot of narrative and back story about how the Cullens became vampires. I did initially wonder how well it would transfer to the big screen.

A new trailer was released yesterday and it is truly fantastic. Excellent cinematography, fabulous werewolves, great effects, beautiful scenery. In fact, when I saw it last night, I was so happy and mellow that I couldn't bear to watch Paxman's interview with David Cameron. Enjoy!

Don't be swayed by Polly Toynbee's support for the old politics

Way back in the days of the Alliance, there were those in the SDP who really understood what liberalism was about, expecting and celebrating diversity and non conformity and respecting individuals, and there were others who just didn't, feeling more comfortable in a more authoritarian set up where everyone's expected, like sheep, to stick to the party line. When the merger came, the more liberal leaning ones stayed with the new party, and the more authoritarian ones didn't and many ended up backing the New Labour project.

Polly Toynbee was one of those who headed back towards the Labour Party and even now, as it looks into the abyss, she urges people to vote for it. She recognises its faults - interestingly she picks up on recent comments by Gordon Brown about Iran and North Korea (yeah, is he going to invade them?) and on illegal migrants.

What's interesting is that she barely mentions the really awful stuff that Labour has presided over:

- instigating an illegal war in Iraq (with Conservative support)
- sending troops into battle without proper equipment
- widening the gap between rich and poor
- British complicity in torture
- the disgusting detention of children in immigration centres
- complicity with the Conservatives over MPs' expenses and party funding
- blocking attempts to reform Lords and voting system
- erosion of civil liberties - police stopping people taking innocent photos
- the fundamentally illiberal Digital Economy Bill (with Conservatives support)
- 42 days' detention

There's more where that list came from too. Quite a sickening record.

The main thrust of Polly's argument is that the current electoral system, with all its flaws, will let the Tories in and they are EVIL. Well, she's not far from being right on her second point, but her scaremongering doesn't really stand up to scrutiny. For a start, she suggests that we feed the current poll figures into the BBC seats calculator and that should scare progressives into voting Labour.

It's not as if the example she gave handed an absolute majority to the Tories:

"Look at the result according to yesterday's BBC poll of polls: Clegg gets 30% and a puny 102 seats, Cameron gets 33% and only 258 seats, while Brown comes third with 27% and emerges as the victor with 261 seats."

The Tories find theselves with 3 seats less than Labour!

What Polly Toynbee seems to be arguing for is Labour dominance, the continuation of the Labservative hegemony that has blighted our politics for decades which as long as its left of centre is ok.

While she acknowledges that our electoral system is "disgraceful", her advice, to vote Labour, is not going to change that in any meaningful way. This is the same party who pledged to reform the House of Lords in 1997. Ok, so they threw out the hereditaries and came to a bit of a craven stop. Of course they are not going to bring about the sort of reform we need.

A vote for the Liberal Democrats, even if it doesn't directly elect you a Liberal Democrat MP, will be a powerful catalyst for change. Only the Liberal Democrats can deliver the sort of change that will properly engage people in politics.

Many polls are indicating that people want a hung Parliament. The only people who don't are those who have most to lose - the Labservatives.

If a coalition government emerges, it will not be the same as Government by one party on its own - for example, look at Scotland. We haven't had single party government for years. For 8 years the Liberal Democrats were in coalition with Labour. It wasn't perfect, but it delivered the abolition of tuition fees and free personal care which Labour at Westminster did not bring in. The Freedom of Information legislation brought in up here was so much more robust than Westminster's - in fact, it was a direct catalyst in our own expenses scandal which happened more than 5 years earlier than Westminster's. I've got plenty to say about the current SNP minority government, not much of it complimentary, but at least it's learning, sometimes the hard way, that it needs to work with the other parties. Overall, I think that politics at Holyrood is much healthier than at Westminster.

In a hung parliament, you can bet your life that the Liberal Democrats will stand absolutely behind their policies for fair taxes, cleaning up politics, giving children the support they need in school and getting the economy on a stable, sustainable,green footing, taking the banks by the scruff of the neck and sorting them out once and for all.

Polly Toynbee, in trying to scare us by raising the spectre of a Tory government, actually illustrates why we need change and why the real choice in this election is between the Labservative hegemony and the real people centred reform offered by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. For the first time in my lifetime, we have the chance to change politics for good. Let's just do it.

James tackles the same subect in his inimitably stonking form. No wonder he was once referred to as the Lib Dem Blogosphere's Tactical Nuclear B*****d

Friday, April 23, 2010

So the Tories were behind the smears on Nick Clegg

Well well, I've found something that's not #nickcleggsfault!

Yesterday, I suggested that one way of dealing with the smears on Nick Clegg, particularly the ridiculous one in the Torygraph which tried to depict his entirely correct receipt and registration of donations as something murkier, was to write to the advertisers in that publication to suggest that their brand was being damaged by being associated with such shenanigans.

Well, it seems that that argument has been reinforced by none other than Nick Robinson the BBC's political editor who confirmed last night that the Tories had had the political correspondents of the Tory papers in and fed them things they wanted published.

If that sort of thing makes you angry, take a few minutes to write to the likes of Waitrose, Nat West, Tesco, Thomson/First Choice and FlyBe. The links are to their contact details.

After that, go and help your nearest Liberal Democrat campaign. Find out how here.

It's all #nickcleggsfault

Unfortunately after yesterday's hasty early morning blog posting, circumstances, or more accurately campaigning for Willie Rennie in Dunfermline and West Fife and then being so knackered that I couldn't even move from the sofa to switch on the laptop.

I spent my day mainly squealing with excitement. It seemed like every time we turned a corner in Inverkeithing and Rosyth we saw another Willie Rennie diamond. Not once, anywhere, did I see any posters supporting anyone else. To add to my glee on that front, every so often I checked Twitter and was very amused to see the internet's reaction to the swathe of headlines in the Tory press which all but said that Nick would come round and eat your firstborn if he got anywhere near Downing Street, and that was after the IMF had taken away all your possessions.

Never let it be said that the internet isn't creative and original. At times yesterday the number 1 trending topic was #nickcleggsfault. It's very funny - Nick Clegg being blamed for everything from there being no bank holiday on St George's Day to pepole having stressful meetings at work to having run out of hummous. My contributions centred around Libby in Neighbours being in a bad mood, although I was in hashtag heaven after the debate when I posted this.

The telling thing now about #nickcleggsfault is that I don't recognise the names of very many of the contributors, meaning that this isn't something confined to the usual suspects and that ordinary people are being attracted by it. It grew so popular that even the BBC picked up on it.

And now I am going to have a quiet day working at home because I'm still feeling exhausted from yesterday and that is most definitely #willierenniesfault - but well worth it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One way we can deal with the smears on Nick Clegg

Why, you wonder, am I linking to a blatant Torygraph smear of Nick Clegg? This is the story that accounts how he received donations to cover part of salary costs in his office and registered them absolutely properly with all the relevant authorities at the time. When you read the headlines "Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem Donors and the payments into his private bank account", you are led to think that this is something murky, even if you don't read the article. It could plant an entirely false suggestion in your head about what the story was about.

I suspect that most people are wise to the fact that the Tories and their right wing media pals are pretty desperate at the moment. Nothing positive to offer the electorate, instead they want to throw lots of mud at Nick and the Lib Dems in the hope that some of it will stick. Cicero puts it beautifully here and Alix has made a vary salient comment on Stephen's excellent article over at Liberal Democrat Voice.

Ken Clarke's ridiculous suggestion that the very existence of a hung Parliament would have the IMF at our door was just laughable when you consider that up here we've had coalition or minority government in Scotland for the last 11 years. For the first 8 at least, fantastic things were delivered, like free personal care and the abolition of tuition fees, but even in the last 3, let's face it, the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west and the political culture is, I think, a lot healthier than the public behaviour of some would actually have you believe.

Anyway, a very much wiser person than I has suggested that when we see these stories in the press about Nick and the Lib Dems that are clearly nonsense designed to smear us, then we should contact major big name advertisers to suggest that being associated with this sort of behaviour is damaging to their brand. During the Jan Moir affair when she innacurately denigrated Stephen Gateley the day before his funeral, angry people did this and it may have led to some ads being withdrawn.

So, let's show the newspapers that this sort of irresposnible smear is not on by hitting them in the pocket. The webpage for the article (hence my link) contains associations with Dell, Ben and Jerry's and Amex that I can see. That's good for a start. I linked through to the AMEX website and annoyingly I can't find anywhere to e-mail them. If anyone else can help with providing an e-mail contact for their public affairs people, then that would be very helpful, but in the meantime, here's their snail mail contacts.

Once you've done that, get out on the streets and start telling everyone you know to vote for the Lib Dems and get involved in your local campaign. Sign up here along with the very many others who've joined us in the past week.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Havering Council havers over voter registration

I thought I'd just quickly slip in a "bureaucracy gone mad" story before sloping off to bed cos I'm about to collapse in a heap.

The deadline for voter registration passed yesterday so now it's too late to get a vote. In an attempt to encourage people to sign up, the Electoral Commission set up the About my Vote website to make the process very easy. All a would be voter had to do was download a form, print it off, fill it in and send it off to their council. Simples...

Or at least it was until the bureaucrats at Havering Council decided that they wouldn't accept the Electoral Commission's form. They decided that their form was better and the one produced by the people who run elections in this country just wasn't good enough, and open to fraud. Excuse me, but how on earth does the same information being filled in on an Electoral Commission, rather than a local, form make the information any more true?

They had a slight change of heart this week but still require voters to complete a second form within 5 days. I do hope that nobody has lost the right to vote as a result of their over zealousness.

I've come across this sort of jobsworth approach before. In 2007 I was in charge of sorting out the nominating process and I had to soothe one candidate who almost produced a litter of kittens after their nomination was turned down because it wasn't on that Council's form. They had downloaded the Electoral Commission form which had a tiny technical error in the small print, referring to the wrong paragraph in the legislation. The RO in question was the only one in Scotland to turn that form down.

Liberal Democrat Voice have more information here.

Just as a matter of interest, the best Council I have ever known for professional, fair, clear election prep and support is West Lothian. They have pre-election briefings for all candidates and agents where they take you through all the forms and the processes and are always willing to help out with questions. I wonder if Havering want to send some people north for a bit of training from Alex Linkston and his excellent staff. It sounds like they need it.

Lib Dems, Earthquakes and Promiscuous Women

One of the first things I read this morning was this tweet from Jo Swinson linking to this article in which a senior Iranian cleric pins the blame for earthquakes fairly and squarely on women dressing immodestly. This is what he said:

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes"

So, we have a major power player talking absolute rubbish to try to ensure that the forces of change don't take hold. It all goes to show why education is so important ensuring kids grow up with the skills to discern when people in power are talking rubbish. To use the earthquakes the area is particularly prone to and which have killed many thousands of people as a threat to manipulate people's behaviour and repress women is an act of cruel cynicism.

You could look at the Daily Mail's rather desperate attempt to attack the Liberal Democrats in the same light as the Iranian Cleric's. The old forces of power tryig to stamp out reform and progress. It's not a pretty sight. Today we have a 2 page spread which is laughable in many ways but comparing Vince Cable to Puff the Magic Dragon is bizarre even by its standards. They go on to attack Nick for his expenses, publishing a picture of his London home in a paragraph about his constituency home. Bear in mind as well that when Nick sells his home in Sheffield, the taxpayer will get every single penny of the profit because he doesn't believe that MPs should be in the propery game at taxpayers' expense. Also bear in mind that it was the Tories and Labour together who blocked expenses reform and openness which we'd been arguing for for a long time.

If the Liberal Democrats come to power, there will be big changes. Taxes will be fairer, with 4 million low earners being taken out of tax completely and we won't have the situation that Nick Clegg regularly mentions, that a rich city banker pay less tax on his millions than his cleaner does on her minimum wage. Politics will be fairer - with a fair voting system that will bring about Governments that the majority of people have a say in electing and give the voter maximum choice about who should be their MP. The ecoonomy will get the infrastructure boost it desperately needs with investment in green technology providing sustainable jobs geared at the ambitious target of making us carbon neutral in 40 years. Ambitious, yes, but look where we were 40 years ago when we didn't have automatic washing machines or home computers or video recorders.

The Liberal Democrats have offered a substantial and positive programme for Government while the others use fear of their opponents as a reason to vote for them.

So while we have Quentin Letts and the full force of the powers that be at the Daily Mail attacking us to try to stoke up the chances of their Tory pals but let's have a look at who actually think that our policies have some merit: the International Monetary Fund and retired generals.

I'd much rather take the word of experts in the field than of Quentin Letts and the Daily Fail on anything.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Caron's Corkers 20 April

I haven't done a round-up for a while, so here's a wee flavour of what I've been enjoying on the blogosphere over the past few days:

Have a look at this new and emerging site about women who write about politics - and, women who write about politics, please consider yourself encouraged to introduce yourselves to the people who run Missive

Poor, poor Daddy Alex is not well, but he still manages to write brilliantly, giving us 3 snapshots of politicians who are not up to it. All he asks of us to make him better is to make Nick Clegg PM. Let's get to it.

I'm with Debra on the planes situation.

Sarah proves she can be a geek, with her comparative analysis of the past 3 points systems for F1. I think it's only a small leap from here to electoral systems........ Seriously, it's fascinating.

Jennie is not chuffed with Radio 4.

Malc is undecided about how he's going to vote. I think he should relax, enjoy it and not try to hard to make his mind up just yet.

Neil calls for us to support Dr Evan Harris whose been the subject of a rather unjustified and uncalled for attack.

The Hon Lady Mark reveals the not very careully hidden flaws in Tory immigration policy.

And, just to be different when everyone and their dog is showing the Iain Dale Making Your Mind Up video, His Noble Lord Bonkership gives us the David Cameron song. It's an example of Adrian Slade's wicked genius that is not to be missed.

Tory Peter Lyburn apologises for NI letter - and quickly finds more hot water

Controversial Perth Tory candidate Peter Lyburn has apologised for adding the names of local business leaders to a letter to the press on the Tory proposals for National Insurance without their consent, thus misleading the public.

However it's not the first time he's done something like that according to the Daily Record. He's been putting around a leaflet with a picture of Miss Scotland Katharine Brown on it - again without her permission.

One mistake could be considered unfortunate. Two shows a disregard and disrespect for other people which is really not big and not clever.

Total Politics advise us to make our minds up

Remember 1981? There were riots, unemployment was sky rocketing, the Tory Government under Thatcher was hideously unpopular. I was 13 and being bullied badly at school and the only bright things in my life were the impending marriage of Charles and Diana and the wonderfully trashy primary coloured skirt ripping Eurovision winner from Bucks Fizz. Well, Iain Dale and his mates at Total Politics have used that song as the background to a very amusing video aimed at urging us all to get our backsides to the polls on May 6th. I have 2 comments to make. First, Lynne Featherstone is by far the star. That lady has rhythm and style. Second, in any other circumstance I'd suggest that Nadine Dorries doesn't give up her day job. Well, actually, I actually do think she should be deprived of her day job as an MP, but she is kind of like the drunk auntie at a wedding in this.........

Anyway, I find this time of day worst in my current state of health, so I hope you enjoy this wee pick me up.

Chris Grayling was bad enough on gay rights - but look at the SNP's John Mason

Not much time at the moment, but you might like to have a look at this interview from the Guardian in which SNP candidate for Glasgow East outlines his rather controversial position on gay rights. You thought Chris Grayling was bad.......

Can you imagine any b and b owner saying to any of their guests that they can't share a bedroom and they have to guarantee that there will be no "carnality"?

This is the relevant section of the interview:

"I asked if he would agree with Chris Grayling's position – that the bed and breakfast owner had the right to turn them away. Mason's argument took a complicated turn at this point, raising the possibility of separate rooms and no carnality on the premises, but eventually he said, "It's a tricky one, I have to say. There's a conflict of rights. The truth is I'm not sure where I stand on this. I was warned to leave it alone by my party."

No wonder the SNP told him to keep his mouth shut on this issue.

Scrutinising the Liberal Democrats

As the Liberal Democrat poll surge continues, panicked spin doctors from Labour and Tory have been heard muttering darkly about the need for more scrutiny of the Liberal Democrats. In reality, that's actually pretty easy.If ever a party wore its heart on its sleeve, it's us. We are by a million miles much more open and transparent in our policy making process than either of them so any questions you have are easily answered from our online resources. Our manifesto is available here in full so you can see exactly what we stand for. It tells you also how much it will cost, too.

The labservatives make it sound like they've never wasted any time reading a Liberal Democrat manifesto in their lives, which is complete and utter nonsense. In previous elections in our target seats we know all too well what "scrutiny" from the labservatives means - mainly telling all sorts of lies and half truths both about policy and electoral chances.

In 2005, Labour rather limply decided to attack us on local income tax in the face of our opposition to their illegal invasion of Iraq. The model they presented, of a nurse and a firefighter living in a band A or B property was just not realistic and failed to take account of the fact that the majority of people would be better off under our proposals, including the nurse and firefighter. Also on the ground, it seemed like the labservatives were colluding between themselves to try and make it look like we were out of the race.

Take Edinburgh South the seat I was working in in 2005 and 2001. I can't remember which way round this happened but maybe someone else who was there at the time can fill me in, but one of them, I think the red lot, put out a leaflet with a bar chart on it highlighting a "poll" that they had carried out putting Labour in first and the Tories in second. The message, they said, was that Edinburgh South was a 2 horse race between Labour and the Tories. This was complete and utter nonsense as the Liberal Democrats were only a couple of thousand behind Labour in 2001 with the Tories in a distant third.

Anyway, the other labservative then cheekily reproduced the same bar chart on their leaflet to boost their campaign.

And what happened on polling day? Labour won, by the skin of its teeth, with the Liberal Demorats just 405 votes behind and the Tories way back in 3rd, as we always knew they would be.

I am sure that the voters of Edinburgh South will be wiser this time and turn to Fred Mackintosh to get Labour out.

I went canvassing in Newington, Fred's former council ward, on many occasions, and I was always quite touched by the genuine affection people had for him and the respect they felt towards him for the way he'd fought for the area. Well, for the past 3 years, he's been putting in that sort of effort across the entire constituency.

What's happening now is that the labservatives are using the same sorts of tactics on a national level. Tactically we have Vote Clegg get Brown from Cameron and Vote Clegg get Cameron get Brown. They can't both be right. Actually they know fine that it's Clegg who's posing a severe threat to their decades long stranglehold on politics and that people are starting to see that things really could be different. And isn't it just typical that they can't offer the voter anything other than fear of their opponents?

In Scotland, the vote Clegg get Cameron line Labour is using is just bonkers. They are clearly taking the electorate for fools. Where are these places where Labour MPs are at threat from the Tories? Certainly not Dunfermline and West Fife, where the Tories got 8% last time. Labour's domination of that seat was broken - by Willie Rennie for the Liberal Democrats in the 2006 by-election. Since then, he's proved himself to be a popular, hard working and likeable MP who is cammpaigning to stop Labour turning Rosyth into a dumping ground for nuclear submarines, while Labour field a candidate who used to be paid by the nuclear industry to speak on its behalf.

Even before the Tories starting shooting themselves in the foot with dodgy letters to the papers and failing to vote for measures to support businesses with huge rate increases, there was no prospect of any sort of Tory surge up here.

The Labour attack lines which have annoyed me the most over the last 24 hours has been their blatant lies about our plans for tax credits and Winter Fuel Allowance. Let's get it absolutely clear - the people who are most in need will continue to get tax credits. We will reform them so that they are better targetted at the poorest but higher earning families who currently get around £545 in tax credits will get £700 for every taxpayer in the household - that's still a net gain. I'm staggered by Labour's bare faced cheek at attacking us on tax credits when it's them who are taking 50,000 poor families to court because of tax credit overpayments and who have set up a system that's so complex that it doesn't pay out the right amount in a good third of cases.

As for Winter Fuel Payment - if you hear that we're going to scrap it, that too is rubbish. In fact, Labour have presided over a system which pays this out to a couple of still working professional 60 year olds while parents struggling to give a severely disabled child 24 hour care don't get it. We'll sort out that and although we're not going to pay it out automatically until 65, anyone from 60-65 who qualifies for Pension Credit will continue to get it. Another practical example of ensuring that those in most need get most benefit.

So there you have it - the tactics the others will use in the name of scrutiny - cynical misinformation both about electoral chances and policy. Don't let them away with it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Get Lib Dems into Office Facebook Group passes 100,000 members

It's only a few days since a few of us were chatting about a new Facebook group called "We got Rage against the machine to number 1, we can get the Lib Dems into office". It's completely unofficial and we thought it was doing quite well to have accumulated 10,000 members. What did we know? A few minutes ago it passed 100,000 members - a tenfold increase in members in less than a week.

At the same time, the Conservatives official fan page had around 47,000 members. Now it has 49,715. Not nearly such an impressive increase.

It does seem that there is a real move to the Liberal Democrats that is really freaking out the Labservatives. From followers on social networking sites to a huge surge in the opinion polls. People are talking positively about Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats.

Have a look at this video where Nick Clegg talked to young people in Sutton yesterday about how this could be the start of something big. If you like what you see and you aren't registered to vote, you have just over 24 hours to get your form in....

#Toryfail Tories vote down Liberal Democrat motion on business support

Businesses across Scotland have more than enough to deal with at the moment - remember that recession thing that's been going on? Remember those banks you and I own part of which refuse to lend money to sustainable businesses? I mean, that's like refusing to put oil in a car. Just so you know, the Liberal Democrats would make sure that the banks supported businesses a whole lot better.

But anyway, you get the drift - it's not easy to run a business at the moment. In the background, a business rates revaluation has been going on which has seen businesses across Scotland get a very nasty shock when opening their bills for the coming year. This is affecting businesses all across Scotland - some businesses have seen their rates much more than double. Well, last week, the Liberal Democrats decided to try and do something about it by putting a motion to the Scottish Parliament seeking to limit the rise to 12.5%.

The Tories go on all the time about how they support businesses. They never shut up about about how Labour's planned NI Rise is a tax on jobs and how they'll reduce it - even if they haven't got the first clue how they'll pay for it. So you'd think that given the opportunity, they'd jump at the chance to reduce the extra pressure on businesses that the rates rise would have. Well, err, no. They ended up voting with their SNP pals against the Liberal Democrat motion.

T S Eliot has a phrase that just seems to sum up the Tories at the moment:

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

This is not the first time the Tories have been caught failing to put their principles into action. As you may have read, I've blogged a couple of times about Perth and North Perthshire Tory candidate Peter Lyburn and how he submitted a letter to newspapers with the names of local business leaders attached to it - some of whom deny ever giving their consent for him to do so. Andrew has more.

It's clear that they are more than happy to exploit people for political gain but not to actually help them when given the opportunity.

Liberal Democrat MSPs from across Scotland spoke of the impact of the rate rise in their constituencies. Full coverage of the debate is here. Iain Smith, MSP for NE Fife said on his Facebook page that he:

"cannot believe the bare faced cheek and rank hypocrisy of the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament who are circulating a leaflet asking why the SNP Government won't take action on unfair rates hitting local petrol stations - then vote with the SNP to block Liberal Democrat proposals to help."

The particular leaflet Iain's talking about is one circulated in the Borders by current MSP and would be MP for the Borders, Roxburgh and Selkirk John Lamont. Might he have voted in favour of the Liberal Democrat motion? No, of course not. Mind you, Mr Lamont's leader, David Cameron, doesn't think that members of one Parliament should stand to be members of another but it hasn't stopped him allowing Lamont to stand for Westminster, barely 3 years after being elected to Holyrood.

Mike Moore, who's seeking re-election as local MP said:

'At a time when businesses all over the country are continuing to struggle as a result of the economic downturn, the sharp rate increases we have seen recently are putting additional jobs in the Borders at risk.

'The Conservatives have criticized Ministers in Edinburgh and London over their failure to support local businesses, but wasted every opportunity they have been given to provide small local companies with essential relief.

'After all their tough talk on next year's planned increase in national insurance, it is baffling that the Conservatives will not take action on a rate hike that is hurting local businesses right now.'

A salutary tale to anyone thinking of voting Tory. What you see isn't necessarily what you get. This posting has given you three very strong examples of that.

#Believe in Fairness?

Some very clever person has produced a fantastic video showing what you'd get if you vote for the Liberal Democrats.

A lot more positive than the rather grating messages of the other 2 parties which seem to be summed up by Labour saying vote Clegg get Cameron and the Tories saying vote Clegg get Brown.

Well, actually, if you vote for Clegg, you get Clegg and you get real, positive change.

James Graham shows how here at Comment is Free

So does Jennie

And so does Daddy Richard

32 hours to give yourself a chance to bring about change that works for you

Give or take a few minutes, there are 32 hours until 5pm tomorrow - that is the absolute deadline for registering to vote.

If your name is not on the electoral register by then, even if something happens before May 6th that really passionately makes you want to have your say you will not be able to cast your vote. You can find out more about registering to vote here. Registration is easy - you just need to fill in a form which you can download from that site and send it first class today, or hand it in to your electoral registration office tomorrow.

I can't imagine not having my say - and when you think about it, I haven't yet had a Government which has matched my political views and many which I feel have really damaged the country, but if I sit at home and don't bother to make my feelings felt, how is that ever going to change? And now, with the Lib Dems leading in the polls and Nick Clegg's personal approval ratings going through the roof it looks like at last we could be on course for a result that changes the way we do things in this country for good.

My thoughts are never far away from those who are facing or experiencing homelessness. It can happen to anyone, through no fault of their own. Losing your job can be catastrophic. Even if you have no fixed address, you can still vote. Please take that opportunity to have your say.

If you don't think your vote will make a difference, have a look at the 2008 Presidential election in the US. The Obama campaign persuaded people who had never voted before to sign up - and look what happened. There are at least 32 million reasons to be cheerful (the number of poorer Americans who will get health cover for the first time). US elections can be very marginal - and that voter registration made the difference. With the UK heading for the closest election in my 26 years of political activity, then it is totally worth having your say. Your vote could make a huge difference.

I'm reminded of this funny viral video type thing from the US election that I posted in 2008 which shows the difference you could make by having your say....or not...

I haven't got anything like the skills to put together a British version but I hope someone does.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

More on Peter Lyburn: the Pledges v the Reality

Following my blog post last night on Perth and North Perthshire Conservative candidate Peter Lyburn's antics,a leaflet containing his election pledges has been brought to my attention.

You have to see this in the context of someone who submitted an open letter to various newspapers on the Tories' plans not to go ahead with Labour's NI rise next year which was alleged to have the support of a number of listed local business leaders. Some of those business people have subsequently told the Courier they neither knew of the letter nor consented to their name being on it.

Anyway, here are Mr Lyburn's pledges to the people of Perth....

Pledge 1 "To show by our actions that politics need not be a dirty game"

Pledge 2 "Not to mislead the public"

Pledge 5 "To fight a clean, honest and positive campaign."

With the Tories, between the idea and the action, there is usually a shadow - quite a long one in Mr Lyburn's case.

Subrosa has also written on this too. She shares my view that Lyburn should withdraw from the contest.

Happily, there's another Peter you can vote for if you live in Perth: Peter Barrett. I know him well and once he gets the bit between his teeth about something, believe me he doesn't let go - he would be a fantastic representative for the area and someone the people of Perth could trust to represent them on the national stage. I remember seeing an article in the Perthshire Advertiser describing him as the "saviour" of Tay Street after a long and successful campaign to preserve it. While I will admit to having teased him mercilessly at the time for being described in such a fashion, I know that he's creative, innovative, hard working and very genuine.

The Daleks are back............

It's a Doctor Who obsessive's dream. You're lying in your bed and suddenly in the darkness lights start flashing and you hear the inimitable tone of the Doctor's scariest and most deadly foe screeching "Good morning, your tea is ready."

I'm not really convinced that the Dalek teasmade could have any more than the most niche of markets, but after last night's Doctor Who episode, who knows?

I was on the edge of my seat for most of the episode which I guess was good but there was so much wrong with it that I barely know where to start.

First of all, what on earth is wrong with the TARDIS? A dying David Tennant managed to pilot it with precision to Donna's wedding and to save the life of Sarah Jane Smith's son Luke yet Matt can barely get it to where he wants within one lunar cycle. The Doctor and Amy land in the Cabinet War rooms a full month after the phone call they received from Winston Churchill at the end of the previous episode.

They missed the chance to help Churchill decide on whether to use the new "ironside" invention of their slightly bonkers scientist from Paisley. I'm surprised they weren't called the Irn Brus - although I guess this is the BBC. The Doctor of course recognised the pepperpot shaped creation which shot the Luftwaffe from the sky like they were clay pigeons.

I'm sure many Who fans will have laughed out loud to see these mean, genocidal beings gliding round the World War 2 nerve centre compliantly offering people cups of tea, with their union jack stuck underneath their eye stalky thing.

The Doctor's fury at seeing these creatures was actually very well acted - he took an axe to one at one point and screamed that he was the Doctor and they were the Daleks. This was all that was required for them to revert to type and head off to their spaceship after a bit of routine extermination to prove that they still could and revealing that the bonkers Paisley scientist was in fact their androidal creation.

The Doctor follows in hot pursuit..

This is where Amy is becoming far too clever. She realises that they can use the said mad scientist's technology to find out what's going on.

There's another comedy moment when he faces down the daleks with what he says is a TARDIS self destruct button but is in fact later revealed to be a jammy dodger.

It turns out that this Dalek ship managed to escape. It has on board a thing to create more daleks but it doesn't recognise the daleks on board as genuine examples of the species. It does, however, take the Doctor's word for it and suddenly starts mass producing multi coloured new type daleks. I really am not keen on the new design - they are in bright rainbow colours with a kind of bustle at the back and their voices are much deeper than we are used to. However they are as evil and genocidal as ever as their first act was to exterminate the original daleks.

The daleks light London up like a Christmas tree with an electric pulse. We have Amy Pond, who, 5 minutes ago, was working as a kissogram girl in rural England, virtually directing the RAF's efforts to shut it down.

The Doctor is then given the choice of letting these new Daleks away to wherever and whenever they choose to re-establish themselves or saving the earth, where the mad scientist is revealed as a walking talking megabomb which will turn the planet into sawdust.

Not able to stand seeing the earth reduced to hamster cage lining, he lets them go, but of course the Daleks don't keep their word and the countdown on a pie chart thing in mad scientist's chest commences. Rather than doing funny stuff with the sonic screwdriver, the Doctor starts trying to get the human side of the mad scientist to assert itself to neutralise the device. Yeah, that's the one thing the daleks always forget, the power of love. Awwwww. I despair. Well, actually, I think it was more lust, as Amy yet again comes to the Doctor's rescue, and the earth's by questioning the mad scientist on a woman he once fancied, which neutralises the bomb.

The script writers have needed for some time to re-establish the Daleks so that they can come back whenever or wherever rather than have just random encounters with dribs and drabs of them and in that sense this episode sees the job done. I feel that the Doctor regained his equilibrium way too quickly at the knowledge that his worst enemies were back for good.

There is also something very weird going on as Amy can't remember the Daleks - and she should have done because it's not that long since they moved the earth. We'll have to wait and see whether she remembers any of the rest of Russell T Davies' years in the Doctor Who hotseat.

I just hope that she's signed up for more than one series. I don't want her to end up as another Donna, an outstanding one series only companion. Let's just hope that there isn't some bizarrre twist like the reason she doesn't remember them is because she was created by them too in some way.

I was left scratching my head a bit after this one - but next week's instalment looks proper scary. River Song and weeping angels. You can't really go wrong with that. Blink has to be one of the best episodes of Doctor Who ever and the Silence of the Library and Forest of the Dead scared me to the core. I will need the Official Hiding Behind Pillow for that one, I think.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tory candidate Peter Lyburn in NI letter controversy

Tory Candidate for Perth and North Perthshire Peter Lyburn is at the centre of a political storm tonight over an open letter to the Courier and the Perthshire Advertiser on the proposed Tory NI cut. This letter, submitted by Lyburn on Thursday, was apparently supported by local business leaders- but a number of the alleged signatories, including the President of the local Chamber of Commerce say that they did not agree for their names to be put to it.

The President of the Chamber of Commerce, Paul Shields, said that he felt

disappointed that I’ve been misquoted and disappointed that I’ve been used for political games. .

Local Liberal Democrat candidate Peter Barrett was disgusted at the Tory deception and called on Lyburn to withdraw before nominations close next Tuesday. Peter said:

"This sort of shoddy treatment of respected members of our business community, who contribute greatly to the economic viability of our area, is shocking. An MP has an absolute duty to respect his constituents' confidentiality. Mr Lyburn has been derelict in that duty and cannot be trusted. It is bad enough that he broadcast the views without consent but attributing false signatories to an open and politically motivated letter is woeful. It is completely unacceptable and conduct falling so far short of the standard required that Mr Lyburn should withdraw from this election contest. He has to go. You simply cannot play politics with people's good name and business reputation.”

This is serious stuff - in my opinion way more serious than the comments which caused the resignation of Stuart MacLennan as Labour's candidate for Moray last week. Peter Lyburn has put the names of local business people to a letter that they hadn't seen or consented to sign. I simply don't see how he can continue in this election with any credibility at all.

If people in Perth want someone who will work tirelessly to support them, then they should vote for Peter Barrett. He's tenacious, ferociously hard working and will fight hard for the area.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reasons to be cheerful, part 312

1 Well, there can't be a Liberal Democrat in the country who isn't smiling today after Nick's fantastic performance in the leaders' debate. Yes, I know we can expect the 'forces of hell' to be unleashed on us from the labservatives but I am enjoying the moment before the mud and lies start flying in our direction.

Nick will be just as good in the next debates, I'm sure.

2 The F1 iPhone application is the best thing ever - although it darned well should be, coming at a price which by rights should include entry to a couple of races. I didn't even get out of bed this morning to see how practice in Shanghai was going. You get all the live timing screens as well as a real time visual of where everyone is on the track so you can see who's stuck in traffic etc. I did get up eventually to listen to Ant & Crofty.

3 This is the first day since Monday that I feel even slightly human. This week has been utterly hideous in ways I will not bore you with.

4 I've just taken a wee break from work to see the photos of Bob & Anna's week. They have been to the Science Festival, the Observatory, Camera Obscura and are off to the zoo today. The photos are outstanding, especially those taken at the top of Blackford Hill.

5 I have just spoken to my sister after she had a major strop on Twitter about me not having spoken to her for days. She is very funny and always makes me laugh.

Now, back to work!

#IAgreewithNick and I did make a video to show it!

Oh my, I am astounded by my own ability to master technology - or at least follow step by step instructions from my technological guru, one Helen Duffett.

She suggested that it might be a good idea to post a small video to 12 Seconds TV explaining why I agreed with Nick. The words were easy - it was cutting them down to 12 seconds that would be the challenge. And as for video - well, as you know, I have a face for radio and no imagination. While Anna re-enacts Twilight with her Littlest Pet Shops, I just haven't got a creative bone in my body.

In the end I decided to just put my voice over the film of the last PEB, with Nick walking past Sarah Jane Smith's car in Sheffield. It's not Spielberg by any manner of means, but it's my first ever video posted to the internet. By the way, after the election, I may be persuaded to post the one I have of Stephen but we'll leave that one for the moment:-).

#IagreewithNick on

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Vince Cable is right about everything

There's a lot of Vince Cable love out there. You just have to admire the originality of the people who keep these amazing videos coming.

Sex Pistols yesterday, Europop today, what will tomorrow bring?

Sadly, Dr Cable may be Almighty but he isn't invinceable (get it?) He was grounded, like everyone else in the country by some massive cloud of volcanic ash.

Former Scottish Lib Dem Leader Nicol Stephen stepped in to accompany Willie Rennie to visit a motorcycle shop in Dunfermline which has been badly let down by Labour's failure to get the banks lending to sustainable businesses.

Nicol Stephen said:

“Taxpayers already own massive stakes in many high street banks but those banks still won’t meet their own legally binding targets for lending.

“Many successful businesses need money upfront and it’s in all our interests that they get it.

“Labour has turned a blind eye to bad banking practice. Liberal Democrats would force state-backed banks like RBS and HBOS to start lending. If they didn’t meet our binding new targets, the Board of Directors would be held responsible and fired.

“That’s real action to get banks lending and deliver a fair deal for Scottish business.

Willie Rennie added:

“Small businesses in this constituency need cash flow to survive.

“Labour has brought the banks under public ownership but has not made them serve the public interest.

“Businesses like Scott Murray Motorcycles deserve a fair deal from their banks, not a battle to access the money they need to grow.

“That is what the Liberal Democrats will deliver”.

Where can you find Sarah Jane Smith's Car, Brian Eno's music and a whole load of good sense?

In a party election broadcast?

No way!

Actually, yes, right here:



Let's do it Vince Cable's Way

Yesterday, Vince Cable was at Nick Clegg's side as the Liberal Democrat manifesto was launched.

Today he is in Scotland visiting Willie Rennie's campaign in Dunfermline and West Fife and Fred Mackintosh's in Edinburgh South.

With a hat tip to the lovely Dr Chocoholic and with thanks to whoever it is who set up In Vince Cable, welcome to Scotland, Vince:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Has Labour given up on Livingston?

I live in what should be one of the most hotly contested marginal seats in Scotland, Livingston. The incumbent, Jim Devine, is one of the 3 former MPs who have been charged with expenses fraud and whose ongoing court proceedings provide a sombre backdrop to the election campaign. Devine was deselected by Labour last year, leaving Livingston pretty much hung out to dry, without a functioning MP to help people with their problems. On the occasions I raised issues with him, I received responses from his staff which were about as far removed from the point as it was possible to get.

Anyway, Livingston Labour selected former Council leader and still sitting Councillor Graeme Morrice in February. You would think that they would have realised that they had a lot of making up to do to the people of Livingston given recent events and given the fact that they no longer represent the seat in the Scottish Parliament.

In fact, I haven't had a cheep from them and neither has anyone else I know. Not a leaflet, not a phone call, nothing. When some Liberal Democrat teams are well into their second leaflet of the campaign, let alone what went before the election, Labour just don't seem to be bothered.

There can only be two explanations for this:

1 They know that they're going to lose the seat so they just aren't bothering.

2 They are so arrogant that they think they'll get in without trying.

I wonder which it is.

Oh, and by the way, the SNP haven't done that much either. We've had one leaflet from them, delivered by our very nice local Councillor, but they did the same leaflet addressed to Bob and I which seems a bit daft.

Anna, by the way, on reading the accompanying letter, came running through last night saying "Mummy, I've found something sensible in an SNP leaflet." She meant the line "If you are inclined to vote Labour, then I would urge you to think again."

Confident Clegg launches #LibDems manifesto built on fairness for extraordinary people

And who exactly is extraordinary - in Nick's words "every single person".

I can't begin to describe how hideously bad I'm feeling so this is going to be more of a series of bullet points rather than an attempt at serious analysis. Luckily, someone else has provided some excellent words to describe what drives us as Liberal Democrats and where our principles come from so I'll let the man we elected as leader earn his money!

Every manifesto needs to have an idea at its heart. The basic idea that animates this manifesto is something I have always believed. I believe every single person is extraordinary.

The tragedy is that we have a society where too many people never get to fulfill that extraordinary potential.

My view – the liberal view – is that government’s job is to help them to do it. Not to tell people how to live their lives. But to make their choices possible, to release their potential, no matter who they are.

The way to do that is to take power away from those who hoard it. To challenge vested interests. To break down privilege. To clear out the bottlenecks in our society that block opportunity and block progress. And so give everyone a chance to live the life they want.

There’s a simple word for those ideas, and it’s a word this manifesto is built on: fairness

Nick's words were prefaced by a sombre Sarah Teather describe how a child born in a poor part of her constituency was likely to die 13 years before a child born on the same day in affluent Kensington. She specifically mentioned poor housing and the effect it has on health as one of the causes.

You can read the whole thing, or as many or as few of its sizable component parts here.

For all my Apple loving F1 friends, yes, there's an iphone app and a Blackberry one too, which I haven't yet got round to installing. Look!

What struck me was how much Nick has grown in confidence in his 2 and a bit years as leader. He's still the straightforward, genuine person I first met 12 years ago, but he really has got a lot better at fielding awkward questions from hostile journalists. Asked if we weren't soft on crime, he replied that, actually, with their policy of locking up young men who come out 92% likely to re-offend, the other parties were stupid on crime, not tough. Beautifully done.

Asked if he wasn't miffed that Vince was outshadowing him, he said with grace and humour that he was proud that the most trusted politician of the day was on our team.

Final point of the day - I loved the way Danny Alexander started off the elephant theme, talking about how the deficit was the "elephant in the room" that Labour and the Tories were ignoring.

The Almighty Vince then joked that this must make him the "elephant man."

I'm sure that this was not just a valid political point, but a tribute to our very ownlovable, original and highly articulate elephant.If you aren't reading every single word he writes, you are missing out.


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