Monday, 31 August 2009
To be fair the transport minister travelled by train over 100 times during the 2008-09 year, but guess what the next figure of usage down was? 75, 50, 40 no, nowhere near, it was a measly 14 and that was by the enterprise minister, Jim Mather, so they weren't journeys to his constituency then?
But the sheer hypocrisy was from the environment minister, Roseanna Cunningham who managed to never use the train during that period, in fact she was one of eight Scottish government ministers who never used the train for ministerial visits but chose the car every time!
I say she, but if you visit the Scottish Parliament site for Roseanna Cunningham, it says "If you wish to contact him as Minister please visit the Scottish Government website for details:".
From her biography, "Any spare time she has will be spent either reading or walking and sometimes both at the same time."
Nothing about trains, well maybe this year will be the year of the train for the environment minister, let's wait and see. We must all reduce our carbon footprint so let us see the SNP try it out, you never know they might like the train.
Sunday, 30 August 2009
I want to mention some of the countries where some of my visitors are from - all over the UK, India, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Vietnam, Canada, Iceland, Australia, Belgium, Kuwait and the USA.
Wow, my little blog that started with me, Will Howells and Steve Jolly. It then picked up some of my friends and former colleagues and some of Roger's friends and colleagues and now has international readers - fantastic and thank you all.
Obviously for Chelsea and Tottenham it has been the perfect start to the new season.
Sir Alex Ferguson definitely won't be happy although on another level he is currently 3 points ahead of Arsenal but they have a game in hand so the gunners may shoot Man Utd yet.
Chelsea played a blinder yesterday and deserved the three points.
Fulham, oh Fulham - what was today about and even the boss could not energise himself to motivate them from the bench, he basically appeared to be glued to his seat today.
This is going to be a great season.
The Sunday Times says "The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests."
Jack Straw is trying to brush this away by saying this is all "academic" now as the decision was made on compassionate grounds not under the prisoner transfer agreement.
The oil agreement was ratified some 6 weeks before but Jack Straw was also quick to pint out that the Scottish Government could have vetoed any move to send al-Megrahi home under the transfer agreement. The BBC website is also carrying the story this morning.
So, the row goes on and I suspect will do so now for some weeks, if not months.
Saturday, 29 August 2009
The sheep was reared in Banffshire and you can see a video of him courtesy of the BBC website.
The eight month old lamb will now go on to meet the ladies of Banffshire.
We may well see his lambs on sale and maybe even his sperm, ewe couldn't make it up could you?
It is easy when you are earning £65,000 a year to forget how hard it is to survive on benefits.
I know from personal experience the difficulties, and no, I don't earn anywhere near that kind of money, when I moved up to Edinburgh with my new job it was a new start for us, unfortunately my partner worked for 10 weeks then the recession hit and hit bloody hard and didn't work from 22nd November last year until 3 weeks ago - for the first six months he got, wait for it, £60.50 per week, that is it, no council tax benefit and no other help as I earn too much apparently despite the fact we were paying a mortgage down south and rent up here, two lots of council tax etc etc
Anyhow, we are lucky as at least I do work and have a good job. Compared to a lot of people we have a luxurious live so I am not complaining and nor can I.
Since 2008 (yes this was only introduced last year) new housing benefit claimants have been entitled to get up to £15 a week back if they can find accommodation at a lower rent than the level of housing allowance set by their local council.
It is those who only have that small amount to live on that would be affected, yet rent has gone up consistently every year whether it be council, housing associations or private rents so the Labour Government's new idea is to slash the help they give to those who need it most, although as the government will stress, this is only a proposal, it isn't definite - yet.
The proposal to end the measure, included in the Budget, is now under consultation. If approved it would come into force next April, just ahead of an expected general election.
Sarah Teather MP is to be thanked for drawing peoples attention to the proposal buried in the budget - well done Sarah, another reason why pounding the streets of Brent East was a worthwhile use of my time. You can read more about it here on the BBC website.
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "The vast majority of housing benefit recipients do not benefit from this scheme and so do not get extra cash back on top of the rent paid". I wonder how much the spokesman earns each year?
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Currently an MP represents an area with approximately 70,000 people living there, what started me on this tonight is Councillor Chris White (for those on Twitter @ChrisWhite17) who is tweeting direct from Nick Clegg's latest Town Hall meeting in St. Albans.
Now, if you want to see Nick Clegg's plan to Take Back Power and restore democracy go here.
I agree with the majority of what is proposed and fully sign up to it but I do not agree with the objective of reducing the number of MPs. For any seasoned campaigner, of whatever party, they will all have heard this on the campaign trail "Why don't you knock on my door, no-one, from any party comes round".
It is often because you just cannot get all the leaflets delivered and phone calls made as well as knocking on 50,000+ doors - although that is what we all would prefer to do.
So, I think we have to leave the number of MPs roundabout the figure we have now. People have the right to know their MP, to expect them to do surgeries all round the local area, take for example Willie Rennie MP, who is in the middle of a tour around his constituency ensuring every community has that opportunity to meet him and express their opinions.
I recall delivering leaflets in Dunfermline with Willie one afternoon during the European elections every time we saw a constituent I carried on delivering and Willie chatted and brought up expenses so they didn't have to broach the subject first. Willie spoke to every single person we saw that day, whether they were walking down the street, gardening or washing the car - that's the kind of MP everyone needs, someone who is there and will work hard for every person in every community irrespective of how they voted.
That is why we don't need less MPs because that kind of relationship would never happen!
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
And today Channel 4 has announced that it will not be renewing the rights deal after 2010, so next year is the last one on Channel 4, whether it emerges elsewhere we will have to see.
Now we are eagerly awaiting the start of Strictly come dancing, the couples have all been announced, see them all here, there is a hunk, a clown, the battle of the soap stars, the battle of the sports stars and the unknowns, yes really, there are some people who I have no idea who they are.
This series will be different, because we don't have the wonderful Arlene Phillips on the judging panel, although she will be on the One Show as the expert - I still think this is a major mistake, the four judges were professionals and experts, Alesha Dixon is a pop star and a former contestant, that does not make her an expert, she has very, very large shoes to try to fill.
And then Darcey Bussell will appear as a guest judge towards the end of the series.
So, my favourites to watch will be Lynda Bellingham and Rav Wilding and Ian Waite from the professional dancers. It will be interesting to see how Tuffers does, he is bound to be the class clown this year.
Following the random draw done by last year's champion Camilla Dallerup (who isn't dancing this year), the following eight couples will now dance in week 1: Ali Bastian & Brian Fortuna, Loose woman Lynda Bellingham & Darren Bennett, boxer Joe Calzaghe & Kristina Rihanoff, Eastender Ricky Groves & Erin Boag, Martina Hingis & Matthew Cutler, BBC's Chris Hollins & Ola Jordan, Jade Johnson & Ian Waite and last but not least hunky crime stopper Rav Wilding & Aliona Vilani.
So, all my faves are in on the first show!
Friday 18th September will be Ballroom night, where the first eight of the celebrity contestants and their professional partners will be put through their paces dancing either a waltz or a tango.
Saturday 19th September will be Latin night where things will hot-up even more as the same couples perform a cha-cha or a rumba. At the end of the Saturday show, one of the above eight couples will be eliminated and will leave the show for good.
Martin Lewis is the man behind challenging unfair bank charges and he had written an open letter to David Cameron in July. Nick Clegg knew about this as he is on the Money Saving Expert's regular email list and was quick off the mark with Vince Cable in sending a reply.
So, before Cameron had replied Nick and Vince sent an open letter of support for the campaign, read it here, as you can see they are going to table a Motion in Parliament and champion this campaign.
Two weeks later, yes two weeks after Nick had already pledged the support including on his own website, David Cameron then replied.
Direct from MoneySavingExpert.com "Cameron's commitment comes two weeks after Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg who, after spotting the letter as one of the 3.5 million recipients of the site's weekly e-mail, agreed to table a motion calling for automatic payouts, if charges are ruled unfair."
So yet again, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems lead and David Cameron plays catch up.
For those of you who think you have paid unfair bank charges and feel you may be able to get something back, then visit the website here and read all about it.
I've done my claim, a long while back and it is all awaiting a court decision now but that is why as Nick Clegg said the pressure must be kept up on the banks who are continuously over charging for letters and other services unfairly.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
While we are on tongues being poked out, here is one of the Amur leopards telling me to go away.
Monday, 24 August 2009
I stick to my original view that Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi should not have been released, although I do understand all of the arguments on the compassionate grounds, I do think we have to assess each individual case on it's merits and details.
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is terminally ill with cancer, I fully appreciate that is hard to properly assess and that is what has to be thought of when a case is being assessed on compassionate grounds. However, should he have been released to go home to Libya or should he have gone into a hospice here in Scotland? I don't have the facts and figures that Kenny MacAskill does.
Kenny MacAskill went wrong on a few matters, the first was visiting the prison surely as it was a quasi-judicial decision he had to make, he should not have gone to Greenock prison?
I cannot believe though that Kenny MacAskill really believed, and still believes that al-Megrahi was not going to get a heroes welcome when he arrived in Libya, for crying out loud, I think I could have gone down the bookies and put a bet on that being a dead cert. That was naivety.
Kenny MacAskill did not show good judgement through this event and whether you think he did or didn't do the right thing, I do hope he will realise what mistakes he made and that he never makes them again!
My final point is, should the Scottish Parliament have been recalled? Just one week before it was due to return from the summer recess was anything really achieved that couldn't have waited another week? Given there is to be a full debate next week, no, not really.
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Scottish Roundup is a regular digest of Scottish blogging, podcasts, video blogging and citizen and social media in general. Visit every Sunday for the latest on what bloggers have to say about politics (blue roundups). Visit monthly for what bloggers have to say about life in general (red roundups).
Each week there is a different editor and this week was Duncan Stephen, of doctorvee fame. Scottish Roundup is run by Duncan with regular help from Will Patterson and a team of Scottish bloggers.
So, if you want a good review of what is happening in Scottish politics, this is where you need to go!
"But that is only half the story, because there is not much we can do without your nominations. After all, it is easy for us to miss some brilliant writing in the blogosphere. So if you have anything to suggest, be it a blog post, a podcast, a YouTube video, or anything really, then please write your suggestions in the form on the right. Alternatively, you can email email@example.com. By the way, we also encourage you to nominate yourself."
This weekend is the Zapcat Edinburgh Grand Prix and has been a two day event in Leith Harbour, apparently the first time it has ever taken place there.
You can read news of the racing here.
This is the view from my balcony of Leith Harbour and if you squint, you can make out the boats.
Read the comments though as it is tracked on it's route from Edinburgh to Wick Harbour, then Pentland Firth then onto Stornoway, Campbeltown and then Oban at it's latest sighting.
Saturday, 22 August 2009
Not only did I learn that Hugh O'Donnell MSP has a love for Tai Chi, but that he also is a purple belt in karate.
There's a great article by Andrew Hawkins - illuminating a dark art - a piece on polls.
A good piece by Jon Craig whom I've now met at various by-elections, well worth reading.
Then the interview by Iain Dale of Ann Widdecombe, a well written piece but the sad line in it for me was this one - "I came into this place as a Member of Parliament, I leave it as an employee of the House of Commons."
If Ann really feels like that, then that's a massive shame if that's where we've ended up after all that's happened with the expenses scandal.
This is followed by an article on bullying and I'm appalled at this, I recall reading Emma Nicholson's book when she defected to the Liberal Democrats and thinking I hate this and want to help.
Not Emma, per se but that was the moment that I finally joined the Liberal Democrats rather than just helping.
But here we are 12 years on, and the bullying goes on - shame on those bullies.
Then, because I don't want to spoil all the fun a small summary of what else is covered; eateries of politicians, Menzies Campbell and the commemorative banner, election law, a blogger profile and the best of the blogs and much, much more.
I can't not comment on the article about the General Election in Scotland - a four way fight. Katy Gordon our Lib Dem candidate is described as a "face to watch", "Fred Mackintosh has a much better chance of taking Edinburgh South from Labour than the Tories do", "and they Just one point they got wrong in the article, the Liberal Democrats have 12 MPs in Scotland, how could you forget Willie Rennie and the stunning by-election victory in Dunfermline and West Fife. Overall a good read and worth picking up every month!
Just one point they got wrong in the article, the Liberal Democrats have 12 MPs in Scotland, how could you forget Willie Rennie and the stunning by-election victory in Dunfermline and West Fife.
Overall a good read and worth picking up every month!
Until last night that is, the cost versus a normal train ticket and hotel room in London was significantly cheaper and that included the fact I went first class (my snoring prevents me from sharing anyway).
However, if you book enough in advance and look at single tickets opposed to returns you can often go first class cheaper than standard! Illogical I know but who's ever claimed to have understood the phenomenon that is the British railway system.
The cabin http://mypict.me/oOM3 is compact but adequate. However, Scotrail do need to learn to clean. My 15 years in the hotel and catering industry taught me a lot but not just about hygiene.
Its all in the detail and that's where Scotrail failed big time. Nothing major but lots of little things that all add up of course;
One light bulb not working, the edges of the carpet not hoovered, the sink was dirty and the bin was filthy.
I loved the complimentary toiletry bag, nice touch and it had everything you needed, I'd have had the Scotrail logo on things though!
If you are on Twitter you may have read that I commented on the fact that we arrived in Euston at 6.30am, 45 minutes early and the attendant was nowhere to be seen so I never got the breakfast, so another little fail.
We stopped during the night to couple up with another sleeper train, it took 9 or 10 attempts to couple the two trains which completely woke me up but overall not the worst journey I've had.
Overall score 7 out of 10.
Friday, 21 August 2009
Tavish Scott MSP was calling for the Parliament to be recalled last week to discuss the upcoming decision. No, his request was turned down, but not now the release has taken place we read on the BBC News website - "Holyrood presiding officer Alex Fergusson announced the move to bring back MSPs from their summer break, days after turning down an earlier request from the Liberal Democrats."
Now I do not see the point, it's a bit like shutting the door, long after the horse bolted.
But what is there to actually debate? Apparently there will be a statement from Kenny MacAskill followed by questions from MSPs, what an absolute wate of time. I wonder what the cost is to recall Parliament for one day, just a week before the Parliament was due to reconvene following the summer recess anyway?
Kenny MacAskill, surely one of the most hated men in politics today is facing criticism from Barack Obama downwards for his decision to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, dying from cancer, faced a sentence "imposed by a higher power". I'm not a religious type so find this slightly over the top. Don't get me wrong, cancer is a very nasty disease but it's nothing to do with a higher power.
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Some months later Caron texted me to say well done for getting in the Top 40 of Scottish blogs. To say I was gobsmacked was an understatement but very chuffed.
This year I voted for many of my fellow Scots including Stephen and Caron when the Total Politics poll came up.
So earlier this evening when Iain Dale put the list up on Total Politics I scrolled straight to the bottom to see how I had done and was amazed by two things, that I had shot up to number 17 but that Stephen had stayed at 11.
Given I read Stephen's blog daily (as do hundreds of others) I was amazed he had not gone up but Stephen being Stephen didn't tout for votes and his daily readership is enormous, which is a way better result for him.
Congratulations to Tom Harris MP and SNP Tactical Voting for the number 1 and 2 spots respectively.
Now to the Scottish Liberal Democrats - Well done to all my fellow Scots, friends and colleagues starting with Caron (7), Stephen (11) me (17) sandwiched between BBCs Brian Taylor and David Maddox of the Scotsman, Bernard Salmon (24), Willie Rennie MP (25), Cllr Fraser Macpherson (28), Iain Dale (33) and Katy Gordon (45).
Thank you to everyone who voted for me, I really am quite humbled.
I remember the Lockerbie bomb on the news back in 1988, because that is not that long after when we had looked seriously at moving to Scotland and then weirdly when I moved to Scotland last year came through Lockerbie one day on the train and found myself back that day thinking how awful that must have been for everyone living there.
These events leave their mark on different people in very different ways, I know how 9/11 affected me given the work I did over there with some of the people who tragically lost their lives and how to this day I cannot watch any coverage without losing it completely remembering the team I worked with.
So this week Scotland has been in the public eye and lobbied like never before, whether it be by relations or friends of those who tragically lost their lives in the bombing, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, the Libyan Government or every person with their own view, and let's face it, everyone does have a view on this.
The Lockerbie bombing was one of the biggest terrorist atrocities until 9/11 outside of Northern Ireland so captured a lot of people's attention, and has continued to do so over the years
One question I have though is before Kenny MacAskill even went anywhere near the prison to see Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi had the precedent been set with the Ronnie Biggs decision?
I don't know for sure, but in my mind the answer is yes. I know the cases are as alike as chalk and chips let alone cheese but I do wonder if that thought entered Kenny MacAskill's mind?
On the political aspect of who is right and who is wrong on this, there are arguments all over the place, I think it went wrong for Kenny MacAskill and the SNP when he went to the prison to visit Megrahi, I am not a lawyer and there are many far more qualified than I on this who can explain in great detail why it was wrong but one blog post that to me has a great balanced view and good arguments is here at Love and Garbage.
Over on the BBC website they are porting "The BBC understands he will be flown home to Tripoli from Glasgow this afternoon following an announcement by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill."
When you commit a crime as bad as blowing up a plane and murdering 270 innocent people, you have to serve the time, being released on compassionate grounds is a two way thing for me and it doesn't appear that Megrahi has shown any remorse whatsoever and therefore should see his time out in Greenock prison.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
The list was compiled from 5,500 respondents to a survey by hotel chain Travelodge.
First was Edinburgh, then Bath, Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow, Oxford, London, Cardiff, York and Cambridge.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne was the friendliest city, followed by Liverpool and Manchester.
London was the least friendly city followed by Birmingham and Glasgow.
Finally, the city where the locals had the sexiest accent was Edinburgh.
Well done Edinburgh.
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Although I am hooked, and ready to order my copy of the Total Politics Guide to Political Blogging.
So, here is the list of the top 30 MPs blogs as voted for by more than 1,500 people who took part and voted in the Total Politics Annual blog poll.
Well done to Lynne Featherstone MP (8), Willie Rennie MP (11), John Hemming MP (15), Steve Webb MP (17), Nick Clegg MP (18), John Barrett MP (22) and Adrian Sanders MP (25) for all getting onto the list this year.
A big congratulations to Tom Harris MP for getting the number one slot.
Monday, 17 August 2009
Why is the list of the bloggers stories I'm following on my blog not updating properly?
I have the first line showing underneath the name of each blog but over the last few days they don't update properly, what am I doing wrong?
This selection came about after Chris Walker was apparently stabbed in the back and dropped as their candidate.
So, Annabel Goldie obviously won't be calling on Alex Salmond to stand down as an MP now given John Lamont wants 2 jobs as well.
I understand Annabel Goldie is not happy with John Lamont.
Given a lot of people in the Borders don't have a job at all anymore it is somewhat arrogant that John Lamont who holds one full time job now wants to turn this into a part time job (although with a full time salary) and then add on the part time job of being a part time candidate for Westminster.
Obviously he is bored already with Holyrood!
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Le Grand Bleu is one of the largest private yachts in the world, measuring a massive 370 feet, weighing 5,500 tonnes and is said to be worth about £150 million. This picture isn't the best, it was from my phone http://mypict.me/mpQk
The yacht was built in Bremenand and launched back in 2000 with a crew of 50, it costs around £6 million a year to operate and was previously owned by Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich who it is rumoured gave the Le Grand Bleu to his friend, Russian oil billionaire Eugene Shvidler, who it appears is still the owner.
The owner apparently was attending the Edinburgh Tattoo.
Anyway, earlier this evening Le Grand Bleu left Leith harbour for it's next destination.
I have just been sat supping coffee while reading this weeks Scotland on Sunday newspaper plus all of the different inserts.
What caught my eye this week wasn't that a Tory toff MEP doesn't like the NHS (hardly a surprise given their desire to charge you for operations etc etc), nor Gordon Brown twittering that #welovetheNHS but it was in the property section of the atHome magazine.
For sale; Mull of Kintyre, Argyll
A wonderful private island with a 5 bedroom farmhouse, 3 homestead cottages, 3 lighthouse cottages, The Byron Darnton Tavern, Boathouse and Pier, Sandy beaches and rocky coves. 13 miles from Campbeltown by boat. In all about 350 acres.
All I can say is wow and if anyone wants to buy it for me, thank you.
Saturday, 15 August 2009
I am not a Drogba fan on the whole, don't get me wrong his football skills are amazing but unfortunately so is his diving and that is the side of him I really do not like. It doesn't just give Chelsea FC a bad name and Drogba himself obviously, but it also gives football a bad name.
There is no need for it so let us hope new Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti stamps it out and educates Drogba into better sportsmanship.
Anyway, back to the game, this was always going to be a great game with Petr Cech keeping a keen eye on Hull City's new signing Stephen Hunt - but no major concerns there this time round thankfully.
The first half was fairly flat and mainly one sided in Chelsea's favour, obviously the Hull City goal threw all of that out of the window, and so did Chelsea's equalizer on 36 minutes.
Chelsea came out fighting again in the second half but it took until the 91st minute for Chelsea to take the three points in full.
For the full and entertaining match report, read here. Chelsea 2 - Hull City 1
So, a well deserved congratulations goes to Councillor Fraser MacPherson of Dundee City Council who is the leading Liberal Democrat on the Total Politics/Iain Dale's list of the top 30 blogging Councillors in the UK.
Fraser held his own and maintained the honourable 16th place he first secured last year.
Fraser is about to start themed weeks on his blog, and it is well worth going and having a look.
Friday, 14 August 2009
An interesting but useless fact about Nottingham and it's football teams - Notts County play at the County ground and Nottingham Forest play at the City ground - with me so far?
Right, but the County ground is in the City and the City ground is in fact in the County of Nottinghamshire. I never said it was an exciting fact - lol.
I know follow blogger Iain Dale is a Hammer and he has his West Ham till I die blog as well, it was a great read last season despite the fact I don't agree with his politics, lol, nor his football, but a good read is a good read.
Anyway, back to my beloved Blues, the mighty Chelsea. We kicked off this season by winning the Community Shield by beating Manchester United.
Our opening game tomorrow is against Hull City, kick off 12.45 at Stamford Bridge.
So, come on the mighty Blues!
It's bad enough they are still without an MP some two months on and the prospect of another three months wait before they can choose their next one.
Eileen Baxendale, the Scottish Liberal Democrats candidate is keen to fight for the people in Glasgow North East, she has wanted to represent Glasgow North East for years but as the Scottish Liberal Democrats have observed the tradition of not standing against the House of Commons Speaker, Eileen has waited until now to do so.
Whereas the SNP have chosen to ignore this tradition.
The four main candidates have between them some interesting backgrounds, let us see where this election goes but really let us also hope that the journalists don't just harp on about it being a battle between two former journalists, because that isn't what this election will be about!
Thursday, 13 August 2009
First Alan Duncan goes on about having to live on rations!
Now Sir Patrick Cormack is complaining that having to give to charity out of his mere £64,000 salary, sorry £64,766 is expensive!
These Tories make your heart bleed don't they? Actually no, they sound like a load of privileged toffs who want it all their own way and that it is their given right to be an MP.
Sir Patrick Cormack actually said; "One is expected to give liberally to all manner of charities, one is expected to attend all manner of events, one is expected constantly to putting one's hand into one's pocket."
To all my regular readers, does one's heart bleed for one's problems?
I don't earn anywhere near the salary of an MP, in fact well under half of what they earn but I give regularly to charity - my charities of choice are the Dogs Trust, RSPCA (until I moved to Scotland), SPCA, St. Tiggywinkles, Cats Protection League and in addition I have done various fundraising events for organisations such as Royal Marsden British Heart Foundation and cancer charities.
I neither go on about it nor do I beef about how expensive it is.
When MPs are appointed as government ministers they get an extra salary (£78,356 if they go into the Cabinet and £40,646 if just a minister) and pension in addition to the MPs salary. When they are subsequently fired in a reshuffle, or forced to leave under a cloud or just simply resign, they get a severance payment equivalent to one quarter of their final salary, provided they do not take another ministerial appointment within three months.
Nearly 100 ex-ministers have benefited from these golden handouts. High profile beneficiaries include Peter Mandelson (twice), Charles Clarke, Alan Milburn, David Blunkett, Peter Hain, Margaret Beckett, Estelle Morris (twice), Lord Sainsbury, and the recently resigned James Purnell, Hazel Blears and Caroline Flint.
Since Labour came to power this has amounted to nearly £1.4million. It is generally outrageous that some of these ministers have therefore been rewarded for failure!
These figures have been uncovered by the Liberal Democrats, well done to Steve Webb MP for uncovering these figures.
Vince was the Liberal Democrats DTI (Department of Trade & Industry) spokesman.
We often wondered back then why the FSA existed in the form it did even back then.
Now, in 2009 I wonder the same.
The FSA have bottled it and won't investigate bankers extreme bonus payments, partly because in the early consultation the banks told the FSA they didn't want them to!
Who's in charge of the banks regulatory body? It appears not to be the FSA it appears the banks can just do exactly what they want.
FSA nil - Greedy bankers 1
However, this may just be an own goal.
We had a beautiful clear night over Edinburgh with all the stars twinkling.
However, midnight came and went and nothing changed so, I went off to bed without the shower.
I then see on the news this morning that the meteor shower came a little later in the early hours, oh well, I will have to wait for the next one!
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Although, when he says rations what does he mean, 100g of caviar instead of 300g? Just one pack of smoked salmon for his bagels instead of the two? lol.
Yet again though, another comment from a Conservative MP just showing they are out of touch with the rest of people out there in the real world.
I have some sympathy with how all MPs are being tarred with the same brush on expenses, however I was appalled to learn that MPs could claim money for food, given that they have access to many subsidised restaurants and food outlets within the Palace of Westminster.
However, for Alan Duncan to say that they have to live on rations is the biggest load of crap I have heard ever from an MP, has Alan Duncan ever had to empty his penny jar days from pay day to ensure he could eat in those final few days? No, because before being an MP in 1992 he was an oil trader so wouldn't know what a rations were or are.
What about the people managing on benefits and not through choice, what about those people who get £60.50 per week Job Seekers Allowance for 6 months after being made redundant or losing their job and then they get nothing? - those are the people who have to live on rations and cheap reduced food because they can't afford anything else.
They are the people that don't have a choice, nor the MPs salary of £64,000 meaning they would never have to worry again.
I am not overly surprised at his outburst, let us be honest the Tories aren't exactly the party of the people, and how many of my readers could afford to pay back £4,000 at the drop of a hat because they claimed back too much in expenses?
I thought not, well ration eating Alan Duncan can.
So, my challenge to Alan Duncan MP, go and live on the streets for a month, no mobile, no blackberry, no contact or support from your posh Tory chums and then come back and re-run the interview then lets see what you have to say.
But he won't because he can't bleat then.......
Sunday, 9 August 2009
A gang of youths threw a bottle of buckfast (classy) through the window which then hit the paramedics and the patient.
This mindless attack then resulted in a second ambulance being sent out to transport the patient to hospital.
For crying out loud, how on earth can teenagers think this is acceptable? and according to the BBC they were drunk.
Unfortunately by the time the Police had arrived the gang had scattered - well let us hope that there was CCTV in the area that can be used to identify the gang and bring them to justice before they really hurt someone, or worse.
This coming from the same Tory MEP who defended homophobic Michal Kaminski, the head of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group which the British Tories are now part of in Europe.
Although Michal Kaminski and Margaret Thatcher have something in common, no not Section 28, it is their admiration for General Augusto Pinochet!
Michal Kaminski, the head of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, is under fire himself over his controversial views, his one-time membership of the far-right National Rebirth party (NOP) and his opposition to an apology for Polish involvement in a wartime massacre of Jews in the town of Jedwabne.
Anyway, back to Roger Helmer, the MEP who describes himself as having liberal views towards homosexuality but is dead set against gay marriage. Hardly liberal.
Honestly, what an absolute buffoon, how dare he say homophobia doesn't exist, what about those people all around the world beaten to death because they are gay, I was attacked when I was much younger because I was gay, in Nottingham, the person who attacked me did purely because I was gay, he had followed from Gatsby's, the main gay pub at that time and he hurled homophobic abuse at me for well over an hour before he threw the first punch, so Mr. Helmer I can categorically say you are talking out of your arse!
I cannot say I am surprised, this is a Member of the same Party who brought us Section 28, the same Party that controlled Kent County Council under Sandy Bruce-Lockhart who introduced their own version of Section 28 after the law had been repealed.
Senior Tories like Michael Howard MP, William Hague MP, Baroness Young and David Wilshire MP were vocal supporters of Section 28.
Leopards do not change their spots and neither have the Conservatives. I accept the younger newer members may have, and most of those don't remember the bad old days and can't understand folk like me getting worked up about it, but I do, I do remember it.
So my challenge to David Cameron, sack Roger Helmer if you disagree with him or back him?
My message to Roger Helmer, go and meet some gay people, yes real ones, constituents in your region and ask them if homophobia exists?
Saturday, 8 August 2009
If anyone feels like nominating my blog, amazing (and thank you), read to the bottom on how to do it, its by email so is easy, but honestly, entirely up to you.
There are six categories at this year’s awards and they are are as follows:
* Best new Liberal Democrat blog (started since 1st September 2008)
* Best blog from a Liberal Democrat holding public office (The Tim Garden Award)
* Best use of blogging / social networking / e-campaigning by a Liberal Democrat
* Best posting on a Liberal Democrat blog (since 1st September 2008)
* Best non-Liberal Democrat politics blog
* Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year
To be eligible for ‘Best blog from a Liberal Democrat holding public office’, a blog should be written by a councillor, elected mayor, assembly member, or parliamentarian.
The ‘Best use of blogging / social networking / e-campaigning award’ recognises the expanding role of both blogging and the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in politics. It’s a deliberately open category: you might want to nominate a good campaigning YouTube video, or a particularly interesting Twitter feed.
The Best non-Liberal Democrat politics blog winner will be chosen by you, the dear readers of mine and other wonderful blogs (should you choose to take part). Once the judges have chosen their shortlist, these blogs will be put up for public vote on Lib Dem Voice.
The judging panel is still being finalised, but I’ll let you know as soon as possible which judges have blogs so that you can avoid nominating them, as they’re not eligible to win. Liberal Democrat Voice and any official party blogs (such as Home Office Watch) aren’t eligible either.
You’ve got until 4th September to nominate your favourites, but the sooner the better (and you can send more than one set if you’d like). Please don’t feel the need to round up hundreds of people to nominate your blog as the number of nominations aren’t taken into account.
Send in your nominations by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and remember to state which award category you’re nominating for, in each case.
UPDATE: A great must read posting on Liberal Bureacracy on awards ceremonies.
What was funny for me was not only the realisation that I had sort of become addicted to it but watching the volumes of folk rush back to Facebook to realise that Facebook had also been buggered.
I have to be honest initially I signed up and wasn't really that bothered but now I use, Tweetburner, UberTwitter, Tweetdeck, Twitter, TwitterBerry etc etc
I actually quite enjoy using it and I never tie my messages to Facebook, if I change my status on Facebook it reads very different to my Tweets.
Since I have lived in Scotland I have tweeted a lot more and am really impressed by the sheer volume of my colleagues and friends within the Lib Dems who are active on Twitter. Here are just a few of my favourites in Scotland.
@willierenniemp @mooremichaelk @dannyalexander
@andyreeves @caronmlindsay @cleslie92 @stephenpglenn @ruaraidhdobson
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Eileen has a strong track record in social work all across Glasgow but has spent an incredible amount of time in Glasgow North East working alongside and with many communities there so will be a strong candidate.
Eileen, 64 is now a South Lanarkshire councillor and formerly a social worker with over 28 years experience in Glasgow. My hat goes off to people like Eileen, social workers get a hard time when things go wrong and yet not even a squeak when everything is going well.
The people of Glasgow North East are having to wait months before they are properly represented in Westminster again, this simply isn't acceptable and it is Labour who caused this delay. I hope the people in Glasgow North East remember that!
The campaign in Glasgow North East will have many issues to focus on, time will tell exactly what all the parties focus on but school closures and the possible bin strike may feature for starters.
However, Eileen is keen to point out that it down to the people of Glasgow North East to decide what is important to them. Well done Eileen.
The Liberal Democrats already have a strong voice in Glasgow in the shape of Robert Brown MSP, and I know Robert will throw his weight behind Eileen's campaign as will Katy Gordon and Jo Swinson MP amongst many others.
The headline in today's Metro on page nine "Finnie: 5,000 botched ops in last five years" is quite alarming but as my friend and colleague Caron says "please don't panic".
However, as Ross Finnie has uncovered these figures appear quite alarming, but are they really down to negligence? I suspect not. Are they down to surgeons rushing to comply with government targets? Maybe, maybe not.
What they do show is that a little more patience and care is required and less rushing around.
The Health Boards, especially, and mainly the staff do a wonderful job and often thankless but patients have a right to go in for an operation and leave again without bits of hospital equipment left inside them.
The figures released in the Parliamentary answer to Ross show that in the last 5 years, 3106 people have suffered some sort of organ damage through cuts being made in the wrong place or errors such as leaving swabs inside a wound - which really does sound uncomfortable.
The first thing Caron asked herself when she saw this was "how many operations took place in Scotland during this period." Fortunately Caron didn't have to look very far, because the Scotsman had done it for her - 1.2 million operations took place during 2008. If you multiply that by five, that gives 6 million. On these figures, the risk of surgical error is tiny - 0.0919% of an error happening, 0.05% chance of organ damage.
So, don't panic, and trust the Health Boards.
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
So, STV are reporting that the Annual Report produced by the Scottish Parliament was contracted to a UK firm who in turn sub-contracted it out to a firm in India who sub-contracted the translation to someone in the Western Isles!
I am English, but I really feel Gaelic is a really important part of the culture here. Our annual holidays from a really early age were always in the Highlands especially Ullapool, Sheigra and Kinlochbervie and Gaelic was a core part of life in those areas and must never be forgotten.
So, UK-based firm Format Design was contracted to produce Holyrood's publications but it sub-contracted the annual report translation work after the Bangalore-based operation offered to do the work for 6p per word who then sub-contracted it back to the Western Isles.
What a shameful way to deal with this. The Parliament really should not have sent this work overseas, there are many people within Scotland who could have done this work and would have been proud to have done it, the Parliamentary Authorities should be ashamed.
UPDATE: I have amended the last paragraph, in my ranting mode last night I got careless.
Monday, 3 August 2009
It is not good that one of the major Police Forces in Scotland is proposing to run a deficit of between £12.4million and £34.7million and what is the response from the SNP government?
Ministers said they had given councils record funding of £23bn to deliver services, and funding for 1,000 additional police officers.
Well, at least we should be relieved they didn't mention the historic concordat!
But seriously, for crying out loud the SNP cannot just say they have thrown money at things, they have to take serious and sensible decisions. This is a major issue, Strathclyde Police could end up with a major deficit of £34.7million, this is Scotland's largest force and this needs to be addressed.
We must have a solid concrete assurance that frontline policing will not be affected in Strathclyde, or in any other police force.
Glasgow MSP Robert Brown said: "The SNP need to reassure the public that community safety won't be jeopardised by this black hole in police funds.
"Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill must meet police chiefs urgently to make sure that key promises, for instance boosting police recruitment, will go ahead."
Sunday, 2 August 2009
The two german shepherds would have basically boiled alive, what a tragic and painful way to die. A real tragedy.
I have blogged about this a few times, firstly was when the story first broke, then the statement from the Nottinghamshire Police and then when the BBC reported the police officer was to face prosecution. The reason I have blogged about this is because of how angry this made me.
A spokesman for the animal welfare charity said: "The RSPCA can confirm that following the deaths of two police dogs in Nottinghamshire on 30 June, legal proceedings will be brought against a Nottinghamshire police officer for causing unnecessary suffering to the two animals."
One thing that still winds me up is that Nottinghamshire Police have said the handler could also be banned from keeping animals, could, COULD, he bloody well should never be allowed an animal to care for ever again full stop!
According to the RSPCA the police officer will soon receive a court summons before attending a Magistrates Court.
Let us hope he pleads guilty to this horrendous crime.
I am gay, I am proud of it and why does anyone have the right to murder or attack people just because of who they sleep with?
As a victim of hate crime myself on two separate occasions, the first when I was 18 and the second which was much worse when I was 20 I am still appalled when I see attacks based on race or sexual orientation, especially now, today in 2009.
This tragic attack has resulted in two young people being murdered and at least 10 injured, the likelihood is they are all teenagers, teenagers, for crying out loud what on earth have they done wrong to deserve this?
My thoughts are with the families of the two who have tragically lost their lives, the injured and the whole LGBT community in Tel Aviv.
Let us hope this arsehole is captured soon before he strikes again.
The centre in Tel Aviv is the HQ of the lesbian and gay rights association but the centre has a discreet entrance so this gunman had done his homework.
Yaniv Weizman, head of Israel's youth Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association said to the BBC - "We still don't know who is behind this attack but someone that knew this place - because it's not a place you can see outside - knew exactly where is the place, got in, and just shot everyone there.
"It's a horrible, horrible shock for the gay community, and the Tel Aviv municipality. Tel Aviv is supposed to be a very safe city.
"There is a big anger and if we will know that behind this action it's a religious movement, we will punish the people behind it, and the gay community here is very strong, and there will be a reaction from the gay community and the people in the government will be the first one to give us answers."
This is the time of year when we celebrate the LGBT community by having Pride celebrations, it was Brighton Pride yesterday and Leeds today, I hope in Leeds they take some time out to remember the two people who were murdered and all those injured and show our solidarity as a community within communities.