Reevesey's recommended reading

Friday, 30 October 2009

Labour's threat to democracy - shut polling stations

A great article in the Times today revealing Labour's plan to close thousands of polling stations across the UK to save some money.

The Government should really be encouraging people to vote and take part in the democratic process in this country not stifling the process.

Other proposals in the Department of Justice working paper include; cutting the number of election staff, replace polling cards with e-mail requests, increasing candidates’ deposits (currently set at £500, returnable if the candidate gets over 5%), fixed-term parliaments and reducing security at the election count.

These proposals will save some money, I agree but we should encourage people to participate in the democratic process not hinder them.

However, it seems Jack Straw has now performed one of the quickest u-turns in political history and has told officials within the Department to drop those ideas, because apparently they were only ideas.

Good for Jack Straw for putting a halt to this but perhaps now he may put his officials to use and think of ways of encouraging more people to participate in our democratic process.

National Trust for Scotland sells Edinburgh HQ

Another day, another controversial headline for the National Trust in Scotland. Now they've gone and sold the Edinburgh HQ based at 26 - 31 Charlotte Square, no details yet of the price but as they've sold it during a recession I guess they didn't get the best price.

This sale comes only months after the closure of four of the Trust's properties to the public and to it's 315,000 Members (of which I am one), they are The Robert Lorimer-designed Hill of Tarvit mansion house in Fife, Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire, Hutchesons' Hall in Glasgow and the Ben Lawers visitor centre in Perthshire.

The staff and HQ will now move to a site at Hermiston Quay West outside the city centre by October next year. I suppose that's the end of the cafe then, which always had a nice buzz and atmosphere.

A separate campaign group, In Trust for Scotland, was formed by some of the Trusts Members last year, after serious failure by the management to consult staff and Members about cash flow problems, resulting in the closure of the above mentioned properties.

Chief Executive Kate Mavor (quoted in the Times) said: "We want to ensure that our precious resources are put to the best possible use - protecting and preserving some of Scotland's most important cultural and natural heritage."

I do hope Kate and the team have made the right decision selling the Georgian building in Charlotte Square and that they sold it at the right time for the right price, unfortunately, like many others I don't have that much confidence.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Glasgow North East - the thirteen applicants

Nominations closed yesterday for the Glasgow North East by-election with a mammoth 13 candidates, who in alphabetical order are;
  • Charlie Baillie, British National Party
  • Willie Bain, Labour
  • Eileen Baxendale, Liberal Democrats
  • Mev Brown, independent
  • Colin Campbell, The Individuals Labour and Tory (TILT)
  • Ruth Davidson, Conservative
  • David Doherty, Green Party
  • Mikey Hughes
  • David Kerr, SNP
  • Louise McDaid, Socialist Labour Party
  • Kevin McVey, Scottish Socialist Party - Make Greed History
  • Tommy Sheridan, Solidarity
  • John Smeaton, Jury Team
The seat became vacant over 120 days ago when former House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin MP resigned over the MPs expenses and his handling, or not of the scandal. He now sits in the House of Lords.

Here is a brief summary of the 13 candidates.

As the fury over Nick Griffin on Question Time subsides, he turned up in Scotland yesterday but failed to turn up to support his by-election candidate after being pelted with eggs following a radio interview. The BNPs by-election candidate, David Baillie was in the news this weekend for saying that the BNP should remain for whites only.

Willie Bain is the Labour Party candidate, who works in London but still travels back to his Springburn home each week to fight his first ever election.

Councillor Eileen Baxendale is the Liberal Democrats candidate and is a former social worker with over twenty years experience working all over Glasgow including some key projects within Glasgow North East itself. Tavish Scott, on his second visit to the seat and Eileen yesterday were at the Royal Mail's main sorting office in Springburn criticising both Labour and the SNP for their handling of Royal Mail.













Mev Brown is an independent candidate who stood under the Jury Team banner at the European elections and has previously stood as a Tory and various independent banners.

Colin Campbell is the candidate for the TILT Party - The Individual Labour & Tory Party.

Former BBC journalist Ruth Davidson is the Conservative Party candidate and has been critical of the Labour party handling of the TA, as a former TA member herself.

David Doherty is standing for the Green Party, he has previously campaigned for them in the European elections.

Mikey Hughes is standing as an independent, he was the runner up of Big Brother 9 and is a radio presenter for Insight Radio.

David Kerr, another former BBC journalist is the SNP candidate, although not their first choice, nor their second either, he is the third choice candidate and Alex Salmond is already playing down their chances.

Louise McDaid is the Socialist Labour candidate.

Kevin McVey is standing for the Scottish Socialist Party and has pledged to forsake the MPs salary.

Veteran politician Tommy Sheridan is standing for Solidarity and was co-convener of the Scottish Socialist Party before leaving to form Solidarity.

The Jury Party, founded by a former Tory has selected John Smeaton who it has already been rumoured was going to stand down but obviously not. John found fame as a baggage handler at Glasgow Airport when he tackled one of the airport bombers.

Polling day is November 12th for the by-election.

The Caroline Righton smear campaign moves onto Wikipedia

On Sunday both myself and Councillor Matt Davies blogged about Caroline Righton's smear campaign of the Lib Dems candidate for St. Austell & Newquay, Steve Gilbert.

Then yesterday there was a series of postings across a range of blogs about how one week on neither Caroline Righton or the local Conservatives had had the decency to apologise and advise the same voters of the mistake as the week before, so the local Liberal Democrats have now written a letter to David Cameron and Eric Pickles seeking an answer.

When you visit Caroline Righton's page on Wikipedia it appears that all is not well there either.

It appears a member of Caroline Righton's staff has blanked the page at least twice and seems very determined to take it down, much to the annoyance of Wikipedia. Here is the conversation from the discussion page on Caroline Righton's wikipedia page between a member of her staff and Wikipedia staff.

Caroline Righton Does not want to have a Wikipedia Page
—Preceding unsigned comment added by Cabkol (talkcontribs) 00:24, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
It's not up to her. Wikipedia has strong policies about the content of biographies of living persons, so please do feel free to correct any factual inaccuracies or any lack of neutrality of its presentation. But blanking the article is not an option. She is a notable person. --Escape Orbit (Talk) 00:36, 11 October 2009 (UTC)

How can it not be up to her? surely she can choose what on here? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Cabkol (talkcontribs) 00:48, 11 October 2009 (UTC)

She has more control about what appears on here than she does over the news, but she does not control whether or not information appears at all. She is a notable public figure. She does, however, have control over the accuracy of the information presented, if anything in the article is inaccurate. I mention the news comparison in my first sentence to make my basic point -- no, she cannot choose whether or not she has an article on here, just as she cannot choose whether or not the news, or any other public source, releases information on her. Ginsengbomb (talk) 00:52, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
Are you the Anon editor who blanked the page on 1st October? As users Escape Orbit and Ginsengbomb have pointed out, she passes the criteria for WP:notability. However, be aware that: (1) continually blanking the page will get you banned, (2) As you claim to work for Caroline Righton, you may be blocked from editing this page through rules on WP:BIAS. As has been pointed out, you or Caroline Righton can point out issues of inaccuracy which can be quickly modified. I would also advise, having been involved with other pages where users where concerned about content inclusion or editing by those with an agenda, that there are other rules and outlined ways of dealing with concerns of those who have articles at Wikipedia. If you could communicate here or to one of us on our talk pages what these concerns are, perhaps we could address these directly. Not having a page is not an option, but making sure it is accurate and managing it carefully are all covered within our rules. If you have any questions, happy to chat. Rgds, --Trident13 (talk) 10:02, 11 October 2009 (UTC).

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

BNP Leader Nick Griffin fails to show in Glasgow North East after being pelted with eggs

So, where the English failed at the Question Time event, the Scots stopped Nick Griffin appearing with his racist candidate, Charlie Baillie standing in the Glasgow North East by-election.

Nick Griffin was due with Charlie at the Springburn Shopping Centre today to meet people in Glasgow North East, thankfully for them Nick Griffin was "held up" after being pelted with eggs by a crowd of around 40 demonstrators who were there to greet him at the HQ of L107 Radio in Hamilton, Lanarkshire.

Nick Griffin took part in the Lanarkshire station’s Music and Talk Show, hosted by James Russell this morning and L107 programme director Derek McIntyre defended the decision to have the BNP leader on but admitted it was “commercial suicide”.

He said: “We have received 50 emails this morning from people withdrawing their support for the station and two or three advertisers have said they are pulling out.”

I disagree with Derek McIntyre because the BNP have no elected representatives here in Scotland so he did not need to allow Griffin on but that is obviously his choice, although when a broadcast decision affects your advertising in a negative way, then I suspect the shareholders may also have a few.

I hope the eggs were battery and not free range, I would hate to see good food wasted.

Caroline Righton and her dirty tricks smear campaigns

I blogged about this on Sunday, you can read that here, but now a week later Caroline Righton and the Conservatives still have not apologised to Lib Dem PPC for St. Austell & Newquay, Steve Gilbert for circulating emails with made up content.

It is difficult to accept that someone who has worked in the media in the past didn't think to check whether the original Twitter message by Steve Gilbert did in fact contain the word D***h**d.

I find it unacceptable that neither Caroline Righton nor the Conservatives have in fact apologised to Steve Gilbert and the good people of St. Austell & Newquay for her smear and mistake.

Let us see how David Cameron responds to this letter, and see if he backs Caroline Righton's smear campaign?

You can read more about this over at Norfolk Blogger, Mark Pack's blog, Christopher Lovell's blog and Jeremy Rowe's blog.

Queerbashing alive and well - here in the UK!

James Parkes, his partner and friends had been for a night out on Sunday and as they left a club in Stanley Street, in the heart of Liverpool's gay community, he was set upon by a group of between thirteen and twenty thugs, yes thugs and bloody cowards, aged only 14 to 17 who beat him so much he has a fractured skull and cheekbone and fighting for his life in hospital.

What was James' crime last Sunday - nothing more than the fact he is gay!

James is just 22, and a trainee police officer and just starting out at the beginning of an exciting career.

Just 22, and attacked by thirteen thugs, for crying out loud, the guy did nothing wrong and what will happen to these thugs when they are caught, if anything? Let us hope the British Justice system gets it right, it often doesn't.

Thankfully there was CCTV there so let us hope the Police can catch all of these morons.

I still question what their parents knew of there whereabouts, I was lucky growing up, my Mum was very disciplined in what time I should be home, knowing where I was and who I was with - and god help me if she caught me out lol, which she did every time, up to the age of 18.

Do I regret it? Not one little bit.

So to the parents of Liverpool, ask yourself this question, where were your kids on Sunday night, did they come home with any blood on them or their clothes, think back, did they give some weird reason why they had a little blood on them?

What about the next day at school, did anyone hear someone boasting about this?

Anyone who witnessed the attack should call St Anne’s Street CID on 0151 777 4064 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 and let's get these thugs off the street, it could be your son or daughter they attack next!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Karen Whitefield MSP in Glasgow North East by-election email cock-up

Cara Hilton, Parliamentary Researcher to Karen Whitefield MSP, Airdrie & Shotts made a major email cock up this morning at 10.23am when she emailed every MSP and every Researcher.

With me so far?

Right, this Wednesday and next Wednesday USDAW are opening up their Edinburgh Offices from 5.30pm to 8pm for Glasgow North East telephone canvassing.

Is this a new cross party approach by USDAW?

Can I as the Director of Campaigns for the Scottish Liberal Democrats turn up tomorrow evening with my team of twelve?

I suspect not, because unfortunately for Cara Hilton she emailed every single MSP and MSP researcher to invite them along instead of just the Labour group, whoops, that's an email cock up of major proportions.

I suspect Cara won't be looking for a new role in Iain Gray's reshuffled cabinet!

Here is the email in full;

-----Original Message-----

From: Hilton C (Cara)

On Behalf Of Whitefield K (Karen), MSP

Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 10:23 AM

To: DL MSPs; DL MSP Researchers

Subject: Telephone Canvassing for Glasgow North East

Dear Colleagues

Just a reminder that Usdaw have agreed to open their Edinburgh Office on Wednesday night for MSPs/ MSP researchers to help with telephone canvassing for the Glasgow North East by election.

The office will be open between 5.30pm and 8pm.

If you can spare an hour or so to help out, please let me know ASAP - a voting button is attached.

Usdaw will also be opening up next Wednesday evening so if you could help then, please let me know.

Usdaw's office is at 39 York Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3HP.
http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=325810&y=674319&z=0&sv=EH1% 203HP&st=PostCode&lu=N&tl=~&ar=y&bi=~&mapp=map.srf&searchp=ids.srf

Thanks
Cara
Cara Hilton
Parliamentary Researcher to Karen Whitefield
MSP for Airdrie & Shotts
0131 2485969
01501 822200
www.karenwhitefield.com

BBC presenters and the Poppy

Every year I get angry about this and I never vent it, well this is the year, sit back and relax. From last week onwards the presenters on the BBC all end up wearing pristine poppies day in, day out.
First it is those on BBC News, then it spreads along other shows until everyone is wearing them, I suspect that as time goes on we will see the stars on Strictly Come Dancing wearing them as well and that is when it will really annoy me.

However, the staff haven't picked these poppies up in their local shops, they are instructed to wear them.

The wearing of a poppy in my opinion is a personal choice, it resembles the blood of those who have fallen in battle, giving their lives so we can live a better life.

To me, I wear the poppy each year to remember my Grandad who served and fought in the first and second world wars, and lived to tell the tale and for my Uncle, Nigel who served in the Falklands war 25 years ago, again living to tell the tale and for all those who served with them who didn't make it back, they lost their lives on the battlefield for us.

Imagine for just a moment if Hitler had won the second world war, would we enjoy the same freedom, fairness and democracy we enjoy today? I suspect not.

So why does the BBC think it acceptable to commercialise the poppy and make it part of their staff corporate uniform? Does the BBC make a donation to the Royal British Legion for bulk purchase of poppies each year? Do the staff get asked to make a donation for each poppy they wear?







A Poppy donation from your mobile for England & Wales (not iphones);

Text the word POPPY to 70222 - to make a donation to The Royal British Legion. (Texts cost £1.50 plus your standard network message charge). At least £1.00* goes directly to the Legion.

Please obtain the bill payers permission. Customer Service number is 0844 991 0078. All calls to this number will cost 5p per minute.

The service is provided by The Royal British Legion. By using this service you agree that we may contact you for future campaigns, unless you send STOP to 70222.

* Most text donations will generate at least £1 to the Poppy Appeal, text donations from Virgin, 3 and T-Mobile customers will be lower than £1. Suitable for WAP enabled phones only. Not available on i-phones.

For Poppy Scotland you can donate online.

Monday, 26 October 2009

President Mohamed Al Fayed?

According to this mornings Metro newspaper, "Fayed: I'm ready to be president". So I just assumed President of Harrods or some other nonsense title, but actually how wrong I was.

Mohamed Al Fayed in fact wishes to be President of Scotland, yes you read that right he wants to be President of Scotland.

There is a couple of caveats - one is that has to be an independent Scotland, and that the Scots have to abandon the Royal family.

The only thing that made sense in this weird pitch to be President is that Mohamed Al Fayed dislikes Alex Salmond, he said; "You have been living in a coma for too long. .....But I don't want this Alex Salmond. I asked to meet him but he refused. Salmond would be better off fishing for salmon than being a politician. He is a d***head."

Ouch, Al Fayed not holding his punches there.

(and I am blogging about d***heads a little too often this week).

I love Scotland, I love living here and I have loved it over the 20 years I holidayed here, and an Independent Scotland would be a nightmare and President Al Fayed would be nothing short of awful.

Leave Scotland alone and get on with running your shop and Estate and leave the politics alone.

Getting down and getting dirty

Staying on the playing dirty theme (see previous blog post) I have been really pleased to see one of our major supermarkets doing a voucher scheme that gets children outdoors and learning.

Don't get me wrong Tesco's computers for schools voucher scheme is good but it only achieves one thing, more computers.

Morrisons Let's Grow achieves so much more, it gets children learning where food comes from and makes growing food fun, it provides understanding of our entire eco-system and is actually exciting. Apparently they ran this last year, unfortunately I didn't notice the advertising then, but certainly have this time.

They provide kits for nurseries, teachers resource kits, equipment including wormeries, soil testing kits and biodegradable pots. There are then kits the children can take home including window pots for those kids who live in flats or within city centres where there are less gardens.

Last year according to Morrisons 15,500 schools took part growing a staggering 14million carrots and 4 million tomatoes so this year Morrisons have opened it up from just schools to nurseries, child-minders and home educators.

There are some easy things to grow, I recall at school growing mustard and cress but I was blessed going to a school that had bees, horses, chickens, ducks and sheep as well as a school garden. I appreciate not every child has access to that kind of school so this is fantastic, Morrisons are only giving out vouchers when you spend a £10 and it finishes this Saturday so make sure you get your vouchers and hand them into a participating school, each branch will know of the local schools.

Morrisons - ten out of ten for this one. Helping schools, helping children and helping the environment.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Caroline Righton and Tories in dirty campaign tricks - shame

As a former campaign organiser for the Liberal Democrats in London I worked with some amazing Councillors who really worked hard trying to do their bit to improve their wards, Stephen Gilbert was one of those who I only got to work with for a short while, but he has turned into one of my best friends within the party.

The one thing that always struck me with Steve was his love for his Cornwall, and when the opportunity came to stand to e the next MP for St. Austell & Newquay he jumped for it and I am so pleased that he is the Liberal Democrats candidate and another of my best friends is the constituency organiser down there - a winning team!

Obviously Steve is rattling the Conservatives down there to the extent that they are running a dirty tricks campaign which is utterly disgraceful.

Caroline Righton (the Conservative candidate) has misrepresented Steve, either deliberately or by mistake in an email she has apparently sent to local residents and also appears to have told a story which not only isn't true, but can very simply be checked! Perhaps she should have done that before sending her email out?

Last Wednesday, both Steve and the Conservative candidate had been invited to two different events - one a question time sort of radio debate, to be broadcast live on Radio Devon, the other a last-minute invite to a meeting about the regeneration of St.Columb, a key town in the constituency of St. Austell & Newquay.

Steve had been down to ask a question to the panel at the radio debate but took the view that the local regeneration issue was more important thn the radio interview - so withdrew from that to go to the St.Columb meeting. The Conservative candidate took the opposite view, and therefore sent her apologies to the local regeneration forum.

Now, sat up here in my flat in Edinburgh it is not for me to decide for one of our top candidates what he should or shouldn't do, but if Steve was one of my candidates, I wold be telling him he did the right thing.

Like lots of candidates across the UK, Steve uses Facebook and Twitter to keep constituents, friends and supporters updated on what he's doing as well as his website.

After that night's meeting he Twittered: "was at meeting about regeneration of major town (declined by Tory PPC; Tory PPC at a publicity stunt (declined by me)"

Bizarrely I actually remember the tweet, as I was on my way home and catching up on Twitter via my Blackberry on UberTwitter.

So, imagine my surprise to find that the Conservative candidate, Caroline Righton then shared this on her email but alleging that Steve had actually sent this out with this next piece added in "D***h**d!!!"

She then goes onto say "I was sent the comment below by a constituent who is privy to my opposition's Twitter emissions, which I am not. Apparently his asterisk'd comment is highly abusive."

Now, the above comment does also add another dimension, because on inspection of Caroline's Twitter account shows that she does in fact follow Steve Gilbert so would have been aware of his tweet - they aren't called emissions! Or, she doesn't actually use her account properly in which case Twitter should suspend it.

However, Caroline's last tweet was from the day after the Radio Debate, so I checked Steve's Twitter account also, to be fair and balanced and to confirm my memory and here is the entry "was at meeting about regeneration of major town (declined by Tory PPC); Tory PPC at a publicity stunt (declined by me)....
This kind of behaviour should not be tolerated by the people of St. Austell & Newquay nor the Conservative Party and I hope they will show the Conservatives candidate that she is in fact not Right-on at all and this action will not be tolerated. If this was in a job, she would actually be fired, let us see if David Cameron acts on this underhanded campaign tactic?

You can read this story as written by another friend, Councillor Matt Davies.

Blogging for the Guardian and Observer

Sat late last night, or early this morning depending on you look at it just going through a pile of newspapers seeing what to blog about over the weekend and came across the jobs pages in Mondays Guardian.

The advert says, Beatbloggers - 12 month freelance contracts in Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

"The Guardian is launching an initiative in a small number of locations and would like to recruit a blogger in each of Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh, to create and curate local text and multimedia content.

"You will lead the Guardian's innovative approach to community news coverage by reporting on local meetings and events with an emphasis on political decision making, identifying grassroots issues of importance to residents and signposting information and news provided via other sources."

The closing date for anyone that is interested is Sunday 8th November 2009.

I was struck that this really is quite an innovative way of doing local news nationally but wondered why the Guardian has selected three major cities that the Liberal Democrats control either on their own or with other political parties, or is it just entirely coincidence?

Glasgow North East BNP racist vow

The Glasgow North East by-election is well under way now and the Liberal Democrats nomination papers went in on Friday, the Labour Party apparently had only just collected theirs the day before!

However, that is not the story, what fueled my anger this morning is seeing the Scotland on Sunday front page headline - "BNP man's racist vow".

Forget Question Time, Glasgow North East is where the argument with the BNP is at.

The BNP by-election candidate, David Baillie has said that he will "go to his grave" wanting his party to remain for whites only and racist!

He also said "brown, black and yellow" should not be allowed to join the BNP.

The BNP by-election candidate will campaign on an anti-immigration platform focusing on asylum seekers. He was then asked if he would turn away someone from Zimbabwe who faced death on return - his reply, "yes, they have neighbouring countries they can go to".

So, a racist and no understanding of the international situation and obviously as he lives in a democracy has no understanding of the awful violence etc that goes on in countries such as Zimbabwe.

So, the truth is out, the BNP really only want whites in their party and the spin that people such as Nick Griffin the leader put on it is hogwash.

Let us hope the people of Glasgow North East reject this racist party on 12th November.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Labour Government fail Equitable Life policy holders

I appreciate that neither the Government nor the main Opposition Party are going to want to be seen supporting a Liberal Democrats Opposition day debate or motion, however, the two topics that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats chose have only highlighted the sheer hypocricy on the other benches.

Back in 2001 when I worked for Vince Cable as his Parliamentary Researcher the Equitable Life story broke and Vince's inbox and intray just filled and filled up with heartbreaking correspondence from people who had lost everything.

Every time Vince got up and spoke in a debate or in one of his many Adjournment Debates or even just a series of Parliamentary Questions people wrote in, emailed and telephoned, in their hundreds and thousands (I kid you not, ask the rest of Vince's team) with more stories.

This is a topic Vince has never let go since then, every year Vince has kept fighting for the Equitable Life policy holders and in May this year Tabled another Early Day Motion, number 1423 this time, the text of the Motion is below;

That this House notes the Parliamentary Ombudsman has taken the unusual step of using powers under the 1967 Act to present Parliament with a further and final report on Equitable Life; also notes that the Public Administration Select Committee's second report on Equitable Life, Justice denied? concluded that the Government response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report was inadequate as a remedy for injustice; recognises the vital role the Ombudsman plays in public life; reaffirms the duty of Parliament to support the office of the Ombudsman; believes the Government should accept the recommendations of the Ombudsman on compensating policyholders who have suffered loss; welcomes the formation of the All-Party Group on Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders; and notes with regret its necessary formation and the fact that over 30,000 people have already died waiting for a just resolution to this saga.

As you will see from the very last line over 30,000 policy holders have died in the time the Labour Government has been dealing (badly) with this issue.

342 MPs signed Vince Cable's EDM 1423 in May 2009 and yet just five months later many of those turned their backs on the very same policy holders they claim they are on the side of and defeated the Liberal Democrats motion this week.

The Motion was defeated by just 25 votes.

Of the 342 who signed the Motion in May, 79 then voted against the Liberal Democrats Motion this week, however one of those 79, Derek Wyatt was actually one of the 6 proposers of EDM 1423.

So, yes those 79 who were supportive of the EDM could have voted Aye with the Liberal Democrats and not only defeated the Government but much, much more importantly than that, they could have stood up for the Equitable Life policy holders - not only should they be ashamed of themselves they are nothing more than hypocrites, and they are;

Derek Wyatt (Labour - Sittingbourne & Sheppey), Diane Abbott (Labour - Hackney North and Stoke Newington), Nick Ainger (Labour - Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire), David Anderson (Labour - Blaydon), Janet Anderson Labour - Rossendale and Darwen), Charlotte Atkins (Labour - Staffordshire Moorlands), Hugh Bayley (Labour - City of York), Anne Begg (Labour - Aberdeen South), Roger Berry (Labour - Kingswood), David S Borrow (Labour - South Ribble), Richard Burden (Labour - Birmingham Northfield), Colin Burgon (Labour - Elmet), Richard Caborn (Labour - Sheffield Central), David Cairns (Labour - Inverclyde), Ronnie Campbell (Labour - Blyth Valley), Colin Challen (Labour - Morley & Rothwell), Ben Chapman (Labour - Wirral South), Michael Clapham (Labour - Barnsley West & Penistone), Katy Clark (Labour - Ayrshire North & Arran), Tom Clarke (Labour - Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill), Michael Connarty (Labour - Linlithgow & Falkirk East), Frank Cook (Labour - Stockton North), David Crausby (Labour - Bolton North East), Ann Cryer (Labour - Keighley), John Cummings (Labour - Easington), Jim Cunningham (Labour - Coventry South), Janet Dean (Labour - Burton), Jim Dobbin (Labour - Heywood & Middleton), Frank Dobson (Labour - Holborn & St. Pancras), Bill Etherington (Labour - Sunderland North), Mark Fisher (Labour - Stoke-on-Trent Central), Hywel Francis (Labour - Aberavon), Mike Gapes (Labour - Ilford South), Neil Gerrard (Labour - Walthamstow), Roger Godsiff (Labour - Birmingham, Sparkbrook & Small Heath), David Hamilton (Labour - Midlothian), Fabian Hamilton (Labour - North East Leeds), Tom Harris (Labour - Glasgow South), Doug Henderson (Labour - Newcastle upon Tyne North), Stephen Hepburn (Labour - Jarrow), Stephen Hesford (Labour - Wirral West), David Heyes (Labour - Ashton-under-Lyne), George Howarth (Labour - Knowsley North & Sefton East), Kim Howells (Labour - Pontypridd), Joan Humble (Labour - Blackpool North & Fleetwood), Eric Illsley (Labour - Barnsley Central), Brian Jenkins (Labour - Tamworth), Martyn Jones (Labour - Clwyd South), Gerald Kaufman (Labour - Manchester, Gorton), Sally Keeble (Labour - Northampton North), Ashok Kumar (Labour - Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland), Bob Laxton (Labour - Derby North), Martin Linton (Labour - Battersea), Andrew Love (Labour - Edmonton), Chris McCafferty (Labour - Calder Valley), Andrew Miller (Labour - Ellesmere Port & Neston), Elliot Morley (Labour - Scunthorpe), Paul Murphy (Labour - Torfaen), Bill Olner (Labour - Nuneaton), Sandra Osborne (Labour - Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock), James Plaskitt (Labour - Warwick & Leamington), Greg Pope (Labour - Hyndburn), Gwyn Prosser (Labour - Dover), Linda Riordan (Labour - Halifax), Geoffrey Robinson (Labour - Coventry North West), Joan Ryan (Labour - Enfield North), Martin Salter (Labour - Reading West), Marsha Singh (Labour - Bradford West), Andy Slaughter (Labour - Ealing, Acton & Shepherd's Bush), Angela C Smith (Labour - Sheffield Hillsborough), Geraldine Smith (Labour - Morecambe & Lunesdale), Peter Soulsby (Labour - Leicester South), Howard Stoate (Labour - Dartford), Graham Stringer (Labour - Manchester, Blackley), Dari Taylor (Labour - Stockton South), David Taylor (Labour - North West Leicestershire), Desmond Turner (Labour - Brighton, Kemptown) and Joan Walley (Labour - Stoke-on-Trent North).

All 79 of these MPs are Labour MPs and if you live in their constituency, I would urge you to conatct them to ask why they are being hypocritical on this extremely important matter?

Use WriteToThe.com to contact them, it is really easy to use.

Prince Andrew defends Bankers Bonuses

So, a privileged member of the Royal Family (and no I am in no way a Republican) is defending the bonuses for bankers by calling them minute in the scheme of things!

Minute - since when was £105,000 minute?

Come on HRH, get with the programme, that would take the average person 10 years to accrue if they didn't spend their salary on anything else, but because you work for somewhere like Goldman Sachs you get £105,000+ on top just because...well if you are one of the 31,000 people working at Goldman Sachs, that is the average bonus payment due to you.

Banks are predicting paying out £6billion of bonuses in 2009, compared to just £4billion in 2008. In other words people in the banking industry have not learnt anything in the last year, despite banks going to the wall, despite banks increasing charges to ordinary account holders like me, despite part nationalisation of the banks and despite tens of thousands of people across the UK being made redundant by the banks, they are actually going to increase the bonuses they payout, so less staff, and less branches yet £2billion more in bonuses.

Pigs in troughs is what springs to mind and Prince Andrew is obviously not in touch with the real world.

In fact, on Wednesday a White House spokesperson has said of bonuses: "Pay on Wall Street can't return to the speculative era that we saw last, specifically right before the economic collapse..." and added "Pay has to be based on a reasonable assumption of risk, not speculation."

The Liberal Democrats Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Vince Cable MP said: “People will be rightly furious to see Goldman Sachs paying out bumper bonuses just 12 months after it was bailed out by the US government.

“It is farcical that so soon after the reckless greed of bankers brought the world economy to its knees, we are seeing a return to business as usual.

“There is a fundamental problem that the banks which made it through the credit crunch can now operate in a near monopoly, with government backing, and reap massive profits.

“Bankers should spare a thought for taxpayers who bailed the system out, some of whom no longer have jobs.”

Vince as usual is absolutely spot on with this and Prince Andrew should keep his nose out of this one and leave it to those who know what they are actually talking about such as Vince Cable and rich people defending even richer people is hardly a great shock!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Jan Moir tries to apologise but still misses the point

Jan Moir's recent homophobic column in the Daily Mail about the death of Stephen Gately was awful and I have previously blogged about it, you can read it here.

Well, it does appear that Jan Moir is trying to apologise in her latest column, titled "The truth about my views on the tragic death of Stephen Gately."

Initially as you read it you feel there may actually be a genuine change of heart, although there are some lines it that make me feel otherwise. I have spent a lot of time since Jan Moir's first column reading some of her past columns and I have come to the conclusion that she isn't homophobic, but uses people's sexuality a little bit too liberally in the columns when it really doesn't add anything to the content.

"What had been reported about that night is that Stephen and his civil partner Andrew Cowles went to a nightclub and brought back a Bulgarian man to their apartment."

This line from the apology proves a point, the Bulgarian man, is a close friend, yet still Jan is trying to imply something sinister.

"There have been complaints about my use of the word 'sleazy' to describe this incident, but I still maintain that to die on a sofa while your partner is sleeping with someone else in the next room is, indeed, sleazy, no matter who you are or what your sexual orientation might be."

There is no proof at all that this is the event that took place, just nothing more than gossip and since then it has come out that it is in fact untrue, that Andrew Cowles and the friend in question were in fact in different bedrooms.

"The point of my observation that there was a 'happy ever after myth' surrounding such unions was that they can be just as problematic as heterosexual marriages. "

But Jan, that isn't what you said, so surely if that is what you meant then perhaps you should have said it and it might have avoided a lot of uncertainty?

The original column also talked about other gay stars, dead and alive, again with absolutely no justification, perhaps as stars accept complete hogwash is written about them the public should too, but I don't think it is acceptable for "journalists" and I say that in the loosest term with some people to just say what they want without facts being part of their research.

Jan Moir may not be homophobic, but in my opinion the original column was and some of the content is sheer hogwash. As for the apology, nice try but way off the mark and not genuine as there are too many caveats and justifications that undo the original part.

The one part of the apology I felt was real was that about the timing of the original column - it was very bad timing indeed.

Mercedes settles into her new home

Mercedes, the UK's only polar bear last week moved from her home in Edinburgh Zoo to her new home at the Highland Wildlife Park, near Kingussie.

On Monday she was available for visitors to see her in her new 4 acre home in the Highlands.

Mercedes had been in Edinburgh for 25 years. She was rescued from her native country, Canada after she was due to be shot. Unfortunately for Mercedes she had began roaming into town in search of food as she became hungry and, as polar bears are dangerous animals, this behaviour had to be discouraged.

Mercedes was captured and the number ‘39’ was painted on her coat which then allowed her to be tracked. On her third visit into the town the decision was made to shoot her. Luckily for her and us, she was rescued and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland offered her a home here at Edinburgh Zoo back in 1984.

The zoo announced their decision to move Mercedes from Edinburgh Zoo to the Highland Wildlife Park earlier this year and the costs of a new enclosure were estimated at £300,000. However, a team of soldiers from the British Army donated their time, skills and equipment to help build parts of the enclosure which drastically reduced the cost to just £75,000. The remaining funds required were raised following a successful public appeal.

We had seen on our visits to Edinburgh Zoo the preparation including the building of the crate eventually used to transport Mercedes, this was left near the enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo so she got used to it.

Staff at Edinburgh Zoo had been training Mercedes to walk into this transport crate for a few months. The crate was lifted onto a lorry and Mercedes travelled up the A9 which took around three hours.

Apparently when she arrived at the Highland Wildlife Park, she walked out of her crate and immediately began investigating her indoor dens and holding pen.

Mercedes now has a 4 acre home and we cannot wait to go and see her in the new enclosure, but here is a photo of Mercedes sleeping while still at Edinburgh Zoo taken by yours truly.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Chelsea FC back to their winning ways

I am not sure what was wrong recently with the guys but we were not playing as a team, certainly not against Villa where we lost for the second game in a row.
Thankfully last night we were back, with a vengeance, beating Atletico Madrid 4 - 0, with Lamps back on the score sheet and two from Kalou and an own goal in the 90th minute gave us a definitive victory - much needed after two below par games.

You can read the full match report here. I will never question the managers judgement nor the Captains, I believe there is no one better than John Terry but they both have to find ways of motivating the boys when we are playing poorly.

I am happy for the team and manager that we are now on the verge of qualifying for the Champions League, I really am, however I want us back on the top of the Premier League and to win that title more.

So, bring on Blackburn next week and let's stay in our winning ways Chelsea.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Scottish Government deals killer blow to Royal Mail on eve of national strike

The Scottish Government have dealt a killer blow to Royal Mail by awarding the £8million Procurement Scotland/public sector contract which deals with the mail to NHS Scotland, colleges and most councils in Scotland to TNT from the 1st November.

How must Royal Mail staff across Scotland feel now, today on the eve of the big UK wide strike when they find out the SNP controlled Government have stabbed them in their backs?

This news comes only a matter of weeks after the announcement that Royal Mail had lost the contract with Amazon, this cannot be healthy for Scotland?

Yesterday in the House of Commons, the Liberal Democrats Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael questioned postal services Minister, Pat McFadden MP this very issue.

Speaking in the House of Commons Chamber, Mr Carmichael asked;

Even without the impact of strike action we have the very alarming news in Scotland, that one of the major public sector contracts, the Procurement Scotland/public sector contract which deals with the mail to NHS Scotland, colleges and most councils in Scotland is going to be given to a private sector operator. What can he do to ensure that the hemorrhaging of business that we’ve seen from private business to which he has referred does not now spread to the public sector?”

Replying, Minister for Business, Pat McFadden MP said;

“Competition exists and it won’t go away. Competition exists in the postal service and I have to say to the Honourable member that it cannot be wished away, band what I want is a Royal Mail that is fit to win in that market rather than a Royal Mail that simply wishes competition to go away, and I make a second point the most fundamental challenge to Royal Mail is not competition from other mail companies it’s competition from other communication technologies and that must lie at the heart of the response to this dispute.”

I am pleased that Alistair Carmichael is taking the Government to task over this but I wonder what the SNPs Mike Weir MP will have to say about it, he has strong views on TNT you know?

On the 16th March this year, SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, expressed bemusement at news HM Revenue & Customs had awarded a £4.5 million-a-year contract to deliver its internal mail to TNT and went on to say;

“I think people will struggle to understand why a firm, which just repaid millions in unpaid taxes, has been awarded a multi-million pound contract from the Inland Revenue.

“HMRC really need to explain what their thinking is on this one.

“To make matters worse this is the firm that appears to be front-runner to buy into Royal Mail if Lord Mandelson’s privatisation plans come to fruition.

“Privatisation would spell the beginning of the end for Royal Mail, and open the door to job losses, service cuts and a deterioration in the working conditions of postal workers.

“A private partner will only be concerned with profit, and Royal Mail must not loose the social focus which is essential for rural areas.”

I wonder if Mr. Weir would like his comments passed onto the First Minister, who's Government have awarded the new government contract to TNT?

Don't get me wrong, I am also all for competition and obviously like to pay the cheapest cost to get something done but is the right time to be putting the boot into the Royal Mail, it appears that our SNP and Labour Governments don't actually care?

I think it is right to have competition within the postal services, but Royal Mail should run the mail system and not have to do it at a loss and should treat their workers with respect and loyalty and then maybe we wouldn't see the continuing strikes escalate.

The Scottish Government response to the £8million contract being awarded to TNT instead of Royal Mail? "The other bigger contract went to the Royal Mail" - the problem is they already had the contract!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Lord Rennard cleared in expenses row

Earlier this evening the Clerk of the Parliaments, the senior official who was investigating the complaint made against the former Liberal Democrats Chief Executive and Peer, Lord Rennard.

I liked the line in the ruling "...Lord Rennard’s record over the period in question shows that he was far from inactive in the House ..." given the hours Chris Rennard worked over the road in our Cowley Street HQ, I bumped into Chris Rennard many of the weekends I was working there.

The ruling by the Clerk of the Parliaments rejects the allegations made that Chris Rennard claimed overnight subsistence for days that he was not present in the House and also rejects allegations that he made claims related to having a home outside London that he wasn’t entitled to make:

"Your allegation that Lord Rennard did not attend on all the days for which he claimed overnight subsistence is not, therefore, well-founded; and I accordingly do not uphold this aspect of the complaint."

You can read the full report and response to the allegation here. Given how quick the knives came out for Chris Rennard, let us see if people are as quick to apologise?

BNP or Jan Moir - is there a difference?

I have been wondering what I felt about the BNP being on BBC Question Time versus Jan Moir's column in the Daily Mail, both wind me up no end but in slightly different ways.

I do think that the BNP's elected Parliamentarians should get a slot on occasion on shows such as Question Time, but the percentage of times they appear should be in proportion to where they come in the political spectrum.

I believe in free speech and given that often the BNP end up with their abhorrent views coming out in the open it is worth it - but seriously in our democracy we have to accept that people have elected the BNP candidates so they have to have the opportunity to then participate in public debate.

However, the broadcaster or the print media has to accept if the BNP person spouts out racist, homophobic or sexist stuff the plus has to be pulled!

So, you may ask why was I so angry with Jan Moir's column in the Daily Mail?

Again, I stand by my free speech stance, but as I said at the time, she was out of order and she knew full well that she was whipping up hysteria with homophobic language, otherwise why did the Daily Mail have to remove the online advertising from the online column?

I was also upset about the timing of the column, Jan Moir had no respect for the family, partner and friends of Stephen Gately by publishing not only the content but the innuendo and she could well have left it until after the funeral.

I don't agree with those people who are calling for her to be fired, but I do think she get a proper disciplinary at the Daily Mail, I also hope the Press Complaints Commission deal with this properly and don't just brush it under the carpet!

10:10 Campaign - the Lib Dems debate

Simon Hughes MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary and Martin Horwood, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Minister will be opening and winding up the debate for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons tomorrow.

Liberal Democrats understand that the next few weeks and months are of vital importance in our efforts to tackle climate change.

In December world leaders will meet in Copenhagen to seek a global agreement to address the worsening climate crisis. To secure a deal, Britain and the developed world need to accept their historic responsibility for the industrial emissions which are causing runaway climate change and take action.

Liberal Democrats want to commit Parliament to sign up to the 10:10 campaign and want the government and public sector to achieve a 10% reduction in carbon emissions by the end of 2010.

Now is the time for action on climate change, not just more warm words. The UK government and parliament has a chance on Wednesday to take a leadership role and send a powerful signal around the globe of its commitment to address the climate crisis.

The Labour party has had twelve years in government and failed for too long to take the serious action needed to prevent the climate crisis. The Conservatives have claimed to be an environmental party but policies to deal urgently with these issues seemed to have dropped a long way down their agenda. This Wednesday is the chance for the two other main parties to match their actions and their votes to their words.

John Lamont MSP ignores Cameron's orders

During the Conservative Party conference David Cameron and Eric Pickles banned the drinking of champagne as they didn't want to make out they were nothing more than rich toffs supping champers and nibbling smoked salmon darling.

Well, courtesy of the London Evening Standard, as you can see in this picture, (scroll down) it's the one under David Cameron and it appears that John Lamont MSP has chosen to ignore his leaders request, in fact all of those in the picture ignoring their boss, guzzling the champers are Scots - they are (from left to right) Andrea Stephenson, Operations Co-ordinator of the Scottish Conservative Party; Cllr Jason Rust, Conservative candidate for Edinburgh South West; John Lamont, Member of the Scottish Parliament; and Cllr Mark McInnes, Director of the Scottish Conservative Party.


John Lamont MSP seems to like winding his bosses up. Annabel Goldie has continually attacked Salmond for having a dual mandate, and now John Lamont MSP wants to follow in Alex Salmond's footsteps and try for two jobs.

Unfortunately for him, Michale Moore MP holds one of those jobs and he is very unlikely to want to give that up, as he is a great constituency MP and is always fighting for a better deal for the Borders unlike champers guzzling John Lamont.

Why people are losing jobs across Scotland as the picture shows the Conservatives are happy to guzzle champagne, I think the Scottish Conservatives slipped up on this one - bad timing.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Labour candidate in Glasgow North East's contract - version three


I am happy that Willie Bain and the Labour Party treat my blog with such high regard. I have published on my blog now the first edition of his contract for the voters of Glasgow North East which he forgot to sign, read the story here.
Then I wrote about the fact he had removed a key paragraph on the second edition of his contract, read that story here.

Now, on day three of the election campaign and on the day of the launch of the Labour campaign (yes, I know, we launched last week, bless them for finally catching up) they have now launched a third edition of the contract late last night following my advice which you can see here.

How many more before November 12th?

Is there any other advice I should give the Labour campaign here on my blog?

Well apart from don't phone voters in Dunfermline & West Fife telling them about the Glasgow North East by-election with a recorded message from Willie Bain. Dunfermline & West Fife voters are very happy with their choice of MP, Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie MP.

Back to the contract, don't mix real handwriting and a handwriting font, it doesn't look as if Willie Bain can write long sentences - cheap shot I know - seriously, I don't understand why they didn't get him to hand write all of the "handwritten" parts, or type it all?

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Clegg, Cameron and Brown - the Leaders debate

So, David Cameron is trying to dictate how many and what format the Leaders TV debates should be based on. Actually Mr Cameron it isn't your opinion that counts!

It is becoming quite obvious that Cameron is now backtracking on his original challenge, I don't think he really expected Gordon Brown to respond positively, Nick Clegg was always going to respond because he is not scared of either Brown or Cameron.

There is the idea of also having a Chancellor of the Exchequer debate between Darling, Cable and Osbourne and a further one between the Foreign Secretaries.

I want to see the three Leaders have three debates, one in January, one in March and then one during the actual campaign, so one on Sky, BBC and ITV each.

Brown apparently wants six, Clegg three and Cameron wishes he had never said anything.

It is not up to the Liberal Democrats, Labour, Conservatives or the actual Leaders, it is and should be the decision of the TV companies, they are paying for it when all said and done.

Labour candidate in Glasgow North East's contract - part two


On Thursday this week I blogged about Willie Bain's contract with the voters of Glasgow North East, you can read it here, he launched his contract but did not sign it, I assume because he didn't agree with it?

Well, now he has signed it but it is amended so he obviously wasn't happy with the first one, here is the new amended signed contract, which we will probably see at the Labour launch tomorrow.
Now, the missing text is quite important, it is here below and if you visit the original blog post you will clearly see it there.
It appears that Labour's Willie Bain no longer wants to earn the trust of the people in Glasgow North East and that he also believes that our MPs don't need to earn your trust. The second point is that, yes, Willie Bain will take you for granted, some may say Labour already are. If he felt these two points were important they would have stayed in the amended contract that he went on to sign.

Human Rights Lawyer disappears in Syria

It seems that the Syrian authorities are up to their normal tricks again. My eye was drawn to a twitter message from a friend and colleague today about the disappearance of a prominent lawyer and human rights activist Haythan al-Maleh.

"The Syrian government should reveal the fate of the prominent lawyer and rights activist Haytham al-Maleh, 78, who disappeared on October 14, 2009,and should release him immediately and unconditionally if it is detaining him", Human Rights Watch said today.

The reason for the disappearance is being attributed to a telephone interview aired on an opposition TV station Barada TV on October 12 in which he criticised the Syrian authorities for their repression of freedom of expression.

The following day Haytham al-Maleh was summonsed for interrogation by Political Security one of Syria's intelligence services, he refused and the following day he has disappeared.

It could be coincidence however, given Syria's record on human rights it is very doubtful.

Human Rights Watch has asked Syria to be honest and admit if they are detaining him, their deafening silence indicates they probably are! Let us hope the Foreign Secretary will give this matter some of his attention this week, I have emailed to give my two pence worth.

Farewell and good bye Stephen Gately

I can be quite emotional at the very best of times and in recent weeks I have had to deal with the sudden diagnosis and then death of my Mum, that has hit me harder than I had ever realised it would.

Sometimes watching things like Holby City and Casualty are just a little too bit close to home, if they hit me then my Sister must go through nightmares during those programmes.

So, last night watching the coverage of Stephen's funeral was hard, listening to Ronan Keating breaking down was just a little too close to comfort. Stephen was just 33, say that out loud, thirty three - it is just so young - he and his partner had their lives ahead of them.

The coverage last night reminded me a little bit of Princess Diana's funeral, the thousands of people who turned up to pay their final respects, to show Stephen's family and friends that they cared as well.

We forget the impact that boybands, and popstars generally have on young people and that was why I was so delighted that Stephen came out, whatever the circumstances were that maybe forced his hand, he was supported by the remaining band members who were close then and are still today.

Yesterday Ireland and the world said goodbye to one of it's young sons, the streets of Dublin around the St Laurence O'Toole's church in North Dublin were crammed with people who wanted to say goodbye, people who lived in the area came out with food and drinks, opened their homes for people to use their bathrooms and some even brought out pillows and duvets.

I hope Jan Moir watched yesterday and I really hope she is feeling a little bit embarrassed, I suspect not because she works for the Daily Mail when all said and done, I blogged about her column the other day and I am still as angry now about it as I was then - you can read it here or you can read Stephen Glenn's take on it all here.

I hope Stephen Gately's family, partner, friends and family will be allowed some private time now. Farewell Stephen, you were part of my growing up as a gay man with your music, RIP.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

El Presidente Tony Blair

As George Lyon MEP quite rightly states, if the words President Tony Blair don't send a shiver down your spine, they should or you aren't entirely normal - or you are Peter Mandelson (then please see previous comment).

With Ireland voting yes to and then Poland ratifying the Lisbon Treaty this is something that could in fact become reality.

Imagine the destruction Tony Blair could do with armies from across Europe? Wasn't it bad enough that he and George Bush took us into an illegal war in Iraq?

I fully believe that Tony Blair has to answer for the illegal war in Iraq before he can go onto anything else, given that he has blood on his hands and that is how he is known throughout the world, is he in fact even someone who should be considered as a candidate for this post?

I don't think he should until all of the questions from Iraq have finally been answered.

He became power made running the UK, I cannot even begin to wonder the size of his ego if he became President of the European Union and what's more I don't want to imagine it because I really hope it does not come any closer to reality than it is now - a suggestion.

George Lyon MEP goes onto show his support for Mary Robinson. On this one George, I am entirely with you.

Conservative MP moans he earns close to the minimum wage

David Wilshire the Conservative MP for Spelthorne, who was behind Section 28, is now moaning that because of the hours he works he earns dangerously close to the minimum wage.

This is the same MP who claimed his own company £105,500 using his Parliamentary expenses. The Directors of the company are erm, him and his girlfriend. The company is not publicly registered and doesn't file accounts. David Wilshire MP also could not prove what the money had been spent on!

He claims that neither he nor his girlfriend have benefited financially from his company or this £105,500 payment - but the fact that he cannot prove what the money has been spent on is shocking, even a basic company accounts would have to show those facts by keeping basic accounts, copies of invoices and receipts so why can't he?

I am pleased he is standing down, but in the old days as it were he would have resigned now causing a by-election and to be honest if David Cameron was as tough on the expenses matter as he claims surely he would have insisted David Wilshire resign now?

This shows that teflon Dave is not as decisive a leader as he claims and he cannot stand up to those within his own party.

So both Alan Duncan and now David Wilshire have moaned about the amount they earn and the standards of living, so here is my challenge, let's swap jobs and salaries for three months and see who complains first, my boss or the constituents of their constituencies?

MPs earn around £65,000 per year, that is over twice what I earn and for the last nine months my salary has had to pay for two homes and pay for me and my partner, and yes we have had some really tough times so my answer to David Wilshire MP is simple, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen and let someone else have a go.

Shut up moaning David Wilshire and Alan Duncan and get on with the job you are paid for.

Friday, 16 October 2009

New Lib Dem Mayor of Bedford - Dave Hodgson

Today was the count for the biggest election since Norwich North and before Glasgow North East, the Mayoralty of Bedford.

Nothing on Iain Dale's blog nor Guido Fawkes which I was a wee bit surprised about, although Iain is a little busy in Bracknell, even missing PMQs this week, but even so......this was a major victory for the Liberal Democrats in an area where there is a Labour MP.

It really is time for the Liberal Democrats to replace the Labour Party.

I have known Dave for many years, in fact he was on of the three people in the "National" party that influenced me and made a major impact in my very early days in the party some twelve thirteen years ago - there was Dave Hodgson, Neil Fawcett and Gerald Vernon-Jackson.

So, Bedford has a Labour MP but yet the Mayoral race was between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives - in the final result, Labour came 5th - I bet Patrick Hall is a worried man tonight and rightly so.

So, this evening Bedford has a Liberal Democrat Mayor, Dave Hodgson, well done to Dave, Christine and the team - you have done the party proud.

The pundits that right our party off do so foolishly, we are capable of replacing the Labour Party in the House of Commons and we are confident and our targeting strategy is bigger than ever before. As Dave Hodgson has proved, right us off at your peril.

Jan Moir's homophobic column in the Daily Mail

I have been in some General election and Scottish election planning meetings all day today so was catching up on Twitter as waiting for the bus home from the city centre and saw that Jan Moir was being attacked for her column today.

So, I saw on Caron's blog that as usual homophobia was alive and well in the Daily Mail in the form of a column by Jan Moir and that during the course of the day online advertising had been removed from the site, such is the power of the internet these days.

Anyway, unlike a lot of my friends and colleagues on the web I am going to link to it because people need to read this crap that the Mail's columnists get paid to write and hopefully they will stop buying it because of articles such as this.

Surely, Stephen Gately's family, partner, friends and fellow Boyzone members deserve some time to grieve and therefore as a mark of respect Jan Moir should have kept her trap shut, we don't all need to know her opinion, her poisoned thoughts and innuendo and implication rather than basing her column on fact.

She says; "Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one." What makes her think this? Just a feeling or a hunch, certainly not fact unless all of a sudden she has become a first class doctor.

She goes onto say; "Another real sadness about Gately's death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships."

What myth is this she speaks of? I am sorry, but marriages don't last forever either so what exactly is her point? No people I know who have had a civil partnership have claimed it is going to be happy ever after, but like any relationship you have to work at it. I have been with my partner for 16 years and we have not had a civil partnership, yet, my only regret about not having had it yet is that my Mum won't be there to see it.

Then earlier this evening Jan Moir has bitten back against the backlash she has received since the article came out, she makes some points in the piece such as the point above about the happy ever after myth of civil partnerships, in the statement she says that they have proved to be as problematic as marriages - but Jan Moir you didn't say that in your original article, you cannot whinge afterwards if you couldn't be bothered to put it in the original.

The original piece has generated some 1,000+ complaints to the Press Complaints Commission, To read Moir's full statement, see below;

Some people, particularly in the gay community, have been upset by my article about the sad death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately. This was never my intention. Stephen, as I pointed out in the article was a charming and sweet man who entertained millions.

However, the point of my column – which I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, his death raises many unanswered questions. That was all. Yes, anyone can die at anytime of anything. However, it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.

The entire matter of his sudden death seemed to have been handled with undue haste when lessons could have been learned. On this subject, one very important point. When I wrote that ‘he would want to set an example to any impressionable young men who may want to emulate what they might see as his glamorous routine’, I was referring to the drugs and the casual invitation extended to a stranger. Not to the fact of his homosexuality. In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages.

In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.

Well Jan Moir, I did read your original article, three times in fact and I am afraid your choice of words and language leave me in no doubt that you were trying to whip up hysteria, with homophobic comments and innuendo.

I hope Stephen's partner, friends and family can bury Stephen and grieve in private knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of us with them in spirit - gay, straight, bi and those who have no idea.

Labour's Glasgow North East by-election gaffe #3

Three, yes three, firstly why have the people of Glasgow North East now been without an MP for 117 days, they could have called the by-election before the summer recess when Michael Martin stood down so;

Gaffe one - not calling the by-election when Michael Martin resigned.

Gaffe two - candidate Willie Bain not signing his "contract" with the people (as of this morning it still isn't signed).

Gaffe three - phoning Lib Dem voters to tell them the writ is being moved today (Friday), wait for it........who live in Dunfermline.

Last night telephones in Dunfermline were being called by an electronic message from their Glasgow North East candidate.

"Hello, I am Willie Bain, Labour candidate in the Glasgow North East by-election"

He then started taking about when the poll would be called and then mid sentence hung up.

To be fair Willie is the candidate for Dunfermline, Willie Rennie MP that is, who took the Dunfermline & West Fife seat in the 2006 by-election from Labour.

Why in Scotland are Labour campaigns so disastrous at the start, they do then seem to sort themselves out but is this another case of disorganisation or just stupid mistakes?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Labour candidate in Glasgow North East forgets to sign his own contract

The Labour candidate is launching his campaign on Monday but today has revealed his contract with the people of Glasgow North East, with one slight problem. He hasn't actually signed it!

Normally a contract is only legally binding once it's signed! Whoops. An own goal by Labour.

Eileen Baxendale, the Liberal Democrats candidate for the by-election is working really hard knocking on the doors speaking to the good people across Glasgow North East, if the people there want real change Labour is not the option, and neither is the SNP.

Glasgow North East - and we are off

Despite the fact that the people of Glasgow North East have now been 115 days without Westminster representation and that as of yesterday Labour still had not moved the writ in Parliament for the by-election to take place, the Liberal Democrats launched their campaign yesterday with Leader Tavish Scott, Eileen Baxendale and Robert Brown MSP in Springburn.

As is always the case with these things we had journalists getting a wee bit irate because of deadlines, and it showed in their questions (a chill pill may have been in order there), Tavish was delayed because a van broke down on the M8 and it was overcast.

But there were some good photos with a local family and with Eileen's family there as well it was a great launch, but be under no illusion this wasn't the Liberal Democrats starting there in Glasgow North East yesterday, oh no, we have been there for weeks now, in fact months.

Eileen and the team have been out knocking on thousands of doors and local residents have been genuinely pleased to see the face of someone who cares, someone who has spent nearly twenty years on and off working in the heart of their community and understanding them, not patronising them like some of the career politicians.

If you have never been to Glasgow, and to be honest prior to me taking this new role on in Scotland my experience of Glasgow used to be running from Central Station to Queen Street Station to then get a train up to see my Mum in Ardgay.

Last year I spent six weeks there with our fantastic candidate Ian Robertson in the Glasgow East by-election and then various times with Katy Gordon our candidate fighting to be the next MP for Glasgow North and now recent weeks in Glasgow North East.

The area may have not had the funding it so richly deserves, but the people and the communities are so united and their determination is amazing. I have met some great people in Glasgow and yes, that is where I was introduced to Irn Bru, like the people a great product of Glasgow.

With Labour closing schools across Glasgow, and the SNP yet to build any schools since coming into power the children of Glasgow will surely suffer, if not now certainly in the future and we want the school building to commence again as it was happening when the Liberal Democrats were in Government, the money is there for the SNP to do it and to continue our record of building new schools - I know they have just announced a new wave of school building but why did they stop the programme? Why has nothing been built in the last two years?

The SNP are so all over the place in Glasgow North East, they are on their third candidate already, so before nominations close it may very well all change again, who knows?

This election should not end up with another career politician being elected in Glasgow North East because that isn't what the people want or need, they need someone who will stand up for them after decades of Labour neglect and now SNP u-turns and inaction on the things that really matter in their communities across the area. Change is certainly needed, a vote for the Liberal Democrats will certainly bring about that change.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

It's true - Scottish Labour are anoraks

I was over in Glasgow North East again today, specifically I was in Springburn for the launch of the Lib Dem campaign with Eileen Baxendale, Robert Brown MSP and Tavish Scott.

I was sat in Tesco having a coffee and then stood at the counter were two political anoraks as the picture below shows - it is true Labour are just a bunch of anoraks.
Although I am taking the mickey it was very noticeable as they wandered around finding a seat.
I have to admit I do have a range of different Liberal Democrats tee-shirts, but no ties, or anything else of that order and certainly not an anorak!
Although I am sure they are happier in their anoraks than the Scottish Tories who were pictured supping champagne after David Cameron's ban - let us see that photo!


Send Trafigura a postcard to say thank you

As the last two days have shown, people power and the power of the internet can win campaigns, now it is time to go back to the olden days as it were and send Trafigura a thank you postcard for alerting us to their work in the Ivory Coast.

The wording of the postcard is as below.

Dear #Trafigura,

Thanks for making sure the actions of your lawyers mean I got to hear about your record today, 13th October, 2009.

Previously, I had heard almost nothing about the publication of the Minton report you commissioned on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. As a result of your injunction against The Guardian, I now know much, much more.

Much obliged

To download the word version, click here.

The big football game is back on- Paris Foot Gay vs Creteil Bebel

On Saturday, I did a blog posting for Lib Dem Voice titled Muslims won't play with the gays, talking about two amateur football teams, Creteil Bebel and Paris Foot Gay who were due to play each other last weekend.

The two teams are Creteil Bebel, a Muslim team and Paris Foot Gay are a gay friendly team set up to combat homophobia in the suburbs of Paris.

Well, there appears to be an update now, Creteil Bebel director Zahir Belgharbi said there had been "a misunderstanding" and said his team were now ready to play against Paris Foot Gay.

The Director said: "We had rejected playing this match not on the grounds of homophobia, as we have been accused of doing, but simply because the name of the club did not seem to us to reflect our vision of sport."

I have no idea what that means and it sounds the lamest excuse I have ever heard. Sport has nothing to do with people's religion nor their sexuality. Paris Foot Gay seems to have been around at least two and a half years and perhaps before the Muslim team announced their refusal to play the team last week their Directors should have done a wee bit of research.

"We reacted by turning down the invitation from Paris Foot Gay for fear of it leading to an instrumentalisation on the part of this club in that it was highlighting the homosexuality of its players."

Again, another load of rubbish, football teams in leagues play against each other, it never means that one team's philosophy/name/town etc is highlighted more than on the match day programme. Also, just by a quick search on the Paris Foot Gay website shows that only some of the players are gay, it is a gay friendly football team set up to combat homophobia.

The local league president Jacques Stouvenel has said that both clubs were due to attend a meeting over the incident this week and that Creteil Bebel could face disciplinary action or be kicked out of the league.

My personal view is that some formal warning is all that is needed, they have now offered to play Paris Foot Gay and that should be accepted in the spirit in which it appears to have been intended.

Kicking Creteil Bebel out of this amateur league will not serve any purpose, either short term or long term. Let us hope the directors and and players of Creteil Bebel have learnt an important lesson this week.

Homophobia won't be tolerated, the same as racism. Not in sport, not in life.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Carter-Ruck, The Guardian and Trafigura

Today has been very weird, I want you to be honest with me now, had you heard of Trafigura before the explosion on Twitter this morning?

I certainly hadn't but thanks to the fuss this morning by Carter-Ruck I have spent a fair amount of time this evening reading up on it and am not overly impressed by what I have discovered.

Trafigura sponsor the British & Irish Lions, the reason I mention this is because on the latest news and our news section that is the last bit of news, from the 31st March 2009 - hardly inspiring when you then go on to see that this is not their prime aim in life, this is what they say about themselves;

"Trafigura is one of the largest independent companies trading commodities today.

We handle every element involved in the sourcing and trading of crude oil, petroleum products, renewable energies, metals, metal ores and concentrates for industrial consumers.

1,900 of our people operate in offices in 42 countries across the globe to give us the local knowledge to anticipate and respond to variations in global supply and demand.

In the oil sector, Trafigura has access to over 30 million barrels of storage facilities through a combination of owned terminals under its PUMA network and long-term lease agreements with third party oil terminals; we also time charter in excess of 60 vessels worldwide.

In the metals and minerals sector, Trafigura currently owns and operates concentrate storage facilities and one mine in Peru. Additionally, Trafigura is a significant stakeholder in a smelter and in various publicly listed mining entities.

Capitalising on resource trading and investment expertise Trafigura has diversified into asset management through the development of offshore hedge funds."


Okay, that is quite obviously the corporate sell, and I certainly wasn't interested in that given what was being tweeted this morning. So I went digging on the internet. Now if Trafigura's website had a search engine I would have entered Ivory Coast and then waited to see what came up - all I could find was that they do have an office there.

There is a great piece by the Independent, titled "The dark secrets of the trillion-dollar oil trade" from September this year but it really does get worse.

The Guardian in May this year had an article titled, "Papers prove Trafigura ship dumped toxic waste in Ivory Coast" which as you will see if you read it, goes onto explain how 30,000 people in the Ivory Coast claimed they were poisoned by the waste dumped by a ship that the company had chartered. It really is a must read article.

So, now we know a little more about this company, but really only thanks to their lawyers and the gagging order they put on The Guardian who were trying to publish a Parliamentary Question, the name of the MP who Tabled it and the Minister it was going to - all available in the public domain! A good use of client's money if ever I saw one - not.

Carter-Ruck eventually gave in, thanks to the power of Twitter and the internet and have lifted the gagging order on The Guardian. However, as the day and evening have gone on it now appears that BBC Newsnight (the link takes you to the original story) is being threatened by Trafigura via Carter-Ruck.

Shortly before the court case was due to be heard, Carter-Ruck announced that it's client no longer opposed reporting of what was said in Parliament about them.

In the House of Commons Evan Harris MP and David Heath MP, for the Liberal Democrats, David Davis MP for the Conservatives and Paul Farrelly MP, the Labour MP who started this all off have all raised this issue passionately today.

Paul Farrelly said; "Absolute privilege in reporting parliament has been established since the Bill of Rights in 1688. It is a fundamental freedom for the press, and it is vital that neither lawyers nor the courts seek to attack this time-honoured right."

The power of the internet won today, but more importantly people power won the day and stood up to a corporation and lawyer who felt they knew best. Long may it continue.

Stephen Gately died of natural causes

So, now all those who assumed Stephen Gately died of a drug overdose or binge drinking will now hopefully shut up and leave his partner and family to grieve for him.

The BBC amongst others has now reported that Stephen died of nothing more than natural causes.

A tragic horrible death of someone so young, but now let's hope he can rest in peace.

Guardian Injunction and Twitter #Trafigura

Wow, if you are on Twitter you cannot fail to have noticed the trending topic of the Guardian injunction, Trafigura and Carter-Ruck.

This all relates to a Parliamentary Question by Paul Farrelly, number 61 if you want to scroll down. The Guardian has been gagged from identifying the MP who asked the question, the wording of the actual question and where the question can be found.

This is utterly ridiculous, as my link shows above this information is actually in the public domain anyway so why should a newspaper be gagged, and why has someone done this. Whatever happened to free speech?

The Spectator reports the story, Twitter keeps the story moving minute by minute and shows the popularity by the trending topics. In this electronic age the story moves so quickly but it also shows the hunger of those of us on the Internet to be fed these stories.

There are now many blog posts on this around the place, here a re a few of my favourites;

Mark Pack blogs the most republished Parliamentary question ever? Trafigura and the Ivory Coast.

Rob Fenwick blogs The #Trafigura question #CarterRuck don't want you to see

Caron Lindsay blogs Why is Twitter going mad about Trafigura?

Monday, 12 October 2009

Identity Theft - will we ever learn?

This morning while having major panic stations about Zennor (our cat) I hadn't noticed Roger had turned BBC Breakfast over to the dreaded GMTV.

Gordon Brown was doing his interview and then they went to a piece on identity theft.

They had a reporter and an outside broadcast unit going through peoples rubbish on a street.

Some people had heeded the constant advice and shredded documents but they were very much in the minority.

Some had torn statements up in to 4 or 6 pieces, hardly challenging to piece those back together for a thief.

There was one carrier bag with bank statements, mobile phone bills and other bills where their identity was there waiting to be stolen and used fraudulently.

A cross cut shredder can be bought for £20 from Argos, and most supermarkets and shops.

It can be really traumatic to have your bank account plundered, but imagine having your identity stolen or copied?

That would be a nightmare! So, will people please listen and heed these warnings, go out tomorrow and buy a shredder and protect yourself properly.
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