Tuesday 31 August 2010


Greenpeace protesters have shut down a British oil drilling operation in the sea off Greenland by avoiding their navy and climbing into the rig. They are now in the rig and say they have sufficient food for several days.

They say that we must wean ourselves off oil and learn to live another way. A spokesman said that they have to keep the energy companies out of the Arctic and we must kick our addiction to oil.

They intend to stop the rig from drilling for as long as they can because there is a limited amount of time available to the before the winter weather sets in and drilling has to be suspended until next spring.

One of their number said: ''The BP Gulf oil disaster showed us it's time to go beyond oil.

I suspect that, in fact, it did not. Not any more than any other disaster anywhere in the world where lives have been lost and environments hurt in the pursuit of energy.

I suspect that what it really told us is that we must not cut corners with safety. It told us that, even if it costs a bit more at the time, in the end it will cost a lot less to be careful.

The Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, set sail from London last month with a pledge to target what the environmental group described as one of the 10 most dangerous deep water drilling sites in the world. As the Esperanza approached the site the campaigners were confronted by a Danish warship sent to protect the drilling operation off the Greenland coast. The Danish government has responsibility for the security of Greenland.

I would be the first to say that the wildlife and the environment in the Arctic Ocean are immensely important. I would be the first to say that by law, and with massive penalties for non compliance, safety on these rigs should be paramount. And I hope that if Greenland does not already have this kind of legislation, its government wastes no time in bringing it in.

We can’t and we won’t, however, stand in the way of this progress. The discovery of oil and gas will be a massive boost to the Greenland economy and make life immeasurably easier for these hard working and hard [pressed people living on the edge of the world. And whilst I agree that we should be looking beyond oil for the future (which we are), the present is still very much with us.

Perhaps Greenpeace would like to tell us how they got to Greenland, from England? This boat of theirs has oars I suppose? Maybe it would take them as far as China, where they could try climbing into a Chinese oil rig.....

Monday 30 August 2010


There was an interesting discussion yesterday on Paddy O’Connell’s “Broadcasting House” show on Radio 4.

It was during the newspaper review and was sparked, I think, by someone mentioning Tony Blair’s obscene earnings subsequent to his getting permission to stand down as prime minister from his boss in the White House.

Paddy’s guests were Salina Scott (that woman is obsessed with Yorkshire and managed to mention it in every comment she made), Miriam Margolyes (who reminded us several times that she is an intellectual snob... although I was left wondering what she gets to be snobby about, given that not one of her contributions displayed an iota of intellectual effort), and SIR Ming the Merciless.

It was Ming who was particularly incensed by Blair’s amassing of so much money. (Ming has to be content with interior decorators at our expense). This was where he seemed to depart from any kind of common sense and showed how the so-called “political classes” live in Lulu land.

He felt that, in fairness to Blair, it was because we left our prime ministers in such an impoverished state when they left office, that they were obliged to look elsewhere for ways of making money. He thought it was not supportable that someone who had held the highest office in the land should be left so poorly off that they should be obliged to tour and publish books.... and make vast amounts of money.

I felt that was rather odd. Mrs Thatcher made a vast amount by touring America giving speeches on the Downing Street Years and anything else that would pay her a handsome sum. Surely with SIR Dennis’s fortune (not to mention an hereditary title for erm....whatever), they were hardly short of a bob or two. I’m sure that Major had no money, but there is a prime ministerial pension of £64,000 a year paid immediately upon retirement from the post, there is also a car for life, together with a driver and round the clock special branch protection, so he’ll never have to stand in a queue at Tesco like the rest of us. Additionally there is around £80,000 a year funding to run an office.

Mr Blair is a QC, as is his wife. Each is capable of earnings of £500,000 a year doing his/her job in court. Add it together, put the prime ministerial pension in on top and they should just manage to get by.

Ming bemoaned the fact that when Harold Wilson started to feel the effects of Dementia he had to get his friends to rally round to help pay for his care... although, you would have thought that after all that Labour government on the 60s and 70s the National Health Service would have been providing that care. I mean Harold ran in rarified circles. His friends would have had some money to contribute...what about poor old Mr McTavish who worked in the jute mill? Would his mates be able to fork out to pay for his care? No. Well, in what way exactly was Mr Wilson different from Mr McTavish?

Ming’s solution, rather a dim one in my opinion for such an experienced politician, is that the prime ministerial pension be vastly increased so that there would be no need for the selling of oneself after stepping down (or being fired).

My solution is that they learn to get by on their incredibly generous pensions.

What do you guys think?

Sunday 29 August 2010


It seems that it is an excellent time to bury bad news.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has reported that the coalition’s budget has affected poor households disproportionately, but little has been made of this in the press, as Nick Clegg settles his feet under the desk for a prolonged period as acting Prime Minister.

As an aside, do you remember the derision which met Nick Clegg’s statement, made only a few months ago, that he came into politics to be prime minister .....? Eat crow people who smirked or even belly laughed!

The IFS’ assessment highlights impact of the looming cuts to public services, which will hit poorer households significantly harder than richer households.
The Financial Times, no less, reckons that the IFS conclusions will put massive pressure on Liberal Democrat MPs. After all, which Liberal could honestly say that he came into politics to vote for measures that target the poor as a means of bringing down a deficit which has largely been caused by the rich?

The FT’s own calculations, based on the effect of cutting public services by 15%, showed the losses were heavily concentrated in poor families and dwarfed the effects of other Budget tax and benefit changes. Losses for the poorest 20% of households would be around 8% of income, with losses of less than 3% among the richest 20% of families. Given that the richest really do not use all of their income on a daily basis, and the poor usually do, the unfairness is compounded and will in some cases, bring real misery.

The results,
interesting, contrast with the Treasury’s own analysis, which amazingly, and conveniently, does not include the effect of public spending cuts, and so shows larger proportionate losses among the richest.

Spokesmen (people) for the chancellor said that he had been “totally straight and clear” about what was included in the Treasury analysis and what was excluded. One claimed the chancellor’s boast that the Budget “was progressive” was accurate. He said the government had implemented some of Labour’s policies.

As if that were some indication of progressiveness!!!

But, in most media this was small beer compared to the Earth shattering news that, in Kernow, a wealthy lady had given birth to a baby daughter just like approximately 1,900 other women across the United Kingdom.


Saturday 28 August 2010

Good news on the oil front

Only three months after the find of an approximate 300 million barrels of oil in Scottish waters, a further 100 million barrels has been discovered by German firm Wintershall.

At today’s prices the latest find would equate to something in the region of $7billion of a boost to the Scottish economy. Added to the $21 billion in May, that makes a tidy wee sum which could easily be salted away as an oil fund...

Prof. Josef Stiglitz has called for an Oil Fund. The Nobel Prize winner and former Chief Economist of the World Bank, said on BBC Scotland’s Newsnight programme last Tuesday that the UK had “squandered" its oil wealth and that it is now "imperative" an oil fund be established to secure the wealth that remains under the North Sea for future generations.

Fat chance! When oil was first discovered in the North Sea in the late 1970s, the details of how much there was, and how much money was involved were deliberately hidden from the British and especially the Scottish people by the Labour government. It was feared that knowledge of the potential wealth in Scottish waters would encourage the Scots to ditch the union in favour of the life style now enjoyed by Norwegians, a lifestyle which might be described as being from an altogether different planet.

Mrs Thatcher failed to correct Labour’s criminality. Instead of investing in the run down industry that was rife in the north of England and the central belt of Scotland, as for example the Germans have done with their eastern länders (without the benefit of oil), Mrs Thatcher used the oil money to support a vast unemployment programme whilst converting Britain to a service economy which made nothing but money. Insurance and banking, tourism and popular culture. In the mean time vast numbers of people in Scotland were dumped on the dole.

And as the unemployment figures rose, she ordered that people be transferred to the more secretive Sickness and Invalidity Benefits which were supposed to be for people incapable of work (as opposed to those who had become an embarrassment to the government).

Messrs Blair and Brown used the oil money to help fund war wherever they could find it. So the money from our oil wealth was used for anything but making our country comfortable.

I am forever hearing of an oil fund in this or that country. Vast amounts of money put away in the good times to help support the country in the future. It’s happened in Norway where there is over $500 billion of wealth in a country of 4 million people, making them the richest folks in the world at $117,000+ per person in a bank account... and they are only just over the water from us. Amazingly Scotland produces almost the same amount of oil as Norway, and yet not a penny piece has been put into a fund.

Funds exist in feudal states. Sensible and prudent government from the likes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Gulf Emirates, countries in which there is little if any democracy. And even when a state is not totally independent, like Alaska and in Canada, the federal government has still seen to it that oil funds are set up for these states.

Scotland must the only country (or if you want it province) which found oil and got poorer.

We really have to insist that with these finds the Scottish government be allowed to set up a fund for the future of the Scottish economy when oil has dried up. To do anything else is criminal lunacy... and we have already had 30 years of that.

Friday 27 August 2010


I was choked with laughter when I read two articles on the same page of the Press and Journal today. A classic story of the British (and what’s worse, in this case, Scottish) giving Johnny Foreigner a telling off whilst there is a gaping hole in compliance with our own rules.

The first story involves the Icelandic and Faroese governments increasing their quotas of Mackerel fishing by, in some cases, threefold.

Tory MEP Struan Stevenson described the Icelanders and Faroese as like “Viking raiders”. The SNP Fisheries Minister Richard Lochead said that the boost to their quotas was “wholly unacceptable” and that it risked damaging well-managed stocks of fish.

On the same page, the very next story refers to six Scottish skippers and the Lerwick based Shetland Catch Limited who, between 2002 and 2005, illegally landed £15 million worth of so called black fish, i.e. over and above their quota.

Now, like many others, I disapprove heartily of the European Union fishing quota policy. I realise that fish stocks have to be conserved, but I think that Scottish fishermen have been treated shabbily, because they have always been represented in Brussels by an English fisheries minister who knew nothing and cared even less about the Scottish fishing industry, for which he did not even have responsibility!

But before Stevenson and Lochead go running off at the mouth about these foreigners, I think it would be a good idea to check that the reporting of it is unlikely to end up on the same page as the above story. It really makes them both look a tad foolish. Mr Lochead’s assertion that the Scottish fisheries were well managed was hilarious, given the positioning of the two articles, and Mr Stevenson’s comparison with Viking raiders is a tad on the silly side. I really thought that being rude to our nearest neighbours was Jim Murphy’s job!

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation insisted that the incidents of millions of pounds worth of illegally landed fish had nothing to do with the current quota debacle. They claimed that it was all years ago a “drop in the ocean” as it were..... But then they would wouldn’t they?

Honestly if these six were all on the hey diddle diddle, who’s to say there are not many more out there (like in the House of Commons) at it?

I don’t think if I were Icelandic or Faroese that I would be terribly convinced that this wasn’t just another example of a typically British attitude. Canting hypocrisy is the phrase that comes to mind.

Pics: Iceland fisheries vessel; Mr Lochead; Mr Stevenson

Thursday 26 August 2010


I note from the pages of The Telegraph that Asil Nadir has decided to return to Britain to face the charges of fraud that he avoided by fleeing to Northern Cypress 17 years ago.

Because Northern Cypress is not recognised by the UK, there was, is, and can be, no extradition treaty, but Mr Nadir says that he is coming back of his own free will.

Apparently he was very much a part of the enterprise boom of the 1980s, building up a company called Polly Peck, which at its height was worth £1.7 billion, but which crashed with massive debts. It was alleged that Mr Nadir had transferred millions out of the company to himself.... leaving the business with debts of £1.3 billion.

His support for Mrs Thatcher’s government, vocal and financial, became an embarrassment to her as the alleged thefts became apparent.

In an interview with BBC’s Today programme Mr Nadir said the he believed the legal ''environment'' was right for him to return. He said that he was hoping to get a fair trial. He had not, he said, felt that he would get a fair trial back in the early 1990s.

He spent 3 years battling with 'immense injustice and tremendous abuse of power in Britain', he said. It was because of this and the consequent deterioration in his health that he fled, in a private jet, to Northern Cypress to recuperate. He has recuperated for 17 years during which time he has
built a business empire in the Mediterranean country which is only recognized by Turkey. There he controls the Kibris newspaper and television group and exercises notable political influence.

In the interview he said that he hoped the new Government would be "wise enough and will think highly enough of Great Britain" to clear the matter, whatever that means. He did not rule out supporting the Government financially, arguing that there was nothing wrong with donating to a political party. He said that it was only fair if you approved of the policies of a Government, if you wanted to extend their power, that you should support them with financial donations.

I wonder what he thinks has changed about English law that it will take a different view of the intelligence and evidence that was built against him by the Fraud Squad, and I wonder why he thinks that the government, which he has promised to support financially (unless he’s banged up) would have any influence over the outcome of any trial.

Of course, it may all have been a fit up. The police in the early 90s were not always to be trusted. Maybe Mr Nadir got on someone's nerves; and of course he was "foreign", always a good reason for a bit of nastiness from Plod.

Whichever, I suspect that it wasn’t a very good idea to give that interview, now we know what he’s up to... and if the government does, in fact have any say what goes on in the courts, he may just have blown his chance of getting off.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Hideous work of art to give Carbuncle new lease of life?

I have never been a fan of public art and especially if we get it just for the sake of having it. But if we must have it, it really ought to be of the best quality. So take a look at the, to my way of thinking, ghastly monstrosity that Cumbernauld thinks is its answer to the Angel of the North.

Poor old Cumbernauld. According to the Scotsman (printed in England) it has been labelled the "Kabul of the north" (depsite its being in the central belt), drawn comparisons with Eastern Europe before the Wall came down, and is reputed to be the most dismal place to stay in Scotland. But Cumbernauld embarked on what townspeople hope will be a fresh start yesterday when its newest landmark, a 33ft sculpture, was put in place.

This monstrous carbuncle (as, no doubt, Prince Charles would call it),
by artist Andy Scott, was “inspired” by the town's original name, "Comar nan allt", which is "coming together of waters" in Gaelic. The piece, overlooking the A80 north of Auchenkilns junction, is a steel structure of a female form incorporating two large swooping arcs.

Costing a whopping £250,000, it was commissioned by Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Ltd (CCCL), a company established by North Lanarkshire Council to lead the redevelopment of the town. Councillor Gerry McElroy, who chairs CCCL, hopes the sculpture, called Arria, will become iconic.

Councillor McElroy said that they wanted to create a new, distinctive image for Cumbernauld, so the statue was going to stand as a "signpost to the town". It would be seen by 70,000 people every day. He reckoned that eventually people would come to associate the statue with Cumbernauld and that it would give the population a new-found confidence.

He hoped too for spin-offs in inward investment in the town and that people would come to realise that Cumbernauld was more than just the old town-centre

Mr McElroy said the landmark was proof that Cumbernauld had "moved on" and was looking to the future.

Really Mr McElroy? In my opinion it is one of the worst examples of public art being erected for its own sake. It reminds me of the statue of Peter the Great that stands in the Moskva in Moscow, a truly hideous item of public art by Zurab Tsereteli. It is said that they accidentally put another zero on the original plans and nobody noticed until the statue .... standing at 308 feet (98meters)...was completed.

I just don’t see how some gigantic woman with wings is going to inspire new found confidence in someone forced to live in one of the squalid little flats in the grey concrete jungle that is Cumbernauld. Much better save up all the money that is spent on useless items of art like this, knock the place down and start again.

Tuesday 24 August 2010


The Scotsman (printed in England) reports that a snapshot of Scotland shows an optimistic nation.

In a ringing endorsement of life under an SNP Government the paper, which is usually nothing better than a North British press office for the Labour Party, (printed in England) tells us that Scots are becoming more optimistic about money and happier with their local neighbourhood, public services and healthcare, according to a wide ranging study of attitudes.

The 2009 Scottish Household Survey suggested worries over the financial crisis and fears about anti-social behaviour are receding in the country, with fewer people concerned about their personal finances and the vast majority rating their neighbourhood as a good place to live.

But the survey, which provides a comprehensive view of the way
Scots live their lives, showed the most deprived areas (those that always vote Labour) of Scotland still face significant challenges, with worklessness, poor health and crime more prevalent among the poorest neighbourhoods. So, in other words, overall we are all feeling better but if those of us who live in the Labour heartlands will be feeling worse, although that will be offset by the rosy glow coming from the rest!

The snapshot of Scottish life, which has been taken since 1999, sees questions put to thousands of ordinary people on a range of topics such as health, work, anti-social behaviour and cultural activities. Researchers undertake continuous face-to-face interviews throughout the year that are then used by the General Register Office for Scotland to provide a statistical analysis of the way Scots are living their lives.

There will be no jiggery-pokery then to give the slant desired
as is usually the case with say Yougov or government figure. There is surely no danger of them providing this rosy glow in order to justify their own existence is there?

The 2009 survey reveals that optimism among Scots about their personal financial affairs is on the rise, with the number reporting that they were managing "quite well" or "very well" increasing by 2 percentage points to 49 per cent during the year.

The perception of local public services improved, with the number of Scots reporting overall satisfaction with health services, educa
tion and transport rising by five percentage points to 65 per cent. At the same time, Scots became more positive about anti-social behaviour, with the numbers reporting vandalism, harassment and rowdy behaviour as a problem all falling. In all, 93.6% of Scots said their area was a fairly or very good place to live - a record high for the survey. This rate was found to drop as neighbourhoods got poorer amid a general trend that showed the most deprived areas of the country faced the biggest problems.

Of course that’s only as far as 2009. Wait till they get a load of the Tory Coalition cuts and a big slice of the Tory respect that’s coming their way


Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me for the path is narrow. In fact just go away and leave me alone.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a flat tyre.

The darkest hour is just before dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbour’s milk, that’s the time to do it.

Don’t be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

Always remember you're unique. Just like everyone else.

Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

If you think nobody cares whether you’re alive or dead, try missing a couple of mortgage payments.

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

If you lend someone €20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

Some days you are the bug; some days you are the windscreen.

Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

A closed mouth gathers no foot.

Duct tape is like the Force. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.

Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.

Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

Monday 23 August 2010


When the Conservatives won the election one of the first things that was announced was an end to the ‘war on motorists’.

So they promised a ‘fuel price stabilizer’ which would reduce tax when petrol went up, but ensure that the treasury, and not the motorist, profited from any small drop in the price of petrol and diesel at the pump.

There was to be no more money for speed cameras, although existing ones could be maintained by road safety partnerships (whatever they are). However, the Treasury would still take the money from the fines, thank you!

Clamping was to be a thing of the past in England as it has been for 20 or more years ago in Scotland.

Now Eric Pickles has told local councils in England that they must find new ways of raising revenue that cannot be blamed on the government. (Hum... Eric, is that not taxation by the back door... you know, stealth taxes that you have been criticising the last lot for?)

One of the schemes which is interesting councils (of all political shades), is another war on motorists.... a tax on parking at work. The Labour government gave councils in England the right to raise money by charging companies for their parking spaces. This has never been used..... Until now.

I hasten to remind everyone that this is an English matter, but ideas like this could travel to Edinburgh.

Many people rely on their cars to take them to work. In some cases people need to be various different places in the course of a day. Waiting for buses is not a sensible use of employees' time.

There are others who travel into towns for work. Life is hard enough without having to get up at 5 o'clock to get 2 or 3 buses. (Yes, I know folk travel from Brighton to London, but that is for salaries in the £100 and £200 thousand a year bracket. In Dundee they would have to do it for £10,000!) People drop their children
off at school, or at child minders, sometimes in the opposite direction from their workplace. They need their cars.

For others, I suppose, it is a matter of convenience, another half hour in bed; no ‘walk and wait’ in the pouring rain on a cold January morning; no sitting (or standing) next to a soap dodger, or someone who drank half a bottle of whisky last night, or who just hasn’t got a tooth brush.

No waiting for the bus that doesn't come or goes past the stop because it's full. No looking at your watch and thinking ...oh nooooo....

It’s another tax on companies, and one that many would be obliged to pass on to their employees. Probably all their employees, even the ones that do wait for buses.

Motorists already have so many expenses. Running a car is not for wimps, and the taxation for cars pays for a lot more than the roads system. I agree with the Tories. We need to end the war on motorists.... and this is not the way to do it.

PS... Does anyone know what MPs and Lords pay for the use of their exclusive car parking facilities at Westminster?

Sunday 22 August 2010


There’s a really interesting article in The Independent which my mum emailed to me (Thanks Mum). It is a list of 80 possible ways that the government could save money. They have come from a wide variety of people including government staff and members of the public.

I thought you might like to have a read through them (linked above) and maybe suggest a few that you like.

I thought some of them were brilliant, well thought out and totally practical; some others are good ideas but would be impossible to put into operation; some would cost more money to administer than they would save; some would save such little money that it’s not worth it... one or two are plain mad!

Of course you may have some ideas yourself... other things we could do to save more money. We are a bit wasteful after all...

Anyway, among the ones I likes were.........

• Taking our basis out of Germany. The cold war is over and has been for 20 years. Most of the Warsaw Pact countries are in the EU. In any case these days I doubt bases in Germany would stop the “Soviets” now if they decided they wanted Paris!

• Withdraw from Afghanistan!

• MPs should use hostels when parliament is sitting

• Teachers should do their training during their very long holidays

• Civil servants bonuses should stop

• Get rid of the vast numbers of managers in the NHS (and other public bodies)

• Only plant perennials in public gardens

• Give councils the rights to triple taxes on derelict buildings

• Abandon the concept of Away-Days

• Have fewer councillors (and indeed MPs)

• Scrap trident

I thought that the idea of selling Cornwall was pretty silly.... unless the buyer takes the daft duke and duchess along with it.

Oh.. and I want to add two that aren't there surprisingly.... scrap the House of Lords and all honours that change people’s names. We are all equal and having titles like 'Sir' and 'Lord' make us unequal in a way that should disappeared 100 years ago. Continue with honours that give you letters after your name, but it’s the 21st century for goodness sake.... and close down or share diplomatic services with other EU countries.


The Observer has reported that civil servants have been told to stop working on the next edition of the FCO Annual Report on Human Rights, which details incidents of torture and oppression, use of the death penalty and illegal arms trading.

The report is supposedly also a guide to MPs and businesses over which countries it is ethical to trade with, which may or may not have an effect on whether we trade with them or not.

Well, some things have to go, you might say, and why not this? After all, the idea of ethical foreign policy was only something Robin Cook dreamt about for a few weeks before the FCO pointed out what life was like in the real world.

Businesses exist to make money not pass moral judgments, and, in any case, no one much cares what Britain thinks about anything, unless America thinks it too. The CIA’s report is important; this is a “fur coat” exercise.

Last year’s report highlighted atrocities in countries like Russia, China, Gaza and Saudi Arabia among the usual suspects of Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma, DRC, and Sri Lanka. And what did we do about that?

Of course Milipede the elder, the comic one with the banana, acting opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, was trying to insist that Britain leads the world in Human Rights... Sheeesh. You really do wonder sometimes if these people ever even visit Britain, much less spend any time here. Don’t you? I mean, have we banned Chinese goods? Is there no further arms trading with Saudi? Have we stopped speaking to the US because of Guantanamo? Thought not.

Of course it is we
ll known that Cameron didn’t want to slash the 25-40%, that was ordered for elsewhere, from the budget for Embassies. Firstly that would reduce the standing of Britain on the party circuit. People would talk about one over the canapés. “I say, did you see Britain has closed its embassies in Baku and Ulan Bator? Must be in a bad way.”

And of course, a lot of these Ambassadors, who live like kings at our expense, went to Eton or Oxford with David. So that was never going to happen. One doesn’t do that kind of thing to people one was at school with. It’s just not on.

No, instead, in return for the big house, the Rolls Royce, the fat salary and great pension, along with as many servants as you can shake a stick at, ambassadors have been told that they must concentrate on trade. It is feared that ministers are now "blindly" pursuing commercial interests in countries where atrocities are taking place. (As if they didn’t before!!)

So why am I interested in it? Well, it seems that Ming
Campbell, one of the Liberal’s ex-leaders, and therefore a man with considerable influence in the party, has said that downgrading the importance of Human Rights would be met with "fierce resistance".

I wonder what that means.

No Dean, this is not Tory bashing. It's Britain bashing. Labour didn't do anything either!

I appreciate that it must be difficult to discipline ministers across two parties, especially when policies ride roughshod across what one of the parties stands for: in this case the Liberals (but in other cases it will be Tories). There are people who embrace the discipline, like Huhne and Clegg, Osborne and Cameron.

The trouble is that on both sides it’s pretty influential people: Ming and Charlie, David Davies and Norman Tebbit who are against. And they matter.

Pics are Ming and Norman...

Saturday 21 August 2010


Yesterday Radio 4’s “Any Questions” came from the Harvest Field Centre in Sutton Coldfield, a leafy suburb of Birmingham.

Eddie Mair’s guests on the panel were Baroness Ruth Deech, Chairman of the Bar Standards Board, Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, author and historian Alex von Tunzelmann and Maajid Nawaz, founder of the Quilliam Foundation.

It was brought to our attention by Cynical Highlander that 36 minutes into the programme there was a discussion about the release of Al Megrahi. I found some of the comments quite literally incredible.

The Noble Deech said:

"If Scotland wants to be independent, OK be my guest, go ahead do what you want and please take back with you all the Scottish politicians, there are so many of them you know, starting with Blair, (sic) Brown and Campbell (sic). Take them all back and off you go and go off on your own because actually we are all subsidizing them, I think, by way of benefits and all sorts of reasons and if they want to show how independent they are, then OK thank you and goodbye."

Nice delivery by the way Your Baronessness!!

But she wasn’t the only one who insulted us.

Douglas Murray’s (Eton and Oxford) remit as being a director of social cohesion clearly doesn’t run to any kind of cross border friendships because he certainly cares very little for us or our politicians. What a load of hatred spewed from this guy.

This is what he said: “There is not very much to do if you are the Scottish Justice Secretary in a devolved Scottish Assembly (sic). You can at least read the one important bit of news that’s come across your desk in the last five years (sic). The problem that I think, (sic) the most galling thing about this whole thing is this pretend, horrible, charade building in Edinburgh called the Scottish Parliament and the horrible charade politicians who inhabit it and who occasionally crawl out of the darkness and explain something to the rest of us, as if we’ve never thought of moral questions before. I mean Kenny MacAskill and Alex Salmond these horrible grandstanding, Mickey Mouse politicians have been parading around talking about the unique compassion of the Scottish people. We are uniquely compassionate no one else feels compassion like me. I’m feeling so compassionate at the moment I can hardly bare it.”

What a tosser.

OK. If you do not believe the Scottish government, if you think that Kenny MacAskill and Alex Salmond were so incredibly stupid that they let a supposed mass murderer out of prison, knowing that he would live for another 10 years, then doubtless you will be very angry with them.

But Alex Salmond is a wily character. Even his worst enemies would give him that. He knew that this would be raked over not just by Scottish politicians but by the politicians of the most powerful country in the world. With respect to any Labour, Tory or Liberal leaders in parliament most of them have been walked all over by Salmond. The international stage was going to be a very different kettle of fish. Questions would be asked by some of the most powerful people in the world.

Salmond knew that. He knew he would be questioned by, Obama, Clinton and members of the Senate and House of Representatives... He knew the eyes of the world would be on him... and the decision he, or Kenny, made.

I simply don’t believe that he made it for any other reasons than the ones that he gave. He’s just not that gullible

Mickey Mouse panellists on the BBC playing for a laugh and quite clearly being carried along once they knew they had the English audience on side should be ashamed of themselves. The programme in question is a respected vehicle for intelligent political discussion. If panellists are looking for a cheap laugh, the ‘Now Show’ or the ‘News Quiz’ is the correct place to look for paying employment.

But the clear hatred of Scots, and Scots politicians (all of them) and of the Scottish parliament was made more than clear by the warm reception that these people's rants got from the Sutton Coalfield audience.

They may be the best advertisement for Scottish Independence possible. The SNP could begin to afford this kind of publicity.

Tape it Alex, and use it in the campaign!

Pics: Deech, MacAskill and Murray.

Was it worth it all for 15 minutes of fame Nick?

Nick Clegg has said that he won’t walk away from the coalition if the Liberals lose their referendum next year on the AV voting system. He also says that the Liberals are more than a glorified Electoral Reform Society. Well, we knew that anyway. They are the junior partners to the junior partners too, aren’t they Nick?

I think it may have become pretty obvious to him that with a well funded Tory opposition to the change in voting systems and the Labour Party voting with the Tories, because ...erm... because...eh erm, well, just because. Oh yeah, isn’t it something to do with the Liberals trying to reverse some of the gerrymandering Labour did, presumably gerrymandering it their own way for a change? Well they are going down big time with it. Most Liberals won’t even vote for it. And I will do what I’ve never done before. I will spoil the paper!

Clegg admitted that the Liberals would probably take a dive too, in the local elections in which will take place at the same time as the Government elections in Scotland, Wales and NI... and of course his referendum on staying with exactly the same electoral system, or going with pretty much the same electoral system.... a bit of a waste of money.

"I think it is one of the oldest rules in politics that parties in government tend to get a dip in their popularity. Do I think we are going to be able to defy those rules of gravity at a time we are taking very difficult decisions on deficit reduction? No, I think that is unlikely." That’s right Nick. Delude yourself into believing that that’s the reason you will take a dive!

The policies that are coming out of Westminster at the moment can hardly be to the taste of the average Liberal voter.. nor indeed of the average Liberal MP, AM or MSP facing doorstep tests in the near future.

The possibility of messing with Housing Benefits, pensioners’, students’ and under 25s’ concessions for travel (they’ll all be in the car now), winter fuel payments, not to mention the nuclear building agenda and the coal fired power stations must fill them with dread. Simon Hughes seems to be taking on the mantle of the leader of the Liberal awkward squad as David Davies is leading the Tory’s dissenters. I expect they will be doing some hard talking with their respective whips and leaders over the next few months and I expect some spectacular reverses.

Obviously, I’m interested on what effect this will have on our own parliament in Edinburgh. Will the Liberals and indeed the Tories suffer at the hands of the electors because of what is happening in London, and if so, who will be the beneficiaries? There are potentially 30+ seats at stake there.

How will the Liberals campaign? Will it be on Liberal policies or will they be required to stick to policies that will fit with the coalition’s programme. Will Tavish Scott have the bottle to stand up for Scotland and its needs? Or will he fold his tent. Will Annabel survive or will she go... and how will she go? Oh and one last question. Will the Liberals join forces with Labour in Scotland now that Iain Gray has said he will work closely with David Cameron... and we can have one big happy rainbow coalition? Well at least for the first week anyway.

I wonder if in the dark of the night Nick Clegg lies awake and wonders if it was all worth it for a referendum on a non proportional type of PR that he won’t even win...

Friday 20 August 2010

What on earth to do over the death of Dr Kelly.....

I have always been suspicious about circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, and how its aftermath was dealt with by the authorities.

I was, therefore, very interested in how the new UK government, which was critical of Labour’s handling of the situation, would react to the disquiet that is felt about the possibility of a cover up.

Today's news is that English Attorney General Dominic Grieve is prepared to intervene, although he vacillates a bit saying he doesn’t have any actual evidence to suggest that there was a cover-up. Then he admits that it is important to investigate the matter properly so that the public can have confidence in the outcome, but says that it's the job of the English Justice Secretary to release the papers.

Certainly, in opposition he seemed stronger in his condemnation.

The original inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death, which was chaired by Brian Hutton, an establishment man with a superb pedigree, was held in place of a normal open inquest and labelled a whitewash at the time, most particularly by the Independent newspaper. Now doctors who have studied the cas
e are casting doubt on fact that it was physically possible for Kelly to have killed himself in the manner accepted by Hutton, who is, for all his legal experience, not a coroner.

Hutton’s insistence that the papers on the case, including the post mortem report, be buried for 70 years, seems an extreme measure to take in order to protect Dr Kelly's family from pain. After all people are exposed to the pain of relatives’ deaths, even by suicide, reasonably frequently, and they are not protected by the force of law from knowing the full facts for 70 years.

Given the enormity of the consequences of the possibility that there was a cover up (and of what was covered up), the possible involvement of the government and the then prime minister, Tony Blair, I would have thought that it was essential to get this matter cleared up as quickly as possible. The importance of it is fundamental to people’s trust in the integrity of government. So, in theory, it needs to be resolved.

But on the other hand, what is the likelihood of any government, even one so opposed to Blair’s New Labour as the current bunch, allowing it to be found that a government department was involved in covering up the death of a very senior and extremely knowledgeable weapons expert who doubted the veracity of the content of a government approved 'dodgy dossier' and. therefore. the justifications for war.....and was prepared to say so to the BBC?

Can anyone seriously imagine this?

No, I thought not. So there's our moral dilemma. Do we have another inquiry into the inquiry, that will surely find pretty much the same thing as the first inquiry... because that's the only explanation that any government can allow, or should we save the money that an inquiry would cost and accept we'll never know the truth....because they don't want us to know the truth?


There’s a good piece over in the Caledonian Mercury written by Hamish Macdonell highlighting the increasing differences between the fundamental principles of the governments in Scotland and England.

I won’t repeat all the arguments here, but Mr Macdonell makes some good points.

In England the whole basis of public life is being changed by a reforming government. Along with the cuts which we know are coming in October, are complete changes in the way that things will be done. Schools will be free to opt out of council control; people will be able to set up their own schools. Of course most of the money for these schools will still come from the government in some form and therefore the targets are likely to remain and the rush for exam results as opposed to education will be unlikely to disappear. Heath will become more and more a matter for private companies bidding for contracts to treat NHS patients, and a full internal market is the aim.

In Scotland there is no enthusiasm for this level of free market intervention in public services. Unsurprisingly I am in agreement with that. There are some services that can be provided reasonably by private enterprise or left to the charitable sector, but only the ones that people do not absolutely depend upon. Private bus services in my home town, for example, are a complete shambles with the company doing what it wants, cutting services and running others willy nilly with no information available, even to their own staff about what they are doing. But buses, while vitally important to some people, are rarely a matter of life and death. Far from perfect though NHSS is, I know I can get treatment, free, when I need it. On the other hand, for no apparent reason other than the company’s greed, my private dental insurance has doubled over the last 5 years!!

However, the cuts are co
ming, whether we like it or not. Scotland may run its own affairs in matters of health and education, but it does not run its own budget. It must depend upon the London government for the grant to run these services, and the money given can only be a percentage of what the English spend on their services. And so if there is a 25% cut in the English services because that is the policy of the de facto English government... then the Scottish government will have a corresponding reduction in funds regardless of its policies and its public’s wishes.

Mr Macdonell’s article points out that Labour (as usual) opposes the SNP policies (their default position) but also opposes the cuts in services of the Tory government. (They oppose magnificently and at great length don’t they?)

The Liberals are between a rock and a hard place. They know that by and large Scots are unenthusiastic about the Tory cuts, but they have to do what they are told by London, and now they have ministers in London, so they are saying nothing. Clearly the Tories are behind all the cuts and the privatizations, but they are few and are unlikely to form the next government.

So the SNP has made its position clear, but Labour is just opposed to everything, everywhere, forever, end of story! So if they form the next government in Scotland it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few years, but clearly some new form of devolution and financial agreement will have to be found, so that Scots who didn’t vote for these cuts will have their democratically expressed wishes granted.

Thursday 19 August 2010


Bless him. Isn’t the Deputy Prime Minister just one of these people you wish you’d always had around you, and now you’ve got him you just don’t know where you would be without him?

Today he has been giving us parenting classes. He has “condem”ned (was that clever or what?) Britain’s falling level of social mobility and told parents they should do more to help with their children’s education to remedy this.

Mothers and fathers, he said, had a responsibility encourage their children’s education even if they are busy and tired. Aw bless... he’s a wee sweetie isn’t he?

He admitted that he was walking on dangerous ground telling parents how to bring up their children but said that politicians must not remain silent on such important matters.

Why not Nick? I’d have thought it was a superb idea. You know, it would give them more time to get on with the job they were elected to do. Just what on earth is it about politicians that give them some sort of right to be telling us how to bring up our kids?

Are they particularly good at bringing up kids?

Oh and do you mean ALL politicians Nick, or is it just Liberal ones, or Tory and Liberal ones. Should I not take notice of what Mr Straw says because he’s Labour? And is it just elected politicians or do lords also have this amazing ability when it comes to child rearing? Is it possible that SNP politicians are better at kiddy raising than Liberals, or maybe worse? What do you think Nick...you’re the expert.

There’s more though: “Parents hold the fortunes of the children they bring into this world in their hands. All parents have a responsibility to nurture the potential in their children,” he said.

So anyone that’s likely to be listening to you is probably aware of that Nick. Most of us are not entirely thick even if we didn’t get to go to Westminster School.

He also shared with us his view that bad parenting did more to hold kids back than poverty. So as well as being an expert in child rearing he (and possibly all politicians or those sorted out above) is a sociologist with a deep understanding of what makes people successful in life, and the relative effects of parenting and poverty including factors like; inherited intellectual prowess; type of schooling and quality of teaching available in areas where kids from poor backgrounds are likely to live; peer pressure; lack of facilities for study; lack of ambition of school teachers; inability to afford college or university; unlikelihood of being able to get into Oxbridge, St Andrews, Edinburgh, London...and so on.... Still, I’m sure if you give him a call he’ll explain it all to you.

Amazingly he did admit that his own incredibly wealthy childhood (it’s said he makes the Camerons look poor) had a part to play in his rise to the position of Deputy Prime Minister, but declined to comment about whether he would have been equally successful had he not been wealthy.

Right Nick, you’re in charge this week. Don’t let it go to your head. Only real numpties like Harriet invite their granny round for a cup of tea at No 10 when the boss is away... and only real numpties think that because they, by sheer fluke, got to be Deputy Prime Minister that gives them the God given right to lecture the rest of us on domestic matters about which they know little.

Pics: Cleggy looking a little hurt by my remarks, and lower down, at Westminster School where they did classes in being Deputy Prime Minister.

Wednesday 18 August 2010


Sometimes I wonder about where MPs live and if they ever meet ‘ordinary’ people (except in their surgeries to talk about the disgusting bus service and drainage failures). I mean socially, to have a normal chat with them. Does it ever happen?

I read Tom Harris’s blog and occasionally comment on it. I almost never agree with the guy, but that doesn’t matter really. He writes well; not surprisingly as he was a journalist in real life, and at least when you disagree with him he usually publishes your comment... although he rarely replies to it unless it is to put it down. I guess that’s not surprising really. He does get some very critical comments.

I was a bit surprised today though to see his wholehearted backing for Tony Blair over the donation from his book earnings to the English British Legion, and a slapping down of the British public for being less than enthusiastic about Blair’s actions and for being suspicious of them.

I realise of course that one has to be loyal to one’s leader, even ex-leader, and that the right winger Blair was probably a bit of a hero to Tom who always seems more like a Tory than a Labour man, specially a Scottish Labour man. (I wonder if Blair would even know who he was.)

Some might say I should get out more, but in the last 10 years, I have to say that I have never yet met a person who liked Tony Blair or who had any kind of respect for him. The nicest thing that I have heard said of him is that he was better than Brown… but that really isn’t much of a compliment. I’m therefore surprised that the reaction should come as a huge surprise. Maybe Tom just moves in rarefied right wing circles in which it is considered correct to invade countries because your senior partner’s deputy wants their oil, regardless of the hundreds of British troops whose lives you ruin… or end, and the hundreds of thousands of “the enemies’” ditto.

But not only do I disagree with Harris’s robust support of his beloved Tony, but I reckon that he’s way wide of the mark about it only being in Britain that people would be suspicious of self serving slime balls like Blair. I’m sure that the French would be equally suspicious of anything that the imperious Sarkozy might do that seemed half decent, or for that matter of Chirac (but then would he ever do anything decent?).

He ends his short piece with this:

“But the sneering and sheer nastiness in the response to this gesture is nauseating and shines a glaring light on a side of the British character of which we should not be proud.”

Nah Tom, it shows that we have your wee mate bang to rights. He’s a slug!

Pics: The horror that Blair inflicted upon Bagdhad's innocent population in persuit of approval from Washington. And Tom Harris, one of Blair's few fans.