Sunday 31 October 2010

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill 2010 and the Devonwall controversy (keep Cornwall whole)

A recent issue thrown up by the Coalition’s proposals to merge constituencies so that they are all supposedly of an equal size and that are incorporated in their Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill 2010. Is the proposed merger of constituencies on either side of the River Tamar, the historic divide between England and Cornwall.

The Bill as we all know contains the coalition’s plans for a referendum on the Alternative Vote. A system that the Jenkins Commission (remember that?) said in its report had as many problems as First Past the Post was not in any way proportional. But the Lib Dems want it as their biggest crumb from the Tories table so we are going to spend oodles of loot on it whether its any good or not.

This equalisation contained in the bill will be done by requiring the electoral commission to redraw boundaries so that constituencies have 5% either way of the UK electoral quota. That quota is determined by dividing the number of people registered to vote in the UK by 650, that comes out at about 76,000. Please note: that is people registered to vote and is not based on adult population, so if you are over voting age and simply have not registered to vote for whatever reason, as far as these proposals are concerned you simply don’t exist. Some claim of course that this will disadvantage the poor or the vulnerable who for whatever reason are disenfranchised. I don’t suppose this bothers the Tories too much, or for that matter their Lib Dem pussy cats. Both these parties usually have a committed core vote that is always registered (as indeed to be fair will the SNP). Labour on the other hand often relies on the poor etc (God knows why seeing as you can hardly get a ray of sunshine between their policies and the Tories), hence their drive to get their vote registered in recent years, by post, registering the dead and so on.

The bill also allows constituencies in England to straddle county boundaries. This is of concern in particular to the people of Cornwall, many of whom traditionally consider themselves to be a country rather than a county. The bill proposes the creation of what is being termed a Devonwall constituency that will straddle the Tamar boundary between Devon and Cornwall. It is predicted that if boundaries are changed, South East Cornwall or North Cornwall would merge with Devon West and Torridge or Plymouth Moor View, incorporating two sides of the River Tamar.

Cornwall currently has 6 MPs three Lib Dems and three Tories. It is one of those unusual places (like the Scottish Borders) where the Lib Dems fight it out with the Tories. Prior to 2010 all six seats were Lib Dem. So how this issue will affect the politics of the country is anyone’s guess, perhaps Mebyon Kernow (the party of Cornwall) which I guess is the SNP’s Cornish equivalent will clean up. I for one hope so. If you are interested their website is:

I have been to Cornwall and found it to be a most delightful and friendly place, I was also keenly aware of the importance they place on their own individual national identity and to that end I have taken an interest in this subject. I have added to the blog list a number of sites and blogs where I think it would be nice for us Scots to show some solidarity and to that end I would invite you to have a look and maybe leave a message of support.

Please click on the article title above to be directed to a forum where you can leave your comments.

Pictured is the Tamar Bridge.

Saturday 30 October 2010


So, there was an outAGE that caused outRAGE as a BT exchange went down in Edinburgh causing internet services all over the east of Scotland, Northern England, and Northern Ireland to fail. So I was offline for 24 hours. It’s the first time for ages I’ve been without internet, and it’s scary how many times I thought... oh, I’ll just check that up on the net... only to remember that I didn’t actually have the net.

I was even forced to watch BBC 24 to find out what was happening, and while I was watching, for the first time in ages I actually ironed some shirts! So it’s not all bad.

Of course I caught all the news about the bombers from Yemen and their printer bomb. It’s strange, or perhaps it’s not, that I trust politicians so little as to wonder if the whole thing could have been a massive hoax by the West, to buoy up public support for the billions that is spent on anti-terrorism. The most awful thing about it was the appearance on TV of the odd Theresa May. That woman’s voice grates so much that I have a message for the terrorists. They have punished us enough! No more already!!. Talking about punishment, was that a chain, and I mean a real chain, that the Home Secretary had around her neck. She looked as if she’d called in at a press conference after being at some sort of bondage party. Or maybe that's what they are going to do to criminals now that they are closing prisons!

I guess that threw up a slightly more serious question. If we expect our male politicians to show up wearing suits and shirts and ties, can we not expect that the female ones try to look a little less kinky?

Of course, because t
he BBC is virtually a part of the Labour Party, we had to have full coverage of the chimps’ tea party that is Scottish (huh) Labour having their conference. Scottish (huh) Labour of course had Miliband the younger along. We got the tired old story from him about SNP broken promises. Not that we’ve not heard it before or anything, but... well, as they say, “the old ones are the best”.

Now it doesn’t surprise me that Iain Gray doesn’t understand minority government. As I’ve said before I wouldn’t let Iain Gray run a message. But I thought that Miliband would have grasped the political inevitable that, whatever is in your manifesto, if you are a minority government, you depend upon the opposition parties having the best interests of the country at heart... and his party, from day one, only had its best interests at heart. Even Wendy’s brother said of her that she always put the party first! QED.

Just one though... as Ed rambled on about broken SNP promises, does that mean that wee, whatisname will have to find something new to say? Shock!!!

Staying on the theme of the Labour bash, I note that they had Harriet McHarman there too on loan from England and the Wimins’ Lib Movement...

She upset people by referring to Danny Alexander as a “ginger rodent”. As Mike Smithson (Political Betting) asks, would Harman have been so quick to poke fun at ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, as she was to point out sneeringly that Mr Alexander has red hair.... Did no one tell her that in THIS country there are quite a few people with fair skin and red hair... It’s a Celtic thang!

Clearly Miliband must have given her a carpeting because it didn’t take too long for her to apologise. A cheap laugh from the Jocks at conference Harriet, but it leaves you looking like a hypocritical fool... and we’ll remember at the next election! I wonder how many ginger votes Labour will get.

Oh dear.... Have I rambled?

Pics: Thersa May's kinky wellies; Fisty Cuffs What'isname; the top table at the SCOTTISH (huh) Labour Party Conference, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Thursday 28 October 2010


Another example of how we are so NOT all this together has come to light.

New figures from the Institute of Development Studies show that FTSE 100 director pay increased by 55% in the year to June. In the FTSE 350, boardroom pay climbed by 45% on average.

FTSE 100 chief executives paid themselves on average £4.9m during the year. But the study found the rise in pay packages was enhanced by share options, long-term incentive plans and bonuses.

In the meantime another survey by the same consultancy found that employers were still pushing through pay freezes, which effectively means that pay is being cut when inflation is taken into account.

Unions were rightly shocked at the levels of pay at a time when workers suffered real cuts to their wages, pay freezes and redundancy.

What a charmless and unequal society we live in. How did we get to this stage where greed is so good, the devil take the hindmost, and the poor depend on Boris Johnston to save them from eviction?


I was somewhat miffed to read that the Scottish Court Service has plans to spend £300,000 on chauffeur-driven cars for judges, whilst all around us people are cutting and making do. The chauffeurs will be used to take judges between courts all across Scotland.

The expenditure of our money has been rightly questioned by opposition politicians. After all the Scottish government is expecting a cut of £900,000,000 in its pocket money for next year.

The courts service has defended the arrangement. They say that judges needed a safe and secure environment in which to travel. Erm, well, we all need a safe and secure environment when we are travelling be it to and from work, or for pleasure. What exactly is different about judges? Can they not drive? Are they incapable of getting on and off buses, or trains?

If so, maybe they shouldn’t be sitting in judgment on the rest of us.

They say of course, that despite the financial challenges, the service is vital to provide a safe and secure environment for court documents or equipment accompanying them to court. It is also deemed necessary for the judges to work on cases confidentially while travelling “so that hearings can be dealt with promptly and efficiently without causing delays.”

WHAT? Has anyone ever been in the chaos that is the court system? And does no one else have to work whilst travelling for work, sometimes on confidential papers?

Presumably then, counsel for the accused and the defence will also require chauffeur driven cars so that they too can work in confidence in transit?

Richard Baker for Labour criticized the decision, swaying that in England and Wales there would be job losses and court closures following last week’s spending review. What exactly England and Wales have to do with this I’m not sure, but it does seem that Mr Baker hasn’t quite grasped the idea that having separate parliament and a separate legal system does mean that we do things differently here. Being Labour of course, he has been in the habit of taking his orders from London. But one thing for sure Mr Baker, the English judges won’t be getting bus to court.

John Lamont for the Tories said that in these hard times people would question whether this was really the best use of a large amount of their money. Damned right we will John. I trust Kenny MacAskill will be looking into this. I’d hate to think that the Scottish government would let it pass.

Judges need to be reminded that we are all in this together, even them.


Today's First Minister's Questions is on Subrosa's blog.

Wednesday 27 October 2010


Further to the Dispatches Programme which Cynical Highlander highlighted last week on this blog, I came across this petition.

It is a ridiculous state of affairs that the people at the top of government, and in particular those who are responsible for, for whatever reasons good or bad, showering utter misery on large numbers of the population, to be taking advantage of tax loopholes to save themselves millions in taxes. Taxes which would otherwise be helping to pay down the massive deficit left to the government by the previous administration.

The petition text is as follows:

George Osborne, pay your fair share of taxes!

Stop using loopholes to avoid millions in tax. Start closing tax loopholes and make a real effort to get everyone to pay their fair share.

George Osborne likes to say "we're all in this together." But last week, Channel 4 revealed that he's avoiding paying tax. He pays accountants to help him find loopholes which Channel 4 reckons will help him dodge £1.6million. These kind of "legal tax dodges" cost the rest of us billions.

How can we trust George Osborne to do all he can to close tax loopholes when he uses the loopholes himself?

The government doesn't want to tackle tax dodging, but together we can embarrass them into action. Let's build a huge petition against George Osborne's tax dodges. We can prove that as long as he's not paying his fair share of tax, the public won't buy his claims that "we're all in this together".

I’m seriously incredulous that there are members of the Cabinet who are engaged in this kind of thing...just as the last lot were, except in the last parliament they put their tax accountants on expenses.

Tax loopholes are legal. I’m not suggesting that Osborne, Hammond and Mitchell are doing anything illegal, just immoral, and decidedly two faced when they spout that “we’re all in this together”

Until they plug the tax loopholes they should really be saying “YOU’RE all in this together”.

Pics: Osborne in the drinking uniform of the Bullingdon Club; Mitchell and Hammond. All of them Right Honourables!


A few weeks ago I wrote a story about Blair taking from Downing Street (quite legally, but greedily) gifts that he was given as head of government, and therefore gifts to the country, rather than to him personally.

Now it appears that Mrs Blair has been selling stuff on Ebay, including a watch given to her husband/the state by the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for well under a third of its value.

Blair is said to earn around £6000 a minute as an after dinner speaker (in addition to having heaven knows how many other jobs to occupy his 24 hours a day). It seems that people desperately want to hear about how he agreed with everything that President Bush said, and nothing that Gordon Brown said... Oh well, folk are funny. They like The X Factor too!

Mrs Blair has also been selling her husband’s signature on Ebay. According to the Daily Telegraph:
Mrs Blair claimed she had not intended to profit from the autograph, saying she had advertised it to "undermine the market" in Blair signatures, because she was upset that people were selling them for up to £35. She claimed to have refunded the £10 as soon as she had sold the signature.

Why would a QC, with a millionaire husband and the ability to earn between a quarter and half a million a year (despite being, of course, a good socialist) be interested in whether her husband’s signature sold for a tenner or 35 quid?

I think she’s flipped!

Afterthought: With all her money, you'd think Cherie could afford a better looking wig, wouldn't you?

After Afterthought: Hat tip to my mum for alerting me to this story.

Tuesday 26 October 2010


Once again David Starkey, the shock historian, has upset Scots with his comments on Glasgow.

Starkey said in a camp and petty little rant on BBC Radio 4’s Andrew Marr Show during a discussion on the work of painter Alasdair Gray, that Glasgow had declined from a world city to a provincial city dependent on state funding.

Professor Tom Devine, an historian who clearly knows a great deal more about Glasgow than arch Little Englander Dr Starkey, has replied to his accusations. [He pointed out that he wouldn’t normally bother to comment on anything Starkey said (a brilliant put down) but on this occasion, because of the popularity of the programme on which he said it, and the number of people who are likely to have heard it, he felt obliged to answer the accusation.]

Professor Devine pointed out what most Scots would know. That Glasgow is a “tale of two cities”. There is of course the poverty, the deprivation and all the ills that attend poor and neglected people in a post-industrial Scotland. But there is another city of regeneration, of galleries and museums, music venues, of shopping malls, of smart housing. Indeed Dr Starkey may be a little outside the loop on this one buried as he usually is in the history of Tudor England’s monarchs, but Glasgow has been described as the ‘European Capital of Cool’.

Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister and a Glasgow MSP herself said that it was the kind of ill-informed comment that we’ve come to expect from him and Pauline McNeill, MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, said accused him of ignorance knowing no bounds and pointed out that his comments only showed how little he knew Glasgow. I agree with them both.

David Starkey used to be amusing in very small dozes, and no one would doubt his expertise on English history, particularly the Tudor period, but the man must have some dreadful chip on his shoulder about almost everything else. God knows why. Clever though he may be, his rantings seem to me to be becoming incredibly immature and his lack of manners lamentable.

As he heads for old age he has become a parody of himself. He opens his mouth and trots out the most offensive, ill considered rubbish in his superior metropolitan style. (Strange for a man born in Cumbria.)

Rants against Scotland, particularly with reference to dependency on the state, seem to be getting more and more on the London based BBC.

We know they don’t like us much, but I wish they would remember that we pay a licence fee the same as their English viewers and listeners.

Monday 25 October 2010


At last some good news from the government. It is planning a radical overhaul of the state pension, according to Vince Cable. And although he did not confirm reports in the Daily Mail that it could rise from about £97 a week for a single person to around£140, he did say that the proposals included replacing means-tested pension credits with a flat-rate payment, which would ensure a "decent" retirement.

OK. I don’t think £140 a week means a decent retirement, but it’s a million miles closer than the current state of affairs.

Of course people say that it is too expensive and Britain could never manage this kind of pension. But it fair to say that many continental countries have pension far better than this. It would mean vast savings on means testing calculations.

At the moment, pensions are topped up to £132 a week for the poorest by way of a pensions credit.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said that they will publish proposals later this year.

Of course, it's not going to happen for a long while and the figures may have to be revised. If it takes 5 years to implement, then the £140 will have to be upgraded or those who at present are entitled to all the pension credit will have to take a fall in income!

Labour peer Patricia Hollis, who had called last year for a flat rate pension of £132, was said to be delighted. She rekoned the proposals would be affordable because increases in the state pension age.

Most other commentators thought that the idea was a good one too, with some scepticism from a few who feel that it is a heart-warming story spun to balance out the unfairness of some of last week’s announcements.

The Times said the proposed pension changes were not affordable. Their chief economics person said that the sums didn’t add up and that it would require extra money as it would not pay for itself.

But the National Association of Pension Funds, which described the UK's state pension as the worst in Europe, said it welcomed simplification and less bureaucracy.

I think it is a good start. At £99, the UK state pension is derisory and despicable. I’ve criticised many things that this government has done, and with good reason, but credit where it is due. If it pulls this off it WILL be a progressive move and credit where credit is due. It is to Labour’s eternal shame that it took a Conservative-Liberal government to make this move.

Let’s hope that it is brought in speedily and that the amount at which it is pitched will rise swiftly, to bring us a little closer to all other countries in Europe who treat their old with a little more respect than we do.


On a few occasions I have pointed out (along with the Institute for Fiscal Studies) that the Coalition’s cuts disproportionately hurt the poor.

Of course benefits cuts hurt the poor and the sick, because by definition, most benefit recipients are poor and many are sick. But council and government services which will be cut will hurt the poor more too. The poor rely more on the library, free computer access, day centres, youth clubs, old folks entertainment, etc, than the rich who have little need of these things. And of course, given that Mr Cameron’s Big Society depends upon people with the ability to negotiate their way through grant applications, and then the management skills to run whatever it is, it’s more likely that in the leafy suburbs or commuter villages of Edinburgh, there will be businessmen with some spare time (or one of the office staff) to complete applications, and stay at home wives, active pensioners, or people of independent means, than in a inner city council estate.

But there are some things that will affect all of us, or all except the very richest.

Possible cuts to fire fighting is one such area. According to yesterday’s Independent, up to 10,000 fire fighters may lose their jobs given that there will be a cut of 25% in funding. Of course it is likely (although not stated) that this figure applies to England, as all the mainstream media is Anglo centric, but despite the financial acumen of John Swinney, Scotland cannot ride all of these cuts like nothing has happened.

No matter how rich you are, if your house is burning down, you have trouble. And I imagine that the costs of home insurance will increase if there is a greater likelihood of your house being burnt to the ground, rather than damaged in a conflagration.

The other area which will affect all but the super rich is the announcement that people in England will have to wait longer for cancer tests.

The Coalition is to go back on Labour's pledge for all cancer patients to undergo diagnostic tests within a week of being seen by their GP. This could leave 1.8 million people with suspected cancer facing a longer wait for tests over the next five years. During the election campaign the Tories accused Labour of "scaremongering" when they said cancer care would be threatened by a Conservative government.

Unless you can afford to travel abroad for your cancer test, or you have top flight private health insurance, it is unlikely that you will be able to escape this.

Again, this is not a Scottish issue. (I have been unable to unearth how long it takes in Scotland. It may be longer or shorter than in England.) However, despite the ring fencing of the health budget here, it is unlikely that the situation will get any better even if it gets no worse.

I’m told that in France, it is the next day.

Why can’t it be like that here?

Sunday 24 October 2010


The government is going to sell off half the forests in the UK owned by the state and run for the benefit of the public, and the wildlife.

We can expect to see many trees being cut down and use made of the land to create Center Park holiday villages, golf courses, adventure site and commercial logging.

Great! John Major, also in need of money after Mrs Thatcher’s reign tried this too, and it was abandoned after Civil Servants reported that it would be impracticable to do and the public objected to it.

John Major backed down. Cameron won’t, I suspect.

There will be a need to change legislation which currently governs the treatment of "ancient forests" such as the Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest in England, so that private firms will be able to cut down trees.

Laws governing England's forests were included in the Magna Carta of 1215, and some date back even earlier, so changing them is going to be interesting...for a “conservative” party.

What made me laugh was a quote from someone at the Dept of the Environment, under whose remit this falls: "We are looking to energise our forests by bringing in fresh ideas and investment, and by putting conservation in the hands of local communities."

Energise a forest? WHAT?

No you're not, you nobs. You’re looking to sell it, make money and let them cut the trees down. It will as much of a success as everything else that you do.

Pics: A Scottish Forest. Map of Forestry Commission areas

Saturday 23 October 2010


Andrew Hughes Hallett, Professor of Economics and Public Policy; Co-Director, Center for Emerging Market Policy at George Mason University, and Visiting Professor at St Andrews University, has confirmed that Scotland subsidises the UK Treasury in London and that the unionist cabal’s Calman recommendations are unworkable.

Professor Hughes Hallett made the points on Radio Scotland’s ‘Newsweek’ show. When questioned by presenter Derek Batemen on the economics of independence, he confirmed J
ohn Swinney’s case that Scotland would be better off financially with economic independence.

This comes only a few weeks after Nobel Prize winning economist Josef Stiglitz confirmed that the UK Government had ‘squandered’ Scotland’s oil wealth and the SNP’s plans for oil fund should be carried out as soon as possible.

Dundee West’s MSP Joe FitzPatrick, who is a member of Parliament’s finance committee, said:

“Professor Hughes Hallet has confirmed what John Swinney and the SNP have been saying for years. It’s economically unviable for Scotland to remain part of the union and subsidise the rest of the UK. For years Scotland has more than paid its own way, only for unionist parties in Scotland to peddle the myth that it is the other way around.

“An Independent Scotland will be able to build the better and fairer Scotland we all want to see. With the cuts from ConDem coalition about to bite, the importance of the economic powers of independence have never been more important to Scotland.

“The SNP will be working hard over the next year to promote a better Scotland, a Scotland free from the financial ties of the union and a Scotland free from the Tories, and their cuts agenda. For too long Scotland has been held back by the union and held back
by a Labour party who prefer Tory rule to home rule. It’s time to end that. It’s time to stand up for Scotland, let her flourish, and show that we’ve got what it takes to make Scotland better.”

More and more respected people are coming out for an independent Scotland.

The choice between a future of being tied to England, sending 50+ MPs to a house of 600+, ruled by the South East of England for their economy instead of Edinburgh for ours, having our own country, our own economy and our own success story is becoming easier and easier to make.

We could be living so much better. We could be passing a wealthy, happy country at ease with itself on to our kids... instead of the mess we have, and will continue to have.

It seems a no brainer to me!

Pics: The Act of Union, John Swinney, Joe Fitzpatrick


Within days of George Osborne’s Emergency Budget (for that is what it was) problems are starting to become apparent.

Reductions in local authority spending mean that councils will be unable to provide services for the elderly and vulnerable coming out of hospital, in turn meaning that they will bed block. Nigel Edwards, the head of the NHS Confederation, said the pressure on beds could mean that hospitals would be unable to admit patients "who badly need care".

Of course Mr Edwards was doubtless talking about England, but as there is bound to be a consequential, I cannot imagine that the situation will be that different in Scotland, or Wales.

The very well off will be able to be discharged into private nursing homes but, as the cost of beds in such places is prohibitive, in some cases well over £1000 a week, and stays may need to be over several, possibly many weeks, this is out of reach of many people.

So although Mr Osborne’s well intended ring fencing of the NHS budget, was supposed to mean that we could expect no reduction in our health services, it is evident that, should a convalescent person be in a bed, that bed cannot be occupied by the next patient.

You have to wonder if these cuts were quite thought through.

Friday 22 October 2010


According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies

Up till now the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has been the Tories’ friend. But following their assertion that George Osborne’s spending cuts are NOT fair and that they would hit the poorest harder than the richest, they must be off the Christmas Card list of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.

The think tank concluded that, with the exception of the richest 2% of the population (the billionaires), the least well-off would be hit the hardest, and families with children would lose out the most.

They described the tax and benefit changes as regressive rather than progressive across the bulk of the population.

Nick Clegg, David’s poodle, hit back, loosing what little credibility he had left, accusing critics of “frightening people” with claims that they were doing unfair things “when we are not. So nah nah nah nah nah!”.

For goodness sake Nicky. We’re not the bunch of morons you clearly take us for. We may not have gone to Eton, Harrow or Westminster, like the bulk of the cabinet, but we know when the taxes are going up, prices are going up, jobs are being lost, benefits are coming down, and the services, which are appalling to begin with, are getting worse that that is a bad deal for us.

We also know that if you have 250,000 a year and the price of petrol goes up and VAT goes up and you lose your child benefit, and food goes up, you don’t actually miss it. However, if you used to earn £150 a week and now you’re now on £51 benefit and there are no jobs, and you can’t afford Mr Duncan-Smith’s bus fares (which are going up) to the nearest town where there are jobs, maybe 50 miles away, so that you can compete with the hundreds of thousands of people already there for these jobs..... it’s a bit of a damned bind don’t you know.

The think-tank also challenged Osborne’s claim that cuts to departments averaged 19%, which he had made a huge flourish of telling us at the end of his statement. It was better, he had said, than Labour’s request that reductions be kept to 20%.

Well no, it wasn’t actually. It pointed out Osborne’s calculations took no account the £6bn of cuts already announced in his emergency Budget which put it well over the 22%.

So wee Gideon’s a bit of a fibber and Nick is a patronising git who, hopefully, will lose the leadership as real Liberals, and Democrats, cross the floor, and then lose his seat when the people of Sheffield decide that they might as well have a proper Tory next time.

Instead of the Prime Minister’s tea boy

Thursday 21 October 2010


The SNP has very significantly closed the gap on Labour in the opinion polls in this week following the launch their 2011 election campaign at the annual conference at Perth last weekend.

In a Yougov poll of 1,405 people across Scotland taken between the 18th and 20th October, just after SNP conference the party saw its share of the Holyrood vote increase by 5 points across both constituency and regional vote.

Labour’s vote has stayed the same and the Liberal’s vote has fallen seriously away.

The SNP is polling at a higher level than at the same time prior to the 2007 election. Since September the SNP vote has increased to 34% of the constituency vote and 31% of the regional vote, a 5% increase in both cases.

The poll puts the SNP on 34% in the constituency vote, against 40% for Labour, 14% for the Conservatives and 8% for the Liberals. On the regional vote the SNP is on 31% against 36% for Labour, 15 for the conservatives and 8 for the Liberals.

So that’s a healthy start, although we have to remember that every party experiences a bounce post conference.

It will be hard work. Labour is in front of us. This is a natural position after four years of government. But it certainly isn’t an unassailable lead. People need to be reminded that we wouldn’t be having all these Tory/Liberal cuts if it were not for Labour’s mishandling of the economy and their so called “light touch” regulation of the banks, which in reality meant no regulation at all.

They also need to be reminded over and over again of Iain Gray. Who’s that? I hear you say.

Well, we’ll soon find out, to our cost, if we don’t mobilise to make sure that he is not the First Minister of our country. Surely no one from any party (probably including Labour) wants that.

Pics. Iain Gray and two short planks.

Tuesday 19 October 2010


After almost a week of demonstrations Nicolas Sarkozy has been forced to appeal for calm after cars were burned and shop windows smashed today.

Additionally the oil refinery strike is biting now all over the country. Around 4,000 petrol stations are running out, or are out of petrol, with long queues building up.

It is expected soon that fuel supplies for freight vehicles will run out and at that point distribution of food and supplies to factories and shops will start to dry up.

Sarkozy, who was at an international summit in Deauville, has set up an emergency committee to deal with the crisis, He said that he cannot allow shortages; that the majority of people want to work and must not be prevented from doing so by a lack of petrol.

He has said that he will not pull back from his pension reforms, which include raising the basic age of retirement from 60 to 62.

At the end of this week his Bill will face its vote in the Senate and this will mean it is a step closer becoming law. This Senate vote has already been postponed from last week.

However, Nicolas should be aware that no matter what he does, the French do not like it when someone attacks their way of life. They take a different attitude to life in most of France. It is about living; not about working. Work is necessary to allow one to live, but it is not life. Life is food and art and wine and politics and philosophy and fun and l'amour.... and some work.

The strikers will not let the mere fact that the Senate has approved the Bill get in the way of their intention to reverse it. They consider the reform to be unfair and they intend to stop it, as they have done with other laws in the past that they felt were contrary to the French way of life.

The manifestations include people from all walks of life, and strangely to Celtic
minds, include school children. Around 380 schools were disrupted on Tuesday. (Kids learn early to protect their cherished way of life.)

Students too are protesting on the basis that keeping people at work for another two years will mean that there will be a shortage of jobs for them, as the normal process of retirement and promotion is interrupted.

There have been calls for a General Strike too, and it could happen, as people are more and more discontent with the right wing president and the way public services have diminished on his watch.

Of course many will say that les réformes des retraites is long overdue. There is a large pensions shortfall as there is in most countries. But I have a feeling that Sarkozy will end up ruing the day he tackled le public français on such a thorny subject. He may get his Bill through, but will he make it work? And he only has 18 months before the next presidential election!!


It never ceases to amaze me just how greedy some people can be.

And another thing I can never get quite used to is how secretive our government can be, despite the Freedom of Information Act .

This is all about Blair...well, the word "greed" was a hint.

Apparently when he left office, he took with him 76 prime ministerial gifts including 12 expensive watched, nine of which were presented to him by the Italian P
M, Silvio Berlusconi. (It looks like Silvio, for all his money, lacks imagination.) He also took a guitar signed by the U2 singer, Bono.

Ministers are allowed to keep anything worth under £140. They are allowed to buy gifts worth more than that at the market value, less £140. (Why less £140 I do not know.) The Cabinet Office and Mr Blair's office are not letting on how much he paid for the items. But my bet is that a guitar signed by Bono wouldn’t be a cheap item.

But here’s the rub. It took a campaigner against waste in government, Lee Rotherham, 10 months to obtain the list and required two interventions by the Information Commissioner. Why is our government so careful with information that could not possibly be of use to our enemies, and only shows what greedy, grasping, self-serving cretins we have had for leaders?

Sunday 17 October 2010


Alex’s speech to conference started with him talking about Delhi where he visited the Scotland team. He pointed out the Commonwealth Games is special because it is the only multi sport event where Scotland takes part as a nation, in our own right. He pointed out that Scotland had got a rousing cheer in the closing ceremony.

He reminded delegates that the SNP governs for Scotland, and the welfare of the nation, and all of its five million people.

He pointed out that there was a simple choice in the next election:

"Either Scotland stays in the Westminster straightjacket of low growth, public sector cutbacks and blighted futures or we take responsibility and deliver the better society we all want.”

Labour, he said, had created the crisis and the Tory/Lib coalition were making it worse.

According to a BBC MORI poll 42% blamed Labour for the mess; 39% the Coalition and only 13%, the SNP... (and he joked they were all Lord George Foulke's relatives!) Another poll showed only 9% recognise Labour’s leader in Scotland.

Alex offered the country clear leadership and a positive future.

He agreed that minority government placed limits on what could be done. He said that the government had tri
ed to compromise where possible. He talked about the shared submission to the MoD on the looming cuts to airbases, ship yards and related employment. He said the SNP would fight for these jobs but he drew the line at deserting the cause of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Spending £100 billion we do not have on a weapons system we don't need, which takes much needed money from every other budget, is a criminal act.

He said that he didn’t believe the difference between the parties at Holyrood was so great. It was sad that Labour set itself against minimum pricing for alcohol. They really do agree but oppose for the sake of opposing... and that was pathetic when the real challenge is to public health.

The SNP government has won many victories, for example:

• Ended tuition fees

• Ended bridge tolls

• Frozen Council Tax

• Ended prescription charges

• Put a 1,000 extra policemen on our streets and an extra 1000 cleaners into our hospitals.

We now have the lowest crime rate for 32 years and the highest clear up rate in 30. Public confidence in the police is high and fear of crime is falling.

He welcomed some of Jimmy Reid’s family to the conference and spoke about his philosophy that that it was the job of human beings to control their circumstances not to allow them to devalue humanity.

On the economy and cuts, he said that his first duty is to protect the people of Scotland.

On Wednesday they will announce the most ferocious series of cuts witnessed in a lifetime. It will be hard, it will be deep and it will hurt. It risks ripping the social fabric of our nation.

The SNP cannot not let that happen. There will have to be pay restraint. There’s a fixed budget, The books must balance. We must restrict our spending. Pay will be a part of that.

While inflation goes up, VAT goes up and times are uncertain, there is no way that the households of Scotland should suffer more. For the next two years, the council tax freeze is on.

"Council tax bills doubled under first Tory then Labour but they have not risen under the SNP. And if this is to be a defining issue of the election then so be it.

He promised that if it came down to a choice between Bobbies on the beat and the boundaries of police authorities, then it was simple , policemen first – safety first – communities first – bobbies before boundaries.

He also promised that the NHS would get the entire NHS budget.

He also announced that Scottish water will not be privatised – “not a tap, not a drop”.

He said that Joe Stiglitz Nobel prize winning economist had agreed to advise the Scottish Government on our country’s economic future.

He announced a new commission into the future of public services chaired by Campbell Christie, former head of the STUC. He will look at how to deliver services in the new financial landscape while maintaining our social democratic ethos.

He also said that it was time for new powers for parliament. With economic powers we could grow the Scottish economy by an extra 1% pa, which year on year would make a huge difference.

A rousing speech, greeted with great enthusiasm by supporters.


(This is very truncated because of space. The first paragraph links to the full text and
this links to an excellent piece by James Kelly on the “independence question" and important part of the speech which I left out).

Friday 15 October 2010


There’s one way to guarantee absolutely that defence spending will be protected, and that’s for America to hint that the special relationship would be affected.

And so Mr Fox, describing himself as a “hawk” on defence, has been "swift" (no pun intended) to assure the Americans that, no matter what, Britain will continue to play its part in NATO. As that part has always been to punch well above our weight, then it seems that there may be some re-calculations going on in No 11.

One word from President Obama and Mrs Clinton and you can bet that George Osborne has been sent homeward, "tae think again" about his figures! And it wouldn’t have made any difference if Mr Brown had still been in the driving seat. What must not happen is that there should be any rupture in the so-called “special relationship”.

The Telegraph reports the the American intervention is likely to increase tensions over the scale of the cuts to be announced next week.

Britain is one of a handful of European NATO members that meets the 2% (of GDP) standard, although much of it is wasted on expensive projects that run years late and double in price. Defence spending is predicted to fall as low as 1.7% of GDP.

George Osborne has been pressing for a 10% cut in the defence budget, which Fox has been resisting fiercely. It is thought now that a “midpoint” compromise of around 6% could be reached. That would represent a political victory for Fox but would still leave the Services facing painful losses. (Of course that would have knock-on effects for other services which would simply have to be cut by more.)

Fox and the Defence chiefs have been fighting this batter, leaking letters and letting retired officers speak to the press for months with no result, but one word from America and the budget is changed.

The special relationship of course, is all about Britain retaining a place at the top table. If America no longer feels it can depend completely and totally upon us, then that could well be in jeopardy. After all, with all the up and coming nations in the world, isn’t it slightly ridiculous that the UN Security Council includes the UK and France?

And why is Britain in the G8 when quite clearly we are not one of the richest nations on Earth.

Our “leaders” will do what it takes to ensure that they are still invited to the White House. It would be embarrassing if Brazil, India or Germany were to replace us. And it would leave the British politicians with nothing better to do that involve themselves in the boring issues of running Britain. Yawn

Now....I wonder if Mr Obama would care to intervene over some other issues.

Thursday 14 October 2010


Good news for pensioners is that the pension will rise to over £100 a week in April next year.

Given that inflation is well above the target rate set by the government, it is reckoned that the pension will rise by £4.49 per week to £102.14, still the lowest in the EU by percentage of the average salary at around 30%.

This will be a crumb of comfort to pensioners faced with some of the most miserable weather in the EU, with the numbers in fuel poverty doubling in the last 5 years. Add to that that energy prices are not restrained in any way, and that it is rumoured
that emergency cold weather payments are set to be cut from £25 to £8.50, and we are looking at misery for old folk who have little more than their pension to live on in a winter that is predicted to be very severe.

Of course those who were prudent and saved something for their old age are being rewarded with almost zero return on their money, with interest rates at record low, and inflation far above anything that any savings account pays.

Let’s home that
if Mr Osborne is going to reduce the amount paid as a winter fuel bonus to pensioners, that he does it only for the very richest pensioners for whom the extra £250 is of negligible interest.

According to the Telegraph, this will be the last time state pension payments will be based on RPI. The government, they say, is to switch to Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation starting next year. This may mean lower increases in payments from April 2012 onwards. For instance, last month while RPI was 4.6%, CPI was 3.1%.

I’m confused. I thought that that was only for other benefits. I thought too that the retirement pension was to be linked (as it always should have been) to wage increases. Of course at the moment that would probably mean what Mr Brown would call an increase of -4%.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me...?


Denis MacShane looks as if he may be joining the hat woman Moran in the dock very shortly.

The Commons authorities have reported Den boy to the police after studying his claims for office space in his constituency which turned out to be his garage. At £20,000 a year (totalling some £125,000), paid to himself, it turned out to be a rather expensive garage...well, expensive for us, not him.

He also appears to have favoured his family when it came to getting work done. He submitted more than a dozen invoices for “research and translation” from an organization called the European Policy Institute, which just happens to be run by his brother.

As Europe minister, you would have thought that he would have been able to get any research or translating done for him by people in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or by the government’s own EU offices in London.

He also claimed for 8 laptops in 3 years... I’m pretty sure that even working as hard as I’m sure Mr MacShane did, no one could wear out that many computers in such a short time. But of course he could have been taking after his boss, Mr Brown, but throwing laptops instead of Nokias!

MacShane is thought to be the first MP referred to the police by parliament. Let’s hope he’s not the last.

Just one last thought. When I was researching some pictures for this post I noticed that MacShane is in fact the Rt. Hon. Denis MacShane. Is it not time, given the dishonour that these people have brought upon themselves, upon the London parliament and upon the UK, that these ridiculous honorifics be ditched? They are not honourable nor are they right honourable. They shouldn’t be so addressed. If there is no mechanism for removing them from the Privy Council, then there should be.
Mr MacShane is no longer a Labour MP having had the whip removed. (Hat tip to Guido)

Pics: Mr MacShane and his garage (a coat of pain wouldn't have gone amiss at £250K, don't you think?)