Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Polls open in US election

5 weeks before polling day, voters in Ohio have started voting for the next President of the United States.

I wonder what will be
foremost in their minds when voting today?

ps - I am aware that there is a crisis ongoing in the world's banking sector. I just don't see myself as knowledgeable enough on the subject to pass comment on it. There are plenty of people more knowledgeable than I that are being made to look not so smart because of it, so I'll find other things to blog about!


Politics Home poll (late analysis)

Now I know this is based on a poll. True, it was a massive poll - of 35,000 people. And it was done over 200 marginal seats across the UK.

But still.
Doesn't this map - based on the Politics Home projections - look horrible if you are a member of the Labour party?

Huge chunks of Wales have turned blue for goodness sake! What does that say about Labour at the moment?

Pop over to Anseo at
North to Leith for further analysis of the numbers - and some guesswork...


Monday, 29 September 2008

Devolution works

So, the Northern Irish Assembly is to follow the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament in abolishing prescription charges - using the same phased reduction and full abolition scheme which is to be implemented in Scotland.

As the BBC rightly point out, this leaves England as the only country in the UK to retain the charges - though Gordon Brown announced plans at the Labour conference to abolish charges for cancer patients.
Makes you wonder though doesn't it.

First the UK Government lumps top-up fees on students in England, then implements foundation hospitals... in England. And now, when everyone else has moved to abolish prescription charges, those in England still have to pay them.

Bet the Campaign for an English Parliament are making the most out of this...


Friday, 26 September 2008

Personal note

Just wanted to say a public thanks to those who came to my leaving "do" last night. After almost a year in the employ of the Scottish Parliament, I decided to return to bumming around academia where I'll be spending the next 3 years researching for a PhD.

Last night was great - several bloggers and a couple of MSPs were kind enough to come along and offer their best wishes/ make sure I was actually leaving. And the crew of young patsies were tremendous company - though how they all made it to work for 9am this morning I'll never know.

I hope to have more time to devote to this in the coming weeks and months. I'm told no one really does anything in their first year as a PhD candidate... if that is indeed the case then expect to hear more from me than perhaps you'd like!

Cheers again to all those who made my time at work better.

ps - some cracking photos up on facebook for those who know me!


Expanding our borders...

This is brilliant.

I particularly like the quote from "artist" Jenny Brookes:

"It has always been a disputed area and we thought it was time to reignite the debate about whether Carlisle should be part of Scotland."

Substitute "Carlisle" for "Scotland" and "Scotland" for "UK" and you've got your debate Ms Brookes...


Thursday, 25 September 2008

Dial S for stoopid

Just saw this.



McCain suspends campaign

John McCain has temporarily suspended his Presidential campaign to return to Washington D.C to help broker a solution to the economic crisis that has engulfed the US - citing no consensus over the Bush administration's proposals as evidence that crisis talks were required.

McCain has also called on Barack Obama to delay Friday's Presidential debate - stating that they need to rise above party politics to see this crisis through.

It is a shrewd move from McCain - who has lagged behind Obama somewhat on economic issues. If Obama rejects his suggestions, it looks like he'd rather be talking politics than sorting out the economy. However, if he agrees, it looks like McCain is the leader, and he is following.

Apparently, Obama suggested that they issue a joint statement about it - and 5 mins later McCain announced the suspension of his campaign...

So... I think McCain wins the smartness/ shrewdness battle.

Though... if you are an Obama supporter, you're probably criticising McCain for politicising the issue and/or mad that Obama didn't do it first.

[Edit - ignoring the BBC's as usual unbiased reporting, it is still clear that McCain is getting whacked for "forgetting" to mention that Obama called him about this before he made his own statement... which is something of a key detail and now makes his call look like a gaffe. On the other hand, calling for the campaign to rise above party politics was a shrewd move - and if Obama ends up debating himself, it will look like he's the only one thinking about politics in these uncertain economic times, something that could go either way.

I think the spin involved has made what could have been a good, shrewd move turn against him... who knows - this might be the turning point Obama has needed.]


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Born in the USA

First the Greens in England and Wales appoint their own "yummy mummy" Caroline Lucas as their new leader.

Then the Lib Dems use the old tape-recorded-leader-personal-phonecall as a means to entice voters to the party.

Now Gordon Brown has his wife introducing him to the Labour conference.

What's next to be imported from US politics - the separation of powers? Attack ads? Cigars...?


R. Kelly - The World's Greatest

Ruth Kelly has resigned from Gordon Brown's cabinet.

Just when you think you've turned a corner...

As Scottish Tory Boy mentions - is it time for Tom Harris MP to step up to the plate? It may, after all, be his only chance for a Cabinet position before 15 years of Tory government.

It may also be an opportunity for Gordon to stick someone in his Cabinet that can actually do a job. And, you know, unlike some colleagues, not brief against him.


The ghosts of Gordon's past

So... The Prime Minister delivered his speech to Labour conference.

My favourite part - the music

"Higher and Higher"?

The Ghostbusters theme would have been more appropriate...


Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Challenge - the prediction

Further to my challenge to ASwaS, here's how I think the swing states will go in November. I should preface it by saying that I think the result of the 2004 Electoral College will largely be repeated - with only 5 states switching from one candidate to the other.

12 Swing states:

New Mexico
Margin of victory in 2004: Republican, 0.8%
Recent election history: 1992 1996 2000 2004

Epitome of a close call – in 2000 it was DEM by just 366 votes, last time REP by less than 6,000. Swinging DEM again with the congressional delegation and the Governorship – Bill Richardson has endorsed Barack Obama. High population of Hispanics – marginally – calling this one for Obama.

Margin of victory in 2004: Republican, 5%
Recent election history: 1992 1996 2000 2004

While the Democrats have seen a swing towards them in recent congressional elections (2 congressmen, one senator) and the gubernatorial due to the growing Hispanic population, Colorado is a Republican stronghold. DEMs last won the state when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, but that may change in November.

Margin of victory, 2004: Republican, 0.8%
Recent election history: 1992 1996 2000 2004

Historically the Democratic candidate has won Iowa. However, on his way to a second term in 2004, George W. Bush edged a close victory for the Republicans. With Iowa bordering Obama’s home state (Illinois) and his decent polling in the state, it could switch back to DEM.
IOWA – DEM (+7)

Margin of victory in 2004:
Republican, 2%
Recent election history: 1992 1996 2000 2004

Ohio is a key state, not least for the fact that 20 electoral votes are available to the winner. Democrats now have the Governor, a Senator and a Congressman – all elected in 2006 mid-terms, but Barack Obama had failed to win over Ohio’s blue-collar workers in the primaries. John McCain’s choice of running mate may swing the state back to the Republicans, enough to hold off Obama’s charge here.


Margin of victory in 2004: Republican, 8%
Recent election history: 1992 1996 2000 2004

Virginia has been solidly Republican since the 1970s but now, like many of the swing states, has a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Senator was elected in the mid-terms in 2006. However, it will require a large change for Barack Obama to win here. If he does, it is game over for McCain. But I don’t think that will happen.

Margin of victory in 2004: Republican, 5%
Recent election history: 1992 1996 2000 2004

Florida proved the controversial winning post for George Bush in 2000 when a Supreme Court decision was required to decide the election. However, 2004 saw the Republicans win back the state more comfortably. John McCain won a hard-fought Republican primary here, and should replicate that victory in November.

On the basis that they border Obama’s home state (or, at least, the state he represents) of Illinois, I’d suggest that Minnesota and Wisconsin will remain with the Democrats. New Hampshire voted Bush in 2000 but will probably stay Democrat this time out. Michigan, with 17 electoral votes and Pennsylvania with 21 are two states which I think could go either way. If Obama loses either – and there is potential given his lack of appeal to blue-collar workers – then the game is over. I’d expect Pennsylvania to remain blue but won’t be surprise if Michigan (+17) turns red. I'm also - at the last minute - deciding to give Obama Nevada (+5).

And in those 12 states, the 2008 Presidential Election will be won and lost. I only expect 5 states to change hands – New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa to go for Obama while Michigan turns for McCain. That’s the ballgame there – and John McCain will win by 277-261.


Aaron Sorkin - legend

This is tremendous. I probably agree with about 90% of it. Sorkin's writing is so so good.

And I miss the West Wing.

Hat-tip: Iain Dale


Monday, 22 September 2008

Iain Gray speaks his mind

Iain Gray's speech to Labour's UK conference this morning. With additional thoughts in red. Kind of like the round on 'Mock the Week' where they do "what they are really thinking..."

"Thank you conference. It is a great honour to address you for the first time, as the new leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament. (take note Des Browne – I’m playing your game)

This is an opportunity I have, not just for Labour, but because of Labour. My story is a Labour story.

I was born in the NHS Labour created, a child of the health service's first decade. I was the first in my family to go to university, access opened up by a Labour government. I was a teacher in schools Labour had made comprehensive and inclusive. And for 12 years I worked for Oxfam, campaigning for debt relief, a landmine ban and increased aid - things Labour finally delivered on.

I was a founder member of the Scottish parliament Labour created and my name is on the first legislation it ever passed. (then I was kicked out the Parliament – by a Tory – and spent 4 years working as a special advisor to Alastair Darling)

To be given the chance to serve this movement as leader of Labour in that Scottish Parliament is a privilege. (thank you Ms Alexander for giving me this opportunity)

But the greater prize we seek is to serve Scotland and make it all that it can be, for every one of its citizens. In Scotland we have been out of power now for over a year and I can tell you it still hurts. (I gave up a good job on the promise of a Cabinet position – and now look at where we are)

It hurts, not for personal pride, not because we miss the trappings of power. It hurts because we have lost the chance to shape our country's future. It hurts because we have to watch an SNP administration cutting services, failing to invest in our prosperity, and using the Scottish Parliament we worked so hard for - not as the powerful instrument of social progress it is, but as a platform for separatist posturing. (Of course it would help us immensely if the Westminster-run economy wasn’t in ruins)

The Nationalists are using that parliament to let Scotland down, when we know we could use it to raise Scotland up. (If I keep kicking the Nats maybe no one will notice I don’t have any new ideas for Scotland)

We have been accused of sleepwalking into our election loss in 2007. Well, if we did, we are wide awake now. (well, except Gordon, who is still living this nightmare)

During my election, the message I took out to members, trade unionists and Labour politicians in Scotland, was that to win back power in Scotland, Labour must rediscover our conviction, reassert our self belief, and reunite around our shared values and common purpose. (if anyone knows what these are, answers on a postcard to Margaret Curran)

Now is the time to face outwards not in, to speak clearly about the concerns and aspirations of those we serve. To hold our nerve and hold our focus on the cost of living, access to housing, jobs, training, skills, schools and hospitals. Now is the time to unite behind our Prime Minister Gordon Brown and fight shoulder to shoulder and side by side with him for the fairer future we know we can have. (“Stand by your man…”)

When times are difficult people and parties let their true colours show. (Grey)

Over the summer Alex Salmond let his true colours shine through, when he told an interviewer that he thought Scotland "hadn't minded' Thatcher's economics. Well he did not speak for me. He did not speak for Scotland. He really did speak for himself. (I know he didn’t really say that – but the hysteric headlines were brilliant)

The SNP have been prepared to ditch every manifesto pledge, every promise - to students, to the elderly to parents - to deliver on just two commitments - both tax cuts, stripping over half a billion pounds out of the Scottish budget. (We’d rather tax people more to pay for the war in Iraq while stripping away vital services)

The price is being paid in communities across Scotland, in cuts in schools, in reduced services for the elderly, in homelessness projects closed down. (Post Office closures… oh no wait, that was us)

In Glenrothes the SNP candidate is a council leader who has raised homecare charges from £4 a WEEK to £11 an HOUR. (I can’t say his name – don’t want to give Peter Grant the free publicity)

That is why my first act as Scottish leader was to go to Glenrothes to campaign alongside Des Browne. (My second bestest chum – after Gordon of course!)

And that is why I will do everything in my power to ensure that Labour's Lindsay Roy will be the next MP for Glenrothes, and carry on the legacy of John Macdougall.

Yet the Nationalist cuts are not enough for the Lib Dems. Their new leader in Scotland wants to strip a further £800 million out of public services. (Better not name Tavish Scott either. Actually, that probably doesn’t matter as much – no one knows who he is)

There is only one party in Scotland defending the services so important to the young, the elderly and the disabled. (Post Offices… oh no, shhhh)

There is only one force for fairness in the Scottish Parliament. And that is Scottish Labour. (Too bad I’m not the leader of this Scottish Labour thing)

There is only one party in Scotland arguing for the investment in schools, apprenticeships and universities, which will secure for Scotland the future we want to have. And that is Scottish Labour. Labour is at its best when we let our true colours show. (More grey)

Standing up for the vulnerable, lifting up those who face barriers to their ambition, facing up, to the big challenges of globalisation and climate change. (Which of course I can tackle as leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament)

The past week has been dominated by the crisis in HBOS and its takeover by Lloyds TSB. Thousands of jobs are threatened, and we will do everything we can, to minimise that impact. I am leaving directly after this speech to attend an emergency meeting, called at Labour's suggestion, to consider what should be done. (We’re getting good at reacting to crisis – we’ve had plenty practise)

But without the action already taken by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, HBOS would probably have disappeared last Thursday and taken ALL the jobs and ALL the savings and ALL the mortgages with it. (I say probably, I don’t really know. Economics was never my strong point. Physics – now there’s a real subject…)

No-one except Alex Salmond believes that HBOS would have been saved by Scottish independence. The people of Scotland don't want independence. They want the best chance to take the opportunities being part of Britain presents. (Team GB! Team GB!)

They want a strong Scottish Parliament, standing up for Scotland's interests within the UK. (Actually, that’s probably why they voted us out last year)

If you want to see op timism, confidence and hope in these difficult times, go to Rosyth dockyard. Fearing closure for years, but now investing in dock 1, taking on dozens of apprentices, looking forward to employing hundreds more. Long term, highly skilled, decently paid jobs - preparing for a carrier contract Scotland has access to only because of its partnership with the rest of Britain. (And then we can send it off to war! Hurrah!)

But the SNP have a plan to change that. The Nationalists want the Tories to win the next general election. They are working actively to try and make that happen. In 1979 nationalist MPs opened the door and ushered Margaret Thatcher in to power. Thirty years later, and Nationalist MSPs are dusting off their doorman's cap, hoping to do David Cameron the same favour. (Actually, Dave’s not so bad. I met him once. Decent type for a Tory toff)

When I was a teacher in the early eighties in an Edinburgh school, I saw the Tories drain the hope, the energy, the spirit from a whole generation of young people. Even the best of them sure they would never have a job, that society had no place for them, that there was no point in even trying. (Ah, how times have changed)

We must never let that happen again. That school is rebuilt now, and so are the life chances of the pupils who go there. Scotland's greatest resource is not its finite oil reserves. It is the limitless reserve of our people's potential. (Release our potential? Did someone say that already? I think that sounds like a mantra for Glenrothes!)

Our ambition for them - and for our country - should have no limit either. Proud of all that we have done, passionate about what we will do now, united in our determination to win the fight for the fairer Scotland, the better Britain we want, we believe in, and we know we can create. (Did that sound as bad out loud as it did in my head?)"


Manchester United

David Miliband: "We have been through this several times and I keep on saying the same thing. I don't support a leadership election, the party needs to pull together, we need to pull together behind Gordon's leadership, we are determined to do so."

Labour source: "Right now, there is not a seat we could hold in the country."


Resolving a tie

I will get round to fulfilling my side of the challenge I made to ASwaS by deadline day on Tuesday. But before I do, I found something - that I don't think will happen, but is interesting nonetheless.

Over at political betting, Morus has found this site which helps you to calculate how the US Presidential election will end up. He has also made a charity bet that the Presidential election will end in an Electoral College tie - 269-296.

Which raises an interesting point. Me indulging in fantasy politics again... but bear with me.

Take the 2004 result as our starting point (Bush win 286-251 against John Kerry). If we give Barack Obama 3 states where polls suggest he will win (Iowa) or may win (Nevada, New Mexico) then he now has 269... as does John McCain - see map above. IF (and it is a bit if) no other states change hands it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the election could end in a tie.
Then what?

Well, then the new
Congress steps in. The House of Representatives elects the new President (with each state delegation getting one vote) while the Senate votes for the Vice President and requiring a majority (51). I think what that means is that, if it were (in that unlikely event) to be a tie, it is advantage McCain - with the majority of states providing Republican-majority delegations to the House (I think). However, he would probably end up with a Democrat - presumably Joe Biden - as VP, if the Democrats maintained control of the Senate.

[EDIT - Thanks to Sam in the comments, I've done more research. Apparently the Democrats control 27 states' House delegations and that is meant to increase in November according to polls. However, IF it were a tie, the probability is that McCain would win more states - probably by a margin of 30-21 ish. So, how would the states feel if they'd voted McCain in the election then their Congressmen and women voted for Obama? I think this points to one thing, in this case - a huge mess]

As I said, fantasy politics, and unlikely to happen. But always good to know how things work - if democracy fails to produce a winner!


Sunday, 21 September 2008

Something different

I'm not usually the type that enjoys a "serious" film - preferring my entertainment to take the form of lighthearted humour. However, I was dragged out to the cinema on Saturday evening to take in the terrifically sad "
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas".

I won't spoil it by telling you what happens, suffice to say that the film is based on a young boy's experience living near Auschwitz during the Holocaust - and the girl along the row from me spent the entire film in floods of tears.

I am man enough to admit having a lump in my throat leaving the theatre. I guess the advice is this: If you are going to see it, take a packet of hankies. Even if it just so you can pass them along to the girl next to you crying her eyes out.


Saturday, 20 September 2008

The difference between 520 quid and 1 million

I see that Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling has donated £1 million to the Labour party, motivated to do so by their record on child poverty.

I also see from Scottish Tory Boy that Richard Baker
donated £520 to new leader of the Labour party in the Scottish Parliament Iain Gray - for his leadership campaign. (Nice to see candidates registering these donations this time).

Of course, Richard Baker is now Labour's
Shadow Secretary for Justice. Though of course, there is no implication that the two are connected.

Guess we may have to wait a while to see if the title Deputy Prime Minister Dame Joanne Kathleen Rowling GBE catches on...


Friday, 19 September 2008

Red Ken backs Brown

I know this is an
old interview (1st August) but the points Ken Livingstone makes are particularly pertinent against the background of economic strife and party indicipline facing the Prime Minister at the moment.


"Changing the leader will not have the slightest effect... unless the policies change they're stuck in the same contradictions."

Which is probably fair comment from the former London mayor.

But that was 6 weeks ago.

I wonder what he thinks now.


Iain Gray: Smokin'

Spotted today outside the entrance to the Scottish Parliament, new leader of the Labour group Iain Gray puffing away on a cigarette.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect our politicians to be saints (and indeed, if I did, I’d be heading for a massive disappointment) and if smoking is something that Iain Gray finds he wants/ needs to do then I don’t think it should be politicised.

I’m not against smoking per se. I was happy that the smoking ban was brought in – as much for the health benefits as for returning home of an evening at the pub and not reeking of smoke. If a person wants to smoke then that is their prerogative.

However, there are times and places for things. Having a sly puff outside the parliament is all very well for a junior parliamentary assistant or a member of the security or catering staff. It’s a wee bit different when the person doing the puffing is the leader of the main opposition party – the person who Labour hope will be the next First Minister.

Much has been made of Alex Salmond building up the role of First Minister, making it much more statesmanlike and powerful. I don’t know if he smokes or not but I do know this – you wouldn’t see him outside the building having a puff on a ciggie between meetings.

I know, I know. Former Presiding Officer George Reid was oft seen outside the building, chatting to people, cigarette in hand. And numerous MSPs are occasionally spotted smoking outside. Why one rule for one and one for another?

Well, for a start, I don’t make the rules. But I think the point is this. George Reid isn’t projecting himself as the next First Minister of Scotland. Iain Gray is. If he is serious about that ambition then maybe the parliamentary fag breaks have to go. Or, at the very least, they need to be less public.


And another thing...

He might be the top blogger in Scotland but
Tom Harris MP seems to have lost his mind.

I mean, I know its hard when you are a member of Gordon Brown's Government (well, okay, a Parliamentary Under Secretary in Mr Harris' case).

But really - on the back of a
poll by Ipsos MORI which puts the Tories on 52% and Labour on 24% - how can you possibly, possibly THINK, never mind say, that the "Tories will lose the next election."?!!!

I mean... I know I go against the grain on occasion - suggesting in summer last year (well before I started blogging) that John McCain would get the Repubican nomination despite running out of money and trailing in the polls. But this is very different.

I'll break it down for you. Tom explicitly says "the Tories will lose the next election." Given that Lib Dem support has collapsed to 12% in this poll (suggesting that they may even slip to
below SNP/PC in seats) I'll take it from that he doesn't mean that Nick Clegg will be Prime Minister in the event of a Tory loss.

Which means... drum roll.... that Tom Harris thinks Labour will win the next election.

Maybe if he has 5 minutes, he could explain how that will happen.


Thursday, 18 September 2008

Mock the Lib Dems

Just done watching Mock the Week.

Dara O'Briain: What have the Lib Dems been up to this week?

Russell Howard: Who cares?!



Headed for Government?

Nick Clegg gave his speech to the Lib Dem conference yesterday and told the gathered masses (or, erm... the Lib Dems):

"I can't tell you every step on the road... but I can tell you where we're headed - government."


Reminicent of David Steel in 1981 when he told conference to "go back to your constituencies and prepare for government."

In 1983, the SDP-Liberal Alliance won a grand total of 23 seats, somewhat short of a workable majority...

In 2008 the Lib Dems have 66 seats. Does anyone think they will win more than that next time round?


Robin Harper retires

I meant to blog on
this a few days ago - when I heard the news - but life got in the way. So apologies for coming in late on this one.

Robin Harper MSP, Co-Convenor, male, of the Scottish Green Party, has decided to
stand down from that position and not seek re-election to the Scottish Parliament in 2011.

The PR system that is used to elect MSPs gave Robin Harper the opportunity to become the first Green Parliamentarian in Britain.

I think - in contrast to
Tom Harris MP - that diverse opinion in Parliament is good for democracy, and that Robin Harper and his Green colleagues (6 prior to 2003; only Patrick Harvie now) have offered a fresh alternative to the mainstream parties in Scotland and that Robin himself has contributed massively to the "New Politics" in Scotland. I'm sure his personality, his politics and his scarf collection will be missed from Holyrood when he does leave the place in 2011.

One good thing for his party is that they can now re-evaluate their decision to have a system of co-convenors - as their sister party in England and Wales has done. I have always been uncomfortable calling Robin Harper the "leader" of the party when he was (from 1999-2004) the "Principal Speaker" then "Co-convenor, male".

Incidentally, I see that Patrick Harvie has already got
his nomination in for the position. He is, I think, a natural successor.

I'll stick my neck on the line and say that the Scottish Greens probably will change their leadership situation - and that Patrick Harvie will become their first "Leader".


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Nick Clegg's "New" Lib Dems

An opposition party moving to traditional Tory areas.
The promise of tax cuts
The promise of smaller government
The call for better policing
The criticism of a spent government
A young leader looking to make his mark

Is it just me, or have we heard this before?

Are the Lib Dems about to rebrand themselves as the "New Liberal Democrats" and play D:Ream at their conference?

Overtake Labour? Unlikely.


My Suffering Physique

After Jeff's perusal of old MSP photos, I came across this photo of the MSPs after swearing into the first session of the re-constituted Scottish Parliament in 1999. If you follow the link, it will take you to a larger version of the photo and you can pick out some well kent faces a bit better.

Some of the faces (Shona Robison, Nicola Sturgeon, Richard Lochhead - ministers all) look pretty young. Not that they look old now - they just look fairly young in 1999. It was 9 years ago after all. Indeed, Andy Kerr, Jamie McGrigor, even Jamie Stone - all look much younger.

But what struck me about it was not that it was 9 years ago. It was that some of the politicians that you'd perhaps describe as heavyweight now are, well, perhaps missing a bit of that heavy-ness in this photo. A little trimmer around the waistline.

I guess being an MSP isn't all that healthy for you.


They just can't help themselves

David Cairns parting shot as a Minister:

"I have never uttered a public word of criticism of our Labour government"

"For me it is an article of faith that the worst day of a Labour government is better than the best day of a Tory or
SNP one."


I'll give him the respect for not criticising his government despite Brown's policies leaving it open to criticism. It's what collective responsibility is all about.

But seriously... the disastrous economical position we are now in, the mess of Gordon Brown's leadership, calls for new leadership, a fifth leader for Labour in the Scottish Parliament in 9 years... is he actually claiming that that is a better situation than, say, the day the
SNP scrapped the graduate endowment for students? Or... well, I'm not old enough to remember any good days for the Tories, but there must be some that are better than some of the ones that Labour are facing at the moment.

Labour continue to look at their problems in the wrong way - and continue to attack where getting their own house in order would be more advisable. Until they do... days like this will continue to plague them.


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

David Cairns quits

Who's next?

Will the Straw break the camel's back? Or has Cairns already done that?

One thing for sure - Gordon can't have long left now...


The influential Tavish Scott

I see Tavish Scott has been named as the 33rd most influential Liberal Democrat, one place ahead of former UK party leader Menzies Campbell and two ahead of his Welsh counterpart Mike German.

To be honest, I think the Telegraph was playing fast and loose with the word "influential" in that poll. I mean... can anyone name 50 Lib Dems?

Still, 33rd is a pretty poor show for Mr Scott. Fair enough, he's only been leader of the party for a few weeks.
I suppose it could be worse...


Iain Gray states his position

Interesting to see what line the new leader of the Labour Group in the Scottish Parliament takes on Thursday.

I think I'm right in saying he can direct his questions in Portuguese if he wishes...


Sunday, 14 September 2008

Iain Gray - Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament?

First off, congratulations to Iain Gray MSP for his victory in the contest to succeed Wendy Alexander as Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament. I am sure his victory will please not only those in the Labour party but those in others too - I think his victory speech has shown that.

However, in that same speech, Iain Gray signalled his intention to have a "wider mandate" than his title as leader of.... well, you know by now. Fairly swiftly, Westminster Labour's man in the Scottish Parliament was
rebuffed by part-time Secretary of State for Scotland Des Browne.

Seems that mandate doesn't really include much change after all...


Friday, 12 September 2008

Job Advert

Advert in the Press & Journal today:

Santa required
Must have:
cheerful personality
be able to work weekends during November and December
Good rate of pay to the right candidate

Hmmm... candidate must have free weekends in November and December.

I wonder if the Prime Minister reads the P&J....


Brown meets Thatcher... again

Gordon Brown has invited Margaret Thatcher to Chequers for lunch on Saturday - at about the same time Labour in Scotland get ready to announce the new leader of their MSP group.

I wonder which one of the candidates will castrate the PM for this first?

I await, with interest, the Scotsman's hysteric headlines...

Hat-tip: Iain Dale


Thursday, 11 September 2008

Gordon's highlights

"Awwww... naw. Mrs Brown forgot to subscribe to Setanta. Now I'll have to watch Eastenders instead...."

Gordon Brown has finally recognised the unfortunate situation that exists whereby fans of Scotland, England and Wales are unable to watch their team - unless they fork out for Setanta.

The Prime Minister has been fairly quiet on the issue up until now - to be fair, he probably didn't notice it before since it was only Scottish matches that were affected, and he tends to support England. But now that only 290,000 people saw highlights of England's (fairly stunning, I should say) victory over Croatia, it calls for comment on the football-airing situation. Indeed only 1.5m watched the England game live - a far cry from the 8-10m "Barmy Army" members who would usually tune in on BBC.

Am I spinning it that Gordon only takes note when its something that affects England? Maybe. But then, if a Scottish Prime Minister only takes note of something that affects Scotland when it affects England too, then surely, surely, that is one good reason to suppose we might be better off independent?


Dems gaffe again...

You know when you make an almighty cock-up... when the cameras are rolling... and there's this split second where you don't know what to do...

Have to say though... how well does he recover?

Hat Tip - Guido


"You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig."

Barrack Obama - sexist "pig"?

Perhaps not the best analogy to use Mr Obama.

Is the change train about to fall off the rails?


That's why mums, dads, kids and the whole Tartan Army go to Iceland


First off let me refute any claims of incessant positive chat from this mouth. I must say, I did thoroughly enjoy my evening at a wet Three Sisters bar. At least the company was good because the show was not. Iceland should probably have been a couple of goals to the good before the mighty Kirk Broadfoot rose like a salmon from a river to head home our first.

I have to say, when I heard Broadfoot was in the side, I think my reaction bordered on "What the ****?! 4-0 to Iceland... minimum." But, credit to him, he rose above his "limited talent" (quote - George Burley) to scale the heights of mediocrity for Scotland last night.

A missed penalty from McFadden (okay, he scored the rebound but still) and a red-card for Stephen McManus nearly led us back from the brink of victory, but somehow we clung on and ground out a 2-1. Which, at the end of the day, doesn't really make up for defeat in Macedonia.

Relentless positivity? Aye right. If we'd gone to Croatia and won 4-1 (well done to that young Walcott by the way...) I would have said amazing things. But - with the current crop of players at least - we're still a long way from anywhere. We massively overachieved in the "Group of Death" last time out with France, Italy and Ukraine. But we have to face facts - merely qualifying for a tournament with the quality that we have will be an enormous achievement in itself.

Iceland are hardly world-beaters - yes, I know, you can only beat what is in front of you - but then, neither are Macedonia. At times they made us look pretty ordinary - especially at the back. Yes there were positives - Maloney and Commons on the wings allowed us to actually get some crosses into the box. But really, there are far too many in that team that are just there to make up the numbers. Our Under-21s narrowly missed out (another glorious Scottish failure!) on qualifying, and there are some decent prospects there. Surely it is time to give some of them a run out in the first team?

Anyway. Jeff does have a union flag on his phone. I'm saying nothing about it - merely confirming.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The endorsement of the PM

This was brought to my attention by someone with a lot more time on thier hands to scour the internet than I.

Interesting that they see an endorsement by Gordon Brown to be "coveted".

Try telling that to Iain (Duncan) Gray...


National (or global) Security

Something bothered me about this whole big CERN experiment thing. Well, not so much bothered me, but got me thinking.

I know there’s only
something like a one in 50 billion chance that the Earth will end as a result of this experiment. Or probably even less. (Incidentally, how mad would you be if you stuck a fiver on that? Just won £250billion and the world is about to explode/ implode/ end).

Anyway, the point is this. Say that the governments of France and Switzerland were fine with this experiment (which, of course, they are) and let them go ahead with it.

However, say another government (for the sake of argument Germany, since it is close) decided that these scientists were off their rocker – even with the smallest chance of destruction – and wanted them to stop the experiment before it began. But then the French and Swiss Governments refused to stop them. Say then, couldn’t the German government (again, hypothetically) consider this a direct threat to their existence - a national security threat if you will – and take action accordingly?

I know, I know. I’m talking hypotheticals. And the use of Germany as the opponent of the scientific experiment is bad for a couple of reasons – historically and practically.

But the point is this: If a country considers this a risk the future of the world, wouldn’t they be prudent in finding a way of stopping the experiment (by any means necessary)?

*disclaimer – I’m not proposing that there is any danger (don’t want to induce mass panic). It is a hypothetical!


He couldn't stay away

He retired.
Gave up on the one thing he loved.
Left at the pinnacle of his success.
Made other things a priority.
Left fans wishing he'd change his mind...

But now... he's back!

Back to doing what he does best.
Back to a strenuous regime.
Back to deliver his message to a global audience.

I refer, of course, to Lance Armstrong - American 7-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor.

What's that? You thought I meant Scottish Tory Boy?


Well. He's back too. (Hooray!)



Feel free to get in touch with me if you have an issue with something you've read here... or if you simply want to debate some more! You can email me at:

baldy_malc - AT - hotmail - DOT - com

Comment Policy

I'm quite happy - indeed, eager - to engage in debate with others when the topic provides opportunity to do so. I like knowing who I'm debating with and I'm fed up with some abusive anonymous comments so I've disabled those comments for awhile. If you want to comment, log in - it only takes a minute.


Regrettably, this is probably required:
This blog is my own personal opinion (unless otherwise stated) and does not necessarily reflect the views of any other organisation (political or otherwise) that I am a member of or affiliated to.
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