Friday, 29 May 2009

Skewered...

Regular readers will know how much I dislike double standards. Like, seriously dislike double standards.

So I read this piece by Jeff a couple of days ago on the calls for Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill to resign over "one escape[d]" prisoner. Jeff argued that while there were calls for MacAskill to go over this issue, one prisoner escaping did not merit resignation - or even a vote of confidence in the man in charge. I wonder if he has changed his mind now that there are further stories in today's press. I suspect not, given his comment here.

Some food for thought though. Kezia Dugdale has done a tremendous piece of digging and found an article written by the "under-fire" Cabinet Secretary in March 2006 - when still in opposition. Key phrase for me:

A big boy didn't do it and run away. Sadly, it always seems to be not their responsibility or it is someone else's fault. That is simply unacceptable. There needs to be Government and Ministerial responsibility shown as much as individual and social responsibility displayed.

Got to hand it to Ms Dugdale on this one. Question for Jeff though - if the man himself thinks that in this type of situation the person in charge should go, should he go?

Edit - I should point out that I think Kenny MacAskill is doing a find job as Justice Secretary. And I'm not convinced that one prisoner (or indeed two...) escaping is something to resign over - Cathy Jamieson would, apparently, agree. My point is that is something is good for the goose then surely it should be good for the gander too. Saying one thing in opposition and another is in Government is all well and good... but if its a principle, then perhaps that's a different ball game.

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Executive Orders


Doing a wee bit of research in the last week on the SNP's record in Government. Here's some numbers I found interesting.

  • The 1999-2003 Scottish Parliamentary Session, under the Labour-Lib Dem coalition, saw 50 Executive bills (including budget bills) enacted into legislation.

  • The 2003-2007 Scottish Parliamentary Session, also under the Labour-Lib Dem coalition, saw 53 Executive bills (including budget bills) enacted into legislation. This despite Jack McConnell's pledge to "do less, better."

  • The (2007-2011) current session - in the two years under the SNP Government - has seen only 7 Executive bills (not including budget bills - for why, you'll have to ask the Scottish Parliament website) enacted into legislation. Though there will be several more before summer recess.

  • Interestingly though, the SNP have delivered (in some shape or form) on 50 of their manifesto commitments - in the main through non-legislative means.

Welcome to minority government.

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Thursday, 28 May 2009

Irn Bru

I watched Barcelona beating Manchester United to the Champions League trophy last night. It was like watching an orchestra play when Barcelona had the ball - everyone had their part, knew what to do, and were playing to a higher standard than the buskers in playing in white.

Anyway, this new Irn Bru advert aired at half-time of the coverage on ITV. It thought it quite an amusing take on our other national drink: "It's fizzy, it's ginger, it's phenomenal." Quite.


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Wednesday, 27 May 2009

First Tour match

The British & Irish Lions have arrived in South Africa ready for a 10-match and three Test tour against the World Champions.

If you are anything like me, you can't wait for the action to start.

Here's a couple of funny wee ads to get you in the mood:




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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Hypocrisy, thy name is the U.N


So, North Korea has launched yet more nuclear tests, to widespread international condemnation.

The United Nations Security Council - the permanent members of which, lest we forget, are all nations with nuclear weapons - have met to "unanimously condemn" North Korea's actions.

Do as I say and not as I do?

Maybe, as the guardians of the world's most powerful weapons, the Security Council members should just nuke North Korea. Then we could all live happily ever after, right?

Just wait for that Security Council resolution. Bet they'd have no problem whatsoever getting an agreement...

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Friday, 22 May 2009

Friday smile...

The opposite of security...


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Thursday, 21 May 2009

New SP Constituencies revisited


Remember last year, when the Boundary Commission for Scotland published its proposals for changes to the Scottish Parliament constituencies? Well, they've taken a second stab at it - after the consultation process (read "opportunity for those with a vested interest to change their minds") closed and new plans were drawn up.

You can see the proposals in ful here.

Couple of the headline stories to come out of it:
  • Central belt seats - having taken a bit of a shuffle in their first take - return to boundaries more like they are at the moment. Which means that Ochil still looks like a Lab-SNP marginal, as opposed to an opportunity for the Tories. The whole Whitburn/Airdrie seat disappears.

  • The "Mearns" seat south of Aberdeen remains an opportunity for the SNP to pick up another seat in heartland territory - and put them in range of gaining another couple at the expense of the Lib Dems (Nicol Stephen & Mike Rumbles).

  • Edinburgh East shuffles round, arc-like, further to the south of the city but still looks like a Kenny MacAskill SNP-hold while the Edinburgh South becomes "Southside" and a solid Lib Dem hold. Central looks slightly less Lib Dem-my than the previous take at the boundaries, but will be a difficult fight for Sarah Boyack to hold for Labour, with both Lib Dems and SNP handily placed to challenge.

  • Ken Macintosh looks like the biggest loser out of it all. The boundaries of his Eastwood seat get a savage cut and the seat looks notionally Tory. An opportunity to shift Annabel Goldie over a seat (not too far away from Renfrewshire) and win a constituency seat perhaps?

  • On the regional side of the ball, how's this for crazy. Highlands region will now include... Dumbarton. Really. Highland MSPs will represent everywhere from Lerwick to Dumbarton.

  • Kilmarnock & Loudoun - an SNP gain in 2007 - moves into the South of Scotland region (from Central Scotland). Which, coupled with a notional SNP gain of Tweedale etc (bye bye Jeremy Purvis) would have a knock on effect on the South of Scotland list (currently 5 of the 7 are SNP MSPs, which would change if constituencies were won).
There's more, much more. But you can probably work stuff out for yourselves. Times like this, you wish Adam Smith was a Socialist still blogged.

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Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Could Aberdeen City Council run a bath?

Because they sure as hell can't run a city.

Cracking story this, on the BBC website.

Workers were contracted to paint yellow zig-zag lines and "school - keep clear" messages outside St. Peter's Nursery in Aberdeen warning traffic that there was a nursery in the area, as show in this photograph:


Of course, the nursery was closed two years ago.

Oops.

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Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Better late than never


So, Michael Martin will step down as Speaker this afternoon in a statement in the Commons.

No confirmation yet on the timetable for his departure from the seat or whether he will return to the backbenches or step down from parliament entirely.

There are several options I guess:

1) He announces he will go at the end of the Parliamentary session - whenever Gordon Brown calls a General Election. Not exactly the favoured option of MPs who have lost all confidence in the man's ability to do his job.

2) He announces that he will stay on until a successor can be found - presumably just before the summer recess. Probably the smartest move - allowing time to select a new Speaker but would also mean ANOTHER summer Glasgow by-election for Labour to effectively defend.

3) He announces that he will go immediately. Nuclear option, which I don't believe he will go for - but it would be a "toys out of the pram" moment were he to do so.

Two big issues arise though: the vacancy for a new Speaker and a vacancy for an MP in Glasgow North-East.

The parties will be on election footing for both.

Predictions:

Vince Cable to win the Speakership. I think he has momentum and public support. As for the upcoming by-election... erm, I'm going to wait a wee while and have a think about it. Labour are not in a strong position, but it is a strongold area for them... but then again, so was Glasgow East.

Incisive analysis I know, but you get what you pay for!

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Monday, 18 May 2009

Speaker: Sorry... but that's it.

Obviously I gave him more credit than I should have.

What a farcical scene in the House of Commons. His statement was fine... but he let Members walk all over him with Points of Order which turned into a bash-the-Speaker-athon. MP after MP lined up to kick him, and he didn't get it. He's planning a meeting with party leaders to solve the crisis but doesn't realise that he has lost the confidence of MPs.

We need the debate, and we need it now. His time is over.

He's passed the buck to the PM to call the motion. Gordon Brown might want him to stay, but he's in a tough situation. It's either effectively sack the Speaker or call an election.

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Should he stay or should he go?

So - is the Speaker going to resign during his statement at 3.30pm?

I reckon so. I think he realises how much damage he has taken with Nick Clegg adding his (slightly more) high profile voice to those clamouring for his resignation. Despite some MPs putting together a half-hearted defence of his handling of the expenses and Damien Green affairs, it does appear that his number is up.

A couple of matters arise from any potential vacancy.

First (as Jeff discusses) is the potential by-election in Glasgow North-East which, despite being in Labour heartland territory, they wouldn't exactly be favoured to win.

And second, a discussion regarding who would be in line to replace him as Speaker. Iain Dale has run a couple of polls which raise a few interesting names, but it seems he has another idea - Vince Cable. Which, if you think about it, makes a decent amount of sense. Decent reputation, handled the economic collapse well for the Lib Dems, respected and - important for Labour MPs - he's not a Tory. He could be a decent shout.

Guess it is now just a wait and see what happens next job.

On another note, I'd like to say a quick thanks those who came out on Saturday to help me celebrate my "half-way to fifty" birthday. Special thanks to Jeff for the specially commissioned MitB gift (below) he gave to me. I'm sure it'll be a must have in Milan soon...

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Saturday, 16 May 2009

Application form

Seeing as it is my birthday today and I'm heading out with a group of (mostly) lads later, I just wondered if anyone could give me a hand filling out my form for the evening:


I'm just wondering, given Mrs MitB needed a lift to the airport at ridiculous o'clock this morning and forgot to sign my form, is it still permissible to go out? Or do I need to find someone else to sign it on her behalf?

Man, if only my form were as simple as her's:

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Thursday, 14 May 2009

Tell me who to vote for. Really.


So, as with everyone else I guess, I got my European Election Polling Card through the post this week.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

I guess I'm about as enthusiastic about going to vote in this election as Gordon Brown is about getting up in the morning. Which is to say, I'm in the 80% of the population who royally can't be bothered with it.

Don't get me wrong, I'll go and vote. People died so I could live in a democracy and vote and that is something I don't forget. Also, I'd be a big hypocrite if I didn't go vote after years of telling people to use theirs. And if there's one thing I hate, it's double standards. Oh yeah, and the polling station is literally 100 steps from my flat.

But here's the thing. If you're asking me to choose between Eurosceptic and Europhile, I distinctly end up choosing the former. I'm all for international co-operation and institutions etc, but the EU is a huge bureaucracy which, frankly, hasn't done much and one which I think we could quite happily live without. Okay, it has stopped Europe falling into yet another war (with each other I mean) but really, are you telling me we couldn't have found a means of doing so which didn't dictate the curvature of bananas?

So here's my thing. Given how skint I am, I was thinking I would sell my vote. Person with the highest bid gets to tell me who to vote for. But then, I'm pretty sure that might be bordering on illegal (however much I need the money). So here's what I'll do:

If you feel strongly about the European election - and want me to vote for a particular party - write me a single sentence in the comments with the name of the party and why I should vote for them. And if I find a comment that I either agree with or find entertaining then I will vote for that party.

I realise that this is taking the mickey out of democracy somewhat... but in an EU election, does it really matter who we vote for? I mean, they all disappear off to Brussels (oh yeah, and Strasbourg) and are never heard from again. Until they've spent all their expenses of course.

So let me know who you want me to vote for.

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Wednesday, 13 May 2009

And the money kept rolling in...


So, Communites Secretary Hazel Blears has written a cheque for £13,332 to the Inland Revenue for capital gains tax on the sale of her "second" home.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Phil Hope is also to pay back money - to the tune of £41,709 in second home allowances.

Just to put this in context, Blears' £13,332 cheque is roughly what I made (after tax) when I worked at the Scottish Parliament in a YEAR.

Who has that kind of money lying around in a bank account, with the ability to write a cheque straight off? The kind of people, perhaps, who know that they have done wrong and are ready to act when they are found out?

Yes, Lord Foulkes, we need to pay these people more money. Because goodness knows, they don't waste have enough of it already.

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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

For Foulkes sake!


Got to love politicians trying to defend themselves over pay and expenses.

Everyone's favourite peer, Lord Foulkes has a go.

"They're [MP's] paid £64,000... what's your salary?... £92,000?! That's nearly twice as much as MPs."

Actually, it's just less that 50% more... not quite "nearly twice as much." Back to school, Lord Foulkes. Also, is he really trying to suggest that an MP can't live on £64,000 a year? I suppose you can't re-tile your swimming pool on that...


"And you are paid a lot more than them to do a lot less important work."

And there was me thinking it was the job of political journalists to hold politicians to account, to demand from them the high standards that their office should maintain. Okay, the journos aren't making the laws of the land or sending our forces off to war, but they are the medium through which the public are informed of the decisions the politicians take.


Our favourite Lord might do well to remember that the media often hold the keys to re-election for a number of MPs. Not that he needs to worry about that for his second job in the House of Lords I suppose.

Favourite line from this piece:

"What a lot of nonsense you're talking."

Though it should probably have come from the reporter and not from Foulkes...

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Monday, 11 May 2009

The price of MP's expenses


I'm back. Did you miss me?!

It seems like while I was away, the world has fallen in on Westminster's head. What the hell are they up to down there? It seems like they are ALL at it, it's a plague on all their houses. So really none of the parties stand to benefit from it if a General Election were called today.

Well, actually, that might not be strictly true.

The main fear for June's European Election is if the Labour vote tanks (and some polls have them falling as low as 17% though I'd be surprised if they didn't manage 20%) then the main beneficiary will not be a mainstream party.

Think about it. You want to send a message to the government, but in a way that doesn't (quite) bring it down
but you don't want to vote for your own Labour party.

If you don't live in Scotland, there's no SNP to vote for (and even if there was, you are an ardent Labour voter, you have a visceral hatred for the Nats) so you can't vote for them. There's no natural crossover to the Tories, for they are (predominantly) Eurosceptic and you quite like the EU. Ditto for UKIP. While the Lib Dems are as inoffensive a bunch as you could find, you don't really want to see them overtake Labour. So, instead of voting, you stay at home and hope the day doesn't go too badly.


Which means that votes for parties in the centre are reduced while parties on the left and right (Greens and the BNP) are likely to increase their share of the vote - even if they don't increase their actual vote. And in a recession, where there are few jobs going, I suspect the BNP might sweep the anti-immigration vote in places like Leeds, Bradford and Burnley, where they already have a presence on local councils.

End point - from Gordon Brown's catastrophic handling of the economy and the public perception that MPs are all on the take, the BNP manage to sneak two or three seventh place finishes in English regions, and BNP MEPs are elected.

So use your vote or you could end up with the BNP. You have been warned.

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Thursday, 7 May 2009

Gay rugby players?

I'm having a bit of fun with how people find my blog at the moment.

Last week someone found this site searching for "Rob Kearney gay rumours" on Google.


This week it seems searching for gay rugby players is still in fashion, with folks arriving here googling "Paul O'Connell gay rumours" and "Alan Wyn Jones Osprey coming out gay." I also had another seven hits from French Google searching for "Rob Kearney gay" - presumably a response to my previous post on the topic.


Again, I'll say I'm sorry to disappoint but I don't know or care if they are or are not gay.

They just better play decent when they go on tour.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

People in glass houses...

... shouldn't throw stones.

Right Mags?


I mean, when the country is economically going arse over elbow and its your party that is in charge, you really want to be calling for an apology from someone who left the Prime Minister's office nearly 20 years ago?!

And people say that nationalists are stuck in the past.

But if it gets you in the paper...

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Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Berlusconi and All-Women Shortlists


Got to hand it to Labour. Remember the whole blogosphere debate about All-women shortlists?

I still don't agree with the principle, but at least it has some semblance of decency when compared with Silvio Berlusconi's vetting process for his coalition's European candidates.

Apparently, all you've got to do is look is be young, female, and look good in a headshot.

Next you'll be telling me that you don't actually have to get any votes in order to become Prime Minister...

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Monday, 4 May 2009

Europe

Apologies for a forthcoming lapse in posting. I'm off to Europe for a few days.

I'm away with the department to Vienna and Brussels, to meet with some representatives of some rather large institutions - the UN, NATO and the European Commission. I'll hopefully get some decent chat while I'm there. And some Belgian beer.

Anyway, I haven't been organised enough to schedule many posts, so you'll just have to wait until I get back for more of my meanderings.

Back soon.

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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Gordon Brown: by the numbers


Some numbers for you:

24,278
  • Number of people who voted for James Gordon Brown to become MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath in 2005.

0
  • Number of people who voted for James Gordon Brown to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 2007.

43,536 (and counting)
  • Number of people who have signed a petition on the Number 10 website calling for James Gordon Brown to resign.

Funny how a guy who made his name as a prudent Chancellor can't tell when his number is up.

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Friday, 1 May 2009

The vultures are circling...


I wasn't born the last time Labour lost power in a UK General Election, remembering which seems to be all the rage at the moment - given this year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Election that brought Margaret Thatcher to power.

I do, however, have a vague recollection of a November day in 1990 when Margaret Thatcher's time in office expired and she resigned as Prime Minister to be replaced by John Major. I say vague - I was six. I remember much more about the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, but that is another story.

As a student of politics though, I've read a number of accounts of Thatcher's downfall. You can watch a three-part documentary on her downfall on YouTube as well. Its an interesting watch.

I was thinking about how that situation parallels with the current one. While Gordon Brown has managed to keep his Cabinet together (for now) backbench MPs are queueing up to kick the government.

Charles Clarke said "There have been things that have been done recently which have made me feel ashamed to be a Labour Member of Parliament."

Stephen Byers, David Blunkett, Tony Blair and others have lined up in opposition to policies recently delivered by the Brown Government. An un-named
backbencher with a marginal seat spoke out too - "The man has lost his authority – he's had a charisma bypass."

While no one at Cabinet or sub-Cabinet level has yet spoken out, the knives are out and a leadership challenge looks inevitable. The only question is who will it be?

Michael Portillo says it well in the first part of that piece:

"Nothing is more dangerous than a panicking backbencher."

Quite

UPDATE: The Telegraph says Cabinet Ministers are starting to question the PM, that he's losing control of MPs. One went as far as saying "It's all so reminicent of the last months of John Major. So maybe I got the "the end is nigh" stuff right... I just picked the wrong Tory downfall as my evidence..
.

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Ayrton Senna - 15 years on


Fifteen years to the day since the death of racing legend Ayrton Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

I can still remember where I was and what I was doing at the time - despite being only 9 years old. And I remember watching racing at the time thinking "this guy is a crazy genius." I doubt there'd be many that would argue with that.

His death - alongside that of Austrian Roland Ratzenberger in qualifying the previous day - brought about a number of changes in driver safety in the sport.

The BBC have a documentary about his life in Formula 1 - which, judging by some of the haircuts, is a few years old. Well worth a wee look though, and you can see it here.

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Contact

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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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