Monday 30 June 2008

La garde meurt mais ne se rend pas!

Watching the unseemly rush of Labour MSPs seeking elevation to the giddy heights of opposition leader, I can't help reflecting that it is, by and large, a prime example of ambition unfettered by talent.
Cathy Jamieson is the best of the lot, performing far better now than she ever did as a Minister, calm and considered, setting aside the shrill hectoring so beloved of some of her colleagues in favour of making a point. Her performance at FMQs was steady and well-handled, her dignity throughout the Wendy Alexander farce setting her well apart from her less sober fellow travellers.

I may have said this before, but the rest of them should stand back and admire as the one true leader steps forward to fill the void (it's a kind of anti-matter thing). She's been a superhero, holds fast to her principles, she can even bring her own scandal. She's an experienced election planner, she knows her history, she is most definitely one of life's visionaries, she's right up to date with all this modern technology stuff, and she even entertains the opposition.
What more could anyone want? Give us Helen Eadie! Eadie to leadie! Her contributions to debates are legendary and wonderful, her rapier-sharp analysis is at least in a par with anyone else in the Labour group, and people would flock to support her. Her questions to the First Minister would be fantabulous - we'd be able to sell tickets for that - and she can spot nuclear weapons on Google maps.

Go on Labour, have courage, choose a real hero!

Saturday 28 June 2008

Wendy Alexander resignation

Was this chap prescient?

Yes, she's resigned and we can get back to politics instead of her nonsense, but she resigned without any humility and without once apologising for her actions.

Instead of admitting she was wrong and saying sorry, she claimed that she was the victim of a 'partisan' decision and that she had been denied 'natural justice'. This is not true - she was investigated by an independent commissioner, judged by a jury of her peers and her actions were found wanting.

Her lack of good judgement has been her Achilles heel all along and her refusal, even now, to accept responsibility for her actions and their consequences is an indication of just how bad her judgement is.

She said in her statement that "My pursuers have sought the prize of political victory with little thought to the standing of the Parliament." It would be better argued that those who questioned her actions and their admissability did so to protect the standing of Parliament and not allow the reputation of Scottish politics to be further sullied. That determination to champion what is right is to be welcomed, not criticised.

What is clear is that Ms Alexander was under attack from within her own party. It was a series of leaks from within Labour that revealed all the information on her donations - the other parties active in Scotland were surprised, to say the least, to discover that anyone would seek donations to run an internal campaign, never mind donations on the scale revealed, it was a leak from within Labour that revealed the "Wonderful Wendy" cribsheets, and the continual dripping of negative stories from within Labour has been consistently undermining her.

Her policy platform was unstable and incoherent, her analysis of situations was abysmal, she shed staff one after another, she performed incredibly poorly in the chamber and just as badly outside it. She was bad for Labour, bad for Scottish politics and bad for Parliament, it is good that she has resigned, she should add some humility to that resignation.

It's time to get back to politics.

Friday 27 June 2008

Trams - what are they good for?

Edinburgh trams. The SNP opposed them, the other parties all backed them. The combined votes of the other parties forced the Scottish Government to hand over the money and forced Edinburgh Council to crack on with the project.

In October I pointed out some of the problems with the case that had been made for trams.
In March I indicated some of the problems with construction.
In May I lifted the lid on the project shaving.
Earlier this week I pointed out the lack of anything concrete in the tram presentation.
Having taken a wee while to think about it, I'm absolutely convinced that this unnecessary vanity project is already out of control, that the business case is mince, and that we're going to resent the actions of Labour, the Lib Dems, the Conservatives and the Greens in pushing this madness on us.

In the hope of persuading people to try to salvage something from this, I'm going to do the following:

1. We were told at the briefing that the business case was so shiny that the entire cost could have been raised in the financial markets with one wee trip. I know a retired investment banker who still has excellent contacts in the international money markets so I'll ask him whether he'd fund the tram if he was still making decisions. I'll publish what he says.


2. I'm going to use the Freedom of Information legislation to get proper details about the state of the tram project.
Right, then, that's me off to ask.

Another poll

The Telegraph's end-of-month poll by Yougov shows the Conservatives even higher than the Grauniad's ICM poll earlier - by a point, 46% instead of 45%.

Labour's on 28% - which is actually up on last month when they had their lowest-ever poll rating. It appears that they are both taking votes from the Lib Dems - that party is now sitting on 15% - in the shoogly peg zone, Lib Dems took 22% in 2005 and appear to be getting seriously squeezed, they're likely to lose heavily in terms of number of seats taken.

Labour's problems are growing. Whether or not it's true, Brown appears to have taken on a bunker mentality and it's affecting the view people have of his party - 71% think his Government lacks direction and 61% say Brown is a liability. While I take John Major's point that Brown's family will be suffering and much of the criticism is personal rather than political, politics isn't a non-contact sport and Brown was part of the New Labour Project that eschewed proper political debate in favour of personality politics and presentation.

What's missing from the Telegraph story is the score for 'others' which will include the SNP on this UK poll. The figures for the other parties add up to 89% though, indicating that the SNP vote will still be incredibly strong.

Mind how you go!

Disaster for Labour news coming in just now - fifth place in the Henley vote behind the Greens and the BNP. Labour took only 3.1% - a drop of almost 12% and two places and a lost deposit.

The Lib Dems failed to make any impact on the Conservative vote, either, the Con vote actually going up by 3.5% - a swing of .81% from Lib Dem to Conservative, Lib Dem vote increasing by only 1.8%.

Only the Conservatives have anything to celebrate in Henley - a solid and improved result. They hadn't taken a casual vacancy since 1982 now they've taken two in a little over a month and will, of course, take a third victory on July 10th - unless ...
Full result:

John Howell (C) 19,796 (57%, +3.5%)
Stephen Kearney (LD) 9,680 (28%, +1.8%)
Mark Stevenson (Green) 1,321 (3.8%, +0.5%)
Timothy Rait (BNP) 1,243 (3.6%)
Richard McKenzie (Lab) 1,066 (3.1%, -11.7%)
Chris Adams (UKIP) 843 (2.4%, -0.1%)
Bananaman Owen (Loony) 242 (0.70%)
Derek Allpass (Eng Dem) 157 (0.45%)

C maj 10,116 (29.1%)
0.81% swing LD to C

Thursday 26 June 2008

Labour - will its members never learn?

I've been watching the coverage of the Standards Committee decision on Wendy Alexander today, and I must admit to a degree of astonishment at Labour's spin.

Instead of doing the obvious and honest thing - apologise, accept the penalty and move on - Labour appears determined to continue to argue the case that Wendy did nothing wrong. Wendy Alexander kept saying we should draw a line under it and move on but when presented with the chance to do just that Labour passed it up. Instead, Labour members have been claiming that all of Wendy's pain has been caused by the SNP.

For example, I've just seen David Whitton on Newsnight trying to bully his way through the difficulty - exactly the wrong approach. He made claims about what was in the Commissioner's report - I don't know whether he was right about it, but he shouldn't actually know what's in that report - it's not public. He also said that there was another complaint to be considered - he shouldn't know that either. So has David Whitton and an unnnamed co-conspirator broken the rules again to give him sight of documents or was he just making stuff up for effect?

Labour's farce should be over so we can all get back to talking about politics. Apologise, accept your punishment and move on.

Surely it's over now?

Code of Conduct
1.1.2 The schedule to the Act sets out the circumstances in which financial interests must be registered. In this Code and in the Act these interests are referred to as ‘registrable interests’. These registrable interests are described in detail in Section 2 of this Code. Penalties and criminal sanctions apply in the event of non compliance with the requirements for registration. If a Member is uncertain about any aspect of the operation of the Act or the Code, the Standards clerks may be asked for advice. However, each Member must ensure that the provisions of the Act are complied with and may additionally wish to seek independent legal and other professional advice prior to registration.

1.2.11 Where an interest is acquired after the initial registration, the procedure is largely the same as for initial registration. A Member must register an acquired interest by lodging a further written statement within 30 days after the date of acquisition (section 5 of the Act). The form of written statement is again the same as that provided for initial registration but in this case the Member fills in only the information relating to the acquired interest.

2.6: Gifts – schedule, paragraph 6
A member has a registrable interest:
(1) Where a member or a company in which the member has a controlling interest or a partnership of which the member is a partner, receives, or has received, a gift of heritable or moveable property or a gift of a benefit in kind and—
(a) the value the gift, at the date on which it was received exceeds 1 per cent of a member’s salary on that date (rounded down to the nearest £10); and
(b) that gift meets the prejudice test.

Seems perfectly clear to me, simple to understand, easy to follow. Any gift over £520 should be registered - even if it wasn't cash that was received, but just a benefit of some kind.

You've got to believe that someone in the Labour party will now have the decency to tell Wendy Alexander that it's over, or move a vote of no confidence? A wee shove and the pain will be over for her, she can go and do something she's good at instead.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Tramlining across the universe ...

I've just been to a briefing on the Edinburgh Tram Project. It was lovely - a pretty film of the trams operating (computer generated, calm down laddie), a Powerpoint presentation with lots of slides with lots and lots of words (no information, but plenty words), and a Q&A session.

I'll give them this - they believe in miracles, it's a kind of "build it and they will come" attitude, and they're full of aspiration - with absolutely no idea whatsoever how to fulfil any of those aspirations. There was a lot of talk about making Edinburgh the leading centre for all kinds of things but no route-map for getting there.
Then we got down to the questions (some asked by me, some by David McLetchie MSP of the Conservatives) -

Q: How much of the developers' contributions have been received?
A: Er - dunno. But we think we've got £24 million of the £45 million identified.

Q: So about half is identified but you don't know how much is in?
A: Well, we're confident we'll get it.

Q: How's the slowdown in the housing market affecting things?
A: Well, it means that the developer contributions will come much later than we thought, but they'll come.

Q: So you'll have to pay more for financing costs because of the slowdown?
A: Well, we'll have to rearrange financing.

Q: Is there a penalty for not committing to 1b in time?
A: Well, it costs us £3.2 million if we don't commit by March next year, but it's a cost we've got to pay rather than a penalty.

Q: See how you're £54 million short of the money you need for 1b - how are you going to raise that?
A: Well, we'll ask the council and the Government for it.
Q: The Government has already made clear that it was giving £500 million and not a penny more and that was the resolution of Parliament as well. Whose responsibility is it to raise the money? (Well asked, Mr McLetchie)
A: The council will be responsible, but we'll find it somehow.

Q: Where will you find this missing £54 million? Has there been any scoping done of possible avenues of finance?
A: We'll find it. There's some scoping started.

Q: Streetscaping works - they're not included, are they?
A: No, they're extra.

Q: Where are you finding the money for them?
A: We'll ask the Government and Scottish Enterprise and other people.

Q: There's a big hole in this, isn't there? (paraphrasing)
A: No, no, if we'd taken this business case to London or Munich we'd have raised the money no bother from the private sector.

Q: If you could raise all the money from the private sector, why don't you raise the bit you need for 1b from there?
A: Ah well, we've got a plan in place.
Q: See how your business plan is predicated on there being enough customers at the Waterfront and that's not happening, is that not a problem?
A: Ah, well, we've got to build the trams before the developers will build the houses.
Q: Aren't you depending on developer contributions for the cost of the trams?
A: Ah, well, it's a bit chicken and egg there...

Q: You need the people down there to use the trams according to your business case, so if the house building has slowed down and they won't be built until the tram is in place, your business case is toast, isn't it?
A: Well, it means that it won't make money for a while.
And so it went on. The insistence that the business case was sound in spite of the blindingly obvious point that it was about as sound as a £7 note, the starry-eyed ambition to build tramlines everywhere without any idea of where the capital investment would come from, the grim determination to pretend that no problem has ever laughed up its sleeve at the Project.

You know, they actually told us that we should be optimistic instead of challenging the inadequacies of this scheme - there's none so blind as those who will not see.

We never even got onto the concessionary fares - one of the essential funding streams in the business case and one they know they're not getting - but one they've still left in.

More tea?

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Pssssst - wanna buy a Prime Minister?

Hardly used, just a year old, very good at U-turns, going cheap...

A poll in the Grauniad has Cameron's Conservatives 20% in the lead - that takes them into landslide territory, a possible 400 Conservative MPs out of 644 - Labour could be losing previously 'safe' seats all over the place.
Of course, Scotland will, as always, be different - although the Conservatives are making a recovery here it's very slow going for them, two or three seats this turn perhaps - the collapse of Labour will be mirrored by a surge in SNP support (as indicated by the story in the paper "Backing for other parties, at 10%, is up one on last month, partly because of the strong nationalist performance in Scotland.")
Cameron won't be facing any challenge from the Libdems either - they dropped two points as well and they'll continue to get squeezed, quite likely losing all of the gains they made while the Conservatives were in disarray. They're still suffering from the way Charlie Kennedy was treated and Clegg simply doesn't have the nous to know what an appropriate way for a senior politician to behave would be.

So Cameron looks to be in an incredibly strong position - his party has its highest rating for 20 years and Labour is playing sweet chariot (74% of people said that the change from Blair to Brown was a change for the worse and only 24% of people think that Labour in its current state has a chance of winning the next election).
Labour's position has weakened as Labour MPs queued up to cave in on issues they had previously expounded on as great matters of conscience, with claims like "I was given assurances that these powers would never be used" adding to the increasing distrust that people have for the shifting sands of Labour's slow disintegration.

There is no such thing as a safe seat, votes do not belong to parties, they belong to individual electors. Every elector has the right to choose a different individual or party to vote for at every election. Labour appears to be running on tramlines straight into learning that lesson the hardest way possible.

We're facing, once again, the prospect of the Conservatives being in power in the UK but with very few seats in Scotland. The choice facing Scotland will be whether to elect SNP MPs who will work for Scotland's best interests whatever the situation or Labour MPs who will, once again, use that situation to promote grudge and grievance against rule from Westminster.

Scotland has moved on, politics in Scotland has moved on, and will continue to move away from that political sclerosis. It's unfortunate that Labour hasn't managed to move as politics changed, but Scotland will continue to grow and improve in any case.
The next couple of years will mark an interesting time in politics - the decline and possible fall of the Labour party while Scotland moves on. An SNP Government in Edinburgh, a Conservative Government in London and an independence referendum - we truly live in interesting times.

Saturday 21 June 2008

So this Calman Commission thing ...

A chap I know is pretty expert on Freedom of Information. Sad, I know, but it keeps him happy - he should get himself a deerstalker in my opinion.

Anyway, he had a wee look at the Commission for Repainting Devolution website recently, stroked his chin and said "hang on, these fellows think Freedom of Information doesn't apply to them".
In his usual manner he pondered the situation and is forming a view that, since the Commission is a creature of the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body, it is covered by the Freedom of Information legislation whether they like it or not.

That should give them a few headaches, given their desire to keep everything secret. Which brings us onto another point, John Loughton, erstwhile Big Brother winner, recently spent a couple of months being filmed 24 hours a day - including during private moments like using the toilet. Bit late to start being coy, is it not?

Friday 20 June 2008

I mentioned the war but I think I got away with it

"Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to consult widely, think deeply, and come up with a constitutional future for Scotland. How's that grab you?"
"Er, OK, but see this consult widely bit - can I just do it but not widely? I'll get back to you on the other bits."
Ken Calman, Commission on repainting devolution, has sent forth his handmaidens into the committee room to decide upon the rules of engagement with this fine upstanding body. With one voice and a few strangled croaks they have decided to eschew all this open and public nonsense and get straight into the shadows. Here's some of the rules they've set:

1. Group members will seek advice informally instead of asking experts (experts in the constitution?) - apparently the members of the group are the experts - paragraph 4
2. Closed doors meetings are fine for discussing Scotland's future - para 6
3. They'll need to write stuff down - para 7
4. But they won't publish it unless Simon says they can - ibid
5. It's fine for one of the group members to hear something down the pub and enter it into evidence - para 8 - but only if they write it down and ask permission to publish it - para 7
6. There could be value in having meetings in different places with invited attendees (really, they said 'could') - para 9
7. They might invite experts (apparently in spite of being experts themselves) - para 10
8. Meetings open to the public will not be appropriate for this Commission - para 11
9. George Parr will chair all meetings - I made that one up
10. They'll select 'representatives' of the wider population to take part in focus groups - para 12 (maybe George Parr is chairing it)
11. They're going to make themselves known - para 14 - coming soon, the merchandising ...
12. An open-ended call for evidence would produce an "unfocused response", so they'll tell you that they'll be asking questions later - para 15
13. There's this website wot the Commission's got, right, so use that for gathering the opinions of the people of Scotland, right? Apparently not, that carries "considerable risks", but they might consider a questionnaire - para 17
14. None of the Commission members is to go 'off-message', and they've not to tell on Simon - para 20
Do I scorn too much? Well, they've considered the questionnaire and gone into a wee dwam, so the Commission now encourages you to write in, preferably in email but they don't intend to go publishing things. There's a policy on handling submissions, and it says:

They'll publish most of the submissions it receives - para 2
But nothing wholly or partially outside the remit - para 3 (don't mention your groceries)
They'll be reformatted and edited - para 4

Tom Lehrer retired in disgust, claiming that satire was dead when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. I think the Committee to Repaint Devolution has proven that reports of satire's death were mildly exaggerated.

Bring on George Parr!

Monday 16 June 2008

Oh, I see ...

M sends a message from the heart of deepest Lanarkshire:

Q. How far away are you when you're 24 hours from Tulsa?
A. Not far enough.

Indeed, and on the subject of 42 days detention (also known as "you'll have had your habeas corpus" - it may be more accurate to lament the passing of s. 43 of the Criminal Procedure Scotland Act 1887, but it doesn't have quite the same ring to it - and it was repealed by the Criminal Procedure Scotland Act 1975 Schedule 10 which has itself now been revoked - you get the idea.)

Anyway, having wondered why Labour dithered over whether to accept the gauntlet thrown down by David Davis, particularly given that Gordon Brown's reputation was given a serious sandpapering over indecision, I have now come across an interesting debate on a Labour internet forum.

There seems to be a wee bit of concern about whether Labour's General Election candidate for Davis' seat supports the UK Government's position on 42 days detention. Removing such a candidate would give Labour as many difficulties as running away from the election and Labour strategists would be thinking that there was the chance for Davis to make a terrible mess of it all. That's assuming that the candidate is opposed to the 42 days policy - it does appear to be a matter for a little debate.
There's a wee problem in that analysis, though - it has the potential to leave Kelvin MacKenzie as the Labour candidate by proxy - assuming he stands, given Rupert Murdoch's sensitivities about always wanting to be backing the election winner in politics.

It leaves a bigger problem for Labour, though. The perception, whether accurate or not, could be that Labour is afraid of the debate, afraid that even the 13% the Labour candidate took three years ago could be beyond the party now - even without the Libdems standing.

With the Conservatives now having extended the polling lead to 22 points, Davis' Quixotic stance might be unorthodox, but it has the potential to put pressures on Labour that no-one would have expected. In addition to the dithering that's already been apparent, a bye-election is a terribly long time in politics.

Thursday 12 June 2008

David Davis Chilled in Chiltern

David Davis has pledged to resign his seat and fight it on the basis of his opposition to the 42 days of detention. Clever move, perhaps, daft stunt, perhaps, dangerous manoeuvre, perhaps.

He's already run into some of the discomfort that he must have expected - rumours of disagreements with his leader and this being an attempt to bounce Cameron; the BNP backing him because they agree with his stance; UKIP offering to campaign for him, and so on - but he must be a little concerned about what's coming next.

Clegg has already stood his party down from the election, so the only real decision left to be made is Labour's - what position can Labour take which will give least benefit to Davis' move? Given that the result last time wasn't exactly a close call, will the decision be the Dennis McShane sniffy dismissal or will Brown decide that this is an opportunity for a fightback?

David Davis (Con): 22,792
Jon Neal (LD): 17,676
Edward Hart (Lab): 6,104
Jonathan Mainprize (BNP): 798
Philip Lane (UKIP): 659

After all, it's going to be difficult for Davis to improve on his showing against Labour from 2005, and there would be the opportunity for Labour to claim that a move towards it was a regaining of some ground after the kicking it took in Crewe. The rumour currently is that Labour will not contest, seeking to leave Davis with a hollow victory. That, of course, allows the Conservatives to say that Brown is afraid of testing his policy in a public vote.

Labour might have made the wrong move yet again. There is little doubt that Davis will win and win handsomely, particularly given the revelations that Brown bought votes for 42 days at a very high price. It might have been a bit of a rough ride for Labour and the defeat would have been sore, but it would have been an expected defeat and it would compare favourably with what appears to be a fear to ask the electorate to vote Labour - building on the fearty reputation that Brown got after delaying the general election.

Of course, Labour actually has a secret weapon it can use - MPs can't resign, they have to apply for a job which prohibits them being a Member of Parliament - taking the Hundreds. The Chiltern Hundreds is in the gift of the Chancellor of the Exchequer - Darling could refuse to grant it. It's not been refused since 1842, but it's still an option ... The other option is for Darling to grant Davis the Hundreds and then refuse to release him from the appointment so he can't stand in the bye-election. Not much chance of either, I suspect.

Mind how you go!

Plenty fun with fungibility

There's a question which is worrying away at the body politic in Scotland, and it goes like this:
"Will the excellent performance of the SNP Government and the atrocious performance of the Labour Government translate into a shift in voting intentions?"

How much fungibility is there in the system, how volatile is the unsettled will of the Scottish people? Well, if you take Peter Snow out of the cupboard and dust him down, you can have a bit of psephological fun

There were five polls in May where a Scottish sample could be discerned: Populus/Times (2-4 May); YouGov/Sun (7-8 May); Comres/Independent on Sunday (14-15 May); YouGov/Sunday Times (15-16 May); and YouGov/Telegraph (27-29 May). Combining them gives you the following rankings for a Westminster election with the change from the last Westminster election in brackets:
SNP: 35% (+17%)
Lab: 26% (-14%)
Con: 20% (+4%)
LD: 14% (-9%)
Other: 5% (1%)

Chuck those figures into the electoral calculus and you come up with all sorts of interesting results. The one I'm most interested in, of course, is Edinburgh North and Leith, and that comes out with a good result for the SNP:

29.16 SNP
23.25 Con
20.24 Lab
18.90 LD
8.45 Others

So that would be an SNP gain with Labour pushed into third place by a resurgent Conservative vote and the Libdems trailing in fourth and out of the running. Our canvassing is showing a win for us, but with the Conservatives just behind Labour and more of a melt-down for the Libdems and not quite so strong a showing for the other parties.
It would be a stunningly good night for the SNP, a decent night for the Conservatives, a fairly sore night for the Libdems, and a disastrous night for Labour. There's a long, long way to go, but it appears that the change in Scottish politics last year will continue to echo for some time yet, and that performance in government is going to be an issue in the election - whenever it comes.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

24 hours from Tulsa, 42 days from decency

Gene Pitney has, I think, the better of the comparison - at least having the decency to apologise and to admit to being in the wrong.

42 days detention without charge - I remember the days when we would tut-tut at countries holding suspects without charge, when we would shake our heads and mutter something like "how is that acceptable in a civilised world?"

There have been arguments put forward that terrorism cases these days are complicated and police need time to investigate them.

Other cases are also complicated and require the same level of work (effort and intensity) from police officers. Fraud cases are at least as complicated these days, as is online crime, and murder investigations are becoming more and more complicated. In each of these cases the police have six hours from the time of your detention to charge you.

Six hours - one quarter of Mr Pitney's journey - rather than six weeks.
The outcome of today's vote is that you or I or anyone else justly or unjustly suspected of being involved in terrorist activities can be held without charge for 168 times as long as you could be held without charge if they suspected you of genocide or rape or serial murders.

Of course, in the case of you being accused of any of those offences, the police could apply to the court for a further period of detention in order to investigate the offence - like any other crime. I'm not sure what evidence they would have to provide, perhaps m'learned friend could advise, but I assume that there would have to be a good reason proffered for holding you beyond the six hours.

There has also been the reasoning put forward that keeping suspected terrorists detained can help to prevent their crimes taking place - Crimestop in Oceania.

Our legal system, however, disdains prophylaxis in favour of the liberty and rights of the individual. We protect our legal and civil rights by circumscribing the power of the constabulary to interfere in our lives. That's why the usual period of detention is six hours.

Rather than agreeing to an extension of the time allowed for detention without charge, MPs should have been arguing for its reduction from the standing seven days to the standard six hours.

There has been a dis-service done today, not just to those who may find themselves unjustly detained without charge for six weeks, but also to our justice system. An unfairness has been introduced which it is in the interests of all of us to have removed.

For ease of reference, this is the definition of a terrorist offence as laid down in the Terrorism Act 2000:

1 Terrorism: interpretation
(1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where—
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.

(2) Action falls within this subsection if it—
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

(4) In this section—
(a) “action” includes action outside the United Kingdom,
(b) a reference to any person or to property is a reference to any person, or to property, wherever situated,
(c) a reference to the public includes a reference to the public of a country other than the United Kingdom, and
(d) “the government” means the government of the United Kingdom, of a Part of the United Kingdom or of a country other than the United Kingdom.

(5) In this Act a reference to action taken for the purposes of terrorism includes a reference to action taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Labour in decline

May 25th - that was the date when Labour claimed that COSLA was greetin about the concordat between the SNP Scottish Government and Scotland's local authorities and that seven councils had asked for the return of ring-fencing.

The story fell apart when Robbie Dinwoodie of the Herald phoned COSLA to ask what the background to the story was. COSLA expressed some degree of surprise and it transpired that Labour - in the form of Arthur Midwinter - had made it up.

I hear that Labour press officers are now blaming each other for the mess, none willing to admit that they peddled the lie. What's worse, telling the lie or trying to cover it up?

In the midst of this farce, Labour held its strategy meeting - without Mike Elrick, chief policy advisor to Wendy Alexander who was left in Parliament while Labour met in Glasgow - to decide what vision it could offer Scotland.

What is Labour's vision for the future then? A Childhood Consultation (no, I don't know either), one-to-one tuition (I assume in schools, it's not clear), John Park's apprentice Bill (paying employers to take on apprentices they don't need), and the Calman Independence Commission (he doesn't know yet). That's it- except Wendy's promised a referendum again.

So there you have it - no ideas, no policy, and no vision, Labour is a party at war with itself with no idea what direction it should be heading.

Lies, damned lies and tantrums - is this really the best we can now expect from Labour?