Saturday 30 August 2008

What about these donations?

All I want to do is lay these facts out and see how they dry in the sun.

T-Systems was selected to stage 2 of the procurement for Services and Systems for UK Census 2011 Contract Route A in May 2006.
Made a donation to the Labour Party of £10,575 in July 2006 – the only donation T-Systems has ever made to a political party.
Shortlisted for contract on 25th October 2006.
KPMG gave one donation to the Labour Party of £4,500 on 7th October 2005 – the same month they were engaged to provide ongoing advice to the government on the London Olympics.
KPMG also made one donation to the Tories in November 2004 – six months before the last election. The company also makes its staff available to the three London parties on a regular basis (donations in kind)

GNER began donating to the Labour Party in November 2004 in the run-up to the franchise renewal in May 2005. 8/11/04 - £5,449; 31/12/04 - £220; 8/2/05 - £7.050; 3/6/05 - £450; 10/7/05 - £470; 4/10/05 - £6,000; 7/11/05 - £5,000. The payments ended when GNER failed in a bid for the Integrated Kent Franchise. The government asked GNER to surrender its East Coast Main Line franchise in December 2006.

Paul Drayson (Powderject) donated £50,000 to Labour while the government was deciding who would get the contract (worth £20 million) to supply smallpox vaccines. Powderject won that contract.

Wee bits and wee pieces

I like a few bits and pieces here and there but sometimes you've just got to squish them together like jam.

Helen Eadie
I bring sad tidings that Helen has decided not to run for the Labour candidature in Glenrothes. Such a missed opportunity for Labour, I think.

Labour Membership
My good friend (who remains a Labour member in spite of being an intelligent woman) tells me that I may have both overestimated and underestimated Labour's membership. Not being totally up to speed with it herself, she was a little unsure but tells me that she thinks that the MPs' levy is quite hefty so membership could be as little as 7,000 or so but that you don't tend to lose your Labour party membership just for not paying any dues so membership could be as high as 14,000. She does say she could be entirely wrong - she could also be winding me up.

Labour Leadership Election
Same source. You can get a vote through your trade union even if you've opted out of the political levy. She knows because she's opted out (took her ages to get out - good Labour member that she is) and she checked that she hadn't been opted back in when she got her ballot paper in - she's got two votes, one through her union and one through her membership of Labour. It seems unions are supposed to only ballot levy-payers but that's a lot of extra effort for some of them.

Lib Dem Candidate Glenrothes
There's more to come about the Lib Dems' candidate in Glenrothes, I suspect. I'll be watching the Sunday papers for news.

Glasgow East MP joins Glenrothes Campaign
John Mason MP, SNP winner of the bye-election in Glasgow East, was out on the stump in Glenrothes today, lending support to Peter Grant, the SNP candidate in this bye-election.

US Election
Am I the only one who thinks that Obama is mince and that the Republicans are currently stomping all over his campaign from what should be a position of weakness? It seemed to me that the speeches during the convention showed just how much of a gulf there was between Bill Clinton and the new kid on the block. Hillary Clinton was far better than the candidate (perhaps the Dems got the wrong candidate?) and even Al Gore showed up better (that's going some). The VP nominee, Joe Biden, brought new depths to the word leaden - outshone by John Kerry of all people. Couple of friends of mine are Democrats and were right behind Obama in the primaries, but I haven't heard a cheap since he started tacking for position - I must email them and see if I can get a reaction...

SNP still the best party in Scotland
Standing up for Scotland's interests, making Scotland a better place (on purpose, according to George Foulkes), and receiving plaudits for good governance. Not really news, but I thought I'd repeat it anyway.

Right then, mind how you go

Friday 29 August 2008

A Conservative Monster

Ah, the Conservative candidate for the Glenrothes contest has been announced. Step forward Maurice Golden.

Maurice has an interesting wee item in his biography - he was chair of Dundee University Students' Conservative and Unionist Association - a colourful group. In the mid 1980s they were banned from Dundee University Students' Association (something to do with bribing freshers to become members).

I hear that they had been allowed back into the building by the time Maurice got there - but they still referred to themselves as "The Monsters". Self-aware perhaps?

Maurice Golden - a true Conservative Monster.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Lib Dem candidate

As a curious by-stander type chap, I had a wee keek at the Lib Dem website and found a biography of Harry Wills - Lib Dem candidate for Glenrothes. My curiosity was piqued because there's a claim there that he ran Operation Ship Shape for RRS Discovery and I simply don't remember him being there. It may be that I have simply forgotten him, but it made me have another look.

Operation Ship Shape (not Shipshape as he's put in his biog) raised funds when the Discovery first returned to Dundee. It was operational between 1993 and 1994 and its documents are held in Dundee University's archive.

I also note that he claims to have been Chief Executive of several major PLCs. I just can't find information that backs up this claim. I did find out that he was one of Robert Maxwell's fixers once upon a time, was managing director of a couple of firms, and middle manager in others. He bought his own company in 1998.

He's down as being Vice President of the Dundee and Tayside Chamber of Commerce and Industry but that body is, I believe, no more (Johnston Carmichael being the liquidators?) - although I will have to check.

There's a claim to being Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year - no indication of which Chamber or which year, but it obviously wasn't well publicised.

He was Acting Chief Executive of Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce at the time the Chamber hailed the SNP Government's Enterprise Strategy, though.

He may be entirely above board and just awful at expressing himself, but I think I'll have a look around, just to be sure.

Harry Wills biography:
Several Chief Executive positions with major PLCs.
Harvard Business School Scholarship
Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year
Vice President of the Dundee and Tayside Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Acting Chief Executive - Company Doctor - Dundee and Angus Chamer of Commerce 2007-08
Chairman Operation Shipshape raising vital funds for restoration of RRS Discovery in Dundee As Chief Executive with a major European Group

Parliamentary Candidate
Glasgow Cathcart October 1974 and 1979 (in 1979 increased the Lib Dem vote in crucial marginal seat leading to the defeat of teddy Taylor during the national swing to the Conservatives

Harry is an Elder and member of the Kirk Session of Creich, Flisk & Kilmany Church of Scotland in the Kingdom of Fife.
Harry enjoys gardening, walking and reading - thrillers, history and political biographies

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Dodgy donations again

When Cardiff wanted to become European Capital of Culture in 2008 a company was set up to manage the bid. That company was called Cardiff 2008. It used public money, lots of it, to fund the bid, money provided, in the main, by Cardiff City Council.

Somehow, the directors of this publicly owned company decided that a sensible use of this public money was to give it to the Labour Party.

Labour claimed that Cardiff 2008 sponsored a "Welsh Night" at Labour's conference in 2002 with a donation of £7,149. Unfortunately for Labour, it holds its conferences in September and the donations (two rather than one) were made in October - £5,618 on the 16th of October - and November - £1,469 on the 28th of November.

Apart from the bizarre thinking in Labour circles that it is perfectly acceptable for public money to be spent on what might be described as a 'piss-up' (giving Labour the benefit of a very big doubt in the truth stakes), are we being told that Labour members needed persuaded to back Cardiff? Did the Liverpool campaign give a bigger party, thus taking Labour support away from Cardiff and, ultimately, the big prize?

The company also paid Labour £3,250 for three square metres of display space at Labour's spring conference in 2002 (not in Electoral Commission records since it was payment for a service, but noted in the company minutes from 19th November 2001, made public thanks to the Western Mail using FOI).

When Cardiff 2008 was wound up, having failed to win the bid, there was no money returned to the public purse.

Did they forget whose money it was?

All good things come to those who wait

Fresh on the heels of the news that Chris Hoy would "be delighted to represent Scotland in the Olympic Games" as part of a Scottish Olympic team comes a delicious rumour.

Word has it (I trust Word, he's a fine chap) that the Margaret Curran candidacy of Glasgow East is to be emulated in Glenrothes by none other than Fife's very own Helen Eadie.

Apparently, Helen's constituency overlap with the Glenrothes Westminster seat means that she would bring her considerable personal vote into play, thus making it a close contest.

Just a rumour just now, but who knows what might happen?
Oh yes.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Labour's dodgy donations again

Oh ye of little faith! I looked up the Electoral Commission's website and Manchester Airports Group's accounts - do your own homework.

Anyway, here's an interesting thing:

In September of 2003 the Ministry of Defence took a most unusual step in when it took over the cost risk of a ship-building contract which it had entered into with Swan Hunter (exactly the opposite of what good public procurement practice would be - you would normally try to sherrick all the risk onto someone else).

When Swan Hunter made a right mess of the contract, it was closed and moved to BAE Systems. The cost of the contract had risen from £210 million to £600 million which was now borne by the public purse as a result of the cost risk transfer.
So what, says you - see here, says I. Swan Hunter made two – and only two – political donations, both to the Labour Party, and both around the time of the transfer of cost risk. One of these payments was of the order of £5,500 in September of 2003 and the other was £300 in October of the same year.

The public purse is £390 million worse off but the Labour party came out £5,800 to the good.

Not only are they rotten to the core, they're cheap as well.
Here's some stuff to do your own homework on:
National Labour Party
Swan Hunter (Tyneside) Limited
status: Company company reg no: 3083461
Wallsend Shipyard WallsendTyne
and WearNE28 6EQ
£ 5,500.00

National Labour Party
Swan Hunter (Tyneside) Ltd
status: Company company reg no: 3083461
Wallesend Shipyard WallsendNE28
£ 300.00

Landing Ship

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the original agreed contract price in relation to the contract with Swan Hunter (Tyneside) for the construction of Landing Ship Logistics (LSL) Largs Bay and Lyme Bay was; what the latest anticipated cost is; how much BAE Systems will be able to claim from the Department by reason of the failure of Swan Hunter to deliver design information to BAE Systems in relation to the two LSLs that that company is to build; whether his Department will claim from Swan Hunter in respect of its lateness in delivering design information on the LSLs; and which party under the terms of the original Swan Hunter contract undertook to accept the risk of the engineering requirements being greater than anticipated. [216889]
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 21 February 2005]: The original contract price for the design and construction cost of the two Swan Hunter Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) ships, Largs Bay and Lyme Bay, was £148 million and the anticipated cost is now £235 million. The Ministry of Defence has made a provision of £40 million in the 2003-04 Accounts for delay and dislocation costs in respect to the two LSD(A)s that BAE Systems are building and has already paid £16 million as an initial payment. Negotiations continue on the final settlement figure with the company. As further disclosure could prejudice 24 Feb 2005 : Column 804W these negotiations I am withholding further information under the commercial interests exemption of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The MOD will not be pursuing a claim from Swan Hunter in respect of providing information to BAE Systems as this would seriously jeopardise company's ability to delivery the Landing Ship Dock Auxiliary capability. The Swan Hunter undertook the engineering risk in delivering against the original contract. However, in September 2003, when the company announced that it could not absorb the risk and complete the contract at the agreed price and timescale, both financial and timescale risks were in effect transferred to the MOD.
This new Landing Ship Dock Auxiliary class will provide a significantly enhanced capability that will enable the faster deployment of troops, vehicles and stores into operational and front line areas, at a safer distance and in worse sea conditions than the Landing Ships they will replace. The construction of Largs Bay and Lyme Bay is virtually complete and the retention of Swan Hunter as the lead yard offers MOD and the taxpayer the best value for money solution for delivering this new capability.

Monday 25 August 2008

Labour - dodgy donations

I was interested to see that Glasgow Council has had wee whispers with Manchester Airports Group plc about buying out Glasgow Airport. Glasgow Council is, you'll remember, one of only two councils in Scotland with a Labour majority administration.
Manchester Airports Group is publicly owned - 55% Manchester Council and 5% each for Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan Councils. There's been some change in political control in recent years but these councils used to be overwhelmingly Labour controlled with a bit of LibDemmery on the side.

Any assets held by Manchester Airports Group (including Manchester Airport, East Midlands Airport, Bournemouth and Humberside Airports and any cash they generate), then, belong to the public in the areas of those councils. That will be why the Group has a policy against giving money to political parties stated in its accounts every year.

Strangely, though, the Group used Labour's 1998 conference to launch Manchester Airport's Green Commuter Plan, and in 2000 Manchester Airport's sustainability strategy was launched at Labour's conference. I wonder how much Labour charged for hosting those two events?

I don't know. What is clear, though, is that the ban the Group has on making donations to political parties didn't cover some payments to the Labour party:

£8,000 from East Midlands Airport in May 2002
£30,000 from M.A.G. in August 2002
£30,000 from M.A.G. in October 2002
£10,000 from East Midlands in January 2003

£78,000 of public money siphoned off into Labour's coffers in under a year. It is, in effect, taking money directly from those councils and dropping it straight into Labour's pocket. Surely that's not right?
There's also Birmingham, 49% owned by councils - gave Labour £8,000 in December 2002 and £9,500 in December 2003.


Just in case there's any smug Lib Dems floating around, though, let me point out that Manchester Airports Group gave the Lib Dems £6,748.02 in August 2001.

It smells of sleaze.

Sunday 24 August 2008

More in sorrow than in anger

I've been known to involve myself in a spot of politics from time to time. I've also been known to indulge a little in the less delicate side of political activity.

Good, strenuous political debate is vital for a healthy democracy - that's part of the reason why we need a strong opposition - and that debate should be fairly free-ranging, covering the qualities of the candidates and the policies of the parties as well as the actions, inactions and records of the parties and candidates.

Where it falls down is when a political party tells lies, peddles mistruths and half-truths and seeks to misrepresent the truth for party political gain. When that happens, democracy is ill-served, the very democratic process is damaged, and we are forced another step away from good politics. That's why I was disappointed by Labour's recent name-calling when they started referring to SNP activists as 'ghouls' for canvassing in Glenrothes before John MacDougall died.

SNP activists campaign all the time. We're currently campaigning in Edinburgh North and Leith, for example, as well as trying to make a contribution to the campaign in Glenrothes. I don't know what SNP campaigning has been done in the Glenrothes constituency since May 2007, but I do know that the SNP members in that constituency are thoroughly decent people and are in no way ghouls.

I imagine that this constituency got central party support in terms of telecanvassing - as other constituencies have received - but I can be absolutely certain that SNP activists, whether members on the ground or at a distance, would not have campaigned in that constituency between hearing that the sitting MP had entered hospital for the final time and the time he was buried.

Why is that important? Because Labour, the party which tossed the allegation so casually, was telecanvassing in Glenrothes before Mr MacDougall died, was canvassing on the day that Gordon Brown went to visit his old friend on his deathbed, and was canvassing between the MP's death and funeral. I like to think that there was at least enough dignity to ensure that Labour did not canvass on the day of Mr MacDougall's funeral. I know because Labour managed to canvass SNP members during that time.

This campaign, which Gordon Brown continues to shy away from, is likely to be a long and hard one and we could have done without the nastiness that Labour has decided to introduce.

It is with far more sorrow than anger that I note that Labour has gone ugly early.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Charles Kennedy - no, surely not?

With the news that the Lib Dems have started telecanvassing up Ross, Skye and Lochaber way, speculation has been rife that Charlie Kennedy might be winging his way to Europe next year when Mandelson's term as Commissioner comes to an end.

An interesting thought, very interesting.

It has been trumped, however, by a far juicier piece of speculation which goes like this:

Wise heads have clanged together at Demmery Towers and the collective chin-stroking has set many a-pondering what is to become of them all.
Polling indicates that nearly 90% of Lib Dem supporters want a referendum on independence and that almost three quarters of those supporters would vote "yes". Those who actually have some democratic principles within them wonder why the Lib Dems oppose a referendum and similarly wonder at the strange hostility shown by the party to the Scottish Government while appearing very comfortable sitting alongside Labour.

It's become clear to the grey bearded ones that there's little liberal and precious little democratic about the performance of the Lib Dem group in the Scottish Parliament and the performance of the three leadership contenders is so woeful that it's close to being painful.

Tavish Scott, the most talented of the three, is, it would seem, furious with Ross Finnie for having has the temerity to stand against him and has taken to using every opportunity to remind Lib Dem members of Mr Finnie's unfortunate resemblance to the comedy character Captain Mainwaring from Dad's Army. Since he all but ignores the Rumbling One and is not proposing any new policy ideas (perish the thought), Tavish's campaign is descending into a most unsavoury circle.

Ross Finnie, who sailed through his Ministerial career without ever touching the sides, is finding it difficult to convey his message about what his leadership would mean and has found himself left with just a few vague phrases that he hopes will chime. His candid comments about the Lib Dems just not being relevant to the Scottish people have ruffled a few feathers (truth is not always welcomed), and his admission that the Scottish Lib Dems under his leadership would merely ape the antics of their counterparts in London have irked the federalist tendency in his party.

Mike Rumbles, pet eejit of the Lib Dems is bouncing all over the place on nearly everything. Like Ross Finnie, he has pointed out to his party that they don't connect at all with the people of Scotland and that there seems to be little point in voting Lib Dem. He wants to move his party away from the impotent oppositionism that it's got used to over the past 15 months and has suggested the radical policy of voting for things that they believe in - even if those things are proposed by the SNP.
In addition to this eye-watering nonsense, the wise women and men of the Lib Dems are despairing of the clutching at straws and bizarre claims of their candidates (some have even been stupid enough to argue that losing their deposit in Glasgow East puts them in a strong position to win other seats) and are fed up with using untruthful claims in leaflets. In short, they have decided to realign their party with the Scottish people.

The way, they think, to do that is to bring someone with a bit of substance into the leadership of the Scottish Lib Dems - and who better than Charlie Kennedy?
So the plan is (whisper it) - parachute young Kennedy into the Scottish Parliament in John Farquhar Munro's seat, nudge aside whoever is standing in his way as leader, get down to some serious politics instead of the guff we've heard so far, and have a fantastic party to celebrate getting it right.

Just speculation at the moment, but is a better idea than carrying on as they are.
Mind how you go!

Monday 11 August 2008

For those whom God to ruin has design'd, He fits for fate, and first destroys their mind.

Ach well, OK, since you ask, I did see Andy Kerr's profile thingummybob in the Scotland on Sunday. It struck me that Labour's real problems were caught in precis in one sentence:
I still strongly believe that we are the natural party for Scotland; we have just lost our way, disconnected with people.
That complacent arrogance of imaging themselves to be the natural party of government in Scotland contained in the first clause of the sentence is the cause of the lament "we have just lost our way, disconnected with people."

With another of Labour's leadership contenders proving that he doesn't understand what has happened to Labour, the future looks rather bleak for that once proud and powerful party. Unless Cathy Jamieson has something of greater substance to offer there would appear to be no brake on the coming descent of the Labour Party in Scotland.

Friday 8 August 2008

The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters

Much tickled in the park am I by Labour's teenage angst, but I promise not to mention it except to say *ahem*:

Iain Gray on introducing mandatory ID cards to curb under-age drinking. If Mr Gray had bothered to ask anyone who had worked in an off-sales he would have been told that the majority of alcohol drunk by under-age people is purchased for them by people a couple of years older than them, few off-licences are plagued by young people seeking to purchase. How do I know? I used to be such an employee.

Iain's comments include these:
"It would also help protect retail workers who have to make difficult judgments about age and face disciplinary action or even the sack if they get it wrong."

Well, actually, prosecution for a criminal offence for selling alcohol to a person under 18 years of age - or for selling alcohol to a person who you can reasonably suspect of being intent on supplying it to someone who is under 18 years of age. Policing the second of these is what gives retailers and their staffs such difficulties - and one of the reasons why raising the age to 21 will help shop staff since 21 year-olds will be allowed to purchase for 18 year-olds but are most unlikely to get involved in supplying alcohol to anyone more than those three years younger than them. Unfair on 18 year-olds? No more unfair than any other restriction we put on people in our society.

Let's not go into the ID card debate itself at the moment, we can love that later. I hear that Iain had his website bought in November of last year as he prepared a leadership challenge. Don't say I didn't warn you.

In the same edition of The Herald, Tom Harris, one of Gordon Brown's Ministers laid out why he thought that Iain Gray, should he win his current battle, shouldn't have any more oomph than Wendy Alexander had. Let's have a wee laugh, here's a few bits:

Under such an arrangement, Labour MPs at Westminster would owe allegiance not to the Prime Minister but to the Scottish leader, and would, presumably, be mandated to support policies on reserved matters that were developed, not on a UK basis, but entirely in Scotland.

Apart from my immediate wish to say "remember the days when Labour MPs owed allegiance to the people who elected them", which I will, of course, resist, is this an admission that Labour's policies, developed 'on a UK basis', don't take Scotland into account? I've often said this was the case but it's better when Labour admits it.

By framing all policies, and not just those which are devolved to Scotland, at a Scottish party level, we would be undermining the very institution that we, the Labour Party, created in 1999.

I'm the kind of chap who thinks that it was the Scottish people who created devolution, but even if we were to give credit to politicians, surely all of those politicians who campaigned for a "yes yes" can take credit - and certainly the Lib Dems? The real point, though, is how would a change in the internal workings of the Labour party undermine the Scottish Parliament? Labour's sheer contempt for the democratic processes of this country is shocking, and this particular view is another indication of the way in which Labour politicians regard Scotland as their property - one of the reasons Glasgow East was won by the SNP. Scotland will, I hope, continue to punish politicians who show contempt for us.

Relations between Labour's MPs and its MSPs have never been healthier. MPs, still in government at a UK level, are nevertheless in no doubt that their own political fortunes are inextricably linked with those of our Holyrood colleagues, and share their determination to make sure that our current state of opposition is a temporary one.

A state of denial which will damage Labour, quite possibly consigning Labour in England to a generation in the wilderness. In Scotland it will be far, far worse - it quite possibly signals the end of the Labour party in Scotland. It's been teetering for a while but the tumble has started now and it will gather pace - unless Labour has the foresight to move away from being the least devolved of all the UK parties operating in Scotland and divorce the Scottish wing of the party from what's left down south.

Labour appears, if I may quote a chap who grew up on a croft called 'Loot', to be "in office but not in power". It's not that Labour MPs' political fortunes are inextricably linked with those of Labour MSPs, it's that the MSPs were the first to feel the judgement of the Scottish people.

As I said before, Brown must be dreading becoming Labour's John Major.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Trams - another cost

In the midst of all the chaos caused by the tram works, there's a story or two which needs to be highlighted.

Lothian Buses, the publicly-owned company which runs the best bus service in the country has warned that its previous growth in passenger numbers (which had been quite stunning) has stalled.

Passenger numbers on the services actually owned by the people of Edinburgh have actually dropped by 5% this year - in spite of the cost of fuel encouraging more people onto buses elsewhere in the country.

The cause - tramworks.

As a result, Lothian Buses will have to cut services to stave off losses. What a result for trams - far from encouraging more people onto public transport, they're putting people off.

This on top of the disastrous effects on businesses along the tram routes so far should be a serious warning about what is likely to happen to Edinburgh over the next three years as this white elephant of a vanity project continues to come off the rails.
I predict more bad tram news coming soon.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

That's what I meant to say

At the opening of the Redbraes Community Garden there was a performance by the Grassroots Theatre Company of Zimbabwe - they were fabulous, and I intended to post the details of their Edinburgh shows here.

Having lost the flier that was handed out, though, I can't remember all the details - only that they're performing at the Columcille Centre in Newbattle Terrace. If I can find those details again I'll post them here.

Sunday 3 August 2008

Well done Redbraes

Redbraes Community Garden opened yesterday. It's an excellent piece of work by the local community and congratulations should go to everyone involved.

There has to be special mention, I think, of Simon, the local police officer (community policing at its best) who is one of the main driving forces behind the effort, and to the garden planner (I think her name is Becky). A nod, too, in the direction of the Botanics which supported the work, and to a well-known local supermarket which supplied the refreshments for the opening.

It's the people of Redbraes who should be most proud, though. It may only just be getting started, but the garden looks wonderful already.

Friday 1 August 2008

A vicious retort

I hear from my very best sources (my imagination) that Gordon Brown is to wreak a terrible revenge upon David 'is it my turn yet' Miliband for his breathtaking duplicity.
With Labour's membership in Scotland down to 8,932 causing problems in Brown's back yard, Labour facing bankruptcy and languishing behind the SNP in polls in Scotland and behind the Conservatives in polls in England, Brown could have done without the hassle caused by this young turk's ambition unfettered by talent.

Brown, I believe, is about to play the dirtiest trick possible on Miliband - he's about to make him Chancellor ...