Friday 31 October 2008

More paint, more paint, there's a recession on ...

The Commission to Repaint Devolution continues to beaver away, trundling round the country having 'events' (not as in events, dear boy, events, more like free school trips). I'm resisting wondering whether this is a good use of resources - other people think it is and I trust their good judgement.

Anyway, the beachcomber emailed me about the forum on the website, saying
The highly policed forums are about as busy as a hermit's housewarming.
Oh, she's got an acid tongue that one!
Having been prompted thus, I had a wee look. Back at the beginning of October I reported (accurately and faithfully, of course) that there was a grand total of 11 posts in those discussions. I'm delighted to report that the total has now soared to a stunning, a quite magnificent, an incredible .... 11

So, do people not want to talk about the constitution of Scotland? Well, let's have a look at, for example, the Tartan Army Message Board. If you pop in a word search for (just plucking an idea out of the air here) devolution, it throw up three pages of threads where devolution is mentioned - 61 discussion threads - there are 285 replies to the thread titled "Is Scottish Independence Stone Dead?" alone. Change the search term to "independence" and you'll get a message telling you that your search results have been limited to the first 1,000 threads with that word in them.

Some of those threads will, of course, have both words in them. Now, I'll grant you that Scotland's football fans would debate the relative merits of Lorne sausage versus corned beef in stovies (and whether Lorne sausage should be called square sausage), but the sheer extent of the debate on the constitution on the TAMB surely points to the issue being one of some contention?

Why, then, is no-one engaging in the debate on the repainting website? Could it be that the rules of engagement are such that contributions which do not support the target conclusions will not be published? Such a policy is perfectly acceptable in a private space like a blog but is surely not acceptable where public money is being used.

There is a bit more in the submissions received section but it's still a partisan exercise - and not one single contributor has mentioned the absolute need to repatriate to Scotland those powers reserved by 'the Tardis reservations' - L5 and L6 of Schedule 5 - or E3 and E4 (surely necessary to think global and act local).

Since the public events are being set up to exclude anyone of a nationalist persuasion, I doubt whether there is much scope for greater light to shine forth from the repainting, but I look forward to them trying to prove me wrong.
How long after Calman would they have to get the paint pots out again?

Thursday 30 October 2008

The sound of panic

Remember Labour's Glasgow East campaign where their London Ministers campaigned for 15 minutes at a time, Gordon Brown was absent, and very few of their MPs or councillors turned up?

A wee voice has told me - in that inimitable wee voice way - that Labour is whipping its MPs to get to Glenrothes, sending Cabinet Ministers back time and time again (including sending John Denham today - 24 hours after he cut student grants in England), el Gordo is coming back to do more damage, and Labour is 'encouraging' its councillors from all over Scotland to get to Glenrothes. One hears, indeed, of an elderly Glasgow Labour councillor who has acquired a walking stick just in case.
Panic? Panic? Who said panic?

Norway sets record straight

Following yesterday's atrocious journalism, the Norwegian ambassador Bjarne Lindstrøm has written a reply letter to the Scottish Daily Mail. I've seen it thanks to Michael at The Truth About Scotland, and here is the text:

The article "Salmond Slapped down by Norway Minister" in the Daily Mail on 29 October contained several incorrect and misleading statements attributed to Norway's Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre.

Firstly, there is no "growing anger in Norway" over comparisons made between Scotland and Norway during the debate in the United Kingdom against the backdrop of the current global financial crisis.

Secondly, no accusations have been made by Mr Støre against Mr Salmond, as alleged in the article. In the interview, the Foreign Minister merely pointed out factual similarities and differences between the challenges presently faced by Scotland and Norway. Inferring from this that Mr Støre is of the view that Mr Salmond has in any way lied or mislead the public, is simply incorrect.

In short, the Norwegian Foreign Minister did not intend to criticise either side in this debate, which is a domestic political discussion. What he strongly emphasised in the interview with the Daily Mail and which, sadly, was simply omitted from the article, was his sincere appreciation of the warm ongoing relationship between Scotland and Norway.

Yours sincerely,
Bjarne Lindstrøm
Ambassador of Norway

I do hope that all of those who rushed to hold up yesterday's Daily Mail in triumph will now be decent enough to apologise to Norway for suggesting that the Norwegian Government would have broken the convention that Governments do not interfere in the domestic politics of other nations.

Indeed, anyone who took the trouble to read the comments attributed to Jonas Gahr Støre would have been surprised that the Daily Mail could come to such conclusions from his quotes.

Mind how you go.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Lib Dems just want to save deposit in Glenrothes

There was a voice - it spoke to me and it said "pst, wanna buy a camel?" I refused, of course, camel hair gets everywhere.

"OK," the voice said, "but what about those Lib Dems in Glenrothes, eh? They've admitted they're losing their deposit."

Apparently, there was an email from their campaign manager asking for donations because they are about to lose their deposit in Glenrothes. The full email reads:

I was sat in the by-election HQ in Markinch, Glenrothes on Saturday afternoon with Tavish Scott MSP, the new Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats looking at the article in the Guardian, where they have said “even the Tory and the Lib Dem could lose their deposits.”
We have had this happen once this year, in the Glasgow East by-election, let us ensure it does not happen again! This constituency is bordered by Willie Rennie MP and Ming Campbell MP, so the result will be important for the Liberal Democrats.
Nick Clegg is about to make his second visit to the constituency, Ming Campbell has been many times, Charles Kennedy was here last week, Simon Hughes and Vince Cable are due here as well in the coming days. Tavish Scott has just done his tenth visit, the MSPs and local Councillors are holding their weekly group meetings here after campaigning in the local area.
Willie Rennie MP and Iain Smith MSP have been here near enough every day helping us shift the thousands of leaflets we have produced. We have had a good response so far, we now need to escalate to the next level for the final push, the plan we need to execute is fairly extensive.
Now I am asking you to help us in the final twelve days;
Make a donation via our website - all money raised will go
towards extra target letters

Visit the constituency, details on our website - and help us deliver the remaining leaflets
Help us telephone canvass (postal votes start going out today).
Every pound raised through these online donations will be used for additional target letters, ensuring we continue to push our positive campaign and messages to the good voters in the Kingdom of Fife.

Full story here, I've taken screen grabs, of course ...

Told you they were out of it.

A legal eagle speaks

M'learned friend having completed his energetic pursuance of a case through the Hoose o Peers (what kind of archaic system is that - why doesn't England get its own supreme court and give back the final say on all Scottish cases to our College of Justice?), I took the opportunity to seek his sage advice on the matter of pre-action protocols of the kind that Gordon Brown has recently claimed to be the saviour of English mortgages.

"So," said I, "these pre-action protocols,"

"Harrumph!" he replied (I had to check the spelling)

"Is there anything in them?"

"Of course there is, but nothing of any substance."

"What can they be used for?"

"Toilet paper" (I paraphrase) "No, no, that's slightly unfair. They have no legal weight. They are, in essence, proforma for agreements that would in earlier times have been called gentlemen's agreements, there's no real sanction if either side decides to ignore them."

"So they're pointless and useless?"

"Well, in a case where, for example, the parties could have settled earlier using the protocol but they can't reach agreement and the settlement later leaves one of the parties in a less advantageous state than they would have been had they accepted the workings of the protocol then it has been known for the bench to 'give them a slap' as it were with the expenses, but the bench has the power to do that in any case and doesn't need the protocols. It does give the old buffer something to bolster his reasoning with, though."

"In essence, though?"

"I wouldn't rely on a protocol."

This is, of course, a remembered conversation, but my memory is renowned...
I have quizzed m'learned friend upon the procedure which an aggrieved person can use to enforce things like, for example, the FSA handbook. I wrote down his answer but, unfortunately, left it in my other jacket so I'll have to post it later - I'm sick of paying for pints in guineas.

Can I just say, though, that if you are the type of person who has mistaken pomposity for intellect and writes long, rambling and boring comments which are full of errors, I'm afraid I won't be publishing them. Feel free to write all of your thoughts up in your own space - if you post a witty and brief comment pointing people in that direction, I might be persuaded to publish that. Then again, you might catch me when I'm in a mood not to.

Now then, I hear Glenrothes is getting even better for us. Nationalists one and all, to action stations! Staff yer door-knockers, limber up those leafleting fingers, massage those tired wee legs for one last push! One week to go chaps and chapesses! One more week, just seven more days - and then you can sleep.

Mind how you go.

£10 bet - what does one think?

An interesting bet a friend of mine want to lay following his campaigning in Glenrothes - his bet would be that six out of the eight candidates will lose their deposits.

He can't find prices for it yet...

Did the earth move for you?

I am told that there is a rumblin an a tremblin goin on over by in Fife.

People who made it over in the last couple of days (lucky devils) are saying that they're feeling those tectonic plates starting to move.

I'm being told that everywhere you go there's the buzz, that winning feeling. They're saying that only two parties will keep their deposits - and they're neck and neck, but we're starting to move on up.

They keep telling me that there's only one word to describe it - phenomenal. At least, I think that's what they said:

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Gordon Brown is a fecund liar

The fertility of Gordon Brown's imagination is impressive, one must admit. His virile capacity for delusion, and possible self-delusion, is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. His smoke is thicker and his mirrors shinier than even Paul Daniels could envisage. With Mandelson back by his side there may be no limits to the extent of his dissembling to discombobulate may reach levels that only a Large Hadron Collider could measure, and with Campbell (Alasdair of that ilk) lurking in his shadow, there's no telling who'll be in the firing line next.
He has recently claimed that if the world had listened to him and created the proper international framework for regulating finance then the problems we've seen recently would never have occurred.
GORDON BROWN: To be fair to be me, I've been arguing that we have to have these global financial institutions that deal with global financial flows ever since what was called the Asian crisis in 1998 and I said then that we had to have the co-ordination that's necessary. You see you've got these big banks that are operating across frontiers and they're being regulated in one country, but they're not being supervised across continents.
(He also said that this was the first financial crisis of the new global economy - has he not been paying attention?)
Let's think about this. Gordon Brown is the man who took away the Bank of England's regulatory role, a role it had performed well for a long time, the kind of role a central bank should play, and replaced that low-key and efficient regulation with the monster that is the FSA. Not only does this new monster have bank regulation, it also has consumer protection and fighting fraud responsibilities - three different roles, each of which was previously conducted by specialists who knew the ins and outs of their speciality. His track record of designing effective domestic regulation is poor.

Instead of clear regulation, financial institutions here now have the FSA and the Bank of England looking at them with the bank's central banking powers very restricted. In addition, the Treasury has a locus - a meddling micro-management introduced by Brown which runs counter to the principle that the executive should be separate from the constabulary and the judiciary. in this instance the Treasury is all three.

You don't have to take my word for it - ask an expert
The FSA was designed as a light-touch regulator, it's regulation risk-based rather than rules-based, an innovation which took financial business to London (hardly surprising that some of it turned out to be less than totally stable considering what the attraction was) - that light-touch was exactly why the FSA failed to spot the Northern Rock problems. It doesn't explain why Northern Rock didn't set off alarm bells all over the place.
There are, indeed, concerns that the FSA has a conflict of interests inherent in its make-up - it cannot protect both the consumer and the financier, those roles should be separate.

So how does this make Gordon Brown a liar? Well, way back in 1999 his political will was forcing the Treasury to lighten the regulation on the mortgage market to "balance the maintenance of a competitive and dynamic mortgage market with protection for the needs of the consumer" - welcome to sub-prime - his clunking fist destroyed sensible banking in favour of a rush for growth in the market.

That's not all - the international regulation that he claims to have wanted for years and would have had if only he'd been listened to? The international regulatory system is Gordon Brown's baby. He was pleased to trumpet it back in 1998 when he was chair of the G7 Finance Ministers and they 'acted' in the wake of the Asian and Russian crises.

That reform that Brown said would stop hedge-fund speculators destabilise the financial system was carried out, but Brown is now claiming everyone ignored his wishes when he wanted to introduce strong regulation.

In fact, here's an extract from the story in 1998:
The Chancellor emphasised that problems in the banking systems of foreign countries could have serious "contagion" effects that could threaten banks in the UK.
and here's an extract from the tale today about Brown and Sarkozy calling for reform:
"Nicolas and I will be talking about the global fund that the International Monetary Fund will have now to create to build on its own resources to help economies that are in difficulty to prevent contagion coming from their countries into our countries,"
So much time has passed with so little change.
Brown must have thought about improving regulation though?

Well, here's his Mansion House speech from 2006 where he says:
In 2003, just at the time of a previous Mansion House speech, the Worldcom accounting scandal broke. And I will be honest with you, many who advised me including not a few newspapers, favoured a regulatory crackdown.
I believe that we were right not to go down that road which in the United States led to Sarbannes-Oxley, and we were right to build upon our light touch system through the leadership of Sir Callum McCarthy - fair, proportionate, predictable and increasingly risk based. I know Sir Callum is committed to reducing regulatory administrative burdens and the National Audit Office will now look at the efficiency and value for money of our system.
Let me say I see no case for a European single regulator and will continue to reject such a proposal, just as we will resist the new and unnecessary proposals to harmonisation corporate taxation in Europe.
So he was still believing in a risk-based regulator in June 2006 and opposing an international regulator.

What about the same venue in 2007?
the things that we must do - and, just as important, things we should not do -
to maintain our competitiveness:
enhancing a risk based regulatory approach, as we did in resisting pressure for a British Sarbannes-Oxley after Enron and Worldcom,
Still with the risk-based regulation? What is the fixation? (Sarbannes-Oxley was the fix after Enron to ensure that US corporations actually kept their accounting records).
What about the speech he made to the Lord Mayor's Banquet in November 2007? An opportunity there, surely, to talk about the international regulator he claims to have been championing, considering that the topic of his speech was foreign policy priorities? Nope. One of the things he did say, though, was that he was:
resolute in my determination that we need fewer rather than more international bureaucracies
What about the regulator Gordon?
we should work for a concerted global strengthening of law enforcement, financial supervision and policing and intelligence cooperation
Is that a sideways reference to it?
Financial disruption in one country can now affect all countries. The IMF should be transformed with a renewed mandate that goes far beyond crisis management to crisis prevention - not only responsible in the manner of an independent central bank for the independent surveillance of the world economy but becoming its early warning system.
So not a regulator at all, then, just an observer.

Gordon Brown - your friendly neighbourhood havering skite.
His new-found commitment to an international regulator is guff. The action taken when he chaired the G7 Finance Ministers was part of the cause of the problems we have now - as was his very first action in Government against the Bank of England. Superman? Gie's a break.

Monday 27 October 2008

Brown should resign

Any Prime Minister who misleads the House of Commons, thereby telling untruths to the public, should resign

I thought the case was simple, but here it is laid out in an easy-to-read format, just to help -

Gordon Brown told the House of Commons that "I can announce today new guidance —[ Interruption. ] New guidance will be given to the judiciary to halt or adjourn court action on repossessions unless alternative options that help the home owner, including extending the terms of the mortgage, changing the mortgage type and deferring payment, have first been fully examined."

This was expanded upon by the Prime Minister's Spokesman who said that it referred to the Treasury news release earlier that day.

The Treasury news release was about the Civil Justice Council's new protocol.

Brown's answer to the patsy question was carefully worded, but his intention was clearly to lead the House of Commons, and therefore the public, to understand that Brown had taken action on mortgages since the bite had come. He quite clearly had not. The Civil Justice Council began consulting on it in February and had sent the new protocol for approval - it had nothing to do with the Government. Further, it doesn't guide the judiciary and it's not new, considering that it is already part of the regulations of the FSA.

Brown deliberately misled the House of Commons and lied to the public. Behaviour of that nature cheapens the high office he holds and he should resign.

For further reading, you might want to have a look at:
Nearly legal - housing law blog
Guardian's Money Blog

For the sake of clarity, let me point out that the FSA regulations apply to Scotland, Scotland is already covered by the advice that will be given to litigant parties in England - just as England already is. Scotland's protections here are as good as England's - better when you consider the Mortgage Rights Act.

You may recall that Cathy Jamieson called for Scots to be given the same protection as people in England. We already have it. I don't expect any better of Labour MSPs - they just follow London Labour's lead without questioning whether it's right.

You'll also remember that Nicola Sturgeon said that Scots borrowers were already protected and Mike Dailly saying that she was dangerously wrong. I like Mike - he went to a very good school - and I know he is a man of principle, so I'll look forward to him admitting that the Scottish Government is right.

In the meantime, Gordon Brown should resign.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Repossessions and prestidigitation

Some people have found themselves overwhelmed with the genius of Gordon Brown and his cunning plan to protect mortgage defaulters from repossession through the simple means of amending the pre-action protocol in England to ensure that every lender acts decently towards borrowers.

Two problems - firstly, it wasn't Gordon Brown that changed the protocol; and secondly, changing the protocol doesn't change a single thing for any borrower or lender.
Let's have a wee look then. Remember that this protocol is not actually enforceable, it's not law, it's not even rules of court, it's guidance offered by the Civil Justice Council
It is designed to encourage parties to exchange information at an early stage, to encourage early settlement of cases or where that cannot be avoided, more efficient case management. It does not alter parties existing rights and obligations.
Keep that sentence about existing rights and obligations in mind - apart from the obvious question about whether the protocol will change anything, it gives the lie to Brown's insinuations that he was creating new powers for judges to halt repossessions (quite apart from the observation that this guidance isn't actually for judges).

Here's another bit to ponder:
There has been extensive consultation since February this year
Gordon Brown dealing with a crisis? Nope, just the Civil Justice Council getting on with its business.
OK, so nothing to do with Gordon Brown, but a good thing it's happening, yes? Well, it doesn't matter, really, because it isn't enforceable and it won't change anything.

Pardon? Well, let's take a look at the shiny new protocol and compare it to, well, just for a laugh, let's try Chapter 13 of the Financial Services Authority's Handbook. Why? Well, because that's what actually regulates lenders when borrowers get into arrears and it's already in force ...
From the protocol:
5.1 Where the borrower falls into arrears the lender should provide the borrower with—
(1) where appropriate, the required regulatory information sheet or the National Homelessness Advice Service booklet on mortgage arrears; and
(2) information concerning the amount of arrears which should include—
(a) the total amount of the arrears;
(b) the total outstanding of the mortgage or the home purchase plan; and
(c) whether interest or charges will be added, and if so and where appropriate, details or an estimate of the interest or charges that may be payable.
So, the lender will be expected to abide by its statutory duty to provide information and also to tell the debtor about the debt. Radical, radical stuff.
5.2 asks the two sides to talk to each other.
5.3 suggests that the lender advises the borrower to get in touch with the local authority housing department and debt advisors.
5.4 says the lender should consider a request for a change of regular payment date.

That should have those lenders quaking in their boots, eh? It's noticeable that it always says "the lender should", never "the lender must" - probably because none of this is statutory.

5.5 respond promptly to a proposal for payment, non-agreement to be explained in writing.
5.6 the borrower should be given a reasonable period of time to consider a payment proposal.
5.7 borrower to get a warning of any moves to repossess

Section 6 asks the lender not to proceed with action if there's an insurance claim under way or where the property is being sold. Highly exciting. Not as exciting as the olden days, though:
Now, then, Chapter 13 of the Handbook, the stuff that is enforceable:
(1) A firm should ensure that its written policy and procedures include:
(a) using reasonable efforts to reach an agreement with a customer over the method of repaying any payment shortfall or1 sale shortfall1 , in the case of the former having regard to the desirability of agreeing with the customer an alternative to taking possession of the property;
(b) liaising, if the customer makes arrangements for this, with a third party source of advice regarding the payment shortfall or1 sale shortfall1 ;
(c) adopting a reasonable approach to the time over which the payment shortfall or 1 sale shortfall1 should be repaid, having particular regard to the need to establish, where feasible, a payment plan which is practical in terms of the circumstances of the customer;
(d) granting, unless it has good reason not to do so, a customer's request for a change to:
(i) the date on which the payment is due (providing it is within the same payment period); or
(ii) the method by which payment is made; and giving the customer a written explanation of its reasons if it refuses the request;
(e) giving consideration, where no reasonable payment arrangement can be made, to the customer being allowed to remain in possession to effect a sale; and
(f) repossessing the property only where all other reasonable attempts to resolve the position have failed.
(2) Contravention of 1(1) may be relied on as tending to show contravention of MCOB 13.3.1 R(2).
The bang-whizz new protocol will merely repeat as advice part of what is already there as regulation. Can someone tell Gordon Brown he can change out of the Superman pyjamas now?
Why would a Prime Minister think it appropriate to tell lies to the people who elected him? Surely an international phenomenon, a global economic superstar, a colossus like Gordon Brown wouldn't feel the need to dissemble? Surely this isn't political prestidigitation on a grand scale?
I am afraid it is, let's think about it for a moment - here you have a man who is a self-proclaimed genius in the job he held for a decade who is quite clearly struggling to have any idea about what to do in his new job. On top of that he finds the artifice of his former achievements dissolving before his eyes, inflation soaring, unemployment rocketing, banks struggling, boom turned to bust, and so on and so on.
When you've got so much ego propped up by so much hubris, disinformation and misdirection seem like such small indulgences. The order to Brown's Special Advisers would be "find me something to announce". Some bright spark will have spotted the protocol update in the grid for announcement and thought "ya dancer" and passed it along. Brown, in desperate straits, seizes upon it as a way of getting him out of a hole before anyone spots that he's been digging the hole all along.
It's the political equivalent of saying "look, a unicorn" before scuttling off in the other direction. I find it incredible that some people were suggesting that the Scottish Government should follow that lead.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Powerful fingertips

We now have evidence of the incredible power of my fingertips - hours after I reported that Gordon Brown had bottled out of campaigning in Glenrothes the plans were changed. No longer would he swan around his own constituency and hope that reports of his munificence would seep over the border into Glenrothes, instead he'd have to get down and dirty with the electors in Glenrothes - all handpicked six of them.

Yes, I outed him and forced him into a rethink - what power there is in these fingertips.
Time to give him another hard time then - six handpicked people? Three couples in an arranged meeting in a cafe in an industrial estate? With his reputation? Were they all Labour party members?

Brown has recently been getting a good press here for the action taken on banks which were in trouble. Leaving aside the fact that it was Brown's changes to financial regulation which created much of the problem, why does the rest of Europe refer to it as the Sarkozy plan? Surely Sarkozy himself based it on the Nordic response to the banking problems of the early 1990s?
Just in case anybody starts getting complacent, though, Japan's problems at the same time and the inadequacy of the Japanese response (although similar) should provide a salutary warning. Equally important is to note those things that the Swedes did that haven't been done here - things like a 100% guarantee of deposits - secured first against shareholder capital before public money came in - prudent protection of public funds. Whatever happened to dear Prudence?
Anyway, I thought that I might have been a wee bit harsh on el Gordo recently so I decided to let him put his side of the story on HBoS. I've written to him to ask three wee questions:

1. Why did he choose Lloyds TSB to take over HBoS
2. When did he decide that Llyods TSB should take over HBoS?
3. Since Lloyds TSB appears to be in no better state than HBoS in the current mess and is smaller than HBoS does it still make sense for the deal to proceed?

I fully expect an answer on the 7th of November. I've also submitted FOI requests for his diary (as Chancellor and as Prime Minister) for meetings he's had with Victor Blank - it'll be the end of November before they come back.
This news just in - opinion poll in today's Sunday Times shows support for the SNP up by 11% since the last Westminster election while Labour is down two points on the same period. The paper has a very strange headline on this piece of excellent news though.

Lab: 38%
SNP: 29%
Con: 20%
Lib D: 11%

Absolute Lib Dem collapse there - in common with other polls. SNP to win even more seats.

Glenrothes margin of victory to be 3,487 approximately - but only if every nationalist gets out there and does her or his best to win it. Broon disnae boonce!

Thursday 23 October 2008

Glenrothes - Lindsay Roy

So there I was thinking to myself "you've had a look at Harry Wills" and I replied "pardon? I wasn't paying attention there, I was cooking this here swordfish." My grammar is appalling sometimes.

What? Oh, lime juice and coarse ground pepper, bit of garlic, Japanese plum sauce, onions, fresh beetroot, baby turnips tomatoes (fresh and sun-dried), baked in the oven - delicious.

Anyway, stop distracting me. We've had a look at Harry Wills (Lib Dem candidate, funny looking wee guy), let's have a look at Lindsay Roy. Do we have to? No, but just for the sake of fairness.

Have a look at Mr Roy's Action Plan for Fife. Remember he's a teacher.

A summary Lindsay’s Action Plan for Fife
Tsk, tsk, tsk, - word missing here is there not? A petty point on its own, but let's keep looking:

Crack down on anti-social behaviour
· visible policing, zero tolerance to drugs, action on underage drinking
· a citizens’ panel to decide where new CCTV should go
A Holyrood matter - I like it, an indication that Labour wants to stop all this carping about demarcation. I take it that Mr Roy will be welcoming the SNP Government's action to provide 1,000 extra police officers (deployment is an operational matter for senior officers). He'll be delighted with the drugs strategy and I suppose he'll be supporting the innovative ideas brought forward by the SNP Government to tackle underage drinking. There you go - first three Labour proposals so far behind the curve that they can't see that the SNP's already delivering.

A citizens' panel for CCTV? Right ...

Fight for more opportunities for young people
· More sports and recreation facilities for Fife , including public consultation with young people to decide where new pitches should go
· campaign against Fife Council privatising golf courses and convene an urgent meeting with top cinema chiefs to start bringing a new cinema to central Fife

How come he thinks that sports and recreation facilities are only for young people? Why is it that he thinks that young people are only interested in sports and recreation? Surely a job or two wouldn't go amiss?

Anyway, Mr Roy must be delighted that Kenny MacAskill is taking money from criminals and using the Cashback for Communities scheme to channel that money into building more sports and recreation facilities across the country, ploughing resources into the arts and creativity as well.

Then again, if Mr Roy thinks that the SNP is a party of privatisation I guess he's not been paying any attention at all - to his own party or to politics in general.

Sort out the roads and buses
· support dualling and upgrading the A92
· demand a clear timetable and funding plan for the Forth Road Bridge that the SNP have delayed
· give powers back to Fifers so local people can make decisions about their buses

Forth Bridge announced by John Swinney after 8 years of Labour and Lib Dem Transport Ministers doing nothing very much. It's started - readallaboutit!

What are the powers he's intending to give back to Fifers to allow local people to make decisions about their buses? Does he mean reregulation - giving the powers back to the council rather than the people? If so, why does he not advocate that?

I don't know what the status of the A92 is. I might even go to the trouble of asking if I get bored.

Another thing - it should be "the SNP has", not "the SNP have". My grammar's not that bad.

Help Fife families through tough times
· benefit “check-ups” to ensure pensioners get the benefits they deserve – including the new, free insulation
· outlaw overcharging people on pre-pay meters and fight the SNP local income tax
· oppose greedy oil bosses who keep petrol costs high

Those'll be the tough times caused by the failure of the Labour Government then, inflation over 5%, unemployment on the rise, banks failing, economy in crisis, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera ...

I see he wants to keep the Council Tax - bizarre. How can anyone who wants to pretend to be on the side of the less affluent want to keep frying them with Council Tax?

Why just pensioners getting benefit checks? What about low income families trying to work out what's what? What about those families struggling to repay Gordon Brown's tax credits? How about the people who got - what's the polite word? Shafted? - by the abolition of the 10p tax rate?

See this outlawing overcharging on prepayment meters? Why has Labour not done that in the 11 years they've been in power?

These greedy oil bosses he's going to fight who keep petrol costs high - is Lindsay Roy taking on OPEC? Would that be an opec struggle? Why not just support the SNP's fuel duty regulator that would do the same thing?

Action plan for Fife?

Boom, boom Mr Roy!

Mind how you go.

Cashley to win Edinburgh North and Leith

Channel 4 has had a poll done in marginal seats. It shows, of course, that the SNP will storm to victory in Edinburgh North and Leith. How am I supposed to keep motivation up amongst my campaign team if opinion polls keep insisting that it's already in the bag?

Anyway, here's some fascination:

The result in Scotland against the 2005 result:

SNP - 37% (up 19%)
Lab - 32% (down 7%)
Con - 26% (up 10%)
LibD - 6% (down 17%)

I await the howls of derision.

You'll see that the Lib Dems are on 6% - you lose your deposit if you get less than 5% in a seat - see my predictions coming true?

The Lib Dems actually get pretty horsed everywhere. In true Lib Dem tradition, here's a graph:

Scotland is on the left, then Midlands/Wales (blame yougov), Rest of South (of England, I assume), North (again, of England), London. I've used party colours - Gold for SNP, red for Labour, Blue for Conservatives and dirty orange for Lib Dems. Outside of Scotland the Gold colour represents 'others'.

There we go, those figures should be wobbly enough.

Mind how you go!

Humble Pie - but Broon's still bottling it

Pay attention, this doesn't happen often - in fact, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience - I was wrong.

I questioned whether Scotland's political journalists would have the guts to point out that Mrs Broon was as frightened of proper engagement as her husband. It appears that they are all questioning the Sarah Brown is "coming to campaign for Labour but isn't a politician" artifice, the incredible blancmange that Labour hoped would allow them to pretend that Gordon Brown was campaigning in Glenrothes when the idea of speaking to an ordinary Scot, any ordinary Scot, on their doorstep petrifies him.
Those fine, eloquent, erudite and intellectual scribes of the Scottish political press pack have, in spite of my misplaced scepticism, given this daft press stunt a doing:

Can I just say that I always believed in our journalists, I never for a second thought that they would let this go, I never doubted them in any way, shape or form - honest, guv.

The news is still that Broon has bottled it and won't be campaigning in Glenrothes, though. He's trying to distance himself from the result.
Let's get up and get campaigning, the SNP can win this one as well. Come on, you know you want to.

By-election polling

I see that the Central Fife Times has a poll which shows party support in the Glenrothes by-election as:

Which party would you like to see win the Glenrothes by-election?

Scottish National Party 77.6%

Labour Party 11.5%

Liberal Democrat Party 5.5%

Conservative Party 2.4%

Scottish Socialist Party 0.3%

UK Independence Party 0.9%

Solidarity 0.6%

Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party 1.2%

I feel a Lib-Dem style graph coming on ...

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Broon's bottled it!

Gordon Broon has bottled it again. He's not coming to Glenrothes. You heard it here first and I claim a coconut.

I wonder if he has the same polling figures as I do and reckons he'd rather not face those 67% who blame him for the economic mess and the 42% who think he's been at it on the banks merger issue.

His wife came, though, a very public declaration of coming to campaign for Labour allied to a refusal to speak to the press because "she's a very private person". Oh, yes, that's the kite they tried to fly. Sarah Brown spoke to nine people (exactly nine, hand-picked - Bambi's back!), each of whom had a Labour poster in the window and (I'm guessing here) a Labour party card in their purse/wallet/pocket-book/as a bookmark.

She's getting the photies in the paper, though, are our journalists feart? Will I regret asking? Will any of them ask why she's frightened of them? Does she agree with Tony Blair's assessment of them? Is this an episode of SOAP?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the SNP campaign has stepped up a gear and the people of Glenrothes are moving towards us again. It's there for the taking, friends. Anyone out there with SNP leanings (or even supporters who can stand up straight) - meddle in Methil, be royal in Kinglassie, dance in Cardenden, mark it in Markinch, think up terrible puns for other parts of the constituency. Get on the phones - activate yourself, man; knock on some doors, deliver some letters, make some sandwiches, paint your dog black and gold.

Make the effort, make the difference, make history in Glenrothes.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Conference - oh, it's hard work

I remember the days when conference was easy, turn up, enjoy yourself, speak in the odd debate, heckle, laugh, applaud, grouse, dance, and sing. There were fringe meetings and exhibition stalls to visit, billiards to play and Pimms as the sun went down.

These days it's work, work, work - I hardly stopped from dawn till dusk. I was there at the staff reception, kindly sponsored by BAA Scotland (the airport people) where the heid bummer of BAA Scotland was very nice about us and the heid bummers of the SNP were nice in return, I was there when the world was put to rights (seventeen different times - very, very busy), I was there when the YSI pitched its case and there when the Party nodded sagely, I met old friends and made some new ones, I told old jokes and heard some new ones - a thoroughly exhausting process.

I did, though, fall in with a Lib Dem type (ach, we let all sorts into conference except dodgy bloggers) who was busy telling me about the illegal automated phone calls that the Lib Dems made. The tale goes that the information generated was used to redraw Lib Dem target seats maps before it was destroyed. She said there were going to be some disappointed candidates as well as some pleasantly surprised candidates and one or two sitting MPs who will suddenly find themselves sorely in need of a pair of brown trousers as their supposedly safe seat is no longer regarded as such.

In spite of the application of all my charm, she wouldn't tell me a flaming thing about which seats were which - so here goes soaring speculation on the back of a dodgy lead that came from someone who might not know a cheesing thing and might not tell me even if she did. It could all be disinformation, it could all be just a barrel-full of crackers, but here's the speculation anyway:

Seats the Lib Dems will lose:
Gordon - Malcolm Bruce in Gordon was always far too high a concentration of forenames but the relentless SNP campaigning there over the last couple of years will see Richard Thomson elected as the new MP.

Danny Alexander - smooth, suave and sophisticated Fergus Ewing has measured the chappie up for dispatch and it will be an SNP seat with a brand new shiny MP. I'm not telling you who.

Michael Moore - looks like a Conservative gain. Fishtishlle it!

Alan Reid - After Jim Mather's stunning victory over the Lyon one, Mike MacKenzie will bring it home for Scotland's party.

Robert Smith - very poor performer about to be horsed out by some fermer chap.

Jo Swinson - never quite cut it, oot on her ear.

Lib Dems hingin on:
Charlie Kennedy - in spite of the nastiness aimed at him, he's determined to stand again and try to save them from themselves. It has to be admitted that he has a wee bit of a chance.

Lib Dems sweatin it oot:
John Barrett - with both the SNP and the Conservatives taking bit bites out of his vote, the question is really about who'll catch him first.

John Thurso - anybody with a moustache that ridiculous has got to be in trouble.

Lib Dem seats off the target list:
Well, all the work in Edinburgh will go towards trying to save John Barrett, so there will be no Lib Dem challenge in Edinburgh South, making that a straight Labour/Conservative fight.

Lib Dems lost deposits:
Edinburgh North and Leith - classic squeeze as the battle will be between the Labour Government down south and the SNP Government here.

Both Dundee seats - again the Lib Dems will be battling for relevance as the real battle goes on.

Aberdeen North - massive slide being reported in Lib Dem vote up there.

Angus - even Labour's doing better than the Lib Dems there these days.

Ochil and South Perthshire; Perth and North Perthshire; Livingston; Linlithgow and East Falkirk; Edinburgh East; Stirling; and most of the Central Belt all fall into the same category - Lib Dems losing votes as the electors complete the transition and start looking for a real political party to support.

So where might the Lib Dems pick up votes?
Tunbridge Wells, maybe...

Time for a bun, I think!

Thursday 16 October 2008

Save HBoS

The Chief Executive of the FSA has said that HBoS doesn't need to bend the knee to the Lloyds TSB merger, that the bank can stand alone as a commercial entity.

Good! Let's keep the Lloyds TSB asset-strippers away from Scotland's banks.

Commentators are starting to say the same things I've been saying (yeah, I thought about saying I'd persuaded them) about how the deal done sends banks back to the bad practices that got them into difficulty and how HBoS doesn't need taken over.

By the way, well done to the Scotsman for starting to ask the questions and demanding answers, for campaigning to keep HBoS independent, for bringing evidence to the table and asking for the facts to be revealed.

Moody's is upgrading the HBoS rating, the Bank may be coming out of the woods.

Allen & Overy - advisors to HBoS on the Lloyds TSB merger is advising HBoS on selling its Australian assets - a conflict of interests, surely? Or is it all part of the same deal because Lloyds TSB doesn't have the resources to complete the deal and Victor Blank's mate, who happens to be the Prime Minister, has smoothed the path for this struggling organisation?

We still don't know why Blank & co were the only management organisation allowed to remain in place under the deal, but I'm coming down on the side of mate's rates on a grand scale.

The deal being done isn't anti-nationalist nor anti-Scottish. Not a thought is being given to Scotland, either to protect Scotland's institutions or to damn them, it's just a business deal where neither Victor Blank nor Gordon Brown has given a thought to what happens in Scotland - that's just incidental. Victor Blank has already made it clear that he has privileged access to the Prime Minister and that he can get special consideration from him.

Buying up HBoS, stripping it clean until Mr Blank can suck the last juices out of the bones, and propping up Lloyds TSB is the agenda.

I've just re-read what I've written before posting and it seems, even to me, disjointed and akin to conspiracy-spotting, but reviewing the evidence does not seem to lead anywhere else. This seems to be an asset-stripping exercise aided and abetted (as it were) by a politician. Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders.

I hear that there is a campaign beginning - I don't know whether it's really happening but I hope it is - people are buying shares in HBoS and intend to keep HBoS free from Lloyds TSB and to move HQ operations back to Scotland. I fully endorse that, I'm out to buy a few shares myself, and I'll go further.

When we've saved HBoS from this merger, when we have a banker back in charge, when the situation is stabilised, when HBoS is operating properly, let's buy Lloyds TSB. Surely if the deal was acceptable the other way round it will be acceptable this way round? If HBoS needs the deal from the Government then it can buy out the preference shares by disposing of overseas assets - not at the knock-down prices that are currently being considered, but at proper market rates -and then HBoS can get back to being a bank.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Glad tidings

I bring glad tidings - there's a new blogger in town.

Ladies and gentlemen (and those among you who answer to neither in the course of a breathing day), I bring you The Secretary of State for Scotland (ask not what state he's in but rather ask what state he's secretary for).

Couple of points, though; in his first proper post he's putting party politics on a government website. Naughty, naughty Jimmy lad. Secondly, he says:
My first phone call of the day was with the Chancellor, Alistair Darling – I took the call sitting in the Scotland Office in Edinburgh, coincidentally in his constituency
We can let him off, can't we? The Scotland Office is in Melville Crescent - in Edinburgh North and Leith not Edinburgh South West.
Still, though, let's get down to the meat of Murphy. I encourage all and, indeed, sundry to peruse the article by Marc Coleman in today's Scotsman (title is Ireland is still a success story – and Scotland could be, too). Marc Coleman was an economist at the European Central Bank before he went home to be economics editor on a Dublin radio station.

Mr Coleman takes the Scotch Sec to task for his lack of grace, excoriating Murphy's clunking party politics as staggering incompetence, megaphone diplomacy for the most selfish political reasons, and economically illiterate.

He points out that Salmond has actually visited Ireland to learn from Ireland's handling of their economy while Murphy made his critical comments about Ireland comments without bothering to study what's going on there "or in his own country."

Murphy had sought to paint small countries like Ireland and Iceland as being vulnerable to global economic storms (he ignored Norway - I wonder why) while painting more populous blocs like the UK as being safe havens in troubled times.

As Mr Coleman points out, however, Ireland, unlike the UK has guaranteed 100% of the deposits in its banks - along with the deposits in the UK Post Office Savings Bank (owned by the Bank of Ireland, no less) and those in the Irish subsidiaries of five other UK banks.
I'll rattle off a few other points Marc Coleman made:

  • Ireland's debt to GDP ratio is only 25% - the second best in the European union
  • Recapitalising Ireland's banks would make it about the fourth best
  • Euro membership protects Ireland from exchange rate pressures, and limits government debt risk
  • Tax regime and EU membership brings foreign investment
  • Booming indigenous services sector.
Then he says (I think I've typed this correctly, it's about Iceland rather than Ireland):
But even if Iceland faces problems, which independent nation doesn't from time to time? Isn't it better for a nation to make and correct its own mistakes, rather than remain in a state of permanent policy dependency on others?
I find myself agreeing.

Mr Coleman then points to Scotland's contribution to the world and avers that to argue that we can't be independent is 'laughable' before he points to the problems caused by Westminster's "arc of indifference" and scorns "politicians like Mr Murphy, who depend for their career advancement on the supplication and marginalisation of Scotland and Wales to Westminster."

He signs off by saying that the reason that Ireland is and will remain one of Europe and the world's richest nations is that the Irish don't allow Westminster to appoint people like Jim Murphy to run their affairs. Indeed.

I think I'll buy Mr Coleman's book The Best is Yet to Come - it will, I am sure, be an interesting read.

What Jim Murphy must learn, and fast, is that he is a member of the UK Government and he does not have the freedom to insult other nations whether that is for, as in this case, petty party politics or for any other reason.

While Mr Coleman's stinging rebuke is a most adequate response to Mr Murphy's petulance, relations with Ireland should not be damaged so thoughtlessly in future.
For comparison, the UK's debt to GDP ratio was 43.8% at the end of 2007 - and the 'rescue package' for the banks has just added £37 billion to the debt in addition to the £100 bn from Northern Rock - and Lloyds TSB used to think that this was a bad thing.

That's not all - UK housing debt was sitting at 109% of GDP in July - the highest in the G7 and the highest of the big 5 western European countries - the economy was built on assets that didn't really exist.

Gordon Brown is quoted today as saying that the crisis shows that we're better off in the UK - utter codswallop.

Lib Dems lost in London

In HM Treasury this morning were three Lib Dem MPs who represent Scottish seats - Alan Reid (Argyll & Bute until the next election), Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, not the American film-maker, he's not that exciting), and Lord Lucan impersonator John Thurso (not Lord Thurso, oh no, that would never do).

Some have speculated that the Lib Dems are to be pulled into a 'National Government' in this time of crisis (in order to do in the Conservatives, of course, not for any proper reason), but why would there be no senior Lib Dems, just the nursery class?

There's also the speculation that they're being brought in to grind out a deal to operate together in Scotland. Possible, but who'd be daft enough to get saddled with the Labour party at this point? Well, OK, there's perhaps a possibility that the Lib Dems are daft enough - the scent of power in their nostrils drives them crazy - like wild horses eating each other as Shakey might say. If this be so, however, why is the deal not being done between the Grey Man and Tavish 'cut my taxes big boy' Scott? Surely there's enough respect between them for them to do the deal - unless they're not seen as being senior enough (you know, Westminster boys with Crombie jackets, Doc Martens and Bowler hats).

What about the theory that Tav's tax is getting cut? Well, what's the chances of Alastair Darling or Gordon Brown deciding just to cut tax in Scotland?

Someone said that Michael Moore has just bought a chicken farm, but I don't see what that's got to do with anything. I think they just got lost on the way to the tearoom for morning crumpet.
More tea, anyone?

Treading carefully

Right, I have a theory that at least part of the calling up of the dead which was generally referred to as Brown's reshuffle was, in fact, an attempt to paint the internal Labour narrative as being bigger than the 'what on earth is Gordon Brown doing (or not doing)' narrative.

This may be a terrible slur and a shameful way to talk about a poor man whose disability is increasingly debilitating, but this story that appeared in the Telegraph fits that narrative arc. It outlines how Gordon Brown's 'aides', friends and insiders have grave concerns about his deteriorating sight and about Brown's heroics in getting on with it and not letting it get him down.

First, let's be clear; this story wasn't placed by his enemies, it's sympathetic for one; the channel was chosen (traditional Conservative paper, big chunk of A and B on the socioeconomic scale); and no mention is made of anyone thinking that this makes Brown less able to be Prime Minister.
There you go - bring Mandelson back, encouraging speculation and chatter, have Ed Balls appear to complain, setting up oodles of opportunities for 'the kids are arguing again' stories, fling in a wee bit of 'Gordon isn't 100%' in order to get the salivation going, speculation over whether Brown will have to step aside will abound. Suddenly no journalist, no commentator is talking about the Conservatives.

At least, that's the theory. He'll need some election results to go his way first - starting with Glenrothes, so that's that knackered then.

Monday 13 October 2008

No, Mr Blank, I expect you to talk

It was revealed recently that Lloyds TSB was a predator of HBoS as long as two years ago - including the Chairman of Lloyds TSB apprently indulging in the speculation which he freely acknowledges brought down HBoS:
"I was with a business delegation that went to Israel and Palestine with the prime minister. On the plane back we were talking about the economy, the banking sector and so on, and I put to him that if there was a need for consolidation or a major rescue ... that we couldn't have a bank like Northern Rock that was sitting becalmed for nine months while the competition investigation went on,"

"The next one people were talking about was HBOS,"

Does he think short-sellers are to blame for the demise of HBOS? "I don't know
if it was a victim of short-selling but it does seem to have been the victim of
the most extraordinary market speculation, which didn't help them."

Quite. Gordon Brown's ponderous hand also weighed heavily upon the Scottish bank:
Blank attended a dinner where Brown was also a guest. The PM brought up the subject. "He said, 'if you think you want to advance on this, we will deal with the competition issues'," Blank recalls.

We now know that Lloyds TSB was not in any better position than HBoS, so the questions about who was behind the rumours that forced down HBoS shares and why become very pointed.

We need to be hearing from Mr Blank just exactly how much he used his position to murmur the bank which was his opposition and which, he freely admits, he would like to take over if only those pesky regulators weren't in the way. It would be interesting to know, as well, whether dealers working to or for Lloyds TSB were involved in the short-selling (or, indeed, whether any HBoS dealers were involved).

Before any merger gets the "I'm not looking" treatment from the regulators, we have to have a look at the real machinations behind the farce.

We currently have the quite extraordinary position where the Government has offered a deal to the two banks - but only if the merger goes through. Is this because the investors had looked at the 'merger' and thought it to be less than a good deal? Is this the UK Government blackmailing institutional shareholders into giving HBoS over to Lloyds TSB after those shareholders have said 'that will be chocolate, mate'?

Part of the deal includes the removal of senior management - except Victor Blank, why would that be?

Another part of the deal is that the banks must return to the dodgy lending practices that got them into this trouble in the first place. Who's the genius who thought that that was a good idea?

Rather than us having to wait 30 years to get the records out of the vaults and then condemn a Government that will seem to have been photographed in sepia (or use Freedom of Information legislation just to bang our collective heads against the wall of the poor UK legislation), let's get all the details out in the open now, before this dodgy deal goes through, and let's make sure that the deal is properly scrutinised by the regulators.

Most important of all, let's have a guarantee from the Chancellor that HBoS will receive the same considerations as other banks if the deal is not approved by its shareholders - if Government is to involve itself in business deals then it must do so with an equitable hand.

Surely not?

A person, who wishes to remain anonymous, has emailed me to explain why Helen Eadie passed up the chance to become Labour's leader in the Scottish Parliament.

You too can share in the disbelief

Friday 10 October 2008

Bambi come home

There have been some bizarre theories about why Gordon Brown waved the wand to bring Bambi back from the dead. I'm waiting for the comparison between the film and Mandelson's career.

I give you the Daily Politics show suggesting that it is Gordon Brown self-harming.

When you have scratched your poor wee head and wondered who's the one with psychological flaws, you might want to turn to Andrew Rawnsley and his theory of former intense intimacy.

Here's my completely uninformed guesswork (as good as anyone else's in my opinion):

The Blair/Brown partnership worked stunningly well because the public narrative had sod all to do with politics. The soap opera they presented to us was of an intense rivalry at the top of Government. Instead of examining what the executive was up to and keeping an eye on all the dodgy activity, the media, and therefore the rest of us, were largely watching (delete as applicable) Yes Minister / The West Wing / The New Statesman / The Thick of It.

The public narrative was about tensions within the Government and when Brown would finally force Blair out and who was on what side, whose Ministers were being promoted, whose apparatchiks were on the wane, a 'battle of the Titans' fought without Titans. Charlie Whelan and Alasdair Campbell made more news than the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Nobody else could get a chink of the light that was reflecting from the gladiatorial breastplates.

Then Tony left and the odd couple was incomplete. Without that internal battle, the public narrative became about politics and people were becoming readily aware of the incredible shambles that these two eejits had brought upon us. Brown suffered the consequences although Blair was as much to blame.

After attempting politics for a while, el Gordo realises that he isn't very good at it and requires his own blinding narrative. He needs someone who is believable in the Dick Dastardly role and that brings him to (insert manic laughter) Peter Mandelson.

Can't have Bambi appearing to covet the top job, though, it's not credible for a number of reasons including the fact that his party wouldn't have him, he'd be in the Lords (easiest way to bring him back - he'd lose in Glenrothes), he doesn't have the networks anymore, etc., so the internal tension is required from another angle.

Step forward Ed Balls to deny the carefully leaked story that he opposed Mandelson's return to the big hoose.

I'll bet I'm right.

Allow me to recommend

Browsing a few blogs as is my wont of an evening, I came upon a wee gem on Rare Exports.

Well worth listening to the link that linked through the link I've put up there. Work that one out then...

Snake oil, snake oil, get yer lovely snake oil

Shéyòu, perhaps, but I accuse the Liberal Democrats of sharp practice.

I wrote yesterday of their shameful distortions of reality and I take up a similar theme today.

Lib Dem concealment
Firstly, I learned from a colleague that the Lib Dems' websites do not accept searches by the internet archive (the way back machine) - one wonders what they seek to hide that they've said in the past?
Harry Wills - electoral liability
Secondly, I then had another look at the biography of the Lib Dem candidate in Glenrothes and wondered why it was that the details of his political life were so sketchy. I wondered, for example, why his 2007 council candidacy wasn't listed, then I thought that it's probably because he came 6th. Five people beat him, he couldn't even get into the reckoning in a four-member ward.

Here's the numbers (first preference votes, quota was 1,369):
Fiona Grant SNP 1807
John Beare SNP 1613
William Kay Lab 1354
Kay Morrison Lab 787
David Mole Con 504
Harry Wills LD 411
Alex Lawson Ind 164
Morag Balfour SSP 114
Paul Smith UKIP 90
The first four were elected and the Conservative stayed ahead of Mr Wills all the way. In his early days he was a Robert Maxwell hatchet-man, but Harry Wills has never matched Helen Liddell's success in anything.

Tavish goes a-wandering
Thirdly, I read today that Tavish Scott is alleging that improving the A9 is a political stitch-up. People die on the A9, Tavish.

The Lib Dem leader's fatuous comments in calling for a quango to be set up to take the political decisions on transport are a little tart when you consider the decisions that Tav himself or his Lib Dem colleagues made when in power: The Waverley Line battered through in haste to seek political advantage in the border seats where the Lib Dems were struggling, for example. Now having to be rethought and recapitalised in harder times.

If that wasn't enough, how about wasting half a billion pounds (£500,000,000) on trams in Edinburgh? The tram project is opposed by a majority of supporters of all parties - including the Greens (we asked) - and is not wanted in Edinburgh, but this vanity project was forced through on Tavish's watch as Transport Minister. It's forcing SMEs out of business, it's causing chaos and mayhem, migraines and stress, and the council doesn't have the money to make its ridiculously expensive contribution to this white elephant.

Councillor Wheeler
Fourthly, and lastly for now, Councillor Phil Wheeler. Since he lifted his snout and endorsed a survey done by Nurofen which allowed it to get a bit of product placement on the BBC's news website, I had a wee look at his Register of Interests.

Look here:
19/06/07 Lunch, £35, Lothian Buses plc - 13 June 2007
11/11/07 Dinner and Hotel Accommodation, £160, tie Ltd - 29 October 2007
21/01/08 Travel and Lunch, £150, Lothian Buses plc, 7 November 2007
05/02/08 Tickets for Match and Hospitality, £200, tie Ltd, 3 February 2008
20/02/08 Lunch, £30, Transport Edinburgh Ltd, 13 February 2008
18/03/08 Dinner for two, £60, Lothian Buses plc, 15 March 2008
10/04/08 Dinner, £30, tie Ltd, 8 April 2008
11/06/08 Lunch and Book, £40, Lothian Buses plc, 10 June 2008
28/08/08 Dinner, £45, Lothian Buses plc, 27 August 2008
Each of these is paid for out of public funds - Lothian Buses is publicly owned and tie and Transport Edinburgh are the bodies set up using public money which will end the profitability of Lothian Buses. £750 of public money to entertain one councillor?

Why does an Edinburgh councillor need to be treated to meals by public bodies at such regular intervals?

Why would an Edinburgh councillor need hotel accommodation from the Edinburgh tram project?

Why does an Edinburgh councillor get match tickets and hospitality from the Edinburgh tram project?
Here's something else:
02/06/08 Dinner, £30, ASH GUPTA, 29 May 2008
Ash Gupta is a successful businessman in Edinburgh, a PR guru, marketing guerrilla, lobbyist, call him what you will. His political acumen may not be very good, but one wonders why this Edinburgh councillor needs to take lunch from a lobbyist?

Surely Edinburgh's transport supremo never had lunch with this lobbyist to discuss some of his clients' products? Like Dialight who make traffic lights for example?

And one more for the road (as it were):
20/05/08 Travel and Subsistance costs, £400, Optimum Conference Organisers, 15/17 April 2008
Ever heard of Optimum Conference Organisers? Neither have I, and the only reference I can find on the web is in Mr Wheeler's Register of Interests. He could mean the Optima Media group which organises conferences, but he wouldn't take anything from that group, would he?

In conclusion
It's time for some truth, honesty and openness from the Lib Dems. It's time they fessed up.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Oh what a tangled web we weave ...

Connoisseurs of Lib Dem mistruths, dodgy graphs and dubious analysis will be delighted with the Lib Dem performance in Glenrothes.

On their Fighting against Fife website you'll find this dodgy graph:

You'll note that it's from a different constituency and from two years ago (when the Liberal Democrats were still in coalition with the Labour Party in the Scottish Executive). Here's the Glenrothes result from 2005 shamelessly nicked from the excellent Scottish Politics site:

Caveats, of course, include the fact that this was now more than three years ago and that there was an election in the meantime, a new Government in Scotland, and a new sense of Scotland being able to acheive. In fact, here's the result from last year for the Central Fife Holyrood seat which makes up a fair chunk of the Glenrothes Westminster seat (again shamelessly pilfered):

Then there's Harry Wills, candidate extraordinaire. Why, do you think, has his party changed the news release about his selection on its campaign website and deleted his biography from that release? Why does the Lib Dem Scottish website version of his biography not mention his 'business career'? If you want to see the biography released earlier, you can have a wee keek on the Scottish release - the Lib Dem national release differed from the local release but the same biography was on both, now both sites have the same release but there's a biography missing. The way-back machine will upload the archive about six months after it was first published and I'll lay all of the webpages out then.

Then, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, up pops Andrew Reeves with a straightforward lie. Who's Andrew Reeves? Well, you wouldn't be able to tell from his blog, but he's the Deputy Director of Campaigns for the Lib Dems in their Edinburgh outpost.

Let's take a look at Mr Reeves' allegation:

Last night in the Members lobby the Scottish parliamentary leaders for the SNP and the Conservatives - Angus Robertson MP and David Mundell MP respectively - were overheard discussing how they are going to work together to ensure a Labour defeat in the forthcoming Glenrothes by-election!

His hearing must be heck of a good - imagine overhearing a discussion in Westminster from an office in Edinburgh!

Firstly, David Mundell is not his party's Scottish Parliamentary leader - he is the Shadow Scottish Secretary, and I would have thought that a senior member of staff in a unionist (or even, perhaps particularly, federalist) party would know the difference.

Secondly, how exactly could the Conservative party help anyone to win Glenrothes? I refer you to the results laid out above.

Thirdly, how would a discussion with David Mundell deliver any action or inaction on the part of the Scottish Conservatives? I'm no expert on the internal workings of the Conservatives in Scotland, but I imagine that David Mundell, for all his qualities, is not in a position to play dictator to his party.

Fourthly, I had a chat with Tavish Scott a wee while ago - does that mean that the Lib Dems will be pulling out all the stops to make sure that an SNP MP is elected for Glenrothes?

Glenrothes is toe-to-toe between the SNP and Labour, Peter Grant or Lindsay Roy. It's not an easy one to win for either candidate or either party, but you can rest assured that the Lib Dems won't figure in the contest. In fact, I'll lay you a wee bet - the Lib Dems will lose another deposit in Glenrothes to go with the one lost in Glasgow East.

With voters now having a choice to make in elections, their votes will increasingly disregard the Lib Dems. It's sad, really, that a once-great party saw itself dismembered in order to join with an ineffectual rump which had been horsed out of the Labour party.

The grand traditions of the Liberal Party are lost now - although the remains of the party itself still continues - and the "me too" mockery of the Liberal Democrats is no substitute.