Saturday 30 January 2010

Labour's literacy drive

Frank McAveety MSP - he's cool, he's hip, he's laid back, so laid back he's almost horizontal, he's a man who likes potatoes with his pie, just not much bothers him, he's the Top Cat of Scottish politics - which might be why Labour got his constituency wrong on its website - in spite of having the correct spelling just below it in his office address.....

He's the boss, he's a pip, he's the championship.
He's the most tip top,
Top Cat.

Mind how you meow!

Wednesday 27 January 2010

The return of the Blair...

The Sequel to the Return of the Son of the Headless Horseman Rides Again Revisited, Part II - here's Tony! With the comeback kid, Lord Mandelson, announcing the resurrection of Blair for Labour's campaigning purposes, I'd be willing to bet a poke of salt that Cameron will mention it at PMQs today. It is, surely, a humiliation for Gordon Brown that he appears so unable to even run a credible campaign that, not only is his predecessor taking to the stump to help (ahem), but it gets announced as if he is the messiah returning.

Poor Broon, all he ever wanted was to be important and now it looks as if Banquo will be the guest of honour and the main speaker at the dinner. Oh woe is he!

Mind how you go!

Monday 25 January 2010

Minimum Pricing

Now that a major brewer has joined the campaign to bring Scottish alcohol consumption under control, let's dispose of the 'illegal under EU law' argument. The argument goes like this -

1. The European Court has ruled that minimum pricing for tobacco contravenes Article 9(1) of Council Directive 95/59/EC of 27 November 1995 on taxes other than turnover taxes which affect the consumption of manufactured tobacco so minimum pricing on alcohol is illegal.

2. Er, that's it.

Here's the problem with that argument - the case to which they refer (it's actually three cases but the Advocate General issued one Opinion to cover them all, delivered on the 22nd of October 2009) rests on the fact that tobacco producers and importers are permitted to set maximum prices for their products (it's about payable duty, they fix a maximum price and pay the duty on the maximum price in order to make sure they can't pay duty on a price lower than they sell it for - then there's another duty added on 'per unit' - the second one is the one you hear about in the budget) and that case law has indicated that this means that minimum prices for tobacco are illegal.

It's a wee bit tortuous but not too bad - minimum pricing on tobacco is not expressly forbidden but the opinion of the Court has been that imposing a minimum price limits inhibits the rights of the manufacturers to decide their own maximum prices (they couldn't decide on a maximum price lower than the minimum price), so the imposition of minimum pricing was illegal. The legal argument upon which the member states were contesting the action was contained in the reservation that the right to set maximum prices "may not, however, hinder implementation of national systems of legislation regarding the control of price levels or the observance of imposed prices, provided that they are compatible with Community legislation" and you should expect that to come back to the Court in due course.

What's important, however, is that the Opinion is based solely on the right of the tobacco companies to set a maximum price and that right being infringed by the imposition of a minimum price - alcohol producers do not have the right to impose maximum prices.

Tobacco taxation (including the right of manufacturers to set maximum prices) is governed by Council Directive 95/59/EC while the alcohol taxation regulations are contained in Council Directive 92/84/EEC.

Meanwhile, the EU's strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm includes using taxation as a means of introducing minimum pricing (an option not open to the Scottish Government because of the restrictions of the current devolution settlement; but indicates that the EU is in favour of using pricing policy as a means to manage alcohol consumption); altering the ages at which alcohol can be sold (remember that one?); and lowering the allowable blood alcohol limit for drivers, including a zero rate for young drivers, public transport drivers and freight drivers.

There's lots and lots of information available through the European Alcohol and Health Forum for anyone who wants some light reading with their sherry.

Mind how you drink!

Sunday 24 January 2010

Mercury rising

A new newspaper has been launched - except for the paper bit. The Caledonian Mercury is born. Don't confuse it with the Caledonian Mercury, though.

Saturday 23 January 2010

East Lothian Labour

This just in - more shenanigans about East Lothian Labour expected in tomorrow's papers.

I feel like ticker-tape!

Friday 22 January 2010

A Sunday Posting

Scotland's finest newspaper, the Sunday Post, has a new editor. Donald Martin, formerly of the Herald, is now high heid bummer of Scotland's paper of record.

Well done that chap!

Thursday 21 January 2010

Labour - slow on the uptake

No, not Iain Gray's abysmal performance at FMQs today, but the news that Labour might have an iPhone app ready for launch in February - if they can work it out, and the Conservatives will launch theirs sometime, while the Lib Dems are just, well, the Lib Dems.

The SNP, being way ahead, of course, launched ours last year.

Mind how you phone!

Saturday 16 January 2010

Scottish internet domain again

Is the internet Gaia, I hear you ask, I've been emailed the means to register support for a Scottish internet domain if you don't do facebook:
supporters can email
Or they can follow the newly established Twitter account @dot_scot

Mind how you net!

Friday 15 January 2010

Scottish internet domain

I see the campaign for a .scot internet domain has reached 1,500 supporters on facebook. Well done those chaps, keep it up, and more power to your elbow (or perhaps fingers, given the purpose of the campaign). You can add your support if you're a facebooker, I've no idea how you show your support if you're not.

The trials and tribulations of a rising Labour star

In the Scottish Parliament's allowances scheme it is forbidden to use the Parliament's money for party political campaigning - and quite rightly so. This means that you can't, for example, send out a mailshot at Parliament expense in the hope of gaining a party political advantage, but some unscrupulous MSPs do exactly that in the hope of gaining that political advantage without getting caught. You would think they'd be careful about it, wouldn't you? Seek to avoid getting caught.

Step forward Claire Baker MSP, rising star of the Labour party, a woman whose light eschews the comfort of the bushel and seeks its freedom to soar across the land. Mrs Baker's busy fingers typed a mailshot, printed thousands of them and placed them neatly into thousands of envelopes, addressed them to thousands of residents of Central Fife - including the constituency MSP, Tricia Marwick of the SNP who sits on the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body - the body that runs Parliament and adjudicates on such matters....

You would have thought that a little bit of forward thinking would be called for, wouldn't you?

Eadie donates brain

Helen Eadie has donated her brain to medical science - I always knew this woman had leadership potential, and we'll have no unthinking jibes from the gallery, thank you. What my very favourite Fife Labour MSP has done is make sure that she continues to be of use when she is pining for the fjords, when she is bleedin' demised, passed on, is no more, has ceased to be, has expired and gone to meet 'er maker, is a stiff, bereft of life, rests in peace, pushing up the daisies, when her metabolic processes are history, when she's off the twig, kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible (apologies to Mr Palin and Mr Cleese). Helen Eadie has signed up to the Parkinson's Brain Bank to help research into the disease after she has passed on. Plaudits, plaudits. She led the way and has been joined by the serried ranks of her followers. Wherever she leads, many follow! It's an excellent cause and they should be congratulated for their thoughtfulness. I, of course, intend to live forever

Thursday 7 January 2010

Clearing the Path

I was out clearing the communal path and a bit of pavement earlier when it struck me that Councillor Norrie Work may not have been at his most eloquent when he was asking Edinburgh residents to take a bit of responsibility for clearing paths; but he was right. When did our society forget its collectivism? As a boy (no, it's not a Monty Python sketch) my brothers and I would clear our path and the pavement in front of the house - and then we'd do the same for the elderly people in the street. When I worked in shops we'd clear the pavement outside the premises and other shopkeepers would do the same. When did people start expecting someone else to do it for them? Norrie might have to do a bit of work on the presentation of his thoughts but he has the right idea - we should all be taking responsibility for the society around us. There's actually a poll being run by the Evening News about whether Councillor Work was right, and one of the options is "Only if we see him doing it first" and, knowing that Norrie lives up to his surname, I expect that he'll be out there helping anyway but we should give him that extra encouragement...

There was some other path-clearing going on today as well, though, and as I was spreading table salt and cat litter on the path (you can't find rock salt or grit for your paths anywhere in Edinburgh just now) it came to me that this was what Hewitt and Hoon were up to earlier today. Bear with me -

1. No-one now believes that Labour is on course to win the election.
2. Hewitt is stepping down at the election and Hoon is likely to - neither has a seat to protect.
3. The rest of those supporting the daft idea - MacTaggart, Sheerman, Field and Clarke - are malcontents.
4. The two dafties have admitted that they hadn't spoken to any senior members of the Labour Party - this was no coup.
5. There is no mechanism within the PLP for such a ballot.
6. No-one could possibly have thought that this would succeed - but it has forced Cabinet members to back Brown with various degrees of alacrity and various levels of enthusiasm.

So here's my considered analysis - Hewitt and Hoon know the ba's on the slates, Gordon Brown will resign as Labour leader and there will be a contest to select a new leader but by that time neither of them will have much influence so they wouldn't have much of a say - and they wouldn't be able to stop Ed Balls taking over, so they've got to clear the path now - not for someone but of someone.

No? Ach well, here's a cheap laugh - Patricia Hewitt's website has a warning on its front page about a scam with an email purporting to be from her which begins:

An e-mail scam is currently doing the rounds, claiming to be from Patricia Hewitt and asking for your assistance in a "charitable" or profitable project."
Not only that - Australia has introduced anti-hoon laws.

Mind how you go!

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Hoon do you think you are kidding Patty Hewitt?

My favourite bit is
The continued speculation and uncertainty is allowing our opponents to portray us as dispirited and disunited. It is damaging our ability to set out our strong case to the electorate. It is giving our political opponents an easy target.

An astonishing example of a lack of self-awareness. I almost feel sorry for Gordon Brown (almost) - the starting gun for the election gets fired and two disgruntled dafties very publicly point to all the discontent at the heart of the Labour Party. Parties which show themselves to be divided suffer electorally, and with Labour already struggling badly and with no coherent message to sell, bankrupt and punch-drunk staggering into the election, Hoon and Hewitt appear to be trying to guarantee that it's the worst defeat possible for Labour.

Here's the whole of the message they sent to their Labour colleagues:

Dear Colleague,

As we move towards a General Election it remains the case that the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply divided over the question of the leadership. Many colleagues have expressed their frustration at the way in which this question is affecting our political performance. We have therefore come to the conclusion that the only way to resolve this issue would be to allow every member to express their view in a secret ballot.

This could be done quickly and with minimum disruption to the work of MPs and the Government. Whatever the outcome the whole of the party could then go forward, knowing that this matter had been sorted out once and for all.

Strong supporters of the Prime Minister should have no difficulty in backing this approach. There is a risk otherwise that the persistent background briefing and grumbling could continue up to and possibly through the election campaign, affecting our ability to concentrate all of our energies on getting our real message across.Equally those who want change, should they lose such a vote, would be expected by the majority of the PLP to devote all of their efforts to winning the election. The implications of such a vote would be clear – everyone would be bound to support the result.

This is a clear opportunity to finally lay this matter to rest. The continued speculation and uncertainty is allowing our opponents to portray us as dispirited and disunited. It is damaging our ability to set out our strong case to the electorate. It is giving our political opponents an easy target.

In what will inevitably be a difficult and demanding election campaign, we must have a determined and united parliamentary party. It is our job to lead the fight against our political opponents. We can only do that if we resolve these distractions. We hope that you will support this proposal.

Yours fraternally,
Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt

It's not that I regret the damage these half-wits are causing the Labour party, it's just that I'm amazed that they were in positions of influence for so long. There are two possible explanations - the first is that there just isn't enough talent in Labour's ranks to provide decent Ministerial material, the second is that Labour's contempt for us is so ingrained that it's not considered important. Either way it's shameful.

Mind how you go!


Thanks to the comment from Strathturret to my last post, I have realised that I didn't explain who the RSA was. This is the link to that video on the RSA website:
and this is how the RSA describes itself:
For over 250 years the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts,
Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has been a cradle of enlightenment thinking and
a force for social progress. Our approach is multi-disciplinary,
politically independent and combines cutting edge research and policy
development with practical action.

Hope that helps.

Worth watching

Here's a video from the RSA that's well worth seeing:

Tuesday 5 January 2010

And they're off ....

What a terribly interesting start to the run-in to the General Election; many wee points have poked their wee heads up for a spot of attention, and here's a wee selection of the wee points with their wee heads:

1. More people in Scotland think that the SNP will win the UK General Election than think that the Lib Dems will, according to the Conservatives' poll of their target seats (question 2, page 3).

2. The Labour Party is bankrupt. Financially as well.

3. Brown and Cameron invited Nick Clegg to make himself irrelevant in the election and he obliged.

4. Cameron nipped in and nicked the initiative on health proposals (for England), leaving Labour without its favourite flag to wave.

5. Darling's attack on Cameron fell flat because the UK Government is simply not credible any more and resulted in Civil Servants complaining that Labour was abusing the power of Government.

6. Cameron showed an uncertainty in the first forays, something he'll have to recover from.

7. There's an enormous fiscal deficit which has restricted Labour's opportunities for manoeuvre, forcing them to fight out in the open for a change.

8. Gordon Brown's official spokesman has gone off-piste in media briefings.

9. Peter Mandelson has put the boot into the 'toffs' strategy that Brown has been pursuing, saying that Labour can't win if it continues as it has been doing. He later clarified that he was merely stating the obvious when he said that Labour couldn't win with a 'heartlands strategy', but his words in the original interview were quite clear - "We have to reach out to" rather than "We are reaching out to".

10. Now there are rumours (yet again) of a Labour leadership contest. A departing back-bencher has already voiced the dread thought (well, typed it, anyway), and some media outlets are beginning to write 'the long goodbye' stories already, scribing the downfall and speculate on future leadership contenders.

11. A wee analysis of opinion movement in the run-up to elections shows that the Conservatives pick up ground on Labour in the last months (the author of the analysis over at Political betting is a chap called Andy Cooke).

12. It turns out that the SNP spent £126,000 on the European election in June while Labour spent £228,000 but we still beat them by 321,007 votes to 229,853 votes. If we can beat Labour while they are still outspending us then politics has truly changed in Scotland and none of the old verities can be relied upon any more.

So there you have it - Labour in utter disarray, Lib Dems ruling themselves out of contention, Conservatives having a few wee stabiliser problems, and the SNP sailing serenely on. This is going to be a very interesting election!