31 March 2011

A good Labour council?

Labour leader Ed Miliband launched his party’s local election campaign today saying he was ‘proud’ of the way Labour councils' had reacted to the cuts and promoting ‘good’ Labour councillors who were making difficult decisions.

This can only be described as an unusual take on the reality, but sadly very much in line with their view that spending cuts are actually avoidable.

So how does this view shape up to the reality? In Labour’s flagship Southwark – snatched by a whisker on general election day from the Lib Dems – they recently passed their budget, cutting (among others) - five play centres, 12 lollipop ladies, old peoples’ lunch clubs, the mobile and housebound library services and old peoples day centres. All valued front line services to the vulnerable. And yet they managed to add £5 million to its healthy (Lib Dem inherited) £86 million reserves.

I can’t think of a clearer example of politically motivated cuts designed to scare the elderly and vulnerable while squirreling away vast sums for pre election bribes.

But what about those ‘good’ Labour councillors that Mili minor is so proud of?

Well there was Labour councillor Evrim Laws – thrown off the council on the day before polling day in 2010 for failing to attend any meetings in a sixth month period. But this didn’t prevent her claiming more than £10,000 in allowances and expenses.

Then there’s Keadean Rhoden who was elected in May 2010, charged with benefit fraud (not for the first time) in June 2010, convicted in October 2010, and who finally resigned from the council in March 2011. Cost to the taxpayer of allowances = £7,500.

But it doesn’t end there – it moves on to the sinister.

Blogging Labour Cllr Stephen Govier forgot to tell his Labour colleagues while being approved as a candidate about his three year jail term in the US for shooting someone in the head in an apparently drug related shooting. Cllr Govier remains a councillor in Camberwell and Peckham – one of the UK’s drug and gun crime hotspots – claiming his annual allowance of £10,500.

And last but certainly not least there is now ex-Cllr John Friary who resigned from the council (and its cabinet) in January 2011 after being arrested on child sex grooming charges. As a full time executive councillor he was paid more than £40,000 on top of his £10,500 allowance.

So there you have it – a tale of deceit, fraud, gun crime and child sex. Is this what Ed Miliband means by ‘good’ Labour councils?

29 March 2011

Clegg: Liberal vigilantism is dead

Nick Clegg has spoken about the Libya crisis. In Mexico (where he is leading a trade mission) he pointedly said "Liberal vigilantism is dead. Law-abiding liberal interventionism is not."

Now who could he have been talking about with this implication that previous interventions may have been illegal?

Scots football fans in non-racism shock

The fan who threw an inflatable banana at Brazilian starlet Neymar on Sunday's friendly between Brazil and Scotland has been revealed to be firstly, not Scottish, secondly supporting Brazil and thirdly not a racist.

In crying wolf Neymar rather gave the game away by saying:

"They were jeering me a lot, even when I was about to kick the penalty the entire stadium was jeering."

I am not sure a football crowd has ever watched a penalty taken in silence - maybe Brazilian fans are more restrained?

28 March 2011

Carman withdraws from London Mayor race

Dominic Carman has withdrawn from the race to be London mayor.

Commenting on this blog he says:

"Given other commitments, I have reached the conclusion that I cannot financially afford to run an effective campaign as the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor. Regrettably, I will therefore not be putting my name forward when the selection procedure formally restarts in May. Having spoken to Mike Tuffrey and others yesterday, I am convinced that he will make an excellent candidate and I will be giving him my support in whatever way I can, should he decide to run, which I sincerely hope he does.

Thank you for your support


27 March 2011

Ed Miliband - the alternative Conservative?

The idea that the consequences of a mild tightening in fiscal policy can be compared to liberation struggles would be laughable if it wasn't so insulting to people who actually suffered with their lives and liberty.

But that's indeed the message Mili minor wanted to convey to the thronged masses of the downtrodden and oppressed um above average earners with publicly subsidised final salary pensions at the whinge fest in central London today.

But the real question is that given the marchers clearly contain huge numbers of well educated people in good jobs why they didn't see through the vacuousness of the 'Alternative' they were marching for.

If you check out their website they say: 'We do not set out a detailed policy mix' and 'It even makes sense to borrow more in the short-term if that encourages enough economic growth' as part of their section on discovering the alternatives.

So no alternative from the 'March for the alternative' other than a hope for more of the same.

So there you have it - the new conservatives: Mili minor's Labour.

25 March 2011

Friday favourite

Edinburgh's finest (and most underrated) punk band shows how its done. Don't worry about the picture but turn up the volume.

I once bumped into Faye Fife in a sandwich shop in Tollcross...

24 March 2011

Clegg's microphone slip tease...

Channel 4 news reports Nick Clegg has been caught out saying slightly indiscrete things while miked up.

In as much as we know Clegg and Cameron get on on a personal level anyway it doesn't reveal a lot. But it is however this very closeness (and its reporting) that is damaging and one of the reasons the Labour attacks on the Lib Dems as Tory stooges have had such resonance.

If the Lib Dems are to repatriate that anti-Tory chunk of Lib Dem support that has currently sought a home in Labour - a few off camera indescretions from Clegg that attack the Tories would be welcome.

23 March 2011

More budget alarm clock nonsense from Clegg

Just received an e-mail from Nick Clegg about the budget. It highlights some of the good things about the budget - increases in personal allowances, green investment, clamping down on Tory backbenchers er non-doms etc.

But it continues with the utterly excreable use of 'alarm clock Britain'. This is a phrase of stunning uselessness. It is so poorly devised it comes across as insulting, aloof and out of touch – the sort of desperate clever-dicked attempt that the minders of Gordon Brown tried but which spectacularly backfired and made him see even more removed from reality than he actually was. It is so bad it doesn’t even get laughed at in the pub – it raises hackles.

Clegg is better than this. When given the platform he can talk directly and engagingly to people without spin and the sort of garbling of language that these frightfully clever policy wonks and PR gurus seem to think help. It doesn’t - it gets in the way and further damages Clegg's already shredded reputation.

There is a simple test in these matters. Would your average Focus editor grace it on their pages? If the answer is no then don’t do it. And I know of no Focus editor who is prepared to grace this nonsense in print.

Stop it now Nick.

Budget 'giving with one hand and taking with the other'

Ed Miliband's pre-prepared attack on the budget was very keen to stress that it was 'giving with one hand and taking away with the other'. He claimed 'It's the classic Tory con.'

Ed Balls has been touring the TV studios saying similar.

Yet isn't this simply a definition of a revenue neutral budget?

And given the budgets his party produced over the last 13 years were giving to the current generation with one hand and taking it from future generations with the other - a few revenue neutral budgets along the way would have been a good thing.

Exclusive - leaked preview of Labour's budget response

A document has come into my hands purporting to be Labour's response to this afternoon's budget.

And here is what it says Mili minor is planning to say:

"Too fast, too deep.

It's just like buying a house. You don't pay it back in five years.

Hard working families.

Borrow to create jobs.

Growth strategy. Jobs strategy.

Idealogically driven cuts. Worse than Thatcher.

Oh did I mention hard working families?"

I have to say although it's Miliband's job to respond the content has a reek of Balls about it.

More on Lib/Lab defections...

According to the Watford Observer Labour now have a lone councillor in Three Rivers.

20 March 2011

Into the valley...

...for your weekend delectation, probably the best punk song to come out of Scotland. Starring the even then outrageously fay Richard Jobson and the late great Stuart Adamson on guitar. Ahoy!

Eventually getting it right on Gaddafi

Despite my fears the west finally showed some backbone, managed to bring the arab league with them and stopped the authoritarian powers of China and Russia using their vetos.

But military intervention may be too late and the chaotic scenes of the rebels shooting down their own planes (apparently) is a sign of the confusion that exists on the ground. But it is a good sign and Cameron's stress on the legality of it is both significant and a reminder of the short cuts the previous regime were prepared to take when putting our armed forces in harm's way.

17 March 2011

BBC discover well off graduates pay more shock

The BBC has been desperately plugging today - from Breakfast forwards - a story that tries to imply that future graduates will pay back huge amounts due to the coalition government's new tuition fees and student support policy.

To quote their online article:

'The calculations assumed all the students borrowed a total of £39,000 - £9,000 in fees and £4,000 for maintenance over a three-year course - and go on to earn above the national average'

So they borrow the maximum, aren't eligible for any bursary or grants due to low incomes and go on to earn above average graduate earnings. And shock horror they could pay back double what they borrowed over a 30 year period!

What about the other side of the coin - those graduates who don't borrow the maximum, have a bursary and go on to earn less than the average? What are their lifetime payments? Does the BBC researcher understand the definition of 'average'? Because if they did they would understand it is entirely misleading to use such a partial illustration.

And given they based the entire story on just three examples it rather reminds me of one of those adverts by some pharmaceutical company that punts lavishly packaged whale gonads as a miracle anti ageing cure by saying that huge proportions of women use nothing else. And then the small print says 'survey based on 13 interviews' or similar.

The west dithers as Libya (and Bahrain) burns

News that murderous tyrant Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces are massing to take over the last remaining rebel held city of Benghazi comes as unwelcome but hardly surprising news, given the dithering of the west over the past few weeks.

It's clear that there is no will in the western powers to do anything that upsets the authoritarian juntas that run much of the Arab world or puts vital oil supplies at risk. Oil that is likely to be that much more necessary as nuclear power looks likely to be off western government's agendas as a result of the tragic events in Japan.

So sadly, we'll carry on seeing a procession of western leaders prostituting themselves around unsavoury dictators all in the name of diplomacy (and oil rights). But it will do no good and simply encourages the despots to think they are somehow acceptable in the eyes of the wider world - as Mr Blair's famous 'manbrace' of Gaddafi shows...

16 March 2011

David Owen, Margaret Thatcher, referenda and Vicky Pollard

In March 1979 the Scots voted narrowly 'Yes' in a referendum to set up a Scottish legislature - but not by enough to overcome the requirement that a total of 40% of the electorate should approve.

It was a time when the Conservative party were a significant force in Scotland - particularly in rural areas and the North East and their strident opposition was clearly important in delivering large 'no' votes in these areas.

But their opposition took the form of 'vote NO and we'll bring in something better'. In an eve of vote message to the Chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association, Margaret Thatcher wrote, "Many people of all parties, as well as Conservatives, believe that the right answer to the Government's proposal is NO. A NO vote does not mean that the devolution question will be buried. It will open the way for all parties to explore together a lasting alternative arrangement which can enjoy the support of the whole British people."

The Scots had to wait a further 18 years for their wish for self government to be fulfilled and in the meantime the Conservative and Unionist party collapsed to insignificance north of the border.

Move forward 32 years and we have another referendum and another politician asking people to do a Vicky Pollard and vote 'no, but yeh, but no...'

Owen wrote in Sunday's Independent "...a principled "No to AV, Yes to PR" can keep the door open for real reform. Popular demand for PR won't go away after a No vote...I urge you to vote for constitutional change because you believe in it. Electoral reformers who vote "No to AV, Yes to PR" will help to establish that it is the best system. Stand firm with the courage of your own convictions."

Sounds familiar?

No, but yeh, but no, but yeh...

15 March 2011

I appear to have annoyed Labour...

...by referring to Tony Blair's role in rehabilitating the mass murderer Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

So just for you 'anonymous' I won't reproduce that picture. Instead I'd thought people might like to see how Gordon Brown swept away the old regime and re-established Labour's ethical foreign policy...

14 March 2011

Ed Miliband's lack of self awareness

Ed Miliband has said he will refuse to share a platform with Lib Dem Deputy PM Nick Clegg - even though they both want to see a yes vote in the referendum on electoral reform. He said Clegg should 'lie low for a bit'.

Yet Mili minor is quite prepared to share a platform with all sorts of unsavoury people in the quest for votes, so why his reticence over Clegg - who as far as I'm aware has never been photographed embracing mass murdering dictators like the man he is sharing a platform with in this photo...

13 March 2011

A Saturday song for Lib Dems in Sheffield

Sheffield's finest band get all political (and rather marvellously rip off Simple Minds at the same time).

10 March 2011

Scotland's Old Firm get yet more taxpayer subsidy

Glasgow's two principle football teams - Celtic and Rangers - have been known as the 'old firm' since 1911. And with good reason.

In the 100 years since they jointly adopted the nomenclature they have won the Scottish League 87 times between them and dominated Scottish football and a significant part of its society. They are the most successful twins in world football - at least on their domestic stage.

And they have done this prinicipally by appealing to base instinct, prejudice and the lowest common morality.

Every old firm clash (and I use the word advisedly) results in huge increases in violence off the park. Strathclyde police have produced figures that show that violent crime nearly triples after old firm games and domestic violence more than doubles. Some estimates put the cost of the old firm games and their aftermath in terms of policing and health at £40 million per annum.

Now most cities have keenly competitive derby matches and fans that over indulge as a result. But what singles out Glasgow - and has hardly been mentioned in the handwringing over last week's game is sectarianism.

Both Celtic and Rangers have deliberately used the clash between celtic Irish and Ulster Scots culture as recruiting sergeants for their teams. They have done next to nothing over the last 100 years to weed out sectarianism, have tacitly supported violence between their supporters and allowed their stadia to be used as fundraisers and recruiting grounds for northern Irish terrorism.

And they have done it because it gives them competitive advantage. Not only do they come from Scotland's largest conurbation, they are able to extend their influence to other parts of Scotland - where the religious divide matters - and to the Northern Irish crucible of sectarianism. Thousands of fans in hundreds of buses leave otherwise normal Scottish and Irish towns and cities on matchdays filled with fans of this gruesome twosome. It means they can rely on a fan base of at least five times the size the other city clubs and ten times or more of the smaller towns.

The fact that Aberdeen, Dundee, Dundee Utd, Hearts, Hibs, Kilmarnock and Motherwell have managed to win the Scottish league on at least one occasion in the last 100 years are achievements of a hurculean nature.

And the final insult to the decent football fans north of the border comes with yesterday's announcement by the Scottish government of a further half million quid for an anti racism/sectarianism campaign. This is nothing but a subsidy to the two leeches of Scottish football - who clearly have the resources to run this sort of campaign if they chose to (and throw out the sectarians from their stadia)

But I suspect it will backfire - if the reactions from the fans of my club - Hibs - are anything to go by.

Manchester police expose themselves...

... both to ridicule for pettifogging jobsworthyness and lack of irony.

The BBC sub headline in the article refers to a 'stormy' council meeting agreeing £109 million of cuts. One assumes redacting football supporters' car stickers will cease to be a priority...

8 March 2011

Solving the Lembit for Mayor problem in one easy stroke...

Lembit Opik wants to be Mayor of London. No doubt Lembit wants to be a lot of things too - celebrity, gigolo, astronomer, stand up comedian and so on. But what he has conclusively proved over the last few years is that he is not a politician. Throwing away a seat that has been liberal for all but four of the last 140 years ought to be a salutory lesson, but it is clear from his actions since that he has learned nothing from his rejection by the good people of Montgomeryshire.

He's carried on as if it never happened (nor has he given any impression he has analysed the why). He has gone back to Lib Dem members (who massively rejected him in the 2008 party president election and another unheeded warning) in a vain quest to become their candidate for London Mayor - the biggest job of its kind in western Europe. It's also a job that fundamentally requires articulate and grown up candidates - even if they can at the edges show their less serious sides. As a result the regional party postponed the selection (in a bid to lure someone more electable to take up the challenge).

So far arm twisting of the usual suspects has resulted in no takers - and the party faces the prospect of a selection involving Lembit and a handful of (no doubt excellent) candidates who are unknown outside their boroughs (or even their wards). And in these circumstances Lembit might just win as the only candidate with any profile.

But there is one person I think who fits the bill - an articulate, serious politician, Londoner with an interesting back story and Liberal to their core. And he also has proved to have had the backbone for tough political fights.

Step forward Dominic Carman - Lib Dem candidate for London Mayor in 2012.

More here and here

7 March 2011

4 March 2011

Labour less popular than crook Illsley in Barnsley

A little reported fact from last night's election in Barnsley is that the Labour are even more unpopular than they were last May. Convicted fraudster Eric Illsley - currently serving a year at her maj's pleasure for stealing £14,000 of his constituents cash managed to pursuade 17,487 people to vote for him - even though it was widely known he was under investigation at the time.

On Thursday Labour's 'clean' replacement polled 14,724.

Who'd have thunk a known crook would be more popular than Miliband minor's supposedly unstoppable Labour juggernaut?

Governing party slumps in by-election losing deposit and coming behind BNP...

Report here

3 March 2011

Kenny McAskill misses the point on old firm violence

Under fire Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny Mcaskill has waded into the debate over the ugly scenes at last night's old firm cup replay saying: "There is a deep-rooted and unacceptable social issue involved - which has a great deal to do with Scotland's damaging relationship with alcohol, and little to do with football.

"The issue is far wider than clubs and the game. It is about a culture of violence fuelled by alcohol."

But he is wrong. The root cause of violence at old firm games is good old fashioned sectarianism. Both sets of fans revel in their respective medieval traditions and the stands echo to the sound of party songs justifying and celebrating sectarian violence. Every old firm game results in sectarian violence off the park.

These two behemoths are Scotland's (and Northern Ireland's) shame and it's time the continued turning of a blind eye to their motivations stopped. Hopefully the police inspired summit involving the Scottish goverment and the clubs will have the guts to deal with the real issues. But given they have had 113 years to do something about it and singularly failed, I won't be holding my breath.

US wants to put terrorists to death

Unfortunately it's Julian Assange.

However one wonders whether these two might reassure them that it can do the right thing...

2 March 2011

When is a pay freeze a pay cut?

When it's reported by the BBC.

At no point is Teresa May directly quoted as saying she wants police officers to be paid less. She calls for them to be part of the public sector pay freeze and for the various bonuses and overtime payents to be reviewed.

Despite being one of the most respected media and news organisations in the world, there really are times when their institutional biases get in the way. And I think sadly the coming public spending cuts will be one area where self interest, unionisation and metropolitan elite attitudes will get in the way of the Beeb's usual good journalism.