30 April 2012

Civil service union turns back on labour history

The Beeb reports that the Public and Commercial Services Union has attacked the creation of a mutually owned body to oversee civil service pensions.  They called it 'privatisation'.

Given the Labour Party is riddled with this one-eyed statist attitude - that anything other than centralised state control is privatisation - it is hardly surprising.  

But one can only wonder why the cooperative movement - one of the driving forces in the creation of the party and still a significant contributor to this day - still attach their flag to Labour's mast when mutualism and worker control (as we are seeing in the Post Office network) get such short shrift from the party's paymasters? 

28 April 2012

Friday favourite 56

The Scottish Cup final between Hibs and Hearts takes place on 19 May - only the second time the two teams have met in the final - the last being in 1896.

So as part of the build up to what is likely to be the biggest and most importance match in the oldest derby series in Scottish football here are a very young Craig and Charlie Reid with a slightly less young David Letterman on their US debut...

25 April 2012

Hunt should resign

Jeremy Hunt's coat as the Scots say is 'on a shoogly peg' and the resignation of his special adviser is clearly an exercise in backside covering.  And as the enquiry and evidence slowly emerges it will only get worse for Hunt - not better - even if he can muster a robust defence.  The vultures have circled and they will get their flesh.

The coalition set out to be different - less sleazy and more open than previous governments.  The grip of collective responsibility was supposed to be loosened to allow the two parties space to reflect their differences.

Well here is one area where the differences between Conservative and Lib Dems are vast (and indeed between the Lib Dems and Labour).  While senior Tory and Labour politicians bent over backwards (or indeed forwards) to accomodate the Murdoch monster, Lib Dems stood alone.  Vince Cable's comment that saw him removed from the BSkyB decision process, that he was going to war with the Murdochs was not news.

Nick Clegg should now demand Hunt goes.  This time two years ago he was an-anti politician - standing up against the vested interests, sleaze and expense ridden politicians.  He needs to reassert that side of him if he is ever to have a chance of rehabilitation in voters' eyes.  Hunt is toast and the longer he drags out the inevitable the worse for him and the coalition.  If Hunt wants to come back at a later date, the sooner he does the honourable thing the better for him.

And if Clegg is the catalyst for a swift resignation he can reassert both his independence and start to reclaim his anti politics inheritance from Labour who are desperately hoping we forget their complicity in the Murdoch love fest.

And by way of reminder that Labour are in as deep as the Tories - where did Mili minor go on day one of his leadership?  You guessed it...

24 April 2012

The irony of 'Project Rubicon'

Project Rubicon was the name given by News Corp execs to their take over of BSkyB and consequent lobbying of politicians. 

One can only assume these same News Corp execs were sufficiently unaware of the full historical meaning of the 'Rubicon' and the crossing thereof.

Wikipedia describes it thus - 
The phrase "crossing the Rubicon" has survived to refer to any individual or group committing itself irrevocably to a risky or revolutionary course of action, similar to the modern phrase "passing the point of no return".
News Corp certainly committed to a risky course of action - one that ironically lead to the downfall of the house of Murdoch.

Ken Livingstone's number 1 pledge?

Resign by 7 October.  Apparently.  If his manifesto contained in the offical booklet - which arrived this morning - is to be believed...

The layout of this looks like it has been done a primary pupil experimenting with desk top publication.  You would have thought with all the resources the Labour Party has (not to mention Ken's tax free earnings) they could have got the design right?

A period of silence from Lord Steel would be welcome...

Newsnight carried a debate this evening between a Conservative MP and Liberal Peer on Lords' reform.

One argued for a democratic chamber elected by Single Transferable Vote as promised in his party's manifesto. The other said his party's manifesto was wrong, the primacy of the Commons was vital and said that reform should be limited and evolutionary - carrying on the baby steps started by the Parliament Act in 1911.

The former, of course, was the Conservative MP and the latter undemocratic prevaricator was Lord Steel.

It is available on i-player here.

Lord Steel was MP for Roxburgh South West 1906-1910.

23 April 2012

Will Obama be a one term President?

Now that the GOP has stopped tearing itself apart in its 'who can believe the most impossible things before breakfast' contest - otherwise known as its Mormon v Creationist primary - it is clear the US electorate is turning towards the November contest.

And what they see is a President with election losing approval ratings - no doubt due to sluggish growth and botched health reforms of the Cameron Obama administration. This graphic from US polling company Rasmussen is particularly interesting:

Unsurprisingly with this approval rating the pollster puts Romney ahead of Obama 47:44.

It will be interesting to see how Obama uses his vast warchest to turn things round. And I imagine there will many burning the midnight oil in Downing Street to see what lessons can be imported this side of the Atlantic for another struggling administration.

20 April 2012

Friday favourite 55

In memory of Bert Weedon - the man whose handbook taught the rock n' roll generation to play guitar - here is his version of Spanish Harlem. However I suspect it may not be included in his funeral's order of service...

Matthew Elliott for No10?

Rumours reach LOWA towers that Matthew Elliot - recently of the Tax Payer's Alliance think tank - is about to be installed as David Cameron's left hand man.

One can only wonder how the coalition might cope with him given he destroyed what was left of Nick 'miserable little compromise' Clegg's reputation in the AV referendum last year.

18 April 2012

Daily Mail finds an interesting new group to hate

Another interesting image spotted in Edinburgh at the weekend. Denouncing Scotland's historic national language may not be the best policy for a newspaper supposedly committed to the union...

16 April 2012

Cathkin Park, Glasgow

Just returned from a short visit north of the border where among other things I took in Saturday's Scottish cup semi final - won by Hibs.

But having an hour or so to kill before the game I managed to track down Cathkin Park - home of the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers (or Third Lanark) FC from 1872 to 1967. It's an evocative reminder of what happens when unscrupulous football club owners overreach themselves. There's another football club on the south side of the Clyde that could well do to remember this...

14 April 2012

11 April 2012

Clegg responds to my email to him on internet snooping...

... or at least his Correspondence Assistant does.

Dear Mr Falchikov,

Thank you very much for contacting Nick Clegg about the Government’s proposals on communications data. I am replying to letters and emails on his behalf. This is an issue that has clearly generated a lot of interest, and I would like to try to clarify the situation.

Liberal Democrats have a long and proud record of fighting to protect our civil liberties. We firmly opposed Labour’s illiberal legislation while in opposition, and can be proud of having repealed much of this while in Coalition. Since entering government in May 2010 we have scrapped Labour’s costly and intrusive ID card scheme, reduced detention without charge, scrapped control orders, ended child detention for immigration purposes, and restored rights to peaceful protest. This is a record on civil liberties of which we can be proud.

There has been a lot of speculation on the proposals, and much of it has been inaccurate.

Firstly, it should be made clear that the Government will not be able to access at will the content of emails, facebook messages, or any other communications data. Currently, the police or intelligence services are only able to access the content of communications data with a warrant issued by the Home Secretary, and this will not change. There will be no weakening of the current safeguards in place, and there absolutely will be no centralised database of communications data, as proposed by Labour in 2006.

However, Liberal Democrats are clear that even the current safeguards must be strengthened, to ensure that every person’s data is protected with the utmost security. That is why Nick has made it clear that not only will any new proposals have the “highest possible safeguards”, but that the Government will review existing protections as well. It is also why Party President Tim Farron MP has said that there “must be absolutely no question of universal internet surveillance” and that “if we think this is a threat to a free and liberal society… this just simply must not happen.”

The full proposals have not yet been released but the motivation is to ensure only that we maintain the current capacity of the police and security services by keeping pace with the use of new communications technology, not to extend powers any further. Nick has made clear that the proposals will not be “rammed through Parliament”, but will be subjected to proper scrutiny and debate. Open Parliamentary hearings will be held to examine draft clauses of any legislation.

I can assure you that Liberal Democrats take issues concerning our civil liberties very seriously, and that Nick will be following this matter closely.

Thank you again for contacting Nick about this important issue, and thank you for all of your support for the Party. I hope that we can count on your continued support, which is extremely valuable to us.

Best wishes,
Office of Nick Clegg MP

Apart from its generic nature it is interesting that those at the top of the party are still clearly pedalling the line about 'no centralised database of communications data' which has been conclusively debunked after the party initial panic response that wheeled out Lynne Featherstone to attack various straw men.

The lesson is clear - Clegg's office continues to be under resourced - both intellectually and in political campaigning resource. Internal communications with members - although getting better is still desultory. And the party's special advisors are in the main pointless - simply regurgitating the civil service line to ministers and the party, rather than the other way round.

Clegg hasn't got much longer to sort his operation out - the question is does he recognise there is a problem in the first place?

10 April 2012

Clegg 'backed internet snooping'

After a brief Easter hiatus I'm back and no less grumpy about Nick Clegg's position on internet snooping proposals.

Last week the party leadership claimed they were never really in favour of them and appear to accept the party's unanimous outrage that Clegg had allowed himself to be associated with them in the first place. Liberal England in another excellent post put it simply down to bad advice.

However, if tonight's London Evening Standard is to believed Clegg, his advisers and indeed the entire Parliamentary party did not express any opposition to the plans when discussed.

What convinces me that the report is true is the quote by the anonymous party spokesperson, claiming Clegg was '...deciding if the right balance between security and liberties had been struck.'

Liberals ought to know liberties are innate and not handed out or traded off by a benign state. I'd hoped that the coalition's early positions against ID cards, child detention and the big brother state had put an end to this sort of illiberal Blairite nonsense. But it seems that Clegg and his advisers either have been sucked into to the system - gone native - or don't actually know or understand in the first place what liberalism is about.

It is time - at the very least - for a clear out of those advisers at the top of the party who have so far failed dismally to make the party's case in government and annunciate it clearly to the public.

6 April 2012

Friday favourite 53

It's the first day of the south of England's hosepipe ban. So here are 80s post punk rockers Spear of Destiny (who I hadn't realised had reformed) with 'Rainmaker' live from May 2009.

3 April 2012

Nick Clegg should consider his position...

...over proposals for government internet snooping.

Once again Clegg and his PR advisers have made the party look idiotic and dealt a further blow to party morale on the eve of vital local elections.

Allowing the party to be painted on the illiberal side of the debate over this proposal is a disgraceful failure of leadership and communication. When David Davis and Dominic Raab are the standard bearers of personal freedom then something has gone horribly wrong.

This is a big state issue where the lazy vested interests of law enforcement are simply requesting more and more intrusive powers with little evidence they actually work. Clegg should have been outraged by the mere thought that a government that purports to be liberal should even give this idea the time of day.

It's a bad policy, it's illiberal and it is appalling issues management (again) for the party. This is a red line issue for our core support and membership - if we cannot stand up for people's rights against the big state then what is the point of the party?

The one positive from this sorry affair is that the entire party is for once united in opposition - but that's not a good place for Clegg to be. Jonathan Calder (as usual) sums up better than I can.

1 April 2012

Tripping up Trump does Bohemian Rhapsody

This blog has featured previously the fantastic campaign waged by Tripping up Trump (supported by the magnificent Jonathan Meades) against Donald Trump's arrogant, insensitive and vulgar attempts to destroy Balmedie beach in Aberdeenshire.

Youtube pulled this video - despite Brian May supporting it (no doubt under threat of Mr Trump's learned friends).

But it's worth wide circulation.

Donald Trump does Bohemian Rhapsody from Hazel Cameron on Vimeo.