30 May 2012

Time for the SFA to expel Rangers

Two events today show how Rangers intend to bully the football (and tax) authorities into allowing them to carry on as if their insolvency never happened. 

Firstly, they issued a draft company voluntary agreement (CVA) that outlines how they will meet the £135m they owe - most of which is to the UK taxpayer.  Their proposal is that creditors should receive 8p for every pound they owe.  At the same time they demand the right to remain in the SPL, sign new players and take the profit from selling existing ones.  All the while the the £80 million they owe to the taxman - that should be paying for schools and hospitals (among others) will be written off - all bar £600k or so.

The second event was their successful attempt at the court of session to overturn the football authorities ban on them signing new players as a punishment for bringing the game into disrepute.  The problem with this is that FIFA are clear that football disputes should only be resolved through football and sporting tribunals.  They recently threatened to expel the Swiss FA from world competitions for failing to take action against FC Sion who had gone to civil courts to overturn sporting punishment - just as Rangers have done today.

It is now clear Rangers now think they are bigger than Scottish football - they believe they should be allowed to spend money they don't have, defraud the taxpayer, cheat the football supporter, cover up their financial shenanigans and when they get found out - go unpunished and be allowed to do it all again. 

Over the last 20 years Rangers have consistently cheated - skewing Scottish football so much in their favour that only Celtc (sic) had the financial wherewithall to keep up.  In this time they made many attempts to leave Scottish football to play on a bigger stage - they have shown no loyalty to the SFA or Scottish football.

It's time for Scottish football to fight back - Rangers need to be punished in a way that reflects their long term cheating and fraudulent behaviour.  And that can only be expulsion from the association they were so keen to leave a few years ago.

If the SFA doesn't have the kahoonas to do it then FIFA surely will.

26 May 2012

Is Nick Clegg a millionaire?

Some malingering trots turned up to enjoy the sunshine outside Nick Clegg's London home today - courtesy of UK Uncut.

UK Uncut commissar, Jean Sandler, 42, told the Beeb "Nick Clegg is one of the architects of austerity; he's a millionaire and lives in a £1m home."

On this ridiculous logic I am a third of a millionaire and many of my neighbours will be half or three quarters of the way there.  Of course the majority of the equity in my home is owned by the building society - as I imagine it is in most of my neighbours.

Cabinet ministers are, of course, barred from having any outside interests so the only pay Nick Clegg receives is his combined MP and DPM salary - approximately 10% of millionare status.

So what could UK Uncut mean that Clegg is a 'millionaire'? They couldn't possibly be referring to the money earned by Miriam Gonz├ílez Dur├íntez - a successful commercial lawyer?  So much for separate tax affairs for men and women then with UK Uncut...

25 May 2012

Friday favourite 60

I've been ill all week, which has necessitated two visits to the doctor to get more and stronger drugs, as the dastardly bug I have inherited has proved a tougher opponent than first thought.  So there could only be one choice:

Time to strip Sir David Murray of his knighthood?

A devastating BBC Scotland documentary - still available on iplayer - on the financial shenanigans at Glasgow Rangers suggests that ex-Chairman, David Murray received more than £6 million - tax free - from an Employee Benefit Trust (EBT).

Rangers are estimated to owe the taxman in the region of £70 million as a result of their use of EBTs and the adminstrators are looking at a deal that might see the taxman (ie you and me) get just £700,000 back.

So Sir David's £6+ million would make a big difference to the creditors.  Perhaps the threat of removal of his title (as with that other fallen Scottish knight 'Fred the Shred') might concentrate his mind.

Incidently, David Murray is on record as saying he didn't take a penny out of the club during his 20 odd year ownership.

22 May 2012

Spineless bureaucrats give in to police over conference security

Lib Dem Voice reports that three party committees have agreed to police requests to allow them to vet democratically elected conference representatives at the party's autumn conference.

This was despite the previous conference rejecting the idea and a 'shotgun' consultation during the local election campaign also overwhelmingly rejecting the proposal.  The crucial part of the staement issued by the chairs of the three committees is this:
"In the unlikely circumstance that the police recommend that we do not accredit a party member, the final decision as to the attendance of any Party member rests with the Party..."
So why bother?  The party rates the chance of anyone failing this vetting process as 'unlikely'.  And even then they can still attend if the party agrees.  And I think it would be a very brave party bureaucrat to turn down a Lib Dem member elected by their local party - that's assuming they actually have the constitutional authority to do so. 

But the issue is not actually whether vetting/accreditation itself is effective (and the party committees have provided no evidence that this is the case), but about the relationship between the individual and the police.  All elected politicians (and especially Liberal ones) have a duty to question vested interests and lazy bureacracy and to support a rebalancing of the relationship between the state and the individual.  Sadly in this case the elected bureaucrats at the heart of the party have dismally failed to argue the liberal case.

As the committee places are elected I cannot imagine the party will want to reelect the spineless bureaucrats who allowed this to happen.

The less said about Saturday the better...

... so here's a picture of the wonderful and vocal Hibs support that were let down so badly by their team at the weekend.

18 May 2012

Friday favourite 59

To complete the build up to the Scottish cup final - which incidently is the oldest football trophy in the world - I have got exclusive and probably impossible coverage of Hibs fans celebrating victory...

It's Malta's Hibernians (Hibs) - who sadly have nothing to do with the Edinburgh version.  The Reekie version have had a huge influence on the those setting up a variety football teams - including the lesser greens (Celtic), Dundee Utd (Dundee Hibernian) and Aberdeen.

And as far as I know Hibs have never played Hibs - but a pre season friendly needs to be organised - assuming the two are not drawn together in the Europa League as a result of one of them winning the cup.

Mark Zuckenberg falls for the same old trick...

Facebook has no real value. There is a world crisis in stock markets because of real problems in the real economy - ie people getting out of their bedrooms, having a shower and going out to paid work.  And the problem is there's not enough of them at the moment.

The idea that the virtual economy can suck out of the real economy a billion dollars is ludicrous.  Anyone foolish enough to pay $38 per facebook share will struggle to see a return.  In the UK they should take their $38 or £25 and spend it in their local pub, cafe, shop or voluntary organisation - that way we might get some real local 'social networks'.

16 May 2012

13 May 2012

A bad day for Man City, Rangers and football

While it may appear churlish to criticise Manchester City on the day they won their first championship in 40 odd years, or Rangers who appear to have found a last minute saviour, both these events are bad for football.

Rangers bought success over many years by cheating - spending money they didn't have, defrauding the taxman (and all of us by extension) and failing to pay dozens of small local suppiers for their goods and services.  The fact that they may now be saved and allow to carry on in the upper echelon of Scottish football by wriggling out of their debts by offering creditors a few pence in the pound without further sanction from the Scottish football authorities would be plain wrong.  It also sets a dangerous precedent that will destroy what remains of Scottish football's sporting integrity and drive away more decent football fans from the game.

The similarity with Manchester City may not be immediately apparent.  There is no evidence that City are failing to meet their liabilities and for success starved fans the impact of middle eastern sovereign millions has been transformational.  From mid table anonymity to champions in a couple of years - outspending the EPL's traditional big guns - city rivals United and Arsenal and Chelsea.

But like Rangers, Manchester City's spending is unsustainable.  According to the Guardian - last year players' wages accounted for 104% of their turnover and the club lost nearly £200 million.  City aren't playing by the rules of other clubs, their capacity to generate income bears no relation to either their supporter base or on field success.  And competition is devalued if one club can simply buy success.  They also leave themselves open to complete financial collapse - like Glasgow Rangers - if Sheik Mansour gets bored with his English play thing.

UEFA are rightly keen to see a more level financial playing field across European football.  So it is time for the Scottish and English football authorities to take action and introduce financial fair play rules - so that all football clubs are run sustainably for the long term good of the game.

11 May 2012

Friday favourite 58

With eight days to go before the Scottish cup final between Hibs and Hearts, here's the Edinburgh Evening News sports desk's take on it:

What is going on in North Richmond?

A question usually answered with a resounding - meh...

But a routine by-election hold by Zac Goldsmith's well (extra virgin olive) oiled Tory machine on the day Boris won a second term has turned into something much more interesting.

Apparently a large number of fake Lib Dem leaflets were delivered from about 10pm until about 1am on eve of poll which claimed the Lib Dems were to build new tower blocks full of immigrants, social housing tenants and unemployed people.

Other than the three main English parties, there was a Green and an eccentric independent - Marc Leslie Cranfield-Adams who has been both a Lib Dem and a Tory (and probably UKIP too).

What used to be called special branch have been called in to investigate and they are apparently using the full force of New Labour anti terrorism laws to seize both Council and private individual's CCTV footage of the deliverers.

Given the logistics required a scanner, a desk top publishing package and access to mass printing/copying facilities as well as sufficient volunteers to deliver the stuff in a couple of hours, there can't be a huge number of suspects...

...so who is going to be collared?

9 May 2012

A Queen's speech with fewer bills...

...is surely a good thing?  The news coverage seems to imply that it is a sign of strains in the government that it is 'only' proposing 19 new pieces of legislation - compared with 40+ in the halcyon days of Blair and Brown.

I would far rather have my government doing less, better, than a stream of showy legislative diorrhea designed to impress the media that the government is strong and in control.

Hopefully with a more considered legislative process MPs will have the time to get to grips with idiotic proposals such as internet snooping.

8 May 2012

Hibs survive the drop...

... and according to the Beeb (and other news agencies) Dunfermline are relegated.

But with the liquidation of Glasgow Rangers surely only days away - the Pars ought to stay in the SPL and Rangers (especially if they cheat on their liabilities and form a new company) should be removed from the premier league and be forced to apply for league membership in division 3.

So it may not be over for Dunfermline - but given the stitch up going on between Rangers, Celtc and the SFA I wouldn't hold my breath.

7 May 2012

Lib Dems face existential crisis

Two years ago Nick Clegg was boasting the Lib Dems were the new one nation party – able to take the fight to the Tories in their southern heartlands – while simultaneously being a force in Labour bastions in the north of England and Scotland and Wales.  In fact just 370 or so days ago a large number of the largest provincial cities up and down the UK had Lib Dem administrations.

Last year’s rout put Labour back in charge and they have consolidated their position with an equally massive swing last Thursday.  Despite Lib Dem ministers protestations, things haven’t got better for the party and the electorate is no more willing to listen to the party this year than it was in 2011.  The only thing that changed between this year and last was the Tories got it in the neck too.

To illustrate just how complete the collapse of the Lib Dems urban base has been the following makes salutory reading:

                                              1 May 2011         3 May 2012                        

Newcastle                              42                           26                          
Manchester                            33                           9                             
Liverpool                                33                           10                          
Birmingham                            31                           15                          
Leeds                                     21                           10                          
Sheffield                                 42                           23                          
Cardiff                                    34                           15                          
Hull                                        33                           17                          
Edinburgh                               17                           3                             
Total                                      284                         128                        

The pain is not finished yet – in 2014 the final cycle of seats are up in those cities that elect by thirds and the party will be further hollowed out – with just a handful of councillors left  in places controlled by the party until May 2011.  If nothing changes then a generation of hard political graft will have been wiped out in just 36 months.

This matters not because fewer councillors means less fundraising and a reduced campaigning capacity – these are important – but because if the party’s only strength is in 50 odd seats which have a Lib Dem MP then it cannot reasonably make a claim to be a national party, enunciating liberal values for urban and rural areas alike.  It will find itself on the UK stage where the Scottish Tories are today – a small fringe party of a few atypical rural areas.

It is clear that unless things change dramatically then the party will continue to heamorrage councillors, activists and will to win.  The calls for Clegg’s head have already started albeit in the hapless form of Lembit Opik

Clegg however is not the problem – he is the symptom.  The problem is that the Lib Dems have built up their reputation over the years as outsiders, fighting an essentially insurgent campaign against big politics and traditional vested interests.  In government they have governed as just another establishment party.  Watching the series of Lib Dem ministers tour the TV studios as Thursday turned into Friday, parroting some drivel about ‘learning the lessons’, ‘usual for government to lose mid terms’ and ‘working harder to explain’ one could be forgiven thinking the same civil servants were regurgitating lines first written for John Major and reused for Gordon Brown.  It was typical of the way the party in government has handled almost every issue – selling the government’s view to the people, rather than the people’s view to the government.

What the party needs to do now is to identify one or two big, liberal and popular issues and start to do what it did in opposition – campaign.  For example the party collected tens of thousands of signatures on petitions demanding ‘to axe the tax’ – the hated and regressive Council Tax.  This is a campaign that should be rediscovered – with ministers using their influence to demand action and the party reconnecting with voters who signed the petition.  I’m not really bothered what policy solutions are proposed – land tax is probably the most sensible alternative – but a campaign that highlights the tax’s unfairness,  demands its replacement with something better and challenges the Tory part of the coalition to do something about it, is the sort of thing people expect Lib Dems to do. 

Such a campaign also has the bonus of moving the party towards an exit strategy for the coalition.  The only way to leave the coalition is over a major policy issue – and abolishing the Council Tax is exactly the sort of issue that fits the bill. 

What is clear is that doing nothing puts the very existence of the party at risk.  The question is: do the leadership (and particularly those advising it) understand the extent of the threat and do they have the political experience and nous to do anything about it?

4 May 2012

Friday favourite 57

Today has been a terrible day for Liberal Democrats - particularly in Scotland and even more particularly in Edinburgh. 

So for the 14 Liberal Democrat councillors who lost their seats - and especially ex-council leader Jenny Dawe who will be hurting more than most tonight - here's Little Richard from 1966...

Lembit comes to Clegg's rescue

With another appalling set of local election results and a near wipe out against Labour in the north of England - Liberal Democrat minds were turning to the future of Nick Clegg.  But just like magic up pops Lembit Opik to call for his resignation. 

And in a stroke Clegg's future as leader of the party is assured. 

The last word (or woof) on the London Mayoral election

Omar is a dog who is not standing for Mayor of London, but the poster for him in a shop window near Waterloo station makes grim (if amusing) reading for Lib Dem hopeful, Brian Paddick...

1 May 2012

It was 15 years ago today...

...that saw the 1997 Blair landslide.  It was a campaign that largely passed me by - because I was in the thick  of the campaign that led to the Lib Dems most spectacular gain of the night: Edward Davey's overturning of a 15,000 Tory majority to win by just 56 after three recounts.

It was the only gain in a seat not targeted by HQ and therefore was largely off the media's radar.  In fact the only mention on the BBC election night coverage is a gold bar across the then Political Editor, Robin Oakley's, torso at around 8.20 in this clip:

But the best thing about the clip is the scene at the start where uber champagne socialists Ken and Barbara Follett fail dismally to open a magnum of bubbly.  Enjoy!