31 December 2012

Review of the year 2012

It's the last day of the year, so it's time to look back on the events that have caught the attention of this blog over the past 12 months...

In January I suggested that Lib Dem Scottish secretary, Michael Moore should stop trying to impede Alex Salmond from holding a referendum of his choosing.

In February a group called Liberal Left was set up.  I wasn't impressed.

March saw the sad deaths of Lib Dem stalwarts Viv Bingham and David Walter along with former darts champion Jocky Wilson.

In April, former Liberal leader David Steel said some very foolish things about Lords' reform on national TV.

May saw the climax of the football season (or anti-climax if you are a Hibs fan) and the final implosion of Glasgow Rangers.  In politics a local by-election in North Richmond saw some very dodgy tactics by anti-Lib Dem elements.

In June Jeremy Hunt's ministerial career was on the line and the abstention by Lib Dem MPs on a crucial vote suggested to me that it was time to change the rules of government collective responsibility to better reflect the nature of coalition.

In July I highlighted the bizarre behaviour of Kingston's Tories who backed (and continue to back) benefit fraud probe councillor, Tim Dennen.

August saw the spotlight on the future of Nick Clegg and his political strategy with the departure of his so-called strategist Richard Reeves.  Polling evidence contradicted them both.

In September, David Laws returned to government, the Lib Dems caved into ludicrous security demands for their annual conference and Nick Clegg's conference speech began to unravel in the blogosphere.

In October I gave some advice to the Guardian that might have dealt with some of their financial woes.  But there seemed to nothing that could deal with the self inflicted financial crisis at Edinburgh's second football team - Hearts.

November was a month for elections with the re-election of President Obama and the first votes for police and crime commissioners in the UK.  And it also saw a welcome - if belated - development with the Lib Dems reversing their support for more internet snooping powers.

And this brings us to December - and the news that income inequality had fallen under the coaltion in contrast to the rises under Labour.

So that's it for another year - and I wish you all a happy 2013.

28 December 2012

Friday favourite 91 - remembering Gerry Anderson

With the news that Gerry Anderson died earlier this week I guess there was only one song that would fit.  So here are Fuzz box with their strangely Barberella style International rescue:

Sadly guitarist Jo Dunne died in October of cancer.

IFS report shows income inequality falling

The ever excellent Richard Kemp highlights a new report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies - Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2012 - which shows that income inequality is falling under the coalition.

The salient passage is:
Income inequality in the UK fell sharply in 2010–11. The widely-used Gini coefficient fell from 0.36 to 0.34. This is the largest one-year fall since at least 1962, returning the Gini coefficient to below its level in 1997–98. Although this reverses the increase in this measure of income inequality that occurred under the previous Labour government, it still leaves it much higher than before the substantial increases that occurred during the 1980s.
Driving this drop in income inequality, the falls in real incomes in 2010–11 were smallest towards the bottom of the income distribution and largest towards the top. In the UK, real incomes fell by 1.1% at the 10th percentile, 3.1% at the median and 5.1% at the 90th percentile.
So there you have it - income inequality rose under Labour - and is falling under a Liberal Democrat influenced government.

Given the lack of any government minister publicising the fact one can only assume this is a source of embarrassment for the more strident Conservatives in the coalition.  But you would have thought that Lib Dem ministers might wish to highlight the fact.  But perhaps reducing inequality is just too left wing for a party committed to 'governing from the centre' (whatever that is)...

23 December 2012

Football beats London olympics in Google zeitgeist

Every year Google publishes an analysis of what people are searching for on the internet - last year amounting to 1.2 trillion searches.

Interestingly for UK googlers (if there is such a verb) the European football championship proved of more interest than the Olympics.

And the top ten most googled politicians makes interesting - if grim - reading for the three party leaders:
  1. Jeremy Hunt
  2. Boris Johnson
  3. Justine Greening
  4. Alex Salmond
  5. Michael Gove
  6. George Osborne
  7. Louise Mensch
  8. Nadine Dorries
  9. Keith Vaz
  10. Ed Vaizey

22 December 2012

Remembering Joe Strummer ten years on

Unbelieviably it's been ten years since Joe Strummer died.  So by way of tribute here he is reunited with Mick Jones just a month before his death with White riot and London's burning.

21 December 2012

Friday favourite 90 - apocalypse

So the world hasn't ended today (well not yet anyway), so the obvious choice was REM It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine).  But that would be too easy - so instead here is Elvis Costello and the Attractions wth Waiting for the end of the world...

20 December 2012

Are the right always going to be less creative than the left?

A really interesting thought piece from Alexis Madrigal, Senior Editor, The Atlantic from LinkedIn suggests the Republicans are always likely to be disadvantaged in attracting the most creative types because of their social attitudes and policies.

There are clearly parallels that can be drawn on this side of the pond where the failure of the Tories to 'detoxify' is still a barrier for creative urban types in engaging with them.  And of course now, by association, for the Lib Dems too.

Tories come fourth in Surrey by-election

According to Vote UK, the Tories have managed to come fourth (out of four) in a rare Wednesday by-election in true blue Surrey.

The Lib Dems held the Sunbury Common ward with 46.3%, UKIP were second with 23.2%, Labour third with 16.1% and the Tories trailed in last with just 14.3%.

Needless to say the Spelthorne Council website still hasn't published the result. 

16 December 2012

The futility of sports personality of the year

Bradley Wiggins is no doubt a worthy winner of the BBC's sports personality of the year 2012.  He is both a successful sportsperson and has a personality to boot.  But he is the exception as this list of previous winners shows.

The fact that previous winners include Ryan Giggs, Zara Phillips, David Beckham, Michael Owen and Greg Rudeski shows that in unexception years (unlike 2012) it goes to either the most well known sportsperson (usually a footballer) or someone with a fleeting association with sporting success. 

It might be better (and cheaper) if it stopped being an annual jamboree and instead was held less frequently to allow for more real sporting achievements by real sporting personalities.

14 December 2012

Friday favourite 89

Here's the Motors - better known for their hit 'Airport' on TOGWT in 1978 with Dancing the Night Away.

13 December 2012

Russia signals end for Assad

The news that Russia thinks Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad may face defeat is surely the end.  Assad has only been able to cling on so long with the support of Moscow and withdrawal of their personnel would be terminal. 

Assad is one of the last of the unreformed soviet dictators who tools of repression, state murder and torture have kept his grip on power while other middle eastern leaders were feeling the cold blast of popular democracy.  But it's not just in Moscow where Assad found support - he always had his fans in the west too - those who in the name of socialism and equality conveniently ignored assad and his ilk's anti social actions and personal agrandizement. 

Assad will no doubt be offered safe passage and asylum somewhere out of Syria where he can spend some more time with his ill gotten gains and guilty conscience.  The question is who will support him then?

12 December 2012

Happy 12/12/12

Not for another 88 years and 20 days will we have a similar date - so enjoy it while you can!

10 December 2012

Unionist caution needed on Barosso EU entry comments

I'm sure the champagne corks are popping in the 'Better Together' HQ after European President Jose Manuel Barosso said that newly independent states would have to reapply for EU membership.

I'm sure he is right that states created by that secession from a larger entity would have to apply to join the EU.  But that's not the case if Scotland votes for independence.

The United Kingdom is the entity that has EU membership and it was created by the Act of Union in 1707. If Scotland votes for independence then it is surely arguable that both remaining parts - Scotland and the rump state (as it were) are new states and both either remain EU members or neither do.  Scotland is an equal part of the union - as is England - and there can be no UK without both parts.

Now I'm not a lawyer, but I can imagine the legal wrangles over this issue going on for years.  And at the end of the day they are diversion from the main debate.  And that is as much a 'heart' issue as it is one based on logic or legal argument.  So the Better Together campaign shouldn't celebrate too soon - they need to make a case for maintaining the union based on values and positive principles - which so far they have struggled to do.

9 December 2012

Patrick Moore - great scientist, lousy politician

With the death of Patrick Moore Britain has lost one of its great eccentrics and a man who popularised astronomy - presenting The Sky at Night for more than 50 years.

What was less well known was Moore's dabbling in right wing politics.  In the 1970s he co-founded the anti immigration United Country Party, which later merged with the New Britain Party. 

The New Britain Party supported apartheid and called for a complete ban on non-white immigration.  They stood in the Bermondsey by-election in 1983 coming eighth with just 62 votes.  And following the winding up of  Jimmy Goldsmith's referendum party several current leading lights in UKIP joined - including MEPs Mike Nattrass and Jeffery Titford.

The party folded in 2008.

7 December 2012

Friday favourite 88 - Apollo 17

Forty years ago today Apollo 17 launched the last manned moon mission.  Commander Gene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon and one of only three to go to the moon twice (he was also part of the Apollo 10 crew who flew round the moon).  Apparently he left his camera on the moon to be picked up at a later date...

6 December 2012

Chump Trump takes hump over Scots champ

The news that Michael Forbes - long suffering neighbour of Donald Trump's vandals and bullies at his Aberdeenshire golf course - has won the Glenfiddich Scot of the Year award has been almost universally  welcomed.

But not in Trump Towers needless to say.  Forbes's well deserved recognition has led to Trump to 'lose the heid' as his long lost Scottish grandmother might have once said. 

According to the Guardian Trump has attacked Glennfiddich's owner William Grant and removed all their brands from his hotels and resorts, claiming the award was an 'insult to Scotland' and that Grant's were jealous of his own single malt whisky brand.

Given Trump is seeking a planning application for a second golf course one can only wonder whether this latest unhinged outburst might actually make the councillors of Aberdeenshire see sense and send him packing.  Sadly, given their supine craving to him so far - supported by First Minister and local MSP Alex Salmond - I suspect he will once again get what he wants. 

The problem with Osborne...

...is that he is just too concerned with political point scoring as this response to a perfectly reasonable question from David Miliband on the Autumn statement shows. (The full debate and exchanges can be downloaded from the Hansard website). 
David Miliband (South Shields) (Lab):

This time last year, the Chancellor told me not to worry about youth unemployment on the grounds that his Youth Contract would take care of it. Now we know that 450,000 young people have been unemployed for more than six months and that 179,000 have gone on to the Work programme but only 5,920 have got a job as a result. That is 3% of those going on the Work programme and less than 2% of the long-term youth unemployed. Will he now agree, without point scoring, to look at the level of the wage subsidy to incentivise take-up, at the structure of the Work programme, so that voluntary organisations are not squeezed out, and at the role of a part-time job guarantee to give hope to these young people?

Mr Osborne:
The right hon. Gentleman often has interesting and intelligent things to say about welfare to work programmes, and I am happy to consider the points he makes. I read some of his work earlier this year—it was quite a good job application for being shadow Chancellor.

Osborne's credibility as Chancellor is reduced by this undergraduate debating style and his use of political beartraps in his proposals.  He should take a leaf out of Vince Cable's book and play it straight and grown up.

5 December 2012

Tim Farron in Richmond Park

Something interesting is happening in Richmond Park politics - certainly for a seat won by multi-millionaire Tory Zac Goldsmith two and a bit years ago by a slightly too comfortable 4,000 votes.

Given the current languishing of the Lib Dems, Goldsmith is probably expecting a relatively comfortable ride next time with the Lib Dems concentrating their limited fire elsewhere.

But that's not the case - the Lib Dems are in the middle of selecting a PPC and are getting large numbes of activists out on the streets - including this evening Party President Tim Farron - pictured here giving a post canvas pep talk in the Dog and Fox pub, just round the corner from the Goldsmith family pile..

3 December 2012

Unbuilt London: a treasure trove of impossible plans

This image of a railway built on stilts in the middle of the Thames is taken from 'Unbuilt London' which is publishing a series of articles looking at the various schemes dreamt up but never implemented.

Their first article looks at the transport schemes that never happened including this mad railway scheme and an airport over the Thames at the Houses of Parliament among many bizarre others...