31 May 2013

Is Patrick Mercer the new Chris Huhne?

There are some striking similarities between Patrick Mercer's resignation statement this evening and the statement put out by Chris Huhne when he resigned from the Cabinet.


"This letter is to submit with much regret my resignation as Energy and Climate Change Secretary. I intend to mount a robust defence against the charges brought against me, and I have concluded that it would be distracting both to that effort and to my official duties if I were to continue in office."


"I am taking legal advice about these allegations - and I have referred myself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. In the meantime, to save my party embarrassment, I have resigned the Conservative Whip and have so informed Sir George Young."


Friday favourite 110

From 1992 here are the Stereo MCs with 'Connected':

30 May 2013

The rules of playground football...

...with thanks to Christopher Brookmyer.

Brighton Greens civil war update

Earlier this month I blogged on the quite extraordinary splits in Brighton's ruling Green Party. Since then, instead of trying to come together, the splits have deepened and their councillors have indulged in some quite spectacularly stupid behaviour.

The Argus reports that rebel Green councillors: "launched a failed coup to remove Coun Kitcat (Council Leader)", reporting that: "One of the rebels Councillor Duncan said he was one of six Green councillors who walked out of the council chamber rather than support Coun Kitcat’s re-election as council leader."

In an extraordinarily stupid political move another of the rebels, Cllr Alex Phillips, tried - via Twitter - to get Labour to vote with the rebels to oust Cllr Kitcat.  Unsurprisingly the exchange ended up in the local paper:

And amazingly, the Argus reports she has avoided disciplinary action for this move.

Councillor Duncan's thoughts on the split can be read in a gloriously spartist post on his personal blog:
"A prominent and much respected local councillor, Alex Phillips, attempted to build a consensus across the party divide between the Green Party, which she is a member of, and the Labour Party, to prevent a rogue Green administration..."

28 May 2013

Vulcan bomber at Southend airport

Returning from my trip north via London's now sixth airport - Southend - which appears to be a mix of aeroplane graveyard and medieval church.  It also has one of the last remaining Vulcan bombers - parked up at the end of its rather short main runway.

27 May 2013

Hibs end 111 year cup hoodoo...

...Unfortunately by turning it into a 112 year cup hoodoo.

Anyway here's a picture of the utterly amazing Hibs fans before kickoff - who stayed backing their team beyond the final whistle, despite being 3-0 and out singing the self styled 'greatest fans in the world'.

Today's Edinburgh Evening News has more.

25 May 2013

Just 8.8% vote in CIPR election

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations represents some of the country's most important communication professionals, including those practising the dark arts of political spin.  The membership are supposed to be some of the most politically aware and knowledgeable people in the UK.  So what to make of the frankly laughable turnout of just 8.8% for its re-run Presidential election?

The previous election was cancelled amid confusion over an apparent late nomination, in considerable publicity within the industry.  So one would have thought members would have no excuse not to cast their votes.

The turnout details from the electoral Refom Society are hidden away on the CIPR website with their news item simply referring to the winning margin 68%:32%.  But here is the breakdown:

Number of eligible voters: 8010
Votes cast by post: 20
Votes cast online: 683
Total number of votes cast: 703
Turnout: 8.8%

So the next time some politician lectures the benighted electorate for not bothering to vote - no doubt written by their PR Officer - perhaps they should be reminded to check a bit closer to home...

24 May 2013

Friday favourite 109

On Sunday Hibs return to Hampden Park to try to break their 111 year Scottish Cup hoodoo.  So here's a video put together by a fan showing the highlights of their campaign so far, to the tune of James's 'Destiny calling' - enjoy...

23 May 2013

New north Kingston secondary school - Goldsmith tries to claim credit for Tories

Yesterday it was announced that Education Secretary Michael Gove had approved plans for a new 'free' secondary school in north Kingston.  This was despite Gove cancelling similar plans a year ago, causing unnecessary anguish for local parents concerned about the lack of secondary places for bulging promary classes to move on to.

Parents had been campaigning for years for a new school - almost since a previous Tory Council closed the local Tudor secondary school and the on/off saga's final success was almost entirely down to their resolute campaigning.

So it was somewhat strange to receive an email from local Tory MP Zac Goldsmith containing the following:
"I want to thank Nick Whitfield, Kingston's Director of Education, as well as your local Conservative Councillors for the work they have put into making this happen. And above all, I want to thank the Secretary of State for listening."
In contrast Lib Dem Parliamentary campaigner, Robin Meltzer said:
" This announcement is a victory for everyone who has campaigned for so long to make this a reality. Congratulations are due to Kingston Educational Trust, and most importantly to the hundreds upon hundreds of local parents and campaigners who stood up and made themselves heard on this issue. We need a new school, a good school to serve all our children as they leave our excellent primary schools, and now we are to have one."

21 May 2013

Scots Lib Dems try to bar Yes campaign?

An interesting snippet reaches LOWA towers about what can only be described as anti nationalist paranoia from the Scottish Lib Dems.

The Yes to independence campaign asked the party's conference committee whether it could exhibit at this year's main conference in Glasgow in September - but bizarrely the Scottish Lib Dems objected claiming that it might lead to "threatening or otherwise unacceptable behaviour". However the UK (federal) party saw sense and allowed the Scots Yes Campaign "to exhibit at federal conference should they wish to do so. Allowing them a platform to express their views and engage in a debate with conference attendees would be preferable to shutting them out."

Well quite.  

And quite how what's left of the Scottish Party can think trying to censor the legitimate voice of civic nationalism can help their case is beyond me.  Maybe they're being advised by John McSharkey?

18 May 2013

Hearts FC: the end (Friday favourite 108)

It's pretty clear one of the world's oldest football clubs - Heart of Midlothian - is about to be liquidated as their Romanov empire collapses around them.

Now as a Hibs fan it would be easy to gloat - and there would be plenty of songs that I could choose for a Friday favourite that would reflect that.  But it isn't that simple.

Hearts, like Hibs, have mainly been rubbish for most of their existence - dominated by the pseudo religious and deeply sectarian (but money making) institutions of the 'old firm'. 

For most of their existences Hearts and Hibs have been city rivals with keenly fought derby games and local bragging of the kind that many similar teams share.

But in 1989 something changed.  Hearts chairman (and major Scottish Tory player) Wallace Mercer launched a hostile takeover bid of then floundering Hibs aimed at creating a 'third force' in Scottish football to take on the old firm.  Hibs fans organised a major campaign against the takeover and fought off Mercer with the last minute intervention of Leith businessman Tom Farmer (owner of Kwik Fit).

But the 'third force' mantra unfortunately stuck with Hearts and for the last 25+ years Hearts have been operating under delusions of grandeur.  They have consistently spent more than they took in in trying to prove Mercer's boast.  By 2003/4 they were £25 million in debt and were about to sell their Tynecastle ground to property developers when a red knight hoved into view - one Vladimir Romanov - a Russian born ex-KGB spiv operating out of Lithuania - who ratched up the third force delusions using Soviet style propaganda. 

As a result the arrogance of many Hearts fans increased and the already unneccesarily bitter relations increased further as did Hearts debts and spending on players they couldn't afford - culminating in last year's Scottish cup final thrashing of Hibs.

Well all Hearts' chickens have come home to roost and their chances of surviving the summer look very grim indeed.  And unsurprisingly many Hibs fans are rubbing it in for all it's worth.

The 'new Hearts' are about to get all they deserve - but this Friday's favourite is about the old Hearts - in the time when Edinburgh football fans were just as likely to go to Easter Road one week and Tynecastle the next.

In 1916 Hearts were top of the league and questions were being asked why professional football was continuing while young men were dying on the western front.  So George McCrae recruited a 'sporting battalion' which included 16 Hearts players along with many others from in and around Edinburgh (including Hibs).  Needless to say they were mown down on the Somme.

Hearts will survive their insolvency - but it will be hard work and they'll need to rediscover their old spirit and friendly rivals.  So as a reminder here is Craig Herbertson - the brother of a mate of mine with 'Hearts of Glory' about McCrae's battalion.

17 May 2013

In praise of Nigel Farage

Yesterday Nigel Farage took refuge in an Edinburgh pub having been barracked by some malingering trots from Edinburgh University.

The Beeb reports that in response to accusations from Student Association vice president, Max Crema, that UKIP was a racist party, Farage replied wonderfully: "If you believe that then you are less intelligent than you look, dear boy."

That the woosterish Farage is clearly happy to take on all comers in places that are traditionally resistant to such characters is a sign of his confidence that UKIP isn't going to go away.  And why should it? 

The attractions of both Labour and Tory parties in the UK has declined massively - from 97% of the vote in the 1950s to barely 65% in 2010.  And with the implosion of the Lib Dems, UKIP are clearly going to remain a non-racist but populist 'none of the above' choice - led by a man who is the consummate anti-politician politician.

15 May 2013

French double dip recession challenges social liberals

News that France has returned recession poses problems for those - like the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) and indeed Ed Balls - who believe that government action can create economic demand (and jobs).

That such an explicity interventionist government as that of Francois Hollande is unable to stem the tide of Eurozone recession is surely evidence that in such a globalised world - where multinational corporations are bigger than many economies - the power of governments to change much (at least in the short term) seems pretty limited.

And that is also the failure of the SLF and others who call for plan Bs (or Cs or whatevers).  By failing to recognise the limits of government and putting too much trust into a 'benign' state they perpetuate remote  bureaucracies, overweening and overeaching politicians and allow the state to centralise economic and other power in too few hands.

In the end economics - like politics - is about people and how they interact with others.  And so Liberals should look for a new economic strategy - one that truly understands the limits of state action and the importance of people. 

A good place to start might be David Boyle who seems to be streets ahead of the SLF in defining a new liberal ecomomics - fit for the reality of the 21st century - and not simply a rehash of the failed post war certainties of the SLF and Ed Balls.

10 May 2013

Friday favourite 107

Dolly Parton does heavy metal. Just wow!

Brighton and Hove Greens attack each other over equal pay

Brighton and Hove Green Party have issued an extraordinary press release attacking their own City administration (leader - the wonderfully named Cllr Jason Kitkat) over plans to end sexism in council pay structures.

The plans equalise historic pay structures so that female staff are paid the same as their male counterparts and as a result a small number of staff will lose out - for which they will receive compensation.

But this isn't enough for the watermelon faction in the local Greens who have attacked the council and vowed to  campaign against it.

Local Green MP, Caroline Lucas said, "Since the negotiations began, I have made my opposition to any cuts in take home pay very clear. I am therefore disappointed that, whilst some will gain from this process, a number will face a reduction in the money they have to live off each week.

"This is unacceptable.  With the support of the local Green Party, I have pledged to campaign against proposals made to workers that will lead to a loss of pay."


9 May 2013

Was Alex Ferguson ever a manager in Scotland?

By most accounts you wouldn't think so.  But he was one of the most successful managers in Scottish football before he took the helm at Manchester United.

As manager of Aberdeen he broke the stranglehold of the old firm - winning three Championships, four Scottish cups, a League Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup - beating Real Madrid in the final.

He also managed Scotland, St Mirren and East Stirlingshire.

7 May 2013

Which Lib Dem seat had the worst local election result?

Much has been made in the days since Thursday's local election rout of the resilience of the Lib Dem vote in seats held by Lib Dem MPs.  But what to make of this aggregated county election result from Lewes - a seat held by Lib Dem transport minister Norman Baker - with a majority of more than 7,500?
UKIP 6476 22.7%
Con  6412 22.5%
Ind   6344 22.3%
LD    5588 19.6%
Lab   2005  7.0%
Grn   1669  5.9%

By way of comparison in next door Eastbourne the Lib Dems topped the poll, leading the Conservatives by 6% and UKIP by 8%.

Was there a worse result in a Lib Dem held seat last Thursday?

Source: Vote UK Forum

2 May 2013

Good luck to Lib Dem candidates - you'll need it

Thursday 2nd May is county election day (and some unitaries and Doncaster's Mayor). 

Expectations in the party (and Westminster circles) are that the dismal Lib Dem performance in 2011 and 2012 are now a thing of the past as things have bottomed out and the electorate are beginning to see positives about the Lib Dems time in government.

Some are even foolish enough to predict Lib Dem gains.

My rule of thumb is to take the most pessimistic projections and then add significantly more losses.  At each round of elections so far the Lib Dems have lost around half of the seats defended and there are precious few reasons to believe things are much different this time.

UKIP of course are the joker in the pack - and much of the reason for Lib Dem false confidence.  They are likely to come third in the popular vote and - if so - a significant blow to Clegg's leadership of the Lib Dems.

But with ComRes suggesting UKIP are on 22% they are approaching the level in a four party race where they will begin to win substantial numbers of seats. 

So what if the Lib Dems come fourth in the number of seats too?  Surely Clegg couldn't survive that?