May 2009 Archives

martinford.jpgFour months after he resigned from the Liberal Democrats, and a bit more than eighteen months after his casting vote saw Donald Trump's daft golf scheme temporarily hit the rough, Martin Ford has joined the Greens.

Here's his statement in full, released today:

"I believe we need a more liberal and democratic society, one where power and wealth are more equally shared.

"Fairer distribution implies a reduction in the use of natural resources and waste generation to sustainable levels, so future generations are not unfairly penalised. We have to recognise that there are absolute limits to the planet's capacity to cope with human activity. Creating a society that respects planetary limits - for example, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions - is the biggest challenge we face.

"I have been involved in politics for most of my adult life. I got involved in order to further the liberal, democratic and environmental ideals I believe in. I have stood for election and been elected to Aberdeenshire Council three times on a commitment to support those ideals on the Council.

"After a period in which I have not been a member of any political party, I am joining the Scottish Green Party to further those same liberal, democratic and environmental principles.

"In decisions ranging from road building to airport expansion, all of the four main parties are still pursuing policies that will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions while promising to reduce them. No wonder there is a serious problem of public trust in politicians.

"I have concluded that only the Green Party can be relied upon to consistently support policies that will prevent climate change emissions reaching dangerous levels. That alone is more than enough reason to join."

A lot of people in Scotland think protecting our natural assets is more important than sucking up to Donald Trump. Plenty of people think gouging the Aberdeen Western Peripheral through rural Aberdeenshire is a crazy idea. 

Even more want real action on climate change, constructive policies to make a real difference, not more hot air. It's more clear than ever that the Tories, Labour, the Nats and the Liberal Demcrats cannot be trusted on these issues. 

I'm personally delighted that Martin's joined us. He's both calm and passionate on the issues that matter. He's an outstanding campaigner, someone who put his clear principles ahead of personal advantage. In short, he's a Green.

A promising Euro-poll.

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Friday's Times will have the following numbers (Political Betting thread here):

Tory: 30%
UKIP: 19%
Labour: 16%
Liberal: 12%
Green: 10%
BNP: 5%

If you're a real optimist like me, you can look at it this way. If one more Labour voter in seven and one more Liberal voter in seven switched to the Greens we'd beat the pair of them into fourth and fifth place respectively. 

56% also want to see PR brought in to help clear up politics.

The pessimist in me looks at the share above, though, and sees 55% of the electorate voting for Cameron and points right of him.

Via Climate Progress, here’s a little bit of quality speed-reading from the US House of Representatives’ discussion of the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation. If Stage 2 starts to drag in the committee Patrick chairs, perhaps something similar can be worked out.

And yes, that’s the Moustache of Justice you can see there.

Invisible Nat MEPs.

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invisiblemanpicture.PNGWhen you "send someone to Brussels", shouldn't they actually take part in debates? It turns out the Nat MEPs are, of all Scotland's European representatives, the most regularly absent from the chamber. 

Inconveniently, they sit as part of the European Free Alliance (very Star Wars), which is in turn part of a larger group with our European colleagues, the Greens-EFA. So have they dragged our EU-wide average down? Clearly, but even with this dead weight on our stats, the Greens-EFA remain the most diligent in the European Parliament. 

Another curiosity from that same site - click here to compare the voting record of ALDE (the group the Liberals are in) with the other parties, and you see they're closest to the centre-right EPP-PE.

liberalgraph.jpgI know there's not much point reblogging something the omnipresent Iain Dale has already covered, but this graph, from a Liberal blogger, is really special. It's a great selling point - "we're 3% less at it than Labour, and a whole 7% less at it than the Tories". Inspirational stuff.

However, as usual with Liberal graphs, the bars are properly dishonest. It's obvious: the 3% between Labour and the Liberals looks significantly wider than the 4% between Labour and the Tories. 

The misleading effect, overall, is to make the Liberals look better, relatively, and the Tories worse. I've redone it in true proportion, with Labour as the arbitrary baseline. Even when they're mocking themselves they can't help fiddling the bar charts, it seems. The faded-out bars are the originals for comparison.

I've also removed the annoying shopkeepers' apostrophe. It's not as bad as "only the Liberals can win here", but it surely does grate.

Note: I haven't checked the original 34%/30%/27% figures, and am just taking his word for that. This will probably prove to be a mistake.

Joanna Lumley to vote Green.

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lumley.jpgShe may have been happy to stand next to Dave and Nick for her Gurkha triumph, but Joanna Lumley's voting for Caroline Lucas in the Euro elections

The campaign to get her to do the voiceover for our next election broadcast starts here. 

Alan Johnson's bold move.

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alanjohnson.jpgSay what you like about the Health Secretary, but his call for PR is bold, eye-catching and hard to tag as obviously cynical. 

If he wanted to find a policy less well-designed to woo Labour MPs to a leadership campaign it'd be hard to find one. It's therefore a brave move, in the Sir Humphrey sense, for the heir apparent.

The system proposed, Jenkins' AV+, is certainly an improvement on the existing model, although less clear and less democratic than STV. 

It does favour the larger parties, in particular those perceived as the least worst in their constituency. Smarter Labour strategists continue to favour it because they assume that in the long term, Lib Dem votes will transfer to them in larger numbers. The current mood, in which Liberal backers tend to favour working with the Tories, will pass, they think.

There are also problems with holding the referendum on the same day as the General Election. First, if the PR vote passes, the constituency votes would then be counted in the same old undemocratic way on the same day. If the public accepts that first past the post is no longer the right system, surely they'd be reluctant to accept one more Parliament elected under it? Isn't this meant to be an answer to a crisis of legitimacy, rather than a way of revealing its depths?

The other problem with the scheme is that neither the referendum nor the general election would get the attention they deserve. In fact, despite the view that the public don't care one way or another about this issue, the political classes and political journalists certainly do, and any referendum would be likely to become the centrepiece of the whole show.

This could well be the point. The Tories are resolutely against, and although they seem to be coming out the expenses fiasco in better shape, this issue could well put them on the wrong side again. As Johnson just told the World At One:

"The reason [the Tories] don't like it is that it empowers you."

I'm sure he believes in the campaign: once we get fairer votes there's no going back, and no-one would back this purely for short term advantage. It seems pretty likely, though, that he's seeing principle and advantage align. Never a bad place for a politician to be.
tumbril.jpgThe data on MPs' expenses reportedly cost the Telegraph £150,000. They today report that those Members found to be at it have already agreed to pay back more than £100,000 of taxpayers' money. There's surely more to come, not least from Elliott Morley, who's on the shoogliest of pegs. 

Once this episode is over, everyone who deserves it should get value for money, and those who deserve censure should get their fair share, even if we don't eventually see actual tumbrils. 

Taxpayers will get a substantial refund, a gargantuan round of schadenfreude, and should see a few rogues chucked out of the Commons. As it becomes harder for Honourable Members to do the Maltese breast-stroke, we should all see long term savings in this area.

The Telegraph, for their part, have had a substantial boost to their circulation and profile which will justify their shareholders' investment in this data. Their public interest defence also seems impeccable, given that the worst "flippers" (Morley, Blears, George, Darling etc) would have got away with it if the information had been redacted.

Some people are bored of this now. Not I. I've been lectured on morality for decades by these hypocrites. I've watched them condemn refugees to destitution and force the unemployed into grim make-work schemes. I've seen them make grandiose claims on child poverty and fail, and poverty was never made history internationally either. 

These are abstract problems, issues these cross-party scoundrels at Westminster might never have felt public anger on. But now we know precisely where their double standards lie. This issue has delivered their comeuppance, now the public have found them using our money to refurbish their moats, support their daughters' student flatspay for their feather dusters and Hob Nobs, and save their marriages with cash injections

One last thought on the moats issue. As always, read the Daily Mash.

Greens on the telly.

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The Euro PEB, with great visuals, and good clear messages. Love the globe..

On Today this morning there's been a flood of expenses backlash, with the likes of Anne Widdecombe pleading for those who need their boilers fixed. We need somewhere to live, they bleat. How could we possibly live in the constituency and in London without buying a house? Then surely we need money to get our garden path fixed and to buy a 12 inch black and white telly?

Rent, people. 

It's obvious that you need somewhere to live in the constituency and somewhere in London, and taxpayers must (reluctantly, perhaps) help that happen. Do what you like in your constituency with your own money, then rent a furnished flat in London. Charging for a mortgage and you benefit from it. Rent somewhere and your constituents have an MP equipped to do his or her job with no additional profiteering. Why is this so complicated?

Buy a book, do some good.

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christianaid.pngThis one's for Edinburgh residents only. Christian Aid's annual book sale is on at St Andrew's and St George's church on George St until Friday. It's the best sale of the year, with all the stuff that's too good to go in an average church jumble sale. Also, even pagans and atheists can appreciate the quality of the work Christian Aid do. So go buy a book or ten and feel good about it.

tebbitspittingimage.jpgThis morning he's urged a boycott of the major parties for the Euros, but hasn't explicitly said which of the other parties he would recommend. Presumably there's a clause in his Tory membership that says "calling for a vote for any other specific party will get you disfellowshipped", but I think we can all work out what he means. 

The largest Westminster parties have had their snouts in the trough for too long, and cannot be supported. The BNP are racist thugs, while UKIP went to Brussels in large numbers in 2004 and have lived high on the Euro-hog ever since. No decent person could back either of those parties. 

Can he really be issuing a coded message backing us? Could this endorsement sink our entire campaign?
blandingscastle.jpgThe next round of expenses disgracefulness has just gone up. It's Tories and their stately homes. Call it the Bertie Wooster round. Castle maintenance, moat cleaning, private swimming pool maintenance and heating, chandelier-hanging, and housekeepers. Oh, and the housekeeper's car.

It all reminds me of the bad blood between Heseltine and Alan Clark, when Clark accused Heseltine of buying his own furniture (i.e. being nouveau), and Heseltine, as I remember it, riposted that Clark had bought his own castle.

I wonder whether we paid for any of that. In fact, what is the total post-war investment by taxpayers into MPs' stately homes? Do we own them yet?

Check out the sexy slow pans here, check out the sheer scale of the ambition. More please, onshore and offshore.

The developer discusses it on EuroTrib, and thanks to Greig for the spot.

"All parties"?

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browncameronmistakes.jpgGordon Brown apologised on behalf of all parties for the massive abuse of expenses carried out at Westminster (so far by Labour, Tory, SNP & Sinn Fein: the Liberals may yet be squeaky clean). The damned cheek of the man.

Just to be absolutely clear, Greens have no snouts in this particular trough. No bathplugs, no mole removals, no porn, no widescreen TVs, no flipping, no men to screw in one's lightbulbs. 

Admittedly, we've got no MPs yet, but that's no reason for Brown to tar us with his particularly dirty bog-brush. No worries, though: I think the public know where the bad smell's coming from.
salmondcurry.jpgFew people like a good curry more than our nation's glorious leader, and it's therefore no surprise that dining receipts should be the focus of the Telegraph's Salmond exposé

Now, I understand the idea of claiming back expenses when your work sends you away somewhere, and I'm sure most people accept that. 

However, few will regard it as acceptable to claim back £400 a month (including during two months of Westminster recess) for meals out and other food costs. No other regular line of work has perks like that. In the real world, people pay for their dinner from their salary, and politicians should be no different. 

Even when he more or less stopped going to London, except for the odd flying visit to try and restrict abortion rights, the claims continued. 

His quote in the story, disappointingly, is the same tired and indefensible line Labour Ministers have been using all week:

"The claims for food allowances were entirely in accordance with the Green Book rules at the time."

Whatever the rules say, though, if you claim under them you are saying you believe those claims are acceptable ways to use taxpayers' money. If the rules said you could fly daily to the Taj Mahal itself at our expense, would you do it, First Minister? You've been caught taking the Scottish Government car to your favourite curryhouse. Did you then submit a claim for dinner to the Westminster authorities?

Brown's government tonight remains stuck in the headlights of a pair of news stories that simply will not go away: MPs allowances and the Gurkha right of residence. 

Earlier on Phil Woolas fell foul of the Gurkhas' champion Joanna Lumley, and the Telegraph will tomorrow launch Cameron's Euro campaign with the Cabinet's latest allowances embarrassments.

Although the New Labour reputation for ruthlessly efficient media management is exaggerated, it's hard to see the Blair/Campbell team tolerating either of these issues going round and round, getting worse every news cycle. That's almost three weeks since the Gurkha story started off again, and the allowances fiasco has been a dominant narrative for months now.

Neither issue might seem that substantial in policy terms, especially given the gross negligence of the Labour government on matters both economic and environmental. Yet in both instances Brown insists on pointlessly putting himself on the wrong side of the argument, and both stories are extremely easy for his opponents to communicate.

Only a brave soul would rule out the idea that this pair of stories might finally tip the dominos against Brown. Which is more likely? His political career run through with a kukri, or choked on Jacqui Smith's bath plug?

The plastic bag queen.

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turtleplasticbag.jpgToday's relatively consensual debate on the Climate Change Bill (Robin's fierce speech will hopefully appear here soon) included the odd sour note. The oddest came from Angela Constance, normally part of the ultra-loyal SNP aspirational backbench group. 

She spoke up against the section of her government's Bill which would (or would not, it's that kind of legislation) reduce plastic bag usage. And she's got form, too. I refer you to a curious exchange from November last year.

If you're too busy to click that last link, here's the summary. AC claims a 90% reduction in plastic bags would lead to a 13,700 tonne increase in our waste levels. The Minister vaguely humours her. AC then claims that a 50% reduction in plastic bags would lead to a mere 4,000 reduction in our waste levels. The Minister makes some sensible comments about towns going plastic bag free.

Can anyone explain the bizarre and contradictory maths in that last question, or give me any idea why she's taken up a crusade Don Quixote would have blanched at? After all, we regularly find out that the consequences of our plastic bag habits are even worse than we thought.
greykennymacaskill.jpgThe Justice Minister used to be a firebrand, a free speaker and a free thinker, intense and unafraid. That was a long time ago, obviously, and even in 2004 he entered the leadership race as "former nationalist firebrand Kenny MacAskill".

You can still see the odd hint of his past passion, like the ruins of a formerly impressive castle. A dull speech written by civil servants occasionally has a bit in the middle where his finger suddenly jabs at the Tory benches, the volume rises, and those civil servants watch between their fingers from the back of the chamber.

When it comes to Strathclyde Police's attempts to infiltrate Plane Stupid, though, the fire is well and truly out. The week before last, one of his minions told the Sunday Herald

"The justice secretary has discussed the matter with Strathclyde Police's assistant chief constable and is satisfied the force has acted proportionately and legitimately."

Patrick grilled him today in the Chamber on this issue. Does the Minister really believe that attempting to bribe and intimidate activists is an appropriate response? Are there not some tactics which are appropriate for attempting to detect serious crimes but which aren't suitable for peaceful protests?

Apparently not. The answer was protracted, circular, vague and bureaucratic. The police, in short, are doing just what they should be doing. They get scrutinised and reviewed. There's a balance. Blah blah blah.

It was all so different when the SNP themselves were being infiltrated by the secret service. According to fellow former firebrand Alex Neil, speaking less than two years ago, these tactics were "dirty tricks", being used "to undermine the democratic wishes of the Scottish people".

Listening to the Minister's answer today, I can hear the ghost of Kenny MacAskill (original edition) raging at the telly, bemoaning the response of a Minister so clearly gone native. Can anyone tell me the precise date when the Pod People arrived and took the original away?
browngrins.pngAfter this weekend's fascinating bout of nutty New Labour Kremlinology (honestly, paraphrasing the Lady, how perfect), it's surprising to see the Prime Minister back on Youtube, this time giving us misinformation about economics instead of allowances. He's clearly been told that hiding from the internet wouldn't work, and that another quick video would lance the boil. 

It may help to do so, but it's an odd watch all the same. The girning and grinning has generally been replaced with an undertaker-like tone, that odd fusion of gloom and the desire to sell you something.

The illusory triumph of the G20 is disinterred (specifically the way they beat the recession, not the protesters), although surely that just reminds everyone that a month is a helluva long time in politics. The video shows off Obama standing next to Brown over and over again, as if Labour have forgotten how that image is a contrast, not a credible association.

Above all, though, it's the same Brownite hand-waving we've been putting up with for months and months now. It's an "international recession", as if none of the scale of it can be attributed to his irresponsible Chancellorship. It's Labour growth (!) versus Tory cuts, we're told, when the real difference between them is massive Labour borrowing and cuts in the future or Tory cuts now.

315 people have watched the video so far, but more will come, expecting another car crash like the allowances show. It's not that bad, he's back on the bike, but it's still pretty painful. This is clearly a man who hates his life, who's got where he wanted to be but doesn't have any idea what to do with it. I almost feel sorry for him. Almost.
stvposter.jpgAbout three months ago (I know, I know) I went along to a meeting here to discuss the First Past The Post system. The event was organised by the redoubtable Helen Eadie, and featured the unusual Westminster double-act of Brian Donohoe and Daniel Kawczynski. As it wasn't billed as a campaign event in favour of this most unrepresentative of systems, I thought it might be worth going along with one of Scotland's leading campaigners for voting reform.

The meeting was actually pretty interesting, for an anorak, and we found a degree more common ground than I expected. All there were agreed that having too many electoral systems risks confusion, although the first one I'd abolish is the one which keeps their undemocratic bums on the green benches. We further agreed that STV is a better system than closed party lists, and that if First Past The Post was ever abolished, STV would be a better replacement.

Mr Kawczynski was personally pretty impressive, and not just because he's about eight feet tall. He's wrong on hunting, and he's wrong on PR, oblivious to the price paid for all those disenfranchised Tory voters in 1997, but he seems sincere and prepared to take a different line to his own party, including on Royal Mail privatisation.

The most amusing part, though, was when Murdo Fraser, deputy Tory leader, put one of his young colleagues right on STV. Having sat through an anti-STV rant, Murdo agreed PR wasn't right for Westminster, but pointed out what a success it had been for local government. Cue broad smiles from our corner and torn faces everywhere else.

Who would Jesus torture?

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crownofthorns.jpgApparently the more Americans go to church, the more inclined they are to believe suspected terrorists should be tortured. I know there's more to Christianity than one man being nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, but even if I gloss over my disbelief in him, I struggle to see Kiefer Sutherland playing Jesus next time round.

To paraphrase Kingmissile, Jesus could have waterboarded anyone he wanted to. His dad, sure, wicked temper on him, but the Lamb? Not so much. More on the other end of it, so the stories go (see left). 

So are these flocks sitting in church ignoring the preachings and fulminating in their own heads about the evil terrists? Or are they listening to warped "kill 'em all and let God sort them out" theology? Either way, as Gandhi said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2009 is the previous archive.

June 2009 is the next archive.