Sunday, 18 October 2009

MPs Expenses

I have been left aghast this week by the idea that some MPs will be challenging Legg's findings. The whole MPs expenses scandal has my blood boiling. The idea that cleaning and gardening costs are allowed to be claimed by MPs at the tax payers expense is outrageous - and this before I even start to think about flipping, capital gains tax, duck houses etc. etc. I know primary teachers who, in order to provide their pupils with decent enough resources for learning activities, will dip into their own pockets and not claim money back because they know their school authority has no money. There is something fundamentally wrong with this situation. I agree with giving politicians a decent wage for the work they do and I am not daft enough to claim that they do not need a London residence. However, new guidelines need to be ensure greater transparency, common sense, morality and, in the current economic climate, an understanding that we are all having to reduce household budgets. Some household budgets need a lot more reduction than others.


So this is the week the BNP are going to appear on the BBC's Question Time. I have mixed feelings about this and having listened to the many arguments for and against I am still no clearer on where I stand. On the one hand, I understand those that claim that only when we expose the policies of Nick Griffin's party to the full media glare will we be be able to challenge them and they will be made to look ridiculous. Certainly many had that view on Question Time last week. Debate them out in the open and they will left looking foolish. But is this just naive? This is not the Monster Raving Loony Party we are dealing with or some amateur politician new to the political process of debating. Nick Griffin is an astute political leader and as much as I deplore his polices he is no fool. He knows his target demographic and you can guarantee that given a platform he will be aiming his message for them come Thursday. Perhaps we should not forget that Hitler came to power through the ballot box. A legitimate political party does not make extremist ideas right. They may have won seats in the European Parliament but that does not mean that their views are necessarily widespread and why should they be given a political platform? The BNP can stage rallies and hold public meetings to spread their ideas but should we really give them a nationwide audience? A member of the public suggested on Thursday that the danger in allowing the BNP on was that more people, not less became attracted to their policies. Giving them legitimacy by allowing them on question time means that is the risk the BBC have taken - is it worth the risk? I think I know where I stand now!!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Mumford & Sons

Loving this new album.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

call your dad he can stop it all!

Conference season continued this week with the Tories hitting Manchester. Is it just me or did anyone else find it a little flat! The Tories to me are still void of ideas. The big questions I suppose is do they really need any? Labour's reaction to the Conservative Conference has been poor. They have failed to take advantage of the slip ups, familiar policies and the courting of Labour's heartlands. Why? Because Labour don't want to win the election. Government is currently a poisoned chalice. Everyone knows there needs to be cuts in spending which means cuts in services and jobs. The Conservatives 'honest' assessment of how bad a state we are in has not been brought about by a sudden crisis of conscience amongst politicians; it is a pre-emptive strike. Faced with re-election in 4-5 years they want to be able to defend themselves with 'we told you so'. Labour know this. They know that the piper has to be paid. They don't want to be the party that has to pay, they can't afford to. What they do not want to do is to lose their core voters. They have temporarily conceded defeat to the Conservatives in the battle for middle England but attacks on public spending and public sector jobs might mean they lose the working class. Both Labour and the Tories have abandoned their core voters in the last twenty years, but they have because they know their core voters will not abandon them. This is no longer the case. Labour could afford to court the Middle Classes in the 1990s because they knew their core vote was so entrenched - Thatcher made sure of that. Despite the growth in poverty under the Labour government the working classes did not abandon their party, buying into the rhetoric of New Labour. That is under threat now. Glasgow East in June 2008 was a warning sign to Labour, not just in Scotland. Labour cannot afford to win the election next year because they cannot afford the long term consequences - and they know it.

On another note I have been much amused this week by George Osbourne's 'We are all in this together' rhetoric! That and 'When Boris met Dave' on More 4. It reminded of a great tune from the 1990s by Pulp!

If the Tories had been genuine about now being the party of the disadvantaged then Samantha would have worn a dress from Primark.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

'Almost Blue'

Interesting comment from Iain Macwhirter in today's Herald. Jenny Hjul has also written on this theme this morning - Macwhirter's is far more sophisticated, balanced and reflective of Scottish opinion (in my opinion!).

Almost Blue

And just in case you are interested: 'Ghost of Thatcher still haunts Tories in Scotland'

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Media Frenzy

I haven't posted for a wee while due to various factors but I am now back!
So much has been going on this week! Mandy makes the Labour Party Conference laugh, Sarah Brown makes them cringe and The Sun has made everyone grumpy - was anyone surprised by their decision? Personally I think that the influence of The Sun's switch will be limited. Murdoch is following public opinion not leading it. It was hardly a brave, daring or controversial mood. I think people over estimate the power of the media these days and the fact is we have become as cynical about our media as we are about our politicians. Interesting that the Scottish Sun is failing to endorse any political party at the moment. Maybe they will sit on the fence and start backing the Scottish Liberal Democrats!!
So the Tories are up next week. Already they have announced plans for free care for the elderly as a response to Labour's pledge last week. I can't help thinking that if the Conservatives are to win big then they might actually have to start leading on policy rather than following in the footsteps of the flailing Labour party. At least we have a real alternative in Scotland! Interesting that Labour have pledged to have a referendum on the electoral system (this will obviously NEVER happen if Labour retain government). It will be interesting to see how they can justify a referendum on one subject to appease the Liberal voters yet continue a campaign to deny the Scottish people a referendum on their future - is it not all in the name of better democracy?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Big game today! C'mon United!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Flat Earth News

I am currently reading Nick Davies 'Flat Earth News' which I eventually got round to purchasing having been to see him talk at last years Edinburgh Book Festival. What an insight into the Media this had allowed. I am a natural cynic so will often view claims in newspapers with an element of scepticism. I was perhaps giving the press too much credit. This makes me wonder about the media and their responsibility in a democracy. One of the key features of a democratic society is a free press. Is our press really free though? It is widely accepted that New Labour's pro-European stance has been muted by pressure from Murdoch in return for his news outlets support. And what about responsibility? The media furore surrounding swine flu was irresponsible reporting. Cheap, shock tactics aimed at maximising circulation. Davies highlights the Y2K bug in the first chapter of his book which saw countries businesses and individuals spend millions spurred on by the media in order to prevent an event which was blown out of all proportion - by the media.
If we cannot trust the media to report accurately then who are we as citizens supposed to trust and how are we expected to make informed choices? The internet undoubtedly has had a massive impact on how we gain and spread information but can we rely on it solely either? If the internet is to replace the traditional newspaper then at what cost? I have asked more questions than I can answer here but I am increasingly frustrated with journalism, media hype and bias in the UK and I want to know what the solution is! Perhaps I am viewing the role of the media incorrectly. Perhaps I should not view it as having a responsibility but more as a means of generating revenue, another cog in the wheel of our capitalist society. Perhaps I even overestimate the influence that the media has on people - after all the SNP are doing well despite overwhelming adverse media coverage. I keep thinking back though to those ideas about democracy and what differentiates our democratic government from dictatorship and I cannot help thinking that I have put too much faith in the idea of a free press.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Sporting success!

A great weekend for Scottish sport. Do you think if Scotland make it to South Africa the 'yes' vote will be in the bag?
Of course it could all be over by mid-week but I am an optimist so I am expecting a Grand Slam win & a World Cup holiday come June!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Independence Referendum

So, Alex Salmond outlined his plans for a referendum on Independence this week and so the unionist parties have started to sweat and the media which supports them have sharpened their pencils and are preparing to report whatever their masters tell them, The Sunday Times are already well ahead of the game.

I see this in many ways as a win win situation for the Scottish Government and Alex Salmond. If the Unionist parties oppose a referendum (which at the moment they seem more inclined to do) then Salmond plays the democracy card. If they accept the referendum then independence question will be put to the public vote and if the SNP are sensible this will include a suggestion of greater fiscal autonomy and power for the Scottish Parliament. I, for one, would be willing to accept incremental baby steps on the road to independence. I sense, however, that there is a growing confidence and belief in this country, which is not necessarily reflected in opinion polls and newspaper editorials, that Scotland is on the road to independence. More and more young people, sense and support that inevitability. There can be no harm in Scotland being polled on this issue. Even if the independence movement fails it will awaken Scotland up to the actuality of the situation and it will force a debate on some of the bigger issues here and in England. The SNP will be in the enviable position of being the ‘aye we can’ party - and in this Obama age of positive thinking and building of self-esteem people will be encouraged to agree with them. The unionists on the other hand will be forced to tell the Scottish people that ‘no you can’t’ in all its subtle forms. We will be told that we are not financially stable enough, we are not big enough, that we rely on the kindness of the union blah blah blah.

I think it was interesting that in the YouGov poll commissioned by the SNP this week support for them over the Megrahi affair was now at equal pegging. The fact is that the Scottish people hate to be told what they cannot do and as adverse media coverage and supposed international criticism grew so did Scottish support for the decision. It is the unionists that should be confident after all the polls all suggest a majority being against Independence. But, it is like being 1- nil up in a home European cup game with the away result at 0-0. You are in control but as the other team keep pushing up the park and the minutes tick away you become more nervous knowing that if they score and it ends up a draw you will be the losers.

There is an excellent article by Gerry Hassan on the issue of why a referendum should happen and the consequences of it for the UK.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Keep your friends close & your enemies closer.

Jenny Hjul Rant or Comment?
One of the perverse things I enjoy about Sundays is reading Jenny Hjul
. Don't get my wrong, I cannot abide the women's views; however, after reading her vitriol I always feel that little more awake. This week was no exception. Although, it took me slightly longer than normal to find Jenny's musings. This weeks article 'It's down to Scottish voters to pass judgement on Lockerbie' was nowhere to be found on timesonline . I was faced with a dilemma: To buy or not to buy? I stopped buying the times months ago because I was becoming so angry at their lazy and aggressively anti-Scotland reporting, but I am having a carpet laid later this week and needed newspaper to line the floor (the Sunday Times does come with at least 10 sections giving plenty cover for the floor and extra for the litter tray). So in the end curiosity (and my willingness to recycle) got the better of me. Jenny did not disappoint.
The article is selective in the use of evidence, speculative and found her conclusions wanting. She does not provide us with anything original instead raises lots of questions designed at undermining the Scottish Government without ever really answering them. She suggests that Brown's government have let 'the Scots squirm alone in the growing international opprobrium'. I do not agree with Brown's silence over the issue, however, I would not describe the Scots as squirming. Far from it. I think the Scottish Executive, generally, and Kenny MacAskill specifically, have handled themselves with dignity. As for 'international opprobrium' should that not read 'selective American opprobrium' - from what I have read the majority of the international community have been sympathetic to the decision
. I am surprised that a "journalist" of Jenny's stature should be so narrow in her world view. She also suggests, based on the reporting of The Times today over the leaked Jack Straw letters, that 'both governments had something to gain from the terrorist's repatriation'. Whilst she is clear over what Westminster gains she fails to fully highlight the 'advantages' for Scotland or the Scottish government. Unless of course she is trying to suggest that the Scottish Government thought that this would advance the 'separatist cause'. I am not a politician or involved in the world of politics but I would like to presume that any political party thinking of making a decision like this on the basis of political advantage would have the sense to research the issue first. Surely, the Scottish Government would have commissioned an opinion poll which, if we are to believe the BBC poll this week, suggesting 2/3 of Scots opposed the release, and the poll which Hjul refers to in this article, showing support for independence has dropped, would have shown limited advantage for the SNP? We should not forget that it was not the SNP who politicised this issue, rather it has been the opposition parties in Scotland and the media who have used this as another opportunity to attack the Nationalists (who incidentally, in another poll published this weekend seemed to have increased their support both in Holyrood & Westminster elections).
Jenny continues to undermine the Scottish government by claiming that 'it seems increasingly unfeasible that Scotland could be in this deep on its own' and 'this has not been a good fortnight for Scottish nationalism or for Salmonds pretensions to statesmanship'.
Jenny's articles increasingly appear to have only one purpose and that is to undermine the SNP administration. It is a weekly rant against everything and anything the SNP does, and her intolerance of Salmond is hardly subtle. Why do I continue to want to read her - well 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer' so they say!
Was it £2 well spent - hardly! But, at least I have the satisfaction of wiping my feet over her on a daily basis.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

A Lockerbie Inquiry

Good Morning!
Not sure what I intend to achieve by this blog or whether I will actually commit to it and keep it going. I guess we will just have to wait and see. But for now, here we go....

I have read a lot on the al Megrahi situation over the past couple of weeks. The BBC continued to keep the story afloat yesterday with their opinion poll claiming that the majority of Scots considered MacAskill's decision to be wrong. I find this poll interesting and it highlights the problem with opinion polls of this kind. I was once polled on migrant workers and I found the questions loaded - I would be interested to find out the exact wording of the questions on the BBC poll. The vast majority of people I have spoken to in recent weeks have been in favour of the decision. Now, I am not saying that those people represent a diverse group of Scots, however, so far I have only encountered a handful of people who think the decision was wrong. The handful who did consider it wrong were also not fully aware of the general controversies behind the case or were unaware that compassionate release was written into Scots Law.
I think a full inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing is desperately needed, although,
I am doubtful if the truth will ever be known . The British and American governments are now working together with the Libyans and Obama appears to be making headway in the Middle East, therefore they will not be willing to rock the boat with a full and frank inquiry. This whole fiasco just goes further to remind me that over the last 20 years Britain has digressed; what with participation in illegal wars and continuously poor foreign policy decisions all carried out in the name of the British people. In the West we arrogantly believe that our political systems are preferable. Whilst I would rather live in this liberal democracy than anywhere else in the world that should not stop us questioning the decisions the government carries out in our name and scrutinising those decisions more stringently. I think that the days of a free press acting as a tool of democratic process are slowly coming to an end. Our governments will try to shield us from the truth of an inquiry because it is in the 'public interest', however an inquiry should be carried out not because of 'interest' but because it is our 'right' to know in spite of the international consequences. Until then all those directly affected by the events of December 1988 continue to be 'only a pawn in their game'.