Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Leaving London

Not sure this sums up all my feelings right now, but it would be remiss not to give this classic ad another airing in the circumstances.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Some Shameless Favour Seeking

I'm coming to this a bit late thanks to the by-election, but it would appear it's that time of year again. Yes folks, Iain Dale is compiling his list of top blogs for 2008.

It would be nice to keep that top 5 place in the Scottish Political Blogs, especially since the 'competition' has got a lot tougher over the past 12 months, particularly in the SNP-aligned section of the blogosphere. Good - there's nothing like a bit of stiff competition to provide a bit of inspiration and force people to keep their standards high :-)

A-n-y-w-a-y... votes can be submitted by sending an email to the following address: toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com . I'll be submitting mine in due course and would encourage everyone else to do the same. Needless to say, though I'll say it anyway, any votes for yours truly which make it into the mix will be greatly appreciated!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Reasons To Be Cheerful

£20 last Saturday at 15/8 - that's winnings of £37.50, or almost 2/3 of a tank of diesel...

Did The Earth Move For You?

It was a late night. I'm bleary-eyed and need coffee. In the meantime, here's a golden oldie for the delight and delectation of all those who are happy about yesterday's result in Glasgow East :-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Glasgow East Miscellany

This Edinburgh/Glasgow dialect thing can be a bit of a problem. I've already had the lorne sausage roll/roll and sausage debate in a bakers shop on Baillieston Road, but today, speaking to some kids in Easterhouse, I surpassed myself.

Wee Girl: Who's that Polish guy over there?
RT: Polish guy? Who are you talking about?
WG: [Points] Him. The Polish guy staunin' over there!
RT: [Looks, and on seeing nothing out of the ordinary] Who are you on about, and how do you know he's Polish anyway?

My companion then pointed out that in all likelihood, she was referring to a wee chap who we had dressed in a policeman's uniform, which therefore rendered him a 'polis' guy....

RT: Oh, right, sorry. I didny ken what you were on about there.
WG: Why do you say 'ken'?
RT: I just do. I'm from Edinburgh...

[Lengthy pause]

WG: Can I get a balloon?
RT: Sure - here you go.



Canvassing a street just behind Shettleston Road last night, I was party to the following exchange with a couple of punters after being buzzed into a close. I went straight to the top flat, where I found an unlocked door. After knocking on the door, events unfolded something like this:

Irate Voter 1: Can ye no' open the f****** door yersel'?

[Door flies open. Whoever he's expecting to see, it's clearly not me]

RT: Sorry to bother you. I'm round from the SNP on behalf of our candidate John Mason. It's about the by-election this Thursday...

IV1: Naw. We're no' interested. We're at our tea anyway. [Shuts door]

[RT starts to record refusal on his canvass sheet, then overhears the following through the door]

IV2: Who was that?
IV1: Bloody politics. Some guy looking for votes when we're at our tea.
IV2: Aye, but which lot was it?
IV2: Oh, that's all right. If it had been that Labour mob I'd have kicked them down the f****** stairs!



At the end of the street, the tenement blocks had given way to 2up-2down flats. I was just about to knock on my final door when a window cleaner came up next door's path. He glowered at me and said "I canny get any money from folk tonight. They're all blanking me when I go the doors 'cos they think I'm after their votes!"

There are times when it may be appropriate to remind people of the finer points of the SNP government's small business bonus scheme. This, I felt, wasn't one of them...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Moving In

Well, for those of you who've been following the saga, the keys for my new place in Ellon turned up yesterday. I've still to buy furniture and a washing machine, but as you can see, some civilisation has been imposed on an otherwise empty flat...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Content Warning

Those of a normal, courteous and gracious disposition may find the following scenes disturbing and offensive.

Let's make sure that if we have to endure this sort of shrill, partisan nonsense in the early hours of Friday morning, that Ms. Curran has to wait until after the SNP candidate has finished his speech before she gets her turn...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Crap By-Election Chat

Never having been one to miss a chance to crash through a quality threshold, I've been inspired by Labour's only unelected Scottish blogger of note to tell some tales of my own out of school:

Q. Which Labour Party Candidate for the Glasgow East by-election was heckled at the PCS hustings, before flouncing out only an hour into the debate?

Now, with that out of the way, a serious observation - I've been involved in every by-election campaign in Scotland since 1995 (with the exception of Falkirk West - I was on a ship in the Mediterranean at the time with a band). In all that time, I can't remember a more shambolic campaign that that mounted to date by Labour in Glasgow East.

Consider the evidence. First, their MP resigns unexpectedly, which prompts the party to cut and run to limit the time the SNP would have to campaign. Unfortunately, their preferred candidate elects not to turn up to his selection, so a 5th choice candidate is hoiked out of the Scottish Parliament to stand instead and seek a dual mandate.

They then get caught trying to re-write history, deleting every press release on their website which criticised Alex Salmond for being both an MP and an MSP. Next, the candidate claims she'll invite the Chancellor to the constituency to see the effects of rising fuel prices, but only once the election is over.

Cabinet Ministers refuse to make high profile campaign visits, presumably being smuggled in instead with blankets over their heads. The candidate then claims to have lived in the 'East End' all her life, despite the fact she lives in the South of Glasgow. Her campaign also writes to the SNP Candidate John Mason asking for his support as part of a blunderbuss constituency-wide mailing, and tries to canvass Nicola Sturgeon at home.

Perhaps after this, the Labour candidate was correct to describe a poll showing a 15% swing to the SNP as representing 'progress' for Labour. However, worse was still to come...

Her campaign 'blog' told the story of a 93 year old war veteran, beside a picture of a 67 year old Labour supporter receiving an MBE. They then wheeled out an actor from 'Taggart' as a high profile supporter who once - whoops! - appeared on the BBC's 'This Week' programme describing the Union as "the last vestiage of an empire on which the sun has well and trully set".

There's just under a week to go, and I must report that I've seen more Conservatives out than I have Labourites. Labour look as if they are still trying to canvass every door in parts to find out where their support is. And their candidate looks more and more shifty by the day - that much-vaunted phone call to the Chancellor has not yet materialised, it was revealed on last night's Newsnight Scotland debate. And what on earth do you make of an MSP who tries to claim that they don't know where the local MP (from their own party) had their constituency office? I'll credit the Labour candidate with having some basic competence and cunning, and assume instead that she simply wasn't telling the truth.

Anyway, enough chat. I've got doors to knock. Many of those undecided voters may be converting to the SNP by themselves, but every little helps :-)

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Credit Crunch and Glasgow East

Lighter blogging than usual this week, mainly due to the small matters of a house purchase and a by-election. I finished up at Westminster on Monday, came back to Scotland on Tuesday, signed paperwork with my solicitor on Wednesday, and have spent the rest of the week alternating between campaigning in Glasgow, and trying to get a lender to release funds.

After growling at them yesterday, I was delighted to learn that the funds were now ready to release. However, since I'm away from home, getting the cheque sent to my home address was not ideal. So, in an attempt to get round this, after explaining my predicament, I asked them to make a CHAPS payment to my bank account instead, which I would pay for. The conversation with the major high street lender then went something like this:

MHSL - “We can't do that”

RT - “Nonsense. You're a bank – you must do this sort of thing all the time!”

MHSL - “We only do it for people who have accounts with us”.

RT - “Come off it – do you mean can't or won't?”

MHSL - “But we don't normally do it”.

RT - “In that case, can you extraordinarily do it?”

MHSL - “...”

RT - “Well?”

MHSL - “You'll need to speak to another department...

20 minutes later....

RT - “So this is what I'd like to happen...”

MHSL - “We can't do that. It's not allowed”

RT - “Not allowed by whom?”

MHSL - “The FSA – our regulator”

RT - “??! In that case, can you post the cheque to another address?”

MHSL - “No. For security reasons”.

RT - “OK then. Can you send the cheque to my bank?”

MHSL - “No. For security reasons”.

RT - “In that case, could you maybe send it to one of your own branches, so I can pick it up from them?”

MHSL - “No. We're not allowed to - for security reasons.”

RT – [Banging head off table] “What do you suggest then?

MHSL - “One of our branches could print you a cheque.”

RT - “Fantastic! I'll go to the nearest one straight away”

Half an hour later, at the branch of said MHSL, my request was met with bafflement, before they realised that this particular section of said MHSL wasn't able to issue a cheque, because the monies were coming from the other part of said MHSL which operates only in England. We then spent another 30 minutes on hold before spending a further 15 minutes once more going through the rigmarole detailed above. Then came the piece de resistance – the suggestion that I find a branch of the English section of said MHSL instead of the Scottish one – something which would have required a 200 mile round trip on my part!

So, because said MHSL can't be arsed doing an electronic transfer; because it doesn't trust the security of my bank, the security of its own branches OR the security of an address I say is safe, my cheque will get entrusted to an unsecure postal system to go from Yorkshire to Edinburgh to be redirected to South London, where it will sit until such time as I can either head back down to London, or arrange for a housemate to forward it on. Way to go, guys. Way to go.

Anyway, at least there was some cheer in today's opinion polls. The Telegraph, as ever, were determined to try to paint it as bleakly as possible for the SNP, but how can you play down figures which show that you're up 15% in Westminster voting intentions to 33%, while Labour are down 11 on 29%, with the Lib Dems down 9 to 20%? And how could it not warm the cockles of a nationalist heart to see that 49% of those polled wanted the SNP to win in Glasgow East, compared to 33% for Labour?

So, a third of Scots intend to vote SNP for Westminster, but nearly half want to see us give Labour a right kicking on the 24th? No wonder John Robertson MP looked so edgy on the STV news this evening :-)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ministry of Truth

In light of Baillieston MSP Margaret Curran's sudden entry into the Glasgow East steeplechase, I went looking to see if I could find a Labour press release anywhere in which they had called for Alex Salmond to quit as an MP. It would be a bit of a turnaround, after all, for a representative of party which had been criticising the SNP venomously for months for having a dual-Westminster/Holyrood mandate member, to then go out and seek exactly the same role for themself.

My researcher, Mr Google, directed me to this page on the Scottish Labour website. Sadly, the page no longer appeared to be active, which was a shame since it seemed like the smoking gun I was looking for. Ever the innocent, though, and always prepared to believe the best of people, I thought that perhaps the url was simply broken. Curiously, though, Mr Google had the foresight to store a previous version in his cache here:

What makes things all the stranger is that there are press releases for the same date (15 June 2008) on Labour's 'news' page, but this one calling for Mr Salmond to step down as an MP appears to be absent. This is curious, because a friend of mine was able to make a screen grab which shows how as recently as earlier today, Labour's demand for Mr Salmond to step down was still being given pride of place (bottom right of screengrab - click to enlarge):

How odd! Surely Labour isn't trying to conceal a highly embarrassing u-turn, here?

Meanwhile, in other news at thirteen o'clock, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Calman, Have A Go If You Think You’re Hard Enough

Another Scots Independent column, albeit one somewhat overtaken by events - the 'Lib/Lab suicide pact', as one of my colleagues put it upon hearing the news that Nicol Stephen had followed Wendy onto his party's backbenches.

Still, the thrust of it still stands - However much they might wish it otherwise, the devol-unionist blethering classes can't simply wish away support for
independence; it's high time we learned what 'more powers' might actually mean; and that while the Calman Commission may indeed turn out to be a crock, it's still a gift for the SNP.

Do you remember the Calman Commission? Oh, come on… pay attention at the back, there. The Calman Commission – the one the unionist parties set up to produce options for constitutional change, right after they’d spent an entire election campaign saying no such changes were needed? The one which is now costing you as a Scottish taxpayer some £500,000? Still nothing? Oh, well…

This abstraction of your hard earned tax money started life as a plain ‘review’ before becoming, to the reported irritation of Gordon Brown, a ‘Commission’ on the future of Scottish devolution. Meantime, the Scottish Government’s ‘National Conversation’ on the future governance of Scotland continued along its merry way, boycotted by those behind Commission for supposedly being a ‘front’ for Independence.

There’s a crucial difference between the two processes, though. While the Government’s ‘Conversation’ has remained open to the possibility of people opting for a ‘settlement’ which falls short of Independence, Calman has excluded the independence option from the outset.

Amusingly, the first set of minutes state that “the Commission starts from the position that Scotland should remain a distinctive part of the United Kingdom”, before immediately contradicting itself by saying “The Commission will consider the distribution of powers between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster without preconceptions”. So, no preconceptions at all, then, except for those they already have…

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Commission was set up in response to, and with the sole intention of trying to stymie the Scottish Government’s National Conversation. However, despite the shared aim of stuffing the SNP which exists in Labour in Holyrood and Westminster, the Commission has since its inception struggled to gain acceptance in Westminster.

The lack of enthusiasm for constitutional change starts from Gordon Brown down. Backbench Labour MPs are openly scathing, not least because they can see the erratic and unreliable hand of Wendy Alexander on the tiller, and because seeing themselves, as they do as still being ‘in charge’ of Scotland, they feel this is playing into the SNP’s hands.

In a sense, they’re absolutely right. If it hadn’t been for the SNP taking power, the Commission would never have been established so to that extent, its existence and the willingness of unionist parties to consider further powers is testament to their fear of being left behind by public opinion.

However, the most troublesome questions are not concerned with the principal of ‘more powers’ – that bit is easy. Rather, it’s the question of ‘which powers’ that is about to bedevil participants. I can’t wait to see how the respective positions of no-change unionists are reconciled with the federalist position of the Lib Dems. They may agree on what they don’t like – independence and the SNP – but what is it that they actually do agree on? And what about engaging with the public? Well, you know, I get the feeling that we’re not really all that welcome.

Public meetings have been ruled out as being too easily ‘hijacked’, and submissions which stray beyond the remit of the Commission (i.e. mention independence), may not even be published. The ‘experts’ on the Commission, some no doubt selected for their ability to bring empty minds to the problem, will deliberate, ruminate and cogitate. They will then hand down their findings to a populace which will remain forever grateful for being spared the temptations of independence, or the burden of being asked their opinion in advance.

That said, it’s still hard for me to see how the cause of independence can emerge from this twin processes of Calman and Conversation anything other than enhanced. Since the SNP took power, a direction of travel has clearly been established on constitutional reform and expectations set accordingly. Already, the Commission has every indication of resulting in a soggy, lowest common denominator compromise which satisfies none of the participants, let alone the rising aspirations of the voting public. It’s elitist, exclusive, top-down and prescriptive – the very antithesis of the democratic processes which were supposed to become the hallmarks of the new Scotland.

But here’s the rub. Since by definition the SNP will agree with every power recommended for northward transfer by Calman, to a large extent the Calman participants will be doing our work for us. For the SNP, the outcome will never be enough, but for Labour, the outcome is one on which they will never be able to agree as a final destination. And unlike independence, whatever Calman produces can’t be delivered without the consent of non-Scottish MPs.

On present evidence, that support is almost entirely absent. If Calman runs into the sand just before the 2010 Independence referendum, the British state will have been shown to be incapable of further reform, and people will cast their votes accordingly. On the other hand, if it does come up with a package of proposals, it will just whet the appetite for what seems likely to come. All told, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a win, win for the SNP.

Much as some might wish it otherwise, the issue of Independence won’t disappear on a whim of the devol-unionist blethering classes. There’s nothing so powerful in politics as an idea whose time has come and if those behind Calman really wanted to remove the legitimacy of a move for Independence in this Parliamentary session, they should have taken part in the Conversation so that the resultant fell some way short of what the SNP may have liked.

But they haven’t, and all told, that’s probably for the best. Calman was, in a former guise, the Chief Medical Officer for England. For a medical man, he seems to be taking an awful long time to recognise that his patient's case is terminal.