Friday, April 30, 2010

But My Dad Voted Labour, And So Did His Dad...

Too busy for proper blogging right now, so here's a nice little picture for you all instead...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Paxo Stuffed

I once sat next to Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym at dinner, and can confirm that he probably is the sharpest knife in the drawer. *Big* mistake, then, for Paxman to try to sneer, condecend and assert without foundation his way through this interview with the man who is Plaid Cymru's economics adviser.

Paxman clearly didn't know who Dr ap Gwilym was before last night. Bet he'll remember in future!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lib Dem Fudge and Fall-Out

We had the first proper hustings of the Gordon campaign last night in Ellon Academy, organised by the community council. A good couple of hundred people turned out to hear a wide ranging debate on subjects ranging from the current economic situation to how the various parties would approach a parliament where no party had an overall majority.

However, one issue dominated, whether the subject was defence or the economy, and that was the future of Britain's nuclear 'deterrent'. As you'd expect, both myself and the Green were against a £100bn Trident replacement, while Labour and the Conservatives were in favour. The curiosity was the Lib Dem position, which claims to be against a 'like for like' replacement.

It smacks of a classic Lib Dem attempt to be all things to all people, allowing them to hear exactly what they want. To those who support nuclear weapons, it gives the impression that the Lib Dems are in favour of a British nuclear weapons system – just not Trident. Meanwhile, to those who support doing away with British nuclear weapons, it can give the impression that just like you, the Lib Dems also support disarmament.

The fact is that it is the first of those statements which represents their real position - the Lib Dems support British possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Which begs the question – if not Trident, then what delivery system would they have in its place?

It's worth taking a short walk through the history of British nuclear weapons at this point, and why we arrived at having a submarine based system. Initially, British weapons were freefall bombs, deployed by the RAF using V-class bombers. However, bombers are vulnerable to counter measures, whether by opposing fighters or surface to air missiles. For that reason, a number of missile-based systems were considered instead.

The trouble with both bombers and land based missiles in the UK, however, is that both are highly vulnerable to a first strike from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This made submarines, which can remain mobile, undetected, launch their missiles while underwater and survive a nuclear attack on the UK, the obvious method of delivery. Although the UK retained a stockpile of 'tactical' freefall nuclear bombs well into the 1990's, so it was that first Polaris, then Trident, became the main means of delivery.

But back to the Lib Dems. If the UK were to have a nuclear weapons system which was not Trident or similar, it would need to involve a new fleet of bombers or land based missiles, both of which would retain exactly the same vulnerabilities which led to the adoption of Polaris. With international treaties prohibiting the use of either outer space or the sea bed for the deployment of nuclear weapons, a submarine based system remains the only practical option.

A cruise-missile based system could be adopted, although the range of cruise is considerably shorter at 3,000 miles than the present Trident system at 7,000 miles. Cruise is also limited in the size of warhead it can deploy. A ballistic-based missile system therefore continues to provide the greatest flexibility.

If a ballistic system is chosen, then that clearly requires a class of submarine capable of launching the missiles. If the deterrent is to be operative 24/7/365, then four vessels, as are available presently, will also be needed. It's a brutal, grim logic, but given the infrastructure already in place, a variation on the present Trident system will be far and away the cheapest and most effective option if you wish to retain a British nuclear weapons system with the current capability of being able to ride out attack, and also be able to attack or retaliate anywhere in the world.

From a personal point of view, I believe that replacing Trident risks leaving us both financially and morally bankrupt, while offering us little or nothing in the way of tangible security benefits. No matter how many anti-nuclear votes the Lib Dems might think they can harvest on the sly, or what they might like us to believe regarding the chimera of cheaper alternatives, there really is no clever-clever alternative out there waiting to be discovered by Menzies Campbell and his 'review' which has been hitherto overlooked by lesser mortals.

Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to possess WMD is a matter of principle and not tactics. Maybe that's why the Lib Dems are having such difficulty wrestling with it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gordon Fuel Campaign

Regular readers of the local press in Gordon (or even those who tuned into Alex Salmond's SNP Conference Speech) will know that I've managed to make a few waves recently over the differences in the price of fuel between Aberdeen City and the Shire, notably between the supermarkets. It's a real bone of contention locally, where people can see little justification for the often 3-4p per litre price diference which there is over a distance of less than 20 miles.

However, the biggest contributory factor in high fuel prices is the tax that's levied by the government. A flat rate of duty, with VAT on top, means that almost three-quarters of the price we pay when we fill up goes straight to the treasury. And with prices now at £1.20 per litre or more (over £5.50 a gallon, or $7 per US gallon for my American readers) - something which impacts upon the cost of everything transported by road - it's rapidly becoming one of the defining issues of this election.

And so it was that yesterday, I was out on the stump in Huntly with a certain local MSP and some of our activists, highlighting the impact of high fuel prices on motorists:

[Pic credit: Alan Milligan]

Worryingly, the Lib Dems are swerving all over the road when it comes to their own tax policies. In a recent Politics Show interview, party leader Nick Clegg argued that the 3p duty rise planned for 1 April should go ahead, only to be flatly contradicted by his 'Chief of Staff' 15 minutes later in the Scottish segment of the programme - a shambles which was repeated a couple of days ago when Clegg and economic spokesman Vince Cable contradicted eachother over VAT increases [follow the link - it's a lovely picture!].

However, their confusion over fuel duty kind of pales into insignificance when compared with the policy that they really want to introduce - road pricing, with charges of up to 13p per mile for using a car.

It probably looked great over a breakfast table in, say, Twickenham, where you are spoiled for choice when it comes to public transport. However, in large parts of Scotland, not to say the Gordon constituency, a car is a necessity, whether for getting to work, for doing the shopping, or simply for meeting family obligations.

To give an example of what policy would mean for local families, think of someone who uses their car to commute the 30 mile round trip from Ellon, Oldmeldrum or Inverurie into Aberdeen. That would mean a bill of nearly £1,000 per year, just for getting to work. If you travel down the A96 each day from Huntly, that bill would be £2,300 every year. It's a policy which sits in complete defiance of the way life is lived in the North East, and indeed across swathes of Scotland where the Lib Dems currently have Westminster representation.

We're having a great campaign here in Gordon. In addition to continuing to fight for fair play on fuel, I look forward to contrasting my party's policy with that of the Lib Dems - who will simply end up pricing off the road the least well-off motorists, who also have the fewest practical alternatives to the car.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The YSI in Gordon

I'm not one for regurgitating press releases on here as a rule, but it's been a busy day, so my concience for doing so on this occasion is completely clear!

Young Scots Help Gordon SNP Off To Flying Start

Gordon SNP Westminster Candidate, Richard Thomson, was joined in Inverurie this morning by a contingent of young SNP activists, to fire the starting gun on the election race in the constituency following the dissolution of Parliament.

The youth activists, some from as far away as Glasgow and Stornoway, visited the Gordon Constituency as part of a Scotland-wide tour which will see them visit several Westminster seats where the SNP hopes to win at the coming General Election.
Their visit marked the start of the formal campaign as activists began distributing some 40,000 copies of the party’s local newspaper - the ‘Gordon Standard’ – to individuals and households all around the Westminster constituency. Together with local SNP members, some 5,000 copies were delivered around Inverurie in a single morning.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Thomson said:

“We’re absolutely delighted to have the support of the Young Scots for Independence today. Their presence reflects the energy and enthusiasm with which we’ve been campaigning over the past few years in the Gordon constituency, as we aim to repeat the success which Alex Salmond had in 2007.

“Our newspaper highlights the many positive achievements of the SNP, both locally and nationally, since the party entered government, and how a strong SNP presence at Westminster can deliver results locally. Our local team already has a strong record of action, and together with an active and engaged SNP MP, we can really begin to deliver results for the North East – particularly if as the pundits expect we end up with a balanced parliament at Westminster.”

Speaking after the day of action, Inverurie resident and YSI National Organiser Jennifer Harkins said:

"I’m delighted to be out campaigning for Richard today, a real local champion for Gordon. He’s running a great campaign here, listening to local residents and doing a lot to champion fair fuel prices for the North East. We’re happy to lend a hand as his campaign gets well underway.

"Activists have gathered from across Scotland to campaign in Inverurie, hitting home our message that it’s only SNP champions like Richard who can protect Scotland from the savage cuts outlined by the Lib-Dems, Labour and the Tories. With more Nats at Westminster like Richard, the SNP can block cuts to Scotland and to the North East."

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Horrendous Lib Dem Failure of the Day

Oh dear. It seems that my post below has confused poor old Stephen Glenn, prompting him to pen a rather silly attack on me for my supposed belief that the SNP somehow 'picks fights'.

For the avoidance of doubt, Stephen, and since you haven't yet managed to publish my response on your blog, the post was, in the light of the recent Scottish Affairs Select Committee Report on UK inter-governmental relations, ridiculing those who claim that the SNP 'picks fights'. A category into which it appears Mr Glenn, whether willfully or otherwise, now falls.

I hope that Stephen will either acknowledge what is either an error on his part or own up to a feeble attempt at misrepresentation, but I'm not holding my breath. It is an election after all, and he is a Lib Dem.