Friday, 30 March 2012

Crisis? What (fuel) crisis?

The Westminster's handling of (supposed) fuel crisis can only be described as shambolic, and even that is being generous.

It is clear that there was little, if any coordination at Cabinet level. We've been told to store up petrol, top up our tanks and Keep Calm and Carry On, no doubt while stuffing your face with a hot pastie.

The fuel crisis was not caused by the Unite, but by the Government itself. Panic buying set in, not helped by a complete lack of common sense amongst the driving population.

However, the most unforgiveable "advice" came from Francis Maude. He suggested people could store fuel in jerrycans at home, despite the obvious danger in doing so, not to mention the fact it is illegal to store more than a certain volume.

For that grossly irresponsible statement, Francis Maude should either resign or be sacked. Demands for ministerial resignations tend to be overused, but in this case it is justified.

What is of deeper concern is that the Prime Minister appears incapable of dealing with a serious crisis, preferring to play political hardball, when he knew what the public reaction was last time around, and boy did this backfire (no pun intended).

Milliband is little better, and now we have a situation where politicians are trying to defend their respective parties and blame their opponents.

The public are frankly getting sick of this political bullshit, and it might be one reason why George Galloway has resurfaced in Westminster, following his spectacular victory.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Bus Fare Increases

Well, congratulations are in order for the Scottish Government.........erm, not.

Not so long after an increase in train fares, the bus fares have followed suit, and in some cases as high as 28%.

In case anyone in West of Scotland hadn't noticed, First Group have a practical monopoly on the trains, and a share with Stagecoach on the buses. In fact, First Group practically run all the buses in the Glasgow and Lanarkshire areas, with Stagecoach commanding a large portion on the Ayrshire market.

No doubt, any criticism will be blamed on Westminster by Salmond, but that argument is wearing thin. The Scottish Government have managed to find plenty of money for Edinburgh's trams. They've also managed to fund a nice, new shiny bridge as well. Oh, that's Edinburgh as well. Leaving the arguments aside, most people outside of Edinburgh will wonder why so much is being spent in the capital, yet everyone else is paying more for less services.

True, they are funding a refurbishment of the Underground in Glasgow, but that is of little use to most people who work in the city.

The SNP seem to have a problem with Transport.

Perhaps Keith Brown could explain.......

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Got a Spare 250 Grand, Guv?

Surprise, surprise, £250,000 will get you to the "Premier League".

Well, not really a surprise, since anyone with money can get access to any politician.

The details have been published in all their glorious detail, so there is no need to go and repeat them.

What should be of concern, is that once again, this issue proves that if you have the money, you have the ability to influence policy. That is how governments go down the road of corruption. By that I mean the corruption of democracy.

It comes in many forms, and the SNP are not squeaky clean either. They've accepted Murdoch's support, but the cost is yet unknown to the public.

Labour get their cash from the unions; an outdated method. The Lib Dems got some of theirs from a convicted criminal, albeit they were not aware of his dealings at the time.

Political parties the world over - at least in democracies - struggle for money. Sometimes money is not on offer, but some supportive service will be. It may be as little as a car sticker, a link on a website or some supportive editorial comments.

The funding of political parties needs urgent reform. The simplest solution is to grant each party a block sum, dependent on the number of seats they hold in respective parliaments. Let's say the two biggest parties get the same, with a sliding scale going down. Donations would be made illegal.

Sounds great, but the practicalities of such a scheme would be problematic. And it would take the political parties themselves to approve such legislation. Does anyone here honestly believe they would support such a move?

Some political parties are more open to influence than others, but they all make arrangements to suit their primary donors. A little policy shift here, perhaps quietly removing a promise there.

No matter what Cameron or Cruddas say, they knew exactly what was going on. But the other party leaders are reeking of hypocrisy in their criticism. They are all the same. This time the Tories have been caught out, next time it will be someone else.

The Sunday Times did the stitch up. Sounds like Murdoch is getting some revenge. There will payback.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Benefits Culture?

As it is Budget Day, I listened in to Radio 4 (working on a spreadsheet tends to numb the mind).

They had a piece on Child Benefit, and how it would affect those at the top end of the scale.

Appropriately, Tatton - the Chancellor's constituency - was chosen as the area to speak to locals. The area can be considered very affluent in comparison to others.

As we now know, Child Benefit stops at earnings over £60k, with a sliding scale of reduction over £50k. That's the basic situation. So, there will be quite a number of people affected.

One lady who was interviewed was rather annoyed that she and her partner were going to lose out. She left what she described as a "high earning sales job" to start a family. She has three children. Nothing wrong with that. However, she admitted that hers was a wealthy family. By that, you can safely assume that her husband earns in excess of £50k, possibly greatly in excess of that figure. She thought it was "wrong" that she had given up work and was now being penalised for it.

Welcome to the real world, madam.

The general impression about the "Benefits Culture" in the UK is that it is the low paid, unemployed and terminally unemployable who feel it is their right to get benefits. But the lady in Tatton has shown that this feeling of entitlement has spread towards the middle and upper classes of society. Or to be more accurate, the higher earners of society. This is worrying.

I'm married and have two children. My wife receives Child Benefit, and to be perfectly honest any extra income is always welcome. However, I've always run my finances (ok, my wife does!) based on my salary alone. I earn a decent salary, but nothing even close to £50k. Why this lady in Tatton feels she needs £400 per month more will attract a fair bit of criticism, especially those people who are at the bottom end of the salary ladder.

Benefits should be there as a safety net for the disadvantaged in society, be it for the low paid, unemployed or those who are on long term sick. I've experienced all three in the past twelve years. That safety net was very welcome and was most certainly needed.

But now with my job, I don't need the extra benefits of Child Benefit and Tax Credits. Yes, I'm happy to accept them, but if they disappear tomorrow I would have to accept this.

Others won't.

Society needs to get away from the demands of the Benefit Culture. Child Benefit could have the threshold reduced right down to say £30k. How much money would that save? Money that could perhaps be used in better ways.

It would be good to see the SNP proposing that benefits are there for those genuinely in need, rather that a giveaway in order to buy votes.

Reform is never easy, but it must happen.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

SNP Party Political Broadcast

First of all, watch all 2 minutes and 42 seconds of cringe positive message. (Link opens in a new window)

SNP Broadcast

The whole thing is simply cheese. If that is going to be the SNP's theme, heaven help us all. The whole thing reminded me of Balamory, with it's smiley, happy people and brightly coloured doors - not to mention the super-sweety Miss Hoolie-esque. And let's not forget the DFS-like sofa - trust me, you cannot miss it.

I've tortured shown a few people the clip, and they all agree it is, erm, not very good. One person pointed out it is making things out to be an ideal world, and that is probably the most telling comment of the lot.

There is no relevance to the real world. This Balamory-esque film short is on the planet Cybernat. Everything is perfect, but only if you vote in the correct manner.

And Miss Hoolielookalike reminded us, in the appropriate Primary One Teacher fashion:

Remember - 1,2 3, SNP!    (I thought the music was bad!)

Apparently, judging from one comment elsewhere, the audience at the SNP conference "loved it". But then, there are those who would love it if the First Minister sacrificed a goat at midnight.

I'm being really nasty, but that broadcast is simply bloody awful. Where is the attack on the other parties? Where is the attack on inefficient Labour controlled councils? Does anyone seriously think that this broadcast will have them voting for SNP in droves in Easterhouse?

And there is one part of the broadcast that is rather concerning. It is difficult to miss, but it is most definitely there:

Play close attention around the 25 second mark, with the paperboy. He puts a paper through a door, then hands another to a workman. Any guesses as to what paper it is?

The Sun.

That little plug speaks volumes about the relationship between Murdoch and the SNP.

I'm surprised Miss Hoolielookalike didn't hop onto a Stagecoach bus at the end.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Hunting for Votes

Just before Christmas, there was a knock on the door one evening. There was young man, perhaps early twenties. Straight to the point, he said he was looking for work, and thought he would try a different approach. He was polite and well spoken, so I had a chat with him for a few minutes. Having previously worked in the recruitment industry for a few years, I gave him a few contacts and also some companies that I knew were recruiting anyway.

This guy was keen, and showed a commendable amount of motivation. Hopefully he has been successful in securing employment.

How many doors had he knocked on that evening? Perhaps twenty, thirty, forty? How many nights? Who knows. Most people would have said "can't help, bye". Door closes. Next. For all I know, I may have been the only person who took time to speak to him. He impressed me, and had I been looking for staff I would have asked him to submit his CV with a letter.

Canvassing for votes works in a similar manner. Much like sales calls, you will get much disappointment before finally getting result. Activity generates business. It also plants a little seed in the brain.

Your voter is undecided. He/she didn't want to speak to the canvasser that called last week, but they remember that no other party sent someone round. Maybe they are worth a try since they at least made the effort. Your voter may also mention this to a relative / colleague and they too may think the party is worth a vote.

I once did canvassing way back in 83 or 84. It's difficult. And as someone else pointed out to me recently, you can get a wide range of excuses and at times sheer hostility. But when it comes to crucial elections - and referendums - every vote can make a difference. For every vote gained by one party, the opponents need to secure two beat it.

Canvassing these days seems restricted to shopping malls and hustings. Party political broadcasts are greeted with cynicism, toilet breaks and the occasional size eight boot or remote control. Oh and don't forget the bloody leaflets.

The main political parties use the following as primary selling tactics:

SNP - Alex Salmond.

Labour - historical voting patterns.

Conservatives - certain residential areas.

Liberal Democrats - supernatural acts.

Canvassing for votes is the same as selling. You need to show the features and benefits of whatever party you are selling, even if it is Mission Impossible (cue music, dah dada dah.......). One person voting in a household may persuade others.

I'm not saying it is easy, but with an electorate that is half-hearted about voting, canvassing is crucial. Not everyone is prepared to go round doorsteps, but you can always find someone who will do it. And political candidates absolutely must be prepared to do so.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Lib Dems and the NHS

The Lib Dem Conference is underway, and it seems their credibility is well and truly in the gutter.

The party has rejected an emergency motion urging the withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill. However, they are quite happy to support Shirley Williams motion to support the NHS changes.

Nick Clegg, no doubt under orders from Cameron, has reassured one and all that the NHS Bill has changed in all recognition, and there is no danger of a private health service coming in to replace the NHS. A strong speech from a strong man. Totally trustworthy as he proved over Tuition Fees.

Scotland may well become the last outpost for the Lib Dems, since the NHS and Education are devolved powers. In England, their survival must now be critical endangered.

Cameron has, from Day One, used the Lib Dems as a political shield for his more controversial policies. He cannot escape blame, but the Lib Dems are the ones who will suffer most.

There is surely much dissent within the party. This can be seen with the first round voting where 270 people were for attacking the NHS reforms, against 246 against. Clegg's political skin was saved by the fact of them using second preference voting, which gave 280 for the protest against 309 supporting the reforms. A terrifyingly small margin.

One thing is clear, the party simply will not listen to voters. Just about every man and his dog are against these changes within the NHS. The level of protest is probably higher than the Poll Tax, because changes to the NHS affect nearly everyone. How many people do you know who have never once required the services of the NHS?

For all their talk about reining in the Conservatives, the simple truth is that they are doing what they are told. If there were to be a general election, the Conservatives could possibly scrape a majority, although that is doubtful. One thing is certain, the Lib Dems could see the majority of their MPs wiped out, possibly to single figures.

The Liberals / Lib Dems or whatever they are called this week will soon have to come up with a new name, because there is a good chance that the party will split when voter support disintegrates.

There is a warning here for Scotland. The Lib Dems will do anything for a taste of power. Anything. Regardless of whether independence happens or not, there will still be a Scottish government, and it will not always be the SNP in power. We have a system designed to make a majority very difficult, and that means a possibility of future coalitions. Does Scotland really need the Lib Dems?

The Monster Raving Loony Party once defeated the SDP. There's a good chance they will add a Lib Dem scalp to their collection.

UPDATE: Seems that the Lib Dem members have defeated their own leadership, by voting 314 to 270 for opposing Government changes to the NHS. While that will not change the policy, it surely spells disaster for the Lib Dems. Could we see a coup within the party?

Eric Joyce

Well, Mr Joyce has been duly punished for sticking the head into some fellow MPs. The man obviously has some problems - some unkind soul said being a Labour MP for starters - and this boiled up to the point that he got over emotional and went looking for a shoulder to cry on. Problem was, in his emotional state his knowledge of the human anatomy was slightly incorrect, misplacing the aforementioned shoulder by about six inches.

He's got a whopping fine of £3,000 - which to him represents approximately sixteen minutes of expenses or three nights out on the town (have you seen the bar prices in London?).

He's also to pay £1,400 in expenses (calculator at the ready, that's 7 minutes and 24 seconds of expenses) to his victims and has to observe a curfew from Friday to Sunday - possibly at home with a seventeen year old woman bottle of wine. He did mention having had "three or four glasses". Sounds like a useful euphemism to me.

Since he will not be standing at the next general election - unsurprising since he appears to have difficulty standing these days - rumour has it that he will be assisting the Scottish Government in rolling out alcohol education following the implementation of minimum pricing. It seems that a certain F  McAvenie has been in contact after some advice as well.......or perhaps a mobile number.......

Wino (or is it Fino?)

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Remploy Closures

A quick post, but one of importance.

The news has been announced that the Government is closing to close 36 of the 54 Remploy factories - Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Motherwell in Scotland - in order to "redirect" the money.

I think cobblers would be a printable reaction.

I have close relatives who are disabled - one old and one young. I also understand the difficulties faced by both employers and employees.

Remploy provides excellent support and motivation for disabled people. it provides them with  a focus on life, rather than sitting at home all day. Some disabled people are self-conscious about their disability; some are not bothered; and some want the world to know. In short, they are basically the same as you and me. But you and I generally do not need additional support, in some cases just to carry out simple tasks. These people do, and having employment helps them to support themselves.

£320 million pounds is small change to a Government spending considerably more on less tasteful policies. And it seems that all they are doing is diverting this money - in their words - in order to help find the disabled find work. All well and good, but in case they hadn't noticed, jobs are being lost left, right and centre.

Remploy has been in existence for over sixty years. Why Westminster is hell bent on closing more than half of the factories is beyond me. They seem to have this inability to understand the important service that Remploy provides.

Perhaps Westminster could stop giving foreign aid to countries such as India, and focus on their own people first.

We also need a statement from the Scottish Government as to what support they can provide, and hopefully some strong criticism directed at the Minister for Disabled People, Maira Miller.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Service Disrupted

I doubt if I will get any new article on for a wee while. Couple of problems that have to take priority. Normal (relative term for me) service will resume as soon as things get sorted.