Saturday, April 30, 2005

Don't mention...

Operation Four-Letter-Word continues in Aberdeen.

Wall on top of the St. Nicholas Centre. Friday afternoon.

Creative Commons License

I've added one to my blog. It seems like a good idea to me (via Independence).
I'm hopeless at spelling but I think Licence would be more appropriate for the UK. I'm anything but certain of this though.

It's a beautiful day here so I'm off out for a wee cycle.

Hmm, just to make it clear, I'm off out for a wee trip on my bike. I'm not off out to aquire a wee cycle. I'm 6' 4", (around 193cm for metric types) so a wee cycle wouldn't really be very useful.

Who's Telling Porky Pies?

"If people end up opting out by drifting off to the Lib Dems then it only takes one in ten of our voters to drift off to the Lib Dems you end up with a Tory Government."
Tony Blair, 30 April 2005, C4

This is commonly referred to as the "back door" argument. It goes like this:
"It is Labour versus Tory. Anything else is a Tory vote by the back door and they (the voters) should have nothing to do with it."
Tony Blair, 29 April 2005, BBC

A warning - swearing may occur in the following.
In the world of intelligent bloggers it is an argument commonly referred to as bullshit.
Nick Barlow knocks it down here, and again here.
Phil at Cabalamat Journal does a good job on it here.
Justin at Chicken Yoghurt has been keeping a "back door" count here, here, here, here, and here.

And just in case you're thinking this is some sort of interweb blogger conspiracy to discredit the "back door" argument, you can also read about it in the proper media.
The Independent does a good, if somewhat belated job with this:
Vote for Lib Dems will not let in the Tories
"Labour's attempts to warn its wavering supporters that a vote for the Liberal Democrats could allow Michael Howard into No. 10 "by the back door" was undermined yesterday in a detailed study carried out for The Independent. The study found that a swing of 11.5 per cent from Labour voters to the Liberal Democrats could deprive Mr Blair of his overall Commons majority but it would be virtually impossible for such defections - at even twice that rate - to let in the Conservatives to form a government.
John Curtice, the respected psephologist and professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who carried out the analysis, said: "Labour's claim that switching from Labour to the Liberal Democrats could enable Mr Howard to win the election is highly misleading."

And Channel 4 Factcheck are similarly unconvinced.
Paul Whiteley, professor of politics at Essex University who is advising the British Election Study, also rejected Labour's claim.
"It's not true. Currently our surveys in the British Election Study put Labour at 36 per cent, the Conservatives at 31 per cent and the Lib Dems at 23 per cent. If 10 per cent of the Labour vote were to switch to the Lib Dems it would go to roughly 33 per cent Labour, 31 per cent Conservative and 26 per cent Lib Dems.
In this case Labour would still get a comfortable working majority."

I think that's fairly conclusive. The "back door" argument is a porky pie told by the Prime Minister in order to scare people into voting Labour. Who'd have thought the man could stoop so low?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Opinion on an Opinion Poll

I've been busy in the outerweb (you see what I did there?) so this post is overdue but it was always coming. I've read a couple of other blogs on the subject so I'm confident that what I wanted to say is reasonable. It concerns the opinion poll carried out for the Press and Journal, my local newspaper. There are two articles which, I think, use the poll in a slightly confusing way. I don't think the P&J have been intentionally misleading but I do think that one or two points need to be clarified.

The articles are:
Labour set to hold key marginals - P&J Poll
Begg Faces Tough Re-Election Fight as 30% are Undecided
(Both from 28th April)

First a slightly trivial point - since Aberdeen South is one of the "key marginals" in question, these two articles do seem to be somewhat contradictory. A pedants quibble perhaps. My real concern is with the figures provided by the poll. The problem is illustrated by this quotation from the second article:

"Labour's Anne Begg faces a tough fight to be re-elected in Aberdeen South, where almost a third of voters have not decided whom they will back, according to a poll for the Press and Journal.
The poll shows that, despite Miss Begg's high profile, a general slump in support for the Government will lose her votes next Thursday. As many as 38% of those canvassed in the constituency said they had voted Labour in the 2001 general election, but only 21% said they would do so this time.
Just 9% of voters are sure they will vote Liberal Democrat, while at least 12% of the sample voted for the party in 2001."

12% of those polled said they had voted for the Liberal Democrats in 2001.
The BBC says that approximately 28% of people in Aberdeen South voted Lib Dem in 2001 so we're missing a large number of Lib Dem voters. Where are they? The Labour figure is correct, it's about 38% in both cases. The Lib Dem figure is hugely wrong, 16% of Lib Dem voters have disappeared. That's just plain spooky!

After reading this post from Stuart at Independence, I think I understand what has happened. It is just as well because I'm not very good at understanding the mechanics of opinion polls. I think the P&J has extrapolated the constituency poll result from a poll of the whole of Scotland.
That way madness lies people! It just isn't a very accurate way to do this sort of thing. As I understand it, each constituency would have to be weighted seperately before any useful conclusions could be drawn. Since we're missing so many LD voters, this clearly hasn't happened.

I am cheered enormously by this from Stuart's post:
"If any Liberal Democrats out there are reading this, you will be very pleased to hear that the P&J did an even bigger hatchet-job on the LibDems chances in Aberdeen South. Do the sums yourself, but whichever way you look at it, Vicki Harris will be the new MP for Aberdeen South, and Annabelle Ewing will return to Westminster as the MP for the new Ochil & South Perthshire constituency."

I'm not good at sums and I'm even worse at counting chickens but I've got my fingers crossed.
Honourable Fiend suggests in this post that the P&J poll might be "slightly whiffy". Maybe I should order one of Polly's nosepegs after all.
(Not so I can vote Labour obviously. That will never happen while Mr Blair leads the party, sorry Polly.)
Next post - a comment on all the "back door action" we've been getting from Mr Blair. Unsurprisingly, and as has been mentioned a number of times before, it is a sorry tale of untruths, scare tactics, and desperate deception.
(It'll also be tomorrow.)

Election Sweepstake

A just for fun election sweepstake has been set up on (via doctorvee).

I've plumped for a Labour majority of 63. I was torn between what I want and what I actually think will happen. In the style of Paddy Ashdown on Spitting Image, I've chosen to go "somewhere in between".

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Question Time Special

Detailed Political Analysis
Do you really want to vote for a man with a sweaty forehead?

Unrelated Pop Quiz
1 Botox injections are known to bring about a reduction in wrinkles but do they also stimulate excessive sweating?
2 Inappropriate sweating is a sign of guilt. True or False?
3 My grandfather used to say "men sweat, women perspire, ladies glisten". What do PM's do?
4 Is this the cheapest shot I've ever taken?

Answers on p94.
(What ya donna do Hislop, sue?)

Hey O'Farrell, put me down.

Vote Labour or the hamster gets it

Another ridiculous email from Labour and they are insinuating that I want you to vote Labour. Sod off! I'll take my chances thanks, Mr O'Farrell.

He says:
"It is terrifying to think that in a week's time we could actually have a Tory government."
It is terrifying to think that a man of Mr O'Farrell's intelligence could seriously suggest that this is a possiblity. Has he seen the opinion polls, the betting predictions, the starting positions of the parties, the swing needed for a Tory government, Michael Howard...
It isn't going to happen!
This election can only decide the size of the Labour majority. Mr O'Farrell wants it to be big, the hamster wants it to be very small.
I'm not scared of Howard because he won't win. I'm scared of what Blair will do if he wins another huge majority.

Late News

Real World Intrudes on Blogging!

Bearing the above in mind, this post will be a hurried shambles. I've hardly been near a computer all day so I've not even had a chance to read any blogs. And so much has been happening. The full legal advice seems to be in the hands of the BBC and C4. Blair says it vindicates him, Howard says he's a liar (he's a bit late in the game, isn't he?) I'm not nearly well enough informed to express any opinions on these events so I won't bother (Doesn't normally stop you. Ed.) Interesting stuff though.

I had a mini crisis today when the borrowed camera stopped working after just two photos. I thought it might have been because it got a bit damp as it wasn't the driest of days in Aberdeen. Turns out the battery had run flat so there was no need to panic. I've got one half decent picture which I might post tomorrow.

I also managed to get to the library to see if I could find a copy of the "Straight, No Chaser" documentary on video. Unfortunately I was out of luck, they don't have it. I did get a Thelonious Monk CD and I can confirm that I still like jazz! I will try to get my hands on a copy of the documentary at some stage. (Thanks for the recommendation, Monk rocks and jazzes too!)

Thats it. I've done other things today but they were too dull to write about. Yes, more dull than the above. Difficult to believe but true all the same.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Four Letter Word

I've got a few things to do in the town centre tomorrow. I wonder if I'll see any of these?

Operation Four-Letter-Word

Anne Begg and Tony Blair

Before you consider voting for any candidate belonging to the party of Tony Blair you should read this post by Justin at Chicken Yoghurt. Stop. Did you read it? Forget my post, just read it.

OK, I'll continue with my second rate scribblings for anyone who's come back. Daniel at Crooked Timber has written a summary of the problem with Blair's defence of his handling of the war. It's worth bearing in mind next time you hear Blair saying that his integrity shouldn't be the issue.
(Link via Europhobia)

The two posts linked above are a strong reminder of what you are voting for if you decide to vote for a New Labour candidate on 5th May. In Aberdeen South, Anne Begg is defending a slim majority against the Liberal Democrats so I live in one of the few places where it really is possible to let Blair know what I think of his actions. It is becoming obvious that the Tories are not going to form the next government. Now more than ever, a vote for Liberal Democrat Vicki Harris in Aberdeen South will be a vote well cast. How many people really want to see Blair back in power with another huge majority? I can already hear him: "My decision to go to war in Iraq has been fully supported by the British people. My integrity is not in question. Lets put this behind us..."
Putting this behind us isn't an option available to everyone.

I won't be voting for Anne Begg because she works for Mr Blair. We can be sure that any vote for New Labour will be presented as a vote for Blair after the election.

Here is what Strategic Voter recommends for Aberdeen South:

In this case the principal challenge comes from Vicky Harris of the LibDems, who was/is also opposed to the war, and has a good record on voting reform (one of the leaders of the successful campaign to bring in a fair voting system for future local elections in Scotland).

And in this case we should note that since 1997 Ann Begg has only rebelled 13 times, nearly all on minor matters. As a ‘loyalist’ (to whom?) who didn’t resist foundation hospitals, top-up fees, etc, she has been elevated to Labour’s National Executive.
We consider this constituency an absolutely key Labour-LibDem marginal, with no other party standing any realistic chance. If Labour lose it then Blair’s Westminster majority falls by 2.

Please, please, on this occasion vote ‘tactical LibDem’ and send to Westminster someone who will resist the illiberal and privatising drift of New Labour (or the Tories) !

Strategic Voter: Aberdeen South

Full details of Ann Begg's record in parliament can be found on they work for you.
Some points of note:
She voted very strongly for the introduction of foundation hospitals
She voted very strongly for the introduction of student-top up fees
She voted a mixture of for and against the Iraq war

For me however, these details are of secondary importance. What matters to me is that any vote for a New Labour candidate will be taken as a vote for Tony Blair, a man who would rather not discuss the question of his integrity.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Operation Four-Letter-Word Continues

I went into the centre of Aberdeen today and I still had the borrowed camera in my pocket. Look what I saw:

How did that get in there?

I took a few more photos which you can see here. I noticed the word in quite a few other places but didn't manage to photograph them all. My favourite was actually in a lift but I had to get out before I had a chance to get out the camera. I wouldn't want to give anyone the impression that I'd put the word there. Not to worry. I'll see if I can spot some more next time I'm at the shops.
Spread the word.

This post was edited to add the information and links. I'm sure there is an easier way, I just don't know what it is.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

It's more election news

Aberdeen South
On Friday the Press and Journal printed my letter about the implausibility of the Conservatives winning in Aberdeen South. Voting for the Liberal Democrats isn't a vote for a Tory government as some have tried to claim. In Aberdeen South it's straightforward, only Labour or the Lib Dems can win the seat. The Tories are a distant third. Nationally, Nick Barlow has all the information you need here.
On Saturday the P&J's political editor, David Perry, wrote:
"Forget the Labour and Conservative parties claim that a vote for anyone but them is a "wasted vote". They lie. It isn't."
He goes on:
"The Liberal Democrats have already disabused many of the idea that to cast a ballot in their direction is to throw it away by winning more than 50 seats in Westminster in 2001..."
(P&J, 23 April, p17)
So, a vote for the Liberal Democrats is, yes, a vote for the Liberal Democrats. Anne Begg's scare tactic posters in Aberdeen are meaningless. The Tories won't win the election and they certainly won't win Aberdeen South. I'm so confident of this that I'll publish my full address here if I'm wrong. I won't be losing any sleep worrying about this in the run up to the election though.

Craig Murray is standing against Jack Staw in Blackburn. Mr Murray is the ex-Ambassador who was treated very badly by the Foreign Office after he revealed details of human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, an ally in the "war on terror". He is a man of principle, not something which can be said of his opponent. Read all about his campaign via the link.

Richard Dawkins writes in the Independent. He is supporting Reg Keys in his campaign against Tony Blair in Sedgefield. Dawkins also reminds us why we shouldn't forget IRAQ when we vote on May 5th.
(Via Adam on the Secular Newsline forum.)

And the Mail on Sunday has apparently obtained a leaked copy of the full legal advise with regard to the legality of the invasion of IRAQ. Link via this post (which includes a useful summary of the article) on rhetorically speaking.
The Observer also comments on the leaked document.
Unsurprisingly, the legality of the war doesn't appear to be as clear cut as Blair would have us believe.
Operation Four-Letter-Word will be continuing in Aberdeen this week. Photo's will be posted.
Don't forget IRAQ.

World Poverty Day

It's World Poverty Day so what better time could there be to click on the Make Poverty History banner up there on the left and join the campaign.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Vote SNP in these places

I haven't undergone a conversion, my main motivation is still to try to reduces Blair's majority in the next parliament. At the moment it's looking like Blair is going to win another 100+ majority and the thought of that makes me sick to the stomach. If you feel the same way and want to give Blair a bloody nose, the following constituencies are places where you can do this by voting SNP. I've said before that I like a lot of the policies of the SNP and I stand by that. They haven't abandoned their principles in the way that the Blair government has.
But before that, a quick reminder about my own constituency, Aberdeen South. Here it is a straight contest between Anne Begg (Lab) and Vicki Harris (LD). One of these two will be elected, none of the other parties are in contention to win the seat. I urge you to vote Liberal Democrat and so does backingblair.

Without further ado, with the help of Stuart at Independence, here are the places where the SNP can win at the expense of Blair's Labour. The links supplied will take you to the BBC Scotland page for the relevant constituency and the backingblair page for the same.

Dundee East - the SNP candidate is Stewart Hosie, backingblair agrees. Vote SNP here!

Ochil & South Perthshire - the SNP candidate is Annabelle Ewing, backingblair agrees. Vote SNP here!

Dumfries and Galloway - the SNP candidate is Douglas Henderson, backingblair page is down. The Conservatives are notionally in second but I still think you should vote SNP here!

Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) - the SNP candidate is Angus MacNeil, backingblair agrees. Vote SNP here!

These two are notionally safe Labour seats but the SNP are the second place party and the most likely to achieve a result. They are:
Aberdeen North and Linlithgow & East Falkirk. Vote SNP here too!

Thanks again to Stuart at Independence for his help. Sorry Stuart, I'm afraid I've left out one of your suggestions as the Liberal Democrats are the second place party and my own inherent bias means I can't recommend voting for the SNP there. I do recommend checking out Stuart's blog if you want more information on the SNP. He really is doing an excellent job for his cause. Solidarity Bloggers!

Operation Four-Letter-Word

1 Beach, 1 size 11 boot, 1 borrowed camera, 1 word.
Operation Four-Letter-Word at Aberdeen Beach.

Spread. The. Word.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Smiling at People

I'm trying to make some alterations to my lifestyle. I haven't smoked for almost 6 weeks now and I've made some other changes which I won't bore you with. I'm a creature of habit so I don't find it easy to make changes. But I'm also stubborn so once I really decide to do something it almost always gets done. It's been going pretty well.

I've been looking at we are what we do. It's full of good ideas. On Wednesday I went out and decided to try put No5 into practise. It's "Smile and smile back". So I headed off into town with the specific intention of smiling at every person who looked my way. And I did. It wasn't easy at first and a got quite a few strange looks along the way. After a few forced smiles it started to become easier and I began to enjoy myself. I went into a bookshop and asked a sales person about the book of the website: Change the World for a Fiver. I smiled happily as he looked it up on his computer. They didn't have it in stock but could order it, he smiled back at me. I asked if he knew how much it cost and he smiled again (I think it was my grinning mug rather than the rubbish joke).
I decided to try another shop. I smiled up to the counter and asked the woman behind it if they had the book in stock. She checked on her computer (in a smiley way) and then beamed that they should have one left. She went to find it and came back smiling happily, book in hand. I grinned. I resisted telling the same lame joke. I paid my fiver. She went to put the book in a plastic bag. No thanks, I smiled, I'm trying to save the planet. We smiled at each other a final time and I left with my new book.
This really works. It sounds silly, maybe even a bit cheesy, but it really works. I had a few other chores to attend to and I smiled happily at everyone I spoke to. Most people smiled back and all were very helpful. It was a good day. I'll be smiling randomly at people at every opportunity from now on. If you see me, why not smile back?

In other news about me, I'd like to say something about my computer. I have a PC which a bought a few years ago. The tag line at the top of my blog isn't just a random sentence, it says something about me. I bought the PC during "the apathetic years". Now that I've started to care about the world again, I wish I'd bought a Mac. I didn't, I'm stuck with the PC. My next purchase will be a Mac but it isn't likely to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, I'm using the Firefox browser instead of IE. It's good and isn't made by a transnational company intent on global domination. It's also free. Why not give it a try?

One more thing. I've been exploring h2g2. It is amazing. It is also a time sink. On Poems I was accepted as a Thingite. I go by the name "Curious Hamster - Gatekeeper to the gazebo of the undefined amphibian underlord". Say hello if you meet me there.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Kennedy, Hain, and Darling

I'm pretty interested in politics. I've got google alerts and technorati watchlists set up for news about my constituency. They cover Aberdeen South, Anne Begg (Lab PPC) and Vicki Harris (Lib Dem PPC). I haven't bothered with the other candidates because Aberdeen South is a straight contest between these two, none of the other candidates can win. Given my active interest in the election locally it came as something of a surprise when I learned yesterday evening that there had been a number of key visits earlier in the day. Charles Kennedy was here, and so were Alistair Darling and Peter Hain.

I first discovered this via North Tonight, after it had happened. I've also read about it in this mornings local newspaper, the Press and Journal. These reports can be seen online here for Charles Kennedy and here for Hain and Darling although possibly only for a short time. (That's still a lot better than many local papers who often publish very little online.) What you can't see from these links is that Mr Kennedy is picured on the front page. I had to look for the story about Hain and Darling and only found it on the second attempt. A small victory for Charles. Nice one.

On reading the articles it seems that Mr Kennedy made a speech about his proposed local income tax to Kincorth pensioners. Whether you agree with the policy or not, it is undoubtedly a fresh idea, and a brave one. I like it. Pensioners pay less, people with more disposable income pay more. That seems fair. I know elderly pensioners who have been forced to sell their homes because they couldn't pay their council tax bills. That doesn't seem fair to me.

Hain and Darling made speeches about...
Perhaps the reports have been unkind but there isn't much to say. Darling supports the employment of those over 50 in B&Q and can pull balls from a bingo machine. Hain concurs.
The report in the Herald has a bit more:
Mr Hain cautioned against "having a punt on the LibDems or SNP".
He said: "Our biggest problem is the 'Done Deal'. People feel we are going to win anyway and don't need to help us. They may think they can send us a message by not helping us. Well, we will lose seats like Aberdeen South and other key marginals and that will stop us getting a Labour government."

I've worked out that I must have been less than 10 minutes walk away from Hain at one point in the day. I wish I'd been there when he said this. In real life I'm not normally very forthcoming but I think I'd have managed to let him know he was talking out of his...

Question Time is about to start so I don't have time to post the links which prove the point. There are quite a few in my previous posts if you're not convinced.
Next post will be unrelated to politics. It will be about my favourite subject: ME!

The Trouble with Blogger

Blogger seem to be having some "stability issues" today. Nggggg!
At least it gave me the time to reflect on a long rant I wrote about Paxman and Blair. I've deleted it now because it turns out that it was rubbish. Not to worry, I'm glad I didn't post it though. Not than anyone could have read it if my experience with Blogger this afternoon is anything to go by.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Reply

I've written three posts now on Professor Matt Qvortrup. This is the first one, this is the second, and a third post mentions the story under the sub-heading "More on yesterday's post". As I said in this third post, I emailed the Professor to ask if he could clarify his position.
(I should point out that Professor Qvartrup had already replied before I wrote this post. His email was sent in the morning but didn't arrive in my inbox until later in the day. The interweb can work in mysterious ways.)

In the interest of fairness, and as advised in my email, I will relay the details of the Professor's reply here (with no editing other than to remove the spaces between lines):

Dear Garry
I am afraid that my views in the P&J were taken slightly out of context and that the piece in the Scotsman was severely shortened. This made it look as if I predicted something which I did not, in fact, predict.

I'm in a bit of a rush today so I don't have time to give a considered response I'm sure readers can draw their own conclusions.

I will just add, as I also mentioned in the third post, that I wrote a letter expressing my concerns to the Press and Journal. They have let me know that they will be printing my letter in the next couple of days.

I have to go now. Paxman's interview with Blair will be on in a minute.

Just a bit of fun*

As promised this post contains only good things, nice things, and fun things. These are links to stuff which I like and some might be considered to be in bad taste. If you are a regular blogger some of them might be old news. If so, I can only say "originality is the art of remembering what you hear but not where you hear it". I'm pretty sure that's a paraphrase of a famous quotation but I can't remember who said it. On to the links.

The first three are all via Bloggerheads in one way or another. If you don't read Bloggerheads regularly then you're probably not very well informed ( this is something I've had some previous experience of, so don't feel bad.). Anyway.

We are what we do is a website which everyone should spend some time reading. I'll be paying another visit as soon as I've written this post.

Camilla Queen is very funny. It is not suitable for Diana lovers, something I remembered too late when letting H2O listen to it. They still laughed though.

I enjoyed playing WMD HUNT and I scored a maximum 3000 points (admittedly on the second attempt).

Did I mention that all of those came via Bloggerheads? In a roundabout way the next one did as well. It's the vote-o-matic on the Observer Blog. Proper in depth political questions? Have a look and see what you think. I won't tell you what it recommended for me but it was something of a surprise.

This post on BigDaddyBlog has a video link which I've been laughing about for two days straight. It's Paxman reading the weather. If you haven't seen that you absolutely must go and watch it. Fantastic!

The Zoomquilt is just plain weird but in a good way. (via Jim Bliss)
One more. It's Mr Tangerine Man, a song about the man, the ego, the Kilroy. (via Stuart at Independence)

I was intending to finish with a link to a picture of a combine hamster for my favourite Blair. Unfortunately, this has not turned out quite as I'd like.
This means the rather unimaginative answer has to be "I don't think so" at this stage. I'll give it another go at some point ;o)
(I think I could probably track down the owner of a combine harvester though, I do know some people with farming connections.)

One more thing. Those with strong religious tendancies may want to look away now.
I was watching Newsnight earlier and Christina Odone, former editor of the Catholic Herald, said:
"The church right now needs a Good Shepard in it's pope and instead it's got a German Shepard..."
I think this is pretty funny, especially as I've edited out "...whose bark and whose bite we have all heard and felt." which sort of spoils it. It'd be much better if it had been unintentional. Wouldn't be fair not to include it though.
That's it. The next post, barring a "road to Damascus" moment, will be a return to cynical critisism of politicians and their chums.

*Copyright Peter Snow and used here without permission.

Edit, but I'm not saying where.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

In Aberdeen Today

Moslems set for tactical strategy
The Press and Journal today (p11) is reporting that the Moslem community is being urged to vote tactically for the Lib Dems or the SNP in Scotland (no link, it's not online). The Muslim Association of Britain is asking muslims to vote against Labour because of the Iraq war and the recent anti-terrorism legislation. Scottish chairman, Dr Salah Beltagui, said:
"Moslem opposition to the war is well documented, but in recent months this has been joined with anger over the powers the Labour government has forced through, enabling them to hold people indefinitely without trial. Therefore we have found that to command support from Molsem constituents, it is not good enough to have been just anti-war, only to back the anti-terror legislation."

And the Labour response from an anonymous Scottish Labour spokesman:
"The only thing a vote for anyone other than Labour will deliver is Michael Howard getting into No.10 through the back door."
I wonder what Justin at Chicken Yoghurt would say about that? There are also one or two links in my post yesterday which make a nonsense of this claim. To adopt a New Labour strategy with one crucial difference, I will repeat once again that a vote for the Lib Dems in Aberdeen South will not lead to a Tory government. (Just in case you are not sure, the difference is that this endless repetition is actually true.)

More on yesterday's post
Read it here. On reflection, and in the spirit of trying not to think the worst of people, I decided to email Professor Qvortrup to ask if he could clarify his position. Strangely, the professor's email address is no longer available from the relevant RGU staff contact page. Fortunately, the google robots take a while to update changes to pages so his email address was still listed on the google page summary. Handy.

I've written a short summary of my concern and suggested he might like to read my post on his opinions. I also asked if he could supply me with the percentage swings and turnout figures on which he based his claim for Aberdeen South. I will be happy to clarify his position if he returms my email. Further updates may follow.
I've also emailed the Press and Journal expressing my concerns.

Not local, but
The Press and Journal website has an interesting story about John Hemming and his challenge to the postal voting system. Quite a few bloggers have been following this although I'm not sure if this will turn out to be a big election story. It certainly will be if the court rules in his favour. If you'd like more information, Mr Hemming has his own blog here.

That's it for now. In an effort to combat the generally rather negative opinions I express when writing about politics, my next post will contain only good things, nice things, and fun things. Underneath all the grumbles and complaints I'm actually quite a happy person.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Professor Speaks (again)

In a previous post, I had to take issue with an article in the Scotsman by Professor Matt Qvortrup. In a piece in todays Press and Journal he's at it again.
This post is an attempt to put the Professor's opinion to the test.

In the Scotsman article the Professor had suggested that Aberdeen South could "go blue". It's fair to say that this just is not true. I made the point in my previous post and this letter to the Scotsman makes the same point. The Tories cannot win the Aberdeen South constituency unless something truly extraordinary happens. It is not going to happen.

But the Press and Journal today has him saying:
"a combination of a low turnout and a drift from Labour to the Lib Dems could see the Tories overtaking the Lib Dems in Aberdeen South sufficiently well to unseat Anne Begg, the Labour candidate defending the constituency."
How does that work then? A reminder of the starting positions might be in order. A swing from the first place candidate to the second placed candidate will lead to the third place candidate winning? Even with a very low turnout it doesn't seem very plausible to me.

He also said "the polls indicate that the Tories are moving forward."
Here is a post from yesterdays Guardian election blog to put that comment into perspective.
The best result the Tories can expect from recent polls still gives Labour a 50 seat majority.

In my previous post I said that the Professor's attitude "leaves me wondering whether the Professor might just be a strong Labour supporter."
Perhaps I am just a very cynical person. I thought I'd see if I could check. One quick google later and I find this on the RGU appointments pages:
"A graduate of Oxford University and former policy advisor to both Jack Straw and David Blunkett".
It's all starting to make sense now. The Professor has a close association with New Labour.
Would it be rude to suggest that this is why his opinions seem so far removed from the facts?
I think not.

It is another case of "Vote Lib Dem, get the Tories".
I've mentioned this before. It is a nonsense.
Nick Barlow has written a post on this and via his post yesterday, Phil Hunt has written a more detailed version here.
I'm afraid Professor Matt Qvortrup is taking part in the great New Labour "Tories are Terrorist" campaign. It's not pretty and it certainly isn't clever.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Poster Power

These are my first ever bumbling attempts at playing with some PS software so don't expect too much. I've made a couple of posters which you can view here.

You can also make your own Conservative posters (via somebody, but I can't remember who, sorry)
I had to bring on the Gimp to add the CuriousHamster image.

I like them but then I am very easily pleased.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Interesting People Saying Things 3

A friendly hello to The Bag of Bears, soon to be a new addition to my blogroll. Nice blog and I really can't get enough of that profile photo (I'm also a sucker for flattery, especially from fellow hairy mammals. Just promise not to eat me if we ever meet).

We've had Alastair Campbell, now Michael Howard is at it (link via the real tom watson).
I think all three of these might have to go in my Election Links.

A Message from Albia is well worth a read (via The Skakagrall).
More blogroll additions. There is so much good stuff on that there interweb thingy.

Some Not Hysterical Newspaper Reporting
Here are a couple of slightly more considered reports into the al-Qaida "poisoners conspiracy".
No.1 A sledgehammer for a nut, in the Times (via Guardian 2005 Election Blog).
No.2 Doubts grow over al-Qaida link in ricin plot, in the Guardian (via me reading it).

Justin at Chicken Yoghurt got there long before almost anyone in the "real media". Good to see some of them eventually catching on.

And Finally
The BBC is collecting the best election cliches at the Cliche watch. It's pretty funny, although in all honesty I'm just hoping they'll publish my suggestion if I link to it. Go on BBC, fuel my ego, you know you want to.

In Our Name

Watch Drawing The Line, the new video from the Backing Blair campaign.

Labour in. Blair out.

The Labour party, Anne Begg included, have not forced him out. On the May 5th we can make it happen.

New Template

I've got a brand new combine harvester template. I'm pretty happy with it so I'm going to try to leave it alone for a while. I might still need to sort out the links, the wee buttons don't seem to be properly aligned. It'll just irritate me if I don't fix it, but it's after 4am so I'm not doing it now.

Since this post isn't really about anything it seems like a good time to mention it has been more than a month since my last cigarette. I am officially in my second month as an ex-smoker. I'll soon be at the preachy stage of telling other smokers they should quit too.
Go on, you'll feel better and it'll save you so much mon...
Sorry about that.

Before I switch off, I've got to tell a not joke.

What is the difference between a full stop, a comma, a semi-colon, and a colon?
I don't know. I really should look it up at some point.

Friday, April 15, 2005

OK, maybe I am a bit left wing

I've just taken the Political Survey 2005 (via who are collecting everyone's results here).

Here are my results

This is the second test I've taken recently and it seems that I am a bit left wing. This isn't really a surprise to me but it doesn't really sit very well with the wee bit about me in the sidebar. I'm about to change it but, for the record, right now it says:
Mr Bush and Mr Blair made me like this. I certainly don't think I'm left wing. I guess I've always been somewhere in between. I really am curious but I'm not really a hamster. I'm Garry.

Before I change it I'm going to try to explain why it said that in the first place.

I'm 33 years old and I can still remember the Thatcher years. When I turned 18 I refused to pay the poll tax but it was abolished not long after. In those days Labour was left wing and I was a Liberal Democrat voter and firmly in the centre. I've always wanted PR, something I put down to a very good Modern Studies teacher at Torry Academy who's name I sadly can't remember. I've always though that Thatcherism put to much emphasis on economic growth and not enough on social justice. I'd heard the stories about how bad the previous Labour government had been, in particular the "winter of discontent", and it seemed to me that there ought to be a middle way. As I learned a bit more about how elections work in the UK I became even more committed to the idea of PR. So many votes are meaningless under FPTP. The "big two"must appeal to a narrow group of swing voters and to hell with the rest of us.

Now that I've started to take a more active interest in political issues again, my views are largely unchanged but the political landscape is very different. New Labour is not a left wing party, despite Robin Cook's protestations. These days, my opinions are mostly to the left of New Labour. I'm certainly not a radical left winger but I think there should be a greater concern for fairness and less concern for money and consumerism. I believe that unchecked consumerism is an unhealthy state of mind; when did you last meet someone who thought they had "enough?"

So, I'm going to change the description above, not because I feel I have moved to the left, (not much anyway) but because the political debate has moved so far to the right. I now consider myself to be slightly left wing. What I'd like is for political debate to be moved back towards the left so that I can change it back. I like being in the centre, no-one notices you there.

Unrelated but:
I might well play around with my template later. It could be a complete redesign because I just love to mess about with stuff. If I find something I like, I promise not to change it ever again (or for at least a couple of month anyway). It's against my better judgement but I'll probably put my last name in the "about me" bit as well. In for a penny...

Poster Count

Since my last count the poster situation in Aberdeen has changed somewhat. I can't find any of the WARNING posters which I'd counted before. I have found 6 (or possibly 7, my memory isn't what it used to be) new New Labour posters. They are on the one hand more subtle, but on the other more sickening and emotionally exploitative. So much so that I can't bring myself to tell you what they say. They all use pictures of children and they are all about the terrible Conservatives.

Before you jump down my throat, remember that I dislike the Tories just as much, if not more, than the next person. The problem is that in Aberdeen South, where all 6 (or 7) of these posters are on display, there is no chance of the Conservatives winning. The clever people at Electoral Calculus are currently predicting a Labour majority of around 4,700 over the Liberal Democrats. Not the Tories. The Tories are a further 3,000+ votes behind the Lib Dems in the predictions. The choice in Aberdeen South is between Labour and the Lib Dems.

The Conservatives are not going to win the general election. Electoral Calculus is predicting a Labour majority of 108 as I write this. These posters are nasty scaremongering and I don't like them. It is New Labour spinning the truth in the way we've come to know and love not believe.

In other poster news, I still haven't seen any Lib Dem posters in Aberdeen South. I mentioned that I was going to put up some Backing Blair posters but in the end I decided against it. I feel a bit better because I spotted that someone else has taken the trouble to put some up. Well done that person. I have been messing about with the Tory poster creator thing that everyone has been having fun with but I can't get any to post. Hopefully I'll get it sorted out in due course.

Unrelated Weather News
It is ridiculously cold in Aberdeen today. I've been out and about and I can tell you that spring is most definitely not in the air. I even noticed a brass monkey on the look out for some missing items. I offered to help but he would only say that a couple of personal attributes had frozen off. Strange, I wonder what they were?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Election Linkage

Can't remember where I first saw these links but they seem to be on most blogs now so I'm joining in.

If you want to vote to get rid of Blair but keep a Labour government:
Backing Blair

If you are not going to vote and want to tell someone why:
Not Apathetic

If you want to find out which party best represents your views:

Who Should You Vote For?

Who should I vote for?

Your expected outcome:

Liberal Democrat

Your actual outcome:

Labour -11
Conservative -46

Liberal Democrat 76
UK Independence Party -1

Green 37

You should vote: Liberal Democrat

The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

Interesting People Saying Things 2

Just two links but both are in the "must read" catagory.

Tim at Bloggerheads explains why so many people won't be voting for New Labour.
I'd just like to put on record that I will vote for Anne Begg if Blair resigns.
I'd also like a believable commitment to introduce PR for electing MP's but one thing at a time. (Remember, Blair promised this in '97. He's saying it again but to say that I'm taking that with "more than a pinch of salt" would be something of an understatement.)

Justin at Chicken Yoghurt has all the information you need about Osama Bin Laden’s master poisoner. Read it. Go on, I won't tell you again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I Like Jazz

It's still a surprise to me but it turns out that I like jazz. I was at the local library yesterday and managed to borrow "The Essential Miles Davis" on double CD. It's great stuff. I'm going to see if I can track down a copy of the Thelonious Monk documentary, as recommended by the friendly Blair. Thank you. I think the central branch might have it so I'll have a look next time I'm in town.

That's all for now. I've got some pressing issues to attend to this evening in the real world. Outstanding!

Fisking a Scotsman

A Google Alert has delivered an odd reference to my constituency in the form of an opinion piece from yesterdays Scotsman.
It's called "Could Scots hand Howard keys to No 10?" and it's written by Professor Matt Qvortrup, research chair in the department of economics and public policy at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.
The Professor may be a fellow citizen of Aberdeen, and a quick google confirms that he is certainly a Professor, but I'm afraid I still have to take issue with his article. There are one or two points which I'd like to question. It's not really a fisking, I just like the word.


First, there is the general point raised by this paragraph:
With a bit of the luck that favours the prepared mind and a low turnout, Conservatives could pick up close to half of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster - if we are to believe opinion polls in the first two weeks of the campaign. In short, the Scots will be the ones who effectively decide the outcome. A low turnout in Scotland could pave the way for a return to Conservative rule.

First lets accept that the Tories might win "close to half of the 59 Scottish seats" (I'd say that's pretty unlikely but that's just my opinion). For simplicity, I'll assume the Tories win 30 seats. Labour has a majority of 163 so losing 30 to the Conservatives still leaves a majority of around 100. I can't see much evidence for Scots handing Howard the keys to No 10 here. In fairness, the Professor does say "Much will still depend upon results from other parts of the UK."

That still leaves me with the problem of the reference to Aberdeen South:
In Ayr, Sandra Osborne is defending a precarious majority. With the Tories running a strong second in 2001, chances are the seat will go blue on 5 May. The same scenario is plausible in Aberdeen South, where Labour’s Anne Begg is under threat.

I can't speak for Ayr but I've included it to put the quote in context. I can say something about my own constituency.

Aberdeen South: 2001 General Election Result

Anne Begg (Lab) 14,696 39.84%
Ian Yuill (LibDem 10,308 27.94%
Moray Macdonald (Con) 7,098 19.24%
Ian Angus (SNP) 4,293 11.64%
David Watt (SSP) 495 1.34%
Electorate: 58,907 Turnout: 36,890 (62.62%) Majority: 4,388
Source: The Scotsman

So the Conservatives were 3rd. They were over 3000 votes behind the Lib Dems and over 7000 votes behind Labour. I can't see how it is plausible that Aberdeen South will "go blue".
But wait, what about the boundary changes? Aberdeen South in 2005 is not the same as Aberdeen South in 2001. Perhaps this will explain the Professor's claim.

Aberdeen South: 2001 Nominal General Election Result after boundary change

Labour 38.0%
Liberal Democrat 28.6%
Conservative 19.8%
Others 13.6

The boundary changes have increased the Conservative vote by an approximate 0.6%.
That's not it then. All of which leaves me wondering whether the Professor might just be a strong Labour supporter. I don't like to think badly of people so perhaps I'm wrong. Professor, if you read this, please feel free to email me to explain why you think it is "plausible" that Aberdeen South could go blue. Perhaps my lack of education is letting me down.

In the mean time, I'd just like to remind people that, in my humble opinion, only Labour or the Liberal Democrats can win in Aberdeen South. And if you are not sure if you live in the constituency, here is a handy map.

Aberdeen Poster Watch Update

I mentioned here that I'd be trying to keep track of the election posters to be found in Aberdeen South. Last time, the count was 5 Labour WARNING... posters (one of which I said was about hospital closures when it's actually about the Tories charging for hospital operations, but never mind that). I've still to spot a single poster for either the Lib Dems, the only other party with a chance of winning in Aberdeen South, or the Tories (no hopers).

There is a curious development to report with regard to the Labour posters though. Today I went past 4 of the 5 places I'd previously spotted the posters and 2 of them are no longer there. Instead, there are just the usual "YOU NEED THIS!" posters. What's happened? Have the Aberdeen Labour Party run out of money? Have they forgotten that the election is still 3 weeks away? Or is there a Lib Dem supporter secretly covering over the Labour posters with advertisements for cars and toothpaste? I'd like to think that Anne Begg, the Labour PPC, has had a change of heart over using these posters, perhaps after reading my complaints in the previous post. Call me a cynical balternastery but I don't put much faith in that last option. Does anyone know the answer? Answers to the usual address please.

I have spotted a full page Conservative advertisement in the local paper. I'll make a half hearted attempt to recreate it here for your amusement. (Check out Chicken Yoghurt if you want to do this properly.)
It says:
Under Labour
a member of staff is
in school every

waffle waffle waffle waffle waffle waffle waffle

Are You Thinking What We're Thinking?

Well, I'm thinking that's a devolved issue so it's pretty irrelevant to this campaign.
But Mr Howard has the answer:
"But we are looking forward, not only to the General Election, but to the next Holyrood election."

That's clever, see how far ahead you can think if you never have to sleep. This isn't a general election poster at all, it's a poster for the 2007 Scottish elections. Well, that's not misleading in the slightest then. I was going to try to enter this as a record for the earliest start to a campaign in UK election history but then I remembered the last 4 years of New Labour government. Drat.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I'm Backing Blair in Aberdeen South

Tony Blair was in Scotland today: 'Us or the Tories' PM tells Scots.
Deep breath, stay calm. I'm not going to rant about this very cynical election ploy. Instead, I'll again suggest you read Nick Barlow's post Never let the facts...
Or, if you prefer, you might want to read The Tories are Terrorists! from the people at Backing Blair.

I've printed out some of these posters. Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow?
As suggested here, I've also started a Backing Blair - Aberdeen group. If you're interested in helping between now and May 5th please let me know. You know it make sense.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Scotland Devolved

In the run up to the general election I've been trying to write about local issues in Aberdeen South, my own constituency. It's a Labour/Lib Dem marginal as I mentioned in Aberdeen South Election News. Quick reminder - only Anne Begg (Lab) or Vicki Harris (Lib Dem) has any chance of winning this seat. I'm not connected to the Liberal Democrats (except as a voter) but I'd like Vicki Harris to win in order to reduce Blair's majority in the next parliament. Backing Blair also recommends this.

I've been trying to make this stuff more relevant to local issues but I always run into the same anomoly. Here are some examples:
What are the two candidates positions on funding for Aberdeen Royal Infirmary?
Doesn't matter, it's a devolved issue. The Scottish parliament decides.

What about their position on improvements for local schools?
Doesn't matter, it's a devolved issue.

More police on the streets of Aberdeen?

What about the fabled Western Peripheral Route? (The long promised bypass which has people up in arms for all sorts of reasons.)
I think you see where I'm going with this.

Agriculture, an important part of the north east economy?
You guessed it.
Local environmental issues?
Yep, it's devolved.

You see my problem. The general election in Scotland just is not about local issues. We have our own elections for those. As an aside for anyone reading this south of the border, I'm pretty sure that all 59 Scottish MP's will be able to vote on your local services. As a Scotsman, even I find that ridiculous. (I haven't actually checked this so I could be wrong. It's happened before.)

Via BBC Scotland, here is a list of the issues which are relevant to Scottish voters in the general election:
Westminster powers
Asylum/immigration, Benefits, Broadcasting, Defence, Employment legislation, Energy, Foreign policy, Pensions, Treasury and the UK economy.

At least this explains why I rarely find any relevant election news in the local newspapers.
Oh, and if you were looking for information on Aberdeen, South Dakota, can I just say "Hello, I hope you are well. Don't be discouraged, I can assure you that there is a great deal of information out there. It's just not here."

Posting in a Hurry

I've got an appointment with the dentist shortly so I'm in a hurry. I'm getting a broken tooth rebuild so I'm not looking forward to it much. There is a strong possibility of a very grumpy post this evening. We'll see how it goes.

I'm only posting now because I forgot to include something in my last post. The Disillusioned Kid provided me with some information on alternative demonstrations for G8 week and I didn't say thanks. I'll be looking at the links in more detail as soon as I have time. Thanks, much appreciated.

The Post with no Title

I've got to blog a bit more because I can't let the rant below stay as my last post for long.

First, I'd like to recommend some prolefeed. Recently I've taken to logging on to the BBC Radio Player and putting on some jazz. It really is very relaxing. I didn't even know I liked jazz until I'd done this. It came as a quite a shock to me and I'm not normally easily shocked. I've got a jazz orchestra playing as I write this. I'll resist the Fast Show punchline but it's worth a go. You might be surprised too. That's unless you already like jazz, in which case you're probably thinking I'm a fool for only finding this out in my 34th year. It's a fair point.

Guido Fawkes is exlusively publishing Tony Blair's Real Campaign Diary. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It's well worth a visit.

POONS makes me laugh. And I've borrowed the idea of a Must Read links section from him. (Euphemisms, aren't they great?)

I'll finish with a little information about the Scottish Parliament building as suggested.
The cost was originally estimated at £40m but soared to £431m. The building has been completed three years late.
Via the BBC.
Now that's what I call management! Actually, this is slightly unfair as the £40 million refers to plans for a building in a different location. The estimate for the building we now have was approximately £100m so it was really only about 4 times over budget. I haven't seen it yet but I'm duty bound to admit that the pictures I've seen do look very impressive. I'm hoping to take a trip down to Edinburgh in July so I'll be trying to pay a visit then.
And I've eventually got round to installing the blogrolling code. Another good idea borrowed. ;o)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Now I'm Angry

Rant mode is fully engaged. Be warned. There is a strong possibility that my no swearing rule is about to be broken.

Via Chicken Yoghurt, an article today in the Observer has really pissed me off.

Hain says:
Progressives should not use the election to send a message to Blair, he said: 'He's got the message. The really important message to send with your cross on the ballot paper is to say to the Tories that this sort of rabid right-wing platform is unacceptable.'

He's got the message?
Listen carefully, Here are our terms. (also via Chicken Yoghurt).
The message is that we don't want a liar running the country.
Another reminder: That famous oxymoron: Military Intelligence.
And the voting system introduced under Blair: All is well, don't argue, don't complain.

: a Google Alert points me to an article in The Sunday Times - Scotland.
Selected quotes from Tam Dalyell, father of the house, who is stepping down after 42 years:
"Blair lied."
"He doesn’t like the Commons. He doesn’t like parliament. He doesn’t like the Labour party. So what we have now is a court, not a parliamentary democracy."
And on his opinion that Blair was the worst PM he had known, Tam said:
"I was asked recently if I had changed my mind. Yes, I had, I said. I thought then that Blair was the worst. Now I think he’s by far the worst."

I've just seen a clip of the Labour party political broadcast which is to be released tomorrow. I'm still feeling sick. The last traces of respect I had for Gordon Brown are quickly dissolving.
Robin Cook for PM!

Hain is right about one thing though. The Nasty Party really are sinking to the lowest depths.
Howard attacks 'unjust' asylum.
The UK is one of the richest countries in the world. In a system with vast inequalities the free market economy will always provide incentives for immigration towards the UK. It's the invisible hand at work and the Tories, perhaps more than any other party, ought to be able to see that. As far as I'm concerned, Mr Howard can stick his dog whistle up his arse. Racism by any other name is still racism.

So I'm Backing Blair.

Rant over. Normal service to be resumed shortly.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sir Sean in Trouble

It seems I wasn't the only one to question the wisdom of the SNP using an automated message from Sean Connery in their campaign.
Nationalists defend Connery calls after the Information Commissioner warns them that they must only use this service to contact people who have already given permission to receive such calls.

I found this article to be "a site for sore eyes" as Sir Sean might say.
(In keeping with my no swearing rule for this blog, this only works if you say it out loud in the style of Sean Connery. It's a joke I've blatantly stolen from Billy Connely because I think it's funny and I can't come up with a better one.)

TARDIS Wanted (must be in good condition)

It's not a post about Doctor Who although I am looking forward to episode 3 tonight. No, it is a "So much to do, so little time" post. If you do have a TARDIS for sale, preferably one which can take me back about 4 weeks or so, get in touch. I'll make you a reasonable offer, guaranteed. Here is a quick good and bad news post in the mean time.

Bad News
I said in a previous post that I'd be going to the Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh on the 2nd July. I asked the one person I know who would be sure to come with me and she said she couldn't go and neither could I. Why not? It's because there is a wedding on that day and we'll both be there. I'd forgotten. I'm hopeless at remembering stuff like that. It's a wedding I cannot miss (it's not mine before you ask). So this is an appeal. If you know of any peaceful demonstrations which are being held later in the same week, could you let me know? So far, I've only found information on demonstrations which don't look likely to be very peaceful. I'm not going to critisize but that sort of thing just isn't for me.

Good News
In my continued adventures in computer land I've eventually managed to install an RSS reader. It was a free download from Sage and it integrates rather nicely with the Firefox browser.
On Monday, it will be 4 weeks since my last cigarette and it's getting easier to deal with the urges every day. The blog has helped because I know I'd have to admit failure here if I cave in.
I got my first Trackback today. Link on my blogroll coming up later on. (Apologies in advance to Blogger, I'm going to republish the whole blog to update the template in my archives. I don't do it every time but I'm doing it today.)
Update - It's just dawned on me that I should have added a link and sent a trackback myself.
The post is First Blog by a Scottish MP, MEP or MSP? on Independence and the trackback is on it's way.

That's it for now. I'll be posting information on Vick Harris, the Lib Dem candidate for Aberdeen South, very soon. I'm still trying to find some more details first.

Scottish Oil and the SNP

In a previous post I made a reference to the SNP's stance on "our oil". Then, earlier today I stumbled upon Independence, a blog in support of the SNP and I was going to mention it as it led me to Scottish Blogs. I haven't had time to have a good look yet but I'll be having a nose round later. With this in mind, and in response to the comment on the previous post, it seems like a good time to write a bit more about the Scottish oil issue.

First, I should say that there are a lot of SNP policies which I'd agree with. They support unilateral nuclear disarmament and they occupy a position on the left which Labour has long deserted. They are moderate left leaning nationalists and a world away from the racist nationalism of the BNP. The SNP has strong support in some areas of the country, but in Aberdeen South they are included in the others category:
Labour 38.0%
Liberal Democrat 28.6%
Conservative 19.8%
Others 13.6%
Notional result based on boundary changes, via the BBC.

The oil issue is, as I understand it, based on the taxation of oil pumped from the North Sea. The SNP say that these taxes are collected and distributed by the UK Treasury and this is definitely true. The SNP also say that Scotland does not get a fair share of these taxes returned to us from the Treasury. Thus, they say, Scottish oil taxes are subsidising the rest of the country. An independent Scotland would control and tax the oil in the North Sea and we'd be better off as a result. This is more difficult to agree with. I'm pretty sure that we get more tax revenue per head from the UK government than England does.

But for me, this is largely academic. I said before that the oil being off the Scottish coast might be considered an accident of history (pre-history might have been better but there you are). Scots didn't create it so I don't think we have a particular right to claim it. Besides, if we did have more money we'd just spend it on deep fried chocolate bars and pizza's. Who really wants to encourage that?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Aberdeen South Election News

When I posted Anne Begg is my MP it was true, but now she's a the Labour PPC for my constituency (which is why the link to her site in that post doesn't work any more). As I mentioned in a previous post, Anne has started her own campaign blog which I think I've plugged enough now. I've also mentioned before that I normally vote Liberal Democrat and would again this time. It's a handy bonus for me that the strategic voting recommendations available from Backing Blair match my natural tendency to vote Lib Dem. If the Lib Dems win here it will reduce Blair's majority and return another Lib Dem MP to the Commons. For me, this is a win/win situation.

In my previous post I said that Strategic Voter were predicting a Lib Dem victory and checking again I see that they still are. My local paper, The Press and Journal, doesn't seem so sure:
"The polls suggest Labour are down 6% across Scotland with the Lib Dems up 2.5%, indicating the Lib Dems are in with a chance. But nationally, the Tory vote is up a little, too. If that is reflected in Aberden South as well, the defending Labour MP, Anne Begg, who has a very high recognition factor, may hold on. The Tories have no chance of taking the seat. But their supporters find themselves king (or queen) makers."
(Press and Journal, 6 April, p 11.)

It is this kind of bizarre situation which makes me a supporter of Proportional Representation. But I'm not the only one:
"We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system."
Labour Party manifesto, 1997, Source via earlier post here.

So, if you live in Aberdeen South and you normally vote Conservative and don't want a Labour MP, realistically you should vote Lib Dem. If you normally vote Labour but are sick of Blair's lies, read Never mind the facts... and consider whether you might want to vote Lib Dem just this once. If you are a Labour supporter who thinks this is unfair, consider the above from the 1997 manifesto and ask yourself who is to blame.

While going about town today, and borrowing another idea from Chicken Yoghurt, I did some poster spotting. I saw 5 WARNING posters, 3 were on the economy, 1 on the discredited £35 billion Tory cuts claim, and 1 on hospital closures. Who said "Positive policies win elections..."?
I didn't see a single Tory or Lib Dem poster. I'll keep looking.
And I'll hopefully post some more information on Vicki Harris, the Lib Dem candidate, shortly.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Interesting People Saying Things 1

Last night, while everyone sensible was sleeping, I read Never mind the facts... on What You Can Get Away With. Nick has obviously spent a lot more time playing with Peter Snow's Swingometer than I have. If you are worried about tactical voting leading to a Tory victory I'd say it's a must read.

Chicken Yoghurt also has an interesting project on this with the launch of the Official Peter Hain's Back Door Watch.
A little while back I also found Google News Alerts via Chicken Yoghurt, I realise now I should have mentioned this at the time. Still, better late than never. Hurray for Chicken Yoghurt!

I also looked at an interesting link via Robin at in this post about Tony Blair's campaign diary (which I'd agree is the most stage managed affair I've seen for a long while). It is the blog of a certain Alastair Campbell. It's fascinating stuff.

An addition to my blogging etiquette:
If you want to link to another blog, you should try to get all the information you need on your first attempt. That way you won't have to do a second visit to get the necessary URL's or what have you. Obvious to most people, but not to me. Oh well, if you don't make mistakes, you never have the opportunity to learn from them.

Anne Begg Blogs

In a previous post I mentioned that Anne Begg is my MP. Now that the election has been called Anne Begg is no longer my MP. Instead she is the Labour candidate for Aberden South and as part of her campaign she has started Anne's Campaign Blog. I did email Anne to suggest she might like to do this so I think it is only right that I put a link in my blogroll and read her blog regularly. I'm not claiming any credit, I'm sure Anne has been planning to do this for some time*. At some point I'll see if I can leave a constructive comment in the spirit of blogging friendship.

I'm trying to listen to Channel 4 News as I write this so that's all for now. I'll be blogging some blogs later on.

*I am not being sarcastic. It doesn't happen often so I thought I should make it clear.

Sir Sean on the Phone

If you don't live in Scotland, you might not be aware that Sean Connery is an SNP supporter. I'm not going to knock him for that, he has a right to his own opinion, although as far as I know he doesn't live in Scotland these days. I don't supoort the SNP myself, partly because they seem to have an obsession with the English stealing "our oil". It's this kind of nationalism I can do without. It's not as if we Scots can claim to have made the oil ourselves. It's a geological feature, an accident of history if you like, and I'd prefer to regard it as a world resource.

Anyway, I read in todays Press and Journal (I can't find it on the site, it's on p12 of todays paper) that Sir Sean has recorded a 35 second message urging people to vote SNP. This message is going to be delivered to up to 250,000 Scots via an automated service before polling day. I haven't heard the message yet and since H2O is registered with the no cold calls service and HQ doesn't have a landline at the moment, I'm probably unlikely to hear it. I have to be honest and say that I'm not overly disappointed. Celebrity endorsement and automated cold calling all rolled into one, brilliant!
Cynical marketing ploy or grown up political debate? You decide.


Today really was the last PMQ's before the general election (in fact it was yesterday if you want to be pedantic about it, I don't mind). I have to be honest and say that I haven't watched all of it because I was doing something else at the time. I've seen most of it now on news reports and I also read Leaders stage face-to-face-battle on the BBC website and seen the entire "battle" between Blair and Howard via BBCi.
I'll paraphrase what happened for those who might have missed it:

Howard - "Yaa boo, yaa boo, yaa boo, yaa boo, yaa boo, yaa boo!"
Blair - "Boo yaa, boo yaa, boo yaa, boo yaa, boo yaa, boo yaa!"

This might be slightly unfair in that I've portrayed the differences between the policies of the two men as further apart than they actually are. I have made sure that both candidates have been given an equal amount of coverage though (yes, I did count them, oh dear). I must also give grudging respect to Howard for making me laugh when he asked how many Labour candidates were using Blair's picture on their literature. It's not really funny when you think about it but I laughed at the time. I'm sure I can remember Blair saying he would step down before he became an electoral liability. Oh well, what's another lie between him and "us"?

While stumbling around the BBC website I also found a Voters guide for people who have never voted before. I tried to write something like this once but it just sounded patronising. It did motivate one person to say they will vote, and it was written with that person in mind, so it wasn't entirely a failure. And they won't be voting for Blair or Howard which makes it even better.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Thing's I've Learned Recently

I'd already decided that I'd only give very vague details about other people I know in my posts. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be unfair unless I get specific permission first. So here is some vague news.

I don't post from my house, actually it's a flat, but from somewhere else. My flat will be HQ and the other place will be H2. My computer is currently at H2 for a number of boring reasons. The owners of H2 will be known as H2O and they are very nice because they let me use their broadband connection. These are not things I've learned recently but they are relevant to this:

I've been fiddling about with some computer stuff this week and I noticed that my location seems to be showing as somewhere in England. In conversation with H2O I think I know why this is. It's because of the type of router H2O uses. It appears to go through an intermediary service before it connect to the ISP. It also seems to allocate a different IP number every time a PC connects. I didn't think this was unusual but now that I've learned a bit more about how the internet works, I think it probably is slightly odd. Anyway, H2O is happy enough and it's not my place to advise them as to how to connect. At least I think I understand what is going on now.

I've also learned a bit more about blogging. Some of this I have learned from my first regular commenter (thank you, I've responded to your comment underneath again), and some of it I have found online. I found mama's guide to etiquette through a search engine and it seems to have some handy suggestions for good behaviour which I'll try to follow. I also found a blog glossary by via this Yaelf page. I'm sure I've still got a lot more to learn and any suggestions are always welcome. I'll hopefully continue to learn how to be a bit nicer to people along the way.

05:05:05. It's Official

I saw Mr Blair make the official announcement today on the news. It was the genuine, sincere, and compassionate Mr Blair which we have all seen so many times before. At least, that's the image he was trying very hard to project. Unfortunately, as I may have mentioned before, I just don't believe a word the man says anymore. He does seems to have decided to be more positive and has toned down his "fear theTories" campaign somewhat. I'd like to think he did this for the good of British politics but I suspect it's only because the polls showed it wasn't working. The Conservatives don't seem to be quite so keen to promote their low tax policy after the Flight affair and the Liberal Democrats welcomed a defector from Labour with open arms, claiming that had been arranged only yesterday.

All of this is rather bleak, but the most frightening thing I saw today was a projected turn out of 53% being reported on Channel 4 News. With a turnout that low, the unthinkable could happen and the Tories might actually win. I still don't think it's likely but it gave me food for thought. Democracy - the right to choose between a rock or hard place. It's not difficult to see why the turnout is expected to be so low. Sigh.

That's all I've got to say about the election today. I will be posting about what I've been up to in a bit.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

It's Rethink Number 867

Writing this is slightly awkward because the cat has decided that I should feed him and he is becoming quite persistent about it. I’m not being intentionally cruel. It's just that he’s not allowed to eat anything because he’s getting a tooth out tomorrow. You can’t explain that to a cat and he has decided that I am ignoring him. Every time I reach for the mouse I get a friendly claw in the back of the hand. Unfortunately, it is a friendly claw which is also very sharp. I’ve given up with the mouse for now; the back of my hand is starting to look like a pin cushion. Ouch.

Anyway, I’ve been talking to a few people about my blog and I’ve made a decision about it. In a nutshell, I’ve realised that there is a big difference between knowing about a subject and being able to write well on it. I’m stubborn so this has taken a long time for this to sink in. I’ve spent a lot of time checking out facts but I’m not a professional journalist and I know I’ve made a few mistakes (for example, I said that there wouldn’t be a PMQ’s before the election). I was trying to do too much. Apart from anything else, I do need to spend more time away from this desk. So I’m going to cut down on my blogging, especially about things I don’t know enough about. It’s going to be more opinions and not so many facts (Fox News appears in these brackets for no particular reason).

The cat has jumped off the desk, I have mouse power again, joy!

I actually feel pretty happy about this decision. I’ve started to read more blogs from the UK and around the world so I know that the important information is already out there. I’ll be linking to posts on issues that I feel strongly about rather than trying to write about everything myself. I suppose part of my problem was that I don’t really know many people who have a similar world view to my own. Hopefully, I’ll meet lots more in my travels through the world of blog.

OK, that’ll do for now. I will be messing about with the layout and design of the blog a bit more. I can’t decide if I’ll do it tonight or tomorrow at this stage. A cup of tea should help me decide one way or the other. I have definitely decided to change my posting name to Curious Hamster. I can’t think of a rational explanation for wanting to do this, but I’m going to do it anyway. I suppose we all have to be a bit irrational now and again. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

It's Their Fault

Another stunning piece of New Labour spin which I just have to comment on. I think ID cards are a stupid idea because:
  • they will cost a huge amount of money.
  • they won't actually help to fight terrorism.
  • they will mean that the government has far more information on people than they have any right to know.
I'm not an expert on this but the No2ID NewsBlog is a good place to look for more information.

The spin comes from Charles Clarke in the Observer.
The Home Secretary said that the ID card bill will have to be shelved because of opposition from the other parties. He then said:
'It will then become an election issue - which it doesn't have to be. If it is, it will be because the Tories and Liberal Democrats have decided to make it an election issue.'

Good grief, I can't believe he managed to say that with a straight face. And they wonder why people are cynical about politicians.

In the last few weeks I've seen a lot of talk about the possibility of Labour using this strategy but I haven't got time to look up suitable links at the moment. An update may follow.

Here Comes the Election

I've decided to concentrate my attention on British politics in the run up to the election. I've said it before but, just in case you missed it, I'll tell you what I'd like to happen. I want Blair out. I normally vote Liberal Democrat but I know they won't win the election. So, realistically I'd like Labour to win with a smaller majority which will pressurise Blair to resign. I think there should be a wider choice in elections and I think PR might give us that (it's why I vote LD every time). I also think that big business has far too much influence in the UK, and pretty much everywhere else. Basically, I'd like to see more fairness in society. Although I have never voted for Blair, I did once think that he would move the country in this direction, but I don't think that anymore. I hated the way he manipulated the public with regard to the invasion in Iraq. And I never want the Conservatives to win another election. Ever.

Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime
At one point, I thought that "Tough on the Causes of Crime" was a reference to social exclusion, poverty, and problems with the education system. It seems reasonable, prison punishes but it rarely rehabilitates. If we really want to tackle crime, then the causes should be the starting point. I used to think this was what the slogan was all about. Not anymore.
New Labour have announced instant fines for serving drunks.
I've got two problems with this. My first objection is based on my personal experiences. As it says in my tag line, I have suffered from apathy for some time. It wasn't that I didn't care exactly. It was more that I thought there wasn't any point in fighting the status quo. I knew about global poverty, corporate power and corruption, and the suffering caused by war, and I thought it couldn't be changed. So, instead of trying to do something about it, I lost myself in an apathetic haze. Better not to think about it. When I drank, I couldn't drink in moderation, the temptation to blank everything out was too strong. I haven't had an alcholic drink for a long time now, it's probably been almost a year. These days, my only vice is too much food. (Day 20, still no cigarettes, my last nasty vice is being defeated.)

I managed to fight off my apathy with a lot of help from people who care for me but it wasn't easy. I believe that it is problems like these which have led to the increase in binge drinking in this country. Obviously, other people might have different worries, but in most cases it is a feeling of powerlessness which I believe is the root cause. So, fining bar staff for serving drunk people isn't likely to have much effect. It is a classic buck pass.

Secondly, as someone who has worked in a retail environment for a long time (although I'm temporarily between jobs at the moment), I'd have to say that bar staff already have a very difficult job. The idea that bar staff can curb binge drinking is a ridiculous notion. I'd say that anyone who seriously believes this will help has never had to deal this a drunk person in a retail environment. I have (not in a bar, in a shop), and it isn't easy. Bar staff are often students, and often poorly paid, and to add to their worries they may be under pressure to achieve sales targets. I do not believe it is fair to pass the responsibility for this onto their shoulders.

It is the cause of binge drinking which needs to be addressed. Tough on the causes of crime seems to have been forgotten. In the now all too familiar New Labour mould, this new strategy makes an excellent soundbite, but in the end it will make very little difference to the lives of the people of this country.