Friday, 30 April 2010

Round Three: It’s The Economy Stupid!

Different place, different channel, jeez we even had a set and title music which emitted how important the “Leaders Debates” should be, but like the previous debates, it was the bloke in yellow that came through.  Very possibly by his largest margin.  I think that Clegg has did the thing that Cameron had singularly failed to do since 2008.  Clegg, i think sealed the deal.

The moment that I think clinched it for many was Cameron’s ram-rod refusal to confirm Clegg’s assertion that his cap on immigrants would be unworkable because 80% of immigrants to the UK come from the EU.  George Osborne is talking his usual bollocks on this as I type.  He skewered Cameron on the Death Tax - “the most creative justification of tax cuts for double millionaires”.  On Cameron’s cutting waste initiative - “you can’t fill a black hole by getting rid of plant pots”.  And on Cameron’s attack on his (Clegg’s) immigration policy, he reversed last week’s jibe on Trident by telling Cameron to “Get real” over the illegal immigrants who have been here for 10 or more years, in the shadows.  The Lib Dem’s believe that these people should be offered a place in this country, out of the hands of criminals and into the hands of the tax-man as Clegg might put it.  Except Cameron & Brown, wishing to play the hard-man on immigration, dismissed this as being soft.  As i pointed out in an earlier post, there are two politicians who have pursued an immigration amnesty before, Ronald Regan (in the 1984 presidential election) and the current London Mayor Boris Johnson – not exactly loony lefties are they?  A better idea would be ensuring any immigrants have “landing money” – it works for Australia and Canada.

Cameron started well, but became more and more obsessed with dubbing Brown as negative and desperate.  His opening gambit  - “We’ve got to start making things again” – was such a no sh*t Sherlock moment, you wondered what pearls of wisdom would come next.  Obviously not the phrase regarding targets for cuts  “There are no sacred cows”, cause…  well that would be too honest.  Cameron did identify “the glossy leaflets…  the 7% pay rise for NHS managers” as targets for starters.  Cameron also stole my line about Fred the Shred, about Goodwin being knighted by New Labour (Cameron didn’t mention that New Labour also ennobled Denis Stevenson and Tom MacKillop).  Cameron also ruled out a referendum on joining the Euro, which seems to have been missed.

Brown on the other hand sounded like a guy who has forgotten that he has been in power for the past 13 years.  For example he said that there should be “No Life on the dole…  the Tories left a wasted generation on the dole” – conveniently forgetting that his policies have contributed to the creation of the Lazy Poor class.  As Cameron rightly pointed out “They remember who scrapped the 10p tax rate and who put pensions up by 75p”.  Rather bizarrely, Brown seemed to be defending the payment of Tax Credits to middle income families, which surely must be a target for cuts.  On bankers bonuses, Brown said that “we own the shares… of Lloyds and RBS” but did not specify how the government used its share in the vote for bonuses at RBS’s AGM yesterday.

To return to Clegg though, who has been the clear winner of the three debates.  His policy to raise the tax threshold to £10,000 should be a vote winner, the IFS believes that this policy provides the best incentive to work available at this election.  It is a policy that was mentioned 4 times tonight, 4 times more than Ashay the Lib Dem candidate for Paisley South mentioned it on Tuesday.  On the immigration question, Clegg’s policy is a sensible one, and possibly provided us with the closest Cameron is going to get to a Gillian Duffy moment, by not knowing his figures regarding his immigration cap.

We are now in the final lap before polling closes.  This time next week we will know who has won.  Cameron has (unbelievably) survived three rounds, but hasn’t sealed the deal yet – even though he appears to be in the pound seat.  Clegg has exceeded expectations, and might have the job of Leader of Her Majesty’s opposition in his sights.  The election may well end up being between those people.  After yesterday, Brown looked a goner.  Tonight he acted like a goner.  The question is can his party pull themselves off the ropes.  For the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, New Labour and the SNP it is still everything to play for.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Economy Debate: The Paisley Version

Tuesday saw, to date, the only Election hustings to take place in Paisley with a public meeting, supposedly, on the subject of the economy.  In attendance, on the platform, was the SNP candidate for Paisley & Renfrewshire North Margaret McLaren, the Conservative candidate for Paisley & Renfrewshire South Gordon MacCaskill the Lib-Dem candidate for Paisley & Renfrewshire South Ashay Ghai, and the Scottish Socialist candidate for Paisley & Renfrewshire South Jimmy Kerr. 

Representing New Labour on the platform was the Paisley North MSP Wendy Alexander, as her brother Douglas was aiding Gordon Brown with his preparations for the “Leaders Debate”.  Ms Alexander did not let us know whether her brother was playing at being Clegg or Cameron, nor did she let us know why the Paisley North Westminster candidate Jim Sheridan did not appear.  As things would turn out, this would probably be a blessing in disguise.  Uninvited, but appearing in the crowd was the independent candidate, and former Labour councillor, Paul Mack.  Once he made his way to the podium, after complaining about being a leper, that made it 6 on the stage.  As an aside that also made it a total of two candidates who have appeared in the pages of Private Eye (Alexander and Mack – hmmm need to dig that one out).  Also in the crowd were the SNP candidate for Paisley South Andy Doig, and the Labour councillors Terry Kelly, Eddie Devine and Jim Jim Sharkey.

Truth be told, Alexander was the most impressive performer.  Like some sort of wierd fairy, she made all of the things her government should have done appear as if these were things that will be done.  She talked about bankers bonuses and regulating those without mentioning Paul Myners giving the go-ahead to Fred Goodwin’s pension.  In fact, i don’t think the words Fred Goodwin passed her lips once.  She talked about tougher regulations for the Banks, but forgot to mention Brown’s mantra as Chancellor – light touch regulation.  She did throw an interesting curve-ball which if it is official party policy will cause the SNP some discomfort - “We will not sell off Scottish Water”.  She also stole my description of the Tory cuts agenda.  As opposed to Scorched Earth, Ms Alexander described it as “Slash & Burn” – which begs the question, does she have Generation Terrorists on her I-Pod?

The Tories, it is fair to say will not be winning any of the Paisley seats.  However the representative gave the impression of playing to type – if only he had come on to “The Imperial March”.  He did make several serious gaffes though.  He claimed that there would be a sterling crisis “… by 9am on Monday May the 10th” if there was a hung parliament, and that Britain would be like “Greece with worse weather” – which is not a great endorsement of the party which has stolen your economic policies for the past 16 years – and is kind of damming with faint praise of your own party.  Alexander was sitting smirking at all of this, of MacCaskill’s next gaffe I'm not sure what her reaction was.  Talking about Tory plans to cut public services MacCaskill said that there were “No sacred cows in Scotland…  with the exception of the NHS”  which is a manifesto pledge that i somehow have missed Boy George utter.  Unfortunately i missed the gaffe about immigration, which Terry Kelly picked up on.

It has to be said as well that the SNP will, i think, do rather badly in both Renfrewshire seats.  Renfrewshire has been run by a SNP/Lib Dem coalition since 2007, and have had to cut their cloth accordingly in the face of the Council Tax and escalating PPP repayments.  The choice of cuts made have proved to be controversial and, as parents were queuing up to point out last night, drives a coach and horses through Salmond’s “Scotland’s Champions” slogan.  The cut which has sunk the SNP’s hopes of winning any of the Paisley seats is the decision to cut school transport for all pupils apart from those living over 3 miles from their school, which many parents believe puts the safety of their children at risk.  Mags MacLaren (the SNP candidate) simply looked ineffective.  To add insult to injury she attempted to justify Renfrewshire Council’s use of consultants, which adds £1 million to the council bill.  Andy Doig was complaining that this had nothing to do with the Westminster election.  Well, yes… but it did expose the credibility gap at the heart of the “Scotland’s Champions” slogan.

The Lib Dem candidate Ashay was clearly a first timer, as he took his time to get to his point, kind of like Boris Johnson without the Estuary/RP accent.  I’m not really sure his message of Tax reform, sustainable and appropriate cuts (no mention of Cleggs savage cuts here) cut the ice here, which is a shame as it is a message that SHOULD work here.  He also was the only politician to answer my question (“Why do the panel believe that the public perception of benefits fraudsters is harsher than the perception of tax evaders?” – so good i had to mumble it twice!!).  Ashay also made in interesting comment which must have punctured the ego of the Tory - “The only time the markets have dipped was when George Osborne spoke”.  The Lib Dem leader in the council Eileen McCartin threw in interesting nugget which went unnoticed – that the 2.5% VAT cut in 2009 took, at very short notice, £4.2 million out of Renfrewshire Council’s budget.  I wonder why that card hasn’t been played before?

Of the rest, Kerr the SSP chap was a bit Dave Spart in places as he hit the traditional socialist targets of bankers and greedy MP’s.  Paul Mack’s raison d'√™tre appeared to be to tap into the public anger over MP’s expenses, which with all due respect when we are facing a huge deficit with the economy, is not the main picture, but only a part of the picture.  In any case he did not exude the gravitas required, announcing his entrance and any time he spoke with very bad jokes.  Truth is last night’s meeting was all heat and no light, much like the rest of the campaign.  New Labour didn’t make any mistakes, or say anything that might cost them votes.  The unfortunate thing is that their economic record is more culpable than the SNP, yet it is they who are on the ropes.  Scotland does need champions, but first it needs politicians to pull their fingers out.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The Prospective Champion? – The SNP’s Leaflet

For such a closely fought election, it is somewhat surprising that to date, I have only had the two election leaflets.  Last week saw local incumbent Douglas Alexander’s election address.  The second election address received by myself is from Andy Doig, the SNP challenger to Wee Dougie.  Mr Doig faces an uphill task to unseat Alexander, a swing of around 17% is required to win, as he takes Alexander on for the second Westminster election in a row.  Indeed Doig has a couple of dig’s at Alexander in his leaflet - “Andy is determined to be a ‘hands on’ MP” and “I will be here in the constituency, not absent for much of the time”.

The main theme of the election leaflet is protecting Scotland from the cuts to come, which is a localised spin on the “Scotland’s Champion’s” slogan the SNP have gone with for this election.  Doig rightly mention’s the game of “my cut’s bigger than your cut” which all of the main parties have been playing.  Semi forgotten has been Nick Clegg’s gaff before their conference last year where he called for “Savage cuts”, which Doig mentions here, but does not play very much on.  While Doig says “All the London parties have made it clear that they will cut Scottish services across the board”.

Apart from a mention of “Labour’s recession” -there is surprisingly no recrimination meated out to the people who took the UK to the brink of bankruptcy.  There’s no mention of New Labour largesse (GARL, which remember was not popular in Paisley), or of New Labour complacency in believing that the Banks would regulate themselves – after all which party ennobled Goodwin, McKillop & Stevenson?  There is anger towards the greedy bankers, who will – at the end of the day – will be responsible for the cuts, just to keep their bonuses rolling.  Surprisingly not nearly prominent enough is the GERS figures relating to Scotland subsidising the rest of the UK.  Doig quotes figures where “Scotland has had a surplus of £2.3 billion over the last three years where figures are available”  - which begs the question, what happened to the SNP’s breakthrough slogan “It’s Scotland’s Oil”?

Unlike the other parties, the SNP have identified savings, which Doig points out in his leaflet.  Millions are wasted on nuclear weapons, and ID cards, both of which are popular target’s in Scotland, and unaffordable in recession Britain.  According to Doig “Labour’s plans for the new nuclear weapons for the Clyde equals the cost of 10 years funding for the Scottish NHS”.  This is an admirable start, and something I agree with.

The closest Doig gets to campaigning for an Independent Scotland, which is disappointing as a federalist and an independence sceptic who is open to persuasion, is his pitch on page 4.  “Scotland’s resources have been used by successive UK governments to bail them out of their boom – and – bust economic policies and recessions throughout the years.  Independence is the natural state for any nation…  only with independence can we remove unionist plans for massive cuts to Scotland’s budget…”.  As I’ve said before I think the SNP should have used this election as a referendum on the union.

Andy Doig’s leaflet correctly identifies the key issue of this election – cuts.  It is a tad vague on how those cuts are to be prevented, or how the right cuts are to be put in place.  The unfortunate thing for Doig is that his party has a record in Holyrood to defend, and an administration in Cotton Street which unless he acts will act as a millstone to drag down his electoral chances.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Round Two… Give Me Some Gravitas!

Honestly, some of the set designers on these debates really need to stop recycling bits from other show’s.  I mean, look at that set (below), doesn’t it look like cast offs from Britain’s Got Talent. At least BSkyB had the nous to have some music that oozed gravitas.  That’s what we need guy’s, GRAVITAS!

Gravitas is precisely what has been missing from these “leaders debates” – even though Clegg won last week’s debate by a mile.  This week’s debate was a lot more nip and tuck, and a lot more cut throat.  There were policy differences, but for Angus Robertson (of the SNP) to come on to BBC News 24 and say there was no difference between the parties, say with the replacement for Trident, was plainly ludicrous.  Conversely there was no mention from the SNP’s Westminster leader of the parties near agreement over Europe.  Nigel Farage, the UKIP candidate for Buckingham mentioned that straight away.  Robertson should have also mentioned the leaders cosy relationship regarding Afghanistan.

The debate itself was a spiky one at times, and straight out of the traps was the old clunking fist himself.  First up was that question on the European project, and Brown played the economic card straight away by mentioning the 3 million jobs that (apparently) depend on our membership of the EU.  Clegg played the security card, by mentioning that we would need to work together regarding combating terrorism, climate change and Banking regulations.  Cameron parroted the mantra of every Conservative leader since John Major, of being in Europe but not run by Europe.  Quite how this squared with Cameron’s hissy fit moment in taking his Conservatives out of the main Centre-Right group in the European Parliament has never been adequately explained, and Cameron failed to do this again tonight.  Clegg showed his Yorkshire credentials in calling Cameron’s European Parliamentary colleagues “nutters and homophobes”, tactfully missing out the other allegation that could be thrown their way – Nazi sympathisers.

While Clegg and Cameron exchanged blows over Europe, Brown unveiled his key message of the night “You know (Clegg & Cameron) remind me of my two young boys squabbling… I’m afraid David is being Anti-European and Nick is being Anti-American”.  Brown was very aggressive tonight, at one point telling Clegg “I have to deal with these decisions every day and I say to you Nick, Get real” over his Trident policy, and demolishing Cameron’s manifesto with the phrase “Big society at home…  little Englander abroad”.  Brown most of the time underlined his experience in dealing with other countries, at attending conferences and summits.

While Brown was being forceful, Cameron was inviting people to imagine the near nightmare scenario of “If I were your Prime Minister…”.Brown’s forcefulness nearly came unstuck over the furore over leaflets which were scaremongering over various Conservative cuts.  The specific allegation was over claims that the Conservatives would axe free eye care for pensioners, Brown claimed that his leaflets did no such thing.  Yet on page 3 of Douglas Alexander’s election leaflet “Labour has delivered the winter fuel allowance, cold weather payments, pension credits, free TV licences and free bus passes.  They have all helped make life better for local pensioners.  The Tories would be a change local pensioners can’t afford”.  the inference being that all of these schemes would be at risk under the Tories.

Brown led the first part of the debate, but Clegg came back into it in the second half.  The Pope question was possibly Clegg’s launch-pad with a well though-out answer which is fairly close to my own views on the subject.  His story about pensioners going on to buses not to go anywhere but just to keep warm should have shamed Cameron and Brown, as they do not believe in further regulation of the energy companies.  Especially after the above arguments, which Clegg described as “a game of political ping-pong”.  Clegg also landed some blow’s regarding the Banks and what to do with them, Cable’s long term policy is to separate the “casino element” of the banking sector from the “High Street” element.  With these arguments, and the policy of an immigration amnesty (the patent for that one coming, from of all people, Ronald Regan), Clegg won this debate by a nose.

While Cameron and Brown improved their performance from last week, with Brown edging past Cameron, the most improved performance was from Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader.  Gone was (for the most part) the whinging, with it replaced by some valid arguments against the points made in the debates.  This debate (on Foreign affairs), and next week’s on the economy, are certainly debates which should have featured the SNP/Plaid Cymru in some capacity. With 13 days left of campaigning, time is beginning to run out on the parties to make their breakthrough.  I’ve not made my mind up who to vote for yet, i imagine that I'm not alone in that view.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

An Election Leaflet (Yay!)

For many the current election campaign caught light with the “leaders debate” last week.  For me, it would be the culmination of that, receiving my invitation to vote and on Saturday receiving my first election leaflet.

To date Douglas Alexander’s leaflet is the only one that I've received (Are the others scared? They should be).  It’s full of such fantastic gem’s like “The General Election is a two horse race.  It’s a straight fight between Labour and Tory.  A vote for any other Party would let the Tories in by the back door”.  Clearly as opposed to leaving your back door open will let the Tories in through the back door.

The best bits are inside though.  “I will work hard to bring new jobs and investment to Renfrewshire” – Since Alexander was elected as MP for Paisley South, Unilever-Best Foods left their plant to the north of Glenburn, and recently BASF announced plans to scale back their Ciba plant in Hawkhead.  The Unilever plant having been a landmark in Paisley since after the War when it was originally the Brown & Polsen food plant.  This statement does not fill me with confidence bearing in mind the white flag the government ran up with regard to the decisions by Cadbury to sell out to Kraft and the Diageo decision to leave Kilmarnock.  Funnily enough, David Cameron outed the Diageo Chef Executive Paul Walsh as a Labour business advisor a couple of weeks ago.  Walsh being one of the 1000+ businessmen who signed the Tories letter against the NI tax rise.

Another pearl of wisdom from Alexander is “I will campaign for much needed investment and regeneration in Paisley & Johnstone town centres” – Under a New Labour led council, the rot started.  In 1997 the council decided that it would be a great idea to make the High Street and other adjoining areas a pedestrian zone.  This made Paisley look like something of an identikit town, a tad generic.  The council’s next step was to keep business rates high, and keep parking rates high.  These measures combined to act as a disincentive to people to shop in Paisley, and the business rates acted as a disincentive for businesses to set up in Paisley.  The removal of New Labour does not appear to have worked.  Perhaps due to Paisley people suffering under the economic policies of New Labour.  After all, alcohol prices went up again recently…
Alexander also pushes the “tough on Crime” button with “I’ll work with local communities and support our local police in tackling anti-social behaviour and making our streets safe” – How?  In the estate I reside in, anti-social behaviour has got out of control.  Young adults roam the streets, with nothing to do.  At weekends, “energy juice” is acquired and drunk.  Yes Anti-social behaviour needs to be tackled, but crucially there needs to be an alternative to the drinking/drugs/anti social cycle provided.

The most interesting thing about this leaflet is that it picks out the unpopular parts of the Council’s activities and makes hay of the current Council’s failings, the slogan on page 2 is “Stop the SNP Ripping off Renfrewshire” .  Of course the current council is SNP/Lib Dem led, and there is genuine anger at some of the decision’s that have been made.  However there is little mention of the record of the current Government, which wee Doogie is a member of.  There’s no mention of, say Light Touch regulation, which is a factor in bringing about the current recession. 

There’s no mention of the bank’s bale-out, which is a huge factor in the current deficit of £170 Billion, not even a mention of one of Paisley’s success stories gone sour – Fred “The Shred” Goodwin.  Then again the FSA are still to catch up with the Four Horsemen of the Economic Apocalypse, or anyone else associated with them.  There’s not even a mention of the glorious PFI/PPP scheme’s which delivered new schools to Renfrewshire.  Probably because most people now realise that these projects were completed at vastly inflated sums, like buying a house on HP.  Not even a mention of the current governments role in the mass closure programmes involving post offices up and down the country, or that they would privatise the Post Office once economic conditions are less adverse.

In short, some promises are made which are not in the jurisdiction of a Westminster MP, and some vague promises are made which would be Alexander’s jurisdiction.  Must do a whole lot better.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Ashes To Ashes

…  at least it wasn’t “Burn Baby Burn

Firstly a confession, i shouldn’t be writing this.  I should be in a restaurant in Malta having something nice to eat possibly watching the sun set.  You can understand that I am mightily peed off with the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano, even if the eruption itself was not classed as a hugely violent eruption.

Even more worrying though was the slow nature of the response to this bout of volcanic activity from the authorities.  If there is to be an enquiry, as has been called for chiefly by Theresa Villiers (the shadow Transport Secretary), there are several questions to be answered.

1) Why was there no scientific flights from Thursday taking air samples to determine the density of ash in the air?

2) Why did test flights not take place until the Sunday after the initial lockdown of North-west European airspace?

3) Why was no plan put into place to get stranded people home by other means until Sunday, and why did no Cabinet meeting take place on the subject until Sunday?

4) Why did the Transport Minister Andrew Adonis insist that alternative transport arrangements were in place for stranded British people in Spain, when this claim is at odds with other testimony?
There is no doubt that the British government was slow to react to this incident.  Luckily though the eruption is not as serious as could have been the case.  Unfortunately a lot of people will be out of pocket because of 3 days of inaction.

Thankfuly this

Monday, 19 April 2010

A Big Week For The SNP

Scrap that.  An absolutely massive week for the SNP.

For most of this election the SNP have been squeezed out of the debate, everyone has been telling the electorate that Alex Salmond is irrelevant to an election to the Westminster election.  The strange thing, for a reputedly vociferous party, the SNP have more or less let themselves be sidelined.  Sure they were responding to “The Leadership Debates”, but they complaining about not being involved rather than showing why they should be involved. 

Even the stunt (left) involving the opening of John Mason’s office in Glasgow had no hard hitting spin.  After all the former leader of Glasgow City Council resigns for “health reasons”, before being outed as a cokehead, and before the various questions emerge about who exactly profited from his “arm’s length” companies (set up to perform key council functions), and the questions about where the money went.  There are questions to be asked, and the SNP should be playing on McKnacker and Glasgow City Council’s ram-rod refusal to investigate. This issue in particular sounds more and more like an episode of The Wire each day.

This week the SNP launch their manifesto.  Included will be their thinking behind their somewhat naff slogan of “Scotland’s Champions”.  Rather than meekly complaining about perceived cuts (which for people living under the current administration at Cotton Street is a bit rich, but…) the SNP should be aggressively targeting other things that could be cut.  In this respect they have made a respectable start with identifying Trident and ID cards as projects which the UK can no longer afford.  However, as the current debt level is supposedly in the region of £170 billion, this is only a start.

However, i seriously think the SNP have missed a trick with this election.  Salmond should have put the Independence referendum to the vote at Holyrood in the winter, and watched it fail.  His parties campaign for this election then should have been about the Union, and its (many) failings, flagging up the other parties belief in democracy as a result.  Had they pursued this strategy,they would have had a lot more exposure than the crumbs they have been given at the moment.

The SNP need to get back into the minds of the electorate.  With this in mind the manifesto has to address the concerns of Scottish people.  Most of all, they need to be seen to be relevant in this close Election.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

On Tonight’s 15 to 1…

Tonight ITV piloted a new game show where the winner gets a cuddly toy, a country house, a town house in the centre of London and the keys to run the country.  Tonight’s contestants were Dave from Witney, Gordon from Kirkcaldy and Nick from Sheffield (below).

Actually that’s strictly speaking not true, though the leaders debates did have the air of some sort of cheesy game show at the start of proceedings.  I did expect sarky invigilator come host Alistair Stewart to say David Cameron…  COME ON DOWN!!!! at some point.  But thankfully the politics took over, even though it took about half an hour for the debate to actually get going.  The first question was about immigration, and already Nick Clegg was out of the traps with his “good immigration and bad immigration” quip, which sounded a bit Chris Morris.

Early polls suggested that Clegg was the winner of the debate, his body language suggested empathy, and he put forward a lot of policies which make sense.  Cameron did talk a lot of sense as well, particularly when he talked of crime and when he told the heartbreaking story of the burglar who set fire to the settee in the house he was stealing from, committing a murder in the process.  Where Cameron fell down was on economic policy, where the National Insurance rise/scrapping argument was rather bulldozed by Brown.  After all, as Brown pointed out “You can’t airbrush your policies like you airbrush your campaign posters” 

This did not prevent Cameron from seeding his claims about the proposed NI rise.  Clegg also made the excellent point that tax reform is required at the top end and the bottom end.  Again Cameron’s claim that a tax cut for the poor was to expensive at this point was put to the sword by Clegg when he mentioned Cameron's proposed millionaires tax cuts.  I’m surprised Clegg failed to mention Brown’s income tax rise for the low paid in 2007 (when he scrapped the 10p tax band).

Brown and Cameron were firmly put into their place by Clegg’s ripostes' to the question of MP’s expenses, Clegg brought up the spectre of the flipping MP’s, some of whom have decided to leave parliament.  Brown and Cameron unveiled their own proposals to clean up Westminster, but it was here that i noticed the phenomenon known as “I agree with Nick”.  Brown repeated it ad nausium at this point, only for nick to point out that these measures could have been in place already if only you hadn’t spiked it.

So… first impressions.  Cameron made a lot of good points, on Crime mostly.  Brown looked anxious to get his point across, at times earning a tasering from sarky Alistair Stewart.  The format at times though went against Brown,who’s body language came straight out of the Blair book of body language (the hands, the movement etc…).  The winner though was the boy Clegg, who put forward a lot of good policy ideas, and seemed to successfuly attack the other leaders ideas.

Oh and by the way.  Little memo to the SNP.  Rotund whinging does not go down well with potential voters.  To quote the American golfer Bobby Jones, “We all have to play the ball from where it lies”

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A Two Horse Race?

That is the narrative being vigorously pursued by the two main Westminster parties, that the only two candidates for Prime Minister are Gordon Brown and David Cameron.  While this is strictly speaking true, the vote on May 6th is first and foremost a vote for your constituency Member of Parliament.  In any case, neither candidate is particularly showering themselves in glory at the moment.

 

So how are the alternative parties getting on?  The Lib Dem’s are having an OK campaign so far, they launch their Manifesto tomorrow.  They have been making the right noises on cutting taxes for the low paid, and raising taxes for the high paid.  Of course it helps that your finance spokesman is widely perceived to have won the…  er… Finance People’s debate.  On the minus side they haven’t really quantified their claim that savage cuts are required in public spending.

 

Not having a great campaign are the SNP.  Caught in the middle of the “Two Horse Race” campaign, i think that the SNP are still trying to define themselves in post-devolution general elections.  In the SNP’s favour is that they still have couple of media events still to come, they unveil their manifesto (Why do they need a manifesto?) on Monday.  Apart from seeing some SNP bod’s out and about in Paisley on Saturday (out-numbered by Wendy and the New Labour stall) the SNP have been somewhat conspicuous by their absence.

 

We are now a week into the campaign and to date the vast majority of the coverage has been about the yah boo sucks argument about National Insurance and VAT, which has been unrealistic as it would take the two proposed tax increases, several times over, to make a dent in the national debt.  What we really need it a debate into how to put some liquidity into the economy, after all it’s the movement of money which move’s the economy.  The problem with the economy is that not very many people have money (apart from bankers and footballers).  We also need a debate about where the cuts should be made rather than where, undoubtedly, they will end up being made.

 

Which brings us to the first ever “leaders” debate in a UK General Election.  Will this lacklustre campaign finally come alive on Thursday?  Lets hope so, as this campaign needs something to spark it into life.

Monday, 12 April 2010

A Party Political Broadcast From New Labour

That thing about too many tweets making a twit, well here’s the blogosphere’s equivalent to defending the indefensible, particularly on the subject of the rather bad problems we in the West of Scotland have with sectarianism.

Yeah, you’ve really got a vote winner there New Labour, someone not scared to call anyone who disagrees with the New Labour line a biggot with their head where the sun don’t shine…

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Malcolm McLaren Had Died

One of the first blogs i did here was one of those steam fuelled ones about the injustice of Oasis being awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the Brits at the start of 2007.  As a retort I listed five acts/figures who were way more deserving of an outstanding contribution gong.  One of those, and prehaps the most influential, Malcolm McLaren, died tonight.

 

McLaren came from the Art-house end of British art & Pop, being involved with art and fashion.  In the mid 1970’s McLaren moved into music management, and found himself managing US Glam act The New York Dolls.  It was at this point his magpie instinct kicked in, he began to take notes about the New York Dolls, and other acts emerging from New York like Richard Hell, Television and The Ramones.  The look of Richard Hell in particular would be one which McLaren would snaffle as his own, as this look would become known as the archetypal “Punk” look.  Taking influences from 1950’s/60’s Garage rock, the above bands and their immediate forefathers The Stooges and the MC5, and tapping into the vibrant Pub-Rock scene spearheaded by Dr Feelgood, McLaren set about creating his own band.

 

The Sex Pistols, as they were called caused controversy from the start.  but crucially they were also a bomb under the moribund British music scene, stifled by Prog-rock and MOR music from America.  The Pistols had great records, but were also the band that started things.  The Clash got going around the same time as the Pistols, while a gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall was attended by Tony Wilson, (who would form the Factory label) Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner (who would form Warsaw, changing their name to Joy Division), Ian Curtis (who would be Joy Division’s singer and lyracist), Stephen Morrisey (who would go on to form The Smiths), and Mick Hucknall (yes, that Mick Hucknall).  The explosion of Punk rock was the start of a new golden period of British music, which lasted until 1984.

 

After the Sex Pistols broke up came the recriminations and the legal writs.  McLaren’s next vision was of a type of music influenced by (US) Indian beats, tribal beats with western sounding guitars.  After seeing a band play one night he tracked down the musicians and convinced them to ditch their singer.  Their new singer would be underage Annabelle Lwin, and McLaren christened the band Bow Wow Wow.  Chart success evaded this band untill “Wild In The Country”, when McLaren had become bored with the band.  By the way the sacked singer picked himself up and got himsef a new band.  For Adam Ant, the rest as they say is history.

 

McLaren then went into making his own music, going back to America to take notes.  This time his notes were day-glo as the new Hip-Hop scene interested McLaren’s magpie instincts.  He won the race to work with 1982’s hot producer Trevor Horn, beating off Spandeu Ballet.  It was during the sessions for “Duck Rock” that the seed that had planted during the making of Yes 90125 album took shape.  A few months after the release of McLaren’s Buffalo Gals single, The Art Of Noise launched, and a British version of Hip Hop based around short samples was born.

 

For many, Punk was British music’s year zero, where rock was reset back to it’s default settings.  McLaren more than most was the orchestrator of those events.  The years between 1976 and 1984 still resonate in popular culture today, while in America for 1977, read 1991 the year punk broke across there.  Whether as the manager of The Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow, or as an artist in his own right, Malcolm McLaren set a template that others followed.  British Rock and Pop has probably seen the end of an era.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Some Food For Thought…

Below is the actual votes for New Labour over the past 4 elections.  While most commentators have (rightly) concentrated on the swing seats and the election battlegrounds.  Perhaps a more pertinent question should be why have New Labour dropped 4 million votes between 1997 and 2005?

 

New Labour

Lib Dem

May 2005

9,566,618

5,981,874

June 2001

10,724,895

4,814,321

May 1997

13,518,167

5,242,947

April 1992

11,560,484

5,999,384

 

I have included the Lib Dems as a contrast, as many people last time around said that they attracted more votes from Labour voters in 2005.  If they did, and this may have taken them to just short of their record haul of votes, this still begs the question of where the other 3 million or so votes have gone.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

May the 6th Be With You…

So this morning Gordon Brown fired the starting pistol for what is already shaping up to be the closest Westminster Election campaign since 1992.

His starting pitch to the electorate, that New Labour had been getting the big decisions right began to unravel  straight away when a lowly government minister remarked that it was for the best that the UK emerged last from recession.  Coupled with the fact that the Treasury ceded to a Freedom of Information request regarding the sale of UK gold in 1997 made it a rocky welcome to Election 2010 for Ed Milliband on today’s PM

Brown’s decision to wait until spring 2010 has paid some dividends if the polls are to be believed with the opinion polls now firmly in the margin of “hung parliament” territory, compared to before Christmas when the polls all pointed to a large Cameron victory.  In electorial terms, Cameron has a huge mountain to climb, with Cameron having to win 120 seats to win a majority, though notionally this has been eroded to around 115 due to boundary changes to some constituencies. With a 6.9% swing needed to form the next government alone, factoring in as well the fact that Lib Dem MP’s are difficult to remove, well a Hung Parliament looks to be the favourite.  Cameron began by saying that the country needed better than Brown.

This Election, as well as being the closest since 1992 is also the most relevant post devolution Westminster Election, as the economy is by far and away the key issue for many people.  There is a huge deficit in the public finances, caused by saving the banks (and just look at the gratitude shown by these banks), the issue should be how we go about reducing that deficit without causing serious damage to the country.  To this end the nationalist parties have struck up a more formal election pact for this campaign. 

The SNP slogan is “More Nat’s Less Cuts” – with Salmond talking up the SNP as Scotland’s champions.  I know we have TCF Champions in my work, and I remember certain people “Championing” bands (ie Steve Lamaq used to “Champion” Blur, does anyone know if the NME still uses this phrase?), but Scotland’s Champions sounds like a cross between naff 60’s show “The Champions” and a certain dire ambulance chasers advert which gets heavy rotation during day-time TV.  Due to the SNP’s poor election performance in 2005 (where they got 6 seats out of about 17% share of the vote), they would have to put on a further 16% share of the vote in order to smash through their target of 20 seats.  An 18% swing to the SNP would see them gain 30 seats, and just a thought, might trigger a constitutional crisis.

My own prediction is that I think the Conservatives will defiantly end up as the largest party, whether they win an outright majority depends on whether the “Old” Labour vote swing’s behind New Labour, or whether Old and New fall out once again.  Just don’t ask me who i’m going to vote for.  I’ve still got 30 days to make my mind up.