Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Top 5 Pieces of News

Hey all,

Here are the top 5 news pieces of the week.

1. Neither a good nor a bad piece about Labour, but a comment that shows, principles and substance are vitally important in a media saturated environmnet.

2. I have never trusted the new Tory think tank 'Respublica' - anyone who strings together a couple of diametrically opposed terms and calls it an idea is an idiot. But here's another reason.

3. Yes, it's the Daily Mail, but there's nothing better than infighting.

4. Another Respublica comment - but you have to understand, we have Giddens for the Labour party - at least he's well respected across the board. This guys a twit.

5. A piece of news from my home patch - showing that the public won't abide ignorance.



p.s. keep an eye out this week for all the news on the SNP's referendum paper.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is a phrase often thought of, but often ignored. It is thought to be a private issue. A new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Commission highlights that domestic is far from a private issue. It’s an issue that deserves the widest attention.
Domestic abuse can be described as “when a family member, partner or ex-partner attempts to physically or psychologically dominate another” .In the UK alone, every year, at least one woman in four experiences domestic abuse – be it violence against the body, forced intercourse or rape, financial abuse, isolation or mental abuse. These are just some of the abuses that cause long term difficulties for individuals, families, communities and society. Over 100 women are killed each year as a result of domestic abuse. Disabled women are twice as likely to suffer domestic abuse. There also exist increasing cases of domestic abuse of men perpetrated by women. Whether done by men or women, domestic abuse is a cowardice act.
It is also an act that reverberates across society. Domestic abuse shouldn’t have to be diluted into numbers; it should be something that is universally rejected. That being said, violence against women costs the NHS £1.2 billion a year for physical injuries and £176 million for mental health support. The credit crunch has also affected services for domestic abuse sufferers. A survey of rape crisis England and Wales showed that almost a quarter face closure this year and almost 40% fear closure next year because of a lack of funding.
For those who have suffered domestic abuse, help is not always close to hand. And help is much more than just saying to the individual suffering; leave the relationship, it involves a lengthy and time consuming process to ensure that those who have suffered from domestic abuse are able to regain their confidence, walk down the street without fear and arrive at their house without apprehension.
That help is not always at hand. The report shows that a postcode lottery means that some sufferers of domestic abuse receive better help than others. All because of the area they live in. For example, for the 250, 000 a woman in Glasgow there exists 13 – 16 services available for those seeking refuge and help. Whilst in the Aberdeenshire area, there are merely 1 – 3 services available. It shouldn’t matter where someone lives; victims of domestic deserve the best help.
And the best kind of help revolves around services that provide a holistic service. The report highlights that victims of domestic need specialist help to overcome stigma of abuse, talk about their experiences and regain self – confidence as well as seeking avenues for justice to be served. But most all, victims need a refuge. A refuge from violence and a refuge from fear.
With this report it is hoped that the issue of domestic abuse is highlighted and that action is taken to ensure that everyone is a winner in the postcode lottery and that both men and women know and understand the help that is available. Not enough is being done and a lot more should be done. Because in domestic abuse, there are no ifs, there are no buts. Only victims.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Some things the Sun won't headline!

Dear all,

Please find enclosed your new weekly round up of the top 5 good news stories about Labour. With a strong anti Labour media it is important that news about Labour's achievements reache's it's members so that when we campaign on the doors steps we have proof of Labour continuing to change the UK for the better.

1. Without a doubt - our fantastic success in Glasgow.

2. Some interesting new regarding our achievements in health care.

3. Top scientists slam the SNP's energy policy

4. Further promising economic signs

5. A possible new strategy for Labour party



Thursday, 12 November 2009

Cameron's Claims just dont stand up to facts!

Once again, David Cameron is too pleased to shout out spin and lies. When will the Tories learn that when it comes to social issues, they have no idea!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The end of conference season

There are two kinds of speech at a party conference; there are good speeches and there are speeches made by good speakers. The difference is that while the former, though still well delivered, is written in order to promote policies, aims and ideas, the latter is written for the promotion only of the person who wrote it. As year by year we drift further into the realm of personality politics, the line between the two categories becomes increasingly blurred, to the point where it is now hard to judge the value of a party conference at all. Though in the past it has served as an opportunity for the press to put the spotlight on party policy and to give the grassroot membership the opportunity to take on an active role in influencing those policies as the party political system require, increasingly, conference season has become an opportunity for the party PR teams to exhibit their products out on the podium while the role of the membership is reduced in the press to providing lengths of applause as measurements of the popularity of key speakers. Party conferences may still provide members with a means of shaping policy, however as the role of the party diminishes in favour of individual personalities, so too has the value of conferences been undermined

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Rolling Back the State?

A fantastic article from Will Hutton about the role of the state in the 21st Century.

The state does have a role to play. What role should that be?

Saturday, 26 September 2009

SNP's areas of concerns

See this news article on the BBC

It seems that, rather than focus on the issues that matter in this economic recession, Salmond et al are more concerned about symbolic areas of importance to SNP scotland alone.

Maybe if they spent more time focusing on infrastructure, business grants, transport changes and inner city regenerations then Scotland wouldn't be struggling so much.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

NUS Opposed to Sexist Freshers' Week Promotions

The NUS National Women's Officer has launched campaign to oppose sexist marketing by a marketing company on University campuses. The company in question is involved in the promotion of the Miss University GB Competition and plan to distribute free copies of FHM at Freshers' Fairs. This competition and the magazine promote misogynistic views of women and promote the objectification of women and help propagate the deeply offensive idea that a woman's worth is contained entirely in her appearance.

Promotions such as these at Freshers' Fairs presents a lack of inclusivity that could well be alienating to young women who should be made to feel welcome as valuable members of the University. Furthermore it privileges heterosexual males and implies by the lack of inclusivity in the promotions that this group is the only one worthy of the marketeers efforts. This is clearly unacceptable.

From the NUS website:

The NUS Women’s Campaign is making a stand against two recent BAM promotions. BAM are a student’s unions marketing company who offer various promotions, advertising and events sponsorship. It has come to our attention that they supported and facilitated the promotion of the Miss University GB Competition and plan to distribute free copies of FHM at Freshers' Fairs and you can help take action.

In a society where 92% of women under the age of 22 have said that they “hate their bodies,” promoting competitions that openly objectify women and the distribution of a magazine based on the same principles is unacceptable. These sorts of competitions and media will only continue to fuel negative, unrealistic and damaging ideals of what women should look like. And, whilst pointing out the obvious, these two promotions are not accessible to all or in any way inclusive.

Olivia Bailey, the NUS National Women’s Officer, has taken action against these promotions and has sent an open letter to BAM, outlining the Women’s Campaign’s concerns about these promotions. In her letter to BAM, Olivia stated that “It is of course vital that we respect the rights of all students to engage in whatever activities they choose to, and as such we never extend our criticism to the women who choose to enter beauty pageants. Our criticism lands squarely on the shoulders of the corporations who make money out of the exploitation of women students.”

The NUS campaign provided a model letter which can be emailed to BAM ( to register a complaint:

Model letter to BAM – feel free to adapt to include your own views

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to express my concern about two of your recent activities. First, I understand that you have written to all students’ unions on your books suggesting they advertise Miss University GB at their institution. Second, I understand that you have facilitated the free distribution of FHM magazine at the fresher’s fairs of the unions you are contracted to work for.

I believe that Beauty Pageants like Miss University GB, and ‘lads’ mags like FHM, send the dangerous message that it is OK to value women purely on a narrow conception of beauty that bears little relation to the majority of women.

I believe that my institution should be free of the sexism and objectification that women face every day in wider society. I am disappointed that you did not more seriously consider the equal opportunities implications of the products that you have chosen to advertise.

I ask that you retract both promotions, and apologise for the negative impact that your action has had on campuses across the country.

Yours Sincerely,


New lines of communication for the Labour Club

Our industrious Chairperson has recently inaugurated a new website for the Labour Club.

You can find it at

This website will act as a messageboard for the Labour Club to promote the Club's events and campaigns. As well as this it will also enable members to more easily interact with the Labour Club, and so will hopefully strengthen the Club's democratic nature.


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

This coming year...

Dear Member,

If you believe in a progressive and radical society, then your support for the Labour Party is more important than ever before. Depending on how you look at it, this email is either the final of the past academic year, or the first of the new one. Either way, I want to take the opportunity to impress on everyone the political significance of the coming year, and the enormity of the task facing us on our return.

Since we left each other before the summer, three things have changed which together will shape politics for the next decade. Firstly, we are now within a year of a general election. Secondly, the lines along which the election will be fought are now being clearly drawn. Finally, we will be fighting this election in the face of the biggest disconnect between voters and politicians perhaps in living memory. As front line activists, this may be our biggest challenge.

The significance of the coming year for Labour and for the country cannot be overstated. Previous years in politics have been spent debating the price of a pint; this year will be different.

Our generation of students is set to graduate into the jobs market in the harshest of conditions. Further, as people with a political conscience, we are now faced with the daunting process of charting a path out of this crisis. In the former we will be helped in part by a raft of measures, which Labour has already introduced. In making the case for Britain’s future, however, we need to focus not on what we have already achieved, but what we can move on to achieve in the future. When our case is at its strongest, it is crucial that we make it clear. It is vital that, in order to win the next general election, we do not spend our time on doorsteps advocating the status quo to voters, as is the temptation for a party in power, but rather focus on future challenges and our future goals. Defending the status quo is never good politics.

For this reason, the year ahead will be crucial in shaping the form of British politics for the next decade at least. For anyone coming into politics for the first time there may be a natural aversion to joining a governing party, but as I have already said, party membership is about more than just defending the record of the government of the time, and demands the willingness to help shape the future of Labour and of the country. For those considering the renewal of their membership, remember that while governments last for years, parties last for decades if not centuries, and this is something which I have no doubt that more squeamish Conservatives such as David Cameron are now contemplating as they find themselves counted amongst the ranks of the party of Dan Hannan.

The Labour Party has the values and principles to guide Britain through the next parliament. There is no doubt, however, that when Britain emerges from the current period of political and economic strife, the landscape will have changed. As party members, it is for us to help to determine exactly what form that change will take.

Labour members are deservedly proud of our record, which includes the national minimum wage, civil partnerships, a 10.8 million tonne reduction in green house gas emissions in the last year alone and a vastly improved National Health Service which retains the values with which it was created by an earlier Labour government.

However, good campaigning is not about defending what Labour has done but rather setting out what Labour will do, and defending the status quo is no way to go about winning a general election. Labour became New Labour in the nineties in response to a changing climate and the time has come again to take stock and to revaluate. The events of the next year will impact on all of our futures, and it is for us to ensure that Labour remains an innovative and resilient force for change in the decade ahead. We can be proud of our past, but we must be focused on our future.

I look forward to seeing you all next year, and all that remains is to remind everyone that in order to sign up again, either visit our stall at the Societies Fresher Fayre, or else to contact our new club secretary, Andrew, at this email address.

Best wishes,

Calum Darling
Aberdeen University Labour Club

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Lessons of 1937

Heres a link to an interesting article regarding whether or not to continue with our economic agenda.

I think this phrase sums it up "To switch to austerity in the immediate future would surely set back recovery and risk a 1937-like recession-within-a-recession."

Monday, 22 June 2009

A short video

An amusing video that we were sent about David Cameron's new allies in Europe:

I really have no idea why David Cameron think's it's a good idea to turn his back on powerful mainstream parties that have are ideologically similair to him (well ideologically similiar to his posture his actions show an entirely different set of principles) and ally himself with the lunatic fringe.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Gordon, no Gordon it doesn't matter: Our message is clear.

I am unsure of where this party should go regarding our leader. On the one hand, Gordon Brown is an intelligent individual who sees issues as complex ones, that require a great amount of thoughts, which they are - the recession, crime, health, education, immigration are not black and white issues. But on the other hand, all that intelligence and understanding matters for very little when he seems unsure and unsteady in front of a camera. The question is, do we want to accept the de facto image lead life or do we want to try and elevate the public debate. Personally, I want to elevate the public debate. I think a country that debates the issues fully and with a full understanding of the issues raises people up. Increasing tolerance and understanding through continued debate is surely a great thing.
And that's where we should be, every single day, elevating the debate by suggesting our understanding of the society, our ideology, because we believe our ideology and set of beliefs will provide the mechanisms to ensure that every person has the potential to be the best they can. That belief centres on the equality of opportunity. The opportunity to give children a great education, the best in the world, the opportunity to rid communities of violence and anti social behaviour so a civil society can flourish, the opportunity to continually retrain individuals so that they can adapt to the changing economic environment.
Contrast this with the Tories whose small government plans would see hospitals crumble, law order evaporate, we will see our education system as archaic and underfunded. Their economic trickle down theory does not work. They say that a rising tide lifts all boats. What they don't tell you is that some boats just get bigger until all the other boats are invisible and swamped.
Lets get the debate going, lets lift our intellectual boats.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Anne Begg's Week

[Disclaimer]: Aberdeen University and its blog are not connected to Anne Begg MP in an official capacity. The writers of this blog are solely responsible for its contents, and therefore this blog may not reflect the views or positions of Anne Begg MP. For Anne Begg MP's official website please go to

Week beginning 18th May – Goodbye Mr Speaker.


This week was an historic week obviously dominated by the speculation and then the announcement that the Speaker was to resign. As a result, I found myself doing quite a lot of media such as Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive, Scotland at 10, BBC2’s Holyrood Live and a long interview for the online Women's Parliamentary Radio.


Because the expenses controversy has been so damaging to the reputation of Parliament I decided to post all my claims under the Additional Costs Allowance here on my website. It took a large part of the weekend to get them in a form which wouldn’t reveal anybody’s personal data.  However, to show that I had nothing to hide, on Monday I also gave access to everything the Telegraph has to the Lobby correspondent for the Press and Journal. 


Of course the normal work of Parliament had to continue on as well.  Therefore, on Monday afternoon I also chaired a Statuary Instrument Committee on Climate Change. It lasted the full hour and a half which is quite unusual for these types of committees. 


Tuesday morning was taken up with a meeting of the Speaker’s Conference which had to take place on an informal basis as we were unfortunately not quorate.  However, it seemed that events were overtaking us. I had lunch with Mark Thomson, Director General of the BBC, and inevitably the coverage of the expenses story dominated.  The rest of the day was filled with the Speaker’s statement and other meetings but it was difficult to concentrate with such historic events going on around me.


On Wednesday the Pensions Minister, Rosie Winterton MP, appeared in front of my Select Committee as part of our pensioner poverty inquiry. I was able to ask her about the issue raised with my by a constituent just last week. One of the meetings I had in the afternoon was about setting up an All Party Rare Diseases Group, and then it was into the Chamber for a debate on the BBC licence fee for next year. After catching up with some work, the evening was spent at a reception held by the RNIB to say thank you to all the MPs who had helped in their campaign to secure the higher rate DLA mobility element for blind people. 


Thursday and it was back to Aberdeen for constituent surgeries. I also managed to pop in past the All Energy Conference at the AECC and meet some renewable energy companies from Aberdeen.  It is a conference which has really grown and is much more professional every time I visit.


Friday consisted of more surgeries and meetings about subjects ranging from the future of Aberdeen Airport to the Shopmobility scheme.

I would have some witty and intelligent analysis to share with you but alas I have an exam tomorrow so it'll have to wait. ;)

Friday, 22 May 2009

A 21st Century Parliament requires a 21st Technological Revolution

I am no fan of those that have used the expenses system for their own personal gain. And that includes all parties in parliament. Although, as with most press related campaigns there are incompatibilities that have forever tainted the work of fantastic MPs. These claims can never be removed and it is to the Telegraphs detriment that political journalism has made way for political point scoring and dilletant journalism. As I understand it, the Telegraph also has the information regarding MPs staffers (me being one) and their bank accounts. I hope that the Telegraph understands the implications of what they have done. Whilst those who have defrauded the public should face repercussions as should the civil servant who broke the most precious of democratic functions, that of the objective and annonymous civil servant.

But that is not the purpose of this blog. If expenses in parliament are currently the most noticed part of democracy, let us think of the repercussions. Creating a system of expenses that denies MPs the neccessity of expenses to ensure they can live day to day will mean that parliament will be full of individuals that can afford that lifestyle, thereby eroding the democratic value of equality of opportunity. This means that people can enter parliament regardless of wealth and ensure that they can fully represent their constituents without the worry of financial hardship.

But lets go beyond this to this question - do we need parliament? I am in no way suggesting that we get rid of parliamentary democracy. How about voting form wherever an MP is, using voice recognition and, just like businesses, utilise conference calling for committee meetings. This would ensure that expenses are kept at a minimum and would also ensure that MPs are closer to the people they serve. What does everybody think?

"I'm not greedy, you're jealous!"

This is what the Tory Party is all about. Individuals who are so privileged and comfortable that they have absolutely no ability to see things other than from their own rich man's point of view, and unable to understand that their wealth and position do not come about through their own innate superiority to the plebians. This Tory cannot conceive why anything he has done could possibly be criticised so he superimposes motives on others that are most flattering to himself.

Well here's news for you Steen. People aren't jealous, they're angry!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Hope not Hate

This is an extremely illustrative video showing exactly why it is so important that we make sure that the BNP don't attain electoral success. As the video points out just 9% of the vote would be enough to get Nick Griffin a seat in the European Parliament.

Thanks to John's Labour Blog:

Monday, 11 May 2009

Tackling Crime and Criminals

Working in a spar shop I see a disproportionate amount of crime. It's just the nature of the job. But the vast majority of crime I witness is perpetuated by the same people and the items they steal are not everyday items that are essential to everyday living like bread and butter, milk. The items that the thieves seem to take are bacon, carlsberg special brew, deodorants and dog food. If the coffee wasn't behind the till then I am fairly certain that would be stolen.
Why do I tell you this? Well, its because I believe that the current belief on crime needs readjusting slightly. It is right, still, that crime is a cause of poverty and alienation and a lack of ownership with their surroundings. The notion that crime is committed by an individual, who made an individual choice and that these people are essentially bad people, wrapped up in their own selfish means is antiquated.
And its also right that we provide the means for people to reach out of the traps of poverty by ensuring they have the financial means to provide for themselves, and providing the educational means to better themselves and securing their surroundings so they do not live in fear.
But with crime in shops, there needs to be a restructuring. Crime in shops is almost always done by the same people, the kind of people that have been trapped from early on and have become so institutionalised and see nothing but crime. For shops, the government must take a role in providing strategies for preventing crime occuring including the correct placement of products that are prone to be stolen, funding for improved CCTV, training for the correct way to deal with thieves. Added to this, I have found that the hardened criminals seem to hit an area, which is why I think its important to create a network that responds when an area gets hit. This, essentially, would be a phone network to be able to inform other shops.
Hopefully, these can help to further cut the rates of crime.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Anne Begg's Week

[Disclaimer]: Aberdeen University and its blog are not connected to Anne Begg MP in an official capacity. The writers of this blog are solely responsible for its contents, and therefore this blog may not reflect the views or positions of Anne Begg MP. For Anne Begg MP's official website please go to

Week in Westminster - from soldiers to stadiums.

Another shortish week in Westminster as I returned to Aberdeen on Thursday morning for a meeting with Aberdeen Football Club about their plans to build a new stadium at Loirston Loch. The fans are against it, the people of Cove are against it, the people in Kincorth who use the area extensively are against it, and the land was zoned as Green Belt as recently as last year. Difficult to see how it can be supported.

However, it did mean I missed the votes on MPs' expenses. If anything is a poisoned chalice this is it.

Arrived in Westminster at lunchtime on Monday to speak at and then Chair a couple of sessions of an IPU (Inter Parliamentary Union) discussing the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities. The UK has signed up but has not yet ratified so much discussion around the UK reservations. The IPU brings together Parliamentarians from all around the world to discuss issues of common interest. The majority of the delegates on this occasion were from Eastern European countries.

The Equality Bill was also published on Monday so I attended a launch event with Harriet Harman who has been the driving force behind getting a Bill that was a well received as these things can be. (Harriet also came up to Aberdeen on Saturday to promote the bill)

If it's Tuesday then it must be Cambridge. My Select Committee was out and about speaking to pensioners about how they were managing financially as part of our new inquiry. I think it is important that MPs don't do everything in the Westminster bubble but get out into the 'real world' as well.

It was then back to Westminster in time for all the votes on the Budget resolutions. Only 4 this year went to actual vote so finished around 11 pm. Some years it takes us to well after midnight.

Wednesday began with a 6.55 am interview on Good Morning Scotland about my Select Committee Report on the Equality Bill which was finally published today. If you live in Aberdeen or the North East and listen to GMS but didn't hear me, that's because there is the North East opt out at 6.55! (Perfect timing)

Later that day, Prime Minister Questions is dominated by the Gurkhas. As is the discussion on Holyrood Live on BBC2 which I take part in at 3 pm while the debate was going on in the Chamber. At 4pm there was the surprise defeat of the government motion. The meeting of the Scottish Group with the Prime Minister which was to take place in No 10 is therefore moved to his Commons office. Interesting discussion! The day ended with a statement on what the government would do about the Gurkhas in light of the vote.

Oh, and a group of us had lunch with the Faeroese Foreign Minister.

As I said earlier, I came up early on Thursday to have a meeting with Aberdeen Football Club and then the rest of the day, and the whole of Friday, was taken up by constituent surgeries. I then got to spend an enjoyable night on Friday speaking at the Aberdeen University Debater.

An interesting week in Westminster it seems. Hopefully the issues regarding the Gurkhas can be resolved, given the work they've done for this country I think they deserve the right to live here and receive the benefits of our healthcare system.

Did anyone go to the debate? I was busy so i couldn't make it, and I haven't heard how it went.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Tory frontbencher with two jobs gets grilled

Tory Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley admitted earning £24,000, in addition to his work as an MP, for "ten or twelve" days work a year as a non-executive director of a company, which is gross in more than one way.

Clearly for a number of front bench Tories, including the shadow foreign secretary and de facto deputy leader of the party, beng an elected representative isn't a full time job.

It begs the question, what would they propose to do with these directorships if they entered government? Would they keep them? If they propose to drop them, do they mean to say that they believe that they hold themselves to a lower standard than their government counterparts? There aren't many corporate directors on the Treasury bench.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tories sing from "same hymn sheet" as BNP

Following Blackburn Labour Parties twitter I came accross this story about The Conservatives trying to intice former BNP candidate to stand in the local elections in June under a Tory Ticket.

Nick Holt who lost heavily to Jack Straw in 2005 said that a long standing Tory asked him to stand for his party saying that both parties "sang from the same hymnsheet".

Who says the parties are all converging to the centre? This story may shock at first but it should not suprise us.

Compassionate , caring Conservatives? You are having a laugh!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The aparthied jolly that cost Cameron his image

Any claim David Cameron had to moral authority now lies in ruins.

The revelation by the Independent that David Cameron visited apartheid South Africa and enjoyed the hospitality of an anti-sanctions lobby group exponses as a farce his claim that his party's anti-apartheid policies were of an era to which he did not belong.

The fact that while Mandella languished in prison Cameron enjoyed what his then boss described as a "little treat" which was "terribly relaxed... just a jolly" was unknown when Mr. Cameron met with the former president in an attempt to distance himself from his parties aparthied stance.

Attempts by his office to paint the excursion as a fact finding mission were thwarted by his then boss Alistair Cooke, who said "It was all terribly relaxed, just a little treat, a perk of the job", and spokesperson offered up the excuse that "the Conservative Party at that time was against sanctions".

Such feverish towing of the party line even on something as awful as opposing sanctions on a repressive and racist regime raises serious questions about the moral character of a man who never tires of attacking others who he accuses of lacking such credentials.

The contrast was made clear by anti-aparthied campaigner Peter Haine MP, who pointed to the example led by prime minister Gordon Brown, who was an anti-aparthied campaigner. The prime minister, who in addition to his anti-aparthied work also devoted a chapter of his book to and unveiled a statue of Nelson Mandella, contrasts strikingly with the blasé attitude of David Cameron, with the sickening attitudes of his then collueges, who are reported to have worn badges bearing the slogan "hang Nelson Mandella" and with the outrageous stance of their then-leader Margaret Thatcher, who branded Mandella "a terrorist".

These revelations, described by Peter Hain as a measure of character, deal a serious blow to the credibility of the man who has gone to great lengths to rebrand the Conservative party. Though he himself has said that people must be allowed to "err and stray" in their past (in reference to allegations of his use of cocain), this was not something he did as at Eton or at Oxford; he chose to take this jolly to aparthied South Africa as a backroom politician in the Conservative research department and it was offered to him as such.

No matter how many licks of paint David Cameron tries to put on the Conservative party, he seems to find it just keeps coming off, washed off first by the economic crisis which exposed wide gaps in his economic policy (in that he didn't have one)and now stripped clean by his own actions, as a Conservative party employee. Mr. Cameron would do well to learn that selling a party isn't just like selling a car; try as he might to wind back the mileage, there will always be someone who remembers. The past doesn't go away just by saying so. But we won't hear that from the man who aspires to be the PR PM.

Anne Begg's Week

[Disclaimer]: Aberdeen University and its blog are not connected to Anne Begg MP in an official capacity. The writers of this blog are solely responsible for its contents, and therefore this blog may not reflect the views or positions of Anne Begg MP. For Anne Begg MP's official website please go to

Week beginning 20th April - A day and a half in Westminster.
A shorter week than usual at Westminster as I had the funeral of a University friend, who died suddenly, in Edinburgh on Wednesday afternoon. This meant missing the Budget Speech and the frision of excitement that reverberates around the Chamber. However, I can't be in 2 places at once. Nevertheless, I still managed to have an incredibly busy week.
In the day and a half I was in Westminster I managed to pack in a huge amount. On Monday we agreed the text of our latest Select Committee Report on the Equality Bill which will be published next week. I also had an Adjournment Debate at the end of Monday's sitting on Pain Services in England. As there is no vote, my debate began just after 10 pm and I have to explain why a Scottish MP was talking about an English topic when pain services for my own constituents are the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. It is because I am the Chair of the newly formed All Party Group on Chronic Pain.
Members of the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition were in the Gallery to hear the debate so I took them for a drink in Strangers bar afterwards. It was soft drinks all round - honest. The Minister who had replied to the debate, Ann Kean, also arrived so I was able to introduce them to each other. The members of the Coalition all went home very happy.
Tuesday began with another public evidence session of the Speaker's Conference with representatives from the 3 main parties. We were very topical as there had been a great deal in the weekend press about 'Smeargate'.
Later I grabbed a quick bite to eat with Frank Doran, MP for Aberdeen North, and one of my constituents, Professor Hugh Pennington, and then rushed over to the Treasury for a meeting on the Seafarers' Earnings Deduction with the Chief Secretary, Stephen Timms MP. I won't bore you here with all the technical details but feel free to e-mail me if you are interested and want to find out more.
It was then back to Portcullis House for a preview of the rough cut of the new YouTube video which the Speaker's Conference will be launching to encourage people to participate in our deliberations. I thought it was ten times too long so it will have to be cut quite a bit before it goes online. After that I had a meeting of the All Party Offshore Oil and Gas group with the Energy Minister, Mike O'Brien. Luckily there is a hairdresser in the House of Commons so I was able to fit in a quick hair cut before meeting with someone from POST, the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, which is charged with making sure Parliamentarians understand scientific issues.
Of course there was also voting to be done before I was able to get home at around 10.30 pm, setting the alarm for 5.15 am so as to get up in time for the plane back to Edinburgh in time for the funeral.
It was then back to Aberdeen on Wednesday evening in time to get to a meeting of the Aberdeen Disability Action Group (ALDAG). On Thursday I had surgeries with constituents and Ann McKechin MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scotland Office, came up to take part in a Women's Listening Panel with some of my female constituents and also came along to see the work of the credit union NESCU in Torry. It was then back down to London on Friday to speak at a Conference of the World Federation of Guild Guides.

A busy week in Westminster this week. Not as packed as a student's week, but still busy nonetheless. :P

On a side note is it just me or has the tiresome media habit of adding "gate" to the end of every situation in which something bad happens way past its sell by date. It's a cheap and simplistic way of artificially compressing complex issues into soundbites, and it serves no purpose except taking the strain of original thought and honest reliable reporting from the media.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The heir to BJ

Perhaps inspired by having misundersood the effect of prospective PM BJ's attempted use of the show as a staging platform for a leap to credibility, Alan Duncan MP returned to Have I Got News For You only to implode within seconds of opening his mouth. After turning red and trying to laugh off questions regarding his expenses claims, he seemingly attempted to recover by joking that he'd add so many zeroes to his parliamentary salary that "it'd be like Zimbabwe. Nevermind that Zimbabwe is set to figure prominently in world affairs for years to come. Perhaps realising he'd blown his shot at Foreign Secretary, the shadow Leader of the House of Commons went on to say that he would like to be Home Secretary, only to shoot himself in the foot once again by joking that if the newly announced opponent of gay marriage Miss Carolina ever turns up dead, we can all look to him. Oh Alan, you card.

The trouble with Alan Duncan is, like the London Mayor, he seems like a nice and likeable guy, the kind of person you would invite to a dinner party. I am sure that there are opposition front benchers who around the dinner table would be perfectly likeable, however around the cabinet table they would be a disaster. Somebody needs to point out to them that difference between what you say to your friends and what you say to the country on national television is... Big. Collosal. Olympian. Titanic.

It's really not a big deal other than being a reminder of why the Conservative party continues to fail abysmally to muster any semblance of seriousness or credibility.

Friday, 24 April 2009

It is not over till "The Fat Lady Sings The Red Flag!"

Give up now. There is no point. Tories have won, Labour are heading for an other 18 years of oblivion. Darling and his economic advisor's did the budget on the back of a fag packet and we are heading for Third World status.

The media want us to believe this, the Tories are RELYING on us believing this and some of our own are starting to think it is true.

Comrades nothing could be further from the truth. The budget on Wednesday was a bitter pill to swallow in terms of debt but it was also the most heartening moment of the year. A Fabian headline of this year has been "Fairness now more than ever in Recession". This is essentially what the budget will deliver. Not cutting with a Cameron chain saw but offering help and support for those who need it most at an acutely difficult time. The fact that we are asking the wealthy to prop up these policies with a new top rate is a bonus.

Normally in times of economic strife the rich and wealthy while losing a % of their income can afford to carry on as normal without much effect on their lifestyle. Those with middle and modest income on the other hand get hit with the same economic punch but have not got the means to recover. This is why asking the rich to help out more than normal is entirely justified and "Fair". Exactly what a Labour Chancellor should be.

I am not an economist so I will leave the number crunching to others (something tells me Nick Robinson's number crunching is rather biased though) . Instead I want to concentrate on the political fall out.

One impact of all the negative media coverage of the budget is that people are automatically thinking the Tories will win the next election, it will be 1997 all over again and we are heading for disaster. People like Ian Dale getting a hard on and asking his disciples to hand in petitions to get rid of Brown and predicting that we are in our last days forget the oxygen we are getting from the Tories reverting to type and having no solutions of their own. You cannot win an election solely on mumping and moaning about how bad the "other lot are".

Our policy of action (as opposed to Tory inaction) has protected people's savings, protected people's mortgages and offered them protection from the worst excesses of free market capitalism. Can we imagine the position the country would be in if as the Tories wanted "we let the recession run it's course"? I shudder to think. This election in 2010 has all the hallmarks of a close run thing with distinctive battle lines drawn for the first time since 1997.

Our position is not favourable but it is far from desperate. Darling's projection of growth by the end of the year coupled with people our policy of help for families has a potential to unite us around a solid message of hope. This will be entirely in contrast to our Eton chums who will demand a return to an economic model which has been found severely wanting. John Prescott today also highlighted the sham of the "caring conservatives"

Locally this budget has taught us one thing, the SNP are a nigh on irrelevance. If letting "the recession run it's course" makes you shudder , being independent and trying to bail out RBS, HBOS etc would make a the most patriotic Scot seek asylum on the moon. Salmond yesterday said "IF we were in Government.." either that means he has forgotten he runs the Scottish executive or he is more of a lunatic than we thought. I wont grudge him this free tip - use the powers you have before demanding more. This is not to say we should ignore them as an election threat but merely highlighting how in a time of Global economic crisis their calls for independence are borderline insane.

An exciting year lies a head. There will be peaks and troughs more bad news and renewed hope. I am confident Mr Darling will steer us through with as little pain as possible , receiving the kudos for it and bolstering our poll percentages. We must build on the message Wednesday's budget sent out , one of fairness and hope while understanding that difficult decision must be made and ensuring that the voters realise they will be made with compassion and consideration. The Tories will promise ravaging cuts " to stabilise the economy" forgetting that its hard to stabilise an economy if your cuts lead to mass unemployment.

So there we have it, come away from the cliff edges, bridges and roofs, go back to your constituencies and prepare for the battle of a lifetime. I will meet you in the early hours of Friday June 4Th 2010 , a whisky in hand joining the "fat lady" as she belts out the Red Flag celebrating a Labour victory.

Monday, 20 April 2009

"Student Unions - the co-operative hubs of tomorrow"

An article about the co-operations and students dropped into my reader from Politics for People. It's quite a brief article but I found it interesting it raises a few points relevant students, specifically how co-operation could be introduced into universities.

The current economic downturn is going to make it harder for students to support themselves throughout their education. It is more important than ever that students are at the heart of the services that their unions offer. It has been widely acknowledged that, working with the co-operative movement, student unions could be developing a co-operative model of student housing, where students could have democratic control in the way that their student residence is run. Apathy is a huge challenge when it comes to getting the vast majority of students to use their vote in student union elections and the indicators show that this is because they don’t see how elections directly affect them. By giving students a real say in their living arrangements, we can show how being involved in the wider politics of the student union can also affect their student experience.

I am still very proud of my union and the opportunities and services that it offered me whilst I was a student. However I share a progressive dream with others in the co-operative movement that in the future student unions can go even further down the path of becoming co-operative hubs for the needs of their students. Why couldn’t the union act as a credit union for the use its students to help them through the hard times? Why shouldn’t students be given a dividend if they are regular customers of student union shops and other services?

Friday, 17 April 2009

AGM - Your chance to seize power!!!!

The CLub Secretary had this announcement to make:

Come and join us for a May Day celebration and The Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the club will take place on Friday 1st May at 12.30PM-2PM, In either room 2 or 3 in the hub (room venue to be confirmed).

The agm itself shall take place in the first half hour of the meeting and the second part of the meeting shall be addressed by Lewis McDonald MSP for Aberdeen Central.


1. Chair's Remarks
2. Apologies
3. Reports
4. Motions
5. Elections

At the AGM the following offices shall be open to election for members

Executive Members

Women's Office
Campaigns Officer
First Year Officer
Press Officer.

The following offices are open to any member who self defines as one of the following

Disability Officer
BME Officer
LGBT Officer.

If any member has a motion wish they wish to be discussed at the agm can they please send them to me no later that Friday 24th April at 5pm to allow them to be forwarded to Members.

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you all on the 1st of May.

Yours in comradeship

The Secretary

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Wouldn't it be nice if pledges actually meant something...

Ripped straight from Scottish Unionist comes news of another abandoned pledge made in the SNP's 2007 manifesto.

In that manifesto they set out the very laudable goal of providing free access to council swimming pools for all children in Scotland. Swimming pools provide a fun and safe environment for anyone and especially children to take part in a healthy past time. Providing free swimming is especially beneficial to low income families who perhaps cannot afford other activities. If the SNP live up to this promise I will certainly applaud them for it.

Unfortunately... reported by the Press Association, Herald and Scotsman, only Glasgow and Inverclyde councils offer free swimming pool access for children, as was the case before the Scottish election.

This not the first time we have covered broken promises from the SNP, and I doubt it will be the last.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The stench of hypocrisy

Does Cameron's sleaziness know no bounds? Judging by this BBC article apparently not. His response to an employee of the Prime Minister independently acting to suggest smearing Tories is to smear Gordon Brown and Labour. Well Mr Cameron your party is not as nice and squeaky clean as you would like to pretend so you can keep your faux outrage.

If you don't know what I mean perhaps I can jog your memory:

Of course that was when you had been in power for 18 years which as you say is far too long:

Mr Cameron said Labour had "been in power too long" and Gordon Brown had to end "this sort of nonsense".

I'm guessing then that you didn't campaign for the Tories in '92 or '97 since you had obviously been in power too long at both those elections. Strangely enough I don't think that that was the case since it was around that time you were trying to get selected by your party.

As for change (BTW plagiarising Obama won't make you be like him):

Mr Cameron said: "What this whole episode demonstrates is the need for change - not change in the special advisers code but change in the culture at Number 10 Downing Street.

"I do not think we will get a change in culture until we get a change in leadership and we won't get a change in leadership until we get a change of government.

Let's imagine for a second that you aren't a shallow Thatcher worshipping, old boy networking, elitist. Let's imagine that David Cameron would have a spin and smear free reign as PM. (Tip to readers: Hallucinogenics may be required in order to stretch imaginations that far)

Would that be good for Britain?


Because as you much as you might try to stir it up this latest "scandal" ("Smeargate" if you will.) is nothing. The recession is a problem, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a problem, terrorism is a problem, widespread poverty and high infant mortality are problems, gender inequality is a problem, homophobia and transphobia are problems. A couple of people discussing spreading rumours about MPs. That's insignificant.

So why not tell us what you would do about the economy, or what you would do in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why don't you actually suggest something that will help ordinary people? (And despite what you think that "ordinary people" doesn't mean the 6% of people who would benefit from raising the threshold on inheritance tax, despite the fact all of your friends probably easily fall in that category.)

Maybe because you have nothing to say?

Monday, 13 April 2009

Michael White vs Guido Fawkes

This is a pretty dated but still interesting interview by Paxman which looks at the rise of political blogging and the convergence of fact and comment. It also makes Paul Staines look like a tool.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Does the Structuration theory help explain the Credit Crunch?

Giddens has often been considered the philosophical mentor of New Labour. And since 1997 has provided an ideological basis for the 'Third Way', a new approach that has ushered in so many successes. So can Giddens' 'Structuration theory' help explain the Global Credit Crunch.
First, the Giddens' structuration can be best explained as a 'Third Way' between the strucuture - agency debate, that is whether action can be best described as coming from the overarching structures or institutions of society or through individual action. According to Giddens, 'Structuration' connects agency and structure by placing them as mutually dependent entities - structure informs agency but agency creates the structure. If this was a an International Relations debate, you could call this constructionist-realism.
So how does this help explain the Credit Crunch? Well, the credit crunch occured due to a lack of regulatory frameworks in a globalised world and an individual emphasis on fatalistic wealth or 'carpe diem' economics.
In the structure aspect, a lack of a strong regulatory framework allowed for dubious economic policies to be pursued. Capital securitisation meant that banks could place projects on the mortgages of individual houses. These mortgages were similarly given to individuals who should not have been given these mortgages but they were because the weak regulatory framework gave easy credit an easy option for those seeking a quick profit. When these asset backed securities did not return the cash that they required due to the increasing interest rates, banks had to default. This created the credit crunch.
The agency aspect of the structuration theory can also add to the explanation of the credit crunch. The individual ethos or culture surrounding banks was to make as much individual wealth as quickly as possible without care or recourse for what might happen in the future. People were more concerned with making money now rather than securing the long term future. It is what i have come to describe carpe diem economics because the purpose of the jobs is to make money now and care little for the future. Individuals were also to blame for the credit crunch because some individuals set in place the ethos for the banking industry.
So, therefore, Giddens structuation theory can help to explain the credit crunch. The credit crunch therefore has sociological and economic reasons.
So, how does this provide a framework for the future. Our banking regulatory framework needs to be both a functioning credit provider to ensure that entrepeneurs, risk takers and businesses get the credit they need to continue creating jobs but they also needs to be an understanding that regulation also means that entrepeneurs and risk takers understand risks, their limitations and the problems that too much loose credit can create.
Individuals need to understand that creating individual wealth pales in comparison to creating wealth of a nation. That is why an agency restructuring needs to take place. Progress can only come about when we lift everybody up, not just a small minority. Hopefully, once the credit crunch takes the place in BBC correspondents history books, economics will take on a more rational approach with an understanding of creating riches now and wealth tomorrow.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

I saw a person being arrested for stealing books today

When I was walking through Edinburgh today I saw a woman being led away from a second hand book shop to a waiting police van. There was something about the fact that someone was stealing something with no monetary value potential for resale but rather something which we are forever placing on a moral pedastal and lecturing on the academic value of that saddened me. She wasn't stealing them in order to sell them for crack; she was taking them because she wanted to read them.

At the time I was thinking about justice policies (because I'm cool like that) and it reminded me that crime is as much a symptom as it is a problem in its own right, something I constantly have to remind myself. As long as there are prison spaces to fill we can send people to prison and create a deterrent that will lower crime rates and protect people and communities from real damage, however there will still be people in desparate situations that are driven to commit crimes in an effort to help themselves when there is no other help fourthcoming.

Monday, 6 April 2009

“the PES is the party of gender equality”

The Part of European Socialists (PES) of which the Labour Party is a member has put out a press release trumpeting it's record as a party concerned with gender equality. This comes with the news that another member of the PES (the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP)) has chosen a woman to be its new leader.

From the F-Word blog:

Zita Gurmai, President of PES Women and fellow Hungarian Socialist, said “This is absolutely fantastic news. Ildikó Lendvai has an exceptional record: having founded the Women’s Section of the Women’s Section of the MSZP and fought tirelessly for women’s political representation and participation, a gender-equal labour market and more rights for mothers…

…Gurmai, who is one of three women to lead the MSZP list for the upcoming European elections, added “This just goes to show that Europe’s socialists and social democrats are streets ahead of the liberals and conservatives in the fight for gender equality.


I was reading this article by Johann Hari about the superficiality of Dubai. In recent years it has been the fastest developing city in the world and the planners have worked hard to create an engineered image of modernism and industriousness. As you can tell from the article there is a lot more to the city than that.

I mention this because it reminds me a lot of the Tory party. As much as they like to pretend that they're caring and compassionate and that they want to help people, in the the end they're still the party that says: “Yes, we will be a do nothing party, if the only alternative is to make things worse”, and that a recession if good for the nation's health

As much as they try to hide it deep down the Tory party is the party for people who are out for themselves.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Good news for Co-operators

Via Politics for people comes an article indicating that the Chancellor is in favour of encouraging mutualisation:

Alistair Darling will next month signal strong support for mutual savings banks and building societies when he sets out a white paper on strengthening Britain’s financial system.

The chancellor has spoken warmly about the mutual model, embodied in institutions such as Nationwide, which tend to run a less risky business model, based on savings and lending. The Treasury is assessing potential legal or regulatory changes to help mutuals ahead of the white paper.


Although Mr Darling accepts that some mutuals can be run just as badly as banks such as Northern Rock, he believes they are less likely to use “extreme” funding models or to depend so heavily on wholesale money markets. Building societies have only 20 per cent of the mortgage market, down from 59 per cent before the wave of demutualisations sparked by the Building Societies Act of 1986.


a spokeswoman for the Building Societies Association said that the time was ripe for an expansion of the sector, given that its model tended to lead to cheaper borrowing rates. “Customers are fed up with the plc banking model, this is a good time for alternative models.”

This is excellent news, mutual lending groups are more ethical and more democratic than businesses working on other lending models. They are also less reckless when it comes to borrowing and lending. A characteristic that leaves them less vulnerable to the kind of market down turn that pushed the Northern Rock to the wall.

As anyone who has spent five minutes talking to the Club Secretary this year will know out of the few banks not to make a loss in the previous year only one high street bank increased its profit. The Co-operative Bank.

Nice one Alistair!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Use your vote

In light of the European Election on the 4th of June tomorrow there will be a "Use your vote" day tomorrow between 10am and half past five. There will be volunteers from the various political groups at Aberdeen at Hillhead and on campus between those times trying to persuade people to vote in the forthcoming election.

If anyone is interested they just need to keep an eye out tomorrow.

Not all of the EU votes on the same day; if you are reading this in another EU country there is a list of election dates here.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Tories confused on tax

From the BBC is an article about Lord Mandelson commenting on some of Ken Clarke's recent statements on taxation in light of the Tories' stated aims:

Lord Mandelson has said Tory tax plans have been "thrown into confusion" by shadow business secretary Ken Clarke.

Mr Clarke told the BBC the Tories' main economic goals would be to cut public debt and restore growth rather than cut inheritance tax on homes under £1m.

Later, a Conservative spokesman said the party was still committed to its manifesto pledge to cut the tax.

The Tories' pledge in 2007 to cut inheritance tax was seen as a key point in reviving party fortunes.

It amuse me to see Mandelson making points at the expense of the man who was widely viewed as Cameron's response to the PM giving Lord Mandelson a cabinet position. It amuses me more that it undermines Cameron and Osbourne than because it attacks Clarke. I say that because in my opinion Clarke is one of the few decent Tories, he actually has a realistic view of the world and opposes idiotic ideas like raising the cap on inheritance tax. A move that would be very costly but mostly benfit the super rich; it is after all a tax only paid by 6% of people.

In hard financial times like this the government should be looking after the most vulnerable people in society and stiumlating economic growth in order to reduce unemployment, not give tax breaks to people with £1,000,000 houses.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Anne Begg's Week

[Disclaimer]: Aberdeen University and its blog are not connected to Anne Begg MP in an official capacity. The writers of this blog are solely responsible for its contents, and therefore this blog may not reflect the views or positions of Anne Begg MP. For Anne Begg MP's official website please go to

Week beginning 16th March - Campaign Pays Off!

Made it down to London by early afternoon on Monday to attend a meeting of my Select Committee. However, this week's big story was not until Tuesday night.
It is always satisfying when years of campaigning pays off and so it proved on Tuesday. It has been almost 3 years since some of the blind workers from Glencraft lobbied me and my colleague Frank Doran about an anomaly in the benefit system which meant blind people didn't qualify for the upper rate of the mobility element of the Disability Living Allowance. A campaign was orchestrated by the RNIB to address this, which included 2 mass lobbies of Parliament; a delegation of MPs, including myself, going to see the Minister for Disabled people; and another delegation to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. We had also had 3 EDMs on this matter, the last in my name which attracted the largest number of signatures this parliamentary session.

The opportunity came up to address this situation with the Welfare Reform Bill currently going through Parliament. A clause was added to this which the government didn't oppose. I added my tuppence worth in the debate on remaining stages too. That was certainly the highlight of the week and the 2 meetings of my Select Committee and the session spent Chairing Westminster Hall on Tuesday afternoon couldn't compare.

PMQs was back to its usual adversarial nature on Wednesday with unemployment dominating a sometimes heated session between the Prime Minister and David Cameron.
I also had a rather interesting day on Thursday. I had been invited to give the keynote speech at a leadership training event for disabled people organised by RADAR, the disability organisation. It was in Hammersmith so we traveled by tube. This may not sound much but it is a real novelty if you use a wheelchair as most of the Underground network is inaccessible.

I had to rush back to the House later that day to take part in an event organised by Parliament's Education Service and supported by the Speaker's Conference. It was for 150 girls from schools in East London to get them to think about women's participation in public life. It was great and I think the politicians present got as much out of it as the schoolgirls. The Q and A session was conducted by Sarah Montegue from the Today programme on Radio 4.

Friday will be quite eventful with constituent surgeries, followed by a visit to a to a social enterprise in my constituency called Stewart Craft Centre, and then in the evening I will be hosting an event for the leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, Iain Gray MSP.

I think it's excellent to hear that some good hard campaigning has paid off.

I don't know if anyone reading this was at the event with Iain Gray or has seen him speak in the past, but I was lucky enough to get along and see him and once again I was impressed by his ideas for Labour and his directness as a speaker. i think he's a very good leader for labour in Scotland.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

PCC to investigate Dunblane article

I imagine the prospect of a Press Complaints Commission inquiry looming over you must be somewhat like watching a penguin stamping its foot and preparing to charge you. I can't help but be reminded of the exchange between Hans Blix and Kim Jung Il in Team America: World Police when the scientist threatens to write the leader "a very angry letter" telling him how angry everyone is.

We live in a culture founded on the free exchange of ideas. The freedom of expression is more important than many other human rights, in that it is about not only the protecting of individuals from coercion by higher powers, but also the safeguarding of societies ability to progress and evolve. The writer J.S. Mills described a free market of ideas. Nobody has any idea what kind of society people will ultimately be happy in, and therefore no reliable way of predicting what new proposals, ideas or forms of expression may help us to progress. In his free market place, natural selection would provide that the right ideas surface and the bad ideas will be drowned out. Any restrictions, even partial ones such as film certification and bans on public displays, would have the effect of inhibiting the natural flow of the market.

You don't have to be an arch Socialist to see the problems with the free market principle.

Perhaps nowhere but in the realm of expression are these criticisms better illustrated. as the Williams Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship pointed out in their 1979 report, "Truth" will not always triumph if left to fend for itself. Demand for the contrary may well drown it out. A lifeline, in the form of interventions such as state subsidising of reliable and impartial news sources, or the encouragement of media designed for purposes other than to attract viewers or boost circulation.

Likewise, in an unregulated market there is nothing to stop particularly strong forces from gaining an unduly strong grip by monopolising and dominating the distribution of information of all forms, such as by large media corporations which are sources of huge power for their owners or majority share holders.

The system we have for regulating the press in the United Kingdom has been widely acclaimed by members of the press, who also constitute the members of the PCC.

The British media can never be allowed to face censorship. The free market model may be unworkable, but the free exchange of ideas is integral to the development of any democratic society. What cannot be allowed, however, is for individuals to face exploitation at the hands of an industry geared towards profit, as we saw in the Murray article in the Express on Dunblane, without any recourse to anything other than a code built entirely on honour. We would not defend so rigorously the right of any other industry to trump the rights of individuals, and the press can be no exception. It is not viable to rely on honour when the circulation figures accorded a higher status. The blame cannot however be placed solely on the editors. In an economic climate where many newspapers are facing collapse, the editors will of course be under intense pressure to deliver the circulation required to keep the business model ticking over.

It is clear that the area of media regulation needs to be revisited, whether in the form of tighter controls of the ability of newspapers simply to intrude on the lives of individuals, particularly subsidising of substance.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Daily Express finds a new low for tabloid journalism

The Daily Express took the decision today to pull from its web edition an article accusing survivors of the 1996 Dunblane massacre of disrespecting the dead by publishing on social networking sites depicting them drinking. The news story, which can still be viewed by looking at the Google cache, is a prime example of all that is morally repugnant in some elements of British journalism. Unless we are to believe that these profiles were stumbled upon by chance or else were reported by some outraged member of the public, then it seems pretty clear that, in an attempt to bring sensationalism to the anniversary of one of the most tragic chapters in modern Scottish history by actively seeking out the survivors of the massacre and making nasty and malicious inferrals about them.

There are a number of elements to the story that make it nothing short of morally repugnant. It is implicit in the article that the children should have been grateful for the fact that they were protected from the press in the aftermath of the school shooting. From this, given that the article itself concedes that the individuals concerned are all over 18, there is the ridiculous inferral that they should somehow be held to higher standards of public life. The paper has taken victims of the Dunblane shooting, and used them as examples of the youth culture that has long provided a source for sensationalist journalists in the UK.

The article appears to taunt one teenager who is single despite having a list of good chat-up lines featured on his profile. "Among the blogs on his site is a list of the 23 best chat-up lines – but he is still single."

The article names those injured in the shooting and attempts to vilify them by listing all of what to the Daily Express constitutes social faux pas such as using profanities on their profiles, using colloquial language ("canny stop drivin in the silver hing", making "lewd" gestures in photographs and writing of drinking.

The Express goes further by complaining that they boast of discovering sex, despite the fact that these victims are now 18.

This article alledges that the behaviour of these survivors is abhorrent, and attempts to use it as a picture of a degraded culture, but instead it has accomplished something different. This article exposes the ugliest side of tabloid reporting, an amoral and sensationalist element devoid of the values of truth and integrity which it once stood for. If there is any traces of those values left in the media, then the editor (because it was most likely an editorial decision to ask a journalist to seek out the survivors) and any other editor involved in the process will, along with the journalist who penned the article, resign, or else be fired for conduct unbecoming of members of the fourth estate.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Eat a poppadom - help a women’s cooperative

There's a story on the BBC about a co-operative in India that empowers women, who received very little education, to use their skills to create a source of income. The ability to generate income and the associated financial independence is an effective way to tackle problems such as domestic violence and gender inequality. So I think that it's great that schemes like this exist.

From the article:

Mumbai-based businessman and entrepreneur Sushil Jwarijka explains: "Lijjat papads are a perfect example of how a sustainable business can be built, providing large-scale employment to rural women, who are illiterate but skilled.

"And when such skills are given an organisational structure on a co-operative basis a long term sustainable model assures success."

Related to this story is Kiva, which is a website that allows people to make micro loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. It's very interesting so i reccomend that you check it out.

[This story came via the F-Word Blog.]

Friday, 13 March 2009

Anne Begg's Week

[Disclaimer]: Aberdeen University and its blog are not connected to Anne Begg MP in an official capacity. The writers of this blog are solely responsible for its contents, and therefore this blog may not reflect the views or positions of Anne Begg MP. For Anne Begg MP's official website please go to

Week beginning 9th March – Engaging Women and Young People.

As I had spent a large part of the weekend in Dundee at the Scottish Labour Party Conference, I hadn't managed to write my article for the House magazine nor had I held my usual Friday surgery. Therefore, I was up at 6.30am on Monday morning to write my article and was in the Aberdeen office that morning for surgeries. I, therefore, didn't fly down to London until 3pm. The journey usually takes around 5 hours door to door, sometimes 4 and a half if everything goes smoothly. On Monday it took only 4 hours! Wish it was always so quick.

I arrived in the House in good time to attend a reception in the Speaker's house in memory of Lord Norman Hogg who died at the end of last year. This was followed by a dinner attended by his friends and colleagues from both the Commons and the Lords. Although Norman had been the MP for Cumbernauld, it was to his roots in Aberdeen he returned to when he entered the Lords. There was lots of laughter as everyone told their favourite story about him. I think he would have enjoyed it.

Tuesday was dominated by the Speaker's Conference. We took evidence in the morning from young people and those who aim to educate them about the workings of Parliament. The message came across that we needed to 'get out there' and engage with young people who are interested in issues, if not the formal aspects of political life. We did just that in the afternoon when we met up with some of the participants of a young leadership scheme in Bethnal Green called Uprising. It was great fun and really interesting from our point of view. There were more young women than men and almost all of them were from an ethnic minority. All were interested and engaged. Just the group of people we need to persuade that politics matters.

I was also on a charm offensive on Wednesday to persuade a group of women that they, too, should consider politics at an event in the House of Lords to mark International Women's Day. My speech seemed to go down well. Either that or they were just being nice.

Prime Minister's Questions was very subdued this week, partly because it was the first time David Cameron had been in the Chamber since the death of his son, but mostly due to the murders of 2 soldiers and a policeman in Northern Ireland over the weekend. PMQs is usually a bear pit, but the Chamber also seems to instinctively know when this would be inappropriate.

As a result it was agreement all round when the only Scottish Tory MP, David Mundell, and I appeared on the Holyrood Live programme on BBC2 that afternoon. It is quite hard doing a down the line interview from College Green across the road from Parliament with all the traffic rumbling past.

I had a meeting with a DWP Minister on Thursday about an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill for grandparents when it returns to the Commons next week and Friday is shaping up to be a particularly busy day for constituent surgeries.

It was also great to have some constituents visiting me in Parliament this week. Not that I ever forget the great privilege it is to work in such a magnificent building. However, it is wonderful to experience it afresh through new eyes again every once in a while.

From Monday's entry it seems that it's not just students that have to get up early sometimes to catch up on late work.:P

Another good week when it comes to equal opportunities, encoraging women to stand for election is one very useful way to iron out the gender gap (more like chasm) in British politics. (A gap, I would add, that is not so evident at Co-op party meetings.)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Anne Begg's Week

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Week beginning 2nd March – Conference Week

Monday was dominated by media interest in the story of the Council's desperation for money that they are now sending in the debt collectors to an 80 year old partially sighted woman. Mrs. Still had come to me complaining she had been charged for a community alarm she didn't want and I was still in correspondence with the Council about her bill for £17.50 when the debt collectors called.

However, the big event of this week was the second public evidence session of the Speaker's Conference about political participation on Tuesday. While I enjoy being in the Chair it does curtail my opportunity to ask questions. We were taking evidence from Unlock Democracy, the TUC and EHRC. Things got lively when Unlock Democracy suggested candidates who didn't have the money to fight for selection to a seat should receive taxpayers’ money. While there is an issue about the cost involved in standing for selection and then election, the suggested solution didn't go down too well.

It was the Chair of the EHRC, Trevor Philips, who inevitably attracted media attention. That is probably why the sketch writer for the Daily Mail, Quentin Letts, turned up. As is his want, he wasn't very flattering in his column on Wednesday. The EHRC has come up with some controversial suggestions of its own such all ethnic minority shortlists and term limits for MPs. The thinking is that if MPs are only allowed to stand for 4 elections there will be a faster turn over which opens the doors for new candidates. However, this won't change anything if the political parties continue to choose white men as candidates.

Wednesday saw Harriet Harman stand in for the Prime Minster again at Question Time where she was quizzed by William Hague. I personally thought that she did quite well.

As Secretary of the All Party BBC group, I also hosted a breakfast on behalf of BBC Scotland for all Scottish MPs on Thursday. To my relief it was very well attended. Responsibility for broadcasting remains at Westminster, but there is definitely a Scottish dimension. That's why I also attended a meeting of the new Scottish Broadcasting All Party Group about the digital switchover.

After breakfast it was straight to the airport to get back to Aberdeen to meet some constituents and to attend a CBI dinner addressed by Jim Murphy, the Secretary of State for Scotland. It did mean that I missed the debate on International Women's Day, but unfortunately I can't do everything.

For a change, this Friday I traveled down to Dundee for Scottish Labour Party Conference. Always a good time to meet up with old friends.

Once again the council stoops to a new low in their desperate attempts to dig themselves out of the massive debt hole they are in.

Also again this week Anne has spent time on issues related to equality which is an area that I think Labour should spend more time. I have mentioned here before the shocking lack of representation in parliament of any group that is not white men. As Anne said the situation will not change until the political parties do select people other than white men.

The problem of the lack of diversity is also more than just an under representation of political groups. People derive impressions of individuals and groups when they see or interact with them. Having such a skewed legislature creates the impression that politics is for white men only. This has the potential to discourage people (especially children) who aren't in this group from becoming involved in politics which exacerbates and continues the problem, and fosters feelings of marginilisation which should be tackled.