Friday, 30 January 2009

Phone banking made easy

Now you can help Labour win a fourth term from the comfort (or discomfort if you're in Hillhead) of your own home. Labour have just launched a virtual phonebank, and from what I've seen of it so far it appears to be fairly easy to use with a simple interface.

Labour have this to say:

Labour today launched an online virtual phone bank - which will allow our members to call voters from their own homes and enter the results of their calling directly into the phone bank online.

The phone bank is a key way of empowering our supporters to campaign for Labour, and listen to the views of the public, without having to leave their own homes.

Douglas Alexander MP, Labour's General Election co-ordinator, said:

"We have taken on board the lessons of the Obama campaign and the key aim of our web strategy is to give our supporters the tools they need to campaign for us both online and offline.

"As one example of this, the online virtual phone bank will allow our members to call voters from their own homes and enter the results of their calling directly into our database.

"In contrast the Tories just don't get online campaigning - despite being well-funded they seem to have wasted a whole lot of money on gimmicks."

Watch John Prescott talk about the new virtual phone bank here >>>>

If you're a member of the Labour party you can access the phone bank and start making calls here >>>>

Voter outreach is quite possibly the most important aspect of electioneering, and one of the main elements in individual electoral success. Especially given the media's obsession with only pumping out stories of woe and doom we Labour supporters have to take the responsibility for making sure our message is heard. If we're serious about a fourth term we've got to show it, and we can do that by exploiting tools like this new phone banking service to their maximum potential. If we do that we can win, if not...

Do you really want that?

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Labour's Budget Proposal

The Scottish Parliament has just voted to reject the Budget, the SNP at the moment are posturing and blaming everyone but the people who are to blame and Mr Swinney we mean you when we say that.

They have also said that Labour did not offer anything constructive to the budget negotiations well on that point i am cutting and pasting what Labour suggested the SNP administration could change the budget to help Scottish people and the Scottish economy.

And if anyone wants to know the email was sent to party members long before the vote took place.

So here are Labours constructive suggestions :-

Labour proposals for the budget

1.Apprenticeships – we propose an additional 7,800 apprenticeships over each of the next three years. This would lead to an additional number of apprenticeships over the next three years of 23,400. These apprenticeships would be split amongst adults and those aged 16-19.

2.Apprenticeship Guarantee Scheme – a clear commitment from the Scottish Government to an Apprenticeship Completion Guarantee Scheme, which matches the commitment in Northern Ireland.

3. Partnership Action for Continuing Employment – a clear indication from the Scottish Government for significant new funding to help retrain people who lose their job

4. Town Centre Turnaround Fund – Labour submitted a detailed amendment proposing the establishment of a fund to the value of £50million last year. We are now one year further down the line and in the midst of a global economic crisis. The need for appropriate support is now even greater.

5. NHS Funding – Health money should be invested in front line services. We seek assurances that the total NHS Budget increase of 3.9 per cent will be reflected in full in the award made to the health boards across Scotland on day one of the budget, not held back for pet projects

So constructive suggestions for local communities, Local services and local people shame the SNP couldn't listen.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

No Gaza appeal on the BBC

Much has been made of the BBC's decision not to air an appeal for humanitarian aid by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). [It was discussed at length by many of the speakers at the recent United for Gaza event at the University, as mentioned by us here.]

The main argument for airing the appeal, as outlined on the TUC's blog, is that providing humanitarian aid is not taking sides. No matter who is responsible, or the justice and legality of either sides actions, the plight of the people of Gaza is deplorable. There is an urgent need for food and medicine, two resources which have been cut off since before this recent military campaign began.

The members of the DEC are:
* ActionAid
* British Red Cross
* Care International
* Christian Aid
* Concern
* Help the Aged
* Islamic Relief
* Merlin
* Oxfam
* Save the Children
* Tearfund
* World Vision

If these 13 internationally respected charities believe that the cause is worthy of a focused campaign I fail to see how the BBC could possibly justify an argument that airing an appeal would be taking sides. When it comes to humanitarian aid there are no sides, there are only people who need help. The BBC should remember that.

You can donate to the DEC Gaza appeal here.

There is an online petition aimed at the BBC.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Value of Money - the dangers of empty rhetoric and why the right is wrong on crime

While studying for English at standard grade I somehow ended up memorising the final words of the Great Gatsby, in the vague hope that if it was of no use in the exam, it would at least be of service to me at some point in the future. So understand that in the next seven words or so, when I start to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, it is not only because it fits well with what I want to say, but also because I want to fulfil what has become a lifelong ambition.

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgasmic future that year by year recedes us. It eluded us then, but that is no matter, for tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further, and one fine day -

And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. "

For once comfortably setting aside the possibility that once again an English teacher may have read too far into a story centric around champagne and the forerunner of ferrero rocher, it can safely be said that these closing lines seem to neatly sum up the vastly flawed concept of the American Dream. The romantic idea that the land is rich with opportunities waiting to be seized by the resourceful and youthful at heart. Even in situations where their efforts yield few rewards, young entrepreneurs should not give up, for ahead lies a destiny shared with Frank C. Ball, the young upstart come "fruit jar king of America". Even as it becomes apparent that a free market society is no place for an upstart business, maintains the publication Nation's Business, the fruits of labour lie only a few floors above, where the industrious and innovative worker will soon join J. L. Bevan, president of the Illinois Central Rain Board, who rather than starting his own business joined the ranks of a large corporation and used skill and poise to climb to the dizzying heights of the board room. The American right wing knows no end of feel good, anecdotal evidence of the rewards that lie in store for all of the hard hearted and the industrious. Throughout Western culture there is a plentiful supply of the kind of rags to riches stories that the right wing of America thrives on. Television programmes such as the X-Factor churn out a constant supply of young and talented individuals who have used their unique abilities as a spring board to success. The pedestals of American history are adorned with the busts of those who have walked the revered road between the log cabin and the big white house with a lawn and occasionally a situation room. In America, say the rich, it is the destiny of every intelligent and ambitious entrepreneur to join them at their table. Yet perhaps "destiny" is a word any willing proponent of the American Dream would do well to avoid. No higher reverence is accorded to any goal or value as that which is reserved for monetary wealth.

For those situated well on the right side of the tracks, this approach would seem to work perfectly. For the last eight years there has presided a government elected not only by the elite whose interests it serves, but also by millions who have come to share in this belief of a land of equal opportunity, so much so that they are prepared to vote for measures beneficial only to the wealthy in the hope that they will one day join them. In the recent presidential elections, the extent to which people seemed to believe in this ideal was revealed in what I expect will one day in a less than startling display of unoriginality be referred to as Plumbergate. People are led to strive for monetary again above all else, so much so that currency has become something of a measure of character. In a meritocracy a person can expect to be judged by the extent of his or her achievements, and when the enlargement of the bank balance has become the greatest ambition anyone would hope to achieve, it is the bank balance against which they will be judged.

Yet what happens when a culture lampoons fast food workers while canonising pimps and gangsters? When a society reaches a stage where such heavy emphasis as in America is placed on social objectives, at the cost and neglect of respectable means of achieving them, society enters what sociologist Robert Merton, from whom I am borrowing heavily, calls anomie. The institutionally acceptable means of achievement are as important as the goals themselves, and in a healthy society strong emphasis will be placed on adherence to both. More often than not, these acceptable means will be based less on efficiency and more heavily on the values of a particular society. An interesting example may be found in a recent study of events aboard the Titanic as the life boats were loaded. According to eye witness reports, while many of the American passengers scrambled for places, those from Britain were content to help their wives and children into life boats before returning bellow deck to don their dinner jackets and join their friends for a last drink. Putting aside the slightly surreal image of an English gentleman dropping his monocle into the sea as he reaches over to chip off some ice for his gin and tonic, an interesting illustration can be seen of how a person might react when they no longer have an acceptable means of attaining their goal, in this case survival. Rather than drawing the swords from their canes and maiming their way to the front of the queue, they were sufficiently adherent to their values to stay within the limits they had been taught.

Does this render the concept of the American dream nothing more than a harmful fantasy? If the American Dream were at present a reality, the inconvenience of punishment would make the lack of acceptable methods of attainment unproblematic, because on balance, there would be no reason to run the risk of imprisonment when there were other, lawful and so convenient avenues open. But, as a wealth of statistics show, this is simply not the case, and the dangers of empty rhetoric promoting ideas to the contrary are there to be seen. There has developed in much of the Western world a culture in such reverence of financial success that little heed is paid to the steps taken to accumulate that wealth, the result being that there is little incentive to stay within the limits of the law, and in fact some amount of pressure to deviate, in pursuit of material gain. The effects of this can be seen particularly in times of economic hardship when, even when faced with economic turmoil on a global scale, there remains in commerce an expectation on directors to deliver profits. Such is the enormous pressure to do this, combined with what as we have recently seen to be a clear lack of corporate ethics, will take unacceptable and at times deviant steps to secure the figures that investors want to see, often at the cost of those working beneath them. In such a situation, it is of little use to suggest that the situation could be remedied by giving directors the means to attain these figures. These are the people who would benefit from a clear moral code similar at times perhaps to the respectable chivalry witnessed aboard the Titanic, where the needs of those less fortunate or less able were placed above their own survival.

Of course, the effects of social anomie are witnessed much more vividly amongst the deprived sections of society. Among the unemployed and low income families, there can be found a much more realistic sense of exactly how removed from truth the American dream really is. If you call anomie the divergence of aspirations and expectations, it is among these classes that it will be the most prevalent. Such is the pressure to succeed when compared to the relatively meagre attempts to promote a lawful and moralistic lifestyle from those whose voices are largely drowned out by the culture of mass media that there is a huge pressure to live up to what society has come to expected. For people who find themselves in such a position, the levelling of the playing field could not be more vital. Poverty, and particularly social exclusion, have to be tackled if these people are to be given access to the incredible opportunities the righteous on the right never tire of talking about. Criminal policy may in the past have been an area the right wing considered to be home turf, however it is blatant that only through pursuing the policies traditionally associated with the left, such as social justice and the obliteration of social exclusion, can a market society be made to work. Particularly in coming years, education will come to be seen as each nation's greatest benefactor. The advent of mass communications has enabled a global market for jobs which means that more and more those jobs which can be done cheaper elsewhere are moving across borders. As countries realign to find their own niches in the global market, it is critical that education and retraining is made available to those in every sector of society, so that they are equipped to take on those jobs either which will not move abroad, or else those which were previously unavailable but which will come to settle in their own country, in order to ensure a strong and fair labour market with equal opportunities for good jobs.

Combined with this crusade for social justice, which countries such as the United Kingdom already pursue with vigour, there must be a wide scale refocusing of ideals away from the concept of money and material wealth as the holy grail, and towards a more open, diverse value driven society. Emphasis on the importance of family life, currently neglected, particularly in the over-worked and under paid areas of society, must be met with an equal strengthening of the institution in order to lessen the effects of the economy that currently impact on it. The importance of open and equal access to education must be highlighted as critical to the pursuit of social justice and a level playing field, however the value of education not as a means to and end but as an end in itself equally must not be underplayed. A greater respect for public service must be built to match the existing respect held for those who have (or had until recently) found great success in the city. All in all, what is required is a vast restructuring of society so as to lessen the importance assigned to monetary gain and emphasis the importance of other areas of life such as the family.

America is not the sort of country to give up on its dream. But in many ways, that is what those on the right have done, because rather than continuing to push for a levelling of the playing field, they are attempting to dupe themselves, or more likely everyone else, into believing that this has already been done. It is clear, from what has been written about how economic circumstances influence crime by the likes of Robert Merton, Messner and Rosenfeld and Elliot Currie, that there is a real danger to promoting such an image of an equal society of such singular aims as accomplished, when this vision is so far removed from the status quo. These theories were crafted to explain why America, as one of the wealthiest nations in the world, still had one of the highest crime rates. The answer is that when a country is so singular in its visions of success and so unaccommodating to the needs of its citizens in getting there, it creates a culture driven to meet its goals by any means necessary, even those society would consider illegal or immoral. This lesson does not just apply to the United States and can be extended to the likes of Britain where, over the past ten years, enormous steps have been taken to ensure a more level playing field on which every person can achieve their full potential. It remains however the case that Britain is not so different from the United States in the values that have become ingrained in our culture, for example with the glaring spotlight that tabloids focus on certain celebrities, combined with the morbid obsession it seems to have for their inappropriate and deviant behaviour. In this example the problems of social justice can be seen to go travel far beyond the economic realm as, such is the enormity of the coverage received by ill-behaving celebrities, a new instance of anomie can seemingly be created almost entirely by the media as. With such a huge emphasis placed on the status of particular celebrities with little thought given to the cause of their infamy, a new goal, fame, can be set with little regard for the means by which the more pathetic celebrities garner headlines. Likewise, over the last decades both the United Kingdom and the United States have entered into a state where politicians with legitimate policies, aims and objectives are afforded little more credibility than those who have tried to put polish on air.

Whether it is a lack of positive role models for young people in the media or simply the disproportionate respect that people hold for those with vast wealth met with a lack of focus on how it was accumulated, there remains a clear problem in this country and in America, that will take more than just government policy to change.

I have borrowed heavily from the works of Robert Merton, Messner and Rosenfeld, Box, Jock Young and Elliot Currie. For a more in depth explanation of social anomie or economic causes of crime in general look them up.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Gaza Conference

Aberdeen University's Muslim Society is holding an event tomorrow in the Arts Lecture Theatre with speakers discussing the current situation in Gaza. Here's the schedule:

Event: Series of talks entitled "United for Gaza"
Date: Saturday 24th January

Venue: Arts Lecture Theatre, Old Aberdeen Campus
Time: 2pm - 5:30pm

Details of speakers:
• Yussuf Abu Shaaban: "Eye witness account – Gaza"
• Imam Ibrahim Alwawi: "Aberdeen Mosque"
• Dr. Sarah Glynn: "Scottish Jews for a just peace in Palestine, Dundee"
• Rev. Easter Smart: "Aberdeen University Chaplain"
• Dr. Azhar Khan: "Aberdeen Palestine Solidarity Campaign"
• Habib Malik: "Islamic Relief"

The Program:
2:00pm - 2:30pm Arrival
2:30pm - 4:00pm Talks
4:00pm - 4:40pm Question and Answer Session
4:40pm - 5:30pm Middle-Eastern Refreshments

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 offical website please go to

Week beginning 19th January – Obamamania.

On Monday, my Select Committee began to take evidence for the inquiry into the Equalities Bill. However, there was no escaping from the Obama effect this week

On Tuesday morning Obama’s achievement dominated the first public meeting of the Speaker’s Conference of which I am vice-chair. We had Operation Black Vote, RADAR and the Women’s Institute giving evidence on how we can get more women, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities into Parliament. The theme was ‘If he can do it, so can we’.

At 4.30pm later that day I was Chairing a European Scrutiny Committee on “Food for deprived areas”. It could have lasted for two and a half hours but we finished at 5pm just as Obama was being sworn in. However, within minutes the division bells began to ring and we all had to go off to vote. I got through the lobby just in time to catch the end of his speech. It seemed that every monitor in the Palace of Westminster was tuned into the event

I had an All Party Equalities Group meeting on Wednesday where we discussed the use of public sector procurement to encourage the private sector to embed equality in their employment practices. Later that day, I also found myself in front of the cameras as we recorded an interview with BBC Parliament about the Speaker’s Conference. It should be going out on Friday evening and I will put up a link to it here as soon as it goes up.

Despite all this, the undoubted highlight of my week was an event at Dover House, the home of the Scotland Office in Whitehall. I just thought I was going to a launch of a new coin and set of stamps to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. The event also included entertainment from school children who had been winners of the Burns Federation Competition. Unexpectedly, there was a good turnout from Aberdeen, and my constituency in particular. One performer was a young 9 year old boy from Peterculter Primary School who played a set of bagpipes which seemed bigger than he was. His name is Calum Brown and, as it turns out, I had met him before when he was a new-born baby and his mother was threatened by deportation! I can assure you it was quite an emotional reunion.

After Wednesday’s events Thursday was fairly quiet comparatively, but I will have an especially frenzied schedule on Friday with constituent surgeries in the morning and afternoon interspersed with other meetings in the constituency.

It's good to see Parliament taking diversity in office seriously [see Tuesday], the best way (in my opinion) to make sure that everyone is treated equally in a fair and equitable society is to make sure that they are properly represented by a diverse legislative body. There are simply too many white men in the House of Commons and I think any move towards balance is a good thing.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

10 things you didn't know about MEPs, but didn't care enough to ask

Tne BBC has an article up written by journalist Brian Wheeler who spent a week experiencing the life of a Member of the European Parliament(MEP). He wrote about 10 different aspects that he learned from his experience. The headers for what he wrote (for the full thing you'll have to read the article) are:

1. It's life, but not as we know it
2. The terminology can be baffling
3. MEPs have more power than you might think
4. Most MEPs hate coming to Strasbourg
5. Compromise is not a dirty word
6. The debates seem to lack humour
7. British MEPs have less accountability than MPs
8. The UK's Euro MPs often feel like second class citizens
9. Few British people know how it really works
10. It's still too early to tell...

I'd particularly like to highlight 8 and 9. The apathy of the British public to the political process is really quite shocking, that applies to all levels of government but it seems especially acute when it comes to the EU. I think that it's important for Labour to engage with voters and to emphasise what it is that we can do for them in power; how ideas like the minimum wage make their lives better, and that these things are thanks to Labour.

Political literacy is also important to dispel the filth spouted by rags like the Mail; the tabloids feel safe to spew whatever nonsense they like because most people don't have the facts needed to repudiate their disinformation.

As I have said previously, communication is key to the successful propagation of our ideals.

[On a personal note "Their debates can sometimes be as lively as anything you would see on an average day in the Commons, but there is not the same adversarial, yah-boo, quality to them." sounds good to me, the constant jeering in the Commons annoys me; I find it juvenile and not worthy of a modern democracy.]

Bye bye Bushy, Bushy goodbye.

Bush leaving the White House after the inauguration. Courtesy of Cosmic Variance.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

2 Images from the GeoEye1 Sattelite

The first is a picture of the Capitol Building with the crowd in front of it. Pretty impressive I think you'll agree.

If you look at the right hand side of this picture you'll see the Capitol Building again. Now compare the huge crowd in front of it to the crowds all down the Washington Mall all the way up to the Washington Monument.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Tuesday, January the 20th, 2009

A tip o' the hat to This Wheel's On Fire for the picture.

Monday, 19 January 2009

This a prayer that I can get behind

From the Friendly Atheist is the text of a prayer recited by Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson (Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire).

I want to bring this to attention essentially in reply to certain misgivings that I know people have about Obama. A lot of people don't understand the fuss surrounding him; who don't see the power of his message and question whether his policies can match his rhetoric.

For me this following prayer encapsulates the values and goals that I think Obama will represent as President. It is for this reason that I personally am so excited at his victory.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears — for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger — at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort — at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience — and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility — open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance — replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity — remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


I wonder how different the current political climate would be if Bush had kept some of these things in mind.

I'd like to take this opportunity to remind people about the inauguration ceremony which we will be watching in New King's 11 from half four tomorrow afternoon. I hope to see you there.

The Bush administration in ten words

Here's a simple(ish) challenge for you, summarise the Bush Presidency in 10 words.
Here's Johann Hari's effort:

Collapsing economy, unravelling climate, 1,000,0000 dead Iraqis. Heckuvajob, Bushie.

I'm sure that anyone brilliant enough to choose this blog to read can come up with something equally (if not more) cutting. I will post mine later (when I've thought of something, I'm a Science student not Arts so don't expect too much).

Olbermann summarises the presidency:

Friday, 16 January 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 offical website please go to

The new year brings in a return to work, and not just for students. Anne Begg MP is back to work as well and by the sounds of it she's had a busy week.

Week beginning 12th January -A week can fly by in politics.

The Christmas recess is over and it is back to Westminster with a completely full diary. At least the extra week in the constituency meant I had the chance to catch up, well almost catch up, with the backlog of mail and e-mails from the last 2 weeks. Just as well really as there was precious little time to draw breath this week.

I was later down to London than normal on Monday as BA has taken off my usual plane for the whole of January! Therefore, I didn't get into the Chamber to hear David Miliband's statement on Gaza so I had to read it later. There was an excellent turnout outside M&S in Aberdeen for Saturday’s demonstration against the bombing; it was the first time I had ever addressed a crowd using a megaphone.

By the end of the day on Monday, I had managed to put down an Early Day Motion asking the government to consider allowing grandparents, who care for grandchildren while the children’s parents are at work, to be able to qualify for National Insurance care credits.

Ombudsman’s Reports also feature prominently this week. On Tuesday, one report was released into an individual constituent’s case which I had taken to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. My constituent had been made bankrupt by the actions of the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who consistently refused to admit their mistake for a long time. The Report was very critical of the way HMRC behaved and, while I wish it had never had to get to that stage, the report was evidence of how tenacity pays off. The second was the government’s response to the Ombudsman’s report into Equitable Life. I was keen to be in the Chamber for the statement as I have a large number of constituents who lost out when the Society collapsed and I did get to ask a question.

We had 2 meetings of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, a briefing on our new enquiry into the proposed Equality Bill on Monday and a second with the Secretary of State, James Purnell, on Wednesday about the effects on unemployment and welfare reform by the economic downturn. I had a few questions on how those who have been out of the labour market for some time expect to compete with the newly unemployed. I was robust but the Minister was even more robust in insisting that we shouldn't write anyone off or leave them behind. Equality featured quite highly in other meetings this week. One with the new Parliamentary officer of the EHRC and the other with the officials of the Speaker's conference I'll be Vice-Chairing to discuss how we might proceed.

Had so many meetings this I wasn’t able to spend as much time in the Chamber as I would have liked. I did, however, get a question in about breaking the cycle of deprivation at Cabinet Office questions on Wednesday.

And I missed the most exciting thing which happened in the Chamber all week. The monitor was on in the office but the sound was off as I was hosting a meeting so only realised something had happened when the Division Bells started ringing. So what was it? On Thursday, John McDonnell MP took the Mace off its cradle during the government’s statement on the 3rd Heathrow runway and was suspended for 5 days for his bad behaviour. He loses his wages too for the time he is suspended.

Friday will be busy as usual with meetings pencilled in with a local renewables company and a social enterprise business on Rosemount followed by surgeries with constituents. Phew! What a week!

Quite a busy week indeed, and I think you might agree a productive one. I'm sure the constituent she referenced for one will have appreciated having such a staunch advocate working on his behalf against HMRC. Perhaps the public would have a better impression of MPs if they had a better idea of what they do, certainly I feel that reading about an MP's activities helps me to understand the important role they can play in helping their constituents.

Personally I think that the idea of extending tax credits to Grandparents sounds like a fantastic idea; a lot of people cannot afford child care and so have to rely on family, rewarding the work done by a large number of retirees is laudable and also perhaps could help to tackle the marginalisation of the elderly in society by emphasising just one of the important roles they can play.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

A Red Top Caught Red Handed?

I'd like to begin by saying that if I ever buy a copy of the Sun newspaper, it will only be for it's ultra-absorbent qualities and in fact I would go so far as to say that those are probably it's only qualities. I think like any other right minded person in Britain, my reaction to being greeted with a headline about our entire island catching fire and sinking would be to assume that somewhere on the south coast a journalist had his beach barbeque washed out by the tide.

So when the Sun published a list containing a number of prominent Jewish figures, tabloid darling Amy Winehouse among them, it's reasonable to suspect that in piecing the story together, the Sun might have exaggerated or at best failed to check their facts. Even the most Jaded of Times readers, however, could be forgiven for popping a monocle over what appears to be a very serious accusation which have arisen following the Sun's publication (and, it would seem, silent withdrawal) of that particular gem of an article.

From what I can gather, the administrators of the forum, which is not, as far as I can tell, intended as a platform for propagating terrorism, have alleged that the post which the article makes reference to, calling for the publication of a list of "top Jews" to to target in protest, was in fact posted by a freelance journalist, who then followed this up with his own list after his request was ignored. The blog I have linked to further alleges that the rather tragic figure behind this charade is a man named Glen Jenvey, an anti-terror warrior perhaps not quite possessed of all the qualities you would expect of someone with a background in international counter-terrorist espionage. And by that, I mean that he apparently edits his own Wikipedia entry. Winner.

If these allegations are true, then it really is a sad state of affairs that we find ourselves in. That a mainstream publication with such high circulation as the Sun might be able publish such an alarmist and fear-mongering accusation is a sad incitement of the sloppy standards to which we hold our press.

Opinions please

The PPC for my local constituency has asked me to give him a list of the most important issues for students. Floor is yours comrades.

Only 5 days to go

So its only 5 days to go until the Historic Labour Club event to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama and to celebrate the fact that change is coming to American the BBC have been posting some interviews with a diverse mix of Americans asking what they want the President to do and here is a link to what I think is the best.

Its by John Waters and if you have no idea who he is but have seen the film Hairspray with John Travolta well he is the guy who wrote and directed the original and is now an American icon because of his out there style.

No comment required

Tick tock Salmond... People will soon see through your sham "Government". Making pledges up on the spot with no intention of following them through seems to define the SNP these days. Their 2007 manifesto is a case in point.


From LabourList's "Lunchtime List" comes a cutting parody of a fear mongering video made and released by the Tories.

In essence the video made by the Tories sums up their last 12 years in opposition, and in particular the last 18 months of economic crisis; impotent sniping at Labour coupled with a void of originality and a complete inability to participate in government in any positive manner. Not one suggestion has been made by Cameron, Osborne or their ilk as to how the current situation could be better handled (unless you count not doing anything as a course of action) despite their constant complaining about the government's actions.

[On a side note there's a {metaphorical} cookie for the first commenter to get the reference in the title. :P]

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Another great piece from the Daily Show

John Oliver pointing out the minor flaw in the game plan of terrorists; the fact that their actions do absolutely nothing to progress towards their goals:

Daily Quote from LabourList

This is a complete tool's evaluation of the new website LabourList. Personally I think this endorsement is another reason to have high hopes for the site :P:

Log onto Mork and Mandy in Labour's La-La Land
Richard Littlejohn
Daily Mail

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Leafleting in Aberdeen South

I just got this message from Gavin who works for Anne Begg, the MP for Aberdeen South, concerning a leafleting session this Friday. I won't be able to make it because I'm not in Aberdeen but I would encourage anyone who has a few hours free to go along. Leafleting is one of the fundamentals of campaigning and is especially important with an election on the horizon, plus I'm sure it will make a nice break from the grind of studying.

Just to let you know that Anne is organising a leafleting session on Saturday 17th January in Peterculter in order to deliver the remainder of her Aberdeen Council Cuts Surveys. We will be meeting at 11am at the car park of The Ploughman pub, Peterculter.

If you can make it along on Saturday, please either email Anne at or phone Gavin on 01224 252704. (There may be lifts available if you do not have your own transport)

View Larger Map

If you can’t make it on Saturday but would still like to help out, there are also a number of leaflet runs in Ferryhill and Rosemount that still need to be done over the next few weeks. If you think you can help deliver these please contact Anne or Gavin on the contact details given above.

Hope to see you on Saturday.


Monday, 12 January 2009

Exam time and Blogging

This is going to be a small post as like most of us involved in the Labour Club at the university I am sitting reading books and past papers as we are in exam mode.

So we will post occasionally during the next weeks so keep looking in and hopefully after we have all passed our exams regular blogging will return.

Good luck to everyone with the exams as a well educated workforce is one of the great achievements of this labour Government.


Saturday, 10 January 2009

An interesting new website

This is an e-mail I just received. I find it intriguing and I think it seems like an excellent idea. Hopefully this website can act as a forum to encourage our members to express their ideas and become more actively involved in the Party.

New website goes live - visit us and join the debate!

Good morning!

You may read in The Observer or Mail on Sunday today - or in various blogs online - about the new website LabourList. You can also read about us on the Guardian website.

We are sending you this e-mail either because you signed a LabourList form at last year's Labour party conference or because you are a member of Labour Students and agreed they could pass on your details to organisations you might like to hear about.

LabourList aims to provide a platform for debate for every level of our movement, and for those who disagree with us. To encourage this discussion, we’ll have access to and insight from government ministers; we’ll host voices from the fringe and from the traditional media; and we’ll have regular reports from the grassroots that make our movement so powerful.

LabourList will add to the already expanding network of progressive new media forces – Obama-style virtual phone banking drives, ministerial webchats and new blogs – that will help us spread our message and connect with people in this New Year.

As with the progressive movement as a whole, LabourList is in constant renewal. What you see today is not the finished version of our site, but a work in progress. Over the next few weeks we’ll be announcing more contributors from across the progressive spectrum and we’ll feature exclusive new video and written content. We’ll also be blogging live from this month’s Progressive London and Fabian conferences.

And we’ll be launching The LunchtimeList, a comprehensive daily digest made up of that morning’s news, views and analysis – sent directly to your email inbox. You will receive this, starting on Monday. Do let me know what you think of it by e-mailing me at mail[nospam]@[nospam]labourlist.[nospam]org.

If you are a Labour student you may be particularly interested to see the post by Sarah Mulholland, the Labour Students chair on top-up fees. Do join that debate.

Finally, as well as commenting on Sarah's - and other articles - we are always looking for new posters, so if you have something to say send me your article or your idea and I'll take a look at it. Also, do let us know what you think of the site, and how it might be improved.

Best wishes,

Derek Draper

Editor, LabourList

PS - If you like the idea of LabourList please forward this e-mail to any friends who might also like to know about us...

Friday, 9 January 2009

This is awesome

I don't know how many people reading this blog have heard of the Secret but in brief it's the crazy belief (held by, amongst others, Noel Edmonds) that simply wanting good things to happen to you will improve your life. Which is obviously bollocks...

Or is it, perhaps this moving and inspiring testimony of how the Secret literally saved one man's life will change your mind:

Please allow me to share with you how "The Secret" changed my life and in a very real and substantive way allowed me to overcome a severe crisis in my personal life. It is well known that the premise of "The Secret" is the science of attracting the things in life that you desire and need and in removing from your life those things that you don't want. Before finding this book, I knew nothing of these principles, the process of positive visualization, and had actually engaged in reckless behaviors to the point of endangering my own life and wellbeing.

At age 36, I found myself in a medium security prison serving 3-5 years for destruction of government property and public intoxication. This was stiff punishment for drunkenly defecating in a mailbox but as the judge pointed out, this was my third conviction for the exact same crime. I obviously had an alcohol problem and a deep and intense disrespect for the postal system, but even more importantly I was ignoring the very fabric of our metaphysical reality and inviting destructive influences into my life. My fourth day in prison was the first day that I was allowed in general population and while in the recreation yard I was approached by a prisoner named Marcus who calmly informed me that as a new prisoner I had been purchased by him for three packs of Winston cigarettes and 8 ounces of Pruno (prison wine). Marcus elaborated further that I could expect to be anally raped by him on a daily basis and that I had pretty eyes.

Needless to say, I was deeply shocked that my life had sunk to this level. Although I've never been homophobic I was discovering that I was very rape phobic and dismayed by my overall personal street value of roughly $15. I returned to my cell and sat very quietly, searching myself for answers on how I could improve my life and distance myself from harmful outside influences. At that point, in what I consider to be a miraculous moment, my cell mate Jim Norton informed me that he knew about the Marcus situation and that he had something that could solve my problems. He handed me a copy of "The Secret". Normally I wouldn't have turned to a self help book to resolve such a severe and immediate threat but I literally didn't have any other available alternatives. I immediately opened the book and began to read.

The first few chapters deal with the essence of something called the "Law of Attraction" in which a primal universal force is available to us and can be harnessed for the betterment of our lives. The theoretical nature of the first few chapters wasn't exactly putting me at peace. In fact, I had never meditated and had great difficulty with closing out the chaotic noises of the prison and visualizing the positive changes that I so dearly needed. It was when I reached Chapter 6 "The Secret to Relationships" that I realized how this book could help me distance myself from Marcus and his negative intentions. Starting with chapter six there was a cavity carved into the book and in that cavity was a prison shiv. This particular shiv was a toothbrush with a handle that had been repeatedly melted and ground into a razor sharp point.

The next day in the exercise yard I carried "The Secret" with me and when Marcus approached me I opened the book and stabbed him in the neck. The next eight weeks in solitary confinement provided ample time to practice positive visualization and the 16 hours per day of absolute darkness actually made visualization about the only thing that I actually could do. I'm not sure that everybody's life will be changed in such a dramatic way by this book but I'm very thankful to have found it and will continue to recommend it heartily.

I hope you all enjoyed that, I certainly got a good laugh out of it. I think it's good not to get too mired down in the doom and gloom that seems to be pervading current affairs right now. If this put a smile on just one person's face I'll be satisfied.

I dont believe this

Ok im not going to say anything about this article except one thing, how on earth did he think it was appropriate.

A letter to the Tories

This is a letter sent out to Party members by [BFF of the Labour Club] James Purnell and Ed Miliband. It takes a few nicely aimed shots at the Tories callous disregard for the results of inaction.

[Underlining was added by me]

Dear [Nahuatl]

I thought you'd like to see the letter that Ed Miliband and I are releasing this morning about the impact of the Conservative cuts announced by David Cameron this week.

When it's cold outside pensioners need our help the most - yet the Tories are against our £60 increase for pensioners and are now proposing cuts equivalent to 32,000 of the most vulnerable households not getting the help they need to heat and insulate their homes through the Warm Front scheme.

It's the latest example of the "do nothing" Party refusing to give real help to the people who need it most.

We think it's important that the Tories' plans are widely known - so please forward this email to as many of your friends and families as possible.

Our letter

Dear Greg Clark and Chris Grayling,

We are writing to you because of our concern about the cuts you are proposing now and the impact they will have on pensioners. People would be dismayed to learn that you would propose to cut help for pensioners in these difficult economic times.

By opposing the Pre-Budget Report, your party has already set itself against the measures we are taking to help pensioners during the winter, such as paying pensioners an extra £60 this January, trebling the value of the cold weather payments that are being paid out now, increasing the standard minimum income guarantee, and an extra £100 million pounds allocated to the Warm Front scheme over the next two years.

Now your leader has announced a new policy to restrict the budgets for the Department for Energy and Climate Change and for the Department for Work and Pensions to a 1 per cent real terms increase for 2009/10.

“…maintaining the government's spending plans for the NHS, schools, defence and international development, but restricting other departments to a 1 per cent increase in real terms.” (David Cameron, speech on spending plans, January 5 2009)

This policy would be equivalent to cutting £80 million from the Energy and Climate Change budget and £30 million - on top of the £1.3bn cuts you have already planned - from the Work and Pensions budget. David Cameron plans for you to walk in and make these cuts immediately.

“Now what I would do, let's say there's an election April this year, I'm free, election April this year, I'd immediately instruct my ministers to go into their departments and say instead of the increase of perhaps 2% real terms you're expecting, it's a 1% real terms increase” (David Cameron, Press conference, January 5 2009)

Cuts on this scale from the Department of Energy and Climate Change would be equivalent to 32,000 of the most vulnerable households not getting the help they need to heat and insulate their homes through the Warm Front scheme. On average the help that a household receives in installing heating systems, insulation and other energy efficiency measures saves them about £300 a year. Unless you can confirm exactly where your cuts will fall, then these 32,000 vulnerable households could be denied the help they need. The cuts you are proposing, if they fell upon the Warm Front scheme, would also put jobs in the construction industry at risk.

You are already opposed to the additional help we are giving to pensioners at this difficult time. We hope you will reject David Cameron’s plans to do nothing to help pensioners and confirm where your cuts will fall.

Given the public concern about this issue, we have released a copy of this letter to the media.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

PS - you can find out more about the Warm Fronts scheme here

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Scotland and the Budget

Tomorrow the Scottish Government publishes its budget, the second of a minority administration and the media is asking who they will do a deal with this time. last year they went to the right, but then again that is nothing new for the SNP, so this year will they do the same again. They do seem to like to do the same things again as thanks to a blog I read it seems that Alex Salmond is going to threaten to take his ball away if he doesn't win the vote.

People are facing real hardships and the Salmond is on an ego trip, well that is nothing new that is for sure, I mean this is the guy who thought he was Barack Obama and told us all that he invented the "yes we can" slogan.

But seriously the budget is a major concern for the country, in this time of financial trouble what we need is our politicians to suggest a budget that will help us all and that will work for all the people and not just the few.

I want a budget that protects public services and not more cuts and more chance for the snp to say concordat and blame it all on Westminster, I want to see how they are going to build the new forth bridge and to actually admit that the Scottish Futures Trust was nothing more than a big lie and was never intended to actually do any large project management.

On the bridge, if I have got this right the SNP were asking the Government to allow the bridge to be built using money that would be given in 20 yrs time, now first of all that is like asking your mum or dad for an advance in pocket money but from some mysterious date in the future and how many of got away with that . Secondly does 20 yrs in the future mean that they are admitting that they are not going to be independent.

So to get back on topic please lets not have any games on the budget Mr Salmond and actually do what you say you were elected to do and serve the people of Scotland.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Different Priorities

I was in a petrol station last week shopping for "the all day buffet bar" when a newspaper headline caught my attention. My first reaction was surprise; I had no idea Cheryl Cole was in Gaza. After a double take I realised that really, what I was looking at was just two different newspapers, with two different ideas of what constitutes an international crisis. This photograph served to reinforce my long held doubts over the accuracy of the description "News of the World".

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Come see history in the making.

Yes it's the time of the American Election cycle when we finally get to see how the new President of the United States does by finally assuming office.

At 12 noon in Washington D.C.(EST) on Tuesday the 20th of January Barack Obama will take the oath of office to assume the Presidency and Aberdeen University Labour Club is holding an event where we can watch, in the comfort of New Kings, live on a big screen, the swearing in ceremony.

If you want to know more then go look at our facebook group which has more information.

Monday, 5 January 2009

"The Minnesota Recount is Over"

To follow up on a previous post on the matter I am pleased to say that Al Franken has been declared the winner of the Minnesota Senatorial election.

From Greg Laden:

As many of you have already heard, the recount process in Minnesota to determine the outcome of the Senatorial race is over, and Al Franken has been certified as winner.

There is now a review period of seven days during which any voter in the state of Minnesota. Including me, Al Franken, whomever, can sue for an Election Challenge. Although both Secretary of State Ritchie and I have expressed the opinion that Norm Coleman, who lost the race, is unlikely to issue such a challenge, the press and even Coleman's lawyers have suggested that a challenge will in fact be filed by three o'clock tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.


Coleman really has two choices: Proceed with the challenge and end his political career or don't proceed and have a chance of continuing in Minnesota politics.

This victory gives the Democrats 59 seats in the Senate.

Sunday, 4 January 2009


[Video from Pharyngula at ScienceBlogs.]

I think this video serves as a reminder that in science, as in politics, it is surprisingly easy to lose ground that was so difficult to gain.

For example in Gaza, years of political progress can be set back by just a few weeks of violence, and in California rights can be taken away by a popular vote.

But it important to remember that progress can be made and preserved, a good example in the Middle East would be Israel's relationship with Egypt. For decades they were constantly on the brink of war, and at war on several occasions, but now they have relatively reasonable diplomatic relations. That is the kind of progress we need.

The title of this post is communication; communication lies at the heart of how we can solidify the beneficial evolution of society. The ability to tolerate and cohabit with one another is at its core based on the ability of people to empathise and understand one another. To understand why we act in the way that we do, and the reasons why the things we cherish are important to us. That holds true most of all for the rights and freedoms that we are so privileged to hold.

[If you don't have time to watch the whole thing go to 4:30. It's at this point that he makes a point that I would like to emphasise.]

His basic point, for those who haven't watched the video, is that because the Scholars of the Great Library did not communicate to their ideas and achievements to the populace there was no-one willing to defend their ideas when the mob rose up.

We, as Labour supporters, need to learn this lesson. No matter how fine our achievements in office, no matter how many benefit from the minimum wage or a swift and strong reaction to recession, if we do not show the electorate what we have done for them when the Tory mob is at our door there will be no-one to stand in their way.

We must protect our ideals and the progress we have made, and we can only do that by making people believe that out ideals and achievements are worth protecting.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Remember the Children of Gaza

OK this is not a post about whether the action that Israel is taking in Gaza is justified or not, that is for another day but it is just to point out 3 quotes which have happened overnight and the need for dialogue on both sides.

The First is from Khaled Meshaal a Hamas leader in exile who has warned Israel of a "Black Destiny" because of its actions,now I can only imagine what this means but I don't think its lets all sit around a table and talk.

The second is from the outgoing President of the United States who has decided to allow everything that Israel is doing, ignoring world opinion again and you could say more interested in boxing in his successor than actually calling for peace. A big thanks to the BBC for the link.

The last comment is from The United Nations who has said that it believes that 25% of the 400 people who have died so far in the bombings are children, think about it 100 children.

I don't know if Israel is justified or not, I support the right of any state to defend itself and I support the right of the State of Israel to exist but I have to ask the question why if they have been suffering rocket attacks for years have they chosen now to act.

Is it because they have had enough or is it because Israel is in the run up to an election where the 2 main ruling parties have a problem with national support, I hope and pray that its not about electoral politics.

I said at that start that this was not about whether Israel was justified and but no matter who you think is to blame in the middle east today I ask that you spend a minute and just think of the 25% of the victims who will not grow up to achieve their best.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

A review of 2008

I thought as we enter a new year that a review of the last year and what may happen in the new year was a good thing to do.

As we enter the new year, the first one that me and my significant other have actually spent at home in the time we have been together, their is a lot for a democratic socialist to be looking forward to. Last year we were so far behind in the polls that we Had about as much chance as me winning the London marathon, and for those who haven't seen me in the flesh think of haagrid from harry potter but with an additional 4 stone round the waist and you will get the metaphor, but today we are no worse than being projected to be the largest party in a Commons in a hung parliament.

We have a Prime Minister who was seen as a has been and just counting the days until the knight in blue came to the countries salvation came to power, to be replaced with a Prime Minister who has driven the world agenda and a leader of the opposition who is nothing more than a novice who would not know what to do if it jumped up and down in front of him and said look at me look at me.

I mean David Cameron is the guy who cycles to work, and very good that is, but I mean do you really need the official government car to drive your briefcase to the office, me I use a backpack i would have thought that might have been cheaper.

In elections the year started badly and we never thought it could get any better ever again, I mean to lose the local elections, Have Boris replace Ken in London and then the SNP win Glasgow East by-election was not exactly the best summer in politics I can remember. But after such a bad time then came Glenrothes and Lindsay Roy.

Who would have thought it 2 days after the election of a Democrat to the White House that the people of Glenrothes would elect a Labour politician to Westminster, I mean what great odds you could have got in July that neither of those things would have happened but both won by large majorities.

in Obamas case it was his message of hope and change, in Lindsay Roy's case it was more about warden charges and Alex Salmond claiming that he was the Scottish Barack Obama, I mean come that had to be the funniest photo of the year Alex Salmond on a roundabout saying yes we can, Less Obama and more Noddy.

So to recap they year has been an interesting one, Labour dead and buried at the start and now ready to fight and win whatever elections 2009 hold.

And in the club here at Aberdeen we have seen a 4 fold increase in our membership so we are heading into the New Year looking forward to the future.

It is true a week is a longtime in politics and a year is a lifetime.

So finally I would like to wish everyone who reads the blog be they of the left or the right a wonderful happy new year.