Friday, 27 February 2009

Curfew in Aberdeen?

I received an email today regarding an issue previously covered by the Gaudie that may interest some of our readers.

It is the prospect of a "curfew" on pubs and clubs in Aberdeen. It would entail a mandatory 12:30 a.m. cut-off for entry into any drinking establishment.

Personally I don't see what the fuss is about, having to be in a club by half twelve is hardly that much of a burden. Where I live in the North East of England a lot of pubs are shut by 11 pm, and usually at the latest 1 am; so if you wanted to go to a night club you'd probably be in one by that time anyway.

But there are those who disagree and think that it will discourage young people from coming to Aberdeen, and staying in the city.

Don't let Aberdeen City Council Licensing Board hit the final nail in Aberdeen's coffin by creating a 12.30am curfew!

This will not only affect businesses like mine, but the city and general public as a whole. A thriving late night economy creates a healthy daytime economy. It's true, young people like to shop...and go out.

If we don't try and prevent this 12.30am curfew from going ahead, in September this year, we WILL be told what time we can and cannot go out. This also means, if you finish work late then you won't be allowed to meet friends in a bar or club. So all you restaurant staff and bar staff - it'll be home to bed at the back of midnight as the queues to get in anywhere will be massive by the time you get out of work.

Not exactly an attractive prospect for anyone under the age of 30. Students (we love to hate em, but with 35,000 of them, they do make up a huge % of our economy) will choose other more exciting cities to study, where they are able to go out to meet friends after their bar shift.

So, far less young people moving to the city, more young people leaving the city = less young people contributing to the economy. Which in a nutshell means the more interesting shops closing, independent bars and music venues closing, which in turn results in a downward spiral of gloominess.

Aberdeen is already a vunerable city, with little appeal for younger people. We need to be moving forward, not backwards!

There are other ways to tackle late night crime and drunkenness (read more on the facebook page) the meantime, unless we all want to like in a city that's populated by only narrow minded people who're happy with a just after midnight curfew, less choice in the type of shops or restaurants we like and only a small selection of multi national pub and club chains, and zero chance of the café culture the council so loves to hark on about, then sign the online petition here!

Thanks folks!



A better way...?

This is pretty much just a cross post from Politics for People, they have posted an excerpt from an interview that Sophi Tranchell, the boss of Divine Chocolate had with Real Business. In which she discussed the future of business and the advantages of a co-operative system.

On Politics for People they highlighted on quote regarding the construction of Heathrow's Terminal 5 as compared to a major renovation of a John Lewis store:

"I remember when John Lewis completed a £100m refurbishment of its landmark Sloane Square store, which involved dropping in a new escalator system into the building through the roof. Not only did the retailer keep the store open during trading hours, but it made more money that year than the previous year. Why did that work while projects such as Terminal Five were such utter disasters? It was because every employee in that store wanted it to work; they’d all been consulted and informed. And they knew that if the company performed well, they’d do well."

It is quite a striking contrast, and the difference in the two models is perhaps better summed up by another comment she made about the Co-operative business model as a whole:

"The dominant model of business over the past ten years clearly hasn’t worked,"


"So what model does work? While banks such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds have been crippled in this climate, ethical banks like The Co-operative or Triodos are doing just fine. While retails such as Zavi and Whittard of Chelsea were hurled into administration, employee-owned companies such as John Lewis, Tullis Russell and Loch Fyne are going great guns.

If you judge success as being based simply on profit, as has been the prevailing practice of most businesses, the last couple of years has shown the strength and resilience of the Co-operative business model. When you put on top of that the ethical practices and fair profit distribution of co-operatives their superiority as a business model becomes clear.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

"The Co-op a brief history"

Over at A Comrade in Ellon our Club Secretary has posted the first (of possibly many) of a series of posts concerning the Co-operative Party. So if you want to learn more about the history of the Co-operative movement you should go and check it out.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

A note from the Labour Club

As you will have seen in the post directly under this one that the Cameron family has today suffered a loss that no family should, that of a child and much loved brother.

May I on behalf of the Aberdeen University Labour Club send our condolences to the Cameron family and say that today they are in our thoughts.

Peter Smyth

Some sad news

From the BBC:

Conservative leader David Cameron's eldest son Ivan has died in hospital.

The six-year-old, who had cerebral palsy and epilepsy, became ill overnight and was taken to St Mary's hospital where he died early Wednesday.

Mr Cameron, who described Ivan as "wonderful", and wife Samantha have two younger children, Nancy and Arthur.


Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he and his wife Sarah were "very saddened" about Ivan's death.

In a statement, Mr Brown said: "We have sent our condolences to David and Samantha. The death of a child is a loss no parent should have to bear.

"I know Ivan was a child who brought joy to all those who knew him and his was a life surrounded by love.

"The thoughts and prayers of the whole country are with David, Samantha and their family."

Monday, 23 February 2009

Fairtrade and pickets on campus

Today is the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight, the yearly celebration and campaign to highlight fairtrade in the UK.

The campaign is supported by Oxfam, Save the Children Fund and a wide range of British NGO's as well as Sainsbury, Waitrose and the Co-op to name 3 supermarkets out of many.

For more info about fairtrade then please go to the fairtrade foundation and learn more about what the campaign is about.

So why am i posting a blog here about fairtrade, the answer to that is simple Last week on the University Campus the Co-operative held an event about bees, yes i did say bees, it was linked to the launch of the new Co-operative advert. So it was not the most controversial of events you would think.

Then it came as a bit of a surprise to be told by a good source that their was a small peaceful demonstration against the co-op selling Israeli goods.

Now im posting this here because I want to say to those who protested, their are many of us who share your views and there are many who don't but if you are going to protest outside an event then please get your facts right and don't just think because they are a large retailer that they are the same as a tesco or a walmart.

The Co-operative is different, its member owned and it is member led. i myself have been an active member of an area committee part of the democratic structure of the Co-op for a number of years and have just been a candidate in one of the largest participatory election outside of national elections for the Government.

It is an organisation wish was at the vanguard of the campaign for workers rights, women's rights, environmental protection and indeed was the only UK supermarket to actively boycott South African goods during Apartheid, so its record is a proud one.

indeed this week it has just announced the launch of the first fairtrade olive oil from Palestine, something they can quite rightly be proud off.

So friends yes campaign, yes picket and yes work to achieve the boycott you want but please do some research first and choose your targets a hell of a lot better than you did on this one.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

A message to Go4th with...

Here via facebook is a message from Alistair Campbell:

Dear Go Fourth

I’m in Norwich to see Burnley play Norwich City at Carrow Road.

We’re unbeaten in our last five matches – won three, drawn two – so I’m optimistic of a good result for the Clarets against the Canaries. After all, we’re in a good position for the play-offs and we’ve also had good cup runs this season, beating Chelsea, Fulham and Arsenal in the Carling Cup, before being (unjustly) knocked out by Spurs after playing our hearts out. Next month we play Arsenal again at the Emirates, having got to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you how Burnley are doing right now.

I want to draw a comparison between football and politics. If the odds are steeply against you, if everybody seems to think the team opposing you are more likely to win, if their supporters in the away end are taunting your team and talking your manager, your players and you and your fellow supporters down, just look around you and reflect on a few things:

Teams can win against the odds. Burnley proves odds are wrong, time and again.

Likelihoods are not certainties. Things can change in 90 minutes, just as things can change from one game to another, or one season to the next.

Taunts are noise. Ignore them.

If people want only to talk down your team, or the town or city it’s at the heart of, that’s because they have nothing else to offer. As the old saying goes, the empty vessel makes the most noise. The Tories are an empty vessel.

In politics, as in football, confidence is key. Optimism is also key, and so is focus. You won’t enthuse a voter, or win over a new supporter for your team, unless you are confident, optimistic and focused, even when the polls - or the goals – are not in your favour.

In politics, as in football, unexpected things happen. Things can turn round in your team’s favour in moments. But the single biggest factor in keeping players’ spirits up during a tough match is the supporters.

Without vocal support, the players wouldn’t be able to raise their game and pull off those sudden, brilliant things they sometimes do to retrieve a situation and win by the final whistle.

Anyway, talking of whistles, it’s time to blow mine and kick off your to-do list this week.

1. I’m guest editing the New Statesman in March. I want your ideas for a piece on what should be in the next manifesto – see my blog and leave your comments:

2. Set aside an hour this week to do some phoning on Labour’s fantastic new system:

3. First talking point: ask people you meet what they think of the Tories being substantially funded by bankers.

4. Second talking point: Ask them what they think of JP’s campaign to stop bankers getting huge bonuses.

5. Catch up with what’s happening in local politics via your local paper. Many of them now have websites.[Edit: e.g. Anne Begg] If your local Labour politicians are being attacked, write a letter to the paper to support them.

I said I’d report back on the five tasks you all suggested for me, and which I’ll be getting stuck into in the week ahead.

So far, the ones I’ve chosen are:

1. Get a souvenir programme signed by Alex Ferguson for a Labour fundraiser.

2. Write a handy guide about David Cameron, for use on the doorstep.

3. Write a handy guide about the Lib Dems, for use on the doorstep.

4. Start planning a Go Fourth rally and events for Labour Party conference.

5. Do two hours of telephone canvassing for marginal constituencies.

There’s one more.

6. Convince Mark Bennett, who is a Labour councillor in Lambeth as well as a Go Fourth organiser, to shave his beard off. This is an ongoing campaign and has even inspired a Facebook group here:

That’s all for now. We’ve all got our to-do lists for the week ahead. Remember – confidence, optimism and focus.

Yours Going Fourth


I like the football analogy he cooked up. A lot of the criticism we've received lately as a party has nothing to do with our policies, but is caused by the desire of people to have someone to blame for the current problems. Since we're in power a lot of people have targeted Labour for criticism, this despite the fact that a Tory government would be facing the same problems (and probably doing nothing to alleviate the unemployment and financial insecurity caused by them), and that every the government of every other large economy followed in Gordon Brown's footsteps to a large degree. Gordon Brown did a great job as Chancellor, and he's taken firm and decisive action throughout this period of financial instability. We must not let people forget that.

Labour have been taking a lot of flak which I think is important to counter. A large deal of criticism is coming directly or indirectly from the tabloids, who are ardently anti-Labour. What the tabloids do best is repeating a meme or story, recently a lot of anti-Brown tripe, until it becomes so prolific that it seems true (A tactic much admired by one Joseph Goebbels). By repeating anti-Brown stories they create an impression of popularity which feeds into the opinion of the readers of the tabloids. Unfortunately a large number of people are informed about politics by reading tabloids, so this effect can be very damaging to our election chances. For this reason I think we should do as much as we can to campaign for a fourth term and to follow Alistair's five suggestions:

1. I’m guest editing the New Statesman in March. I want your ideas for a piece on what should be in the next manifesto – see my blog and leave your comments:

2. Set aside an hour this week to do some phoning on Labour’s fantastic new system:

3. First talking point: ask people you meet what they think of the Tories being substantially funded by bankers.

4. Second talking point: Ask them what they think of JP’s campaign to stop bankers getting huge bonuses.

5. Catch up with what’s happening in local politics via your local paper. Many of them now have websites.[Edit: e.g. Anne Begg] If your local Labour politicians are being attacked, write a letter to the paper to support them.

Friday, 20 February 2009

I think skewered is the right word...

I think skewered is the right word for what Scottish Unionist has done to the SNP in two blog posts today.

The first, "Pan-unionist alliance", lines up quotes from Iain Gray (Leader, Scottish Labour), Murdo Fraser (Deputy Leader, Scottish Conservatives) and Tavish Scott (Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats) laying bare Alex Salmond and his party for what they are, posturing blow hards.

The second has the pretty self-explanatory title "Hypocrisy, thy name is Salmond". It includes this perceptive quote from George Orwell.

“All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts ... Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them.”

Since I'm a shameless promoter of Labour bloggers I'll round off this post by encouraging anyone interested in astute and intelligent political analysis* to head over and check out Scottish Unionist.

*[If you don't like astute and intelligent analysis try an SNP blog.]

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Some American racism this time...

Courtesy of many blogs [Feministing, The Questionable Authority, Feministe, Enemy Combatant Trailmix Appreciation Club, Shakesville] comes this delightful cartoon from the New York Post:

Really, New York Post? You really want to suggest that a chimp wrote the stimulus bill? The stimulus bill that is widely viewed as President Obama's. Is there really no-one working for you that saw a problem with this cartoon?


It seems the Beeb prefers pictures of white people...

Whilst browsing the football news on the BBC's website I noticed a story on the main football page. The headline is (or was depending on when you're reading this) "From turnstile to touchline - club gets female manager". Next to it was a picture of a woman:

However, anyone clicking the link will be presented with an altogether different image:

That is an actual picture of the woman featured in the article, the white woman that the BBC decided to use to lead the article is, as the caption reads "Cherie Lunghi played a female manager in TV drama The Manageress".

I find it troubling that the BBC has decided that the image that they will use to promote an article about a woman of colour taking charge of a football team on the football homepage is that of a white person only tenuously linked to the story. What message does this send to people reading it, a white person is a better hook for an article?

Really BBC, a white actor is more relevant than the person the story is about? Shame on you.

Now there may be those saying that I'm reading too much into this, but before you say it answer one question for me. Why did they use the picture of a white person when a picture of a person of colour would have been so much more relevant?

Addendum:[On a tangential note it was just last week that the live coverage of the second test between England and the West Indies included this line:

Sounds like a right shambles out in Antigua - fans still queuing down the street, sand all over the shop, scoreboards rubbered, people strolling in front of the sight-screens. These boys couldn't run a bath.

{To put it into context for those who don't understand what the problem is here are a couple of articles about it. (Well sort of about it.)}

I used the BBC's complaints service to voice my opinion to them. After which I received an apology and the assurance that my complaint was noted and the author had been reminded to be careful about what they say. It might not actually achieve anything but I think it's important to at least say something.]

Tuesday, 17 February 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

Evidently it's not just Aberdeen which has seen snow doing a vanishing act. (Seriously snow on the ground all last week, then yesterday I woke up to find it mostly gone and today has been pretty balmy if overcast.) Another week of meetings for Anne goes to show that being an MP isn't just about spending your time drinking champagne on the yachts of Russian businessmen. (Well it is for some MPs.)

Week beginning 9th February – Snow gone: London working again!

(Apologies for the delay in posting this week’s instalment but my computer decided to switch itself off just as I was typing it up!)

It has been one of those weeks where I seem to have either been in meetings or attending events all week and have spent little time in the Chamber or in the office clearing the mountain of paperwork and e-mails that seem to accumulate. I've had two meetings of my Select Committee; one meeting of the Speaker's Conference; chaired a European Standing Committee on Asylum this week; had a meeting with Swedish MPs to discuss Welfare Reform; and attended a summit of elected Labour women.

On Monday I also hosted the annual reception of the All Party Offshore Oil and Gas group which was attended by many of the big names from the industry. Perhaps unsurprisingly quite a few were from Aberdeen. It was the first outing of the new Secretary of State at the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband MP, who addressed the gathering. I was just introducing him when the division bells began to ring and all the MPs had to troop off to vote. However, 15 minutes later we were back and the introduction could continue.

Tuesday seemed to be taken up entirely by meetings, and on Wednesday, while my colleagues all trouped off to the Channel 4 headquarters for their Parliamentary Awards; I attended a working dinner on rare diseases. While health may generally be a devolved issue, there are certain things that would be much better delivered as part of a UK-wide strategy and rare diseases policy is one of them. It looks like there is a lot of campaigning ahead to get a UK framework agreed.

Thursday in Westminster was relatively quiet apart from the meeting with the Swedish delegation but Friday in the constituency was even busier than normal as I gave a talk to politics students at RGU about the role of an MP, had a meeting with the new Chief Executive of Aberdeen City Council, and spent the afternoon having constituent surgeries.

My next Week in Westminster will be coming to you from Aberdeen as the week beginning 16th February is a constituency recess week.

Monday, 16 February 2009

A Little Bit of History

A few months ago the decision was taken to set up a blog for the Labour Club, to allow us to talk about events of the day and to highlight things that we thought were important.

The decision to do it took place while returning from a days campaigning in the Glenrothes by-election (for the record we won that one with an increased majority, and a plan was put in place and today we have just celebrated our 4000th visitor, maybe not the biggest blog in the country but we have a growing number of fans and people who like to comment.

So to everyone who has contributed a big massive thanks and to the members of the club who have written entries well done folks.

Keep up the good job.

Action Aid campaign on HIV and violence against women

Courtesy of the F Word is news of a campaign by the charity ActionAid to highlight the link between sexual violence against women and the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to move on from acknowledging this link to doing something about it. I've highlighted the most shocking statistics:

A girl born in South Africa has a 50% chance of being raped* . Combine this with the number of South Africans living with HIV - currently more than 5 million - and the risk of HIV infection is extremely high.

Across the world, the threat of violence prevents women from refusing sex or insisting on the use of condoms, even when they suspect their partners are HIV-positive. Many women also face violence and abandonment on disclosure of a HIV positive diagnosis.

The UK government has just launched a seven year strategy for tackling AIDS in developing countries. In that strategy, they acknowledged that widespread violence against women increases their risk of HIV infection, but they haven’t said what they’re going to do about it. Now it’s time to move them from acknowledgement to action, and you can help.

ActionAid wants to collect 2,876 shoes, one for every woman who contracts HIV around the world each day. These will be developed into a sculpture which we will present to the government on International Women’s Day in March, to highlight both the scale of the problem and the numbers of people who are concerned.

We urgently need your help to reach our target by International Women’s Day. Take part online and send it to all your friends and family.

Put your foot down on violence against women and help to end HIV and AIDS.

*[From ActionAid's website: A girl born in South Africa has a higher chance of being raped than of learning to read. With 5 million South Africans living with HIV the risk of HIV infection for women is extremely high.]

To put that infection rate in perspective the female population of Aberdeen is approximately 100,000, that's approximately how many women are infected with HIV every 35 days worldwide. A large proportion of the rate to female dis-empowerment. Whether it be through the prevalence of sexual violence or a lack of control over prophylactic measures, especially in particularly patriarchal societies in which men refuse to wear condoms and women feel unable to insist.

ActionAid's self-described purpose is an extremely positive one; long term development is just as important (if not more so) as short term alleviation of suffering when it comes to tackling the effects of poverty.

ActionAid doesn't just tackle the effects of poverty.We also change what keeps people poor.

ActionAid improves people’s lives every day. But we know that’s not enough. So we work relentlessly to change whatever is keeping them trapped in poverty.This means we have a better chance of ending poverty for good.

You can sign their petition and send a virtual shoe here.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

The Lloyds bonuses are so wrong that even Cameron realises it

From the BBC:

Giving bonuses to executives at Lloyds Bank would be "completely wrong", Tory leader David Cameron has said.

Payments totalling £120m are reportedly to go to workers at Lloyds - which is 43% state-owned - despite record losses at the bank's subsidiary HBOS.

Well done David you've managed to come to the conclusion that John Prescott came to weeks ago, and as can be seen in the BBC article he's hardly the only person to have beaten Cameron to the punch:

Last week Chancellor Alistair Darling told RBS failure should not be rewarded with huge bonuses

[If you go to the article there's an embedded video showing an interview with Cameron. I don't know if you actually want to watch it. Personally I can't stand listening to David Cameron, even when he's pretending to care.]

Friday, 13 February 2009

What we can learn from Wales

Representation lies at the heart of democracy. However not all groups are equally represented. This impacts negatively on these groups as one of the best ways to ensure that the rights of all people are protected, and that their concerns and needs are dealt with is to ensure that they are properly represented in the legislative and executive bodies of the country in which they live. Christine Chapman has an article up at LabourList concerning the Welsh Assembly's gender balance.

The Welsh Assembly is a leader amongst legislatures in terms of its gender balance, not just in the UK, or in Europe but across the world. When the first Assembly was elected in 1999, 24 of the 60 members were women. At the 2003 election the record was even better with equal numbers of men and women being elected, and a 2006 by-election led to a simple majority. All Welsh Assembly Government Cabinets have had excellent ratios of women to men. In December 2008, Kirsty Williams was elected as the first female leader of a Welsh political party. As a comparison, women make up just under 20% of MPs at Westminster.

In the article she summarises some of the reasons why an equal gender balance is a positive thing, and why working to achieve is worthwhile:

research showed that the majority of all contributions on equal pay, domestic abuse and the need for better childcare were by women Assembly Members. Of course these are often dismissed as “women’s issues”, but they are problems that affect men and women in every community the length and breadth of Wales.

Equality of representation is vital, not simply for numerical reasons, but because the involvement of women within the political process can lead to better politics and governance even in what is often regarded as traditionally “male” areas such as the economy. Support for this comes from some unlikely quarters. The centre-right Industry Minister of the Norwegian Government introduced a quota to ensure that a minimum of 40% of the membership boards of all private companies were women, arguing that quotas make sound economic sense. The investment company Goldman Sachs published a paper in 2007 arguing that the reduction of gender inequality would increase economic growth. The World Bank suggests that poverty cannot be eradicated unless parity of gender is achieved.

I would add to those the more ideological motivations of fairness and equality demand an equal gender balance. [And not just equality based on gender; only 2 black women and no Asian women at all, have ever been MPs in Britain. I don't think that those statistics are acceptable.]

Labour has done some work towards achieving a fair balance; "Labour’s policy of “twinning” led to the excellent gender parity that followed the 1999 election", but others have not; "Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have yet to adopt a policy of guaranteeing female candidates, and only one of the twelve Conservative AMs is a woman". However the balance in the House of Commons is heavily skewed towards men.

At the General Election of May 2005 128 women were elected as Members of Parliament, the highest number ever with one in five MPs now a woman, since that time due to by-election results that number has reduced to 125. Of these MPs, 95 are Labour, 17 Conservative, 9 Liberal Democrat, 1 Democratic Unionist, 1 Sinn Fein, 1 Ulster Unionist and 1 Independent

The first sentence says a lot about the state of equality in modern Britain, and it's not good. That 1/5 of MPs being female represented a record high is quite frankly pitiful. Even Labour's 76% (95 out of 125) share is well short of the approximately 177 (50.5% of Labour's 350 MPs) there would be if there was equal representation.

As a party we still have to do a lot of work to correct this. [Other parties need to do even more. But I care more about Labour, and I think we should hold ourself to a higher standard than the Tory Party does for itself.] By rectifying this inequality in government we can perhaps even achieve a lot in ironing out the inequalities in society as a whole as well.

The Fawcett Society is a wonderful organisation that works to promote gender equality in the UK.

I personally believe that we all have an ethical and moral obligation follow the example of the Welsh Assembly in ensuring equality in government, in order that we can move toward a better and fairer Britain which has a far more representative Parliament. After all representing the public is what MPs are meant to do.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Great Minds Think Alike

It seems that I was beaten by one minute on posting about the LIT failure. Great minds think alike and there are no greater minds than that of Aberdeen University Labour Club. :D


Just for a bit of fun I thought i'd introduce you readers to Wordle. It's an online program that can scan text (such as a blog) and make a tag cloud based on which words are used the most. Here's the tag cloud for this blog:

(Click on it to see a better quality version)

I notice that the largest word is "Public". I think that is a suitable representation of Labour's concerns.

What do people think? (I should point that it seems that the tag cloud is only for the first page of the Blog)

[And if you're reading this Yousuf, I've rumbled your secret; you're secretly a nationalist. :P]

Council Tax to be retained- Broken Promise No 789766

" We will scrap the Unfair council tax"

Another SNP election promise was broken today with the news that there will be no bill put forward for a Local Income Tax. In this embarrasing climbdown Cabinet Finance Secretary John Swinney announced to Parliament that due to lack of support the plans would not be brought forward.

Labour finance Spokesman Andy Kerr described it as "the biggest retreat in the history of the parliament".

The SNP once more demonstrate that their election manifesto was nothing short of misguided hot air with no workable policies. The fact that local councils face more cuts due to the "historic concordat" should also be duly noted. In a time of bleak economic uncertainty it is frustrating to realise that those in power in Edinburgh are incredibly out of their depth.

We as a party should make sure that the Scottish people are aware how acute the shambles this administration is causing but also take the initative. We have promised to reform the council tax, now with the Nats policy in tatters, is the time to explain exactly how we are going to do that. Fair, workable policies for everyone, not a string of poorly thought out, headline grabbing promises which were always made to be broken.

SNP Lose again

I have just logged on to the computer and went and read the news as i normally do and lo and behold I find a story of another SNP policy dumped, only this time its the cornerstone to their domestic policy.

As you see here they have decided to drop the proposals to introduced a local income tax, the CBI, the FSB, The STUC and not forgetting the Labour Party told them it would be madness to introduce but they said they would do it. The tories joined labour and made it almost impossible to get it through parliament, but still they went on so what changed.

Maybe it was the fact that they lost on the budget recently or maybe the rising legal arguments that it was actually illegal to set a tax at national level as that is not then local and therefore against the Scotland act.

I dont care what changed all I know is that it has and the mad idea of a local income tax set nationally is gone hopefully for good.

A message to Australian Firefighters

I saw this today and a big thanks to John for posting it. Its a simple message of thanks to the men and women who at this moment are putting their lifes at risk to save others.

Statement by David Carey State Public service union leader - Australia. Victoria Fire Tragedy

We are humbled by the dedication of our public sector colleagues in the face Victoria's tragedy.Working through extremes, that would be unimaginable in most of our working lives, our friends and colleagues and public workers are working to save, protect and preserve vital public services.

Fighting the terror of the fires.They are working to heal and counsel the injured and bereaved. They are feeding and clothing the people who are displaced. They are housing thousands who have lost homes.

They are being literal hero's - there is no other word- in the face of horror and trauma on a scale never seen in Australia. Our movement , the trade union movement, tens of thousands of other public sector workers and the whole community thank you and praise you.You are emblems of the selflessness and community we aspire to be.

"We are with you, in our prayers for your safety, our hope for your recovery. You are making unbelievable sacrifices and our certain knowledge is by your deeds our faith in human decency is again proved. While many public workers have suffered the worst possible personal loss themselves they work on.

You are our colleagues and friends. We hope our thoughts for you are some comfort.

When i like many this week watched the pictures of events in Australia I thanked god that for the firemen and women as my brother and his family live in australia.

So it is with pleasure that I add this club and blog to the role ofthose who say thank you for doing your job so well.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Do you love campaigning?


If the answer is yes you may be interested in going out leafleting this Saturday on behalf of Anne Begg, the MP for Aberdeen South.

Anne Begg will be organising a leafleting session to deliver the last of her Council Cuts Surveys in the Ferryhill area on Saturday 14th February.

If you can make it along, everyone will be meeting up outside the Ferryhill House Hotel at 10.30am, with the session probably taking no longer than an hour.

Lastly, Anne would just like to thank everyone that has come out and helped deliver these surveys over the previous weeks and months. Anne has had a really strong response from them, which has made all the hard work worthwhile.

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Scottish coastline path

There is a BBC story about a plan proposed by an SNP MSP to build a coastal path that goes all the way along Scotland's coast.

Plans for a long-distance path around the nation's entire coastline are to be discussed in the Scottish Parliament.

South of Scotland MSP Alasdair Morgan said many coastal walks already existed and these could be joined together to form one route around the country.

He said the path could start near Gretna and follow the shoreline all the way round to near Berwick.

Mr Morgan said he believed the project would provide a valuable tourism boost for the nation as a whole.


He said: "I do not know how long it would take somebody to walk the entire distance.

"I am sure that, if marketed effectively, it would be a valuable way of attracting people who want to try something different and who enjoy seeing Scotland from a different perspective.

"That is not to say that people would attempt the entire distance, although I suspect it could be done in stages, in the same way as people climb the Munros."

I can certainly see the merits of the idea; Scotland certainly has some beautiful coastlines, publicising and making them more accessible is certainly something I can embrace. Added to that the idea of being able to walk to whole length of the coast appeals to me.

However there seem to be a lot of details that need to be ironed out. To pick obvious examples there's the cost, especially the cost of building and maintaining paths in the most inaccessible parts of the coast. There may also be environmental impacts on delicate ecosystems, the building of the path and foot traffic may be damaging to local wildlife.

If those problems can be overcome I will certainly welcome this new and easy way to explore the beautiful country in which I live.

Monday, 9 February 2009

200 year old scientist turns down Rectorship

As you may or may not know this year is the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. The University of Aberdeen is holding a series of events to celebrate the work of Charles Darwin and science in general.

[You can see a flyer for the events here.]

Related to this is a story I found on the BBC's website. Apparently Charles Darwin was offered the position of rector at the University:

Scientist Charles Darwin could have been a rector at the University of Aberdeen, it has been revealed.

Darwin, who introduced the theory of natural selection to explain evolution, was offered the position in 1872.

However he declined the post in a letter, citing the "status of my health" as the reason.

Scientist and philosopher Thomas Huxley, who was a friend of Darwin and a strong supporter of his theory of evolution, accepted the position.

Darwin circumnavigated the globe in the 1830s.

His book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life was published in 1859.

The Aberdeen connection has been revealed as the university launches a series of events to commemorate Darwin's life and work, beginning with celebrations to mark what would have been his 200th birthday on Thursday.

Dr Stuart Piertney, senior lecturer in evolutionary biology at the University of Aberdeen, said: "Darwin was invited to take on the post of rector by John Smith Craig, an undergraduate student studying medicine in 1872 - the same year the sixth edition of his most significant work The Origin of Species was published."

"Darwin replied by letter to say that whilst he was very honoured to be asked, his ill health would make it impossible for him to accept.

I think it's a shame that we missed out on having such a prestigious scientist as rector.

It's important that occasions such as this anniversary are used to celebrate and highlight the work done by scientists around the world to progress human understanding and to improve the human condition. Especially in the face of religious ideologues who wish to disrupt and overturn science because it clashes with what they want to be true.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

No Ifs, No Buts, Give up the Bonus

The Go4th campaign to win Labour a fourth term has a new press release from John Prescott on the huge bonuses that certain banks want to pay out to their executives despite having to be bailed out at the taxpayer's expense:

Prescott launches online grassroots campaign to stop bank bonuses

John Prescott today (Sunday Feb 8th) called on people to join him in an online grassroots campaign to stop RBS and other banks that have been bailed out by the Government giving out bonuses.

Speaking to supporters at a rally in Manchester this morning he warned RBS, which is 68% owned by the Government: "We are all shareholders now and the shareholders demand you give up the bonus."

Mr Prescott is using Facebook to mobilise people into showing their anger against the bailed out banks. He already has more than 2,000 people signed up to his on going campaign called 'No Ifs No Buts, Pass On The Cut."

The campaign's aims were to get banks to pass on the interest rate cuts to customers and to turn the Post Office into a People's Bank.

Now the campaign is focusing on stopping the bonuses.

Mr Prescott is calling on people to send in their case studies and campaign ideas to his Facebook group No Ifs No Buts, to stop the bonuses.

Today in a speech to campaign supporters in Manchester Town Hall he called on those angry with proposed bonuses to join him in the fight.

He said: "This week President Obama made it clear to the US banks that it was the taxpayer that saved them. Some of you may have read my recent blog where I showed great admiration in him standing up to the bankers and proposing the executive pay cap.

"He has also been very successful in creating an online army to support his fiscal stimulus package through Congress - and we should use that people power here.

"We must utilise these same online grassroots tactics to force these greedy and indifferent banks that the taxpayer bailled out to give up their bonuses.

"We know that RBS, in which we own 68% of the shares after giving them £20billion of our money , is considering handing out £1b of it in bonuses to their bankers and traders. This is morally and economically outrageous.

"This is raw capitalism and this country rejects it. We don't want to hear that RBS has to pay out the bonuses because of 'contractual obligations.' If we hadn't bailed them out to save homeowners and businesses, their contracts would be worth nothing as they'd be out of work.

"So I'm calling on everyone who feels outraged by this to join me in the battle. It doesn't matter about what party you support, let's join together and stop this payout.

" We are all shareholders now and we the shareholders demand RBS give up the bonus. No Ifs, No Buts."

People are being encoraged to leave their support on the campaign Facebook page - No Ifs No Buts at or leave comments at

I'm going to higlight one particular excerpt of that (emphasis mine):

"We know that RBS, in which we own 68% of the shares after giving them £20billion of our money , is considering handing out £1b of it in bonuses to their bankers and traders. This is morally and economically outrageous.

That's right, RBS wants to give £1,000,000,000 of our money to the very same people whose reckless trading to led to us having to bail them out in the first place.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Scottish Labour Students' Campaign

This is just a short post to note that at today's Scottish Labour Students' Council Meeting it was resolved that the priority campaign for 2009 will be entitled:

"The Campaign to End Student Poverty - A Response to the Scottish Government's [Higher Education] Support Review"

Which, briefly, is a campaign based on the belief that it is possible to secure a minimum income of £7,000 a year for students in Scotland. And that students should not have to live on the cusp of poverty, but should, through governmental support, be able to maintain a standard of "socially acceptable living" in line with research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

More details will be published as they arise. Also I would like to note that the Scottish Labour Students website is expected to be online in the not too distant future.

Friday, 6 February 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

Bad weather was the theme of Anne's Week in Westminster this week. Hopefully the snow that has been causing chaos elsewhere will not show up in Aberdeen now. I'm certainly not loooking forward to the walk to the station to get a train through the snow that's falling and it's not even that bad yet. Plus as attractive as the idea of cancelled lectures is the reality of having to catch up with missed material is not so appealing. So here's hoping for a bit of warm weather.

Week beginning 2nd Feb - Snow, snow and more snow.

They say it was the worst snow in London for 16 years and I would not surprise me if this was the case. It took me the whole of Monday to get down to London. Heathrow was effectively closed so I had to fly into Gatwick and pray that the Gatwick Express was running. Luckily by 9pm there was a skeleton service but it hadn't been running at all earlier in the day.

As a result of the snow, I missed a meeting of my Select Committee which took place on Monday afternoon, and the 2nd evidence session of the Speaker's Conference on Tuesday was cancelled as some of the witnesses couldn't get in.

The only advantage to all this was I reached the bottom of my reading pile. I don't think I have ever managed that before!

The Speaker didn’t reach my question during Scottish Questions on Wednesday, but at Business Questions on Thursday I did get the chance to raise the difficulties being faced by businesses in my constituency due to the reluctance of banks to lend them money.

The icing on the top of a frustrating week was when I arrived home at 11 pm on Thursday night to discover the wheelchair carrier on my car didn’t work, leaving me stranded. My grateful thanks go to the neighbour who got out of bed to get my spare wheelchair out of the house (you know who you are).

This Friday, I will have a Civil Servant from the UK Identity and Passport Service work-shadowing me all day to see how an MP’s constituency office functions. He will hopefully be allowed to sit in on some of my surgery appointments and I will be taking him along to a presentation by a new offshore oil operator in the afternoon.

The question asked by Anne during Thursday's Business Questions:
In his reply to my hon. Friend David Taylor, the Minister said that the scheme came on top of the finance already available—but does the Minister think that the banks are playing ball? A small business—well, it is not actually that small—contacted me: RBS has found any excuse to restructure its loan, and has charged it 1 per cent. for doing so. It is a profitable business that is looking to expand, but it finds it very difficult to get what would, in normal circumstances, be classed as normal finance. It feels that it is being taken for a ride by the bank.

It seems more and more that the more I hear about the activities of the banking sector the less I like it. The banks have dug themselves into a nice hole and then not only expect the tax payer to bail them out but also think that they can continue to treat their customers however they like. I'd like to point out that the members of a customer driven co-operative would not allow it to act in such a manner.

Politics and a Pint

Just quick post here to announce our next event:

Politics and a Pint
The Bobbin
Tuesday, 10th February

So if you want to have a drink (alcoholic or not depending on your preference) whilst discussing a topical (and controversial) subject with the erudite and knowledgable members of the Labour Club come along and join us. We'll be on the top floor of the Bobbin from half seven on Tuesday evening.

Possible subjects include Gaza and the current striking and whether and to what degree it is motivated by nationalism.

View Larger Map

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Royal and Ancient refuses membership to the Principal of the Univeristy of St. Andrew's


Because she's a woman.

Apparently not only was the R&A founded in 1754, it's still there. I can't think of any reason how else they could possibly continue to justify such an exclusionary policy.

I got this story from Yapping Yousuf, he included these quotes from politicians:

Labour MSP Claire Baker first flagged this and was clearly angry when she called the managers of the club 'fuddy duddies' and said that;

"It's more than 500 years since Mary Queen of Scots become the first woman to tee off at the home of golf, but it seems that the Royal and Ancient is still stuck in the middle ages.

It is high time the fuddy-duddies who run the Club put their chauvinist attitudes to one side and joined the twenty-first century."

Our First Minister, a golfing enthusiast and rather good player as yesterdays news showed!, has also been critical and said

"The Royal and Ancient Golf Club should follow their long-standing practice of offering membership to the Principal of St Andrews University, and I am sure that after due consideration they will continue with that honourable tradition."

As I commented on his site (as well as a bit of rant against his criticism of golf) I like to see such blatant discrimination as this being targeted by more than just one party. I think it shows to a degree that misogyny and chauvinism like this are becoming less acceptable than they once were.

I personally think that the R&A should be forced to change it's policies in the same, as Yousuf points out, that working men's clubs were. I also don't want to see any institute using prestige or historicity to try and weasel out of equality legislation.

I, like many others in Scotland and around the world, enjoy playing golf. As such I greatly dislike the fact that this kind of anachronistic* behaviour is still associated with the game.

*(Unfortunately while I say this kind of discrimination is anachronistic misogyny less obvious but still as toxic is widespread and deeply embedded in society and our culture.)

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Blogorama V: Politics for People

[To find out more about the Co-operative Party visit their website. Membership is only £15, with a reduced rate of £5 for young members (under 26), you can join here.]

As you may or may not know several of us here at the Labour Club are not just members of labour, we are also members of the Co-operative Party. And since the Scottish Co-operative Party Council is this Saturday in Glasgow I thought it would be appropriate to have a Co-operative blog as the subject of Blogorama V.

Politics for People in their own words:

Unofficially blogging for the Co-operative Party, part of the global co-operative movement. We work with the Labour Party to influence its policies towards more co-operative solutions.

We believe in individual empowerment and self-help. We believe that a better share of this planet's wealth between Northern and Southern hemispheres and a greater respect for our environment will help us build a sustainable, safer and progressive society.

I hope that you'll agree that those are extremely laudable goals to pursue and values to promote.

As has been said here before, the current economic situation, caused in large part by the recklessness of profit seeking corporations, is a clear demonstration of the benefits of mutuality. Of companies that are held responsible for their actions by the people whose money allows them to operate in the first place. Politics for People recently reported on the Co-operative Party in Wales launching a document concerning the recent credit crunch (emphasis mine):

Yesterday the Co-operative Party and Wales 20:20 launched a new document, "Co-operative Values in a Credit Crunch Wales". "Difficult times call for new ways of thinking" is the key message from the authors, Karen Wilkie and Robbie Erbmann of the Co-operative Party. With co-ops and building societies, not least Principality Building Society, thriving and attracting new customers, they put forward a vision of a Welsh economy remade with co-operative values.

Huw Lewis AM, a Labour Co-operative Assembly Member, wrote the foreword for the pamphlet, saying, "I’ve been a proud member of the Co-operative Party for over 20 years, and the proposals in this pamphlet explain why. The movement has never stopped bringing forward radical, yet workable ideas. With the onset of the recession policy makers have a duty to look closely at these excellent proposals which underline co-operative values, matching innovation with pragmatism."

One point I think cannot be emphasised enough is the success of Co-operatives in the current economic climate. Their responsible and ethical business practices have kept them away from the massive losses (and subsequent bailouts) of the banks.

Politics for People also cover the Co-operative Party's campaigns, including Plan Bee [which we also posted about] the Co-operative Party's brand new campaign to arrest a worrying decline in bee numbers:

The bee is the symbol of the Co-op's membership and, more importantly, a major part of the ecosystem and our food producing system. A third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. So the news that bees are declining in numbers fast is a major threat to agriculture. It was the subject of a debate at last year's Co-operative Party conference, but hasn't yet hit the headlines. It's time it did.

To address the disturbing issue of bees dying out, The Co-operative - Britain's biggest farmer - has launched Plan Bee. They have launched a ten-point plan to save bees and a campaign where we can all get involved.

I'd like to stress that last sentence, "a campaign where we can all get involved", because I think it illustrates one of the major characteristics of the Co-operative Party and co-operative groups in general, the involvement of members, and in every facet of the organisation and decision making processes of a group. This structure makes co-operative groups more accountable, and thus more prudent in their actions. A characteristic that would benefit a lot of ordinary people if it was spread to more businesses. [If you agree you can join the Co-operative Party and makes this a reality.]

Through its People's Rail campaign the Co-operative Party have worked hard to incorporate a responsible and accountable structure for the governance of Network Rail. As posted here:

This week saw Network Rail's AGM. It was a big milestone in our People's Rail campaign. The Co-operative Party has been calling for a review of the company's governance, and for that review to give the public more power and hold the various levels of governance to account. There was a motion put up by a small number of the members of Network Rail which called for a review: "that members establish a governance 'Review Group' to consider the effectiveness of company's corporate governance practices, with particular reference to the accountability of the Board to its members and of its members to the company’s wider stakeholders."

We knew there would be strong opposition, even though a regular review of governance is difficult to oppose. After all, the UN, the EU and the NHS are among the institutions doing so. But we hoped that the AGM had taken note of the public, politicians and the press who had supported the People's Rail campaign.

And so it turned out, to our great pleasure. Against the odds, members narrowly backed the motion (all other votes were won overwhelmingly). It's good to see that the senior team, who according to reports opposed the motion, have accepted the result graciously and have welcomed the chance to consider the future structure of Network Rail.

The Chair of the Co-operative Party Parliamentary Group, Sarah-McCarthy-Fry MP, made it clear that the campaign will continue until we get the right result for passengers: "This decision represents a vindication of the People's Rail campaign. However, we have to remember this is just the first step of many. Network Rail is still a long way from being accountable to passengers and the public. We will continue this campaign until it is."

If you want a better run rail network in which companies are responsbile for their failings, and the users of the service have a say in what that service should provide then you should learn more about the People's Rail campaign and I would strongly recommend that you consider joining the Co-operative Party.

The best way to progress as people, and as a nation, and as an international community, is through mutual co-operation and making sure that those with large degrees of power are accountable to the majority who don't

Monday, 2 February 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

Week beginning 26th January – Always be prepared for PMQs.

It is not unusual as an MP to have more than one meeting or event on at the same time and juggling them all can be quite a struggle. The job of managing an MP’s diary is not an easy one. However, Monday this week was quite extreme. I had four meetings on at the same time, all of which I wanted to attend but couldn’t. So at 4 o’clock I popped into my Select Committee meeting for 25 minutes and agreed I would try to get back before the evidence session was over. Then it was on to a planning meeting for the Speaker’s Conference to discuss how we would tackle our outreach programme. I was Chairing this meeting so I had to be there from 4.30 until it finished at 5.30. As I was rushing back to my Select Committee I discovered I was too late, it had already finished, so instead I put my head round the door of meeting number 3, with the Scottish Colleges, only to find out that it was also finished. I didn’t even try to get to my 4th meeting which was the Labour Party’s Prosperity and Work policy commission.

I finished the evening at a meeting of the European Parliamentary Labour Party where we discussed campaigning for the upcoming European elections in June. Not only was the Prime Minister there, but so was Eddie Izzard who is a passionate European.

Spent almost all of Tuesday attending debates and questions. In the morning it was the debate in Westminster Hall on Equitable Life. I have a meeting with constituents who have lost out because of the collapse of Equitable Life on Friday evening so wanted to attend the discussions. I spent the afternoon and evening in the Chamber, taking part in the 2nd Reading Debate on the Welfare Reform Bill. So many people wanted to take part there was a 10 minute time limit on backbench speeches. Although my question for Equalities questions hadn’t made it onto the Order Paper I was called to ask a question about equal pay.

Wednesday began as usual with a meeting of my Select Committee discussing our future programme. The first draft of our Report on Commissioning will be ready on Thursday so I will be reading up on that over the weekend so that I have my amendments ready before we discuss it next week.

I had come out at number 13 at Prime Minister’s Questions, way too far down the list to get called – we only reached question 6 last week. However, by Wednesday morning I was at number 12 as someone must have pulled out, but still didn’t think I would get called. Just in case I thought I better have something ready. Thank goodness I did, as I was the last to be called so asked the PM if he could persuade the SNP administration in Holyrood to provide treatment and rehabilitation for drug addicts if they wish to receive full benefits. This was one of the issues which I had been discussed during the Welfare Reform Bill debate the day before.

Later, I spent a very pleasant evening at a Burns Supper in the House. My Aberdeen colleague, Frank Doran, did the Toast to the Lasses and I did the reply. It was a good laugh and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Back to the Chamber on Thursday morning and a question on student debt. I also had a couple of meetings, attended the launch of a project called “sustainability” by Leonard Cheshire, and attempted to clear some of my e-mails. Before I knew it, it was time to leave for the airport.

It doesn’t look like I will be leaving the office at all on Friday, with surgeries pencilled in all day and then, in the evening, my meeting with constituents about the Equitable Life compensation scheme.

Another very busy week which included this zinger against the SNP on the question of student debt (emphasis mine):

While defaulting on their loan is always difficult for any student, may I advise my right hon. Friend not to go down the same route as in Scotland, where one political party promised that it would write off all student debt? It got elected and discovered that it could not do that, and that there is no such quick fix. [Hon. Members: "Which party?] It was the Scottish National party. Students voted believing it was going to deliver on that promise, but it turned out to be a mirage. Can I get the assurance that this Government will not give such false hope to students?

Anne Begg again showed this week her dedication to equality. Equal pay which she raised a question about in the house has also recently been an issue in the US, with Obama showing his dedication to equality.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Plan Bee

The Co-operative is launching a new campaign this year to spotlight a worrying environmental problem. The disappearance of bees worldwide:

We know that bees produce very lovely honey from nectar, but, more importantly, they pollinate fruit and vegetables – a third of the food we eat in fact.

Bees visit flowering plants to collect their nectar. As they move from plant to plant, pollen is picked up on their fur and deposited on other plants in the process, fertilising them.

To address the disturbing issue of bees dying out, The
Co-operative has launched Plan Bee.

To find out more or get involved, click on the links below:

* Bees: What you need to know
* What you can do to help bees
* Plan Bee: what The Co-operative is doing for bees
* Bee involved: sign-up to our campaign group

It's an interesting issues which I think not a lot of people know about, or if they do know something about it they don't realise the significance of the problem. The Co-operative group is having a film screening of the film Plan Bee in Aberdeen:

For non-Aberdonians there is a list of dates here(pdf).

Date: Friday 13 February 7pm-9pm

Location: The Linklater Rooms, Kings College, University of Aberdeen

Event: Plan Bee

Description: We'll be unveiling our brand new campaign, Plan Bee, and screening a stunning new film, never before shown in the UK, on the plight of the bee.

Bees are dying, in worryingly large numbers, and no one knows for certain why. Last year, in the UK alone, one in three hives was lost. It's a global problem that concerns us all; bees pollinate over a third of the food we eat. Our campaign will address the question of why bees are dying in such large numbers and what we can all do about it.

We've secured the rights to a new film about the shocking disappearance of bee colonies around the world and you can be amongst the first in the UK to see it. Come and learn more about the fascinationg life of bees, the crucial role that bees play and what might be causing these sudden losses.

Following the film you'll have the opportunity to find out more about bee-friendly gardening and collect some free wildflower seeds to sow in your garden or window box.

Event Dates Description: We expect these events to be popular so please reserve your free place(s) early to avoid disappointment. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.