Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tories sing from "same hymn sheet" as BNP

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

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

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

Compassionate , caring Conservatives? You are having a laugh!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The aparthied jolly that cost Cameron his image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anne Begg's Week

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


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


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

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

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The heir to BJ

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

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

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

Friday, 24 April 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 20 April 2009

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

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

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

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

Friday, 17 April 2009

AGM - Your chance to seize power!!!!

The CLub Secretary had this announcement to make:

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

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

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

Agenda

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

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

Executive Members

Chair
Vice-Chair
Secretary
Treasurer
Women's Office
Campaigns Officer
First Year Officer
Press Officer.

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

Disability Officer
BME Officer
LGBT Officer.

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

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

Yours in comradeship

The Secretary

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

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

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

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

Unfortunately...

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


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

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The stench of hypocrisy

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Would that be good for Britain?

No.

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

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

Maybe because you have nothing to say?

Monday, 13 April 2009

Michael White vs Guido Fawkes

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

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Does the Structuration theory help explain the Credit Crunch?

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

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

I saw a person being arrested for stealing books today

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

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

Monday, 6 April 2009

“the PES is the party of gender equality”

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

From the F-Word blog:

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

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

Superficiality

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

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

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