Thursday, 20 November 2008

Invisible Labour!

Debating at Glasgow University Student Debating Society tonight was a real fun experience.

The SNP, Lib Dems and event the SSP sent along Party representatives to put forward their own and their parties views on issues ranging from President Elect Obama to whether Scotland would be better off being independent while ceding power to the EU than it is part of the Union with power ceded to Westminster.

The one thing missing from tonight was , you may have noticed, the Labour Party. Despite being contacted time and again by organisers to arrange for them to be represented not one reply, even of acknowledgement, was forthcoming from a Party that is clearly no longer in touch with public concern.

I thoroughly enjoyed pitting my wits against some decent people prepared to be held to account by the public who they hope will elect them. It's only a pity the UK's governing Party don't believe they should be subjected to the same sort of interrogation so they can be held accountable for their actions!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Cameron speaks Direct to East Renfrewshire

Watching David Cameron speak to 187 East Renfrewshire residents at the Carmichael Hall yesterday was a truly uplifting experience.

Without notes, David fielded questions from an audience made up largely of people who returned my recent constituency survey and who identified themselves as undecided voters, (oh and my Mum and Dad). Our audience included school children from across the constituency as well as a number of pensioners who had put the cost of living and fuel poverty as their top priority in their survey returns.

With questions including those best described as hostile, I am sure no one left able to accuse David of ducking a question or lacking substance. I am not sure that everyone got the answers they were necessarily looking for but I am sure they got the truth.

One moment of fun came in the form of a request rather than a question with a young man who came along with his father asked David to call his mother and wish her a "happy birthday", although he refused to divulge which birthday. As it happens I was with David later in the evening at dinner and he took time out between the starter and main course to call this lady and to wish her a happy birthday. I hope that made her day!

Bringing politics back to ordinary people is something I am sure would be welcomed by most local residents if they genuinely believed it was sincere. Yesterday I watched a man who believes in democracy and who is not scared to let people test his principles or his resolve. Cameron Direct is a blueprint for politics of the people in the 21st century and I am delighted David brought it to East Renfrewshire and proved its worth!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Basic Arithmetic Tells You These Numbers Don't Add Up!

Unemployment in Scotland rose by 19,000 in the last quarter, according to the governments preferred measure, to 124,000. But here's where you see, yet again, why the public mistrust government statistics so much.

On the same quarter last year today's figures represent an increase of 2,000 on the corresponding unemployment figure for last year and yet the governments own statistics for the number of people employed in Scotland fell by 10,000 over the corresponding period.

While depopulation, an increase to the number of people retiring and some people going back to retrain may account for some of this difference so many of us have anecdotal stories to tell of family, friends and friends of friends who have lost their job in Scotland as our economy falls into recession and this yet again reinforces the old adage - "lies damn lies and statistics".

The cheery words of our Secretary of State for Scotland, designed I am sure to reassure us that we have little to worry about, simply do not cut it when you have a mortgage to pay and can see the prospect of unemployment on the horizon. It is time for government to set ordinary businesses free to create prosperity and secure jobs by giving them an amnesty on red tape and cutting business taxes so that they have money to invest in their employees.

UK Plc is perfectly capable of making a go of things in difficult times if government leave us alone and give us the tools to do so!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

New Secretary of State - Same Old Labour!

I am sure Jim Murphy's promotion to Secretary of State for Scotland is a reward for his loyalty to a Party and a Government that has let East Renfrewshire, Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom down.

Mr Murphy has long been an integral part of this Labour government, but that has not prevented his constituents in East Renfrewshire suffering in the same way as the rest of our country. Hard pressed local families and individuals are being taxed as never before at the very same time as government policy, conceived and delivered by his boss, hits them hardest.

I look forward to continuing to campaign against Mr. Murphy and to seeing how he intends to defend Labour’s record of failure. Scotland has a long tradition of booting our its Secretary of State for Scotland at the ballot box and I intend to make sure this continues by letting the people of East Renfrewshire know just exactly what a David Cameron Conservative government will do for them - in contrast to the prospect of more of the same from the Labour government who got us into this mess!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Tackling The Scourge Of Drugs

Today's announcement that Police in Scotland have seized more than £20 million of drugs over the past 12 months and arrested 49 of our most "serious and dangerous" criminals is most welcome.

Combine the success of our Police with our new drugs strategy based on abstinence, adopted by the Scottish Executive after it was first advocated and then demanded by Annabel Goldie MSP, and you have the start of a process I believe will radically alter the publics perception of politicians attitude to tackling illegal drug use and abuse.

Not before time too. We must be seen to be coming down hard on the criminals who push drugs onto the vulnerable and at the same time to be offering a positive option to those who seek to get themselves off drugs once and for all. With a little bit of luck and faith in our people, I am sure we are about to see an end to the drugs culture in Scotland that has been so damaging to communities over recent years!

Saturday, 20 September 2008


With all the doom and gloom in our economy and the troubles of the Prime Minister and his Government it is all to easy to forget the things that really matter. On every level - family, friends and the well being of local people are all far more important that the machinations of political parties.

The death of a Enya Doohan from Clarkston, to a mystery illness, at just 5 years of age, gives me a sense of perspective and ones heart can only go out to the family and friends of a little girls described as 'delightful' by her school.

Politics is important but not as important as life itself and I think we would all do well to remember that!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Loss Of Bank Of Scotland Is A Travesty!

I believe in the free market and in the right of individuals to work hard and to prosper as a result of their hard work. But the shenanigans surrounding the purchase of Halifax Bank of Scotland by Lloyd's TSB leave me thinking our Government and their financial regulatory structures leave a lot to be desired.

Today we discovered that Gordon Brown personally knew that HBoS was in talks to be bought out by Lloyd's TSB a week ago and took personal control of ensuring the regulatory authorities approved the purchase given the current economic climate and despite potential monopolies concerns.

Knowing all this the Prime Minister then did nothing to stop the run on the banks shares over the past few days even though he knew there was no cause for concern about the banks liquidity. This means he knew that those attacking HBoS shares were doing so in order to make large "personal" financial gains and given the coordinated and sustained nature of trading he must have suspected there may have been an element of insider knowledge attached to these sales.

The loss of the Bank of Scotland brand from UK high streets and to Scotland's corporate and social life is a disaster. Scotland's second largest company had the right to expect our Government would protect them from unwarranted attack, but Government and its regulators let HBoS down. It's time for a Government who believes in protecting our great Institutions and that ensures fairness across our economy - clearly that rules the current Government out!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Sarah Palin - Superstar!

The emergence of Sarah Palin as the invigorating force in the Republican campaign for President of the United States of America is as welcome as it was surprising. For too long I think we all expected Barack Obama to walk to victory as he portrayed John McCain as another 4 years of failed Bush administration policies and McCain appeared incapable of repelling such suggestions for fear of alienating his Party's core support.

Today we find swing State after swing State warming to the McCain-Palin ticket as it expresses a desire to win and to bring change to Washington by presenting two politicians who have in their own way and fields already affected proper change in their jurisdictions.

And the reaction from the Obama campaign? To engage in the sort of negative campaign techniques that many thought he stood against and was more likely to be subject to than an advocate of.

So it's clearly game on in the race to become the 44th President of the United States of America and so much the better for all those sad political hacks, (like me), who will be glued to every press statement, opinion poll and results programme from now till 5th November!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Whose To Blame For The Condition Of Scottish Prisons?

Would you believe it!

Having suffered 11 years of Labour blaming their predecessor Conservative administration for absolutely everything that is wrong in Scotland, and across the UK, would you believe it, now the SNP are lining up to do the same.

Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, reckons it is down to the last Conservative government that our jails are in "a dire state". Apparently the Labour government that filled in the gap between Conservative and SNP governance of Scotland are not to blame for failing to invest into prisons during their time in office, or indeed for having stopped Conservative investment plans on coming to power in 1997.

Give us a break Kenny and stop looking for an excuse to point fingers at the Conservatives for spurious reasons. If you're not up to the job of sorting our Scotland's jails let us know and we'll happily take over and show you how its done!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Back To The Future with the Scottish Futures Trust

Yesterdays announcement by John Swinney that he intends to fund all future public infrastructure projects with a new Scottish Futures Trust, to replace PFI and PPP, is at first glance to be welcomed. The trouble is that on deeper analysis it is clear there is no detail to his proposal and that the sole purpose of changing the method of funding is to prevent private companies from making profit.

The reality is that the public sector does not have construction divisions capable of building anything of significance and as a result if we want schools, hospitals and roads built we need to engage the private sector to deliver for Scotland.

Private sector companies will not, of course, work for no profit and will have to do one of two things if they are to satisfy Mr Swinney's criteria of "not for profit" build.

Either they will price jobs to show no profit by wildly inflating the cost of every item in a tender or they will all seek to act as subcontractors to a main contractor who makes no profit, while they make profits in the usual way. In other words the main contractor charges what they are charged by their subcontractors, not a penny more and not a penny less, but the subcontractors charge in the traditional way that has enabled them to make profits under PFI and PPP.

The uncertainty we face in the short term is very unhelpful, particularly when we desperately need new Barrhead and Eastwood High Schools. Yesterdays announcement is, therefore, a matter of regret and the message from East Renfrewshire must be "give us some certainty Mr Swinney and we will get on with making life better for the people who live here"!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Justice Must Serve Society!

With Barlinnie full to bursting, SNP Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill is suggesting we put prisoners out to work on major infrastructure projects, including build programmes associated with the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Restorative justice is something I would normally support, however I suspect today's announcement has more to do with a complete failure to deal with prisoner numbers and not a tough new approach to what criminals should be required to do to pay for their crimes against society.

I believe criminals should be put to work for the communities they have offended, but nor if this puts people into communities who fear their involvement. Building sites can be dangerous places with dangerous tools and equipment and the thought of letting prisoners out on day release with access to potential weapons is something we need to guard against.

If this proposal is indeed about finding ways to reduce the prison population I have news for Mr MacAskill. The Scottish people want its government to stand up for them and to build new prisons if that is what it takes to make prison a deterrent to crime.

Court sentences should mean what they say! One year should mean you serve one year; Life should mean you serve life etc. And if this means prisoner numbers rise in the short term as we keep dangerous people incarcerated while we educate them not to re-offend then we should build the prisons necessary to keep our law abiding majority safe.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Give Us A Break Gordon!

Today's newspapers are full of the Prime Minister promising to tackle the countries big problems in the same way as he has overcome big challenges in his own personal life.

No one has more admiration for the way Gordon Brown has tackled his partial blindness than me. As someone who was so active in sport at a young age the loss of sight in one eye and the partial loss of sight in the other must have been devastating. It takes someone of particular character and courage to be able to put this aside and battle to achieve in other fields and Gordon Brown's achievements, both academic and political, speak for themselves.

Nevertheless to be making claims of preparedness to take action in tough economic times and to be feeling our pain leave us with one big question. Where have you and your government been for the past 12 months?

The 10p tax debacle was of your doing, the credit crunch and failure to deal properly with Northern Rock was of your doing and the fact that inflation is crippling households and need an interest rate rise when the housing market needs an interest rate cut is of your doing.

It is very admirable to give us kind words and big promises but it you do want to help us there is something you could do for us NOW - CALL AN ELECTION!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Local Income Tax - A Disincentive To Work Hard And Do Well!

The SNP's proposed abolition of Council Tax to be replaced by a Local Income Tax is quite simply another disincentive to work hard and do well.

No one likes paying tax, unless they have to, but today's proposal by the Scottish Executive to pay for local services based on a supposed ability to pay means that, for the same Council services, two households beside one another might be faced with one paying nothing for their bins to be picked up, their streets to be lit and their libraries to be open while their next door neighbours pay £3,000 a year to receive the exact same services, based on a combined household income of £100,000.

And this of course assumes that the 3 pence in the every pound level mooted by the SNP is actually sustainable. Glasgow City Council calculates that at 3% a Local Income Tax would leave them with a shortfall of £133 million on current budgets - in other words to maintain current expenditure Local Income Tax would have to increase by 50% to 4.5%. Here, in East Renfrewshire, I believe that with our extremely high percentage of population that is either old or young our expenditure, in what is a relatively small local authority, is pretty big per head of population and we too would have to seek to raise the level of Local Income Tax just to be able to maintain the standard of our schools and other services.

And whenever you raise a tax on a regional basis you also find a large number of people who seek to avoid paying that tax. For example, with Corporation Tax in the UK higher than that in the Republic of Ireland a number of large companies have moved their head offices from London to Dublin to take advantage of the tax break this provides. In the case of Local Income Tax, I wonder how many people will register for tax purposes in England, Wales or Northern Ireland to avoid paying a Scottish Local Income Tax were it to be introduced.

In summary, the SNP's Local Income Tax proposal is poorly thought through, will lead to inequities in payment for local services in local communities and will undoubtedly not be paid by those who can afford to find ways of avoiding it. All this would be damaging to the social cohesion of Scotland and potential ruinous to our economy. That is why we must all oppose its introduction and leave no stone unturned until it is consigned to the political scrapheap.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Emergency Housing Measures A Waste Of Time

The CBI describe them as "largely symbolic". The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors say "the Government has failed to listen to the property industry". The Council of Mortgage Lenders say "it is questionable whether it will incentivise buyers who wouldn't have entered the market anyway". And senior figures in the property industry call them "a political sticking plaster" that won't make "one iota of difference".

So why has the Government rushed through a £1.6 billion package of measures for the housing industry that no one seems to think really address the route cause of the current housing downturn?

Quite simply, it is because they don't understand the reasons for the current downturn and have insufficient funds left in the pot to really help out now we are experiencing 'a rainy day'.

And the one thing missing from yesterdays announcement? How are Chancellor Alastair Darling and Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposing to pay for this state handout? The mind boggles when you consider the irresponsibility of it all!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Cervical Cancer Vaccination Programme A Welcome Event

There is nothing worse than hearing a loved one has cancer, particularly when the technology exists to stop it taking hold.

Yesterday, Abronhill High in Cumbernauld made history by becoming the first Scottish school to administer the new Cervarix vaccine to 90 girls, as part of a UK-wide programme that will see 90,000 young girls receive the vaccination this month.

The jab works by targeting the human papilloma virus, the virus that causes about 70% of cases of cervical cancer that kills more than 1,000 women in the UK each year.

This is the first mass anti-cancer vaccination programme in UK medical history and a great day to celebrate the advances in medical research we too often take for granted. As schools across the UK go back over the next 4 or 5 weeks we should all take great pride in the investment made to develop treatments that protect us from illness as well as those that help cure us if we fall ill.
So thank you to all those in our National Health Service and medical research laboratories who are doing so much to help keep us safe!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Worst Crisis For 60 Years Or Our Biggest Opportunity?

So, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling, reckons we are facing the worst economic downturn for 60 years and questions how ordinary British people will react to the tough times ahead?

I have news for Mr Darling and his Labour Government!

We, the British people, are a resilient lot and will do everything we can to exit the difficult times we face bigger, better and more wealthy than we are as we enter into the tough times Labour condemn us to.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Zoom Doom!

With thousands of Brits stuck abroad and thousands of Canadians stuck in the UK, following the collapse of low cost airline Zoom, it appears there is little hope for many more airlines in the current economic crisis.

The business model of low cost carriers is fundamentally reliant on the price of fuel and it appears most budgeted this year based on the cost of a barrel of oil not rising above $80 a barrel. When the cost of fuel rose above $100 a barrel things looked bleak but as it rose further still, to more than $140 a barrel at one point, 26 airlines have found it impossible to stave off the inevitable and have gone out of business.

Everyone likes a bargain but you know what they say - "if something looks too good to be true it usually is". Low cost airlines may seem attractive with low fares on desirable routes but the truth is they take huge gambles on what the trading conditions of the day will be months in advance and those buying tickets early, at the cheapest rates, leave low cost carrier airline hugely exposed to unacceptable business risk.

Thousands of people will soon return to recount stories of woe. They will tell us there is no obligation for an airline that has gone under to provide them with any help, any food or any accommodation. Those with travel insurance will get home without any additional cost and those without will be left considerably out of pocket just to get back to their port of dispatch. It almost makes you grateful for British Airways and their full fare service, doesn't it!

Congratulations Barack!

Barack Obama made history last night, when he became the first black man to accept the Democratic Party nomination to contest the Presidency of the United States of America.

45 years to the day after Martin Luther King challenged Americans to embrace his "dream" of equality, Senator Obama urged his country to accept change and outlined a radically different vision as to for how America would conduct its affairs were he to win the elections on 4th November 2008.

Last night was not only an historic moment for the United States of America. As the largest democracy in the recognised free world, (aka the West), America made history for the world by showing the democracy rewards ability regardless of age, sex, religion or indeed colour.

What Senator Barack Obama represented to the world last night is something everyone should embrace - HOPE! Congratulations Senator Obama, we look forward to hearing you articulate your vision for change as your campaign progresses. Your only challenge now is to ensure there is substance to your claims.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Ping Pong's Coming Home!

Only Boris Johnson could represent London as he did tonight! The Beijing Olympics closed with a truly stunning closing ceremony to rival its Opening Ceremony - and all after a truly stunning Olympic Games for British sport.

Finishing fourth on the medals table, behind China, the USA and Russia, proves that our investment into sport through the National Lottery is both productive and worthwhile. Our sporting men and women became heroes for young and old alike and return with a haul of gold, silver and bronze beyond our wildest dreams on the 8th of the 8th 2008.

Even tonight the British played a massive part in the success of these Games. Our contribution to the Closing Ceremony let no one down and showed that the London Organising Committee have a distinctive concept as to how our Games will be staged.

Leona Lewis, David Beckham and Boris Johnson all represented the very best of British tonight and showed we can live up to the honours of hosting the Olympic Games.

Well done Team GB. Here's to 2012!

Saturday, 23 August 2008

If You Mess Up Big You Should Suffer The Consequencies!

The private contractor who lost personal data on thousands of criminals should be sacked!

It is that simple, and yet Jacqui Smith and her Labour government are dithering, yet again, over a tough decision they should be taking as a matter of course.

The contractor who lost this data broke the rules on security of data and yet they continue to be paid vast sums. They are contractors on major projects involving the most sensitive of personal data, including the introduction of ID cards and biometric passports and are being paid millions in return. In other words they are now being rewarded for incompetence!

I don't believe this is fair and I don't believe this government is capable of taking the tough decisions our country needs at this time of uncertainty. The sooner we get a General Election and rid ourselves of this dreadful lot the better!

Friday, 22 August 2008

No Growth And No Hope Without A Change Of Government

Today's announcement that the UK economy failed to grow for the first time in 63 consecutive quarters confirmed what most of us already knew and feared - a full scale UK recession is now inevitable.

And what has been the response of our government? Absolutely nothing - just complete silence.

Now some say ignorance is bliss and silence golden. In this particular instance nothing could be further from the truth. Business needs to know that government is on their side and that they are following a recovery plan that will help them out of tough times.

Tonight the UK economy and its business leaders are no wiser than they were before the news of 0% growth in the last quarter for our economy and must fear that there is no plan and no prospect of any help from government

So, it's time for a change of government and to bring hope to our economy. Britain deserves better and it deserves the best. In George Osborne the Conservative Party have the best man for the job of Chancellor and that is why we need an election now!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Are Unions Set To Wreck Scotland?

With Unison having brought much of Scotland's local authority public sector to its knees yesterday, with a one day strike over the pay settlement offered by COSLA, it appears to me that Scotland's Unions are attempting to unsettle the governance of Scotland in a cynical attempt to bolster the Labour Party they are inextricably linked to.

Both Cathy Jamieson and Iain Gray, who are fighting for leadership of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, turned out on picket lines to profess their support for those on strike. Unison, in turn, promised more misery for us all with a "rolling programme" of industrial action unless their inflation busting pay demands are met.

While I am no supporter or apologist for the SNP Scottish Executive I do think that the current public sector strike action is a Labour Party motivated plot designed to unsettle the governance of Scotland now that this isn't the sole preserve of Scottish Labour. It suits the Labour Party to have strike action that takes the political spotlight off the internal machinations and which provokes a thought process that a large section of Scotland's workforce are unsettled under a different administration.

So the message to Unison and Scottish Labour is we are on to your scam and are resolved to take Scotland forward in a positive fashion, not look to you for divine intervention. Scotland is a nation with hope for the future and you did nothing during your dominance of Scotland's political establishment to provide us with anything other than despair.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Our Shame!

The debacle that is trying to get Gary Glitter back to the UK and under strict control is rapidly becoming a stain on our countries good name throughout the world.

Glitter apparently wants to come back to the UK because he wants free treatment from our National Health Service for a heart condition, but he doesn't want to enter the country on our terms - preferring instead to seek to enter at his leisure. Our Home Secretary also apparently wants him back in the country to show us all her Government is capable of controlling people with vile personal preferences.

Around the world people must be asking why the British government was not able to plan getting Glitter back to the UK on his release from prison. It isn't as if we didn't know where he was for the past 3 years, (jail), and it isn't as if we couldn't have asked the Vietnamese government to give us a bit of advanced warning of his release to ensure we assisted them to deport this criminal from their land.

On his return to the country you would also have thought our Government would have made provision to force him into the maximum level of supervision possible under our law. Unfortunately this foresight does not exist in British government. Apparently Glitter has not posed a threat to children within the past 6 months because he has been in jail and as a result we cannot put him into the highest category of sex offender management. Instead he will simply be put onto the sex offenders register and will have to abide by standard offender management arrangements.

As I always say, if something is foreseeable it is avoidable. Gary Glitter should have been brought straight back to the UK and any loophole that enables him to avoid proper management of him in this country should have been closed. Our children deserve proper protection from this vile man and anything less than our best endeavours to ensure this is simply not good enough!

Monday, 18 August 2008

All Work And No Play!

The Bank of Scotland's study of small businesses, released today, suggests that Scotland's small businesses work the longest hours in the UK and are preparing for the credit crunch by gearing up to work even harder! Not that this comes as any surprise to those of us in business.

All too often we forget just how hard our fellow Scots work and fail to recognise that the work ethic our upbringing instills in our workforce stands us in good stead for the challenges life throws up from time to time.

While our public sector workers form an essential part of our way of life it is our private sector who create the new wealth required to pay for investment into services and that ensures our country is able to maintain the highest standards of living.

So, today's figures should provide us all with a sense of comfort that the entrepreneurial spirit of Scotland lives on in our business community and that we will work our way through the toughest of times thanks to our nations spirit!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

It's Time To Isolate Russia And To Deny Them Our Currency!

With the news that Russia is arming is Baltic fleet with nuclear warheads, for the first time since the end of the cold war, we should all sit up and take notice!

The reemergence of Russia as a military superpower is a terrifying development, particularly as it is funded by the West's purchase of their oil and gas. In other words we are paying for massive investment into nuclear technology designed to eradicate our way of life!

This is simply ludicrous! Despite the potentially massive impact onto our way of life it may have, we must stop purchasing oil, gas and other raw materials from Russia, directly or indirectly, in order to deny them the currency they require to continue the enlargement of the military they now threaten us with. We must get the message through to ordinary Russian's that we are happy to trade with them and to help them to prosper but not if they in return use our money to threaten us with obliteration!

In times of war the people of Britain have always been prepared to make sacrifices in order to ensure the maintenance of our way of life. Our refusal to purchase Russian fuel would probably mean tough times ahead, with power cuts and insufficient gas pressure available to heat households both possible. Nevertheless we must hit Russia where it hurts before they hit us with lethal force. Europe has been peaceful and successful for years without the threat of nuclear war and that is how it must remain!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Is Beauty Only Skin Deep In Beijing?

The Opening Ceremony at this years Olympic Games was truly something to behold - even if some of the fire works were CGI and not real! The one truly disturbing factor for the Games Committee is that organisers felt it necessary to put a child model onto stage to replace the wonderfully talented singer of the words going out over the public address system because she was not attractive enough.

The angelic voice of Yang Peiyi, (pictured on the right), enhanced the wonderful visual display put on by Chinese authorities to herald the opening of their Olympics. The young girl in the red dress put forward as the singer of "Hymn to the Motherland", Lin Miaoke (pictured on the left), added nothing to this visual display even though I am sure many people sitting at home across the globe probably commented on how cute she looked.
It's time China grew up and started acting responsibly. We want a games where we see the talent of its nation and how effective they can be as organisers of an event that promotes harmony amongst the people of the world.
Yang Peiyi is a true Chinese star and someone their whole country can be proud of for her hard work at the Olympics. Let's hope her country recognises and honours her accordingly!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Families Bear The Brunt Of Labour Economic Failure

Today's announcement that the Governments preferred measure of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index, now sits at 4.4%, more than double its target rate, is a disaster for hard working families and those who can least afford big increases in their cost of living given the latest increase is driven by a record surge in supermarket food prices.

CPI inflation is now at its highest figure since 1997 and double its figure in January, while the Retail Price Index - including housing costs - rose to hit 5%, its highest level for at least 17 years.
The Office of National Statistics confirms food inflation alone has spiralled to a CPI record 13.7% year-on-year, a massive jump from its 10.6% level in June. It appears this was principally due to a rise in meat costs, particularly bacon, ham and poultry. Meat prices rose 16.3% year-on-year, up from the 11.2% recorded in June.
Essentials like breads and cereals saw an increase of 15.9% on the year. Vegetables, including my favourite potatoes, shot up to 11.1% up from 7.4%.

The Office of National Statistics believe someone spending £100 a week on food last year, will have to find another £712 this year to put the same items on the table. The Daily Mail's 'Cost of Living Index', which looks at a smaller basket of shopping basket essentials, now suggests they have increase by 25% over the past year, equating to a whopping £1,300 extra this year.
If people can't afford food we are condemning our population to complete poverty and that simply isn't acceptable for any country let alone one of the wealthiest on the planet. To tackle this we must offer fuel tax cuts to our hauliers and ensure our supermarkets are not profiteering from our people.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Misery For Both Sides Of The Old Firm!

Football is a "funny old game" and the misery of fans manifests itself in many ways.

Tonight we learn that, last night, one Celtic player was assaulted and another arrested at a Glasgow Nightclub and that Rangers are to sell their best player to the English Premiership - and to none other than, former Celtic Manager, Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa.

Living in a household with split loyalties the sense of despair felt in our house is tangible. Firstly why can't extremely well paid football stars not keep themselves out of trouble in our City Centre and secondly why would Rangers sell their best player when their fans are already despondent about their early season form.

Having worked for a football club I know the provocation players face from the mindless fans of opposition clubs. There is no excuse, however, for them not avoiding conflict by surrounding themselves with an entourage who remove them from trouble hot spots or simply by walking away and leaving places where there is a threat. You don't see players from the better controlled Premiership clubs in fights or under arrest because they make it their business to know where their players are and to ensure their safety at all times!

Football truly is a funny old game and one most of Glasgow love to follow. If the Old Firm clubs and their players don't shape up and start behaving themselves it will be them who suffer in the pocket as we, the fans, desert them in our droves in search of better role models to adore.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

What To Do About Georgia?

The end of the Cold War was supposed to herald a new era of peace for Europe. We found ourselves in a world where the Russian Federation was reliant on international aide to help its people pull themselves out of poverty and a large number of eastern European countries looked to western Europe as its chosen partners in a free and fair trading world.

Having relied on our aide to improve the lot of its people, Russia suddenly discovered just how rich in natural resources it is in a world where raw materials, particularly oil and gas, are very often better than hard currency. With this realisation it has reemerged as a world superpower.

Russia has rearmed its armed forces with the very best equipment money can buy and has vastly increased their numbers - back to cold war proportions. It has become aggressive in the way it deals with its neighbours, particularly those who look to the west for protection, making them pay a heavy economic price for commodities.

And now we find that Russia is prepared to attack, with lethal force, neighbouring countries who have internal regions who look to Russia as a historic ally when the rest of the country looks to the West as its future.

Georgia has made it clear they see their future as part of the European Union. Its internationally recognised boundaries include the region of South Ossetia, who are in dispute with this national policy as they see their historic link as being loyal to Russia. In recent years the South Ossetian regional administration and the Georgian government have conflicted over the future of their region, with South Ossetia seeking independence and closer ties with Russia.

The Georgian government believe South Ossetia is a sovereign part of Georgia and set about reestablishing their grip on power in their country by sending in Georgian armed forces to a part of their country - only to be faced by an invading Russian army determined to see South Ossetia given both independence.

And what is the international communities answer to an attack by Russia on a sovereign nation state? Quite simply we verbally condemn their action but appear unwilling, or unable, to do anything about it!

Tonight we find that Russia has blown up, and sunk, a Georgian missile ship and continues with air strike in Georgia far beyond the boundaries of South Ossetia. It appears Russia is determined to destroy Georgia and ensure its supremacy in the region is reestablished by demonstrating its ability to deliver overwhelming force to anyone prepared to frustrate its will.

So tonight it becomes clear the international community is impotent in the face of Russian military might and that Gordon Brown and his government are truly on holiday from everything, including any ability to demonstrate leadership on the international stage.

I believe the United Kingdom should send a Royal Navy task force to ensure Georgia is able to receive goods by sea and that we should offer our Royal Air Force to protect Georgian international airspace from incursions by Russian military planes. If the Russians engage with us they are engaging with a NATO signatory and we will embarrass the Bush administration into getting off their back sides in Beijing and helping the people of Georgia who gave him a hero's reception when he toured their country. President Bush promised the USA would preserve the integrity of Georgia and is failing its people every second he delays in stopping Russia's aggression.

Too many civilians have died as a result of Russia's aggression and this has to stop now. I say the UK should show a lead on the international stage and not wait for a bigger world power. Too much is at stake and too many peoples lives depend on us now!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Will The Olympics Be Free And Fair?

The Union Flag was raised today in Beijing's Olympic Park. With the Olympic Games now less than 3 days away, every news channel is full of stories about China, the preparation of athlete's from across the world and speculation about whether the ideals of Olympic Games can be delivered in one of the most secretive State's on the planet.

The Olympic movement stands for everything that ordinary human beings wish our planet to achieve. Freedom to express ourselves, excellence in everything we do and the ability of every participant - no matter your colour, creed or relative wealth - to be treated equally.

The challenge for China throughout the Games is two fold. Firstly they must show that China understands that it now benefits from freedom to trade with the rest of the civilised world and that in return it must act as a responsible partner by preserving the human rights of its people.
We don't need the Chinese government to jump through hoops or to betray their history. What we need them to do is to ensure that their people, (who supply so much of what we consume in the West), are treated fairly, that their companies conform to basic levels of social corporate responsibility and that the economic development policies they pursue allow our planet to have a sustainable future.

The second thing we require of the Beijing Olympic Games is that the athletes competing are able to do so on a level playing field. Drugs cheats, even their own, must be weeded out and denied any medal joy. Athletes from around the world must be also able to compete in acceptable air quality, so that they are not disadvantaged by having to compete in an atmosphere they could not possibly be used to.

And finally, every athlete must be treated equally. I am horrified to hear that the British Olympic Association have made arrangements for our athletes to have better equipped rooms than the standard rooms given to athletes from poorer nations by throwing money at Games organisers. Every athlete should be able to pick from a menu of equipment for rooms and the host country, as organisers, should be required to bear the cost of this to ensure the Olympics truly are Games of an even playing field and not Games where those with the most money can buy their way to small advantages.

I am in no doubt that British athlete will win more than our fair share of medals thanks to our investment, in this country, into elite sport. I am equally sure our athletes would want to see opponents from poorer nations afforded the same living conditions as they will enjoy to show that the medals they win are won on talent, dedication and preparation alone.

So, in brief, China and Beijing have a lot to prove over the next few weeks. The Olympic Games, and the Para Olympics that follow them, mean the world's attention is focused on China as a nation and how they treat athlete, journalist and spectator. They have a lot to live up to and a lot to lose. I hope China will prove its doubters and detractors wrong and show us a willingness to deliver and perform to the Olympic ideals. Only time will tell if I am right!

A British Winner In An International World

During Wimbledon I wrote about Andy Murray's need to keep on winning if he wanted to make Britain proud of his achievements when everyone else was writing he needed to smile more to become a national hero.

By winning the Cincinnati Masters last night, (a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Novak Djokovic), Andy proved himself a winner of the very biggest grade of tournament on the planet short of a Grand Slam and someone the whole of Great Britain can be proud of at a time when we have very little to be thankful for.

With the Olympics and the US Open to look forward to over the coming month I don't expect to see a smiling Andy Murray on the international stage, nor do I want to see that. What I and the whole of the country want is gold medals and a British Grand Slam champion and if Andy can deliver that he can be as sultry as he wants with our blessing!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Why Our Energy Does Not Need Another Tax!

If reports in this weekends newspapers are to be believed, we should expect a windfall tax on our energy companies in the very near future.

While the need to help those who will not be able to heat their houses this winter due to the price increases announced by our utility companies is not in doubt, the method of helping those most in need is something our Labour Government must ensure does not leave the rest of society paying dearly for.

Any windfall tax on gas and electricity companies will, over time, be borne by those of us who pay their bills. This may not appear as an immediate burden in our bills but we can all be assured that over time these companies will find ways to pass the burden of their taxation onto us all.

With so many people already being forced into fuel poverty by government inaction in the face of international commodity price rises the answer is surely not to lift people in fuel poverty out of this categorisation only to put those just above the current measure into fuel poverty as gas and electricity prices rise to pay for their windfall tax!
The two simple and easy ways for Government to help control energy prices in the UK are to introduce a fuel price escalator, as already proposed by Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, and to work with the energy industry on long term energy security for the UK in order that our gas and electricity companies can depreciate their capital projects over the medium to long terms - enabling them to reduce this cost to their balance sheet and in turn the price we pay them today.

So my message to Gordon Brown and his government is don't make the same mistake you made with the pensions industry, which ruined a UK industry once considered the best in the world, by introducing a windfall tax on our energy companies. Instead make it clear that our gas and electricity companies are vital to the UK's strategic national interest and will be supported by government with a view to energy security for an island nation currently reliant on massive imports of material and energy to survive.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Milliband For Chancellor?

This time of year is commonly known as 'silly season' when it comes to the political news stories national media outlets are prepared to run.

Tonight a contributor to BBC Radio Five Live 'flew a kite' suggesting David Milliband will be promoted, in an imminent Gordon Brown cabinet reshuffle, to the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer. The principle rationale given is the old adage that in politics you "keep your friends close and your enemies closer".

Asked to give a couple of other reasons for this promotion the contributor responded that with the economy disappearing down a hole the post of Chancellor is possibly the worst job in cabinet, "a thankless task", and that being in the second most important job in British politics makes it difficult to launch any leadership bid without damaging yourself by being portrayed as treacherous and disloyal.

Whether Gordon Brown is Machiavellian enough to promote David Milliband to Chancellor remains to be seen. What is clear is that if he were to do nothing with/to Mr Milliband in the event of a reshuffle he will be portrayed as weak and this would strengthen the hand of those who accuse him of dithering and not being decisive enough.

Who would be an unelected, 3rd term, Labour Prime Minister, eh?

Friday, 1 August 2008

More Violence Disrupts Our Community

It is becoming almost the norm to pick up the Glasgow South & Eastwood Extra and to find yourself confronted by yet another tale of violent crime in once peaceful East Renfrewshire.

This weeks edition, (July 31st 2008), details two serious assaults in the Thornliebank area over the course of the past week. In the more serious of the two incidents the victim remains in a stable condition at the Southern General Hospital and police are asking residents to come forward with information because they "would have heard the disturbance or the car driving off at high speed".

The thing that really strikes me about this report is that police believe local residents have information they are apparently not willing to volunteer. This is something that somehow does not seem surprising in today's society and yet in years gone by the thought of not doing ones public duty, by coming forward to give vital evidence to the police, would have seemed ridiculous.

So, how do we ensure our police and local communities become closer to one another? I believe this is as simple as continuous 'dialogue' and making the Police directly accountable to the communities they serve.

One vital first step toward better communication is getting more "campus cops" into our schools, so that young people grow up both seeing and communicating with police officers. The things you learn in your youth help shape your attitudes in later life and I can't believe our Labour led Council voted down the Conservative 2008 budget amendment that would have put more "campus cops" into East Renfrewshire's schools.

The second thing we should do, to improve society's attitude to helping police, is to make our police far more accountable to the people they serve. I have previously advocated, on this blog site, the election of Chief Constables, citing the experience of communities in the USA in support of this policy. I don't want our police to become politicised but I do want local people to know whether their Chief Constable shares their law and order priorities and I want them to be able to pass judgement on whether they believe their Chief Constable has succeeded in delivering better policing to their local area.

I don't believe local people don't want safer streets, better communities and to feel they are able to help their police. It seems to me our police are simply experiencing a crisis of confidence in their ability to effectively protect those willing to come forward with information and to improve the security of local neighbourhoods. I believe we must start a two way dialogue between police and community at an early age and continue this in later life by making our police accountable to their local communities. After all, we all have a vested interest in the success of our Police Force!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Lib Dem On The Run

One thing seems common to Lib Dem's across the UK - they are on the run!

With Glasgow born businessman Michael Brown, who donated more than £2 million to the Liberal Democrats, having skipped bail and gone on the run it seems to me he is a symbol of the Party he once supported.

Mr Brown is charged with money laundering, theft, perverting the course of justice and other fraud-related offences.

The Liberal Democrats are known, from time-to-time, to indulge in a bit of political fraud themselves - campaigning with one position on a policy in one constituency and a completely different position on the same policy in another constituency where this suits their pursuit of votes at any cost.

The lesson for the Liberal Democrats is that, like Michael Brown, things you do and say eventually catch up on you! I am sure the Police will catch Mr Brown and the electorate will catch on to Lib Dem policy. The good news is we will all be better off without them when this occurs!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Having Some Fun Predicting Politics

Politics often sounds dull and boring!

So many of my friends don't understand how I can possibly get any fun or satisfaction out of trudging streets, attending meetings, delivering speeches or so very many leaflets. I suppose that makes them ordinary people and makes me a sad political hack!

While many of the tasks outlined above are, on the face of them, pretty mundane there is one little piece of political fun to be found online which I recommend to everyone as a fun way to enjoy politics.

The website allows everyone to indulge in a bit of harmless political prediction. Most sad political hacks, like me, simply use this site to see what a combination of all the latest Opinion Polls predict will happen in their own Westminster constituency, but to everyone else the site allows you to have a bit of fun trying to predict what will happen in all 650 UK constituencies.

On the left hand side of the website there is a 'Make your prediction' tab. Simply click on this and a small table appears asking you to insert the national percentage of the vote you think the Conservatives, Labour and Liberals will poll come the next General Election.

Simply insert your own percentage prediction and click 'Predict Election'. If you don't pick a constituency, the website will then calculate the total number of seats each Party will enjoy if you are right and the overall majority the largest Party might enjoy. Your own prediction table will also be accompanied by a chart showing which seats your prediction forecasts will change hands, together with the name of the incumbent MP you have predicted will have lost their seat.

You can of course be very clever and factor in additional swings from any one political Party to another or you can pick just one region of the UK if that is of more interest to you. The only thing the site falls down on is that it does not allow for the SNP to be factored in on a regional basis, which is particularly disappointing given the current state of play here in Scotland.

For what it is worth my last prediction, (Conservatives 41.6%, Labour 31.1% and Liberals 16.8%), forecast a Conservative majority of 40 in contrast to the sites own prediction, from Opinion Polls, of 160.

Who knows what the outcome really will be come the next General Election. Until we find out why not have a little bit of fun with your politics and have a go at predicting what might happen yourself!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Why Glasgow East Means It's Time To Make A Positive Case For Our 'UNION'

I suppose it is only right to congratulate the SNP on their win in the Glasgow East By-Election.

Although I do so through gritted teeth, and with a heavy heart, it is true that they fought a positive campaign in the face of Labour propaganda that was almost entirely negative, ill-judged and without any heavyweight support visibly deployed to the constituency.

In contrast, the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party fought a positive campaign led by a positive candidate supported by a very positive Annabel Goldie MSP. Annabel's cancelled her holiday to stay in Scotland and coordinate our campaign and that our vote was not squeezed as you would normally expect any party in third or fourth place to be, (just ask the Liberals), is a testament to her efforts, alongside those of Davena and all our Scottish Conservative Central Office team.

I spent 10 years heading up the national sales team of a PLC operating across the whole of the United Kingdom. In that time I learnt that it was much more important to sell your own positives than to try and trash your opposition, with negatives about their brand, if you hoped to win any sizable business from the British people.

People want you to tell them why they should buy from you, not why you should not buy from someone else.

That is why Unionist Party's must get away from focusing on why Scotland should not be independent and concentrate instead on the many social and economic reasons why we should all remain together as a happy and harmonious UNITED Kingdom.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Armed Siege In Newton Mearns Another Sign Of A Changing Area

A few days ago I wrote about the concern of residents in Mearns Village that the potential placement by East Renfrewshire Council of more people with chaotic lifestyles into their community will be detrimental to the well being of their local area.

In recent years Mearns Village residents have witnessed a significant rise in crime and anti-social behaviour as a result of the Council's housing allocation policy and today we hear that this crime wave has reached new heights with a Police siege, including armed officers, of a house on William Mann Drive.

I am sure the full details of this will become available as the Police and Procurator Fiscal proceed with their investigations but from all that neighbours tell me the man arrested was bearing a gun and threatening to use it. It seems that this man is not a local of Mearns Village and another person placed into what was once a harmonious local community by a Council with no idea how to promote social cohesion in their 'Social Housing' allocation policy!

If ever there was a time for the residents of East Renfrewshire to say to their Council that they must review a core policy it is now! Our Council House allocation strategy is a farce that is pitting neighbours against one another and breeding resentment across local communities. I look forward to working with local people to devise a new policy on social housing for East Renfrewshire and will be working in Mearns Village over the next few weeks to make sure we learn the lessons of their local area before addressing their concerns in Council and Parliament.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

It's Time To Repair East Renfrewshire's Crumbling Roads Network

The last time the National Audit Office published statistics on the condition of Scotland's roads they proved what we all already knew, East Renfrewshire has the worst roads and pavements in Scotland! Given we also have the highest car ownership levels in Scotland, I think it is fair to assume things are only going to get worse given the lack of major action to tackle this issue by East Renfrewshire Council.

In February of this year East Renfrewshire's Conservative Councillors proposed a budget amendment that would added an additional 50% to the roads repair and renewal budget for this year. Pretty good given the limited resources of our local authority, but even this would not have been enough. The current roads budget of £667,000 per annum doesn't begin to touch what needs to be done and yet the administrations Councillors voted against our cost neutral proposal to increase this budget to £1,001,000.

That is why I believe it is time someone spoke up for the overwhelming majority of local people who want something done to repair and renew our roads and pavements. What we need is the largest local authority roads budget in Scotland and I have a radical solution to deliver this without increasing Council Tax.

East Renfrewshire Council are soon to announce the creation of a £12million college, to be based in Barrhead. This college, we are told, will provide practical training for the unemployed seeking to retrain for work. On closer examination, the courses the new East Renfrewshire College will provide duplicate many of those provided by nearby Reid Kerr and Cardonald Colleges, both of whom have spare capacity at the present time.

As £3million of the total spend is coming from a central government grant the remaining £9million will come from Council Tax revenues. I believe this £9million would be better spent renewing our crumbling roads and pavements network, a massive 1350% increase to our roads repair budget, and will campaign for Council Tax to be spent on a local priority rather than a pet political project!

Coming Soon: my solution to better, more cost effective road repair and renewal.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

How Not To Help People With Chaotic Lifestyles!

East Renfrewshire Council's decision to open a hostel for "young people with chaotic lifestyles" in Council owned housing on Anderson Drive, Mearns Village, is now surely doomed to failure following its 100% rejection by local residents.

At a 'Public Meeting' held tonight in the Fairweather Hall around 140 people from the Mearns Village area turned out to voice their complete opposition to Council proposals to refurbish two blocks of housing on Anderson Drive, to install CCTV outside the complex and to put a 24 hour warden service into the buildings because the Council simply have not done anything to reassure local people that the people these blocks will house will not create even greater public disorder than they currently experience.

Councillor Jim Swift, Conservative Group Leader, rightly pointed out to local residents that he proposed extra policing for 'Hot Spots' in the evenings, 7 days a week - 52 weeks of the year, in his Council budget amendment and that this would have been a first step to addressing local concerns on crime, anti-social behaviour and youth disorder. The other three Councillors present tonight who voted against this amendment, without proposing any alternative to crime management, should hold their heads in shame for asking local people to give them suggestions as to what to do about anti-social behaviour emanating from Anderson Drive when they had the power to do something about it only weeks ago by voting for Jim's amendment.

Tonight we saw a exercise in local democracy that proves the people of East Renfrewshire still care about their local area. Well done to the people of Mearns Village - they can be assured of the support of their local Conservatives as they fight a bad plan for the wrong location!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Who's A Very Lucky Boy Then!

You always realise how lucky you really are on those special occasions when family and friends rally round to help celebrate with you.

It was my 37th birthday yesterday and from start to finish family and friends did all they could to ensure I enjoyed my day and to make me feel just a little special - if only to them!

Whether it was my cards in the morning, a bottle of champagne from a business partner before lunch, or the trip to London for dinner and a relaxing weekend organised by my wife, Elaine, everything people did for me yesterday emphasised to me how tremendously lucky I am to be surrounded by the people who are important to me.

So thank you everyone, I had a wonderful day thanks to wonderful people! Let's hope I am able to do the same for you when your time comes.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Glasgow East - A Battle For Hearts And Minds

Over the past week or so, Scotland's political elite have descended on the East end of Glasgow as never before. Having spent some considerable time there myself, I find myself contemplating all I have seen and heard in a by-election that could shape the country we live in forever.

If Glasgow East abandons the Labour Party and goes SNP it sounds as if it is highly likely Gordon Brown would be forced out of Downing Street. After all there are not too many Labour MP's with majorities of 13,500+ and given this basic arithmetic the Parliamentary Labour Party would surely rebel in fear for their own job prospects should Labour lose in the Prime Minister's own backyard.

Should the SNP win the Glasgow East By-Election I think this would also have a major impact on the mood and feeling in Scotland, with nowhere immune to the mantra of the separatist administration at Holyrood. David Cameron and the Conservative Party in England and Wales have shown that once you have positive momentum and an appetite for change amongst your electorate a lot of what you wish for becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Opinion polls move in your direction, your core vote become motivated to get out and vote and even people who traditionally vote for other Party's look to you as the place to lend your vote if you want to see change.

The truth in Glasgow East is that local people are looking for a candidate and a Party that can give them the one thing they believe they have been denied for generations - HOPE! They want to be able to drag themselves, and their area, up without government interference and they want to have a representative to the UK parliament who will be a positive force for change on the issues that really matter to them.

Unfortunately this is not the message our national media wants to portray. All they seem to want to talk about is independence, Iraq and Wendy Alexander. In contrast, the people of Glasgow East want to talk about their standard of living, jobs, tackling drug misuse in their communities and better policing of local streets to tackle crime and youth disorder.

I credit Annabel Goldie in particular for being one of a very few voices in this by-election campaign who is actually addressing the concerns of local people; and rightly so given her recent record at Holyrood.

After all it was Annabel, and her MSP group, who delivered a new drugs policy for Scotland based on abstinence, who delivered an additional 1,000 police officers and who ensured our small businesses benefited from lower Business Rates now, instead of at a much later date.

Annabel is leading from the front for the Scottish Conservatives at this by-election and is even phoning round Party activists to ensure every last door is canvassed. We have already delivered to every door in Glasgow East, at least once, and with twelve days left to campaign it is clear to me that it is the Scottish Conservatives who are speaking the same language as local people.

Politics is like football. It's a funny old game! On any given day anyone can beat a favourite and in Glasgow East it appears we still have no clear favourite. I never bet on politics, but if you asked me today for a prediction I would tip Labour to hold, despite an 8% swing to the SNP, and as I have yet to meet anyone who admits to voting Liberal I would make my bet a double predicting the loss of the Liberal deposit.

So on this occasion I am prepared to accept the reds will very probably beat the blues, (even though they don't deserve it). One thing is for sure, Annabel will come out of this by-election campaign with her reputation much enhanced having guided us through a difficult campaign with energy and determination!