Monday, 30 June 2008

Why Are We Waiting For The Lights To Go Out?

It's now only a matter of time until lights start going out across Scotland because of electricity shortages.

With many of our ageing fossil fuel and nuclear power stations nearing the end of their working lives and scheduled for decommission our government continues to procrastinate over how to replace their output. For me, it is governments job to ensure Scotland and the UK are energy self-sufficient in the unpredictable world we live in today.

So what, you may ask, is our Labour government and SNP Scottish Executive's solution? Renewables, renewables, renewables is the mantra from Westminster and Holyrood, even though everyone knows this simply will not fulfil our energy requirements given the unpredictability of output from the wind turbines that are being thrown up all over our countryside.

You only need to ask the residents of Eaglesham about the effectiveness of wind turbines to know that when the wind is not blowing hard enough they don't turn, when it blows too hard they don't turn, when the wind blows from the wrong direction they don't turn and often for no apparent reason they simply don't turn.

With the UK needing to import gas, coal and oil to fuel many of our existing power stations and given our international obligations to reduce CO2 emissions the only solution to bridging our electricity energy gap while meeting these targets is nuclear. Business knows it, science knows it and ordinary people who study the issue know it.

Over the past week Business Insider have been running an online poll posing the question, "Will Scotland face an energy crisis if it doesn't build new nuclear power stations?". As I write this blog, 95% of respondents have to date replied 'YES', clearly demonstrating the concern of Scotland's business community that our failure to go nuclear before now almost certainly means an energy crisis looms for Scotland in the relatively near future.

It simply is not good enough for government to delay any further. British Energy, BNFL and any other interested electricity generator must be allowed to get on with providing Scotland and the rest of the UK with new modern nuclear power stations capable of providing us with energy security well into the 21st Century!

When the lights start going out it will be too late to start planning a sustainable energy policy. The nuclear option is the only sensible option for Scotland and the UK.

I am a great believer that if something is foreseeable it is avoidable. That is why I say let's get on with the inevitable and start building nuclear power stations! We must act now in the interest of our long-term economic prosperity and in doing so will ensure future generations don't accuse us of lacking foresight!

Business Insider's online service can be found at:

Sunday, 29 June 2008

There's No Place For Political Correctness In Our NHS

The world's gone mad! Or at least it appears it has in our NHS.

"Gay" patients must now to be referred to by NHS staff as, "men who have sex with men", (MSM), and similar descriptive terms are to be used instead of "prostitute" and "intravenous drug user". Why? Apparently for fear of causing offence!

National Services Scotland, who are advising health boards on the issue, have clearly lost the plot. So much so that gay rights groups have labelled their new terminology as "demeaning" to homosexuals and even Lothian and Borders police have pointed to this oversimplification as being inappropriate.

Staff in NHS maternity units are already told not to refer to the father of a child as the mothers husband, even if they know they are, for fear of causing offence and the simple question must now be "where does this all end?".

It's time for the Political Correctness brigade to leave us all alone and let the civil, law abiding majority decide what is right and what is wrong and what is appropriate and inappropriate.

You can join the Campaign Against Political Correctness via its website at:

Saturday, 28 June 2008

The UK - Most Costly Place To Live In Western World

Reports today that the UK has the highest cost of living in the Western world come as no surprise to those of us working hard to make ends meet.

The firm of international economists who prepared this report concluded that the average "Middle Britain" family now spends £38,800 a year on its home, food and other essentials. This represents an increase of more than £2,000 a year on a report prepared by the same experts just 4 months ago.

And the reasons for this? Simply the failure of our government to manage our economy in a prudent manner. The cost of food has risen by 19.8% on last year, household fuel bills are up by around 15% on a year ago, mortgage repayment costs have escalated significantly, housing rent costs have followed suit and the cost of petrol and diesel for our cars has gone through the roof. All directly related to government policy!

And of course the government tax us more and more each year without a care as to how hard it is to make ends meet in the average household. No wonder ordinary people believe the government if out of touch!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Being Let Off Lightly!

So the Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee think Wendy Alexander should be suspended from Holyrood for just one day for failing to declare a number of donations to her Labour Leadership election campaign fund as well as accepting impermissable donation - and all for an uncontested leadership election!

Talk about being let off lightly!

In most ordinary peoples business affairs this sort of misappropriation of funds would lead to a police investigation and maybe even fraud charges.

So bendy Wendy should be thanking her lucky stars tonight that MSP's are such a jolly decent bunch and have decided to let her off lightly. I'm not so sure the electorate will be quite so kind when the time comes for them to pass their judgement!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Will Israel See Peace In Our Time?

I attended the annual Conservative Friends of Israel Business Lunch today, (a lavish affair at the Dorchester), where the principle topic of conversation naturally turned to peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately today's event coincided with the breaking of the Hamas sanctioned ceasefire, with a number of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel overnight, and marked almost 2 years since the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Lebanese Hezbollah insurgents.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with all three IDF soldiers kidnapped by militants - Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Israel is one of only two conventional democracies in the region, the other being Iraq, and tries to demonstrate leadership in the region in it affairs. It is surely incumbent upon all reasonable nations to demand the release of these three young people who only wanted to serve their country with pride and their families deserve to know they are alive and being treated humanely.

Israel is not perfect - then again what democracy is? When she does things that are wrong we in Britain should criticise her, as good friends are able to do to one another. Today, however, those of us at the Dorchester spared just a moment to hope for the safe return of the kidnapped and an end to killing in the region.

A two state solution for the region sometimes seems like a remote pipe dream but, today I left London full of hope that I will see peace in my time with a secure Israel and a democratic Palestinian state.

Zimbabwe - MDC Blood Is On The International Communities Hands

The Daily Mail summed it up best in their 'Mac' cartoon of Tuesday 24th June 2008.

While Mugabe murders innocent Zimbabweans for simply daring to vote against his regime, a regime that has turned the "breadbasket of Africa" into a "basket case", the international community are proving to be impotent in terms of their ability to protect those who need us most on the ground.

If the Presidential run-off actually happens on Friday the election will be a sham and the people of Zimbabwe will know it. They will also know that African nations, the Commonwealth nations, the European Union and the United Nations all talked a good game but let them down when they needed help most.

Most culpable of them all will be the South African premier, President Thabu Mbeki. All he need do is to withdraw support for Mugabe and offer him asylum in neighbouring South Africa, (no matter how much we would all like to see Mugabe brought to justice), and overnight Zimbabwe could become the progressive democracy, as well as the successful tiger economy, they once were and could be again!

The international community have let the people of Zimbabwe down for so long I suspect none of them expect very much from us now. I only hope that once day soon we can repay them in some little way by helping them to become the breadbasket of Africa once again!

Monday, 23 June 2008

How Many Wards Will C-Diff Close?

The games up for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, following their admission that a ward at the Victoria Infirmary is closed due to an outbreak of Clostridium difficile.

C Difficile!

I use the NHS and founded the 'Campaign For A New Victoria' to campaign for the retention of Accident & Emergency in the area and now at the site across from the existing building. As a result I keep in close contact with a large number of the clinicians, nurses, health care workers and administrative staff at the Victoria and have been told by them to expect a large number of ward closures due to C-Diff, and a range of other hospital acquired infections, in the near future - all across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and particularly at the Victoria.

The old and crumbling fabric of the current Victoria Infirmary provides the perfect conditions for bacteria to grow. That is why no one is against the creation of New Victoria buildings. However, the creation of new buildings should not endanger life either.

The creation of a Victoria ACAD is not the provision of a new "hospital", as NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Labour Party would have us believe. An ACAD is a day clinic/health centre without A&E that will make the majority of the population this side of the river dependant on the remote Southern General for emergency admission.

Nevertheless, the current state of the Victoria Infirmary emphasises the need to take urgent action to update the condition of our hospital buildings and to tackle hospital acquired infections in our current hospitals, for as long as we use their current buildings!

My colleague Jackson Carlaw MSP has already exposed the ludicrous false economy of the NHS in Scotland, paying compensation to the relatives of those who die from hospital acquired infections instead of spending the money in the first place keeping wards spotlessly clean. He is quite right to hold the Scottish Executive to account for their failure to tackle the pandemic of hospital acquired infections the NHS seems to be happy to live with!

So today it appears the choice on the Southside of Glasgow is old buildings that kill or new buildings without essential services, which will also cost lives. For me, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde must spend money now properly cleaning our old buildings while continuing to build new buildings into which we can incorporate A&E. After all, at the end of the day the most important thing we can do for our superb doctors and nurses is to give them an environment we can be proud to ask them to work in!

You can read related articles at:

Saturday, 21 June 2008

If All's Fair In War - Why Not Politics?

Through the course of this week Jack Straw announced proposals on funding of Party campaigns that reek of self interest and which are undoubtedly unfair!

Straw's plans for election funding would make it impossible for new candidates to compete in marginal seats

Having voted themselves a £10,000 per annum "communications allowance", (which in all probability will have been worth at least £40,000 to every Labour MP by the time of the next general election), our Labour government now proposes to deny candidates seeking to compete with incumbent MP's the right to privately fund their campaigns in advance of election time.

This change to campaign funding rules would mean incumbency becomes a massive advantage to this government with its outright majority - as they use public funds to advertise their case to constituents while denying opposition candidates the right to spend private funds to make their case for alternative policies. The current government can claim £3.51 million of public funding every year from the "communications allowance" they created and yet they now seek to deny candidates use of private funds whether they be of a lesser, similar or higher value than the amount spent from the public purse!

Of course, this is all a side show to detract from Labour's refusal to agree to a £50,000 cap on donations from any individuals, companies or Unions. David Cameron backs this proposal but Labour are refusing to go along with it because, with 92% of Labour's funds coming from Trade Unions, it would render the Labour Party bankrupt.

As a Westminster candidate fighting a government Minister in a Labour/Conservative marginal, I have not received any central funding to take on Mr Murphy, who sends unsolicited letters to constituents on a regular basis at our cost. I rely on good old-fashioned street canvassing, leaflet drops and support of local organisations to get my message out to the public and I will never misuse any expense allowance to distribute Party propaganda!

So, Mr Straw, if you are going to cap candidate campaign spending outwith election times then make it fair and let us spend the same as MP's before elections are called. I don't suppose you'll do this or cap the maximum donation amount!

Further analysis of this proposal can be found at:

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

What About The Human Rights Of The Law Abiding Majority!?!

So, Abu Qatada, the radical Islamic cleric and Osama bin Laden’s “right-hand man in Europe”, has been released from jail because we apparently have no grounds to keep him in prison.

It comes as no surprise to me that the principle reason given by the judge, Mr Justice Mitting, for his release was possible infringement of his human rights if we continued to detain him, despite the danger he presents to British people. This followed an earlier Court of Appeal decision to refuse his deportation to Jordan, again on the grounds that it might breach his human rights.

To put this into perspective, the same court had earlier described Qatada as "a truly dangerous individual" who was "heavily involved, indeed at the centre of terrorist activities associated with al-Qa'eda". Despite this description it appears our governments devotion to the European Convention on Human Rights prevents us from throwing him out of our country or locking him.

Over the next few days, weeks and months this dangerous man will be confined to his London home for a minimum of 22 hours of every day and we will require him to wear an electronic tag. We will continue to pay his family £12,000 a year in state benefits, (£1,000 a month), and can now add to this the cost of a 24 hour a day 7 day a week police presence outside his house - all this being spent on a man the police once found with £170,000 in cash in his possession.

Devastation to a bombed hotel lobby in Amman, Jordan, November 1998

This man helped mastermind the 11th September bombings and Jordan has already convicted him, in his absence, of bombings in Amman in 1998 and of providing finance and advice to terrorists planning a series of explosions on Millennium night. To enable us to consider his deportation Jordan promised Qatada a retrial, but our Court of Appeal now says we cannot deport him to stand trial in Jordan because some of the evidence they might use could have been obtained using torture.

If this is what ECHR means to the safety and security of the UK I say we kick it into touch and fend for ourselves.

The British public is very capable of making sensible decisions on human rights and people who want to see an end to our way of life should not be allowed to hide behind European law to retain residential status and claim state benefits - no matter what they claim will happen to them if they are deported!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Football, Football, Football

It seems that no matter where you turn the European Football Championships take central stage despite none of the home nations having qualified to grace its fields.

While Elaine and I are great football fanatics I can fully understand the frustration of all those who are not connoisseurs of the beautiful game and yet their favourite TV programme, very often a soap opera, is moved to a lesser channel, put back to a later time or even postponed altogether.

With the evolution of TV and the switch from analogue to digital TV signal imminent, I wonder whether all football fans wanting to watch a live football match at a major championship on the BBC will one day simply press the 'red' button to watch the match of their choice. This would ensure that regular programme schedules do not need to be changed for those wanting to keep to regular routines!

Well perhaps one day, but until then at least Elaine and I are spoilt for choice when it comes to our football coverage at Euro 2008!

Monday, 16 June 2008

Bravery Beyond Belief

Watching tonight's evening news I could not help but be struck by the professionalism and integrity of army personnel, even as they returned the bodies of comrades killed in battle to British soil.

Today has been a day to ponder the sacrifice of our armed services as they discharge their duties in order to protect Queen and country - regardless of the legitimacy and risk of the orders they are required to discharge.

As five bodies of soldiers from 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, were returned to RAF Lyneham in coffins draped in the Union Flag, I was struck that rather than attending the short ceremony to honour our war dead conducted by our service personnel Gordon Brown was announcing the deployment of an additional 230 British troops to Afghanistan at a press conference before the worlds media.

That our Prime Minister decided to make this announcement in front of President George W. Bush instead of making the initial announcement of this deployment to the House of Commons says much about his desire to be seen to be a big player on the world stage. It also shows his contempt for parliament and flies in the face of his pledge on entering No.10 that he is a man who wants to see an end to spin over substance.

Our armed services deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and in the finest traditions of British way of life. This requires our government to formally notify all troop deployments to the sovereign parliament of the country they serve with such pride first. The British people know that our brave service men and women conduct their duties to protect our shared values of democracy, the rule of law and mutual respect - and we should demand our countries Prime Minister shows them the respect they are due for putting their lives on the line to protect others.

So in summary, today was a day of mixed emotions. Pride in our armed services, and in their conduct as they returned fallen heroes to British soil, and anger at the lack of respect shown to them by our government. If you ever need to describe what is best about Britain look no further than our armed services to provide examples of dignity, pride and selfless service. They are brave beyond belief and for that we can all be proud to be British!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

The Politics Of Principle

So politicians who are prepared to put principle before personal advantage receive the overwhelming support of the British public!

Put into simple words on a piece of paper my instant reaction is to say "of course they do", however when David Davis first announced his intention to resign from the House of Commons to fight a by-election on the principle of 42-Day Detention Without Charge it appeared from media comment that they, and the public, would view this as a cynical stunt by a career politician.

Today's Mail on Sunday reports that 57% of people polled by ICM support David's decision to force a by-election on this issue, 59% agree with him that Britain has become a nation of snoopers and a staggering 69% believe he took this action based on principle.

I am personally delighted to see that the public are not as cynical as the media would have us believe and look forward to the public debate on this issue the by-election will now afford us.

The principles of politics are too often lost in Party orders and media scrums and I for one long for the day when all politicians put principles, and the people, first - for only then will we truly have government by the people and for the people!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Pride - What It Means To Mr President

I grew up feeling very much a part of Giffnock Tennis Club. Instead of having nothing to do and only street corners to hang about on, I had a sport to play and a safe venue at which to practice. This allowed me to develop as a person in an atmosphere that provided me with both a sense of community and in and environment where members were encouraged to develop shared values.

This year, as President of Giffnock Tennis Squash & Hockey Club, I set out to try and further a sense of community amongst an ever more diverse membership and pondered, at the time of our AGM in February, what might happen during the year to make me feel proud!

This afternoon I watched Giffnock's Gents 1st Team, sponsored by A.C. Taylor Coachworks, narrowly beat Newlands in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup - a 5 - 4 victory in front of around 60 - 80 spectators. As the balance of the match ebbed and flowed, (with Newlands looking favourites to win after a first round where their second couple beat Giffnock's second couple), I could feel the enthusiasm of our support for their Club and could sense that they felt part of a team playing against Newlands that was more than just the six players who took to court.

At the end of the match I spent just a few moments looking at the elation on the faces of our support and could see just how much qualification to the final of the Scottish Cup means to them, the heart of the Club. Next week we go to Edinburgh to the home of Scottish Tennis at Craiglockhart to take on Stirling University for the biggest prize in Scottish club tennis. I know it will be a very difficult task to beat the Cup winners for the past 2 years running, but know that the Giffnock Team, and its support, will give everything in the hope of bringing the Cup back to Giffnock.

Already this year our Ladies 1st Hockey team were runners up in the European Cup Final, our Gents 1st Hockey Team won National League Division 3, our squash teams all performed admirably in their respective leagues, our Ladies 1st Tennis Team looks set to win Division 1, Our Gents 2nd and 3rd Teams are holding their own in Divisions 1a and 1b respectively and our Gents 1st Tennis Team look certain to retain their Premier Division title. In other words, all is well on the sporting front.

So today I felt proud to be the President of Giffnock Tennis Squash and Hockey Club. Sport is such a terrific environment in which to bring people together and tonight I even more determined to work to ensure the future of Giffnock in what remains of my Presidential year!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Ireland Lead The Way In European Democracy

Well, I never would have imagined I would say this but, thank you Republic of Ireland for saving Great Britain from effective extinction!

Ireland's rejection of the EU Lisbon Treaty is quite simply a triumph for hundreds of millions of ordinary people across the rest of the European Union who have been denied a say on whether the European project is heading in the right direction by a bunch of arrogant, self-satisfying politicians - politicians who are so out of touch with public opinion that they simply don't understand we have had enough.

Earlier this year I organised the 'East Ren EU Choice' referendum in East Renfrewshire allowing the constituents of the Europe Minister, Jim Murphy MP, to voice their opinion of the EU Lisbon Treaty. They voted by 85% to 15% in favour of a binding UK-wide EU Lisbon Treaty Referendum, with a staggering 90% registering their intention to vote against ratification if they were allowed a vote.

I have no doubt that Jim will now tell the people of the UK that the Irish people have got it all wrong and that it is above ordinary people to understand the importance of ratifying this Treaty. I say that ordinary people across the whole of Europe are completely capable of making an educated decision on the merits of this Treaty and would overwhelmingly agree with the Irish people and say "NO", if only we were all allowed a vote.

Because, this Treaty is the EU Constitution that was overwhelmingly rejected by the French and Dutch people in 2005 by another name. It confers too many rights to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels and ends, once and for all, our nation states right to sovereign decision making through our domestic parliaments, ceding this right to Europe forever. 28 million British people of voting age have never been afforded an opportunity to vote on the type of Europe we want our country to be a part of and we deserve the right to record our opinion on this Treaty, (the EU Constitution by another name), as we were promised by our Labour government in the election manifesto they were elected on.

So thank you Ireland, you struck a blow today for ordinary people across the whole of Europe. We, like you, will hold our government to account for trying to enforce an EU Constitution on our country as soon as we get the chance - most probably at a General Election!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Helping Zimbabwe To A Prosperous Future

With Zimbabwe's Presidential election run-off scheduled for 27th June, Robert Mugabe is literally murdering people to stop them voting in order that he can cling on to power.

The UK has let the people of Zimbabwe down before and I believe we are letting them down again, right now. If Gordon Brown and his government won't intervene, it is surely time the people of Great Britain took matters into their own hands and did something proactive to help the people of Zimbabwe to enjoy freedom and prosperity through their democracy!

Even though this election is so vital to the Zimbabwean people, and the Southern African region, only 200 SADC election observers are approved to monitor proceedings and with most not even in the country to monitor events, latest reports put the number of people dead at more than 65, with hundreds missing, thousands injured and tens of thousands dispossessed. Inflation is around 1,000,000%, more than 85% of the population is unemployed and food production in what was once the bread basket of Africa is almost non-existent.

I cannot sit back and let Mugabe's murderous regime survive because my government did nothing. That is why I am making a donation to "Friends of Zimbabwe", so that they can invest resource into trying to ensure this election follows SADC guidelines and reports a result that is accurate and truly reflective of the will of the Zimbabwean people!

Please visit: if you would like to find out more or to make a donation!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Crime And REAL Punishment

Not many of us are familiar with the elected Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, Joe Arpaio! But does he have any lessons to teach us about punishing criminals in a way that makes them less likely to reoffend?

Sheriff Arpaio keeps getting elected, over and over again, because he punishes criminal activity in a way that marries with his local public's desire to deter crime and not to have to pay excessively for punishment of criminal activity.

Following his election, Sheriff Arpaio decided not to build another expensive jail complex so created the "tent city jail", (essentially a tented village surrounded by barbed wire). He banned smoking and pornographic magazines in jail and he also took away inmates weightlifting equipment, explaining his reasons by saying: "They're in jail to pay a debt to society not to build muscles so they can assault innocent people when they leave."

To keep convicted criminals occupied, he started chain gangs to use inmates to do free work on county and city projects - saving taxpayer's money. Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination.

He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails. So he hooked up the cable TV again but only allows the Disney channel and the weather channel. When asked why the weather channel, he replied: "So these morons will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs." Coffee is no longer served to prisoners because it has zero nutritional value and is therefore a waste of taxpayer money. When the inmates complained, he told them: "This isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back."

When temperatures rose to record levels in Phoenix in June 2007, the Associated Press reported: About 2,000 inmates living in a barbed wire surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa County Jail have been given permission to strip down to their government-issued pink boxer shorts. On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing pink boxer shorts were overheard chatting in the tents, where temperatures reached 128 degrees. "This is hell. It feels like we live in a furnace," said Ernesto Gonzales, an inmate for 2 years with 10 more to go. "It's inhumane." Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who makes his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic. "Criminals should be punished for their crimes - not live in luxury until it's time for parole, only to go out and commit more crimes so they can come back in to live on taxpayers money and enjoy things many taxpayers can't afford to have for themselves."

The same day he is reported to have told inmates who were complaining of the heat in the tents: "It's between 120 to 130 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers live in tents, they have to walk all day in the sun wearing full battle gear and they get shot at, and they have not committed any crimes, so shut your damned mouths!"

If all prisons were like Sheriff Joe Arpaio's I wonder whether we might just experience a lot less crime and I am sure we would not be in the current position of running out of prison spaces.

Sheriff Joe is accountable to the residents of Maricopa County and has recently been re-elected for an unprecedented fourth 4 year term. His ethos seems to be that local people want to see criminals punished in a way that deters criminal activity, he does allow political correctness to interfere with his work and he challenges the sort of crazy rules we suffer from as a result of the European Convention on Human Rights. Basically he wants a deal for his law abiding public which is fair on them given they are paying for the criminal activity of others.

I wonder whether the British public would decide to elect people like Joe Arpaio if we allowed to elect our local Chief of Police? It certainly seems to me that we have a lot to learn from people like Sheriff Arpaio and should look to some of his ideas to help redress the balance between taxpayer and criminal.

Thanks Joe, you have given us a lot to consider and shown us we may have a lot to learn!

You can read more about Sheriff Joe Arpaio at:

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Relative Poverty - Disappointment Or Disgrace?

I have always found the concept that poverty is "relative" difficult to grasp. Today's announcement that the number of children living in poverty has risen for the second year in a row is deeply depressing, even if it isn't surprising.

For our Labour government, who set themselves the goal of halving child poverty over a generation, to be presiding over such a steady increase in the number of young people growing up in poverty, leaving so many of them living in a Britain without hope, is not "disappointing", as the government described it today, it is a "disgrace"!

The Member of Parliament for East Renfrewshire, one Mr Jim Murphy, shoulders a great deal of responsibility for today's figures having served as Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform at the Department of Work & Pensions at the very time when the number of young people living in poverty increased so startlingly.

I am not a statistician, so I look to professionals like Professor John Hills, the head of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics, to guide me as to whether government policy will work. As he describes the latest figures as "disappointing if unsurprising" it appears to me there is little prospect of any improvement in the number of people living in poverty as long as we pursue policies that lack vision for our future.

Possibly most telling is the increase over the past year in the number of pensioners living in poverty. Despite all Labour's interference in our tax and benefits system since 1997, at 2.5 million there has essentially been no reduction in the number of pensioners living in poverty in the UK over the past 11 years.

So our Prime Minister should be hanging his head today in more than "relative" shame. It was his stewardship of the UK economy as Chancellor that delivered the unfair British society in which so many young people and pensioners grow up in poverty despite the highest level of taxation in generations and it is on his watch as Prime Minister that even more people seem destined to live in poverty in the future.

The day of reckoning for Labour, Mr Brown and Mr Murphy will come at the next General Election. Those living in poverty, and those of us living with the privilege of living above its "relative" measure, all want to see a fairer more inclusive society and it will be at the ballot box that we get our chance to hold them to account!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Harsh Realities Are Hard To Live With!

Today I experienced at first hand the devastating effect, on employer and employee alike, of having to make people redundant as a result of the economic downturn affecting the UK's construction sector.

The prospect of laying off any member of staff, particularly those you know are sole earners in their household, is simply something no one could enjoy - and it is certainly something that left me feeling totally empty as I arrived home tonight. And you know it's an immensely upsetting experience when you can see in the eyes of rough and tough Glasgow businessmen that they are being moved, as much as they would care to publicly show, by having to action this tough decision.

Every well run business has a wealth of reports and statistics on which to base its business plans and there is nothing more difficult that seeing figures that say an overhead needs to be trimmed, particularly when that overhead is in terms of members of staff. The Directors of the construction companies I manage have undertaken the painful process of laying off staff on the basis of the reports I provide and I feel completely devastated at the impact this is having on good people I have enjoyed working with.

And the reasons for the need to take such drastic action? Quite simply it is a complete lack of leadership and support for the sector from our Labour government.

Despite government set targets for a huge amount of new build housing over the next decade, and beyond, all our major house builders are suspending work on existing sites of pulling altogether new start sites on which they have placed orders. The reasons for this are two fold:

1) Our banks and financial institutions are reducing their exposure to risk in the sector by pulling funding from a huge number of construction projects;

2) It is so difficult for prospective home buyers, particularly potential first time buyers, to secure a mortgage because our banks are reducing their exposure to risk here too!

So, even though our financial institutions know there is bright future for the sector in the medium to long terms none of them are prepared to be the first to help stimulate recovery in the construction sector as they hold our Labour government responsible for the financial unrest they are experiencing as a result of the Northern Rock fiasco. Worse still, they see no leadership by government to encourage an economic upturn in the construction sector or the mortgage markets, which they appear to me to be taking as a sign that government is content to live with the current downturn - even though this will mean the UK misses the governments own new build housing targets!

I really can't predict what the effect on morale, as a result of today's lay offs, will be. My only consolation is that I know these businesses are fundamentally sound and that the remaining employees should enjoy job security, all things being equal. One can only hope that our governments doesn't do anything further to ruin economic confidence in which case the entrepreneurial spirit that built the companies will ensure long term job security for them all!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

He Used To Be Decisive - But Now He's Not Sure!

When your Deputy Chief Whip is prepared to go on television and say your indecision over an autumn Election last year is proving to be a "watershed" from which your reputation has not recovered it must be time to question whether you are cut out to be Prime Minister.

June 27th 2008 represents one year of the Gordon Brown premiership and in the run up to this landmark date it is surely time we assessed his performance to date.

For me, much of what we have suffered over the past 12 months has been of our Prime Minister's own creation. After all, Mr Brown's last budget as Chancellor provided for the abolition of the 10p Income Tax band which hit the poorest in our society hardest and it was on his watch that Northern Rock trade itself into trouble. For anyone to suggest that the "we won't - we will" take Northern Rock into public ownership fiasco was not under the direction of the Prime Minister would be ludicrous and, as it destroyed all confidence in our money markets, it is he who should shoulder the blame for the economic unrest we are all suffering from today.

Looking to the future we have huge errors of judgement with a whipped vote on an issue of conscience on the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Act and attempted strong arm tactics to deliver 42-day detention without charge for terrorist suspects when the current 28-day limit has never required to be used.

So far the answer to all difficulties has been the U-Turn! While none of us have a crystal ball I would be looking to the fuel tax rise scheduled for later this year and to next years intended introduction of additional road tax bands on cars bought since 2001 for Prime Minister Brown's next major climbdown.

So, that Cabinet Ministers Jack Straw and Jacqui Smith are prepared to go on Channel 4 to question the Prime Minister's judgement and character should not really be that great a surprise.

For me Gordon Brown as Prime Minister has been a disaster! History will probably show his failure to call an election in September 2007 was a mistake for the Labour Party, but on reflection it will surely conclude it was an even bigger disaster for the people of the United Kingdom!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Happy 1st Birthday Jamie

When you spend your morning at a Conservative Party meeting, and follow this up with a street canvass, the last thing you think you want to attend is a friends child's first birthday party.

Anyway, enough about logic! The think about children is that they have an infectious ability to draw seemingly sensible adults into enjoyment of the atmosphere they create at a most basic of levels. While my friend's son, Jamie, simply enjoyed all that went on around him the children attending his party, (ranging from ages one to five), had a ball in Jamie's garden - running around, throwing things and acting with just a little mischief.

The innocence of youth!

As the day drew on, those of us who prefer to think of ourselves as nearer childhood than any age of responsibility gradually found ourselves joining in with the children's fun and frolics and yet, as I watched this happy group of children play, I could not help feeling very contrasting mixed emotions of wanting desperately to be hopeful for their futures while looking at all they have to face in today's Britain with great concern.

My fear for Jamie, and his young friends, is that our Labour governments current social and economic policies will not afford them the happy eighteenth birthdays they will so richly deserve. So, if anything, today has made me even more determined to pursue my passion for politics and to ensure East Renfrewshire's children have the bright future I believe they are entitled to. Perhaps one day I will look back on today and conclude that it was for Jamie and his generation that the country called time on Labour and asked the Conservatives to map out a positive future from which they will prosper!

Friday, 6 June 2008

"Extra" Crime Stats Show A Worrying Picture

When, week after week after week, the Eastwood and Southside Extra leads on violent crime in our local area it is clear we have a problem our political leaders need to do something about!

This week, (5th June 2008), the Extra's lead headline is "Park: Out Of Bounds", following the brutal murder of a local woman in Queen's Park, an area the Extra go on to describe as "still a no-go area a week after the discovery of (the victims) partially-clothed body". Last week, (29th May 2008), the lead headline was "Blade Terror", after an armed robbery at Harvie Avenue Post Office, and a couple of weeks earlier they led with "A Party To Trouble", with the story detailing four assaults on youngsters in Overlee Park, Clarkston.

I know that crime is a local priority because East Renfrewshire Council's own Citizens Panel, (made up of 1,000 local people), say that being free from crime in our communities should be East Renfrewshire's No.1 priority.

So why, you may ask, do so many people believe crime blights our local society when local crime statistics generally indicate a drop in crime? The simple truth is that low level crime, things like graffiti and loutish behaviour by local youths, now go unreported because we all believe our Police are overstretched and will be unable to do anything about it. Oh, and even if someone is actually caught in the act they will have been taught their rights under ECHR at school and will probably use this to get a simple caution and avoid prosecution.

So when it comes to a broken garage window or a scratched car door very few people now report any offence preferring instead to look for an easy life and avoid a whole load of paperwork and just repair any damage so they don't lose their no claims discount.

You can read about Labour's failure to tackle violent in our newspapers and you can see their failure to address low level crime on junction boxes, bus stops and shop fronts every day. Our own MP, Jim Murphy, is happy to be seen in the Extra at any event going, and those he creates to generate a photo opportunity, but where is he when we need a local champion against crime across East Renfrewshire?

Crime costs us all dear, whether this be in terms of increased insurance premiums or the increasing cost to our NHS of treating those injured by violent crime. So, like the good people of East Renfrewshire, crime is my No.1 Priority at every level. The difference is that crime is something I will actually do something about!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

"Brown -v- Cameron" - PMQ's Prove It's Time For A Change!


The weekly political theatre that is Prime Minister's Questions is becoming ever more farcical. It appears to me that Prime Minister Gordon Brown stands at the dispatch box every week and simply refuses to answer any question put to him by David Cameron, more often than not seeking to ask David questions instead.

For me the contrast between the two candidates who will contest the next General Election in the hope of being returned as Prime Minister could not be more clear. There is the dispatch box thumping Gordon Brown who bangs away so loudly that the microphones of the chamber distort much of what the public are able to hear and then there is the crisp concise David Cameron who asks the Prime Minister topical and important questions the British public would really like to hear answer to.

After 11 years of Labour government, perhaps it is as simple as Mr Brown being tired and out of ideas. Perhaps it is more likely that he is simply not as good a leader as the man sitting opposite him, the man tasked by the Westminster Parliament with asking the Prime Minister "Questions" every week!

Whatever happens in the run up to the next General Election, the public deserve "answers" from their Prime Minister. After all that is why we have Prime Minister's Questions. Unfortunately, I think it is odds against us ever really hearing anything like a full and frank exchange in the near future, or at least until it is David Cameron who resides at No. 10 and who is the recipient of PMQ's.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Freescale Job Losses Are A Disaster For Our Local Economy

Today's announcement that Freescale is to close its semiconductor manufacturing plant in East Kilbride, (the old Motorola factory), with the loss of 750 skilled manufacturing jobs and many additional redundancies in associated supply companies, really is a disaster for our local economy.

For many years, I worked with a dedicated management team at this site to design a state of the art waste management and recycling solutions at this factory. Having done so I know the importance of Freescale to so many associate companies in the service sector, companies who supply goods and services to Freescale, and before it Motorola, and suspect that the true scale of the impact of this announcement is still to be fully realised by the media and public alike.

I fear the full extent of today's announcement will not be fully understood until the plant finally closes, with the inevitable loss of jobs this brings both to Freescale personnel and to those businesses who have been reliant on servicing this site to sustain their core business.

Our Labour government proves itself completely inept once again at retaining vital manufacturing business within the UK, exactly the type of business that creates new wealth which enables the State to proposer from tax revenues it can then invest into improved local services from which we all benefit.

So many people in East Renfrewshire work directly or indirectly to Freescale - I truly hope they all find suitable alternative employment and can assure them I empathise with them at this very difficult time.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Get Us Our Money Back Mr Murphy!

It has emerged over recent days that more than £33 million a year in British child benefit is being paid to foreign children living abroad, an astonishing 72% increase over the past nine months. With most of this money going to around 36,000 children living in Poland, whose parents are cashing in on European rules that let them claim benefits in the UK after working and paying taxes here for a year, it is clear to me that the UK taxpayer is being taken for a ride and losing out once again as we abide by the rules while others EU nations prefer to ignore the rules they would prefer not to enforce.

I read with interest one report that Ministers have been "plunged into a new immigration row" by these figures. Is it any wonder when it emerges our government is frittering away our money to support families abroad only a matter of weeks after they tried to enforce a tax rises for low-income British families with their proposal to scrap the 10 pence income tax rate?

As he serves the UK government as Europe Minister, one can only presume Jim Murphy is one of the Ministers referred to by newspaper reports. He is surely the person we should hold responsible for negotiating with EU Countries for the return of British taxpayers money and for ensuring the European Union rules that allow this travesty to continue are closed off with immediate effect.

The British taxpayer started to pay for foreign children living abroad after EU enlargement in 2004, when 800,000 workers from the new member countries flooded to the UK as economic migrants. If media reports are to be believed, benefit claims escalated dramatically as word spread among Polish communities in Britain and Polish-language newspapers published guides on how to claim child benefit.

Our child benefit is so attractive because parents receive £977 a year for their first child and £652 per year for younger siblings. When compared to the £160 per year paid for each child in Poland it is easy to see why Polish immigrants to Britain find it so attractive to claim child benefit from the British taxpayer for children they have left at home.

Some may argue that EU rules on benefits are fair and balanced. I think EU rules that mean Britons working in Poland can only claim £160 from the Warsaw government are hardly fair and would like to see the net position in terms of the cost of Polish citizens to the British Exchequers compared to that of Britons living in Poland to the Polish equivalent to prove it is the UK who are shortchanged by the rules - once again!

Inevitably the story of abuse does not stop with child benefit. Even larger amounts are paid out to East European workers in child tax credits, but the Government is refusing to put a figure on what the cost of this additional burden is to the British taxpayer.

The communities of Eastern European origin that have grown across the UK since EU enlargement continue to play a vital role in filling skills shortages in the UK economy and add an exciting and vibrant element to our society. Those who move here with a sense of fairness and who are prepared to do what is right are very welcome, but those playing the system and taking benefit money for people residing outwith the UK are out of order and would do well to remember they are guest of the British people.

So come on Jim, actually do something for the people of your constituency and get the UK a fair set of rules to abide by in Europe as well as our money back. Just think what £33 million, plus the money being taken in child tax credits, could do towards eradicating child poverty in Britain today. I believe it is time we addressed fairness at home and abroad - I wonder whether Jim will agree!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Ensuring Crime Does Not Pay

When the public see known criminals and drug dealers touring our streets in fancy cars with private number plates and living lavish lifestyles it is a source of much frustration and they are entitled to think crime really does pay. In recent weeks a number of East Renfrewshire's law abiding citizens have lobbied me with suggestions as to how to ensure crime does not pay, with some very interesting policy ideas having been put forward.

One of the most interesting suggestions arose as a result of one elderly relative having been required to use their assets to help pay for elements of their care. The suggestion put forward is that criminals with assets should pay the State for their board and lodgings while they serve a prison sentence. In other words the law abiding majority should not have to pay to keep a criminal minority who can afford to pay this cost for themselves.

On the basis that with rights we all assume responsibilities, I am minded to support this type of financial penalty on criminals convicted to a prison sentence and intend to pursue this suggestion through our policy development team.

Another East Renfrewshire constituent suggested that any positive equity gained on assets during a prison sentence should be the property of the State. This arose after one criminal could not have the proceeds of their crime taken from them because the police could not prove they were the direct proceeds of the crime for which they were convicted. During their prison stay their house appreciated by more than £60,000 and on their release they sold this asset and benefited financially from their assets increase in value over the period of their prison sentence.

While this is slightly more problematic, I do see the sense in using the prospect of financial loss as a deterrent to criminals and would support moves to ensure criminals are not profiting from their assets while they are serving a custodial sentence.

So, the message I receive from the people of East Renfrewshire is clear - we are sick of the UK being a soft touch on crime, (particularly in terms of punishment), and we are no longer prepared to allow our government to hide behind the European Convention on Human Rights as the reason why they cannot act to hammer those committing crimes in our community. I am determined that East Renfrewshire should have a strong voice in the fight against crime and to ensure there is no hiding place for local and national politicians who cannot be bothered to stand up to those terrorising our communities.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Britain's Got Real Talent!

So George Sampson won ITV's Britain's Got Talent 2008 and Jodie Prenger won the role of Nancy on the BBC's I'd Do Anything talent show last night! While I must admit we missed both shows, (preferring instead to go to a close friends wedding), Elaine and I have been pleasantly surprised by the sheer quantity and quality of the entertainment talent on show to the nation.

In Britain today, I often feel we are all to ready to run ourselves and our nation down when in truth we have so much to show the world and even more to be proud of at home. Take our armed forces, our Royal Family and the emergency services. Professional, efficient and always on hand when we need them most they are the real heroes of the British people and yet they are also very often the people who bear the brunt of British scepticism when we look for people to blame.

The perception of our army, navy and airforce all suffered after our morally bankrupt Labour government sent them to fight a war in Iraq on a false prospectus. Any yet we know our armed forces personnel represent the very best of Britain at home and abroad. That is why we are now witnessing a grassroots fightback amongst ordinary citizens keen to show we understand the difference between the instructions given by politicians for our armed forces to execute and our understanding that they are our first line of defence against international terrorism and the war against illegal drugs. The brave men and women of our armed forces defend our freedom with their own lives and limbs and we are all truly grateful for this and to those who have lost either in order to preserve the British way of life.

In today's newspapers we learn that Prince William is off to serve in the Royal Navy on patrols aboard the frigate HMS Iron Duke searching for drug runners in the Caribbean seas. Like his brother Prince Harry, Prince William has been keen to show that he will lead from the front in the true tradition of our Royal Family, something they have always been prepared to do when Britain has needed them most. With us all feeling a little uneasy about the prospects for our economy and Britain's standing on the international stage we should all be proud to see members of our Royal Family making headlines for serving their country in a positive way when so many domestic and international leaders have previously failed to step up to the same mark.

And then there are the dedicated staff of our NHS, Police Force and Fire Service.

Our ambulance service personnel are always first to major incidents, regardless of personal risk, delivering the injured to teams of doctors and nurses prepared to work round the clock to save lives and limbs whenever they can. When things go wrong in our NHS the media and the public come down on the individuals involved like a tonne of bricks and yet no one suggests they deliberately go out of their way to fail. We would all do well to remember all that we owe to the dedicated personnel of our NHS and to express our thanks to them for all they do in a much more proactive and positive fashion.

The Police Force that patrol our streets do so despite a desperate lack of resource ,but with an undoubted desire to protect us all. Political interference and the endless drive of political correctness means they have been told to act and feel like a 'Service' instead of the 'Force' we need to have on our streets delivering safer communities and happier places to live. Like us all, our Police are human and they get things wrong from time to time, but for all the good they do we owe them our thanks and support!

Finally, whenever they are called upon our brave fire men and women put their lives in danger to help protect others. Whether it be a fire or a terrorist attack you will see fire engines delivering personnel to situations involving critical danger and yet reports of attacks on fire personnel are ever increasing with stone throwing and assaults now commonplace occurrences in some areas. These mindless idiots would be the first to demand the presence of Fire Service personnel if their lives were in danger and they would do well to remember this and show them the respect they have earned.

So congratulations to George and to Jodie on their respective wins and more power to our armed and emergency services who look after us all. While we all know there are many social ills we need to tackle Britain really has got an awful lot of talent and, no matter how the media portrays the broken society we live in today, that makes me really proud to be British!