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 www.electoralcalculus.co.uk 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!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Thank You Britain For Our Aircraft Carrier Contract

Alex Salmond would have us all believe there would be no material difference to the Scottish way of life if Scotland were to achieve independence. What tosh!

The SNP are of course correct to suggest we Scottish are perfectly capable of governing ourselves if we wanted to and indeed to suggest we would make a good fist of it. But what they are not honest enough to admit is that the breakup of Britain would come at a heavy cost to Scottish industry, to Scottish jobs and to whole sections of Scottish society.

As just one example, there is the terrific news for Clyde shipbuilding that the United Kingdom government has formally signed contracts to buy two new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy. Because this involves procurement of strategic national importance to the UK government they are able to place orders with our own domestic shipbuilders without including foreign yards in full scale competitive tendering. In this instance that means job security for yards on the Clyde, Rosyth, Barrow and Portsmouth.

The two new aircraft carriers that are to be built will be the biggest ships ever to enter service with the Royal Navy at more than 65,000 tonnes each. The contract, signed on 3rd July 2008, guarantees more than 7,000 jobs across the UK and means we retain vital skills in our country for the foreseeable future.

Had Scotland not been part of the United Kingdom, with our proud tradition of supporting our Navy, there would not have been any likelihood of an independent English government placing an order of strategic importance to it with a Scottish yard. Indeed, were we not part of the United Kingdom I am in no doubt Scotland would not have a commercial shipbuilding industry of the type and scale we see today. Without Royal Navy contracts the Clyde's shipbuilders would have shut up shop long ago and in the event of independence, but for a few fishery protection vessels, I do not believe there would be frigate, submarine or aircraft carrier orders from a Scottish government to sustain a significant shipbuilding industry in the future.

Independence would dramatically reduce the size and capability of our armed services. Scotland would not procure massive aircraft carriers, would not need the jet fighters that go with them and our army would be a shadow of its current size given our relative irrelevance on the international stage. And yet, today, our armed services support the economies of whole areas of Scotland and play vital roles in the moral fabric of society as we know it. All this would be put at risk by independence and no one should be in any doubt that cuts to Scotland's armed services capability would occur within weeks of any divorce from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So, unless I have missed something, the independent Scotland offered by Alex Salmond and the SNP would be detrimental to our armed services. We are a country of 5 million people talented and resourceful people but we would not need, and could not sustain, the number of army, airforce and navy personnel we currently support as nationals of a country with a combined population of 55 million+, even on a pro rata basis.

I am sure HMS Queen Elizabeth II and HMS Prince of Wales will be shining examples of all that makes our country GREAT!

Our two new aircraft carriers, built on the Clyde, will be glorious symbols of why we should be proud to be British and they should serve to remind us all of the benefits Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland gain from being part of a Union that delivers social, economic and strategic advantages - benefits we would not enjoy if we are force apart.

So thank you, my fellow British citizens, for our aircraft carrier contract. Together we will proudly defend our nation, while apart we would surely be shadows of our current selves, both at home and abroad!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Knife Crime - Get It Off Our Streets!

Knife crime is very much in the news these days. Too many of our young people are being injured, or are dieing, as a result of stabbings and that is because too many of our young people carry knives in the first place!

It appears to have become socially acceptable to teenagers to carry weapons and to wield them with bravado, and yet they join the rest of society in our revulsion whenever one of their friends or family are the victim of knife crime.

Scottish and British society sit today at a crossroads. We either take action to tackle issues like knife crime or we accept them as part of modern day society and allow our way of life to continue to corrode.

I believe this is yet another issue where the answer lies in our approach to policing of our communities. Police Officers serve two purposes - firstly they are there to detect crime and secondly, and possibly most importantly, they are there to deter crime!
It is time to support a national campaign to rid knife crime from our streets! Police Forces across the UK must participate in a national 'stop and search' campaign designed to demonstrate our determination to get knives off our streets and to ensure our young people feel safe in our communities without the need to carry weapons. Once young people know that if they carry a knife there is a definite chance they will be caught in possession of it we have deterrence, and once we have police on our streets for this purpose we will start to catch those carrying and using knives providing us with detection.

In addition to this measure I would give our courts new powers that ensure those committing knife crime are automatically jailed, and for longer terms than at present. Those in possession of knives should also face custodial sentences where there is no good reason to be in possession of an an item that can be used with potentially lethal consequences.

It is time to take action to protect, to detect and to deter. The safety of everyone in our society is an essential element of ensuring better communities and our Police and Courts both have major parts to play in restoring our faith in society!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Stabilising Fuel In An Unstable World

At last, the chance of a little bit of common sense to help those on low and fixed incomes to pay for their fuel!

Earlier today the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, unveiled a radical new plan to soften the impact of future fuel price rises on families. Put simply, his 'Fair Fuel Stabiliser' would reduce duty when fuel prices go up, and raise it when fuel prices go down.

To give people some perspective as to its potential impact, if a Fair Fuel Stabiliser had been introduced at the 2008 Budget fuel would now be 5p per litre cheaper, shaving £3.50 off a tank of fuel for a Ford Mondeo. If, however, instead of rising, oil prices had fallen below the $84 forecast in the Budget fuel duty would have risen to ensure the government received its revenues forecast from fuel.

In essence George is proposing a mechanism that ensures government does not profiteer from rising oil prices but which guarantees them their revenues from fuel will remain unchanged regardless of the cost of the crude material. George described his stabiliser as, "A common sense plan to help families, bring stability to the public finances and help the environment by making the price of carbon less volatile", and I agree!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

A "BRITISH" Wimbledon Champion!

Well done Laura Robson!

Going in to this years Wimbledon fortnight none of us really expected to be talking about a British victory on Finals weekend unless we were appending the surname "Murray" to the victor, and yet today it is Laura Robson who has us celebrating a British win in terrific style!

Laura's 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win in this afternoons Girls Singles Final showed grit, determination and a typically British "never say die" spirit. Watching her composure and professionalism, both during the match and even after having won a Grand Slam tournament, I couldn't help thinking this young lady has what it takes to go all the way in the game.

It takes a unique blend of talent and dedication to breed a champion and I believe Laura will be a true British sports star for a very long time to come. So come on Britain, let's get right behind Laura, the Murray's and all our other elite sports men and women in the hope that they provide our young people with the inspiration not to waste their talents preferring instead to put them to good use!

Friday, 4 July 2008

A Positive Solution To The West Lothian Question!

Tam Dalyell is a man known for asking awkward questions - the answers to which few, if any, are able to find. So to answer Tam's biggest question of all who better than a 'big beast' of British politics to propose a positive solution.

Earlier this week Ken Clarke MP announced the result of his 'democracy task force', proposing a positive answer to Tam's 'West Lothian Question'. Ken's proposal, backed by David Cameron, is that MP's representing Scottish constituencies should be able to vote on the second and third readings of every Bill, even those that affect only English constituencies, but that were a Bill only applies to England its committee stage, during which MP's formally amend Bills, should only be considered by MP's representing English constituencies.

To those who are not aficionados of Westminster procedure this may seem like a very confusing proposal but to political hacks like me this seems to be a clever and elegant solution to ensuring fairness for England in this post devolution era.

Poll after poll, the overwhelming majority of Scots indicate they understand it is not fair for Scottish MP's to legislate on issues that only affect England when English MP's are not able to vote on the same matters for Scotland as a result of devolution. That is because we Scots believe in fair play, equality and in protecting our democracy!

Ken Clarke's solution would allow MP's representing Scottish constituencies to register their vote on every Bill considered by Parliament, preventing any allegation of the creation of a two tier system of MP, and will address the fundamental unfairness of Labour's devolution settlement in relation to its impact on democracy in England.

Thanks to Ken Clarke, I look forward to campaigning at the next General Election on the basis that, if elected, the people of East Renfrewshire can be assured I will represent them on every issue before the UK Parliament by voting on every Bill put before it. In doing so the people of East Renfrewshire will be able to judge me on my record and by ensuring this becomes formal Westminster procedure the people of England can rest assured the Conservative & Unionist Party will have provided them with a solution to the most difficult of constitutional questions by restoring fairness to their democracy, as they so rightly demand!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Dogs - Mans Best Friend or Offensive Animal?

I am widely quoted today, in national newspapers, following the decision of Tayside Police to apologise for using a puppy dog in an advert designed to publicise their non-emergency telephone number. This apology followed a complaint by a Dundee Councillor that this image is offensive to Muslims because dogs are considered to be ritually unclean in his religion.

I am in no doubt that the advertising agency who designed this advert did so on the basis that the UK is the most dog loving nation on earth. In our culture dogs are viewed as mans best friend and I am sure the ad agency simply wanted people to think of their local Police as mans best friend by using the imagery of one of their dog, 'Rebel', to advertise the Tayside Police force.

The British way of life means is happy to respect cultures from all around the world and to allow them to prosper in Britain alongside our own way of life. I am quite sure Andrex will not drop their puppy dog from advertising, packaging and branding and I am equally sure their toilet tissue will continue to be used by people of all religions.

Britain is a nation that know all about respect and we have the right to have our culture respected. 'Rebel' is simply a puppy dog training to serve his local community in our Police Force. He's a cute little thing and I am sure he will do a lot of good for the Tayside community, regardless of their religion!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Winning Is Better Than Smiling!

Andrew Murray is constantly being given advice by our national newspapers about how to win over the English public during this years Wimbledon championships. Unbelievably one daily newspaper even claims he need only smile more to ingratiate himself to 'Joe Public'.

Having beaten Richard Gasquet in a five set thriller tonight I think it is fair to say the best way to win over the great British public is pretty simple - WIN!

We love an underdog and a good loser, but what we really want to follow and support are determined winners.

So "some on Andy" keep up the good work and win one for Great Britain and make us all, including the English, love you as the British treasure you undoubtedly are!