Saturday, 31 January 2009

Reverting Back To Type?

I have a great deal of sympathy for British workers who will struggle to find work because of the decision to bring in Italian and Portuguese workers to deliver a contract awarded to an Italian firm. The people to blame are not, however, the foreign workers or the company who awarded the contract in the first place. The people we should blamed are the Labour government who, over the past 12 years, have changed contract and employment law to allow this to happen.

I don't expect Labour will accept that the Social Chapter and minimum wage legislation they enforced on this country have down sides, as well as positives. In good times the positives provided great benefit to our communities and they were easy to defend, but the truth is they are too rigid in their design and when companies need some flexibility to navigate through difficult economic times the way this legislation is structured in the UK means they find it very difficult to do what is best for the employees they are able to continue to employ.

Our Trade Unions were quick to demand the introduction of many of the laws that are now disadvantaging their members and they must reconcile this with any decision to allow secondary strike action. Instead of reverting back to type perhaps UK Trade Union' should question why Gordon Brown's great claim of "British jobs for British workers" is proving to be nothing more than a hollow Labour soundbite?

Wildcat strikes in the power industry will ultimately mean only two groups of people suffer - the striking workers who lose pay and the public who will pay more for their power to compensate for any loses incurred by generating companies.

What our country needs now is a government prepared to stand up for British interests at home and abroad. Labour have failed to do this over the past 12 years and, whether you are a trade union member or not, we are all now suffering as a result.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Some Things Just Make You Angry!

My work with the Campaign Against Political Correctness (www.capc.co.uk) ensures that journalists phone up with a wide variety of enquiries on subjects ranging from the bizarre to the ridiculous.

Sometimes I get a right good laugh out of the stories I am asked to comment on - (re-branding 'Librarians' as 'Audience Development Officers') - and sometimes the things the things I am told simply annoy me - (banning of the word 'husband' in maternity wards in case it offends the unmarried).

But today, I have to say, I was simply annoyed when asked to comment on Edinburgh City Council's decision to remove two children from the custody of their grandparents in order to enable a gay couple to adopt them.

Surely no one in their right mind thinks it is the best interest of these children to be torn from their biological family in order to be brought up in an environment where they will be under constant scrutiny because of the relationship of their guardians?

Edinburgh City Council even took the grandparents to court to remove their rights to care for them, placing them into foster care while the legal action took place over the past two years. These poor people eventually had to give up their legal fight because of rising costs, which is hardly surprising given the Council's seemingly endless resource.

Social workers have now placed the brother and sister with a gay couple and the grandparents claim they have been warned they risk never seeing the youngsters again if they continue with their opposition to the same-sex adoption.

As an adopted child myself, it offends me greatly to see a system that benefited me so greatly abused by a local authority in the name of political correctness and probably achievement of a target. It is surely now time for every politicians to do everything they can to protect the family in recognition of it being the heart of good society.

Children are the most precious gift our society are given and it is our duty to protect them as best we can not to pursue a politically correct agenda!

Votes Won and Votes Lost - But Are We Any Better Off?

Today's news agenda has been about parliamentary votes won and lost.

In the Scottish Parliament the SNP administration lost its vote on the Scottish Executive budget for the forthcoming year, on the casting vote of the Presiding Officer, despite controversial Conservative Party support.

At Westminster the Labour government won a vote to authorise a third runway at Heathrow Airport, along with a sixth terminal, by just 19 votes thanks to their whips - who cojoled every vote they could through the lobbies, including the unfit and unwell.

I celebrate living in a democracy but question sometimes whether the democracy I live in is actually serving the people of Scotland and the United kingdom in the way it should.

Surely it is Scotland's best interest to pass a budget that includes measures to regenerate Scotland's High Streets, to boost public expenditure at a time of economic woe and to insulate Scotland's homes to benefit our environment and reduce the cost of heating over the long term.

And across the UK we should question whether a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow is actually in the national interest. I believe Mayor Boris Johnson is right to encourage London to think out of the box about a new location for our major international air hub rather than expansion of Heathrow given its urban location. Look at Hong Kong where they moved their airport from the middle of their population, (you used to land in the middle of the skyscrapers), to a new rural location where planes take off and land without disruption to its population and to a location where there is enough spare land to create additional capacity in the future should this be required. This is the sort of blue print the UK needs to adopt, in addition to high speed railways connecting this international air hub to the rest of the UK.

So I feel that today our politicians let us down and our democracy is poorer as a result. My only consolation is that the Conservative Party was on the right side of the arguments today and long may that continue!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Don't turn on the Tele or pick up a Newspaper. It will only depress you!

I joked today with people playing Bridge at Eastwood House that Hugh Edwards should be banned from opening the BBC Six O'clock News by saying "and here is the news" because it should really be "and here is the bad news".

The media persist in battering us with more and more stories of job losses, business failures, financial loss by the government and taxpayer, further loss of business confidence and political sleaze. They do so, I am sure, in the interests of fairness and no doubt citing the public's right to know, but what they fail to understand is that as much as we all do want to be told the truth and how bad things are going to get we also want to hear that things will get better and that in time we can all expect better times to come.

So today it was terrific to hear that 1,000 new jobs are going to be created in the Clyde shipbuilding industry. Proper jobs are being created in manufacturing just as we lose thousands of jobs in the service sector. What a turn around! Welders, engineers, riggers, pipe fitters and crane operators are all to be recruited so that our shipyards can fulfil MoD contracts and are a welcome ray of sunshine on what appears to be a dark economic horizon.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Would You Believe It?

The devil, they say, is always in the detail.

Even though the UK is in dire economic straights, of our own making, it appears a little-known clause in the European Union treaty may force Britain to chip in billions of pounds to rescue countries in economic crisis because of their membership of the Euro.

This clause gives the Commission in Brussels the power to propose bailing out a state in 'severe difficulties'. Such help could be agreed by a majority vote of states and Britain would NOT have a veto.

With countries such as Ireland, Spain and Greece plunged into economic crisis, largely as a result of being unable to devalue their currencies, there is the prospect of British taxpayers having to help fund expensive rescue packages - despite the UK never having joined monetary union.

An EC report last week highlighted the major problems facing some eurozone members, and ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Spain's credit rating. The Commission report said of Spain: 'Deteriorating labour market prospects, further tightening of credit conditions and adverse wealth effects are set to lead to a significant contraction in private consumption.'

It added that Ireland was 'particularly exposed' to the international economic crisis and that Greece is expected to be 'significantly affected'.

Under the Nice Treaty, signed in February 2001 and incorporated into the combined EU treaty, huge rescue packages can be approved on a majority vote. Britain disliked the proposal when it came up for negotiation and the Conservatives opposed it, but the Government gave way and agreed.

And the moral of the story? You can't trust Labour to get it right at home or abroad.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Money, Money, Money. It Should Never Be About The Money!

It really depresses me when politicians are caught seeking money in return for their political influence. While I don't believe in state funding of politics I equally don't believe it is right that members of the House of Commons, House of Lords, European Parliament, Scottish Parliament or indeed our Local Council's should receive any personal financial gain from external sources in return for political influence.

Raising money to fund campaigns is a quite legitimate activity and if your own policies, or indeed those of your Party, are attractive to people who then help fund campaigns in the hope of seeing them enacted then that is democracy at work.

Today's news that four Labour peers have solicited money, for purely personal gain, in return for them amending legislation to suit the donor merely reinforces the public's view that politicians are in it for themselves and the money. Lords who act in this way, no matter the Party they affiliate themselves to, should be kicked out of the Lords and lose any right to help shape the country we live in.

If elected, I have promised to claim less and to spend less than the current Member of Parliament for East Renfrewshire when it comes to expenses and not to publish any political propaganda using any one of the various members allowances.

To restore the public's faith in democracy the public needs a new type of politician to represent them in the way they clearly aspire to be represented. In East Renfrewshire that will take an election and in the House of Lords that will take a few sackings.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The SNP should call it Quits on LIT

News that HM Revenue & Customs are to write to John Swinney to inform him they do not have the power to collect Local Income Tax on behalf of the Scottish Executive should surely consign LIT to the political dustbin!

The Scotland Act allows the Scottish Parliament to vary the level of income tax set by Westminster by 3%, up or down, but it does not make any provision for HMR&C to collect any other form of taxation on behalf of the Scottish Parliament.

I am, in principle, opposed to a Local Income Tax replacing Council Tax for a very great number of reasons. Not least of these is that it will be yet another disincentive to work, alongside many of the current UK governments schemes.

What Scotland, and indeed the UK, needs is government that makes people pay for the services they receive and leaves the public with as much of their own money as is possible. Ordinary people can then decide whether they want to save their money or to spend it on their own personal priorities.

It has been the policies of politicians and the personal greed of individuals that has got us into this recession and it will be the actions of individuals that will get us out of it. For me politicians must now facilitate the role of the individual and not make matters worse for generations to come by consigning them to never ending debt in the form of permanent tax increases to pay for the folly of endless state spending in the good times while keeping nothing back for bad times!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Labour learn an Expenses lesson!

That Gordon Brown and the Labour Party even tried to push through legislation that would have kept MP expenses secret from the taxpayer showed a scandalous disregard for the public’s right to scrutinise parliamentary expenses.

The taxpayer pays MPs expenses and they have every right to know whether their money is being spent properly. Labour also wasText Colourted vast amounts of taxpayer’s money in Court proceedings and in parliamentary time trying to hide from the public full details of the expenses claimed by MPs, which after all are financed by us.

With Britain forecast to suffer the worst recession of any major economy surely it is the role of government to do everything possible to ensure what money we do spend is spent wisely. Neither MPs nor HMRC would think it acceptable if other public servants or ordinary taxpayers did not have to account for their expenses so it is incredible Labour MPs thought they could get away with this.

In trying to legislate to avoid MPs being subject to common good financial practise Labour brought politics into further disrepute. Is it any wonder the electorate are disenchanted with politicians and feel they are all in it for the money when bad apples act in such a dishonourable way?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

What Goes Around .........

I received an email today from an East Renfrewshire resident who got my email from a leaflet we delivered this afternoon. While I don’t really do circular emails, I think it proves my point that the general public are depressed in anticipation of a depression - made and being administered by Scottish Labour in Downing Street:

Alistair Darling started the day early having set his
alarm clock

(MADE IN JAPAN),

for 6 am. While his
coffee-pot

(MADE IN CHINA),

was perking, he shaved with his
electric razor
(MADE IN HONG KONG).

He put on a
dress shirt

(MADE IN SRI LANKA),

designer suit

(MADE IN SINGAPORE),

and
leather shoes

(MADE IN KOREA).

After cooking his breakfast in his new
electric skillet

(MADE IN INDIA),

he sat down with his
calculator

(MADE IN MEXICO),

to see how much he could spend today. After setting his
watch

(MADE IN TAIWAN),

to the
radio

(MADE IN INDIA),

he got in his
car

(MADE IN GERMANY),

filled it with
diesel

(from SAUDI ARABIA),

and continued his search for a
good paying UK JOB.

At the end of yet another discouraging
and fruitless day checking his
computer

(Made In Malaysia),

Alistair decided to relax for a while.
He put on his
sandals

(MADE IN BRAZIL),

poured himself a
glass of wine

(MADE IN FRANCE),

and turned on his
TV

(MADE IN INDONESIA),

and then wondered why he can't find
a good paying job in the UK!

This was only an email round robin and I am sure it was sent as a bit of fun, albeit with a serious message.

The UK desperately needs a manufacturing industry to reinvigorate our private sector, creating real wealth, and to achieve this the UK needs to put Alastair Darling and his neighbour at No. 10 out of a job. In short we need an election now so that the next government can get the UK working again!

Good News - Bad News

The news that Gordon Brown is to spend up to £200billion to bolster our ailing banks is very bad news indeed unless you believe it is 100% guaranteed to work! While it is right to do everything we can to avoid complete disaster it is wrong to take risks and gambles and to accelerate our national debt by an additional £200billion given he already intends to leave us owing £1.1 trillion by the end of 2011.

Could we be looking at bankrupt Britain? I very much fear we might be if the true level of toxic debt held by our big four banks is greater than the money now on offer. If it is they will surely go down - rendering our shareholding in them worthless.

If Plan B fails, (given this is his second attempt to bale out our banks), we should prepare ourselves for the IMF to declare us a basket case and to take over the running of our economy. The thought of external influences setting our levels of taxation, deciding how much capital and interest we repay to the world before spending anything that remains on the NHS, eduction or defence is simply frightening as a British patriot.

video

And what is the good news, I hear you ask? Well ,if there is nothing else to cheer me up before the Summer, I am to become a father for the first time in July - thanks to my beautiful wife Elaine. So, no matter how bad Gordon Brown makes the economy of our country and how difficult it becomes to make ends meet, I know there is something worth working for on the horizon and someone for whom I must fight to make our country better in the future!

Friday, 16 January 2009

When Is A Local Authority Not Local?

News that the Scottish Government are to review the number of Council's in Scotland and that Labour MSP Tom McCabe is proposing to significantly reduce the number of local authorities delivering vital local services is deeply concerning.

Those old enough to remember Strathclyde Regional Council will shudder at the thought of a new monster authority combining East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire -as shown on the map of potential Council groupings published by The Herald.

If we need to fight, and win, a "Keep East Ren" campaign I and every local Conservative are ready to do so. Our economy is in crisis and leading politicians want to put us through the unnecessary expense of amalgamation and rebranding - not to mention making local government as remote as Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels. So bring it on SNP, Labour and any other group who want to make politics about bureaucracy and not about local people. I don't believe in large government and neither do ordinary people across the length and breadth of Scotland.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Too little, Too late!

Given the position our economy is now in, it is not with any glee that Conservatives will welcome the business loans guarantee scheme the government are set to announce tomorrow. After all we have been calling on Labour to introduce such a scheme for months!

The real pity is that Labour are apparently to announce the value of this scheme will be less than £20billion over its lifetime. In contrast, George Osborne is calling for a £50billion scheme because we can't afford for this scheme to fail because government are not prepared to do what it takes to get credit flowing to businesses once again.

The truth is that no one really knows what it will take to get credit flowing to the business sector, but surely it is sensible to offer too much than too little if you are in government and really want to make sure you get the job done!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Council Tax Freeze would be good but a Council Tax Cut is what we need!

John Swinney's proposed Council Tax freeze is to be welcomed and if it ends up being the only show in town is something we should grab. The trouble is that it doesn't go nearly far enough given he is claiming his budget will help Scotland combat the recession.

So many people are already hurting in these difficult economic times and more are already worried they will join the ranks of the unemployed in the coming year. So a budget that provides for a Council Tax cut is something that would be widely welcomed and put real money into the pockets of everyone who is supposed to have disposable income to pay Council Tax.

The Scottish Conservative proposal to utilise the £281 million of savings identified by the SNP Scottish Executive to provide a Council Tax cut for every household now is something Scotland needs desperately NOW. Giving every household an extra £150 to spend can only be good for our economy and good for our own local community. After all, as a famous supermarket brand would say, "every little helps".

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Cleaning Up!

Before Christmas a number of local residents alerted me to the condition of Glenville Lane in Giffnock. Like much of our local area, East Renfrewshire Council have done nothing to maintain this area, despite it being a vital right of way for local people and the route for their bin lorries, and as a result the lane is overgrown, dangerous and a potential risk to young and old alike.

Thanks to the efforts of Councillor Gordon Wallace and an ever increasing group of local residents, we are taking action to clean up this lane and get it back to a condition in keeping with the local area. Our local environment used to be a place people aspired to rather than something people aspired to make look better and I believe it is time for community action to show the Council that is failing us what we expect.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Salmond's SNP Folly!

It is not completely unheard of for a politician or a political party to make one mistake, but it is pretty rare to have one party make two big mistakes in one day!

Alex Salmond's claim that Scotland should adopt the Euro because Sterling is "sinking like a stone" completely misses the point. Scotland is in trouble not because our currency is weak or strong. We are in trouble because Labour's economic policy have led us to disaster and diverting public attention from this is simply letting Labour off the hook. Indeed, the only reason Sterling has devalued so massively against other currencies is our Labour Governments decision to print so much extra cash to pump into the banking system and as other countries follow suit Sterling has recovered slightly in recent days to more than £1 - €1.10 tonight from near parity a few days ago.

The second display of stupidity from the SNP today was the rejection of the Conservatives offer of talks on how to fund the new Forth road crossing. For a party who claims to want the best for Scotland to act is such a narrow minded way on an infrastructure project of such importance to the economy of Scotland is simply staggering.

If Alex Salmond wants the SNP to work for the people of Scotland he must stop the politics of gripe and division and work with everyone who has Scotland's best interests at heart. That is what difficult economic times demand of us all.

Helping Those Who Want To Work

Shadow Secretary of State for Works and Pensions, Chris Grayling MP, visited Edinburgh today to announce a whole range of measures Conservatives intend to take to help businesses stay afloat, to help individuals survive the recession and to help those who find themselves made unemployed get back to work as quickly as possible, should they win the next General Election.

A wide range of business organisations were present and I think they went away encouraged by the breadth and depth of proposals Chris put forward. It is clear that David Cameron and his team genuinely understand the pain people are feeling across the country and have a very positive and definite approach to helping those most in need.

To play my part, in East Renfrewshire I propose to set up a new "East Ren Jobs Club" as a self help and support group for those struggling in difficult economic times. Whether it is help with writing of a CV, tips on interviews or simply providing someone to listen to those frustrated by the length of time it takes to find a job the East Ren Jobs Club is something I can do to help minimise the impact of the recession on East Renfrewshire.

Monday, 5 January 2009

David Cameron Giving A Little Bit To Those Who Need It Most - And Setting An Example To Those Who Need One Most!

When David Cameron announced new economic policy today I believe it was very much about doing two vital things.

First of all his announcement that everyone who is a basic tax payer will not pay any tax on interest derived from savings gives those who have been prudent a little more in their pockets as a reward for doing what is right and saving. The same applies to his proposal to increase the tax allowance of pensioners by an additional £2,000 as it is people on fixed incomes who suffer most when interest rates plummet.

Secondly his announcement sends a message to everyone that there is a real difference between Labour and the Conservatives. Labour believe the State should spend more, put everyone into unprecedented levels of debt and innocent bystanders who suffer as a result of government policy are an acceptable casualty. David Cameron believes that the State should reward those who have done the right thing in order to demonstrate, to those who have not, that saving and not spending excessively is the best way to a successful country and economy.

So many East Renfrewshire pensioners have told me that income from interest on savings they had been relying on has dried up and that they feel it is immoral that the State demand they pay tax on interest on money they paid tax on when it was genuine income. I have always agreed with this and will happily campaign alongside David Cameron for those on the lowest levels of income and pensioners on fixed incomes to be exempt from paying tax on their savings. Britain must be a fair country if its economy is to recover and in David Cameron we have a leader who clearly understands what needs to be done.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Labour Are Ruining The Only Union That Really Matters!

It isn't Labour's arrogance that is ruining the Union. Nor is it simply their complacency. It is undoubtedly a combination of all the above, and their failure to provide any real leadership in promoting the benefits of our relationship with England, Northern Ireland and Wales, that is doing so much damage and placing the Union at risk.

Who can forget the claims of the Labour Party in Scotland that devolution would "kill nationalsim stone dead". George Robertson used to preach this mantra as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland in some sort of false belief that is you say something often enough it will always come true. Those of us who predicted the exact opposite, that devolution would give the SNP their best ever opportunity of moving Scotland towards Independence (effectively using it as a stepping stone) take no pleasure in having been proven right by events.

The SNP are not some sort of amateurish band of country bumpkins incapable of capitalising on gift horses. They are a very well disciplined and ruthless bunch of politicians who are as capable of being opportunistic as any other political organisation in Scotland.

As the current Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy is falling in to the very same trap as his Labour predecessors in attacking the SNP instead of making devolution work by establishing protocols and conventions that enable the Scottish Parliament to work with Westminster when the administrations of each are of different political persuasions! At the same time he writes blandly in newspapers about Scotland's strength being attributed to its place in the United Kingdom without establishing in print what this actually means.

Where are the statistics that prove more than 70% of all Scottish exports go to other parts of the UK? Where are the examples of Scots working to the benefit of the rest of the UK? Where are the references to the benefits that Scotland get from remaining an integral part of the United Kingdom? Because all this matters to the ordinary people of Scotland and the UK.

For me the Union is a marriage of four very capable countries who realise they are better off united by the common land and common principles their people share. It is only right to tell your partner what it is you do for them and to acknowledge their role in improving and fulfilling your life. Ask any salesman and he will tell you it is easier to sell the positives of your own brand than to decry the products and claims of your opponents. So why do unionist politicians continuously slate the case for Scottish Independence rather than sell the benefits of remaining part of the United Kingdom?

The failure of the Labour Party, and Jim Murphy, to make a positive case for the Union continues to put our countries long term future in doubt and that is something I, and the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party, must fight to ensure we champion.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year - But Only An Election Can Bring Hope to East Renfrewshire

2008 was a year of dramatic highs and lows. We witnessed great success for Team GB at the Olympic and Para-Olympics Games in Beijing but our economy took a very dramatic downturn and we enter 2009 facing a very deep recession and the prospect of a rapid increase in unemployment.

The problems we face are of course of our own and our Labour governments making. Individuals reliance on credit is borne partly out of our own greed but more significantly as a result of government policy. For years government statistics have pointed to our combined individual and state national debt rocketing to unsafe levels and yet government continued to encourage institutions and banks to lend lend lend. That the state now proposes to borrow massive sums to try and get us out of a recession caused by debt is truly staggering.

Here in East Renfrewshire we face a year in which our Labour led Council propose to invest massive sums of Council Tax money into pet political projects for which no real case can be made. Facing the loss of more than £1million in a high risk investment with a failed Icelandic Bank they now propose to spend more than £12.5million building a college in Barrhead despite their own figures showing the number of people attending adult eduction in Barrhead falling by more than 40% in recent years.

For me the answer to both local and national problems lies in political leadership. For years we have had local politicians who are seen at everything but ask yourself one simple question: what have they actually done for you or your family to make life better in East Renfrewshire? We need political leadership that will deliver spending on better roads and pavements, more police on local streets and a cleaner environment. These are the priorities of the people of East Renfrewshire and they are my priorities too!

East Renfrewshire, Scotland and the UK all need one thing to make them better - a General Election that delivers a new government. My mother always tells me the best things come to those who wait, but for me our country can't wait any longer for a new government and I hope 2009 brings us all the General Election we so richly deserve.