Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Steve Webb is popular as well as real

Steve Webb's experience with Facebook has sent some ripples of laughter round the blogosphere. it is quite ironic that they booted out their biggest Lib Dem proponent. Thankfully he now appears to have been rightfully restored. I can imagine the Facebook press office groaning at the sight of 200 e-mails all saying "I know Steve Webb and he's really nice."

Anyway, it shows how popular he is because in just a few hours, the Steve Webb is real amassed almost 200 members.

Commiserations to Chris Huhne

We all know how it feels to lose an election, particularly by a very small margin. I was very impressed with the graceful way in which Chris Huhne congratulated Nick Clegg this afternoon. It must have been a very difficult speech for him to make and he did so with customary skill and authority.

He ran a strong campaign and I am sure he will be given the chance to continue his excellent economic and environmental policy work.

Confident Clegg vows to reach out

Unsurprisingly, since I've been waxing lyrical in his support for some weeks now, I am delighted that Nick Clegg has been elected leader today. His warmth and genuine and engaging manner will bring many to consider the Liberal Democrats as a serious contender. His intellect and sharp wit will be put to good use in debate against Brown and Cameron. His inclusive leadership style will allow all the talents in our party to be showcased so that people can see what an experienced and high quality opposition we provide at national level and how well we run our Councils up and down the country.

There's a lot of work to be done but I feel happy and confident about the future direction of the Party.

I was pleased to see Vince Cable have the chance to reflect on his brief inter-regnum, even if he spent longer talking about Strictly Come Dancing than anything else. Who can blame him for mentioning his dance with Alesha!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Best Street in the World

The street I live in has to be one of the best in the entire world. Tonight 30 of us went to see Joseph in Edinburgh. On Saturday, we are having our street Christmas Party. This year we have celebrated four 40th birthdays and numerous other parties together, and we all get on so well.

In a country where many people don't know their neighbours, I have to thank mine for being such good fun.

Joseph opens in Edinburgh

This time last year, Keith Jack was working in Tesco, Dalkeith, directing irate shoppers to the sausagemeat and wrestling with huge piles of Christmas baubles and selection boxes. I can't imagine that he realistically thought that a year on he'd have a key role in a major production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat which opened at the Edinburgh Playhouse tonight to a wildly cheering 3000 strong audience, including 30 from my street.

We supported him all through "Any Dream Will Do" and were delighted to see him become runner up.

His role in Joseph is that of the Narrator, which is actually a bigger and much more vocally demanding role than Joseph. He did a marvellous job, and I think he will get even better as he settles into the 8 show a week routine. There were some points at the beginning when his vocal and his general demeanour was a little subdued, but the range in his voice is amazing. By the second half, he looked more comfortable. I remembered how the judges during "Any Dream Will Do" kept slating him for his diction. He perhaps over compensated in places tonight in parts but he's certainly been working on it and improving in the intervening months.

The role of Joseph was taken by another Any Dream Will Do finalist, Craig Chalmers. He did well in the role, bringing light, colour and humour in places. He made a little heartfelt speech at the end saying how proud he was to be playing in Edinburgh and introducing Keith and the other reality musical show finalists, Wayne from Grease is the Word and Chris Barton from Any Dream Will Do.

To have had such entertainment for £8 a ticket (albeit we did get altitude sickness from our position looking down on the gods) was amazing. However, my friend Anne and I have decided that we want to go back and enjoy it all from the Body of the Kirk. If you haven't got tickets already, book them now. It's well worth seeing.

Another Ten Reasons to vote for Nick Clegg

Linda Jack has given her 10 reasons to vote for Nick Clegg, all of which I can agree with. I doubt I can do it as eloquently as her, but I feel I should have a try:

He is a Liberal who knows how to communicate Liberal values to the very many people who have not yet voted for us; he has already done this on a smaller scale in the East Midlands and can do so now across the UK;

He is brave enough to risk prison to protect our civil liberties; he was brave enough to give up a secure job in the European Commission to go for a Euro-seat that was marginal to say the least; he then had the courage to give up that safe seat to stand for Westminster.

He will lead by inspiration, not diktat, bringing people with him. He understands the Party and how it works;

He is capable of listening to other points of view;

He understands what devolution is all about and how things work in Scotland and Wales;

He has a rare ability to connect with people, whether individually or as part of a greater audience; he is able to empathise and is made angry by injustice, poverty and abuse of power;

He can make the most complex policy come to life so that the listener not only understands what he's saying but can relate to it;

He has a very good sense of humour - great for PMQs;

He speaks with credibility and authority and has the intellectual capacity to very quickly understand complex issues; I can see him on the international stage promoting liberal values;

I like him and trust him as a person as well as a politician. He is a proper human and what you see is what you get with him. I honestly believe we would soar as a party with him as leader.

Just to balance things, he is not perfect - he, like Willie Rennie, has taken the mickey out of my driving and got away with it - just:-)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Snow Poem

As it's approaching Christmas, I thought I'd share with you a sweet poem written by my daughter Anna and her school friend Caitlin (both 8):

Snow Poem

You can......
Slide down the slippery slope
Sink in the soggy sllush
Smile at the splendid scene
Ski on the soft snow.

You can.......
See the splendid sight
Sing a song on the hills
Shake off the silver snow
Sigh at the silent mountains
and feel your senses tingle in the snow.

The fact that I like this shows how a mother's love is completely unconditional - I hate snow almost to the point of phobia, yet reading this made my heart sing:-)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Clegg v Huhne on Fatherhood

I've just watched this excerpt from the YouTube hustings.

By (reasonable) Decree of Borrowman, I am quite upfront about being a Cleggie and this exchange is one of the reasons why.

They both said pretty much the same thing - flexible working, supporting families, whatever shape they come in is a good thing, etc. However, Nick did it in 20 seconds, Chris took 1:42. Nick looked straight at the camera and was positive and clear, Chris was a bit wandered - and I now get to have a go at his tie, in the interests of equality, as I had a go at Nick's after Question Time.

It sums up for me why I feel that Nick is the best person to reach out and communicate our values and policies.

What defines distress?

I am horrified at OFCOM's decision not to uphold more than 750 complaints against the Channel 4 programme "Bringing up Baby".

This programme compared different schools of thought regarding child rearing, including the ideas of self-styled expert Claire Verity, based on the ideas of Truby King. These practices involve not having eye contact with the baby, and as little physical contact as possible and not being responsive to the baby's cries.

Many viewers were horrified to see a tiny baby left in a room to cry, without its needs being attended to. This makes the OFCOM view that there was no evidence that children were being mistreated or in any distress pathetic and laughable.

No wonder we have so many mental health problems in this country if it is accepted that isolating and ignoring vulnerable babies is reasonable.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

David Whitton - what was his role in Wendygate?

The role of David Whitton, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden comes in to the spotlight after the alleged secret list of donors to Wendy Alexander's campaign mentioned him in connection with a donation for £995.

The facts, as reported by the Sunday Herald:

David Whitton was treasurer of the Alexander Campaign;

David Whitton, prior to his election, had First Group as one of his PR clients;

The document states that a "David" was responsible for securing a donation of £995 which was pencilled in against the name of Moir Lochhead, Chief Executive of the First Group. Interestingly, the name to be used "for Electoral Commission purposes" was that of John Lyon, former MP for East Dunbartonshire beaten by our own Jo Swinson in 2005 who now works as a consultant to the First Group.

Taken at face value, this could be evidence of a deliberate intention to misinform the Electoral Commission about the source of a donation, which is clearly against the law.

What a complete mess. And all for an unopposed election.

If Wendy Alexander is ultimately forced out, this will not be the end of the matter. We deserve to know the roles of all her key advisers in the planning or committing of any acts which were against the law.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Vince Cable, Superhero

Isn't it fantastic that Vince Cable has received positive write ups in practically every newspaper over the past few days? The Sunday Times has a lovely series of photos of Stalin morphing into Mr Bean.

He has now blasted himself into the stratosphere of superherodom as far as I'm concerned by repeating his wish to be considered for Strictly Come Dancing

If Letitia Dean, Alesha Dixon and Kelly Brook, with their prior dance training, can go on, why not Vince even if he does have prior ballroom experience? He'd be the new Bill Turnbull who, 2 years on, still has a cult following on the forums.

Come on, BBC, offer Vince a place on next year's show. And give him Flavia as a partner.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sarah Brown and Reading

I see Gordon Brown's wife has called for children to be encouraged to read

Clearly this is a very good idea. I am lucky enough to have a complete bookworm of a daughter who loves to read a huge variety of stuff, from books, to newspapers, to blogs. This one is one of her favourites.

It's very important to encourage children to read more and play with the Playstation less.

However, I think Sarah Brown's efforts could just as easily be concentrated on adult literacy, and particularly those people in the Labour Party who appear to be unable to read and understand the law on donations to political parties.......

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vince Cable plays a blinder..........

Go Vince:-)

The Stalin to Mr Bean line must be one of the quotes of the year.

I have a great deal of time for Vince Cable - another fully paid up member of the human race. He came to the Livingston By-Election, worked like an absolute Trojan for 2 days and was modest, helpful and very friendly.

Note to new leader - please make sure that Vince continues to have a high public profile.

What's in a Name?

Quite a lot apparently, if you are in the Sudan. A teddy bear innocently named Muhammed has cost British teacher Gillian Gibbons her freedom and potentially could mean an extremely severe corporal punishment and further incarceration.

The worst thing she is guilty of is naivety. I don't believe for one second that she actually meant any disrespect to Islam, the Prophet Muhammed or anyone else. She repeated a simple activity that is loved in classes here all the time. It seems clear that the children she taught in the Sudan liked her too - and the little boy whose name was given to the teddy in question has spoken up on her behalf.

Personally, in that environment, I would have erred on the side of caution and gone for another name, but not everybody has that sort of awareness of a political situation. In fairness, none of her colleagues at the school seem to have warned her that there might be a problem and the chances are that they knew about it.

I do believe its politics, not religion or the law that is keeping Gillian behind bars and I actually wonder whether it would be better for David Miliband to butt out and find someone else who can intercede on Gillian's behalf and make the Sudanese authorities see sense.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fran and Molly Lyon - your chance to help

I have to admit that I initially thought that John Hemming was exaggerating when he talked about babies being removed from their mothers at birth for no good reason and being put up for adoption.

Now, the more I hear about the inhumane treatment doled out to women by various Government agencies (see the Janipher Maseko story below, I am very glad that victims of such injustices have him as a champion.

Yesterday's story about Fran Lyon in the Mail on Sunday made me angry. She has had to flee the country because social services have, against much expert advice, threatened to remove her baby within 10 minutes of birth because of a concern voiced by a doctor who has never met her, that she will harm the baby. This goes back to an episode of mental illness some time ago from which she has fully recovered and has since gone on to study for a neuroscience degree.

Although Fran has never harmed anyone in her life, she is being denied the chance to bond with her baby. She has said that she is happy to go a mother and baby unit where she can be fully supervised to satisfy the concerns of the social services, but they have refused permission for this.

Removing any child from their mother is an extremely serious matter. This step does seem particularly drastic. It's almost that an episode of mental illness is being allowed to stigmatise this young girl for life.

Every liberal instinct demands that she is given a chance to prove herself as able to care for her baby, for Baby Molly to be allowed to have her mother's milk. I was appalled to read in the story that social services were concerened she'd take poison to transmit to the baby via her milk. A far fetched concern which is easily countered should not deny the baby the immunnological, long term health benefits of her mother's milk. The hormones associated with breastfeeding also encourage bonding between mother and baby so it would actually be beneficial.

Please make people aware of this terrible injustice and put pressure on the authorities to reverse their decision and allow Fran and the unborn Molly to stay together.

You can sign a petition and if you are on Facebook, join the group Asking for a Chance - Fran and Molly Lyon.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Government fails to protect parents and babies

I was disappointed to see that the Government has failed to take the opportunity to tighten up the rules on the advertisement of artificial baby milk. In particular, I am concerned that advertising of follow-on formula, for babies over 6 months has not been subjected to the same regulations as that for younger babies.

These follow-on formulas started appearing a few years ago, not because there was any great number of poorly anaemic babies around, but simply as a wheeze by formula manufacturers to get round the law. What annoys me most about it is that the advertising and promotion of this stuff erroneously undermines mothers' confidence in the ability of their own milk to satisfy their babies' nutritional needs. They are told that their babies need supplementation with iron as the stores they have at birth are running out and breastmilk is low in iron. True, there is a lower level of iron in breastmilk, but it is much more efficiently absorbed by the baby. In fact, only 4% of the iron in these follow-on formulas is similarly absorbed by the baby and it can actually undermine the efficiency of some of the proteins in breastmilk which protect against infections in the gut.

Another worrying feature is the Government's failure to force companies to warn consumers that formula is not sterile and give a few simple guidelines as to its safe use.

If you walk down any formula aisle in any supermarket, you will find a whole load of ways in which the Infant Feeding Regulations are being broken. The main thing is the similar branding of formulas for babies under 6 months and their follow on counterparts. It is often unclear which product is being marketed.

Recently Jordan was pictured in OK magazine feeding her weeks' old daughter a pre-packed bottle of formula where the logo of the manufacturer was clearly visible. The entirety of the opposite page was taken up with an advert for the follow-on counterpart of this particular brand.

Many people complained to the Advertisiing Standards Authority who were powerless to act even in the face of such a blatant flouting of the law.

This isn't a breastfeeding v bottlefeeding debate, it's about protecting the rights of parents to receive independent information free from commercial pressure. Clearly this Labour Government considers the large corporations who manufacture infant formula as more important than the people who elect them.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Help, I don't know who to vote for.........

I'm back to that floating voter panic again - I have no idea who is going to get my vote tonight.

This is not about the Liberal Democrat leadership, where my unreserved support goes to Nick Clegg, but for Strictly Come Dancing tonight.

In my view the person who should be leaving is John Barnes. Nothing personal, but his ballroom isn't going to get any better and there isn't much in the way of Latin dances to come for him. His samba wasn't that great and I think that, entertaining though he has been, now is the time for him to go.

The difficulty is how best to secure this result. If he ends up in the bottom 2, he will probably go, as long as he isn't up against Kenny.

Conversely, if you believe what you see in the forums, Kelly and Brendan aren't so popular with the public. After their low score tonight (and what on earth were the wardrobe people thinking - Kelly looked like she had two over-ripe melons stuffed down her top, an easily avoidable transgression)they must be in danger of being in the bottom 2. Unfortunately, if they end up there, I suspect the judges will put them through. That is reason enough to vote for them to save us losing someone more deserving.

However, there is a compelling reason to vote for all of the others:

Gethin and Camilla - what a wonderful quickstep tonight. They are mid table so are in danger of being in the bottom two. If they are there with Kelly and Brendan, they could go and this would be a travesty.

Matt and Flavia - until tonight I didn't get him at all. I was mad that the judges saved him over Penny Lancaster Stewart. However, their Salsa was great, although I didn't think it merited Arlene's use of the almighty Ramprakash word. They deserve to stay in, but are probably safe.

Alesha and Matt - wow, that girl has it all in dancing ability, perfect partner and personality. They deserve to be top of the leader board but could suffer for being the obvious favourite of the judges. While they undoubtedly deserve a vote and that's where my heart would be - they probably don't need it.

Kenny and Ola - for their much improved performance and those spectacular lifts alone, they deserve to stay in. If they end up in the dance off, they're out, no matter who they're up against, in the same way that Kate and Anton were last week. They should not go out on the basis of tonight's performance. I hope the Scots will turn out for them tonight.

Letitia and Darren - I am slowly warming to Letitia. She has made a colossal improvement since the start of the season and I would be sad to see her go just when she is starting to gain in confidence. There was a great disparity between the judges' comments, which were all very favourable, and the red button commentary by Philip Jackson and Anton Du Beke which was extAnremely critical of their performance.

I suspect the smartest thing is to keep Kelly and Brendan and Kenny and Ola out of the bottom two.

I wonder if, for once, I'll be able to keep off the forums until the results show to stop myself finding out, but realistically I doubt it. It's fabulous having Strictly seven nights a week, but 24 hours is way too long to wait to find out who has gone.

A Word of Advice for Paul Holmes

Is it just me or could our own Paul Holmes be mistaken for Gordon Brown in the picture at the top of page 3 of this week's Lib Dem News?

Paul is one of my favourite people not just in the Party but in the world. We may occasionally disagree about things and are in fact on different sides of the current leadership contest. That doesn't matter, though - he and his family have always been the most supportive friends and he has a brilliant and wicked sense of humour. He's a leftie like me and I can usually trust his instincts on policy.

I think it is very important, though, that he never allows himself to be photographed from that angle ever again;-)

Janipher Maseko - Update

Regular readers may remember that I wrote about a young Ugandan girl, Janipher Maseko, who had been separated from her breastfeeding baby and one year old daughter and threatened with removal to Uganda without her children.

Mercifully she was eventually allowed to stay in the country pending the outcome of her application to be allowed to stay on human rights grounds.

Today she tells her story in the Guardian here

The way in which Janipher has been treated makes me so angry and ashamed to be British. Unfortunately, women in her situation are still being treated in the same inhumane way, despite assurances given to our Lord Avebury by Liam Byrne, the Home Office Minister.

These sorts of things show why exactly we need a strong Liberal force in British politics, to fight for women like Janipher.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You know the leadership campaign is getting too much when............

You are telephone canvassing for your chosen candidate. Your husband comes home from work. You don't even look up at him and keep going through your list of calls. An hour later you look up and jump because he's had his hair cut very short and he realises that he's been in the house for all that time, in the same room for much of it and you haven't even glanced at him.

At least he had the good grace to laugh about it. Does this make me the worst wife in the world ever?

Our Iain Dale is hot hot hot

By that I mean solely that my pal Iain Dale has suddenly had a lot of visitors to his blog recently and was wondering what on earth was going on.

I suspected that there might be some confusion with the other Iain Dale, but apparently not. Iain got a name check from the one and only Guido Fawkes yesterday.

Iain, I hope that you won't forget your old pals now you are moving in such illustrious circles.

Why do I bother?

Why do I bother carefully shredding everything that comes into this house with my name and address on it, or all my supermarket receipts, or anything that might give succour to an aspiring identity fraudster? What is the point when the Government goes and loses every bit of personal information I've ever entrusted to it?

If they don't know what's happened to the disc containing 25 million records, I don't understand how they can be so sure that the information has not fallen into the wrong hands.

Why was the transport of such sensitive data being done, firstly outside the confines of the Data Protection Act, at such a junior level?

How on earth did they manage to lose something which was being couriered, and what were they thinking sending another copy in the post, even if that were the one which did arrive? Why was the data not properly encrypted?

This Government has now shown itself to be incapable of transporting a computer disc which, by rights it shouldn't have been transporting anyway, from one end of the country to another.

Don't forget that these are the people who are wanting to put together an identity database which will contain even more sensitive and personal information. They clearly cannot be trusted to look after such confidential data properly.

I worked for several years in a Government Department under a draconian management culture where you were basically treated like children. That sort of controlling environment demotivates and exhausts. At the same time, HMRC is being made to cut something like a quarter of its workforce in the interests of efficiency. So, fewer demoralised employees are being forced to do more work for little financial reward or job satisfaction. Is it any wonder such mistakes are made?

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Way Forward

Now that we've all had a chance to sleep on the unfortunate events of yesterday, I would like to suggest a way forward to move on.

First, Chris and Nick need to have a conversation. I don't want to know the gory details, but I want to see some sort of statement that the issues are resolved between them and that Nick has withdrawn his complaint. I want to see some recognition on Chris' part that the release of the document and his behaviour on the Politics Show. I don't want to see grovelling, just a bit of grown up responsibility taking.

End of story.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What a Calamity!

I've been around for long enough to know that sometimes during election campaigns mistakes are made. Some of them are quite funny - does anyone remember Mary Matalin's Bimbo Eruptions during the '92 US Presidential Election Campaign? Priceless! I know that there are people working on both Clegg and Huhne campaigns who probably haven't slept properly in weeks. When you are working at that sort of intensity, sometimes judgement goes a bit wonky and things go a bit wrong.

Very early on in the campaign, the Clegg people sent an e-mail round purporting to be to supporters. Unfortunately, it included a whole stack of people like me who had not signed up and, more seriously, party employees who are contractually obliged to stay impartial. Very shortly thereafter, Richard Allan sent an e-mail out taking personal responsibility for the mistake and sincerely apologising. That, in my view, is the way to deal with errors.

I'd have put the Calamity Clegg Affair down to campaign fatigue and let it go. I had previously not brought up the attack on Nick Clegg put up on Chris' website and subsequently withdrawn after complaints out of respect for whichever tired staffer was responsible.

However, I have just watched the Politics Show in full and was, frankly, appalled by Chris Huhne's belligerent and unpleasant behaviour. Having denied all knowledge, he then went to go on about three specific issues which were in the paper, all of which were very red and shaped like herring.

Firstly, Trident. Nick could not have been clearer about his position on Trident, where Chris has failed to clarify exactly what a minimum deterrent is.

Secondly, health services. Nick said clearly as day last week on Question Time that he wanted a health service that was free at the point of use. He has said it on many occasions during the campaign. He could not have been clearer on it and that position would be the one he would be elected leader on.

Thirdly, school vouchers. Nick has been quite clear that this is not what he is about. I remember him saying that at the Edinburgh Hustings last week.

If I had been Chris today, I would have apologised that the document was circulated and said that he accepted that the issues it raised had been resolved by subsequent assurances from Nick. Instead, he got out his spade and started digging. In doing so, he showed the Party up, not off.

To add insult to injury, his team have now put the most insincere apology I have ever seen on his website and said, roughly, we're sorry we called the document by an inadvisable title, but hang on a bit till we see if we can get permission to publish it anyway. I personally would like to see it because I don't think Nick has anything to fear from it, but the Huhne Campaign is not showing the right attitude.

On the other hand, Nick, although shocked, was able to eventually bring the discussion back to the issues which actually matter in this campaign. I thought he behaved in a mature and dignified manner under immense pressure.

The Huhne campaign have clearly taken this step because they know fine they are behind. Jeremy Hargreaves has ably summed up why Nick has the momentum.

Nick and Chris will have to find a way to get through this for the Party's sake. I know Nick to be a fair man who will not hold a grudge if presented with a willing attitude to work together for the good of the Party.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ten Trot Factions..........

Anyone who can remember how funny it is watching leftie factions fight with each other can take some amusement from the fortunes of this alleged political party

Clearly not a lot of Respect around.

In Praise of Facebook

There is no doubt at all that Facebook represents a way to waste a great deal of time as I have discovered to my cost. However, there are some great benefits too. I now keep in touch with my cousins in Ireland and Canada on a much more regular basis than I would without it. It's good to be able to see that "David is not an insect but a human being" or that Honor has just sent me some little e-gift to cheer me up.

A few months back I wasted (is it truly a waste if it makes you laugh so much?) a good hour having an argument with two friends about whether sticky back plastic and sellotape are the same thing. Any fool knows that they are completely different, but one friend could not and still does not accept this point. My sister then got in on the act and agreed with my friend. As they both live in the same place, they have now met up and get on very well. In fact, he came for dinner the last time we were up there.

Recently, a random message from one of my friends on Facebook who I didn't know very well, has led to a really good dialogue - we have discovered quite a bit in common. I did know her before, but only vaguely. Some of my very good friends are very close to her and now we seem to be making friends ourselves.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share that with you while waiting for the washing machine to finish its cycle - the sound of spinning in the background would not help the telephone canvassing.

Talk of the Town gets better

I've had a sneak peak at this piece of literature mentioned in today's Guardian. In fact if there are any typos in it, they are probably my fault as it was being produced the week after I declared my support for Nick and I was asked to proof-read it. Somebody in the Clegg Campaign clearly remembers my fixation with spelling and punctuation:-)

Many Liberal Democrats will be familiar with the magazines we have produced at various elections in the last few years. This is taking that idea to a new level. It lays out his key principles in a series of short articles and shows how deeply personal his commitment is to liberal values.

I would highly recommend it and if you want to have a look, you can do so here

Friday, November 16, 2007

Nick wins Question Time despite truly awful Tie

Memo to the Clegg Campaign - can somebody please ensure that the hideous pink tie that Nick wore on Question Time last night suffers an unfortunate accident. I will confess to having tights that colour in the 80s, and just about got away with it because of my dark hair - but Nick's tie simply clashed with everything. It would actually have suited Chris Huhne better.

I think Nick came across better - Chris was a bit ponderous and remote as he often is in a question and answer situation, where Nick came across as a real human being. Nick combined astute analysis of the international situation, particularly as regards Russia with an ability to explain in a few words what it means for real people and what we should do about it, emphasising the importance of the EU.

Chris didn't need to do any of the "third Tory Party" stuff because David Dimbleby did it for him - and Nick was particularly good at deflecting that criticism.

In the main, though, both candidates said they agreed with each other in response to virtually every question. There are some significant differences in policy, but not much. This is why the way in which they communicate their ideas is so important - I believe that only Nick has the passion and appeal to do so in a way which will reach out to people who have not voted for us before.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Leadership Roadshow comes to Edinburgh

The Scottish Leadership hustings were held yesterday in the home of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the same room which housed the first 4 years' business of the Scottish Parliament. In such illustrious surroundings Nick and Chris treated us to an extremely high quality hour and a half.

I am unavowedly and unashamedly backing Nick and, if anything, his performance yesterday made me wonder why on earth I'd put myself through nearly 3 weeks of tortured angst. I should have gone with what I have always known about him from those early days in the East Midlands and backed him from the start. In the last week or so, all of my concerns about his stance on public services and social justice have been proved to be completely unfounded.

I think with him as leader we would soar as a Party. I think he understands the problems we are currently facing in this country, not just in an abstract way, but exactly how they affect real people. One of the key principles in my life is that you have to meet people where they are, and Nick used exactly that phrase. He clearly has the ability to do that, to reach out and bring people to us who have never voted Liberal Democrat before. We made modest progress between 97 and the beginning of last year and have taken a bit of a nosedive ever since.

Not only can he connect, but he can suggest innovative solutions - I like the idea that my child tax credit which, let's face it, is nice to find in my bank account every month but I don't really need, goes to pay for better education for the most deprived kids. I like the fact that he is prepared to risk prison to protect our civil liberties with his pledge on ID cards and I like his commitment to give more power to the people.

He talked, passionately and without notes, about how people feel powerless and are treated badly by both public and private sector organisations. He wants to make them feel that they can have an influence on issues like the priorities for their health services, their treatment by local and national authorities, on the sort of place they want their town to be. He spoke about how, when coming back from a long period working abroad, that every High Street looked the same. He wants to put the balance of power in favour of local communities rather than large multi-national corporations.

He talked about how the lives of many people are paralysed by fear of going out, for example. He was passionate about how the Labour and Tory approach, of pandering to these fears while not doing anything to make thing better, was anathema to him. He talked about the effectiveness of restorative justice and of his intense opposition to the demonisation of young people.

He had some good ideas about balancing growth and environmental sustainability. He was able to use his experience and extensive knowledge of trade negotiations (a subject on which he said he could bore for Britain, but mercifully spared us) to suggest a liberalisation of trade for environmentally sustainable products, and using international pressure to ensure that the whole world played its part in halting the effects of climate change.

Nick is not a politician who wants to isolate himself in the Westminster Bubble. He wants to get out there and meet people, to inspire, motivate and improve the standing of the Party so that we can actually have influence on people's lives in Government or even out of it. If his anti ID cards protest takes off, and we are able to get rid of these wasteful, ineffective and intrusive things, so much the better.

Chris was, I thought, much improved on last year. I felt that his speech had many more real life examples than last year when it had a few too many statistics and not enough soul. We clearly have two able competitors here. I'm not sure why he keeps feeling the need to say "we don't need another Tory Party" though. It's so blindingly obvious and there is no chance of our Party being corrupted in that way. We are and will remain distinctive and progressive.

I wasn't convinced by his view on Trident. There is actually no difference between Chris and Nick as far as I am concerned. A slight nuance here, a small variation there, ultimately it doesn't add up to what I want, which is for Britain to rid itself of these deeply immoral weapons.

When you think that Gordon Brown (and Scottish Labour leader Leader Wendy Alexander
for that matter) were elected unopposed, and the best that the Tories could come up with against Cameron was David Davis, we should actually be grateful that we have two people of such calibre contesting our leadership. Not only that but the Parliamentary Party has a wealth of talent within it - Julia Goldsworthy, Paul Holmes, Danny Alexander, Willie Rennie (who would be included even if he wasn't paying my wages). We will come out of this contest in better shape than we entered, it, that one thing is for sure.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Feet firmly on the Ground

I have decided not to be a floating voter any more. The various events and policy pronouncements of the past week have made me feel that the Party has the best future with Nick Clegg as leader.

I don't expect to agree with everything he says on policy, and will contribute to the debates through the Party's proper channels at the appropriate time.

I've gone for Nick because:

He has the personal skills to really connect with people. I saw the way he got the East Midlands on his side in 1998 during his selection contest. It was going to be a bit of a longshot for a Brussels based outsider to end up on top of the list, but he blew the Selection Committee away at his interview and worked so hard to meet people, listen to them and persuade them to support him. I am confident htat he will do the same on a larger scale with the country.

He has the authority and exprience to lead Nick can speak with authority and credibility on many issues. If anyone can bring people round to our position on Europe, he can. His record as Home Affairs spokesman has been excellent - a pragmatic approach on immigration and vehement and constructive opposition to ID cards.

Now why is a peace loving hippie like me not supporting the anti-Trident candidate? If you look at the small print, Chris's bomb might not be as big and flashy as Nick's, but it's a bomb nonetheless. Neither of these candidates are up for unilateral nuclear disarmament so the issue is neutral between them.

I've also been impressed by how Nick has handled Scotland. He's come, he's listened to the Scottish Party and activists. He has been prepared to understand how politics is different up here and hear ideas on where the Party needs to go.

Much as I respect Chris, the People's Veto idea, which I fear could paralyse Parliament rather than enliven it, and the English votes for English issues statement made me realise I could not support him.

With Nick, what you see is what you get. I know I'm going to disagree with him on some points in the future, but I believe he has all the qualities to take the Party forward.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

People's Veto and ID Cards

When I first heard of Chris Huhne's plan for a People's Veto my initial instinct was that he had gone absolutely mad. In this hysteria-filled media misinforming technological age, how on earth could you ensure the veracity of a petition against a piece of legislation to start with? We should surely place greater store on our Parliamentary democracy and seek to strengthen that rather than give credence to what looks on the face of it like populist pandering. You only have to look at what goes on the ballot in American elections to see how discriminatory, prejudiced laws are passed. In fact, the Bush campaign in 2004 was instrumental in using referenda against gay marriage to ensuring people came out and voted for their candidate.

The issue Chris mentioned was the Iraq war. It's clear that although Pariament voted against it, a huge number of people in the country opposed it. However, with the best will in the world, even if you count the most optimistic assessments of the numbers who came on to the streets do not account for more than 3-4% of the population with the rest not really bothering to engage in the process.

What would happen, if Chris were PM and a vocal minority wanted to ban homosexuality? We have no need to kid ourselves that there are probably enough people who feel that way to at least equal the number who opposed the Iraq war on the streets. Would he let "the people" veto a freedom and a core principle that we hold so dear? I can't imagine that he would, but he needs to answer the question. I can see how the idea might engage people in the political process but the laws that Parliament pass might well become bland and inoffensive when they need to be more radical.

When I heard Nick's refusal to have an ID card, I jumped up and down with delight. This is more like it. Our leader would defy the law like an old fashioned radical Liberal. At the moment he has 8.5 years left on his passport. What happens when it comes to May 2016? Is he seriously going to restrict himself to these shores when he has close family in other parts of the World? If so, I applaud him. But has he really thought this through? The framework for ID cards is in place. Much as I would like to see the whole infrasctructure overturned, realistically we have to face the fact that it might not be and I suspect Nick will be enjoying holidays in the UK for a long time to come if he honours his pledge.

Happy Hallowe'en

A particularly happy Hallowe'en to the evil swine who nicked my husband's carefully carved pumpkin from our doorstep before I had even had the chance to take a photograph of his handiwork. He has been consoling himself this evening by looking at its doppelganger

Otherwise it's been great fun. I do love Hallowe'en even though I know it's all over commercialised and American. I can't abide Trick or Treat - it's a dreadful, rude, disrespectful custom, but I do allow my daughter to do a bit of supervised guising. She and 9 of her friends went out en masse and they all took singing their song very seriously.

I do have to thank our friends from across the Atlantic for giving us a much more user friendly vegetable to carve. I remember the olden days when it used to be a turnip. You had to have one hell of a work ethic to scoop them out. One SNP minded friend of mine wanted his children to have turnips rather than pumpkins but demurred when his wife suggested that he be the one to actually transform this rock hard vegetable into a work of art.

Many thanks to Anne and Stevie for hosting such an imaginative party tonight. They both looked great in their costumes and had transformed their house into a perfect habitat for all types of ghoulish creature. Anne is a zillion times more fastidious than I am in the house cleaning department so it was great to point out the cobwebs and spiders in her house, even if they were fake. I particularly loved the "find the sweet in the green worms game."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Madness of Gabbygate

If insulting the electorate worked, political parties would have tried it long ago. Clearly, telling people that they would have to be really stupid to fall for Labour/Tory spin would be counter-productive.

That is a lesson the judges and some of the dancers on Strictly Come Dancing would do well to learn. Calling the viewing public all sorts of names for backing underdog Kate Garraway over the likes of Gabby Logan and Penny Lancaster-Stewart is only going to persuade more people to vote for her.

There are some who take Strictly far too seriously. If it were just a dance competition, it would be televised at midnight and would be watched only by the 27 die hard enthusiasts who could be bothered to stay up that late. To be sure, the dancing is a part of it, but so is the entertainment of watching the celebrities learn a new and useful skill. Kate clearly can't dance for toffee, but her attitude is great. She has a very supportive partner who, as always, laughs his way through every situation. Their samba was truly terrible, but it was choreographed and played almost exclusively for laughs. It's the relationship between partners that is so fun to watch and the way their stories develop that excites the audience, not just what they do for 90 seconds every Saturday night.

I was shocked that Penny and Gabby were in the bottom 2 - both are great dancers and also seem to be like reasonable human beings. I think that there are a few bland boys in the middle (sorry Gethin and John) who should have gone before anybody else.

Anyway, the public will take who it wants to its heart and Craig Revel Horwood and co will just have to get over themselves and get properly into the spirit of the programme.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nick or Chris?

I still haven't finally decided who to vote for in the leadership contest, although it does seem that Nick wants my vote much more than Chris does. Maybe it's because so many of my friends have endorsed him and are trying to suck me in that I feel that way.

My big dilemma is that I like Nick and I know he could do the job. However, I'm not sure I would want to go down all the policy routes he might want me to. There are just some things that market forces can't fix and I want to be sure that his way of doing things properly protects those who need it. I also want to see a strong commitment to social justice.

I also take slight issue with his attack on the SNP yesterday. Yes, they are a one trick pony, yes we were probably right not to go into coalition with them this time(though we could have tried a little harder). However, we should not rule out partnership working with them in the future as we are doing in a number of local authorities across Scotland. All political parties contain competent people with good ideas and we should be seeking to make the most of common ground and work with them where we can. Of course, the Nats have completely let the people of Dunfermline down - their candidate promised to reverse the changes to the local hospital, but now they have power, they've dropped that idea. Also, Nick needs to realise that it's up to the Scottish Parliamentary Party and not the Federal Leader, who we do or not go into Goverment with.

To smack or not to smack

I am appalled, but not surprised, at the decision by minister Kevin Brennan not to outlaw physical punishment of children in England and Wales. The Scottish Executive took the same view a few years ago. I think it's an absolute scandal that politicans view it as acceptable for a grown adult to hit a child.

If I were to hit Kevin Brennan, even with just a small tap on his backside, I'd be dragged off to prison, or worse. I'm probably fairly equal in size to him and he would have a fair chance of fighting me off or running away. A small child doesn't have that ability to protect themselves from a violent approach from an adult. It's all very well to say that a smack isn't really very hard. I'm sure a grizzly bear's light tap on my backside would hurt like hell. I was smacked regularly as a child and as I grew older was on occasion slapped across the face for no good reason. The physical pain dies down reasonably quickly, but the humiliation and feeling of worthlessness that comes with it is completely disproportionate to the original transgression.

Of course it doesn't always have to be that way - you have to look at the experience of childhood as a whole. A loved child who is occasionally smacked is probably not going to come to too much harm if they grow up in a happy home. Some of my friends, who are fabulous parents, have smacked their kids sometimes. That doesn't make it right, though. A law banning corporal punishment might just make people think twice about how they relate to their children.

To be fair, smacking is just the tip of the iceberg of cruelty towards children that we not only accept, but almost celebrate. The recent Channel 4 series "Bringing up Baby" showed scenes of newborns being left to cry in a room and parents being advised not to look them in the eye or show them any affection. It would be interesting to go back to these babies as adults and see how they compare with those whose parents placed importance on secure attachment from birth. It's shocking to think that this is all fairly mainstream parenting guidance.

We have way too much violence in our society and children are bombarded with images of hitting, shooting and all sorts from a very early age. All that smacking does is to teach a child that it's ok for a big person to hit a little one. When they take that lesson forward by bullying a smaller child in the playground, should we be surprised?

I despair at the lack of imagination and knowledge of those who consider corporal punishment an integral part of discipline. To me, discipline is about guidance, of modelling good behaviour and of teaching respect and consideration for others. I am far from being the perfect parent, but we decided right from the start that our daughter would never, ever be hit - and we have stuck to it. Anna knows that we never would hit her and, although she has her moments, the vast majority of the time she's a lovely, kind, considerate girl. I am clearly biased, but her teachers would agree with that assessment.

This debate has been portrayed as being about the rights of parents. What about the rights of children to grow up without fear of violence?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Would you like vanilla or vanilla?

So far we've had two competent campaign launches for leader. No embarrassments, no technical failures, no farcical elements at either. No sparkles, but you would get the impression that both of those guys could organise a civilised tasting session a vineyard.

Both of them seem to be saying similar things in slightly different ways. From Huhne it's "a fairer society, people in charge", from Clegg it's about empowering communities and ordinary people.

There are subtle differences, though. Huhne talks about being our champion and taking the fight to our opponents. That's nice, and subtle. We're right already and he's going to make the rest of the world believe it. A good thing to do if you want people to vote for you. I want to see from him that he's looked beyond the leadership election to the general election.

On the other hand, Clegg talks about taking us out of our comfort zone and inviting in all those people with liberal values into our tent. We have to change to fit in with them. Bit more worrying, there. We might have to adopt things that we are slightly uneasy about, but it's probably a bit more realistic. He used the liberal word a lot and the democrat word not once. I want to see from him that he will take the Party and its activists seriously and will lead by inspiration not by diktat and indifference.

Both of them get a minus point from me for failing to mention Scotland or Wales at all in their pronouncements so far. Remember we ran this place for the last 8 years and did some good stuff. They both need to prove that they understand Scottish and Welsh politics and realise that there is less appetite for the economic liberal model up here.

The devil will, of course, be in the details of their ideas. This is only the start of the campaign and a lot could change.

I still fervently wish that there was a wider contest - I'd quite like a bit of choclate and strawberry, or even some pistachio. For no other reason than it gives us the opportunity to showcase our talents and ideas. I suspect the media won't bother much with a contest between 2 such similar contenders so we need someone else in there to mix it up a bit.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I need an undecided column.........

If you had told me a week ago that I would even contemplate voting for Nick Clegg, I'd have cheekily retorted that I would rather take up rugby than do any such thing. Don't get me wrong, I like the guy and worked hard to get him selected at the top of the European list in the East Midlands for the 1998 elections. His excellent credentials are, however, blighted by his stance on economic affairs. I have a lot of affection for public services and social justice and I don't think the economic liberal model works for things like healthcare - look at the US where most of the poor and vulnerable have no access to decent health insurance.

I haven't got the first clue how I would vote in a Clegg/Huhne fight. For the first time in my life I have sympathy for those who have told me on doorsteps up and down the country that they don't know who they are going to vote for. I have never participated in an election in that position - I've known right from the start of the campaign where my loyalties lie.

I'm quite looking forward to the campaign that nobody really wanted to have right now.

Battle of the Babies

Facebook now has 3 groups supporting babies to be Liberal Democrat leader - Magnus Dundas, Noah Maxfield and Donald Kennedy. It's all a bit of harmless fun and a good way to celebrate how lucky we are to have these lovely children in our midst.

Maybe in 30 years time these three boys will be in the Lib Dem cabinet, with my Anna as Prime Minister:-)

Don't let it be a Duel

Rumours reach my ears that the leadership contest may only be between Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg. Neither of these would be my first choice and I don't relish the prospect of choosing between them. This isn't to say that I don't like them - both could do the job, but it's a bit like having to choose between cheddar and double gloucester - we need some gorgonzola, or some brie in there.

I think it cheats the members to prevent them having a full debate about the future direction of the Party. I don't know where people get the idea that Huhne is a leftie from - a Huhne/Clegg contest is simply a duel between the centre right and a little bit more centre right.

I hope that MPs reflect on this and don't just rush to back either of these without exploring other options. Who is going to be this contest's Huhne? Remember he came from nowhere last time so there is still an opportunity to steal the limelight from the two frontrunners.

It is particularly disappointing that no candidate of the left of the Party has yet emerged. I would have hoped to see either Steve Webb or Paul Holmes on the ballot.

The Party needs and deserves a wider choice and I hope that the MPs will realise that and reconsider their positions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An ale filled evening

I couldn't have wished to learn of the sad events of yesterday evening in a more appropriate venue. I was in Glasgow on a course yesterday and had planned to meet up with Norman Fraser and Amy Rodger at The Best Pub in the World, the Station Bar near G-Cal Uni.

It's a fab place with a lovely atmosphere and a mixed clientele - people who work or live locally, or who are rehearsing or playing at the Royal Concert Hall. The beer last night was not as spectacular as it has been in the past - Hydes Brewery's Thriller and Timothy Taylor's Landlord.

However, when we couldn't hear the sound on the tv, they let us go into a wee corner with another tv with the sound turned up. It was good to share such a sad evening with like minded friends in one of my favourite venues.

Thanks to Amy for walking me back to the station and getting soaked on the way back.

Campaign Period not long enough

I am angry at the FE's decision to impose such a short campaign period on us. In 2006, after Charles' resignation, it was vital to get a leader in place for the start of the local election campaign. I am not sure that announcing our new leader at the start of the Christmas holidays is going to give them the right sort of momentum. They will hit the ground running and everything will stop for Christmas.

I think they would not have lost anything by announcing the result in mid January. That way, ballot papers would not get bogged down in the Christmas post and we would have longer to decide the direction in which we want to go.

The Perfect Leader

On logging onto Facebook this morning, I was inundated with requests to join groups in favour of various potential leaders - Reid to Lead, Nick Clegg, Alastair Carmichael, Lorely Burt. I was surprised that there was not a Pink Dog for Leader group. I can only assume that he was so snubbed at his failure to get on the ballot last time that he has simply gone off in the huff.

Anyway, I haven't made up my mind who to support yet, but there are a few qualities which I think are essential in the next leader:

  • an ability to connect with people, both individually and through set piece speeches and interviews. This is probably the most important thing - if you can get people liking you and on your side, if you can make them think that you care and understand about them and what's going on in their lives, then they will be more willing to listen to what you have to say.
  • although connecting is the most important thing, on its own it's not enough. We need some big ideas on housing, climate change, young people, poverty and social justice. We need to keep up our opposition to ID cards, nuclear power and to any military action against Iran. We need to ensure that local communities continue to be served by their Post Offices where they want them.
  • my heart lies on the left of the party and I want to see social justice and tackling poverty right up there at the top of the agenda. I do not believe that the economic liberal approach alone is one which will serve people well - it needs to be tempered with that social democratic thread running through our policies.
  • the new leader must not cut him or herself off from the rest of the party. They must respect conference as the sovereign policy making body and must be prepared to listen to those of us at the sharp end who are talking to people on the doorsteps.

In short, we need a great communicator with a distinctive radical agenda who recognises that leading the Party means keeping the members and activists onside.

The Curse of Liberator?

Liberator has never held back about criticising leaders and calling for their resignation in the past. Although the esteemed radical organ had had some stern words to say about Ming's dithering after Gordon Brown's job offers to Lib Dems, only a few days ago I received my copy in which it gave its opinion that he should stay until the next General Election.

So what happens? As soon as Liberator takes his part, the leader goes and resigns:-(

I have to say I agreed with Liberator's position - much to my surprise. I would rather have held a worm in my hand and then gone skiing (anyone who knows me will know just how much I hate those things) than have had him as leader in the first place. I thought he would not be inclusive and would forget the party and the activists. I have had to eat a few words. While there were some aspects of his public performance which were sometimes not as dynamic as I would have liked, he had done much to make the Party's structures more professional and his office was more friendly to the party at large. This was a vast improvement on previous leaders who allowed their offices to treat party members and activists as if they were something he stepped in.

I don't believe he was pushed - although I don't doubt that some people wanted to see him go. I think he looked at the polls and the media stuff about his age and realised that there would be another two years of this and then he may have to face a general election on the brink of his 68th birthday. If the papers were portraying him as a skeleton now, then maybe he foresaw that the cartoons would get ever more macabre as time went on.

No doubt he looks older than he is. However, I'm 40 and I reckon he is more physically fit than I am. I feel quite enraged that the media has effectively perpetuated this ageist nonsense. The heart of our belief as Liberals is that we think everyone should be treated fairly regardless of gender, age, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Ming is 100% a Liberal and could be relied upon to defend these core values. He has dignity and integrity. We have to be aware that it was his influence that led to our opposing the war in Iraq, securing us our best result for years in 2005. His political courage is probably unrivalled. He took a huge gamble at Harrogate this year by speaking in the Trident debate - his support for the motion swayed he waverers and ensured victory for his side. Even though I am passionately opposed to the replacement of Trident, I had to admire the gamble that he took. If the vote had gone the other way, his leadership would have been over, messily, at the start of the Holyrood campaign.

What Ming does not have, and I doubt anyone could really say otherwise, was the ability to connect with the electorate, either individually or in media interviews. There's no getting away from the fact that he did seem awkward and shy on walkabouts. People want their political leaders to be approachable and Ming's aloofness was the biggest problem of his leadership. Unf

I wish him and Elspeth all the best for the future and I hope that we as a party are able to ensure that he is given a prominent role in his area of expertise - foreign affairs.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Grand Old Duke of York

The Lib Dem Geeks have done it again - created a very funny video to remind us all of The Election that Never Was.

Do watch and laugh.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Will Nigel never learn?

One of the most amusing moments of the day was listening to Nigel Griffiths, MP for Edinburgh South (majority over popular Lib Dem campaigner Fred Mackintosh 405), bang on about how he would have beaten Fred by 2500 now and would by 4000 in 2 years time.

For someone who has been very careless with the 11,000 majority he had, which was reduced down to 405 by Marilyne MacLaren, this is reckless talk indeed. And how arrogant to assume that he would increase his popularity by such a margin. You'd think he'd have learnt by now not to take people for granted.

I have done a lot of campaigning in Edinburgh South over the past 7 years and there is a lot for genuine affection for Fred - I never found that sort of spontaneous admiration for Nigel.

I know that Fred will work tirelessly over the next however long to serve the people of Edinburgh South as best he can. He would make a worthy MP, but would never assume, even after election, that he has an automatic right to the title. When you are in that sort of job, you are constantly seeking to gain and retain the trust of the people you serve. Fred clearly gets what it's all about. Nigel doesn't.

Gordon Bottles It

Who would have thought it? Last weekend I cried real tears at the thought of another month away from home, and at the thought of missing Hallowe'en - after all, Anna is only 8 once.

Today a bit of me feels cheated cos I'd really psyched myself up for this campaign and the adrenalin rush had started. I was still burnt out and knackered, but I knew that some unknown strength would propel me towards polling day and I'd just collapse afterwards. Now I have the chance to do normal things, like go to the cinema, and the gym (which would be better).

Thanks to the efforts of Team Rennie, we were ready for an election in Dunfermline, and other key campaigns across Scotland had performed miracles to be ready for the off. We got there at the crack of dawn this morning and had been putting the finishing touches to our preparations.

It shows us what we can put together in a short space of time. We've had a good idea about the timing of every election in my living memory and the plans have been drawn up and implemented a year ahead of time. I have to pay tribute to all the staff and activists who put in superhuman effort to do a year's work in a few weeks.

Elspeth and I were sitting having lunch in Dunfermline today, just like most Saturdays this year, it seems, sure that we'd not have a day off till polling day. It came us a huge shock when Stephen texted her to tell her to put on the BBC website now. We thought it had been called. Neither of us did much work after that:-) It was good to be able to go to her's, put our feet up and watch Strictly Come Dancing:-)

The Brown Honeymoon is now well and truly over. He's made a fair few mistakes this year. This week has shown up the Honest Gordon stuff for the baloney it always was - now the Labour administration has gone back to business as usual - every day is Spin Day.

Ming was great on BBC News 24 - he's right about fixed term parliaments - not just for my blood pressure but because the speculation is destabilising and detracts attention from the important issues.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Strictly Come Election

Put away the anti-depressants, dust off the dancing shoes, get out the fake tan - Strictly Come Dancing is back. This year's line up is very strong. My great worry is that there isn't a girl I want to see leave. I love Kate Garraway. She's actually the niece of one of the stalwarts of West Lothian Lib Dems. They even got their photo in Ok magazine when Kate got married. However, even without the excruciating pain of Tendonitis, she probably isn't a great dancer. I don't think it matters because she's paired with the very funny Anton Du Beke. I suspect they will be good for entertainment value and I hope they stay around for a long time.

I'm looking forward to seeing Matthew Cutler and Alesha Dixon and Penny Lancaster-Stewart and Ian Waite hit the floor.

In terms of the men, Erin Boag unfortunately is most likely to take an early bath. Willie Thorne looks uncomfortable standing upright, let alone dancing. I hope Brian Capron stays in for a while though. I had a huge crush on him when he played Mr Hopwood in Grange Hill about a million years ago. He doesn't have the same effect on me now but I suspect Karen Hardy and he will have a very entertaining relationship.

I've been involved in politics for so long that I do tend to see conspiracy theories in everything and I'm not so sure I like the idea that the Judges have the ultimate choice in who leaves each week. They usually have a favourite, and this enables them to keep them in even if the public doesn't warm to them.

I suspect that the one thing which will get me through this election campaign is the prospect of sitting down for half an hour every night and watching It Takes Two. Claudia Winkleman is definitely a bit bonkers, but absolutely hilarious and very good at getting the best out of her guests.

I succumbed earlier this year to the infernal wickedness of Sky Plus. It is a true delight to know that hours of fun and frolics are going to fill up the hard disk at the touch of one button.

I've just had a thought - who would we pair off for a Strictly Election Special. I think Ming Campbell would cut a fairly dashing figure with Erin Boag, dancing a Foxtrot in tails. I suspect Karen Hardy would be the one dancer who could get anything remotely resembling dance and human interaction out of Gordon Brown. The woman who made Bill Turnbull do his cucarachas would work her magic on the Dour One. Alex Salmond - well, I reckon Lilia Kopylova and he would be a wicked and quite amusing partnership. Their salsa would be embarrassing and cringeworthy but I suspect the training would be fun to watch. And for David Cameron? I find him so false and slick and deeply unpleasant, but I suspect Camilla Dallerup could get him under control. I'm not sure I wouldn't burst out laughing at his Tango face, though.

One pair I would seriously love to see would be Darren Bennett and Jo Swinson. Jo can move very well and I suspect they would do incredibly well.

Who would I put with my favourite dancer, Anton? I reckon Amy Rodger, Lib Dem PPC for East Lothian. She has such a wonderful sense of humour and I reckon she would completely have him under control. I would actually love to see her get elected - she is a remarkable young woman and would certainly stir things up in the House of Commons.

I'll Be There For You

Thirteen and a half years after everyone else (well, I never was an early adopter), I have finally developed an addiction to Friends. I'd watched odd bits before but it never really did it for me. During the Holyrood campaign, my big thing was to come home and watch two episodes before I went to bed and I found that they could have me in absolute hysterics, laughing until tears rolled down my face.

Everyone else had 10 years to watch every episode, but we seem to have managed it over the Summer. Amazon had a reasonable deal on DVD boxed sets so we now have all but one. Anna loves it too, although some of the humour goes a bit over her head.

Favourite episodes? In no particular order, The One with the Giant Poking Device, The One where Everyone Finds Out, The One where Ross got high, The One in Vegas, The One with Chandler in a Box, The One with all the Thanksgivings, The One where No-one is Ready, The One where Ross and Rachel take a Break and The One with the Morning After. Good, not quite clean fun.

Time to decide, Gordon

Gordon Brown may well be crying into his Horlicks tonight, wondering how he had managed to make such a spectacular muck up of the snap election. He's now taking a risk if he does and looks like a great big scaredy cat if he doesn't.

I suspect it all started out as a bit of a ruse to try to get the Labour Party to behave itself and to think about an election either next Spring or the one after. The speculation was then allowed to get out of control and now it's going to be difficult to re-bottle the genie and emerge with dignity intact.

The only way out really is to use the postal strike as an excuse. After all, if they can't guarantee the distribution of the postal votes, the legitimacy of any poll is immediately in question.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that a solution to the dispute will, entirely coincidentally (yeah, right) be found at the beginning of next week, or the week after and an election called.

I also have it on good authority that one Council has closed down a suite of rooms, and sent round an e-mail saying that the election team will be using them from 9th October to 22 November. Make of that what you will.

I now have two bottles of wine at stake with different people - I still say it's going to happen. I just want the waiting to be over and the campaign to begin...............

Hong Kong or Leith?

Kevin and Jennifer Lang should be living it up in Hong Kong on the holiday of a lifetime at the moment. Instead, they are at home in Granton, putting the final preparations to an election campaign.

Kevin is the prospective Liberal Democrat candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith. When he and Jenni booked their holiday to see Jenni's sister in China in March, nobody could have predicted that there would be an election in November. They made the decision to cancel on Wednesday, the day before they should have left, when an election announcement next Tuesday looked virtually certain.

Not only has this cost them money, but you know what it's like to be all geared up for a break and then for some reason you can't go. I am full of admiration for both Kevin and Jenni for putting the people of North and Leith first. Kevin only requires a 2.5% swing to unseat the sitting Labour MP and would make a first class MP.

He is very sharp and astute and has a sometimes scary amount of energy. I see quite a lot of similarities between Kevin and Willie Rennie - he would be the sort of MP you would see about in the street and would always be approachable and dedicated to helping his constituents with their problems.

Today's polls make an election look less likely, but I don't think that his decision will have been in vain in the long run.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Free Burma

Just a few days ago, I was really pissed off at the prospect of a free election in this country and of how it would inconvenience me.

In complete contrast, 200 people have lost their lives in Burma fighting for the right to have a free election, away from the tyranny of a brutal military regime.

I salute the bravery of all those who have taken to the streets and share in the mourning for those who have brutally lost their lives.

I call on the international community to take whatever measures it can to ensure that democracy is restored to Burma and that those who lead the call for freedom and human rights, including Aung San Suu Kyi are freed to enable them to build a free nation.

I add my voice to the many bloggers who are calling for a Free Burma today, 4 October, 2007.

Turning 40

I would be lying if I said that turning 40 had been completely stress and depression free, but the actual day itself was so special.

It started at 6:50 am with a phone call from my sister and cousins on holiday in Canada. I was as sober as a judge, they were completely off the planet. I hadn't laughed so much in years.

The effort my husand and daughter put into the day was wonderful. From choosing a lovely organic, maple cured kind of bacon for breakfast (and subsequently, unexpectedly, lunch) to ensuring I had enough dark chocolate to sink a battleship, to providing me with beautiful drawings and cards, they made sure I had a perfect day.

Bob gave me a beautiful rose quartz pendant - apparently the symbol of both fertillity and unconditional love.

My friend Anne gave me the most beautiful willow tree figure called Mother and Daughter in an embrace.

And just when I thought I'd opened all my pressies, the doorbell rang and the Interflora man was there with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, with my favourite lilies and roses.

I had kind of wanted to head off to the Gallery of Modern Art for lunch, but my Inner Capitalist Ruthless Bitch got the better of me. Bob and Anna had given me the Edinburgh version of Monopoly and we ended up embroiled in a long game before going for a walk.

In the evening, Anna chose to go and play with her best friends while 15 of the people I care about most in the World gathered at my favourite restaurant. I am lucky that this place is just across from where I work - it's Oohla's in Dunfermline.

I had the most succulent spiced king prawns, followed by the most luscious, flavoursome and perfectly cooked fillet steak. The desserts they do in that place are to die for - you can have tarte tatin, chocolate brownies, strawberry cream meringues the size of small Balearic islands, fruit tartlets of so many colours and varieties, a cheese board assembled with love and proper thought. My friend Pippa had baked me a cake and covered it in a deep chocolate icing made with Green and Black Maya Gold. Could that be any more perfect?

One very non political and very special friend had been scared that she would be overrun by intellectual Lib Dems and had to be persuaded that political types could be normal sorts who liked reading OK magazine and the like. I was so glad that she made the effort to come even though she was a bit worried about it. I think she had a good time too, and I would not have wanted to be without her.

All in all, it could only have been more perfect if it had gone on for another 24 hours.

Battle Preparations

I have long been convinced that we would see a General Election this Autumn, particularly as Labour's lead over the Conservatives grew and grew. I can't say I relished the prospect with much enthusiasm. Once every couple of years I can handle, but twice in six months is a big ask. I spent much of last weekend in doleful and tearful frustration at the thought of having to give up my much anticipated school holiday at home with Anna to pound the streets on freezing cold, dark nights. However, the adrenalin rush has now kicked in and I'm ready for it - in fact I now just want to get on with it.

I might be whinging about my holiday, but spare a thought for the dedicated person I won't name who should be on holiday now on the other side of the World. They cancelled yesterday so that they would be available for the campaign. I know how much they had been looking forward to being away and I thoroughly admire their dedication to duty. I will be so annoyed with Gordon Brown on their behalf if this has all been a great big wind up.

I am quite amazed at how ready we actually are to fight this election, should it be called. It's my responsibility as Campaigns and Candidates Convener to make sure we have candidates in every seat. I have had some help with this, (thanks to all involved) and have been really impressed with how everybody has worked together to assemble a full slate of candidates ready for the off.

Back to the Blog

I can hardly believe it's been over 4 months since I last posted on here. I had meant to but a frenzied work schedule, holidays and illness have kept me away. I hope to be able to post a lot more regularly now - although, come next Tuesday, an election announcement might put paid to that for a while.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Janipher Maseko - Good News at Last

Thankfully common sense has prevailed and Janipher and the babies are to be released.

I know that many of you have written to the authorities to complain about the appalling way in which she has been treated and I have been asked to pass on her heartfelt gratitude.

She is obviously very relieved. The road ahead is not going to be easy for her but at least she is now out of danger.

The thing that really made me cry was hearing that she'd said that she'd been delighted to be able to tell the doctor that the babies didn't need Malaria jabs after all.

How could we have put such a vulnerable family under such a threat?

There clearly needs to be an independent enquiry into Janipher's specific case, but the chilling thing is that she is not alone. Although the Government promised last year not to separate breastfeeding mothers and their babies, that disgusting practice still goes on. We have enough evidence about the complex interactions between mother and baby on every level, physiological and emotional, to know that to do so is extremely traumatic for both. The only time it should ever be allowed is if there is a clear risk to the baby's safety.

John Hemming has been raising the issue of the high number of inappropriate adoptions from care, particularly in England for some time. I have to confess that I hadn't taken him that seriously until now. Have a look at some of the information on his blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Update on Janipher Maseko

As you will see from the comments to my earlier post - thanks, Morgan and Helen - separate removal orders have now been issued for the children. This obviously doesn't make everything all right. Imagine if you had given birth just over a month ago and you were suddenly to be taken away from your whole life and put back to a country that had brought you nothing but fear and tragedy, where you had no family, nowhere to call home, no means of providing for yourself and your two small children. That would be bad enough if you were in good health, but if you were ill, traumatised and depressed, how much worse would it be?

Is this an appropriate way for a civilised country to act?

Helen is right that there needs to be a proper enquiry into the way in which she has been treated by Hillingdon Social Services, the Borders and Immigration Agency and SERCO. I have been assured that questions relating to her case will be raised in Parliament and I know that Lord Avebury has done some already. Obviously Janipher's evidence to that enquiry is critical.

Thank you to everyone who has let me know they have written to Liam Byrne about this. Janipher's plight has affected many people who don't normally get involved in politics and has opened many eyes to the disgraceful injustices of which Janipher is, sadly, just one example.

This battle is not over yet, so please continue to spread her story so that more can be aware of her situation.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Stop Removal of Janipher Maseko, 18 year old breastfeeding mother

Breastfeeding supporter colleagues of mine have been involved in helping Janipher Maseko, an 18 year old Ugandan woman who is currently being held in Yarls Wood Immigration Detention Centre. She has two babies, aged 15 months and 4 weeks. The tiny baby is being breastfed. She has been told that she will be removed from the UK without her children on Friday 1st June.

Janipher sought asylum as an unaccompanied minor after coming to this country as an orphan and after being raped in Uganda. Her asylum claim had been closed in March 2007 when she was heavily pregnant. Hillingdon Social Services, responsible for her at the time, immediately stopped all support and evicted her and her baby daughter. Staff at Hillingdon Hospital had to press Social Services to rehouse her. But at the end of April, a week after her son was born, she was evicted her again and threw away all her belongings. Ms Maseko tried to reach a friend in Brighton and was sleeping rough in Crawley when passers-by found her and called the police. Sussex Social Services put her babies into foster care even though she was breastfeeding her infant son and there was no cause to doubt her fitness and eagerness to care for her children - Ms Maseko needed shelter, money and healthcare. No arrangements were made to help her keep in touch with her children. Still bleeding after childbirth and with engorged breasts, Ms Maseko was held in a cell for four days without a shower or change of clothes.

When my colleagues went to see her, they were refused permission to give her an electric breast pump, the most efficient way of maintaining lactation and also of relieving the intense discomfort from the engorgment she was suffering and they were only able to get a manual pump to her after some discussion.

The children were reunited with her after the intervention of advocates on her behalf including the Black Women's Rape Action Project.

I am horrified at such brutal and inhuman treatment of this young mother and her children. How can it be justified to deport a mother to a country where she has fled rape and violence and has no family to help her and leave her babies here? How can a supposedly civilised government treat human beings in this way?

She is getting legal and practical help, but the more people who can raise awareness of her plight over the next few days the better.

Below are some ways in which you can to support Janipher and ensure she and her children can build their lives in the UK:

1. Urge that Ms Maseko and her children be immediately released, housed, supported and granted asylum, and that there be a prompt independent investigation into her treatment by all those in authority who were responsible for her care. Fax or email your letter to:· Liam Byrne MP, Minister of State for Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship, Fax: 020 7035 4745 liam.byrne.submissions@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk ·

Meg Munn MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Women and Equality)Fax: 020 7944 5891 munnm@parliament.uk·

Beverley Hughes MP, Minister for Children, Young People & FamiliesFax:020 7219 2961 hughesb@parliament.uk ·

Patricia Hewitt MP, Secretary of State for Health, Fax: 020 7210 5410.MB-SofS@dh.gsi.gov.uk·

Brian Pollett, Head of Detention Services, Brian.Pollett2@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk ·

Victoria Jones, Director of Yarl's Wood, Fax: 01234 821152

2. Alert your networks, the press and other media.

3. Write to your MP as a concerned constituent asking her/him to raise it in Parliament.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Harry and Iraq

I was so annoyed that they even considered sending Harry to Iraq in the first place. It was a bit of a no brainer that he would attract the attention of insurgents and put not just to himself, but those whom he served with, in even greater danger.

If I were the mother of a soldier, which I suspect I will never be, given Anna's propensity against violence and the killing of even animals to eat, I would have been furious if my beloved child had been put in an even more dangerous situation by the unhappy accident of being out there at the same time as a member of the British Royal Family.

It worries me that the addened danger was not recognised by the Armed Forces until this week.

Parliamentary Disgrace

I am extremely proud that my party has stood firm against David MacLean's Bill on Freedom of Information. Unfortunately, even their expert applications of Parliamentary procedure (David Heath mentioning buckets left in corridors as a health and safety hazard made me laugh out loud) were not enough to win the day today.

It looks like this reactionary measure might become law as Labour and the Tories have made a bit of an unholy alliance in its support. I can only hope for a big enough public outcry to make them think better of their support for this ill considered measure.

Everybody needs good Neighbours

I don't often watch Neighbours these days, but I used to be a bit of an addict. Who can forget the days of Scott, Charlene, Daphne, Des, Henry, Bronwyn, Madge and Harold?

I'm quite sad to see that it's leaving the BBC. I'm not about to argue for £300 million to be spent from the public purse to retain it, but I'm sure it compares favourably to the extortionate daylight robbery football tv rights have become. I can't find what the BBC paid for its football rights, but I do know that Sky paid more than a cool billion for their's.

How come the boys get their sports on the taxpayer, but a national institution like Neighbours doesn't matter?:-)

Good Luck, Angela

I am absolutely thrilled to bits for Angela Constance. I fell pregnant unexpectedly as I was focussed on an approaching election campaign (in my case the 1999 Euro election), and there's no greater feeling in the world. I have to admire her for getting through the recent election so serenely - I felt so sick during my pregnancy and the tiredness was something else. I wish Angela and her husband all the very best. I hope they enjoy this special time - the last for just them - and enjoy the adjustment to parenthood. It's the best thing you will ever do, and, nearly 8 years on, I can promise that it still gets better every day, even when you think it can't get any more fantastic.

I can only hope that the Labour opposition will act with sensitivity when it comes to Angela's maternity leave. The sensible thing for them to do, if they have the slightest commitment to equality, would be for them to immediately offer a pairing arrangment so that Angela would not have to rush back to Parliament prematurely and is able to take as much time as she needs and wants in those precious early days. Frankly, I don't care that it was the SNP who stopped the last pairing arrangement, in case anyone wants to comment to that effect. Now is what matters.

Mayor banned from breastfeeding her baby

I was quite speechless after reading this article outlining the appalling treatment of the Mayor of Trafford.

Imagine writing to an elected official telling them they shouldn't wear the mayoral chain when looking after their child - like who would? And that their child shouldn't travel in the official car.

No wonder there are so few women in politics.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A New Dawn?

Ok, I'm a big softie. I admit it. My heart wasn't hard enough to remain unmoved as a non Labour First Minister was sworn in. I haven't forgiven him for what he needlessly did to my very good friend Nora Radcliffe but the recent election has shown that Scotland can turn away from Labour.

The success of this Government or otherwise will depend on its ability to listen, negotiate and work with the Parliament. In some ways, a minority Government could lead us to the sort of non tribal politics I've been wanting for, well, all of my life. I want to see people working together for the good of the country. It looks already as if Labour are going to be very bitter and twisted in opposition. If that's the case, I hope they get what they deserve at the polls in the future.

To succeed as a minority will require skills, maturity and a sense of responsiblity that I have yet to see in the SNP. Most of them haven't run so much as a bath in their entire lives, but there are some good people in their midst. In addition, the Lib Dems have pledged to be constructive in opposition, so it is possible that some very good policies for Scotland could be implemented in the next 4 years.

If they succeed, in a few years' time, Labour could be the 3rd or 4th party in Scottish politics. How good would that be?

The Hardest Working Man in Scotland

I don't think there are many nicer people in politics than John Swinney. He is a very clever man, too. I wasn't aware that amongst his many talents was an absence of the need to sleep.

Thatcher was bad enough, needing only 4 or 5 hours, but Swinney will simply not have time for such luxuries as napping as he gets to grip with his massive workload.

His new ministry covers everything from enterprise to Scottish Water to e-governance to planning. Given the amount of casework one relatively small constituency generates on the latter two issues, I hardly think that one Cabinet Minister can effectively manage all of this.

Time will tell, of course. I actually suspect, though, that Swinney is the sort who would work himself into the ground through dedication and diligence. I tend to think that work-life balance is important (all around me will guffaw, I'm sure, but there are limit). You work more effectively if you have time to relax away from the office.

The other Cabinet Ministers also have full portfolios. I do hope the new Government has not saved a few quid only to compromise the health and lives of its members. The work ethic is good to a point....................

How you know it's Breastfeeding Awareness Week

You can always tell when it's Breastfeeding Awareness Week - instead of positive reports of difficulties overcome and harmonious mothers and babies, the media is full of reports about how painful it can be and, well, formula's ok, isn't it?

This, unfortunately, completely misses the point. In cultures where breastfeeding is the norm, problems are virtually unheard of, partly because new mothers are going to be surrounded by people who have breastfed or are breastfeeding their babies who can recognise and put right the first signs of trouble.

I think it is criminal that mothers and babies are being denied the benefits of a breastfeeding relationship simply because they don't have access to accurate information and support. Of those who give up in the first 6 weeks, 90% would have preferred to continue according to English Dept of Health figures.

It was disappointing that breastfeeding rates in Scotland are holding their own but not increaasing substantially, except in Edinburgh, where they increased by 6%. I suspect that this is partly down to the work of Karla Napier, the Infant Feeding Adviser at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. She is one of the UK's breastfeeding experts and has done much to ensure that mothers have the sort of professional information and support they need. She has a lovely, gentle, patient manner which inspires both the mothers she works with and the professionals and lay counsellors she has trained.

I have been disappointed on occasions to find out that I, as a lay breastfeeding counsellor, know much more than trained health professionals in the basics of breastfeeding management. I have seen mums and babies in a terrible mess simply because a health professional has not recognised a glaringly obvious problem or suggested an appropriate solution. A lot of the time, the difference between successful feeding and not is down to a tiny bit of fine tuning - a tiny fraction of an inch in adjustment of a position, or feeding more frequently - or simply just slowing down, relaxing and enjoying the baby. Having said that, there are many health professionals who do a magnificent job and give mothers wise counsel - it's important that every woman who wants to breastfeed can access the support she needs.

After all, if someone had invented a living substance which adapted to circumstance, preventing diseases, protecting from many serious health conditions and providing babies with the optimum physical and emotional start in life, they would charge a fortune for it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Media Superstardom dawns

Well, not quite, but I did join the likes of Kylie, Britney and Kate Moss on the pages of the Sun (Scottish edition) today.

I was asked as a Lib Dem supporter to give my take on Blair going so took the opportunity to lambast him on the war in Iraq and to remind everyone that Gordon Brown paid for it as well as all the other Labour disasters.

It was quite surreal - one minute talking to the journalist on my mobile phone and the next a photographer turned up at my house to take a photo. The house was a tip as well - its usual post election guddle. They won't be interviewing me for housewife of the year, that's for sure. Maybe I should watch out in case Kim and Aggie turn up:-)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bye, Blair

I remember lying in bed watching Tony Blair walk into Downing Street, all smiles and hopes for the future. The crowds looked really happy and optimistic that things were really going to change. I felt absolutely nothing. I wasn't as elated as I should have been given that the Tories had finally been beaten.

I never really thought he would deliver. You can't really trust someone who can abandon their core philosophy the way he did just for electoral gain. It's ok to change your views, but the New Labour phenomenon simply seemed to operate in a philosophical vacuum. They floated this way and that, dependent on the views of focus groups, rather than their core beliefs.

The only time I have ever had a positive emotional reaction to anything he said was the day Diana died. He seemed to sum up the shock felt by everybody.

Whatever good things he has done, and there have been some - improved maternity leave, civil partnership legislation, Northern Ireland to name a few, I can't forgive him for leading us into the illegal war in Iraq. He has damaged Britain's credibility so badly that it will take us decades to recover.

We needn't think that things will change with his departure, either. Everything Labour has done, including Iraq, ineffective and expensive ID cards, and the tax credit fiasco, has been bankrolled by Gordon Brown.

I felt nothing at Blair's arrival and I don't feel that we are on the dawn of a new, brighter, future with his departure.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Dunfermline Delight

It was a great moment, in an otherwise very sad evening, to witness the election of Jim Tolson as the MSP for Dunfermline West. It made the long hours, the exhaustion, the sheer slog, all worthwhile. We had a fantastic team ably managed by Willie Rennie, Tony Martin and Elspeth Finlay. The amount of work everybody put in was phenomenal.

The icing on the cake came the following afternoon when 8 councillors were elected across Willie Rennie's constituency.

We now have representatives at all levels, including Elspeth Attwooll as MEP, to deliver for the people of Dunfermline and West Fife.

It's a fabulous team to be part of, even just as a minion.

E-Counting Misery

I can't stand e-counting. Thursday night was as close to torture as I'd ever come. We were all gathered at the Fife Institute with no real idea what was going on as the screens did not update regularly, and stayed the same for several hours. First we were ahead, then we weren't, then we were again - and we had no idea which boxes still had to be counted so we knew if our best areas had been done. This is a system which sure knows how to mess with your head.

Usually at a count, there is plenty to do as you are doing your box counts and then watching out that the votes are being counted correctly. We ended up unable to take the uncertainty and went and huddled round a tv screen to take in what was going on nationally - where we found the Tories who had brought the wine with them, but they didn't offer us any!

Anyway, all was well in the end and we were thrilled to see Jim Tolson elected as MSP at around 4 am.


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