Monday, 31 May 2010

Israeli attack on humanitarian convoy is sickening

Today's attack on ordinary European citizens taking humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip by the Israeli forces was nothing short of despicable. Never mind that they weren't even in Israeli waters, they were in international waters, the attack was unacceptable and, as is always the case in this conflict, completely disproportionate. I'm sickened by what's happened. And I'm furious at the BBC who in early reports this morning reported the event and then interviewed an Israeli Government spokesman but nobody else. This guy blamed the people on board the ships, it was all their fault that at least 9 of them are now dead. And the BBC didn't think to balance that assertion up!

To think these people bravely set sail only a few hours ago to take food and medicine to men women and children who desperately need it (the UN says the Israelis are allowing less than a quarter of the aid needed, to get through) and now some are injured, some dead. I know people, ordinary people, who've been on these aid convoys. The idea that they could be caught up in something like this when all they are trying to do is help is terrifying. What happened today was awful. Sickening. Unneccessary. Unjustifiable.

Barack Obama has a meeting with the Israeli PM shortly (today's was cancelled). I'll be interested to hear what the response from the USA is as well as the European response. This situation has existed for too long and it cannot be allowed to continue.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Rab McNeil - my hero till he picks on me!

No matter how busy my week gets, no matter how tired I'm feeling, there is always one way to alleviate the stress even if only for a few minutes. That, is to read Rab McNeil in the Caledonian Mercury. I read this posting about the first FMQs after the Westminster election on the train one day and was laughing out loud, really couldn't stop myself. It was all the funnier because it is so accurate. And he is right when he says the behaviour of some of the Labour MSPs "would disgrace a nursery playground in the roughest part of town". Yes we've all been known to heckle and of course politics is not a polite business but honestly, sometimes I'm cringeing. Particularly the times when I've gone to speak to a group of school children who've been in the gallery for FMQs and they tell us they would NEVER be allowed to do that kind of thing in school. Precisely.

They seemed to have calmed down this week. Possibly because some of them guessed their leader had been misinformed and was therefore making a mountain out of a speck of dust but more likely they've been reading Rab and taking note.

This week's is as good as always apart from one comment which if you read it you will know what I'm referring to - I won't draw attention to it by repeating it! I love when he talks about Iain Gray's usual line "you control nothing Salmond but it's still all your fault"! Fantastic. Of course if he ever says anything horrible about me, I'll no doubt change my mind and probably hide for a very long time - I'm sensitive like that! Anyway, if you don't already read Rab, you must make a point of it!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

News from the high court

Just a quick update from the court. The case of Precious and Florence Mhango has now been heard but we don't yet have a decision. The judge said he needs longer and will give a decision "as soon as possible". I'll be speaking to the lawyers later today but their understanding is we will know in 2 to 7 days.

A big day for Precious and her mum

It's funny, I've written screeds and screeds about Precious and Florence Mhango, the ten year old girl and her mum who are fighting for the right to stay here where they've been for the last 7 years and where they're safe. And now that the big day has arrived, I seem to have run out of steam. Having said that, I often start a blog post saying I don't have much to say ..... fast forward ten paragraphs!

Today though feels a little flat, probably because there's not much we can do right now, it's out of our hands. Today is not the final day in this fight but it is probably the most significant day in terms of deciding their future. Today their hearing for a judicial review (I'm not a lawyer so the terminology may not be perfect) will be heard by a judge at the High Court in London.

Everyone who's worked on this has done everything they possibly can so they should have a fighting chance in the court. The Facebook members, their amazing friends in Cranhill and beyond, complete strangers who just felt the need to help, journalists, some of whom you would never have expected to help, have helped because they really do care. And the legal team in London, I just can't praise highly enough. Their rates were very reasonable and Paul Chen's obvious commitment to working above and beyond the call of duty to help the Mhangos has been just great to witness.

Somebody emailed me last week to tell me she was sending £100 for the legal appeal. She said in her email that she'd seen Precious in Tesco in Shettleston helping some older ladies to get their shopping. She described her as "a very special little girl". And if you look at how she's really touched people's hearts, how she's brought out the best in everyone, it's hard not to agree that she is, indeed, special.

If the judge makes a decision one way or another today (and the most likely outcome is that he / she will although he could take longer), what we are hoping and praying for is that he / she finds in their favour. If that happens, the Home Office decision is not overturned, it's not that simple. But they will be directed by the judge to review all of the evidence and reconsider their decision. Now I don't have a great deal of experience of this kind of thing but I'd say we have something to celebrate if that happens.

What we can't do is rest on our laurels because the Home Office MIGHT just review it and not change the decision. Unlikely as that seems it can happen so whilst we are hoping for a celebration tonight, it will be just a little one until we hear the response from the Home Office. And of course I'll be encouraging everyone to write to the Home Secretary to encourage her to make the right decision.

But let's just wait and see what happens. It's going to be a long long day for everyone but particularly for Florence and Precious. The school is off today so at least they are at home together (they don't appear in court) and whilst they are both understandably afraid, they have a lot of faith and are gaining strength from prayer. So they're okay. And I've got very long nails I can bite. So I'm okay ;-) And all of their friends in Cranhill are keeping everything crossed. Let's hope today is the last time Precious and her mum have to go through all of this. I will blog later today when we have a decision.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Someone in Greenock LOVES Christmas

2 new ambassadors for Glasgow Caring City

Chillax, you're a seagull

My feet are killing me

I spent tonight walking the streets of Dennistoun with Alan and Deborah from Dennistoun Community Youth Project. I'd met them before but tonight it was time to "walk the walk" and I only wish I'd done it in slightly lower heels! They're a great project, they walk the streets of Dennistoun getting to know young people, building relationships with them and finding out what their interests are. They then let them know what clubs are available that meet their interests. And if they need additional encouragement, they'll take them along to the club. They're one of many projects living month to month not sure if their funding will be renewed or not and they know it's going to get worse. But they're keeping on keeping on and I'm happy to support them.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Margaret Curran's outrage at the SNP having the nerve to exist!

I was really very surprised today when I read Margaret Curran MP MSP's comments about the SNP in The Herald. In fact I was really quite taken aback to hear her say that the SNP could "barely hide their glee" at the Tories getting into power. I am IN the SNP (obv) and I know that nothing could be further from the truth. And I'm left now wondering does she HONESTLY think that or is she just playing petty games. I would suggest that this is not the time for games. This is serious stuff, we have a Tory / Lib Dem government who owe nothing to Scotland. We have to be standing up for Scotland's interests, not blaming each other for the situation we find ourselves in today.

I think her most incredulous "accusation" was that the SNP "stood candidates against Labour". That one took my breath away. Does she really believe in a democracy that we did something wrong by standing in the elections? It follows therefore that she believes the people who voted SNP did something wrong by voting for us. I can tell you I don't think Labour voters did anything wrong, they are entitled to vote how they like, I respect that and hope they'll vote for us next time. But I wouldn't dream of telling them what to do. If Margaret Curran wants a one party state she is living in the wrong country. I just hope she is out of synch with the rest of the Labour Party - for all our sakes.

It's only radio - no make up necessary!

I will be on the panel on Radio Scotland's "Scotland at Ten" tonight discussing the new government in London and what the implications are for Scotland. Will be interesting to hear the views of the others who include former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish. It is all so unpredictable these days but I'd hope the Labour Party would see the sense for Scotland in us at the very least co-operating to protect Scotland. Having read the comments of Margaret Curran MP MSP earlier today however, I'm not sure that they do!

Seeking asylum from England

I've made contact in recent months with asylum campaigners across the UK and one of them sent me the following message on Facebook last night. I thought I'd share it with you. And I told him he'd be very welcome.

"Standing joke at the moment - I kid you not - is that all we left-of-centre English are applying for asylum in Scotland."

An end to locking wee kids up?

I am hearing that part of the deal in this new coalition is that children will no longer be detained at "places like Dungavel". If that means children will no longer be held at Dungavel, it's a futile gesture because they will simply be taken immediately to one of the detention centres in England. But if by "places LIKE Dungavel" they mean all immigration removal centres, then that is the best news I have heard in a long time. It won't make up for living in Tory Britain but I know many people will weep with relief at the news. But it HAS to apply to all detention centres.

It'll all be better in the morning ...

I will be wearing black in parliament tomorrow. I haven't the heart for bright colours. It's a dark day for Scotland, a dark day for the whole of the UK and I'm very very worried. It's difficult to join in some of the more humourous discussions on Facebook about the fact that when we wake up tomorrow morning it will be to a new Tory Britain.

However, if you need cheering up for a brief moment, take a look at Facebook and the groups that are setting up in reaction to the news. My favourites at the moment are

"Gordon Brown should've resigned AFTER Eastenders" and

"I can't do this exam, I'm too stressed out about David Cameron being Prime Minister"!

I nearly can't do this blog for the same reasons! No doubt there will be more to say tomorrow and you never know, when we wake up it might all have been a communal nightmare!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Sick as a parrot

Sick as a parrot is how I feel right now. Any minute now I understand it will be announced that the Labour Party has given up and allowed the Lib Dems to enter into coalition government with the Tories. We are about to start life in Tory Britain and I feel sick to my stomach because I know that the most vulnerable people in all of our countries will be ignored at best and castigated at worst. Labour had started down that route in their treatment of those in receipt of sickness and disability benefits but wait till you see what happens in Tory Britain.

Perhaps now people in Scotland will understand that voting Labour doesn't keep the Tories out. Only voting SNP and YES in an Independence referendum will allow us to control who runs our country. I wonder if the Labour Party having failed to save us from the Tories will be any closer to letting the people of Scotland make a grown up decision about the constitutional future of our country. Who knows? Right now, all I can say is tighten your belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Mebbes Aye Mebbes Naw - it's the Lib Dems!

In true Liberal Democrat style Nicol Stephen MSP has just declared to Glenn Campbell on the Politics Show that "one third of Lib Dems would rather do a deal with anyone other than the Conservatives, one third would rather do a deal with anyone other than Labour and the other third would rather we didn't do a deal with anyone"! So, a clear as mud ethos in the Liberal Democrat Party just for a change!

Telephone canvassing can be excruciating

I was just reading about difficult calls made during elections and it reminded me of something so embarrassing it made me blush despite the fact that I was on the phone and nobody could see me. We don't make random phone calls, we are phoning specific people so you have to make sure that's who you've got on the end of the line.

Anyway I was looking for Jean Grant (I've changed the name obv) one night and phoned the number in Pollok. "Oh hello Mr Grant" I said when the phone was answered "can I speak to Mrs Grant please?". Can you guess the reply? "This IS Mrs Grant"! Earth swallow me up! It's also happened the other way round too. No wonder I don't like phone canvassing.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Bruce Springsteen - Working On A Dream

Completely irrelevant to anything I normally talk about but I just love this and felt the need to share!

People power in the Coalition Street Soap Opera

Did you read my post earlier? The one about all the things I was going to do today having spent Friday glued to the TV watching developments unfold in the Coalition Street Soap Opera? Well I've done none of them!! Not true, I've read 4 pages of my book. Every time I turn away something else happens. Earlier this afternoon a crowd of 1000 plus gathered outside Lib Dem HQ shouting about voting reform.

They were making the point that the Lib Dems should only support whichever of the parties will back voting reform. They are quite right. And it's not going to be the Tories. If it is good but what do we do for the next 5 years? Just stand by and watch them cut our budgets and deny vulnerable people in desperate circumstances the support they need?

It's not that I think Labour is MUCH better, but they are not QUITE as right wing as the Tories and as I keep saying, their decision to move to the right in politics, gives the Tories the green light to move even further so it will be WORSE than it was last time. And whilst Labour might not be MUCH better, they won't get an awful lot done if they don't get the support of the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

Of course I wouldn't expect us to be holding them to ransom over and over (remember, we've handled minority government maturely in Scotland) but it will mean we can secure some concessions for Scotland thus softening the blow of the cuts that all three of the main Brit parties have promised! I hate talking about concessions, I don't want anyone else having control over my country but whilst they do, best to be in a protective position.

Anyway, it was great to see people out on the streets protesting peacefully but forcibly making their views known. Let's see if the Lib Dems sell out or hold firm.

My prediction now? Still a coalition with Lib Dems and Labour but no Gordon Brown at the helm. In fact I think GB has already made his mind up and will resign in the next few days. See if I'm wrong!

Britain's Got Talent graces Scotland with a visit

Limmy's not happy with Britain's Got Talent judges. He is absolutely right and makes a very good political point. We're all so used to it we don't question it half the time. I can predict who will be commenting on this post but I'll keep it to myself.

Coming back to life post election

Now that the election is over (for the moment at least) we can all get on with normal life. So here's the top five on my "to do" list.

1) Finish reading The Shack before my mum's book group meets tomorrow - she changed the date to give me time so if I don't manage it I'll have to do what I did last time and just talk about how I thought the START of the book was the most interesting.

2) Get a working phone. First phone ended up in the washing machine and died so had to put my SIM in the old phone which had spent some time in the Indian Ocean. I can text but the microphone doesn't work unless I have an earpiece which I lost in a bundle of leaflets and the one I bought to replace it hurts my ear. I have tried to get a phone but got caught in the middle of Orange and Carphone Warehouse and ended up with nothing. Today I will walk into a shop and will not leave till I get what I want.

3) Make up a DVD for my mum. It was her 70th Birthday in April and we managed somehow to organise a party for her and make up a video of family and friends saying what they love about her. She loved it but it's on my laptop and so she can only see it when she sees me which, during a general election, is not often. So today, I have to put it onto DVD for her - something tells me it won't be quite that straightforward!

4) Shopping and cleaning. I don't even mean good shopping, I mean essential shopping - milk would be nice, bread without blue bits would help. Nice healthy good-for-you-food would be a big treat and it's not that I didn't have any at all, it's just that I didn't USE any at all! Cleaning - just can't wait, been looking forward to this for weeks - NOT! But it has to be done and it SHALL be done.

5) Phone or maybe even meet my friends (although I can't invite them round till I've completed no 4). I have no idea why non SNP friends still speak to me because I neglect them enough when I'm just working but when there's an election on, there is no point in me being your friend because I'm just useless. I don't want to be and I'm really lucky to have such great friends (Gillian, Anne, Thea, Mary, Lesley to name but a few) and I just hope they understand that I'd rather be chilling out with them but I know there is a better future out there for our country and I HAVE TO do something about it. It's like an addiction but a GOOD one!

Right, so I'm going to switch off the 24/7 speculation on TV of the coalition talks, I'm logging out of Facebook and I'm off to shop, clean and be nice to my friends but only when I've read two more chapters of The Shack. And when I look up again, if I find we've got a Tory / Lib Dem government, I'm not going to be happy!

Friday, 7 May 2010

How would you like your government to be hung?

Well! What a night, what a day, what a week it's going to be. In terms of the national picture I will make a prediction. I don't think the Lib Dems will go into coalition with the Tories. I think they'll end up in coalition with the Labour Party. The reason is because the one thing the Lib Dems want is voting reform, some system of PR and they are not going to get it with the Tories who seems to be offering only a committee to look into it.

If the Lib Dems wanted PR purely on a point of principle, I could see them caving in on this for a bit of power sharing - after all they were easily bought when it came to forming a coalition with Labour in Scotland. But PR is no longer just a principled stance, it's something that will pay huge dividends for them come the next general election. I know it's not a straight percentage split under the system they would prefer but in general terms, if you look at their share of the vote and then their share of the seats, you can see why it matters so much to them.

Last night they got 23% of the vote across the UK. For that they got 57 of the 650 seats which equates to 8.8%. The Tories on the other hand got 36% of the vote. 36% of the seats would have been 234 but instead they got 305.

Under a fairer PR system, the Lib Dems on 23% of the vote would have around 150 seats rather than just 57.

So, it would be madness for the Lib Dems to accept the fop from the Tories if there's a chance (and I think there is) that the Labour Party will actually accept proper voting reform.

My prediction is Labour, Lib Dem coalition with issue by issue support from other parties, including the SNP.

It's not just my prediction, it's what I pray will happen. For a start it will mean we do not have to be ruled by a Tory government again - the lack of humanity in society under a Tory government is almost too much to bear, Labour's bad enough but the Tories are worse and I've never argued any differently. I also don't really buy the argument that a Tory government will send Scottish people flocking to Independence but more on that another day.

Secondly it will be an opportunity for SNP MPs to protect Scotland because there will be times when the coalition will need our support and they certainly won't be getting blind support.

And finally, we can gain concessions not just in Westminster but in Holyrood too. For example, our MPs will support the coalition on a particular issue in return for MSPs supporting alcohol minimum pricing - they should be doing that anyway but they will play party politics!

I see ABSOLUTELY NOTHING OF VALUE for Scotland in a Tory / Lib Dem coalition. The Lib Dems are aware their vote has dropped in Scotland. The Tories still have only one seat in Scotland. They have nothing to gain from us and this coalition will not need the SNP so who will stand up for Scotland?

Never thought I'd hear myself say this but fingers crossed for a Labour / Lib Dem coalition with SNP concessions of support for an Independence referendum, the scrapping of Trident and my personal favourite, the promise to put Jim Murphy in Dungavel every time he annoys us. Exciting, unknown times and I'm loving the unfolding soap opera.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

It's all over bar the shouting

I spent the day in Glasgow East supporting John Mason. I wasn't in one of the more pro SNP areas so not feeling as on top of the world as I was this morning but when you're this tired you often can't see the wood for the trees. And I have a long memory. Once of my worst memories was Jim Sillars losing Govan in 1992 at a time when the general consensus was that he was the best thing that had happened to Govan in a long time. Fear of a Tory victory was the reason for the defeat brought about by a last minute night before election phone round from Labour activists telling voters that the Tories were going to get in by one seat and they needed Govan.

So, don't listen to me, I'm rubbish at predictions and I rarely get a strong gut feeling about these things. The only time I have was the night before we won John's seat 2 years ago. And for the last few weeks I've had it about Malcolm Fleming in Glasgow South but that was coloured by meeting Tom Harris and sensing his distinct lack of enthusiasm for the job. It wasn't coloured at all by the incredible amount of hard work Malcolm and his team have put into the job - I've been around long enough to know that hard work is not enough.

I'm also down about the prospect of living under a Tory government AGAIN. In fact I'm filled with dread. Becoming an MSP hasn't made me immune to the depression that can bring on. As I've said before, there may be little difference between Tory and Labour policies now but the Labour Party, in moving so far to the right, has given the green light to the Tories to go even further once in power. If we think the Labour Party are far removed from the people of Scotland (and they are) we ain't seen nothing yet. It's going to be horrendous.

All we can hope for now is that it IS a hung parliament and we have enough SNP MPs to be able to fight Scotland's corner. And we also have the option of Independence. Obviously I'll take that option every time but I feel for the people who don't have that option and have to live with the Tories' unpalatable policies.

Having said all that I don't know anything yet, nobody does. Last night I was more excited than I used to be on Christmas Eve. Tonight, I'm just scared!

Many years ago in Glasgow there was an old saying that you could "put a red rosette on a pun o' mince and they'd still vote Labour". I couldn't find a photo of mince and that all changed with John Mason's victory in Glasgow East 2 years ago. I'm off to do what I can to make sure there's no slippage and the people of Glasgow East can look to the future with optimism knowing they have rejected the Unionist mince and are getting themselves an MP who is open, accountable, hard working, accessible and most importantly, and most novel for the area, is actually THERE! Good luck today to John Mason but more good luck to the people living in Glasgow East - you deserve better than you had with Labour and it's all within your hands.

Champagne chancer at the ready

One of our members, Mary, answered a call at the SNP's Glasgow office yesterday and it was a champagne salesman. He was quite persistant and said he "knew for a fact" that the SNP would be requiring a "large consignment" of champagne come Friday morning.

Not sure if he's a psychic or a chancer but we liked his style!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Labour really know their constituency - not!

Laughed out loud at Cllr Jennifer Dunn's status update on Facebook there. Jennifer has a way with words and often makes me laugh. Today she tells us she has just received a leaflet through the door claiming that Labour are the voice of Royston (other side of the M8 for those of you not familiar with Glasgow).

Jennifer says she's "baffled about why they are making such an effort to tell this to voters in Dennistoun"!

Ha! Cannae even get that right! One of Labour's biggest majorities has traditionally been in this seat and they can't tell the difference between Royston and Dennistoun - somebody tell them THERE'S A BLOOMIN' GREAT MOTORWAY BETWEEN THE TWO BITS! Priceless.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Scotland has a new champion

Ryan McLaughlin (no relation) is an amazing guy. He's 14 and he lives in Glasgow with his mum, dad and wee brother. When his mum was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, he did everything he could to support her. But not just to support his mum. He set about improving things for everyone. He read that Vitamin D is very important in preventing MS so he put a petition to the Scottish Parliament to press the Scottish Government to raise awareness amongst pregnant women about the importance of Vitamin D. It's the vitamin you naturally get from the sun but you can see why it might be advisable to take it in tablet form in this country.

Anyway you can read about his petition and the brilliant campaign (complete with website, youtube videos and braveheart march to the parliament) this schoolboy ran here and here. He was successful incidentally and the Scottish Government are now running a big awareness raising campaign thanks to him.

But the reason for the blog post today is to be (hopefully) the first to congratulate him. Today he won the European Taekwondo Championships and it's not even his normal fight style. His dad told me he worked so hard and fought his heart out to win it.

When I asked him if there was anything he was NOT good at he answered "tidying my room"! Well you can't have everything.

Anyway I am delighted to be able to publicly congratulate Ryan. I get fed up hearing about young people in a negative context and I'm really glad there are teenagers like Ryan in the world to prove the rest of us right.