Monday, 26 July 2010

Victory for Medical Justice and human rights

Brilliant news just out from the High Court in London. The wonderful organisation Medical Justice has just convinced the judge that fast track deportations should be declared unlawful. What had been happening was that the UKBA was ignoring the standard 72 hours notice rule for certain categories of people.

Astonishingly enough they were the most vulnerable of people - those who may be at risk of suicide if they know they are being deported and those who are classed as "unaccompanied minors". The latter group would make you weep and on occasion they have done exactly that to me. We're talking about children (under 18s) who, for whatever reason, end up in the UK alone.

I'm wondering what the thinking is (sorry WAS!) behind fast tracking those who are suicidal. Could it be to make sure if they do commit suicide, they do it somewhere else, that it's not us that have to mop up the blood? And how on earth could someone who was deeply depressed EVER ask for help if they knew they might be fast tracked like this?

We really ought, as a set of countries, to be exceptionally careful when sending fellow human beings away, to be sure we are not sending them back to human rights abuses. If we are not absolutely certain then we, too, are guilty of abusing their human rights.

As usual the UKBA gave the UK a complete showing up in the human rights stakes but thankfully the courts recognised this and have put a stop to it. Time to shake up the entire system methinks!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Don't let them take her baby away

I've been feeling a bit down today because I'm missing Florence and Precious. I really miss seeing the wee one smiling shyly, hearing her sweet voice which is often barely whispers and watching her concentrate intently on her latest project whether it be knitting or writing or her homework. I've not seen them for a while and although the whole campaign is tough on a political level, I am having to acknowledge how much it also affects me personally. It's hard not to get involved when the people you're trying to help are so vulnerable and so likeable so I was feeling the strain a bit earlier.

And then I think about Florence. And I remember that if we don't win this for them, she will be sitting somewhere in the not too distant future missing Precious too. But she'll be missing the child she gave birth to, her baby, she'll be torturing herself wondering what might be happening to her. And she'll know it's unlikely she'll ever see her again.

I am having an off day but I'll survive. Florence will not survive without Precious. She told me once that she can't live without her. And I believe her. The already strong bonds between mother and child have been intensified between Florence and her little girl because of all they have been through together. They can't survive withhout each other. Don't let them be torn apart. Help me to prevent it before it's too late.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Proud of Kenny MacAskill

I was in parliament yesterday and after work I was sitting having a drink with our Head of Press outside the soon to be closed Tun Bar when we spotted 2 American tourists asking directions of none other than Kenny MacAskill. Yes he who has been summonsed by the rulers of the world and all other planets, the United States Senate. He had just been to the gym and was dressed appropriately so I doubt it very much but I did wonder if they realised who it was that was giving them directions.

He's not going by the way. In case you're wondering, he's not going to the States to justify himself. He has no need and why should he? It's bad enough having to kow tow to our British masters without letting the USA tell us what we can and can't do.

He seemed to be in good spirits though and I had to laugh as he told us he was meeting Charlie Reid (of Proclaimers fame) for dinner - his parting shot was "a different kind of letter from America tonight". Gaun yersel Kenny.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Keep speaking out for Florence and Precious

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller

Monday, 19 July 2010

"Blog-in" for my lovely, brave friends Florence and Precious

I am supporting Florence and Precious Mhangos bid to stay here in Glasgow where they belong.

This is the UK Border Agency in action

Florence and Precious Mhango are unwell and therefore unable to do their usual weekly reporting to the UKBA in Brand Street in Glasgow. My office handed in a letter from their doctor to this effect. It was clear from their angry reaction that they had been planning to detain them so in a way I'm glad they're sick.

However, talking of being not well, I have been thoroughly sickened by the way the UKBA staff have behaved as a result. So much so that I'm putting in a formal complaint to the Border Agency, I will be speaking to the Trade Union and I intend meeting with the police in the next day or two to establish if an offence has been committed.

For that reason, I can't go into any detail except to say that criminal offence or not, I'm certainly offended by the way they have been treating friends of Florence in Cranhill and I'm quite sure telling lies and using bullying and threatening tactics on ordinary people who've done nothing wrong is not part of their code of conduct.

I have to say they've not come anywhere near me, they prefer to target people who might seem a bit easier to intimidate. So here's my message to the UKBA:

"As you have already been told, if you have any questions about Florence Mhango there are 3 people you can contact. Their lawyer, Florence herself and their MSP - that's me! I know you have this utterly ridiculous policy of refusing to speak to MSPs but seeing as you seem to be bending all sorts of rules especially for the Mhangos, why not bend that one too?

"Leave the single parents alone, don't EVER stand over Precious' Godmother as she lies in her bed AGAIN. If you want to lie to people, if you want to threaten them, how about you try it with me. They didn't invite you to speak to them but I AM inviting you.

"Don't come to my house, you're not welcome there. Make an appointment to come to my office or invite me into yours. I'll be there. I can't say I'll look forward to it after what I've heard about you. But I'd rather you picked on me than on them. So there you have it, an open invitation. I won't hold my breath."

"Oh, one more thing. You have been asking around for a list of Florence and Precious' friends, presumably to intimidate them too. I can give you a bit of inside info on that one. There's a wee group of their friends meeting at 5.30 today at the top of Buchanan Street. I'm sure they'd be happy to welcome you into the fold. So you know where we are ..."

We're staging a BLOG-in for the Mhangos

Later today we are having a *vigil for Florence and Precious Mhango, a ten year old girl and her mum who are currently being pursued by the UK Borders Agency in an attempt to deport them before a judge decides if they have a case for an Appeal. So many people who cannot make it contacted me asking what they could do and here's what, between them, they've come up with.

1) Change your facebook photo to the photo on this post from 5.30pm to 7pm and tell everyone you are taking part in the facebook vigil for the Mhangos.

2) Take part in the "tweet-down" on Twitter by posting a message of support to them. Use the hashtag #florenceprecious

3) If you have a blog, take part in the "Blog-in" by publishing a post at 5.30pm using the photo and saying why you're supporting them. If you don't have time to write it simply say "I'm supporting Florence and Precious Mhango". And if you are coming to the vigil, remember you can time your blog to publish at 5.30pm.

4) Email the UKBA at 5.30pm reiterating your support for the Mhangos. If everyone emails at the same time they cannot fail to notice! The address is

5) Light a candle, tie a yellow ribbon round your wrist, pray, think of them, send them positive thoughts and be very thankful you are unlikely ever to have to go through what they're currently suffering.

Thank you!

*Vigil is at 5.30pm at the top end of Buchanan Street in Glasgow, at the foot of the stairs coming down from the Concert Hall.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Nicola Sturgeon's celebrity hen party

"Do you think Nicola would hate it if we did a hen party thing for her at the end of the parliamentary session?". This was the question put to me by Aileen Campbell MSP (pictured second from left if you discount my arm).
"Yes, she'll hate it" I replied "but she will LOVE hating it".
And so on the last Thursday of parliament, Aileen and I ended up tiptoeing round parliament with bottles, balloons, a fairy wand and L plates.
Nicola thought she had a meeting with me at 5.15. She looked at me quizzically. I smiled. She said something like "well, not that it's not lovely to see you Anne but what do you actually want?". Ignoring her cheek I went on to explain that I thought it was important we have a chat about her impending wedding. She laughed nervously and I think my stuttering and giggling might have given the game away.
"Actually" I said, running to the door "there's someone else who can give you better advice" and suddenly the room was full of female researchers and MSPs, corks were popping, the L plates were on and Elaine C Smith was singing the Liz Lochhead Glaswegian version of Stand by Your Man!!!
Don't ask me what Elaine C Smith was doing there. She wasn't part of the plan, we passed her in the corridor and before she knew it she was hiding round the corner from Nicola's office waiting to surprise her too!
It was a great idea of Aileen's and Nicola did indeed love hating every minute of it.
I am really looking forward to the wedding reception tomorrow. Peter makes Nicola very happy, he is her rock but not in a boring way, he makes her laugh, he takes care of her, he advises her and he loves her. And when you're doing the job Nicola does, you need that. And what is he getting? Well, Nicola is Peter's world, she's everything to him. she respects his opinion more than anybody elses, and she loves him.
And in the words of Liz Lochhead if ever they are "on their uppers" she would indeed "eat spam herself and buy popeseye tae feed her man" - although he'd probably have to cook it himself!
So whatever happens in each of their lives as long as they've got each other they'll be fine. Tomorrow is just them telling the world how they feel and I wish them every happiness.

Fair Monday vigil for Precious and Florence

We will be holding a vigil for Florence and Precious Mhango this coming Monday, 19th July. It's Glasgow Fair Monday and we'll be asking what's fair about the way we're treating them right now? As long as they are still in this country, it will not be a stamping feet political demo, it will be a peaceful humanitarian vigil where we remember that it's two human beings we're fighting for. Therefore the speakers will be mainly their close friends who know them best. You will hear more about what kind of people they are and WHY we want them to stay.

Please come along and support them. It will be at 5.30pm at the top of Buchanan Street, the bit below the stairs coming down from Buchanan Galleries. I will post more details later - we may ask you to bring something symbolic. Meantime please just mark it off in your diary and do what you can to be there.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Time is running out for Florence and Precious

I want to thank everyone who has supported Florence and Precious Mhango in their attempts to stay in Scotland rather than be deported to Malawi. I have been very guilty of not keeping the blog updated in recent weeks but I've needed to devote all of my energy to supporting them.

As you will be aware from press coverage in recent days, the Home Office are determined to deport them before an appeal can be awarded (or not). It's only a couple more weeks but can the Home Office give them that? It seems not. Florence did not take the voluntary return option last Saturday. On that point, although I think the Scottish press have been superb in their support and coverage of this story, I wish some of them would be more careful in their wording. I read one headline that said something like "Precious defies Home Office".

Precious is ten years old, she's the least defiant child I've ever met and in any case, none of the decisions are hers. Even Florence isn't "defiant", just plain terrified. So if you are getting a picture of the two of them squaring up to the UK Border Agency, it's way off beam. I can tell you that tonight neither of them will sleep because they are so frightened that the UKBA will turn up at the door and detain them. They will be sleeping in the same bed clinging onto each other with fear - a mother unable to comfort and reassure her child that she's safe because she doesn't know if she is, a child who knows not to ask for something she cannot be given - knowing that soon they may be separated forever.

Think about it. Do you have children? Could you bear to be in their position? Could you stand to hold your child knowing that it may be the last time and that soon you may be left with only memories and the living nightmare of not knowing where they are or what is happening to them?

This is what Florence Mhango is facing. This is her living hell.



Don't let it happen. Please do whatever you can. It feels like the whole of Scotland has made it clear to the UK government that we want them here. When the First Minister writes a letter jointly with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland and the Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland - an unprecedented move - asking David Cameron to personally intervene, you are forced to wonder who they WILL listen to.

But if you feel like I do that we can't just sit back and do nothing, please add your name to the hundreds possibly thousands who've already contacted the Home Secretary Theresa May. Write to her (address on right hand panel of this blog) and tell her why you believe they should be allowed to stay. If you would like me to send you a letter which you simply need to add your name and address to, email me at and I'll email it right back.

Whatever you do, please don't do nothing. There is a truly terrifed young woman right now who made the courageous move to take her child away from a violent domestic situation and who is being punished for it while her ex husband continues to live and work in the UK.

She needs you. And her daughter needs you. Please don't give up on them. Please help. Please do it now - time's running out.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Shock horror - MSP wants to help people!

You may have read in press reports over the weekend that I wrote to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, offering to go to Malawi. I was asking her to intervene in the case of Florence and Precious Mhango and I said if she did not believe we had given sufficient evidence of what dangers lay ahead in Malawi for the two, I would go there myself and bring back more evidence.

I am serious about that. I don't WANT to go, of course I don't. I want to be lying by a pool on a Greek Island or sitting drinking coffee at a pavement cafe watching the world go by. Writing it in the letter was my way of demonstrating how serious I am about the need to protect the Mhangos. As I say I don't WANT to go but if that's what it takes, then that's what I'll do. But you know what really pisses me off? The individuals who are either posting (anonymously) on websites or emailing me demanding to know who will be paying for any such trip.

As if I could claim that on expenses! Don't be so ridiculous. One guy even said to me tonight

"since I understand you may be trying to represent people who are not on the voters roll you will understand the public interest in this matter".

Well let me tell you this: I have NEVER checked to see if someone is on the voters roll before deciding whether to help them or not and I NEVER will. In some parts of Glasgow up to 50% of folk are not registered to vote for whatever reason.

I confess, I am a politician who will help people whether or not they're voting for me and whether or not they CAN vote. Imagine that, how outrageous, how very dare I!

He then goes on to tell me I've not registered it in my declaration of interests, like somehow he's caught me out. Registered what? Maybe I've got this wrong but I thought you only registered things of financial benefit to yourself. It seems, according to this guy, that I've to make a public declaration that my job may be about to cost me an arm and a leg.

At least this guy's told me who he is so I can answer him back (and I did) but most of them are anonymous.


And the most popular criticism is that I'm spending all my time that they (the public) are paying me handsomely for, on just the one case. Otherwise how come they don't read in the papers about anybody else I'm helping? Could it be something to do with the fact that Mrs McGlumpher down the road would rather not have the world know her personal business and besides, the Evening Times doesn't find it all that newsworthy that someone's having trouble getting their bins emptied.

Let me make it clear, I have a lot of constituents coming to me for help and they all get help. In fact we have a pretty high success rate when it comes to sorting out people's problems. And seeing as I'm pretty sure I break that European Working Time Directive every week, I think I'll not be taking any nonsense about how much time I'm allowed to spend on each campaign or constituent.

I could go on ad nauseum about this but I won't. I've devoted far too much time to these people as it is. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind someone questioning what I'm doing, it's the demanding manner in which these people contact me, the "you'll do as I tell you because I'm a taxpayer and you're just a politician" sort of attitude that always tempts me to try it out on other public sector workers and see if I get away with it.

All of them remind me of my mum's war cry when we were younger which was "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". I'm not brilliant at that one myself but I'm a whole lot better than these guys.