Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The third depression is upon us?

Just spotted a really interesting economics/politics article (you can see it here) from the New York Times a few days ago ...

... clearly, I'm sympathetic to the arguments being put forward in this piece, but I was also fascinated to note the general quality of the comments board - you can check out some of the 805 comments here!

What a contrast with some of our own comments boards - I needn't mention which local papers I have in mind :-(

All eyes on Edinburgh?

Those Labour Leadership candidates just can't keep away from Edinburgh ;-)

Ed Miliband was up again this morning.

Actually, I don't really think their main point of attraction is the City of Edinburgh Council :-(

... they all know that the first big, electoral test of whichever one of them becomes Labour Leader will be the Scottish Parliament elections on Thursday 5th May 2011, and they've all been spending quite a bit of time wooing the MSPs down the road!

And they're right to do so - ensuring Iain Gray becomes First Minister will indeed be ever-more important to the next UK Labour Leader.

Blogging about blogging

Here's a blog post about blogging!

A few months ago I was interviewed by the 'Improvement Service' who have subsequently produced a guide to blogging, the full text of which can be found here - as you'll see, this distinguished publication gets a minor mention ;-)

... and since then I've had several further requests for interviews (one completed earlier this morning), from a variety of individuals and bodies, who are all undertaking research into blogging.

Personally, I think its good that a bit more serious attention is at last being paid to elected Members having an on-line presence - because, for me, those that don't (and the majority still don't!) are at a distinct disadvantage in terms of their potential interaction with those we owe our existence to ... the voters.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Heading in the wrong direction?

Since the General Election, I've been trying to slowly break my addiction to endlessly studying polling-data ...

... I was doing quite well until Saturday, when this post from Political Betting caught my eye!

I'm now back to my bad old habits of checking the figures every day - and they haven't got much better for the Libs since Saturday :-(

I really don't think they get it - this isn't comparable to going in with Labour during the two-terms of 1999-2007 of the previous Scottish Executive ... this is the Government of the United Kingdom that has now budgeted to completely remove the structural deficit by 2015!

That's almost twice the rate of deficit reduction that the previous UK-Government had planned, and almost twice the rate of deficit reduction that most other G20 nations have now agreed.

It's simply not credible to claim there's no alternative.

Equally - I just don't think its credible to claim that active Lib-Dem backing for this unnecessarily brutal programme isn't going to have a catastrophic effect on their vote at forthcoming polls ...

... it will - and I think they'll be in really deep trouble come next May's Scottish election; which will happen just as this October's Comprehensive Spending Review is starting to bite :-((

Monday, June 28, 2010

Allotment in sunshine

Managed a short visit down to the allotment today ... and, if I don't mind saying so myself, I think its looking in pretty good shape just now ;-)

Everything is fairly dry (given all this sunshine!) but had just enough time to give most stuff a really good water; before having to return to the grindstone.

Roll on Friday the 9th July; and our main holiday period!

Not a risk worth taking?

One can't but help notice, that behind all the hype the G20 has just agreed it would be really rather good if developed countries cut their deficits by half by 2013 ...

... seems like rather a sensible idea to me?

Abolishing the deficit completely by 2015, on the other hand, seems totally laden with very, very real dangers ... dangers that won't affect those making these decisions (nor people like me, it has to be said) but will certainly affect millions of others if the British economy tanks ...

... it is, quite simply for me, not a risk worth taking.

But taken it has been :-(

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gutted, totally gutted :-((

Well, they say a picture paints a thousand words - and just what else can you say after England's performance earlier this afternoon ...

... no wonder Gerrard is hanging his head :-((

Saturday, June 26, 2010

ERS AGM in London today

Electoral Reform Society AGM in London today, so down in the metropolis for a day (by train, of course!) ... weather absolutely baking; and 'St. George Cross' flags all over the place ;-)

Come on England ...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Labour Group Away-Day

One of our periodic Labour Group Away-Days held this afternoon ...

... used the 'Engine Shed' as our venue once more - nothing to do with the food of course ;-)

Healthy discussion about political priorities for the next 23-months, with the Group in pretty good-heart after last month's Edinburgh results.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Full Council today

Full Council today - and, unsurprisingly, it was totally dominated by the tram report ...

... and despite it containing only four 'to note' recommendations (see page 14); it took up several hours of debate and generated acres of negative newsprint.

A tactical masterstroke :-(

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My 1, 2, 3, ...

OK - I've listened very carefully to (whom I consider) are the three serious contenders for the Labour Leadership and have now finally decided on how I'll place my 1st, 2nd and 3rd preferences whilst casting my vote later this year:
  1. David Miliband
  2. Andy Burnham
  3. Ed Miliband

Frankly, I really do believe any one of the three could do the top job - but someone extremely capable is going to be required to bring down the Conservative Government (and IT IS a Conservative Government!) before it gains any political-right to a second term ...

... on balance, I think David Miliband is the most likely to make sure that second term never happens: he's passionate, sincere and has the skills to work across the many differing levels of today's modern politics.

And, absolutely crucially for me, he's not 'unnecessarily' partisan or an old-fashioned tribalist.

But, whatever the final outcome in September - this whole leadership selection process will definitely have strengthened the Party for the challenges ahead in the run-up to the Scottish elections in May 2011, and beyond ...

Germany here we come;-)

Well, was there ever really any doubt that England would qualify ??

... and despite having been born in (West) Germany, I'm afraid my English bloodline will take precedence on Sunday when I've every expectation of Germany leaving the tournament ;-)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Andy Burnham visit

Following the Miliband brothers beating a path to Edinburgh's door; Andy Burnham has been in the Capital today ...

... believe he spent the morning in the Scottish Parliament; then a bit of campaigning with local colleagues up in Gilmerton (scene of the very soon-to-be by-election!); then an open session with Councillors.

Andy handled a wide variety of questions, at the last session, in a refreshingly frank fashion.

I've now, personally, been very impressed by all three of the leadership contenders that I've met and heard speak first-hand ...

... I'll now decide ASAP on my 1st, 2nd, 3rd preference order.

The rush to austerity

I know I'm biased on the politics of all this ...

... but I really fail to see how:

- can do anything but damage the lives of the most vulnerable in British society?

And, astonishingly, I've just heard a Liberal-Democrat Minister say he is "genuinely comfortable with the approach we've taken" :-(

In all due respect, over the coming months, when the reality of these decisions hits home, I am fairly certain that many, many, many people who voted Lib-Dem last month will feel far from 'genuinely comfortable'.

Not a time to be poor, old, disabled, a working parent, or in socially-rented housing ...

... no wonder Clegg and Cable looked like the proverbial 'sick parrots' as George Osborne outlined his rush to austerity :-(

They know full well that if the economy does double-dip (which looks highly likely to me), then there's no Plan B to all of this :-((

Monday, June 21, 2010

Craiglockhart Surgery

Last Monday-night surgery, for a few weeks, held this evening ... next Monday sees the P7 leaving-Party taking over the whole school and thereafter, the school Summer holidays will be in full swing ...

... couple more Tuesday-nights at St.Cuthbert's (prior to those school holidays); and my Wednesday-night (6pm) in the Local Library will continue right over the Summer --- except for the couple of weeks when I'll be on holiday myself!

All back to normal in late August.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gullane beach today

Family visit to Gullane Beach this morning ... five kids in tow this time (four of them not mine!) and the weather was just perfect ;-)

... even better; managed to fit in a swift visit to the Old Clubhouse - and just in time to see New Zealand score a goal against the World Champions!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Foxgloves and fire ...

Managed to spend a bit of time down at the allotment today - all the veg. still going great ...

... and, as you can see, some really stunning foxgloves have completely taken over one of the main flower-beds. Looks good to me ;-)

Had four kids in tow (three of them not mine, I hasten to add!) and they all had great fun burning up some surplus wood in a small fire :-))

Thankfully the fire didn't spread to the neighbouring, wooden compost enclosures!

Excellent time had by all - nearly made me forget all about last night :-((

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dear oh dear :-(

There's really not much else to say?

I just happen to be in Bristol on Sunday the 11th July and was looking forward to watching, whilst on English soil, the man on the left pick up the 2010 World Cup :-((

His P45 might be the only thing he'll be picking up if England don't get their act together for Wednesday?

Tram report 'to note' only

Local press full of yet further, pretty serious tram-woes today ... and even the editorial team seem to be getting ready to distance themselves from the project?

And yet, the actual report for next week's Full Council Meeting has only four recommendations and they are all simply "to note" (see page 14) ...

... one can't but help question the political sanity of creating so much grief when absolutely nothing - absolutely nothing - is actually being decided next week??

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Year-long dispute?

A week today the 'work-to-rule' by Refuse Collectors will be 1-year old (see para.3 here) ...

... yes, that's right: a 1-year long unresolved industrial dispute right here in the capital city of Scotland.

Sets the right tone for the difficult industrial-relations times ahead don't you think :-(

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nothing new here please

Forgot to post yesterday about the 'Children and Families Asset Management Plan' that went before the Education Committee ... you can see it here.

Please do check out Appendix 1 (pages 45-47) ... I may just need to update my earlier list/s of school refurbishments/rebuilds delivered by the previous two Council Administrations ...

... I don't need to update my list of those delivered by the current Council Coalition - here it is:
  • nothing

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bloody Sunday

I lived in Northern Ireland (in Portstewart - not that far from Londonderry) during the early 1980's and know just how raw feelings were about what happened in January 1972 ...

... and whilst the Saville Report is truly shocking, it's ultimate findings won't come as a surprise to many people who lived through those years in Northern Ireland.

And, I have to say, I thought David Cameron handled its release well - anything less than the completely unequivocal statement that he gave would have had the potential to seriously inflame an already very difficult issue.

The head of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for Northern Ireland now has a hugely difficult judgement to make about whether any prosecutions should be forthcoming - how that decision is handled, and communicated, could be every bit as important as today's announcements.

Gracemount High School

Substituted for some of my local colleagues today and went out to Gracemount High School to speak to some P7's who were doing work on their transition to High School ... they were undertaking a project on local governance in Edinburgh.

They seemed pretty knowledgeable and, after a quiet start, asked a huge variety of searching questions!

... most difficult was probably, "who are your best friends on the Council?" - I couldn't possibly repeat my answer here ;-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hutchison and Chesser Community Council

Hutchison and Chesser Community Council meeting tonight ... warm welcome for the news about Gorgie Memorial Hall but still some concerns about just how its going to manage its own programme, in due course, without any support from the Local Authority.

Sadly, I expect much more of this type of 'solution' in coming months.

"All within the normal range of uncertainty"

Con-Lib Coalition clearly pretty keen to make the most of the renewed growth forecasts (out today) ... so I wonder what spin they'll try and put on the comments from the Chair of the new Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR):

Despite downgrading the growth figures, OBR chairman Sir Alan Budd said he did not think the recession had caused "permanent damage" to the economy. He added that the changes to the forecasts were "all within the normal range of uncertainty."

I'm fairly sure that's not what Cameron/Osborne/Clegg had in mind for him to say?

... and I'm glad to see that some journalists, at least, are seeing through the spin to the uncomfortable truth - that by 2014-15, the structural deficit is expected (even by the supposedly more accurate OBR) to be only 0.3% higher than forecast in Alistair Darling's last Budget.

And, of course, we'll see soon enough if the recent quarterly growth trends are maintained - over the short to medium term - in the face of the current onslaught on public sector expenditure?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Allotment update

Enough of those Leadership events ...

... on a much more serious note, managed to fit in a visit to the allotment later 'this afternoon/early evening' and most of the veg. is really starting to get a hold now: potatoes doing well; onions; garlic; red cabbage; broad beans; peas etc. ... all looking fine.

Brussel sprouts appear to have suffered a bit of leaf-damage, but will get some netting up very soon!

Tadpoles are doing great; and the Cherry Tree (pictured here) looks like it will fruit for the first time in three seasons ;-)

Miliband junior

Well, I did cruelly abandon my parents for an hour this afternoon ... sent them off to see the Lewis Chessmen! ... whilst I went to listen to Ed Miliband at an Edinburgh event just along the road.

As per last Thursday, an impressive performance, plenty of interesting questions and a lively debate. I've just got no doubt that Labour will emerge from this whole process the stronger - no matter who the eventual winner of this specific contest may be.

Look forward to hearing Andy in a few weeks time hopefully ... think he's coming up to Edinburgh around the 8th/9th July.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Miliband senior

The first all-candidate 'Party Hustings' for the 5 Leadership contenders is this coming Sunday (over in Glasgow) but sadly, I can't make it ... parents coming to Edinburgh for the day and simply can't give up 4-hours just to go and listen to five politicians ;-)

... but, all is not lost, as David Miliband was in Edinburgh yesterday morning; and Ed Miliband is in Edinburgh late on Sunday afternoon (presumably rushing over from said-Hustings!) and I think I will steal an hour from my parents to go and listen to him :-(

The overall contest, for me, is a three-way race ... between the Milibands and Andy Burnham. The other two contenders are not for me.

I'm sure Andy will be up in Edinburgh soon and I'll make the effort to go and see him as well, before declaring my 1st/2nd/3rd preference choices.

Anyhow, David Miliband yesterday was very impressive. Clear, concise and not at all afraid to disagree with his audience - such a refreshing approach.

There's just no doubt Miliband senior is future PM-material ... and I'm equally sure he'd lead a very effective team which would give the current Con/Lib Coalition some serious difficulties in coming months.

All-in-all, very impressive.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Nothing but football

Surgery at Fountainbridge Library very, very quiet this evening ... most unusual not to have at least one person turn up?

Must be the build-up of football mania on the TV ;-)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Policy and Strategy Meeting today

Very lengthy Policy and Strategy Meeting earlier today - totally dominated, as expected, by the 'Lessons Learned' report on the Care and Support Services tender process ...

... sadly, absolutely no direct apology forthcoming from the Convenor in charge of this policy area - yet everyone else seemed to be tripping over themselves to say 'sorry'. Quite bizarre.

In all the circumstances, just a bit more genuine humility might have been appropriate.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Auditor General to look at tram project?

On the back of yet more negative coverage of the tram project today - see here and here ...

... various rumours are swirling around the City Chambers this evening that the Auditor General is considering a further probe into the project?

Last time he assessed the project was back in June 2007 - you can see the full report here; with his conclusions on the tram contained in paragraphs 9 through to 15, on pages 3 and 4.

Paragraph 14 sums up the position back then, whilst paragraph 15 warns of future dangers.

Personally, I'd welcome any Audit Scotland assessment of what's happened between now and then ...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

I'll be supporting England - as usual

Mention of my parents, reminds me that this will be the first world-cup since I properly started the blog back in August 2006!

... which means many may not know that my mother is from Hampshire (as well as afore-mentioned long-suffering partner being from London) and that in any football tournament, I'll shout for Scotland first, then England next ;-)

I really find it hard to understand the 'anyone but England' mentality that pervades much of Scottish footballing life :-(

So, given Scotland's absence - it's England for me this year - and by glorious happen-chance we'll actually be in Bristol on the day of the World Cup Final to watch Steven Gerrard pick up that trophy ...

... my money is on it :-))

Glasgow weekend

Apologies for lack of posting these last few days ...

... post-election weekend away as a bit of a thank-you to my long-suffering partner!

Left junior with my parents in sunny Salsburgh and we had a really marvellous weekend in Glasgow.

Managed to fit in a visit to the 'Glasgow Boys' at the Kelvingrove - if you haven't seen it yet, and get the chance, do go ...

... very, very powerful exhibition - with (for me) Guthrie's Highland Funeral just dominating the various displays.

Anyhow, was a joyful (certainly not sad!) weekend :-))

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Local Branch Meeting

Attended the first local Labour Party Branch Meeting since the 'General Election' tonight ...

... intriguing mixture of elation at the very local 'Edinburgh South West' result, and the wider Edinburgh/Scotland results :-))

... alongside some serious despair at the UK-wide outcome :-(

Very lively discussion ensued!

I do somewhat sense the next 12-months will be just as busy as the last with an iron-determination to convert those Scottish figures into as good a result for Holyrood as possible.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Care and Support update ...

Rather than repeat the whole sorry saga again - do just have a look through the local press coverage today ... here and here.

That first article may have an 'apology' in it - but it's from an Officer ... I've yet to see a full apology from the politicians responsible for this fiasco?

In my humble assessment, they would be wise to just say sorry at the relevant Committee Meeting next Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Care and Support Services tender - lessons to be learned?

Cast your mind back to the 27th October 2009 - well worth a quick re-read of my post of that day - and you'll recall that the 'Care and Support Services' tender was referred to the November 2009 Full Council mainly down to Green and Labour Councillors not being willing to agree to a deeply-flawed report ...

... this all ultimately led to the whole process being abandoned, and in February 2010 (by which time - to their credit - the local Tories had seen sense) to a complete climbdown over the whole fiasco.

Well, the first of the 'lessons learned' reports is out tomorrow - it's going to the Policy and Strategy Committee on Tuesday 8th June - and I can safely predict serious fireworks over its conclusions.

Just keep one, very public statement in mind:

"I have said all along that we have a good robust tendering process that has been cleared by the lawyers at every stage."

What would you then think if the report out tomorrow concluded that:

"Legal Services did not have a role in the tender process, in the evaluation of tenders, nor as advisor to the Team or to the Board."

And further still, if the report out tomorrow also concluded:

"The Convenor of the Health, Housing and Social Care Committee was regularly briefed throughout the process."

Just what possible conclusion could you come to - that Officers where to blame?

I think not.

London today

Down in London today for an ERS meeting ... weather down here appears to be even worse than in Edinburgh :-(

I mentioned a few weeks ago the fact that, as things stand at the moment, the next UK-election (assuming that Coalition lasts??) will be on the same day as the next-but-one Holyrood election in May 2015 ...

... well it appears possible that May 2011 (the next Holyrood elections) could also be a crowded, electoral date as the potential AV-referendum looms large in forward-plans: I'm fairly sure that would cause an equal amount of political consternation north-of-the-border as any 2015 clash?

Interesting times indeed ...