Thursday, 29 April 2010

Mole-gate

Remember the wall-to-wall press coverage of the Balmoral footpath "scandal" back in January? Clearly the vast bulk of the Scottish press do not. As reported yesterday in the Sun, the mole that leaked details of the paths is alleged to be Tom Greatrex, Labour's candidate for Rutherglen, although at the time he was a special adviser to Jim Murphy. Mr Murphy apparently denies any knowledge of the leaks.

Which way to Balmoral?

Juicy allegations one would have thought, so why are the Scottish press not following this story up? If the allegations are true there would be some pretty serious questions to answer. Presumably the Scottish press are concentrating on the rather bigger stories from yesterday, in the shape of bigot-gate and the Court of Session ruling. Perhaps they are keeping their powder dry until a slower news day.

In the meantime it has been left to the Rutherglen Reformer to pick up the baton, although neither Mr Greatrex nor his election agent returned their calls yesterday. So as yet there has been no confirmation and no denial of the Sun's allegations against Mr Greatrex. Watch this space...

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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Excuses, excuses

Interesting to compare and contrast Gordon Brown's two explanations for Bigot-gate...

Version 1 of the truth starts around 1:30 into this clip:

video

"The problem was, I was dealing with a question she raised about immigration and I wasn't given a chance to answer it because we had a whole mêlée of press around her...it was a question about immigration that really I think was annoying...I apologise profusely to the lady concerned...I don't think she is that [a bigot], I think it was just the view that she expressed that I was worried about that I couldn't respond to..."

"Wasn't given a chance to answer"? "A whole mêlée of press"? "Couldn't respond to"? Here is a video of that part of their exchange concerning immigration. Do Gordon's descriptions ring true? You decide...

video

Version 2 of the truth following his chat with Mrs Duffy and, I venture, a spot of coaching with his media advisers...

video

"I misunderstood what she said...I understood the concerns that she was bringing to me and I simply misunderstood some of the words that she had used..."

At the risk of getting Gordon off the hook, perhaps he misheard the word "flocking".

But why the two very different explanations for this sorry episode? Could it be that Gordon was caught on the hop in the Jeremy Vine interview and was forced to invent excuses? It very much looks like it to me.

Update: apologies for the dodgy video/audio sync in the second video. It's fine in the source files, just gets screwed up when uploaded to blogger for some reason. Hopefully it's still pretty clear that Brown has ample opportunity to answer Mrs Duffy, and that the press are standing around without much in the way of a "mêlée" taking place. Since posting I've also heard reference to a "press scrum" - that's a pretty tame scrum by my standards. How quickly truth is lost in these damage limitation exercises.

Gordon Brown: the mask slips

Looks like Gordon has just made the screw up of the campaign thus far, labelling a Rochdale pensioner a "bigoted woman" after she asked him some questions on immigration during a walkabout. Live wall-to-wall coverage on Sky News and BBC News at the moment...

All Labour supporters out there should take a look and see what kind of man is leading them.

Update: The lady in question has asked for an apology from Brown, but does not wish it to be made in person as she does not want to speak to him again. Wishful thinking I suspect, but I do hope the media leaves her in peace if that is what she wishes.

Update 2: Brown is live on Radio 2 and BBC News right now, apologising profusely for his comments. As they played his comments back to him he sat with his head in his hands. Immediately as the interview ended Brown strode out of the studio without a word to anyone. I wonder what he's saying now that he's beyond the reach of the microphones...

Update 3: Damage limitation operations are now underway, but to little effect. The lady in question has been telephoned by Gordon Brown (despite her wishes to the contrary) but remains unhappy. She will not be sending her postal vote for Labour apparently.

The title of this post says it all. In public Gordon Brown wears a mask, trying to be polite and willing to listen to other people. But the real character of the man appears to be to insult those who question him or disagree with him. Rumours of his tantrums have of course circulated for years, but this sorry incident lays bare the type of man he is, and should make us all ask: is this the behaviour we expect from the leader of our country?

Update 4: Brown is at Mrs Duffy's house, apologising in person, even though she clearly stated earlier that she didn't want to see him or speak to him. I wonder how much pressure was put on her to agree to this (assuming she did...).

The door to Mrs Duffy's house opens...where is Gordon? Did he need to nip to the loo before emerging to face the press...

He's out! What will he say...

First name terms, mortified, Gordon misunderstood what she said, penitent sinner, used wrong words, withdraws those words, Mrs Duffy has accepted the apology

...no attempt to answer any of the assembled media's questions. Mrs Duffy is now quite rightly staying inside away from the baying mob of camera crews and correspondents.

Nice try Gordon, but putting the mask back on hasn't helped I'm afraid. You showed your true colours earlier today.

Monday, 26 April 2010

We're doooomed!

Dire warnings from the Pink 'un this morning: Brutal choices over British deficit. One passage in particular should give pause for thought. Using government figures the FT calculates that a new government would need to do the following in order to save £30-40 billion from the budget (necessary to halve the budget deficit by 2014):
  • a 5 per cent cut in public sector pay;
  • freezing benefits for a year;
  • means-testing child benefit;
  • abolishing winter fuel payments and free television licences;
  • reducing prison numbers by a quarter;
  • axing the two planned aircraft carriers;
  • withdrawing free bus passes for pensioners;
  • delaying Crossrail for three years;
  • halving roads maintenance;
  • stopping school building;
  • halving the spending on teaching assistants and NHS dentistry;
  • cutting funding to Scotland and Wales by 10 per cent.
Thought I'd save the best for last there! Abandon ship!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Sky News Scotland Debate - live text

12:02pm (it's definitely pm now, right...?) Overall I enjoyed this much more than the UK debates, much more vim and vigour about the whole thing, and the audience seemed a lot more clued up than the Glasgow one, so to the scores...

Edinburgh 1 - 0 Glasgow
Murphy: 5/10 Had some decent lines but overall came across as antagonistic, patronising and occasionally quite nasty. That daggers look at Carmichael revealed the true character of the man.
Salmond: 7/10 Not at his best, and Murphy did get to him with the line about being in his bed (Salmond in Salmond's bed that is, just to be clear) during the minimum wage vote. But as comfortable as ever in front of an audience and made lots of good points.
Mundell: 5/10 Also had his moments, but for the love of God smile now and then man! He doesn't seem to enjoy himself in these events, and you just know he was the unpopular kid at school who had a hell of a time, and now thinks he'll show them all!
Carmichael: 7/10 I would have given him a higher score but for his slightly weak closing speech. But he spoke well overall.
Thandie Newton: 9/10 Highlight of the 90 minutes, but one mark knocked off for appearing so soon after Murphy.

12:00am (or is it pm? I'm never sure...)
Aargh, it gets worse!! Now the foxy Irish Sky News weather girl is on. I'd better give the scores before I have a lie down...

11:57am
That's it, they all shake hands and head off for a communal bath. Apologies for that last mental image. I think I was disturbed earlier in the proceedings when we went from Jim Murphy's iguanadon-like visage to the fair Thandie Newton in an advert in the space of 3 seconds. The juxtaposition obviously overloaded a few neurons.

11:54am
Carmichael: an exciting election this time. He's not looking at the camera though. Reading his script a bit too obviously for my liking. Halfway through he remembers to address the viewers at home.

11:53am
Mundell: this election is about the future, British election, Britain, Rule Britannia! The Tories have the policies to tackle the real issues. Don't leave the choice to Alex Salmond or the Lib Dems, choose the government yourselves.

11:52am
Murphy claims the election is a choice between Cameron and Brown for PM - clearly he doesn't subscribe to Clegg-mania. Derisory laughs from the audience!

11:51am
Closing speeches. Salmond: haven't covered spending cuts in this debate yet. We should cut the things that don't matter to protect the things that do. SNP are cutting 1/4 of the quangoes (quangos?) apparently. Way to tackle a budget deficit is to grow the economy. We'll badly need local and national champions for Scotland in the next parliament.

11:49am
Salmond: given the financial pressures, how we can justify £5 billion on ID cards that won't stop crime? Carmichael points out the shifting reasons for the ID cards that have been presented over the years.

11:48am
Carmichael was a procurator fiscal depute apparently. He had a real job?! Heavens above, no wonder he comes across well and sounds like he's from the real world.

11:46am
Salmond: if you want people to trust your security measures, don't abuse the ones we've already been subjected to.

11:44am
Mundell raises the spectre of the 90-odd year old Labour member who was held under anti-terrorism laws at the Labour conference for the crime of heckling. Carmichael: when we restrict our freedoms we do the terrorists' job for them.

11:42am
Murphy: as science has progressed the DNA database has become very useful. Criminals are apparently more desperate than ever before. Wonder how he measures that?

11:41am
Salmond: ID cards are not an answer to terrorism or crime, more police on the streets are needed.

11:40am
Final question: erosion of civil liberties over the last 13 years. How would you stop this erosion?

11:38am
Murphy repeats the mantra: stronger together weaker apart, you can't base an economy on the volatile price of oil. Salmond responds that the Chancellor is planning on £40billion from Scotland's sector of the North Sea over the next 5 years. FAO Jim Murphy: nobody is suggesting the economy of an independent Scotland would be based on oil/gas. But it's a nice extra.

11:34am Salmond points out that we are a major oil-producing nation. Why are prices so high? Carmichael points out that Norway has the highest fuel prices in Europe.

11:32am
Salmond welcomes Mundell's belated conversion to the cause of stabilising fuel duty.

11:28am
Murphy seems to think Labour have been doing a good job on this front. Remarkable. Mundell understands this question he informs us. Does that mean he hasn't understood the rest? Carmichael: fuel duty keeps going up because the Labour government keeps putting it up. You won't get a litre of petrol for less than £1.30 in Orkney apparently. Salmond: average is £1.20 across Scotland, 70% of which is duty/VAT. SNP would modulate fuel tax increases by taking more money when oil prices went up. Says Labour and Tories opposed this, Murphy would have been better off in his bed on that vote! He's back!

11:27am
Inaudible question from the audience. Why does the tax on fuel keep rising, says the lip-reading Adam Boulton.

11:26am
Apparently when Murphy became Secretary of State Against Scotland he phoned his mum first, then Alex Salmond to say they had to work together. Perhaps regretting his aggressive attack on the minimum wage earlier.

11:25am
Salmond comes back with 20,000 modern apprenticeships, attempting to recover his usual statesmanlike demeanour.

11:21am
Murphy talks about introducing the minimum wage. Points out that Salmond went to his bed while the minimum wage was voted on. Murphy hammering the point home. Carmichael restores sanity. But that was a decent jab from Murphy (damn it!).

11:20am
Youth unemployment next. Mundell rightly points out that Murphy and co have been in charge of the UK for 13 years, and also Salmond has been in government for 3 years.

11:17am
How's it going so far? Overall Carmichael and Salmond are performing pretty well, Mundell has had his moments but doesn't seem to be enjoying himself much, Murphy looms sepulchral, stage left (I wonder if he insisted on standing on the left by the way...).

11:14am
Consensus seems to be no. Quite right too, except where such decisions affect the pocket money going to Scotland and Wales I might add.

11:13am
Should Scots/Welsh MPs vote on England-only matters?

11:12am
Odd point from Mundell: Salmond and Brown didn't discuss the al Megrahi decision...but surely by the law of the land it was a decision for the Justice Secretary alone David.

11:10am
Would Thomas Hamilton have been released from jail if he had survived and had been diagnosed with cancer?

11:07am
Murphy took a beating on that question. Next up Adam Boulton asks about the controversy surrounding memos from the foreign office on the Pope's visit to the UK. Salmond: I'm on the B-list with Wayne Rooney apparently, the memos are juvenile. Mundell: Wayne Rooney has as many policies for Scotland as Alex Salmond - a good gag, albeit delivered with an air of spite etched all over his face. Murphy confesses he should have been at mass this morning. Just what I was thinking Jim...

11:05am
Murphy resorts to the "good faith" defence. I'm reminded of a phrase involving the road to hell...

11:02am
Murphy confesses to mistakes in post-war planning in Iraq. As Salmond points out, there were mistakes in the pre-war planning too. Carmichael calls Murphy up on his "rewriting of history". Murphy attempts to stare down Carmichael! If looks could kill (Murphy would be classified as WMD).

11:00am
Mundell scores some points, highlighting the good job the forces do and how Labour have let them down.

10:57am
Next Q: can the loss of life in Iraq/Afghanistan be justified in relation to the "war on terror" (copyright GW Bush, 2001)

10:54am
Nice line from Salmond on Murphy and Mundell and their "gospel of despair" on why Scotland uniquely wouldn't have handled the economic downturn.

Slightly tetchy stuff so far, particularly an ugly shouting match between Murphy and Mundell (although I don't think they could do anything together which wouldn't be described as ugly).


10:48am
Q2 How would an independent Scotland have coped with the economic crash? Salmond: fine, just like other countries. Murphy: I don't want us to be like Ireland. Mundell: we're much better off in Britain.

10:45am
The odd timing of the debate catches forfar-loon napping (literally). Already the ebst debate of the election thus far - it has ad breaks so I can make a cup of tea :o)

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Free and unfair elections

So, the BBC Trust has rejected the SNP/Plaid Cymru appeal against their exclusion from the leaders' debates. The SNP are apparently unable or unwilling to spend the cash a court case would require, so I guess that's the end of the road. Money 1 - 0 Democracy. Much will be said on this subject, but I would like to register the following points:
  1. The three parties included do not field candidates throughout the UK. There are no Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem candidates in Northern Ireland.
  2. The Trust remarks that there are only "three individuals who could realistically aspire to be Prime Minister of the UK" . Let me be the first to congratulate Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron on retaining their seats. I didn't realise they had already been re-elected in their constituencies. Or does anyone think any of them would still be Prime Minister if they were no longer MPs (actually I wouldn't put it past Brown given his penchant for unelected ministers)?
  3. Much is made of past electoral support in the Trust's ruling, although there are a few Freudian slips where they simply refer to the electoral support of the three main parties. And this gets to the heart of the matter - surely the whole point of the election is to determine the electoral support of the parties! Who are the BBC or BBC Trust to determine this in advance? Are they denying the possibility of substantial changes in the levels of support for different parties? A quick glance at the history books should disabuse them of that notion.
  4. The Trust maintains that impartiality is preserved by sufficient "signposting" during the debates, when Westminster-reserved matters are being discussed, as well as by additional debates where SNP/Plaid Cymru can take part. Now, without wishing to insult the viewers, it is inevitable that they will be confused at times during the debates as to which bits are UK-wide and which are Scotland/Wales-specific. Viewers will pop out to make tea and come back halfway through an answer, Auntie Elspeth will phone up for a chat, the dog will start barking, and viewers will just simply forget the signposts. Confusion is absolutely inevitable and the viewers' (mis-)perceptions of the debates absolutely will have an effect on voting intentions (anyone heard of Clegg-mania?). Regarding the additional Scotland/Wales-specific debates, it's stretching reality beyond breaking point to suggest that they will enjoy the same media profile as the UK debates. It's manifest nonsense as the media coverage of the last week demonstrates.
I imagine the whole debacle has arisen as follows:
  1. It would be nice if we could have meaningful TV debates ahead of a general election.
  2. We can't have every party represented or it would be chaos.
  3. We can't have SNP/Plaid Cymru/NI parties involved, as they aren't directly relevant to the whole UK.
  4. If we only have Tory/Labour/Lib Dem leaders then we are not covering the election fairly in Scotland and Wales.
  5. Technically we can't broadcast the debates to restricted areas (all regional channels are available on Sky for example).
  6. So there isn't a fair way to stage the TV debates. But f**k it, let's have them anyway, as I said in point 1 it would be nice to have them, wouldn't it?
Every time you hear about "free and fair elections" in future, ask yourself whether that description applies to the UK. Free perhaps, but fair?

A parting shot: why would the following not have worked? Have the debates as they are, but with a representative from the SNP and Plaid Cymru included. The SNP/PC representatives may only speak when devolved matters are being discussed (ironically this idea is inspired by the SNP policy of not voting on England-only matters at Westminster).

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Grand Theft Gordo

Surely a sequel too far...

Hail Mandy!

While browsing for images of Lord Mandelson (oh come on, we've all done it) I was (terror-)struck by the sponsored link that appears above the search results...

Does Google know something we don't? Is this the new title that Mandy has been promised in return for helping Gordon cling on to power? Be afraid, be very afraid. Mandy sees all, and he is a vengeful God...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

1st Election Debate - Live Text

10:51pm Enough. The smug self-satisfaction of all involved is too much for me. Amidst all the talk about who won that the media will subject us to over the next few days, it's worth sparing a thought for the undisputed loser tonight, namely democracy.

10:43pm
Looks like most pundits/polls are agreeing that Clegg won this round. Can't believe Kirsty Wark & Co on Newsnight. A "momentous" night for politics and television apparently. Well, for TV perhaps. It's not every day TV succeeds in stitching up the election after all.

10:20pm
Well, the dust has now settled even as the Icelandic ash remains aloft. My overriding impression is that the whole debate was pretty feeble. The format seemed far too constrictive, and having the questions up front denied us the chance to see the leaders think on their feet, surely a useful trait in a future PM? I can't say I'm looking forward to the next ones to be honest, not sure there is much to be learned from watching Clegg, Cameron and Brown in this sort of format.

10:08pm
Alasdair Stewart wraps things up, in a voice rather like the announcer at a boxing match. If this contest was anything though it was a Haye-Valuev snoozefest. Overall marks out of 10...

Clegg: 7/10 made a good impression, seemed comfortable throughout, struck a consensual note at the end on care for the elderly
Cameron: 5/10 not at his best, got embroiled in a few scraps with Brown at times which did neither of them any favours, seemed ill at ease at times
Brown: 6/10 patchy, clearly more comfortable with some subjects than others, a little bit of humour at the beginning, something the other two failed to inject into the proceedings - what were the odds on saying that beforehand?!

10:05pm
Cameron: repeated attempts to frighten electorate about a Tory government. Hope over fear. Brown shakes his head. The idea that we have to keep wasting money to secure the recovery has been shown to be wrong. Values are as important as policy. If you work hard, I'll be behind you. Raise a family, I'll support you. If you're old and become ill, we'll be there for you. Britain is an amazing country. Needs a government with the right values. He will bring leadership (in which direction?).

10:03pm
Brown: a great opportunity to exchange ideas this evening. We have to make a decision now about how we help the economic recovery. Can't repeat the mistakes of the 30's or 80's. As we reduce the deficit we have to protect funding for the police, healthcare and schools. Cameron can't give the guarantees that Labour can. He looks forward to the next debate. He'll be in a minority of 1 then.

10:02pm
Clegg: thanks for sticking with us this evening! Not all politicians are the same. Reels off the names of the questioners - a bit naff. Labour and Tories have played pass the parcel with government for the last 60 years, making and breaking the same promises. Choose something different. Trust you instincts. Use the force.

10:00pm
Closing statements, 90 seconds each...

09:58pm
Brown: there are 6 million carers in this country. Numbers numbers. Didn't Cameron or Clegg just say 1 million? Too many stats to take in, especially while typing away.

09:57pm
Cameron: 45000 families a year have to sell a home to pay for care. We should help people to have care in their homes for as long as possible. If carers stopped it would cost the country £50 billion a year apparently. They are Britain's unsung heroes. Clegg: echoes this. Give the 1 million carers a week off.

09:55pm
Another reserved question. When will each party introduce a system to care for the elderly so they don't have to dispose of their assets? Cameron: unfair that people who have done the right thing all their lives, saving, buying a house, etc., have to dip into these assets to pay for care. Can't make all care free, but put aside £8000 when you're 65 and you won't have to sell your house to pay for care. Clegg: too big an issue for party politics, we should all come together to find a solution. Also need to look after carers - respite for at least one week a year. Brown: elderly should not have to choose between home and care. Get support at home free of charge. Free care in a residential home after 2 years.

09:50pm
Cameron: I would love to stop tax on first £10000, but we can't afford it. Clegg promises to close loopholes for the rich to exploit. Brown will use NI increase to pay for healthcare and schools. One more question...

09:48pm
Cameron: Tories will make an exception for the NHS. More old people you see. He'll keep increasing NHS spending. Brown: a lady wrote to him saying she wouldn't be alive if Labour hadn't improved speeds at which patients are seen. Cameron comes back with a specific example of a constituent who couldn't get cancer drugs. All a bit unseemly, using ill people for point scoring.

09:45pm
Brown again, saying "David" won't give the same guarantees that Labour will. Cameron's eyes shift uneasily at this. One for the body language experts there. Cameron also bemoans the increase in NHS management. Clegg: judge the NHS by how we are cared for, not by numbers plucked from thin air. Attacks Tory tax breaks for millionaires.

09:42pm
Brown: various patient guarantees mentioned. More convincing than he's sounded thus far. Cameron thanks the nurse for her service to the NHS, he'll never forget his experiences with the the NHS as they cared for his son. Surprisingly that didn't sound forced either, but rather genuine. Vague answer thereafter about improving the NHS. Clegg: tricky when money is tight. Priorities at the moment all wrong, too many managers. The maternity ward where his son was born last year is threatened with closure. A&Es are closing down. We're wasting money on computers and bureaucracy.

09:41pm
Debates for Scotland, Wales and NI have now been plugged. Q from a hospital nurse: what are the parties visions for the future of healthcare in Britain? How to deal with the cost pressures from an ageing population (haven't populations always been ageing?)?

09:35pm
Enough, it seems like there won't be any adverts. Am I the only one that didn't know that?! I'm off for that beer. They're waffling anyway so I won't miss much.

09:34pm
Clegg wants us to use our know-how and manufacturing expertise to support our troops. Brown: why are we in Afghanistan? A chain of terror starting in the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. How can we get our troops home? Build up the Afghan army and police so they can take over. Cameron: a vital year in Afghanistan, difficult times lie ahead. Fundamental defence review needed of what we spend and what we do. Last review was a decade ago, despite the big events of these years. A good point. Then again the govt delayed the comprehensive spending review earlier this year, so clearly it's not their strong point.

09:32pm
Brown adopts his "serious" voice. Claims to have increased spending on equipment. Has the gall to mention more helicopters for Afghanistan. Brass neck 10/10. Cameron also tries to connect with the audience (a la Clegg earlier) but somehow it seems a bit awkward. Sings the praises of the troops, but doesn't think we do enough for them. Frankly we shouldn't be in the situation we are. Had to fight to stop funding for TA being cut.

09:30pm
Next Q: British troops dying frequently, underequipped and underpaid. Clegg: 8000 mandarins in the MoD, 2 admirals for every warship, etc. £100 billion to renew Trident. Change our priorities and we can treat our forces properly. Quite right.

09:28pm
I can't take much more of this waffle. Too short a time for many of the answers. Alasdair Stewart barking "Nick Clegg", "David Cameron", "Gordon Brown" every 5 seconds doesn't help. It just all feels a bit frantic. I would have lined them up in 3 separate sound-proof booths. Any time they get dull or tedious a little window shuts, sealing them inside. At the end of the show lock the doors and leave them to it. I jest, can you imagine how the country would survive without the three of them...

09:27pm
Clegg: we must come clean (how many women did he claim to have slept with?).

09:26pm
Brown says the rest of the world agrees with him. Brown addresses the audience and nation: we can't take risks with the recovery, don't vote for the Tories, they smell. Or words to that effect. And they do smell by the way.

09:24pm
Clegg says we can't solve all the problems by buying fewer paper clips in Whitehall. Banks should pay the tax payers back (yay!). Mythical savings and waste should not distract us. We should be open with the eletorate about where the savings will come from.

09:23pm
Brown says we can't take £6 billion out of government spending. Equivalent to thousands of jobs being lost he says. Come off it Gordon, you can't seriously be saying we should continue the waste in government. Cut the waste, stop the tax says Cameron.

09:22pm
Nice touch from Clegg, making sure he could see the questioner who was hidden behind a camera. Comfortable in the debate and personal connection, good stuff. Mentions Trident - we can't afford the £100 billion it will cost. Well said.

09:21pm
Next question. How can we deal with debt without damaging economic growth? Cameron: save £6billion this year to avoid the NI increase aka tax on jobs aka economy killer. Mentions business leaders' support to back this up. Remove the dark cloud of the deficit, starting sooner rather than later.

09:20pm
Brown says he is tough. Grrrr.

09:19pm
Clegg has a nice line as Cameron and Brown paw each other. The more they talk the more they sound the same. Indeed. He brings it back to the question. Talks about class sizes as a problem. Make them sit closer together, that's the best solution I ever heard.

09:18pm
A risk too far to let the Tories in says Brown. National insurance increases counters Cameron. Stop the waste in government now.

09:17pm
Cameron talks about contemplation suites and massage rooms. Not sure if we was talking about Swedish schools again there.

09:16pm
When are the adverts?!??! That beer is screaming my name.

09:14pm
Cameron says we treat children like adults and teachers like children. Clegg breaks the rules of the debate asking Cameron a question. I demand the right to recall him!

09:12pm
Brown: we must insist on the highest standards for every school. Continuing to invest is crucial. Cameron says good discipline is essential in schools. 17000 teachers attacked each year.

09:11pm
What to do to improve education (England only). Brown wants better qualified teachers. Education to be part/full-time until the age of 18 (chronological or mental age I wonder?). We have to be able to compete globally. Cameron talks about opening young (steady now) minds. Education too bureaucratic - 4000 pages of info sent to each school each year. Cameron sent a child to a state school, I did not know that. Poor mite. Clegg compares English curriculum to its Swedish equivalent - 600 pages to 16 apparently. Parrots Cameron's 4000 pages (wasn't he listening?).

09:07pm
Clegg thinks it a bit rich that Labour and Tories are suddenly conversions to his cause. Fair point.

09:05pm
More talk about MPs getting kicked out without having to wait for a General Election. Right of recall seems to find consensus. Hurrah! Feel the love everyone.

09:03pm
Cameron talks more about cutting the number of MPs (no doubt from Scotland/northern England I would think!). I think I'm going to need a beer to get through this, the smoothie just isn't cutting it. When are the ads?

08:59pm
Pub owner asks - how to re-establish credibility of MPs with electorate. Clegg first: talks about flippers not taking responsibility, duck houses, capital gains tax, etc., etc. Need to be honest about what went wrong. Brown was "shocked" and "sickened" by what he saw. No really. Right of recall if your MP is misbehaving. A good idea I'll admit. Referendum on reform of the Lords and Commons (when Gordon, when?!). Cameron was angry too. He was even determined to clean up the moat apparently. Talks about pay cuts for MPs and ministers, cut Whitehall, cut quangos (everyone says that, when will it happen?). Clegg says Labour voted against LibDem proposals to sack dodgy MPs, Tories didn't vote. Betrayals both.

08:57pm
Another reminder for viewers in Scotland and Wales to ignore virtually everything so far!

08:56pm
Cameron invokes his magistrate mother. Brown has another pop at Cameron, mentioning those airbrushed posters. First time I've ever seen Brown give a genuine smile there! Cameron comes back with the huge debt Brown has led us into.

08:55pm
Brown delivers the first gag - he appreciates the Tory posters showing him smiling, thanks Lord Ashcroft for paying for them.

08:52pm
forfar-loon belatedly realises this might work better with updates at the top of the post. Much less scrolling all round :o)

08:50pm
Question 2 about burglary occurring again and again. Cameron first up with a horror story about one ne'er-do-well and the short sentence he received. Clegg has a pop at ID cards - 3000 more polis on the streets if we'd spent the money on that instead he says. Mentions catching troublemakers when they're young. Brown sounds rather wooden, regurgitating a pre-canned answer (all the questions were submitted in advance). Brown talks about parental responsibility, injunctions against the police if you feel they have let you down. Cameron comes back with drugs (if only! That would liven things up a bit!).

08:48pm
Cameron clearly checking on the text here, asks Clegg how you can restrict people to one region of the country. Clegg replies it works elsewhere. Will we see lots of scaremongering headlines about border controls at Berwick and Gretna? I think not.

08:45pm Still on the first question...they weren't kidding when they said this would be slow were they? Clegg name dropping Man City and Utd, perhaps looking to cover his bases in front of the vetted audience. Brown and Cameron jostling for airtime, cutting over each other, neither making much sense. Brown backs Clegg, talks about training young people to lower the need for immigration in future.

08:38pm First question on immigration from a retired toxicologist. Brown sounds somewhat self-important ("I this, I that"). Clegg and Cameron seem more at ease with the whole thing. Clegg has an idea about restricting immigrants to specific regions. Not sure about the practicalities of that...Brown mentions ID cards for foreign nationals so employers can tell if they are legal...wonder if he's had a word with Baroness Scotland (she's a reserved matter despite the name so fair game for this debate).

08:35pm Initial speeches, yawn. David Cameron sounds the most convincing, or at any rate the most comfortable. Even compliments Labour at one point.

08:30pm We're off! Or at least the missus is, scuttling away at the grim 90 mins ahead. Initial impressions: David Cameron standing rigid, arms by his side, gazing up and to his right at some distant prospect.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Bored game

New rules have been announced in an attempt to rekindle public interest in the long reviled bored game Scrabble for Votes. This irritating game, usually so tiresome that it is played only once every 5 years, sees players squabble furiously over the meaning of everyday words such as "investment" and "cuts". The aim of the game is simply to sow enough confusion amidst the blizzard of bullshit to amass sufficient votes to see off one's opponents.

The new rules will for the first time permit the media to decide on a short list of "main" parties that the voters may choose from, thus avoiding the grim prospect of unsettling the cosy symbiosis built up over many years and many liquid lunches between journalists and spin doctors. Three potential winners of the game will also be decided upon in advance by the media, as they couldn't possibly lose their seats now could they?

Responses to the new rules have been mixed. Mr G Brown from Kirkcaldy, an estranged best friend of a former champion, clunked his fist on the table (unsettling a triple word score) and thundered: "These rule changes, which I must remind you are a global phenomenon, present the viewer with tough choices. Although the deregulated form of the game was appropriate for the past, tight regulation is now required. If we allowed silly little bit-part players to compete then we would run the risk of a future free-for-all."

David Cameron, a newcomer to the game, would not be drawn on his precise plans for dealing with the new rules: "Obviously the rule changes are something that I have long called for and I only wonder why it has taken 13 years to make these changes. Having free and balanced media coverage for all players was simply making it impossible for us elite players, the aristocracy of the game if you like, to secure sufficient funding and column inches. We couldn't go on like this. If I emerge triumphant and oily on May 6th then I promise to set up an independent commission, drawn from all walks of the Bullingdon Club, to investigate either keeping or repealing these iniquitous rule changes, but not before the next game in 2015 when their retention will form a key part of my strategy, or not as the case may be depending on the circumstances at the time."

Another novice, Mr Nick Clegg, expressed his approval of the changes thus: "Thanks for letting me join in, you won't even notice I'm there, I promise."

Some jabbering Jock shouted something and a truculent Taffy made some bleating noises, but their opinions aren't worth bothering you with.