:: Friday, July 30, 2004 ::

Respect wins council seat

From the Respect Website RESPECT - The Unity Coalition - Respect reports

Oliur Rahman has won the St Dunstan's and Stepney Green ward by-election to gain a place on Tower Hamlets Council.

Oliur Rahman, Respect - 878
Jalal Uddin, Liberal Democrats - 754
Shah Habibur Rahman, Labour - 578
Alexander Patrick Story, Conservative - 445
Lynda Miller, National Front - 172

This is good news for the controversial Respect Coalition although it will cause apoplexy amongst the liberal imperialists and ultra-secularists. There is no doubt that Respect has cast a broader net than the Socialist Alliance before it did. It has become an all-embracing anti-war party and as such has particularly gained ground amongst muslim voters. This in itself is no bad thing, the left in Britain has never been good at connecting with black and asian voters. What will be interesting to see is if Respect can play a part in the development of a bigger and stronger socialist party in conjunction with the rest of the socialist left and the trade unions.

For more debate on the future of the left see the new article The European Elections and the Anti-Capitalist Left at Frontline's website. It is a reply to another recent article by Alex Callinicos of the SWP and takes up the question of Respect, the SSP and what kind of party we need today.

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:: Wednesday, July 28, 2004 ::

BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Salmond's 'you decide' proposal

BBC NEWS | Salmond's 'you decide' proposal

Scots will be able to pick the topics debated at Holyrood under new plans from SNP leadership hopefuls Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.
Mr Salmond compared the plan to Big Brother, where millions regularly phone in and then watch as the most popular choice carries the day.
The proposal forms part of a campaign manifesto to be launched by the pair.
Ms Sturgeon said the plans aimed to reconnect the Scottish Parliament with the public.

To be fair this was just one of many ideas that was in the dynamic duo's manifesto. But it is a pretty lame idea. I can picture the brainstorming session now as someone says "you know more young people vote in Big Brother than they do in elections, hey waitaminit..."

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:: Friday, July 23, 2004 ::

SNP Website War

As well as Roseanna's blog, the other twa have got websites as well.


Is rather dull and lacking in information.


Well tartan tory Mike seems to have made an investment in his website. It does seem to be the case that the SNP are quite active online, they always manage to fix online polls. Includes an amusing and rather vicious media review and a letters page including this gem:

Dear Alex

Now let me see if I’ve got this straight.

1. You are running for the leadership because SNP members don’t want Nicola as leader.
2. Nicola’s now running as your deputy. Why? Because even she thinks she’s not good enough to be leader and private polls showed she was running bottom, behind Mike and Roseanna.
3. After you win you’ll still be in London. For three years.
4. So Nicola, the leader the membership didn’t want in the first place, will be leader in your absence.

So Mike Russell wins the battle of the websites, but doesn't stand much chance of winning the leadership.

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Who's with Moore?

Who's with Moore? is an Australian blog discussing the issues raised by Fahrenheit 9-11. It includes some interesting feedback from military families. I went to see the film last night and found it a powerful and disturbing experience. Moore skillfully exposes the links between big oil, Bush and the Iraq war. He illustrates that it is the very poorest in our society who end up in the military getting killed while the profiteering companies laugh all the way to the bank.

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:: Thursday, July 22, 2004 ::

From Northampton with love

Alan Moore on literature, politics, technology, the past and future of mankind in this salon.com interview. Subscription only I'm afraid, but you can sign up for a day pass.

Let's say that tomorrow someone who is a political genius were to emerge -- and I'm not expecting this to happen, but say that it did. Say that a politician emerged who seemed, for once, basically competent, who seemed to be able to do their job as well as the average cab driver, comic writer or journalist. If they were the most intelligent, visionary, humane political thinker in the history of mankind, but were also fat, had some sort of blemish or something that made them less than telegenic, we would not be able to elect them. All we're able to elect are these telegenic, photogenic crypto-Nazis. As long as they look good...

Because, and this may be a sweeping generalization, the American electorate has a somewhat shorter attention span than the English electorate. There's a good chance that many people in the American electorate have already forgotten that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, that he was supposed to have weapons of mass destruction ready to deploy in 45 minutes. I think they're going to forget that they were lied to; there's a good chance that many of them will forget entirely who they were at war with. That may be doing a terrible injustice to the American electorate, and I hope that I am...

How about Tony Blair?

No, I don't think so. I mean, I think that the recent savaging Labor was handed at the European Parliament election is purely attributable to Tony Blair having taken us into this war against our wishes. We despise him. He is an object of almost universal hatred. People who voted Labor feel that they've been misrepresented, that they've been made party to things that they would never in a million years have voted for if they had known that Tony Blair was going to suck up so shamelessly to the American presidency over this. No, I don't think that we'll be forgiving him anytime soon. I'd be very surprised if Labor wins the next election with Tony Blair at their head; the fallout from this is going to take several years, even decades; it's going to take us a very long time to sort out the mess these clowns have made.

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:: Wednesday, July 21, 2004 ::

Captive Audience

Edinburgh Evening News - Top Stories - Laughs for the lags or at the Edinburgh People's Festival news page.

I appear to be in the papers. Well makes a change from 'local man's drink shame'.

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:: Monday, July 19, 2004 ::

Big Fish

SNP Leadership Watch

Predictably Alex (note to self: spelt with an X not a C) Salmond is the clear leader in the battle for the SNP leadership.

The BBC reports:

"Sampling of party support shows that Mr Salmond, who led the party for 10 years up to 2000, has now snatched the mantle of favourite from Ms Cunningham.

The Scotland on Sunday newspaper said it contacted 67 of the SNP's 200 branch conveners, of whom 21 said they had not yet decided who to support.

But of the remaining 46, 39 voiced a preference for Mr Salmond.

The Sunday Times said that out of 46 party branches it contacted, 29 backed Mr Salmond and only five said their members would back Ms Cunningham."

Meanwhile an excellent article appeared in the Sunday Herald (by Douglas Fraser) illuminating the background to the 'return of the king'. And, as suspected, it was Cunningham's disastrous Question Time appearance that proved her downfall.

“Salmond reckons at least 250 people contacted him by letter, e-mail and text message, not including the phone calls. One prominent party member flew to London to plead with him to return, on the strength of Cunningham’s Question Time performance. Although Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership campaign had the most momentum and Salmond’s backing, few believed she could muster enough support in the party to defeat her older pal Cunningham.

The weekend after Question Time, the pressure began to pile up. Salmond cites party die-hards who pointed out how much they had done for the party through thick and thin, calling on him to return and do his bit as well. “I changed my mind several times, even the day before,” said Salmond. “I didn’t determine what I was going to do until I arrived in Edinburgh.” That was last Saturday, when Swinney handed Salmond responsibility for running the next Westminster campaign. The former leader then spoke to the outgoing leader about his plans.”

It's all positively Shakespearian in SNP land. A fascinating mix of Julius Caesar and Macbeth.

As ever, his pitch is clearly coded. When he says he intends to be not only party leader but to replace Jack McConnell as First Minister, this can be translated as “do you seriously think Roseanna is a credible government leader?”. He rejects the notion that the party has become “difficult, truculent and even impossible to lead”, by which he really means he is possibly the only one capable of holding it together.

Also in the Herald both Mike Russell and Alex Salmond put forward their manifesto for leadership. Mike is his usual sleekit right-wing self. Since he was cast from the Scottish parliamentary paradise and was instead cursed to walk the earth with mortals he has learned that people don't like paying taxes and like enterprise to be encouraged etc etc ad nauseam. Alex meanwhile is more skilful, coming up with a 'big idea' of a citizen’s pension.

But they all must know that the competition is over. Russell is just setting out his stall to boost his wing of the party for the future in the remote off chance that Alex doesn't lead them to the promised land.

The deputy leadership competition is the only one with any interest in it for the uncommitted outsider.

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Paul Foot RIP

The Guardian | Paul Foot, radical columnist and campaigner, dies at 66: "It was widely accepted that, come the revolution, Paul would vote against his old bourgeois friends being shot and be shot himself not long afterwards. 'I'm known as a Bollinger Bolshie,' he once explained, when offering to buy the champagne."

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:: Friday, July 16, 2004 ::

Fishy business

SNP Leadership Watch

Evening News cartoon

Well the fun has kind of been taken out of watching the SNP leadership race. Whilst Roseanna was the clear favourite, Nicola Sturgeon was set to give her a real fight. Now that Alec Salmond has returned as the man of destiny to save Scotland the drama is over. He is a dead cert to win. A reliable leader who has the personal, political and media skills to do the job. And he's popular with the SNP rank and file.

Of course there is the small matter of why he resigned the last time. Additionally he is a Westminster MP but not an MSP in the Scottish Parliament (he has stated his intention to return, but not until the next holyrood election). Holyrood is the only stage that really matters for the SNP.

What is also not clear is the political direction that Alec will be taking. More of the same? Swinney just continued along the path that Salmond started on. And look where he ended up. Will Salmond be for making holyrood work, or will he state a bolder 'independence case'? Will he be prepared to work with others like the SSP and Greens in the independence convention, and build bridges to other political trends? Will he tilt social and economic policy away from the rural and 'celtic tiger' big business right and back towards the urban left vote that he needs to win, the vote the SSP has eaten into so succesfully?

Roseanna didn't look too pleased when interviewed on the news. In fact she looked rather sick. Not surprisingly. Still, over on her blog, she is defiant.

"We have a new system of one member one vote in the SNP and I look forward to this contest in which it is the members who will decide."

There is also suggestion that the SNP rank and file will rebel against Nicola Sturgeon and deny her a deputy leadership place. They are said to be unhappy with the unending deal making that is going on behind their backs (a joint candidature with Kenny McAskill which morphed into a joint candidature with Salmond.)

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:: Thursday, July 15, 2004 ::

One side lightweights

SNP Leadership Watch

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Salmond launches leadership bid

Whateffer next?

That's Roseanna and Mike's chances scuppered.

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:: Wednesday, July 14, 2004 ::

Hand of God, Brain of Jim

Diego Maradona junior will train with Dunfermline for two days in the hope of winning a move to the Fife club.

The 17-year-old son of the Argentine legend is currently with his father's former club, Napoli.

Says Pars legend and director of football Jim Leishman:

"The young lad is looking to make a name in the game but, if he's not any better than what we've got, he'll be moving on."

Reckon he's got a pretty good name already.

A Pars top with Maradona on the back, a must have.

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:: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 ::

EPF 2004

Edinburgh Peoples Festival

The complete programme for this years Edinburgh People's Festival is now available on their website.

I have done some design updates to the site. Comments/problems let me know.

The graphic above is by John Robertson, and up to his usual high standards.

For those outside Edinburgh, this is what an Edinburgh bus stop sign looks like.
(shout out to the LRT posse).

This years festival will see a major cultural debate in the new Scottish Parliament building, the premiere of a new play by Cecilia Grainger, a visit by the voice of Bart Simpson - Nancy Cartwright and a great deal more.

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:: Monday, July 12, 2004 ::

Fife 1 Paisley 0

Burntisland local councillor Wullie Leggatt, independent, got into a spot of bother recently.

This cheeky chappy from Paisley decided he would taunt some English visitors - who had been attending a wake - about the football.

The BBC reports

Mr Leggatt, a former lance corporal in the Argylls, said: "I was in the pub watching the game and there was a bit of banter going around.

"When (Michael) Owen scored, the England fans began cheering, but there was a stony silence from the rest of the pub.

"One of them was wearing an England top, it was like a red rag to a bull, so when Portugal equalised I went: 'Ha, Ha! F*** you! Ya f***ing beauty!'

"Then the barman turns round to me and says: 'Hey you, out!' I finished my drink and left, I didn't even get to see Portugal win."

Aye mate, they cheered when their team scored, and one of them was wearing their team colours. What is the problem? Scotland wasn't playing, why were you offended?

And to top it all

I've got plenty of English mates, they'll give me dogs' abuse for this. But I don't like them (the English) because of Culloden

It was several centuries ago mate, get over it.

Glad the Fife bar tender had more sense.

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:: Thursday, July 08, 2004 ::

Inside scoop on the SNiP's

SNP Leadership Watch

Margo Macdonald, the independent voice of independence, has the inside scoop on what SNP leadership candidates are really thinking. Bit of a shocker that Alex Neill was the clear favourite to win. If this is true, and he has turned it down, then he has probably missed his best chance to take the leadership. And it is also clear that despite quitting the party leadership in mysterious circumstances Salmond still calls the shots in the party.

Edinburgh Evening News - Opinion - Margo Macdonald

PSST! Want to know why Alex Neil decided against standing in the SNP leadership contest?

He thought he had a good chance of winning. When his own soundings of opinion in the SNP were confirmed by a newspaper poll, he had to think clearly about what lay ahead, and he concluded that Alex Salmond’s refusal to work with him would have made fighting the Westminster election next year very difficult, if not impossible.

But I’ve found something intriguing in what everybody reckons is a truly dull contest. Kenny McAskill, who may or who may not have been told to forget standing as leader by Alex Salmond, wants to "park independence".

Nicola Sturgeon, who can always rely on Alex Salmond to tell her what to do, in order to win internal SNP support, has been sounding like a born-again fundamentalist and calling for "new ways to campaign for independence".

How’s that for a united ticket?

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:: Wednesday, July 07, 2004 ::

dogs of war

Mural at St.Johns Church

A new mural at St. John's church, Princes Street, Edinburgh from Artists for Justice and Peace.

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Keep on Bloggin'

Just as I was beginning to think that Roseanna wasn't going to update her blog, she does. You can attend SNP leadership debates around the country. Except that the ones in Edinburgh are all members only. Darn, I would have been genuinely interested.

I see that Roseanna is using Dan Rubin's xhtml/css valid blogger template, thisaway (the Rose version, geddit?). Just one of a series of attractive templates that blogger added, I used the zeldman one myself on the Edinburgh People's Festival news page.

Oh, and I added a favicon (little graphic in the url field) which some browsers should be able to see.

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:: Tuesday, July 06, 2004 ::

SNP Leadership Watch - Special Offer

Buy one, get one free. Put that on your blog and code it Roseanna.

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:: Monday, July 05, 2004 ::

10,000 volts in your pocket, innocent or guilty

iRaq iPod images

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SNP Leadership Watch - Enter the Blog

The battle continues, but Alex Neill is not going to be part of it.

In other news Roseanna Cunningham, contender for the SNP leadership has set up a blog. The first thing I learned from it was that I have been spelling her name wrong.

The next thing I learned from it is that she is trying to make left wing noises.

She writes:

we have tilted the party's political profile too far away from our traditional core vision of a socially just Scotland. That vision should be sharing the agenda with our economic case, but it hasn't happened over the last 5 years. Instead, we have allowed the social justice case to slip into the background and people no longer have a clear idea what it is we stand for.

Wealth creation is essential – but wealth must have a purpose. And that purpose is to ensure that we build the kind of Scotland where people do not struggle to find a home, where life expectancy does not drop to 3rd world levels, where poverty is no longer a blight on thousands of lives.

She also says she will talk more about independence.

I don't see too much different here from what Swinney used to say. What he used to do and the types of policy that the SNP ended up with was something different.

How does Roseanna or any of the other leadership contestants plan to tackle poverty and inequality whilst at the same time promoting pro-business policies. A "competitive" Scottish economy means a low-wage, low-tax Scottish economy.

But it sounds like Roseanna may have slipped a bit due to a very poor performance on Question Time.

Roseanna Cunningham, the front-runner, faced a severe setback in her campaign on BBC TV’s Question Time last Thursday. Asked to explain independence by fellow panelist Kaye Adams, she stumbled badly.

Supporters of Sturgeon have told the Sunday Herald that they are aghast that the deputy leader should let the party down by being so unprepared for a major media event, and at least one branch in the Highlands is calling for Alex Salmond to return to the leadership.

“The only point in voting for Roseanna is because she is a good media operator, and Question Time on Thursday put paid to that,” said one opposing activist.

“Everyone has good and bad performances, and Roseanna won’t regard that as one of her finest,” was the diplomatic response from the Sturgeon camp. “We’ll leave others to make their judgement on it.”

Now, I demand web-logs from Mr Russell and Gnasher Sturgeon.

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:: Thursday, July 01, 2004 ::

Get back to your technical area

A number of Scots MP's put up a ridiculous motion at Westminster. The motion protested about the refereeing of Euro 2004 in the wake of England's dissallowed goal against Switzerland.

Now, for the record, I think it was a goal. But get a grip. The Sun took this as far as to start a vendetta against unfortunate Swiss referee Urs Meier. The poor guy has had to go into hiding following death threats when the paper printed his address and email.

Perhaps the MP's should listen to some people who really know what they are talking about - the UEFA referees committee who remain convinced there was a foul.

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