Let my People Go
Slight Return to the Edinburgh People's Festival in the Scotsman Diary. Seems there were a couple of happy punters in the captive audience.
NOT quite tally-ho, but cries of "Mr Fox, Mr Fox" outside Holyrood caught our attention. Turned out it was a couple of likely lads trying to catch the eye of Colin Fox, MSP, as they headed for the park with a bulging bag from Haddows. "Really enjoyed your time at Saughton a coupla weeks ago. Brilliant, man. Comedy night was superb. See ya." No, Colin had not been following in the footsteps of Tommy Sheridan. Rather "A Quiet Night In" at HMP Edinburgh featured comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Dewar, organised by the Red Fox as part of the week-long Edinburgh People’s Festival. Still, a rave review.
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:: Wednesday, September 29, 2004 ::
An offal you can't refuse.
The countryside alliance are dashed well turning into the jolly old Sopranos.
A dead horse was left near the conference centre in Brighton where Labour were having their annual speech-fest. What message were the pro-hunt people trying to give? Maybe Tony was lucky they couldn't leave it in his bed. Some other carcasses were left around the place by animal-loving yokels. Rumours that John Prescott had been sent a fish have yet to be confirmed.
"Baroness Mallalieu says hello you schmuk"
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:: Monday, September 27, 2004 ::
Saved by the Bell?
The Herald: Roseanna’s out as SNP conference reshapes the party
A BITTERLY disappointing year for the SNP's Roseanna Cunningham was capped at the party's Inverness conference when she missed out on a place on the slimmed down national executive. It means the Perth MSP has gone from deputy leader weeks ago to being out of the shadow cabinet and off the national executive for the first time since 1990.
Yet another bad day for our erstwhile blogger Roseanna, but Alex Salmond certainly made his mark with the SNP conference. Boasting about increasing party membership (and, happy coincidence, the 10,000th SNP member was female, Asian and photogenic) he was clearly trying to project an image of a party that was back on track. Whether they are back on track will depend on what the voters think, but it is probably fair to say they are off the canvas before the ref counted them out. Salmond made a strong speech in which he went for Tony Blair in no uncertain terms, accusing him of lying and calling for his impeachment (which you apparently can do, in theory at least.) This type of tough talk is an attempt to win back some of the ground lost to the left, the SSP in particular, over the last few years. It was certainly a contrast with Mr personality-bypass Swinney, What was less clear was the kind of policy changes we could be seeing from the SNP. As Iain MacWhirter made clear in the Sunday Herald yesterday, "It seems to me that there is a long list of goals that the SNP share with Labour. They want to ban smoking, cut business rates, boost renewable energy, upgrade transport links and promote Gaelic. They agree on the need for an enterprise economy, comprehensive education which allows diversity and excellence and measures to boost the population."
Yes, when it comes to being all things to all people, Alex Salmond's your man.
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:: Friday, September 24, 2004 ::
The web site for SCRAP the Scottish Campaign to Remove all Prescription Charges has gone live today.
Check it out at http://www.scrapcharges.org.uk/
And yes it does have a blog.
The campaign has been set up in support of Colin Fox's bill in the Scottish Parliament to scrap prescription charges. The Welsh Assembly has already pledged to do so.
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:: Wednesday, September 22, 2004 ::
I Do Declare
I'm liking this poster
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:: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 ::
Don't want to turn this blog into an obits column, but here is a quick word on the East Midlands 'Man of the Millenium' Brian Clough. Those of a certain age will never forget the Forest-Malmo European Cup Final.
Political correctness was not his strongest suit, although he was a socialist and marched in support of the miners' strike in 1984. During a bitter industrial dispute at the Nottingham Evening Post, he refused to speak to "scab" reporters. (The Independent)
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:: Monday, September 20, 2004 ::
Veteran Italian socialist Livio Maitan has died aged 81.
He played an important role during difficult times, as an anti-fascist, and a revolutionary but an opponent of Stalinism and a militant of the Trotskyist Fourth International.
A founder of the Italian Communist Refoundation (Rifondazione), you can see the PRC poster for his funeral here (pdf) and read some words from PRC leader Bertinotti here.
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:: Friday, September 17, 2004 ::
The Scottish Patient
The Scottish Patient is the latest SSP supporter weblog in town. This time from veteran agit-propper, cannabis cafe punting, class struggle waging, literature propagating hibee Kevin Williamson. Kevin will be well known to many of you as the founder of Rebel Inc. publishing and the man who brought a certain Irvine Welsh to the world's attention. More recently Kev has annoyed his comrades indiscriminately with his regular opinionated column in the Scottish Socialist Voice and been at the forefront of the movement to reform the drug laws.
Warning, contains disturbing photos of hibees.
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:: Thursday, September 16, 2004 ::
The Surrey branch of Class War went on the rampage in a style that put to shame the efforts of their urban counterparts in the eighties. This time it was fox hunting that was the issue not the poll tax. It should be pointed out that it was the other side of the class war who were on the march. Specifically:
Amongst those understood to have been arrested are Otis Ferry, 21-year-old son of rock star Bryan Ferry, and England polo player Luke Tomlinson, 26, a close friend of Prince Harry.
The historical constitutional echoes of ruling class pals of the monarchy invading parliament are uncomfortable and will have a negative resonance in a way that the Countryside Alliance probably don't even realise. They should reflect that fox hunting only exists because Cromwell banned deer hunting. The republican aspect of anti-hunt sentiment still exists.
But the CA claim that they are the democrats. In a press release on their website they state:
Todays' massive Alliance demonstration outside Parliament against a hunting ban is not about hunting, Chief Executive Simon Hart has said.
Thousands of people have been converging on Westminster since early this morning for the demonstration, which is expected to attract over 10,000 protesters.
Speaking to a packed gathering of national broadcast and print media this morning on the steps of Parliament Square Mr.Hart, joined by Alliance President Ann Mallalieu, stressed that the protest went far beyond the specific issue of hunting to the fundamental issues of political prejudice politics and discrimination in a liberal democracy
So it wasn't even about hunting? Try to focus on the issue guys. And did we hear you complaining about a lack of democracy when we went to war in Iraq in the face of majority opposition. Not galloping around on a horse with a stupid red coat on drinking sherry, going to war.
But the CA is likely to be sitting in a daze, not knowing quite what has hit it this morning. All the sympathetic coverage gone and replaced by images of hooray henry's invading parliament and cidered-up tractor enthusiasts fighting the cops. I'm sure some of them are doing what us lefties always do on these occassions, wondering if it was a put-up job by agent provocateurs.
Much of the trouble probably also comes from a lack of demo experience. The demonstrators thought they might be in for a bit of pushing and shoving, those of us who know the Met could have told them that a trip to casualty was more likely. The cops had no riot gear on and weren't expecting trouble. So when it came they panicked. TV pictures clearly showed that they hit everyone who came near the barriers, in the face with wooden truncheons. Ouch.
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:: Wednesday, September 15, 2004 ::
Shaken not stirred
It is being reported that Dougray Scott is to be the next James Bond. And him an SSP supporter. Dougray comes from a political family and I have known his sister for many years. So let's hope the rumours are true. He's a hibee too but you can't have everything.
Rumours that Wendy Alexander has been cast as Rosa Kleb are probably untrue.
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:: Tuesday, September 14, 2004 ::
Holy Misogyny Boy Wonder
Interesting that the fathers4justice types chose brooding psychotic loner Batman as their role model or were they going for the campy 60's model?
At least their antics have provoked some interesting comments.
Channel 4 News'" Jon Snow in his daily Snowmail comments "this would be a fantastic agit prop. Were it not for the atmosphere around the 'cause'. 'Fathers for Justice' is campaigning for fathers to have access to children in their mother's custody. But such is the aura of misogyny, and the utter obsessiveness you find yourself wondering whether ANY child should ever be exposed to their care".
Whilst Nick Barlow remarks "Apparently, the protestor - Jason Hatch - has said he's got enough supplies to remain on the balcony for days. Insert your own joke about how all men claim to be able to stay up for much longer than they're actually can."
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:: Monday, September 13, 2004 ::
That'll Learn Ye
Fallen SNP duo look ahead to back benches - The Herald Pair auld Roseanna Cunningham having lost the leadership election in the SNP is paying the price. Out of the SNP's shadow cabinet and back to the back benches where she can sit beside ex-leader John Swinney and fill her hours chairing the health committee ("a really big job" she enthused with gritted teeth).
It was holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon wielding the scalpel with her usual soft and compassionate style. A sign of a tougher leadership style in the future? Probably, so dissidents beware. The SNP left in particular are set to receive a good political kicking at the next SNP conference. A further exodus of some elements of the left out of the party is likely with the SSP the main beneficiary.
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:: Friday, September 10, 2004 ::
Millwall (no one likes us we don't care)
RESPECT have come a good second in a council by-election in Millwall. The interesting thing is that I hear it is a largely white area in the Isle of Dogs, where the BNP had a councillor at one time. The tories won (their first councillor in the area) and labour came third. Labour should think hard about where their following of Bush has left them. This is the kind of result that Respect need to break through to a wider audience. The challenge now is to build on this organisationally.
Simon Paul Rouse – The Conservative Party Candidate 828
Paul Robert Louis McGarr – Respect – The Unity Coalition 635
John Christian Cray – The Labour Party Candidate 571
Andrew Peter Sweeney – Independent 195
Barry Alfred Blandford – Liberal Democrats (Focus Team) 150
As an aside, I've been reading Alan Moore's From Hell, whose ruling class masonic Ripper, Sir William Gull, was none too impressed with either the Isle of Dogs or the forces of progress gathering strength in Victorian Britain.
The Isle of Dogs is just ahead. It has a feral ring, this isle of dog-eat-dog, where once they kept the Royal hunting beasts. Ha ha! Like us, eh, Netley? Just like us. Hawksmoor's St. Anne's stands in its jaws, its magic lines engraved on human consciousness and thus upon society. Sometimes an act of social magic's necessary; man's triumph over woman's insecure, the dust of history not yet settled. Changing times erase the pattern that constrains society's irrational, female side. Our workers, lately given votes, now talk of socialism, talk of rights, riot in Trafalgar Square and won't quit 'til they are shot, whereon their fury doubles! King Mob's clamour drowns our Apollonian debates. Reason's besieged: For all our science we are become an age of table rappers, tealeaf readers and theosophists
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:: Thursday, September 09, 2004 ::
The Spider Man of Alcatraz
BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Prisoners 'injected spider venom'
Inmates in an Australian prison are said to have farmed deadly spiders to use their venom as a narcotic. Four redback spiders - whose bite could kill a child - were found in a jar at a prison in New South Wales. Inmates were said to have milked the spiders for venom and watered it down before injecting it to obtain a high.
There are some stories that you would dismiss as fanciful if you came across them in a work of fiction. But let's not jump to conclusions...
"But a prison spokesman, Brian Kelly, was sceptical about the veracity of the claim the venom was used as a narcotic, saying it had come from a single unreliable inmate. Mr Kelly said the spiders were more likely to have been kept as pets."
Makes a change from pigeons.
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:: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 ::
Haven't mentioned any music blogs for a while, so here is Music is a Virus with a combination of music and politics with an electro edge from Soft Cell to Stereolab.
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:: Monday, September 06, 2004 ::
What a tangled web we weave
The Scottish Parliament has relaunched its website. Includes video interviews with all the MSP's, a new site webcasting debates and committees and a new look. All great. Except my browser of choice is firefox, and the style sheets seem to break in firefox. Looks fine in safari and IE (on mac and win).
Now firefox is a minority browser and many designers may not bother testing in it. Fair enough. But valid code - correctly written html - should appear fine in it, and should also be more accessible. This is where the problems seem to lie.
There are 9 validation errors on the opening page. Including some that look like straight mis-typed syntax errors. There are a couple of basic accessibility errors too, such as missing alt descriptions. But it's only day one and hopefully this can be sorted out.
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After some delay for trifling personal reasons, Frontline 14 is finally available on the web.
In Frontline 14 we look back at a year of the occupation of Iraq with an interview with lebanese socialist Gilbert Achcar. We also take a look at politics in Britain following the European elections and examine the rise of UKIP. We discuss the Scottish nursery nurses strike and look at the national question in Quebec. Plus articles on history, culture and technology.
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:: Friday, September 03, 2004 ::
No surprises - it's the piscine duo for the SNP leadership
SNP Leadership Watch - The Result
Salmond named as new SNP leader And Nicola Sturgeon is the deputy. Which must come as a bit of a relief to Alex, as the deputy vote was always the most uncertain. However she won convincingly with 53.87% of the vote.
Salmond's victory was even more certain with over 75% of the vote to Roseanna's 14.58 and Mike Russell's 9.65. With over 80% of the membership turning out this is a good mandate for Salmond. Conversely it leaves Cunningham looking weak for any future leadership bids. She had a bad campaign and an unconvincing vote. Mike Russell at least boosted his profile and seemed to get his message across (an even more pro-business, right wing SNP is his aim.)
But now the troubles will really begin. Because the SNP have London rule. They are led by a Westminster MP (and by his own admission someone who is an 'anglophile' and I suspect a lover of the Westminster club atmosphere.)
The SNP would do well to provoke a by-election as soon as they can to get Salmond in the Scottish Parliament. Until they do they will be mercilessly taunted on this by their opponents.
The next question is what will Salmond do differently than in his less-than-successful previous ten year spell as leader?
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:: Thursday, September 02, 2004 ::
Hooray for Holyrood?
I had a quick visit to our new parliament the other day. Didn't bring my camera and was also instructed by security not to wander around. And the verdict? It's quite cool actually. Sort of IKEA meets the DDR, but in a good way. And I didn't even see the debating chamber which is supposed to be the highlight. Most of the staff are delighted. Some MSP's have complained (in the Daily Mail I believe) that it is too hot or something but as one member of staff commented to me "it's a lot better than the working environment at the average call centre". And most importantly you no longer have to listen to bad bagpipe busking on the royal mile all day.
MSP's have a nice office, with the infamous "think bubble" at the back. PA's and research staff are in the front. Rosie Kane MSP has swapped and taken her PA's desk. This has the added advantage of increased visibility to the hacks wandering the lobby in front (pictured above). SSP, Greens and independents were exiled to the ground floor whilst the 'big boys' took the upper floors with the nice view. However no one knows they are there. Everyone walks past the ground floor offices...so maybe a miscalculation there by Jack's boys.
Also they have set up a new system whereby the political elite (the MSP's) have a seperate canteen to their party workers and parliament staff. Unsurprisingly socialist MSP's are having none of it.
So it's not quite finished, and most of those inside will still be talking pish. But hopefully we have got something nice in exchange for our not insignificant £431 million.
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