Sunday, 30 November 2014

North Lanarkshire Update


I said in a recent post that I would be writing to Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's new First Minister, regarding the behaviour of North Lanarkshire Council over equal pay.

I did so on Friday by email and have set out a detailed argument inviting Scottish Ministers to intervene using their powers under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012.

So watch this space for news because later this week as well I am due to receive a response from North Lanarkshire Council in relation to my recent FoI request which asked for further details of the Council's performance 'bonus scheme' for its most highly paid officials.

NLC and Equal Pay (24 November 2014)


I said in a recent post that I would be writing to Scotland's new First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to highlight the ridiculous behaviour of North Lanarkshire Council over equal pay.

I plan to do so this week, but in the meantime here's a picture of Nicola Sturgeon with her new cabinet which has a 50/50 split between women and men, and a more youthful feel as a younger generation of politicians pick up the baton.

Curiously, the BBC reported the news online in the Scotland section of its web site, but not in the UK section which I find rather odd given the potential that Scottish voters have for influencing the outcome of the May 2015 general election, particularly if we sweep away all of the 'deadwood' Labour MPs who currently sit in the Westminster Parliament.  

Nicola Sturgeon announces new Scottish cabinet

Nicola Sturgeon with the new Scottish government cabinet outside Bute House

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced the make-up of her new senior ministerial team, with an equal split of male and female members.

Finance Secretary John Swinney was named deputy first minister, while Ms Sturgeon's close ally Shona Robison, was promoted to health secretary.

Michael Matheson was named as the new justice secretary, replacing Kenny MacAskill.

Mike Russell was replaced as education secretary by Angela Constance.

Opposition parties said the new cabinet now had to tackle the problems brought about by previous bad decisions.

The reshuffle also resulted in:
  • Roseanna Cunningham promoted into the cabinet as fair work, skills and training secretary.
  • Keith Brown promoted into the cabinet as infrastructure, investment and cities secretary
  • Alex Neil staying in the cabinet, but moving from health to social justice, communities and pensioners' rights
  • Richard Lochhead remaining environment secretary, a post he has held since the SNP came to power in 2007
  • Fiona Hyslop remaining as secretary for culture, Europe and external affairs
Ms Sturgeon said: "The aims of my government are clear: to create a nation that is both socially democratic and socially just, a nation that is confident in itself and governed effectively and a nation which will address poverty, support business, promote growth and tackle inequality.

"The new cabinet team I have announced today will pursue these priorities with verve, vigour and determination."

The first minister added: "Every member of the cabinet is part of this government's top team on merit, on the basis of the excellent work they have already done as ministers.

"The cabinet line-up is also a clear demonstration that this government will work hard in all areas to promote women, to create gender equality and it sends out a strong message that the business of redressing the gender balance in public life starts right here in government."
Nicola Sturgeon announced that John Swinney would be deputy first minister by tweeting a picture of the pair
Ms Sturgeon announced Mr Swinney's appointment on Twitter
Mr Swinney said it was a privilege to be deputy first minister
Mike Russell also took to Twitter to announce his time in government had come to an end

Ms Sturgeon began her reshuffle by announced Mr Swinney's new job on Twitter.

Mr Swinney, who led his party between 2000 and 2004, responded: "It is the greatest privilege for me to be appointed deputy first minister of Scotland. I will do all I can to serve my country."

Following Ms Sturgeon's earlier offer to work with opposition parties on improving Scotland, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: "I look forward to them supporting Labour's policies to tackle the many problems that their predecessors have left for them.

"It's time to put the referendum result behind us and get on with governing the country for the benefit of the people of Scotland."

'Walking liberal'

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the new cabinet needed a new approach.

Mr Rennie attacked Mr MacAskill's handling of plans to end the requirement to corroborate evidence in criminal trials, as well as the "routine" arming of police and the carrying out of stop-and-search procedures on children.

"Nicola Sturgeon likes to talk liberal, but the real test is whether she'll walk liberal," he said.

"The SNP cabinet stood behind Kenny MacAskill's illiberal centralisation agenda at every twist and turn."

Meanwhile, Scotland's senior law officers, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and Solicitor General Lesley Thompson, will continue in their current jobs.

Ms Sturgeon will announce her junior ministerial appointments later on Friday.

North Lanarkshire Council



I've written a lot about North Lanarkshire in recent weeks, but here's a brief summary of where things stand as we approach the end of another year in the fight for equal pay.

"Will we win?", people ask me on a regular basis.

Yes, I'm absolutely convinced of that and the reason we will win is that the Council has taken a complete pasting at the ongoing Employment Tribunal which is due to recommence in Glasgow on 19 January 2015.

What has happened is that the Council's defence has been forensically taken apart by the barrister acting for Action 4 Equality Scotland's clients, Daphne Romney QC. Daphne has shown that the Council's claims to have delivered equal pay through it 2007 job evaluation scheme (JES) are complete baloney - from start to finish.

As regular readers know, all that really happened is that the much higher earnings of traditional male jobs were preserved because regardless of their JES scorers, the male jobs were assimilated onto the new pay spine on the basis of their old earnings.

In other words the historical pay discrimination against female dominated jobs was simply rolled forward into the new pay structures which was a very sneaky and naughty thing to do, if you ask me.

To add insult to injury lots of female dominated jobs, such as Home Carers, were 'scored' much lower than they deserved although the Council only admitted this to be the case earlier in 2014 - having had the truth dragged out of them after seven years of denying vehemently that anything was wrong.

Now quite how all of this happened right under the noses of the trade unions is beyond me because it stands to reason that the trade unions must have known how the male workers were being treated, compared to the women.

In any event the Council is now in a giant hole of its own making and while Action 4 Equality Scotland is prepared to reach a negotiated settlement of all outstanding equal pay claims - it will have to be a fair settlement and not one that's on the Council's terms.

At the moment there are no discussion talking place with North Lanarkshire Council and A4ES is preparing for the Employment Tribunal hearing on 19 January 2015 when the Council's head of human resources, Iris Wylie, will be required to give evidence.

In my view, the next couple of months will be crucial because the Council's most senior officials have an awful lot of explaining to do although I am amazed, I have to say, that the same people, by and large, who have made such a mess of equal pay over the past 8 years are still in their very highly paid posts.     

But believe me justice will be done in one way or another, as it was in South Lanarkshire Council, and the looming general election is forcing Labour politicians to sit up and take notice in a way they haven't done for years - because they're all now desperately worried about losing their seats.     

New Equal Pay Claims



I've been in touch with a couple of MSPs in North Lanarkshire recently and one of the things I've been asked about is whether or not Action 4 Equality Scotland is still taken on new NLC cases.

The answer to that question is a definite Yes because even new employees will have a claim, so long as North Lanarkshire's pay arrangements continue to favour traditional male jobs.

So for as long as this situation continues NLC workers will continue to have a claim under equal pay legislation and Action 4 Equality Scotland has put on several hundred new clients in the past year, while the Council's case continues to collapse in the ongoing Employment Tribunal.

A4ES represents the great majority of claimants in North Lanarkshire and while I am very confident that we will win the case against the Council, I suspect we will still be open for business for a little while yet.   

Best and Worst



Here's a beautifully written, yet rather odd comment piece by Howard Jacobson in The Independent in which opines about his disappointment in various public figures for whom he once harboured great hopes. 

I'm not sure fully agree with Howard on his assessment of Barack Obama because while the American President has shown a great reluctance to provide leadership on the world stage (after the long years of Afghanistan and Iraq) he has at least tackled the issue of affordable health care in the USA and, more recently, launched a bold initiative on immigration. 

So for me, the jury on President Obama is still out. 

Obama, Miliband and Bill Cosby: expect the worst from those who offer to be the best

It's one dashed hope after another

By HOWARD JACOBSON - The Independent



Thought for the day: everyone disappoints you in the end. The only question is how quickly that end comes. I held out against Obama-fatigue for one whole term of his office – easy to do from this side of the Atlantic, I grant you – but his public response to the killings in a Jerusalem synagogue earlier this week finally convinced me he had become a disappointment even to himself.

However intractable the politics of the Middle East, however weary you might be with all parties – which is not to sanction Baroness Warsi’s gross assumption of equivalence between Jews visiting a holy site and terrorists carrying out a massacre – it still behoves a President of the United States at least to try imitating a man who gives a damn. But it’s evident he’s had it up to here with Jews, Muslims and just about anybody else intruding on his elegant aloofness. So that’s goodnight from him, and our only interest in his office now is who will fill it next.

Of Baroness Warsi it cannot be said she disappoints, since to disappoint expectation you must first excite it, but I confess to having harboured hopes of Ed Miliband when he first became Labour leader. OK, he was the son of an ideologue, which has to be a hindrance whatever the ideology, but he did do away with his brother and that, while it isn’t quite the same as doing away with your father, is the next best thing. I liked his air of being newborn, the way he looked into the camera as though he knew diffidence was a virtue, and the impression he gave of being a man of principle. As a matter of fact I still think of him as a man of principle, it’s just that the principle he’s a man of is not his own.

Gone the pellucid, brown-eyed, slightly startled stare, now he’s more often to be seen peering darkly into his troubled conscience and, I fancy, not liking what he finds there. His prevarications around his Jewishness – first imagining loyalty to anything to be a vote-winner, then abandoning it in a bacon sandwich which he wasn’t even sufficiently sincere in his apostasy to eat with relish – left him with few friends on either side of the religious divide, and sauce on his chin. As for the class war he has recently espoused – feudal lords in high-walled mansions versus starving multitudes in draughty council flats unable to afford transport to A&E – it convinces him, in my view, not at all. That God, he knows, has failed. As so, any minute now, will he.

Bill Cosby

And now accusations of serious sexual misconduct threaten the reputation for wholesomeness enjoyed for so long by Bill Cosby, comedian, educator, role model and family man. I don’t recall ever having an attitude to him one way or another, but it’s a risk making any man an exemplar of family values, just as it’s a risk making him an exemplar of selfless religious dedication or caringness. Such expectations exceed our limits, even where we don’t turn out to be rapists and paedophiles. We are but men. Idealise no one is the only answer. Expect the worst from those who offer to be the best. Better still, jump ship before disappointment has time to trip you up. Invest early enthusiasm, if you must, but don’t hang around for the aftermath. Really like your inaugural speech, Obama; now let that be the last we hear from you.

And it isn’t only people who disappoint. Last week, I was in Germany on a book tour in the course of which I went down with a bad case of post-Heidelberg tristesse. Heidelberg has been important to me since I was about 14 when I first saw the movie of The Student Prince at the Greenhill Cinema in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, in the company of a girl who wouldn’t let me hold her hand but who kissed my cheek when the film was over because she could see how moved I was.

I say when I “first” saw The Student Prince because I was to see it many more times throughout my adolescent years, and I can still conjure Mario Lanza singing “Summertime in Heidelberg” with Ann Blyth – for me, in those days, the nonpareil of womanly sweetness – simply by closing my eyes. That way too I don’t have to be reminded that Lanza wasn’t in the film in person, having grown too fat on American breakfasts. That’s how you eat a bacon sandwich, Ed.

It’s a hopeless love story, hence my tears. She pulls the pints at the university biergarten, he is the son of the King of Karlsburg, and although that sounds like a relationship made in beery heaven, once his father dies he has to leave her. A king cannot marry a commoner and that’s that. Not a social structuring of which Miliband would approve, but then that’s why there’s never been a good operetta made about the British Labour Party.
Why in particular this story touched me deeply – since I was free to marry all the commoners I pleased – I have never fully understood. Perhaps the frothing barmaid was really my mother, and the prince was me at whatever age I was weaned. Or it just might have been that I revered Mario Lanza’s voice, couldn’t wait to go to university and join a fencing fraternity, and loved the way Heidelberg looked in CinemaScope.

I should have left it at that. But no, more than half a century on, I had to go to Heidelberg and find the locations where I had imaginatively lost my heart. And were they there? Of course not. No Ann Blyth in a beer garden, no students marching through the streets singing “Gaudeamus Igitur”, no voice of Mario Lanza floating over the River Neckar. Just a pleasantly picturesque town with a castle at one end and a railway station at the other. Still, nobody mugged me.

Which is more than those who looked up to Miliband and Obama can say.

Guido Fawkes



The Guido Fawkes web site has an interesting take on the Emily Thornberry affair and provides the intriguing insight that Labour's former justice chief is actually known by another title, Lady Nugee.

Now that comes as news to me and is disappointing, though not surprising, because there are plenty of people inside the Labour movement whose lives are strangely incomplete and unfulfilled until they receive the recognition of a bauble from Her Majesty the Queen. 

My attitude to anyone who is desperate to be part of the UK's 'honours system' means that Emily and the Labour Party become ever more ridiculous, as the search for votes continues in the run up to the 2015 general election. 

Guido Fawkes can be found at: www.http://order-order.com 

The Tale of Lady Nugee’s Walled Garden in Islington



Snobby sacked Labour MP Emily Thornberry’s official title is Lady Nugee, by virtue of her marriage to the High Court Judge Sir Christopher Nugee. Some years ago, with him, Emily bought a small terraced house in her constituency when it was auctioned off by a local housing association – only as an investment, they lived in a far grander £3 million mansion elsewhere in Islington. In itself this was an unusual example of privatisation by a “socialist”…

An outraged constituent who was eventually evicted by the Housing Association claimed that he had come to her, his constituency MP, for help only to despair when she bought one of the privatised properties. It was all very embarrassing for Thornberry. The old man nailed his allegations to the door of the house she bought. Very Lutheran…


The row of terraced houses shared small gardens communally and for years neighbours’ young children had happily played together along the terrace’s back row of gardens. This irritated the new landlord Emily and she nagged, and nagged her neighbour next door to put up a fence. He was reluctant to do so because the gardens were tiny and he could see no harm being done by his two little girls riding their scooters along the row, they were only aged 3 and 5. In the end Emily had workmen build a giant fence down the middle to keep his children out. Emily’s now private garden went unused and became overgrown with weeds. How does Guido know this story is true?

They were his kids.

Football Crazy



Glasgow Rangers fans must be tearing their hair out at the latest reports surrounding the arrest of five men including former owner, Craig Whyte, who are all suspected of fraudulent activity over the sale of the once mighty Ibrox club. 

Now quite how the club could have been sold in such controversial circumstances is a mystery to me and no doubt many Rangers fans as well.

Perhaps another case of due diligence light?

Former Rangers owner Craig Whyte held at Heathrow Airport

Mr Whyte is expected to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday

Former Rangers owner Craig Whyte has been arrested after arriving in the UK from Mexico where he had been detained.

The 43-year-old was held at Heathrow Airport on Thursday and will be taken to Scotland for an expected appearance at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday.

He is being held on an arrest warrant in relation to an investigation into his takeover of Rangers in 2011.

Mr Whyte was detained in Mexico after being refused entry. Extradition proceedings were not required.

Earlier, a Crown Office spokesman said: "We have been advised that the warrant for Craig Whyte has been executed by the Mexican authorities.

"Our International Co-operation unit, working with Police Scotland's Fugitives Unit and the National Crime Agency, will take the necessary steps to secure his appearance at Glasgow Sheriff Court to answer the warrant."

Mr Whyte took control of Rangers in May 2011 but the club went into administration in February the following year.

Four men have already appeared in court charged with fraudulent activity following the investigation into the sale of Rangers.

David Grier, 53, Paul Clark, 50, and David Whitehouse, 49, worked for Duff and Phelps - Rangers' administrators.

Others charged

The fourth man, Gary Withey, 50, worked for law firm Collyer Bristow, which represented Mr Whyte before he bought Rangers from Sir David Murray for £1 in 2011.

All four made no plea or declaration at Glasgow Sheriff Court and were granted bail ahead of a future hearing.

Mr Grier, Mr Clark and Mr Whitehouse were also charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

A separate arrest warrant was also issued last week for Mr Whyteafter he failed to attend a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in relation to a separate legal case.

He has been sued for about £18m by Ticketus in relation to his acquisition of Rangers.



Due Diligence (10 December 2011)



I will read with interest the soon-to-be-released report from the Financial Services Authority ((FSA) - on the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The city regulator and financial watchdog has been investigating the debacle - which led to complete collapse and subsequent nationalisation of RBS - under the leadership of Sir Fred Goodwin.

The Scotsman newspaper suggests today that the former directors of RBS - including Sir Fred - will escape any further punishment over accusations that they misled investors.

Investors were asked to support the ailing bank in a £12.5 billion rights issue - yet within months the bank jhad fallen apart and required a £45 billion bailout from the UK government.

The Scotsman says the FSA probe will question the incentives paid to City advisers and the FSA's own role in supervising the banking sector as it plunged into crisis.

The paper also predicts that the FSA will deliver deliver a damning judgement on the lack of due diligence into the RBS‑led consortium’s acquisition of Dutch bank ABN Amro - saying that it amounted to “two lever‑arch files and a CD‑ROM”. 

Here's what I wrote about the scandalous affair back in October 2011.  

A Litte Bit Pregnant (October 18th 2011)

I watched the excellent BBC programme last night - on the rise and fall of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The action focused on the bank's former chief executive - Sir Fred Goodwin - who was nominated for his knighthood by none other than Gordon Brown MP - the former Chancellor and Labour Prime Minister.

And Sir Fred didn't disappoint - in fact I learned something new, an exciting new term - which Sir Fred 'decribed as 'due diligence light' or DDL for short.

Now as I understand what Sir Fred was saying 'due diligence light' is the banking equivalent - of being a little bit pregnant.

In other words - it's a concept that exists only in the mind of the befuddled, deluded or couldn't care less.

Because DDL is what Sir Fred and RBS applied as their 'stress test' - in shelling out 27 billion Euros to take over part of rival Dutch based bank - ABN AMRO.

Now I took this as shorthand for Sir Fred and his RBS colleagues saying - 'we can't be bothered our arse to check what we are buying with all this shareholders money'.

So we'll just 'hope for the best' and pretend that banks can be - a little bit pregnant.

Result - complete disaster.

Because as it turned out Sir Fred and the board of RBS which backed the deal unanimously - bought themselves a pig in a poke.

ABN AMRO wasn't worth a row of beans - never mind 27 billion Euros - and most of its 'assets' was worthelss sub prime mortgage stock in the USA.

Yet while the UK banking sector almost collapsed - and RBS shareholders lost all their money - Sir Fred turned up smelling of roses - and left the company with a pension worth £690,000 a year.

Which Sir Fred magnanimously agreed to reduce to only £340,000 a year - in the wake of a huge public outcry.

So if anyone tries to persuade you about the merits of due diligence light - tell them to stick it where the sun don't shine.

Because it simply doesn't exist. 

Dance of the Seven Veils



Gordon Brown is doing a political 'dance of the seven veils' in Glasgow later today, my home city, which has been completely dominated by the Labour Party for the past 50 years.

Now Gordon's friends 'let it be known' last week that he wouldn't be standing for office again at the May 2015 general election, thank God, presumably because he's effectively operated as a part-time Westminster MP for years and has now finally accepted it's time to move on.

But before taking his leave, Gordon is going to give it one more try to 're-set' Scottish politics by urging the country to accept that the Smith Commission has settled the argument about Devo Max and home rule and that everyone should now put aside their political differences to concentrate instead on tackling inequality.

Well in case Gordon didn't know there's been a battle raging over equal pay in Glasgow for the past 10 years and in neighbouring North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire too - and all three councils have been Labour controlled for the past 15 years.

Yet that didn't make these Labour councils 'champions' of equal pay, not a bit of it.

In fact, the truth about the huge differences in pay between male and female workers had to be dragged out of these Labour-run councils and in North Lanarkshire the freedom of information (Foi) battle continues to this day.

And none of this is improved or changed in any way by the proposals from the Smith Commission which have still to make their way through the Westminster Parliament, of course.

The Scottish Parliament will not have the power to vary employment legislation such as the Equal Pay Act which will remain reserved to Westminster.

And while I'm on the subject of the Equal Pay Act which first became the law of the land in 1970, isn't it amazing that almost 50 years later the fight for equal pay is still as fierce as ever and that the biggest councils involved are Labour controlled.   

King of Kings



For the past 25 years Gordon Brown's writ has run ruthlessly throughout the Scottish Labour Party; few big decisions were ever made without Gordon's blessing including,  for example, the election of the last three Labour leaders in Scotland: Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray and Johann Lamont. 

But things are about to change as Gordon gets ready to announce his departure from front line politics with Labour membership in Scotland dwindling down to 10,000 or less and the Party at its lowest ever standing in the opinion polls.

Meanwhile popular support for the SNP (Labour's arch rivals) is now at all all-time high and under a new youthful leader, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP has enjoyed an incredible surge from 20,000 to 90,000 individual members, despite ending up on the losing side of the Scottish independence referendum. 

And such a ruinous end to a political career reminded me of this post from the blog site archive and while Gordon Brown is nothing like Colonel Gaddafi, he does bear a striking resemblance to Ozymandias if you ask me, particularly in the ironic line:

"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"    

Ozymandias (26 October 2011)

As I read the reports about the vainglorious tyrant Muammar Gaddafi being lowered into his cold, sandswept desert grave - I was reminded of a poem from my childhood.

Ozymandias - by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Almost two hunded years later - Shelley's words are the perfect rebuke to another despot - another mighty 'King of Kings' - who ruled his people through terror and fear.

No more - because the tides of history have swept over Colonel Gaddafi and his family - and the people of Libya are no longer in despair.

Instead they look to the future with mixture of great excitement and optimism - despite all their problems.

Ozymandias was first published in 1818 - apparently.

Yet Shelley's powerful prose found its perfect echo down the ages - on a dark night in the Sahara Desert - only yesterday.

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away".

Heavy Payload

28 November 2014

I may just have to eat my words about North Korea since this charming photo of its all powerful dictator Kim Jong-un seems to display a remarkably progressive policy on the equal opportunities recruitment of fighter pilots.

Now I'm not too sure if the 'great leader' could squeeze himself into the cockpit of fighter plane in the background which his two female companions pilot, apparently, as part of North Korea's air defence system.

In any event, with or without Kim Jong-un on board I'm not convinced the aircraft could get off the ground because it looks as if it's about sixty or more years old.

Equal Pay Candidate



A regular reader from North Lanarkshire has been in touch with an 'off the wall' suggestion - why doesn't an Equal Pay candidate stand against one of the sitting North Lanarkshire Labour MPs in the May 2015 general election?

Now this might not be as crazy as you first think because, as I wrote on the blog site recently, the SNP have agreed to support 'independent minded' candidates (who are not SNP members) in an effort to cut the Labour Party at Westminster down to size.

Which sounds a great idea because Labour has an awful lot to answer for over equal pay and the best way to get the Party to take a long hard look at itself if you ask me, would be to sweep away all the political deadwood at Westminster.

And a good place to start would be with the four North Lanarkshire Labour MPs who have stood on the sidelines while the fight for equal pay with Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council has been raging for the past 10 years.

Now my contacts with the SNP are not great, but I imagine there must be readers in North Lanarkshire who are able to speak to their local SNP councillor or MSP and discuss the idea in more detail.  

Because wouldn't it be just great of one of the Equal Pay claimants, a Home Carer perhaps, were to stand in the forthcoming election and give the Labour MPs a real showing up for their cowardly political behaviour? 

St Andrew's Day


To mark St Andrew's Day I thought I'd recall two of my favourite events from Scotland's independence referendum - Kevin Bridges' intervention on the thorny subject of a currency union and Glasgow's 'rickshaw guy' who managed to get right up the noses of the Labour Party establishment.

Who said politics isn't fun?


Glasgow Rickshaw Guy (17 September 2014)



It must have seems like a good idea at the time, but this parade of Labour 'men in suits' came badly unstuck when some chap in a rickshaw followed them around the streets of Glasgow playing Darth Vader's favourite tune.

As these tribunes from the once all powerful People's Party tried to make their way to an assembly point at the top of Buchanan Street.

I was struck by the fact that no one seemed able or willing to engage with their 'tormentor' who suggested that they had all travelled north from Westminster using their generous MPs' expenses.

For some reason, the 'suits' all seemed to have lost their sparkle and sense of humour - an essential commodity when it comes to the pursuit of politics in Glasgow.   

Darth Vader says No!

Currency Union, Ya Bam! (4 September 2014)



I enjoyed this clip of Kevin Bridges and his comments on the Scottish independence debate because if you ask me "Currency union, ya bam!" - is out of the same stable of Glasgow humour as "Take That, ya bastard!".  

Take That! (7 February 20140



I'm not normally too partial to jokes circulated over the internet, but my friend Greg shared this one which certainly made me laugh.  

Scottish Pub Quiz.... 

And the final question to win the £100 is:

The title of Take That's first album consisted of four words, the first two words were "Take That".

What are the other two words that complete the title ?


There was a long pause then..

A wee Glasgow-man stands up and says : Was it - "Ya Bastard"...?



I tip my hat to whoever made that one up, so to celebrate here's a stunning YouTube video of Take That at the top of their game.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Dance of the Seven Veils



Gordon Brown is doing a political 'dance of the seven veils' in Glasgow later today, my home city, which has been completely dominated by the Labour Party for the past 50 years.

Now Gordon's friends 'let it be known' last week that he wouldn't be standing for office again at the May 2015 general election, thank God, presumably because he's effectively operated as a part-time Westminster MP for years and has now finally accepted it's time to move on.

But before taking his leave, Gordon is going to give it one more try to 're-set' Scottish politics by urging the country to accept that the Smith Commission has settled the argument about Devo Max and home rule and that everyone should now put aside their political differences to concentrate instead on tackling inequality.

Well in case Gordon didn't know there's been a battle raging over equal pay in Glasgow for the past 10 years and in neighbouring North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire too - and all three councils have been Labour controlled for the past 15 years.

Yet that didn't make these Labour councils 'champions' of equal pay, not a bit of it.

In fact, the truth about the huge differences in pay between male and female workers had to be dragged out of these Labour-run councils and in North Lanarkshire the freedom of information (Foi) battle continues to this day.

And none of this is improved or changed in any way by the proposals from the Smith Commission which have still to make their way through the Westminster Parliament, of course.

The Scottish Parliament will not have the power to vary employment legislation such as the Equal Pay Act which will remain reserved to Westminster.

And while I'm on the subject of the Equal Pay Act which first became the law of the land in 1970, isn't it amazing that almost 50 years later the fight for equal pay is still as fierce as ever and that the biggest councils involved are Labour controlled.   

King of Kings



For the past 25 years Gordon Brown's writ has run ruthlessly throughout the Scottish Labour Party; few big decisions were ever made without Gordon's blessing including,  for example, the election of the last three Labour leaders in Scotland: Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray and Johann Lamont. 

But things are about to change as Gordon gets ready to announce his departure from front line politics with Labour membership in Scotland dwindling down to 10,000 or less and the Party at its lowest ever standing in the opinion polls.

Meanwhile popular support for the SNP (Labour's arch rivals) is now at all all-time high and under a new youthful leader, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP has enjoyed an incredible surge from 20,000 to 90,000 individual members, despite ending up on the losing side of the Scottish independence referendum. 

And such a ruinous end to a political career reminded me of this post from the blog site archive and while Gordon Brown is nothing like Colonel Gaddafi, he does bear a striking resemblance to Ozymandias if you ask me, particularly in the ironic line:

"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"    

Ozymandias (26 October 2011)

As I read the reports about the vainglorious tyrant Muammar Gaddafi being lowered into his cold, sandswept desert grave - I was reminded of a poem from my childhood.

Ozymandias - by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Almost two hunded years later - Shelley's words are the perfect rebuke to another despot - another mighty 'King of Kings' - who ruled his people through terror and fear.

No more - because the tides of history have swept over Colonel Gaddafi and his family - and the people of Libya are no longer in despair.

Instead they look to the future with mixture of great excitement and optimism - despite all their problems.

Ozymandias was first published in 1818 - apparently.

Yet Shelley's powerful prose found its perfect echo down the ages - on a dark night in the Sahara Desert - only yesterday.

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away".