Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Worst Crisis For 60 Years Or Our Biggest Opportunity?

So, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling, reckons we are facing the worst economic downturn for 60 years and questions how ordinary British people will react to the tough times ahead?

I have news for Mr Darling and his Labour Government!

We, the British people, are a resilient lot and will do everything we can to exit the difficult times we face bigger, better and more wealthy than we are as we enter into the tough times Labour condemn us to.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Zoom Doom!

With thousands of Brits stuck abroad and thousands of Canadians stuck in the UK, following the collapse of low cost airline Zoom, it appears there is little hope for many more airlines in the current economic crisis.

The business model of low cost carriers is fundamentally reliant on the price of fuel and it appears most budgeted this year based on the cost of a barrel of oil not rising above $80 a barrel. When the cost of fuel rose above $100 a barrel things looked bleak but as it rose further still, to more than $140 a barrel at one point, 26 airlines have found it impossible to stave off the inevitable and have gone out of business.

Everyone likes a bargain but you know what they say - "if something looks too good to be true it usually is". Low cost airlines may seem attractive with low fares on desirable routes but the truth is they take huge gambles on what the trading conditions of the day will be months in advance and those buying tickets early, at the cheapest rates, leave low cost carrier airline hugely exposed to unacceptable business risk.

Thousands of people will soon return to recount stories of woe. They will tell us there is no obligation for an airline that has gone under to provide them with any help, any food or any accommodation. Those with travel insurance will get home without any additional cost and those without will be left considerably out of pocket just to get back to their port of dispatch. It almost makes you grateful for British Airways and their full fare service, doesn't it!

Congratulations Barack!

Barack Obama made history last night, when he became the first black man to accept the Democratic Party nomination to contest the Presidency of the United States of America.

45 years to the day after Martin Luther King challenged Americans to embrace his "dream" of equality, Senator Obama urged his country to accept change and outlined a radically different vision as to for how America would conduct its affairs were he to win the elections on 4th November 2008.

Last night was not only an historic moment for the United States of America. As the largest democracy in the recognised free world, (aka the West), America made history for the world by showing the democracy rewards ability regardless of age, sex, religion or indeed colour.

What Senator Barack Obama represented to the world last night is something everyone should embrace - HOPE! Congratulations Senator Obama, we look forward to hearing you articulate your vision for change as your campaign progresses. Your only challenge now is to ensure there is substance to your claims.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Ping Pong's Coming Home!

Only Boris Johnson could represent London as he did tonight! The Beijing Olympics closed with a truly stunning closing ceremony to rival its Opening Ceremony - and all after a truly stunning Olympic Games for British sport.

Finishing fourth on the medals table, behind China, the USA and Russia, proves that our investment into sport through the National Lottery is both productive and worthwhile. Our sporting men and women became heroes for young and old alike and return with a haul of gold, silver and bronze beyond our wildest dreams on the 8th of the 8th 2008.

Even tonight the British played a massive part in the success of these Games. Our contribution to the Closing Ceremony let no one down and showed that the London Organising Committee have a distinctive concept as to how our Games will be staged.

Leona Lewis, David Beckham and Boris Johnson all represented the very best of British tonight and showed we can live up to the honours of hosting the Olympic Games.

Well done Team GB. Here's to 2012!

Saturday, 23 August 2008

If You Mess Up Big You Should Suffer The Consequencies!

The private contractor who lost personal data on thousands of criminals should be sacked!

It is that simple, and yet Jacqui Smith and her Labour government are dithering, yet again, over a tough decision they should be taking as a matter of course.

The contractor who lost this data broke the rules on security of data and yet they continue to be paid vast sums. They are contractors on major projects involving the most sensitive of personal data, including the introduction of ID cards and biometric passports and are being paid millions in return. In other words they are now being rewarded for incompetence!

I don't believe this is fair and I don't believe this government is capable of taking the tough decisions our country needs at this time of uncertainty. The sooner we get a General Election and rid ourselves of this dreadful lot the better!

Friday, 22 August 2008

No Growth And No Hope Without A Change Of Government

Today's announcement that the UK economy failed to grow for the first time in 63 consecutive quarters confirmed what most of us already knew and feared - a full scale UK recession is now inevitable.

And what has been the response of our government? Absolutely nothing - just complete silence.

Now some say ignorance is bliss and silence golden. In this particular instance nothing could be further from the truth. Business needs to know that government is on their side and that they are following a recovery plan that will help them out of tough times.

Tonight the UK economy and its business leaders are no wiser than they were before the news of 0% growth in the last quarter for our economy and must fear that there is no plan and no prospect of any help from government

So, it's time for a change of government and to bring hope to our economy. Britain deserves better and it deserves the best. In George Osborne the Conservative Party have the best man for the job of Chancellor and that is why we need an election now!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Are Unions Set To Wreck Scotland?

With Unison having brought much of Scotland's local authority public sector to its knees yesterday, with a one day strike over the pay settlement offered by COSLA, it appears to me that Scotland's Unions are attempting to unsettle the governance of Scotland in a cynical attempt to bolster the Labour Party they are inextricably linked to.

Both Cathy Jamieson and Iain Gray, who are fighting for leadership of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, turned out on picket lines to profess their support for those on strike. Unison, in turn, promised more misery for us all with a "rolling programme" of industrial action unless their inflation busting pay demands are met.

While I am no supporter or apologist for the SNP Scottish Executive I do think that the current public sector strike action is a Labour Party motivated plot designed to unsettle the governance of Scotland now that this isn't the sole preserve of Scottish Labour. It suits the Labour Party to have strike action that takes the political spotlight off the internal machinations and which provokes a thought process that a large section of Scotland's workforce are unsettled under a different administration.

So the message to Unison and Scottish Labour is we are on to your scam and are resolved to take Scotland forward in a positive fashion, not look to you for divine intervention. Scotland is a nation with hope for the future and you did nothing during your dominance of Scotland's political establishment to provide us with anything other than despair.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Our Shame!

The debacle that is trying to get Gary Glitter back to the UK and under strict control is rapidly becoming a stain on our countries good name throughout the world.

Glitter apparently wants to come back to the UK because he wants free treatment from our National Health Service for a heart condition, but he doesn't want to enter the country on our terms - preferring instead to seek to enter at his leisure. Our Home Secretary also apparently wants him back in the country to show us all her Government is capable of controlling people with vile personal preferences.

Around the world people must be asking why the British government was not able to plan getting Glitter back to the UK on his release from prison. It isn't as if we didn't know where he was for the past 3 years, (jail), and it isn't as if we couldn't have asked the Vietnamese government to give us a bit of advanced warning of his release to ensure we assisted them to deport this criminal from their land.

On his return to the country you would also have thought our Government would have made provision to force him into the maximum level of supervision possible under our law. Unfortunately this foresight does not exist in British government. Apparently Glitter has not posed a threat to children within the past 6 months because he has been in jail and as a result we cannot put him into the highest category of sex offender management. Instead he will simply be put onto the sex offenders register and will have to abide by standard offender management arrangements.

As I always say, if something is foreseeable it is avoidable. Gary Glitter should have been brought straight back to the UK and any loophole that enables him to avoid proper management of him in this country should have been closed. Our children deserve proper protection from this vile man and anything less than our best endeavours to ensure this is simply not good enough!

Monday, 18 August 2008

All Work And No Play!

The Bank of Scotland's study of small businesses, released today, suggests that Scotland's small businesses work the longest hours in the UK and are preparing for the credit crunch by gearing up to work even harder! Not that this comes as any surprise to those of us in business.

All too often we forget just how hard our fellow Scots work and fail to recognise that the work ethic our upbringing instills in our workforce stands us in good stead for the challenges life throws up from time to time.

While our public sector workers form an essential part of our way of life it is our private sector who create the new wealth required to pay for investment into services and that ensures our country is able to maintain the highest standards of living.

So, today's figures should provide us all with a sense of comfort that the entrepreneurial spirit of Scotland lives on in our business community and that we will work our way through the toughest of times thanks to our nations spirit!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

It's Time To Isolate Russia And To Deny Them Our Currency!

With the news that Russia is arming is Baltic fleet with nuclear warheads, for the first time since the end of the cold war, we should all sit up and take notice!

The reemergence of Russia as a military superpower is a terrifying development, particularly as it is funded by the West's purchase of their oil and gas. In other words we are paying for massive investment into nuclear technology designed to eradicate our way of life!

This is simply ludicrous! Despite the potentially massive impact onto our way of life it may have, we must stop purchasing oil, gas and other raw materials from Russia, directly or indirectly, in order to deny them the currency they require to continue the enlargement of the military they now threaten us with. We must get the message through to ordinary Russian's that we are happy to trade with them and to help them to prosper but not if they in return use our money to threaten us with obliteration!

In times of war the people of Britain have always been prepared to make sacrifices in order to ensure the maintenance of our way of life. Our refusal to purchase Russian fuel would probably mean tough times ahead, with power cuts and insufficient gas pressure available to heat households both possible. Nevertheless we must hit Russia where it hurts before they hit us with lethal force. Europe has been peaceful and successful for years without the threat of nuclear war and that is how it must remain!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Is Beauty Only Skin Deep In Beijing?

The Opening Ceremony at this years Olympic Games was truly something to behold - even if some of the fire works were CGI and not real! The one truly disturbing factor for the Games Committee is that organisers felt it necessary to put a child model onto stage to replace the wonderfully talented singer of the words going out over the public address system because she was not attractive enough.

The angelic voice of Yang Peiyi, (pictured on the right), enhanced the wonderful visual display put on by Chinese authorities to herald the opening of their Olympics. The young girl in the red dress put forward as the singer of "Hymn to the Motherland", Lin Miaoke (pictured on the left), added nothing to this visual display even though I am sure many people sitting at home across the globe probably commented on how cute she looked.
It's time China grew up and started acting responsibly. We want a games where we see the talent of its nation and how effective they can be as organisers of an event that promotes harmony amongst the people of the world.
Yang Peiyi is a true Chinese star and someone their whole country can be proud of for her hard work at the Olympics. Let's hope her country recognises and honours her accordingly!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Families Bear The Brunt Of Labour Economic Failure

Today's announcement that the Governments preferred measure of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index, now sits at 4.4%, more than double its target rate, is a disaster for hard working families and those who can least afford big increases in their cost of living given the latest increase is driven by a record surge in supermarket food prices.

CPI inflation is now at its highest figure since 1997 and double its figure in January, while the Retail Price Index - including housing costs - rose to hit 5%, its highest level for at least 17 years.
The Office of National Statistics confirms food inflation alone has spiralled to a CPI record 13.7% year-on-year, a massive jump from its 10.6% level in June. It appears this was principally due to a rise in meat costs, particularly bacon, ham and poultry. Meat prices rose 16.3% year-on-year, up from the 11.2% recorded in June.
Essentials like breads and cereals saw an increase of 15.9% on the year. Vegetables, including my favourite potatoes, shot up to 11.1% up from 7.4%.

The Office of National Statistics believe someone spending £100 a week on food last year, will have to find another £712 this year to put the same items on the table. The Daily Mail's 'Cost of Living Index', which looks at a smaller basket of shopping basket essentials, now suggests they have increase by 25% over the past year, equating to a whopping £1,300 extra this year.
If people can't afford food we are condemning our population to complete poverty and that simply isn't acceptable for any country let alone one of the wealthiest on the planet. To tackle this we must offer fuel tax cuts to our hauliers and ensure our supermarkets are not profiteering from our people.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Misery For Both Sides Of The Old Firm!

Football is a "funny old game" and the misery of fans manifests itself in many ways.

Tonight we learn that, last night, one Celtic player was assaulted and another arrested at a Glasgow Nightclub and that Rangers are to sell their best player to the English Premiership - and to none other than, former Celtic Manager, Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa.

Living in a household with split loyalties the sense of despair felt in our house is tangible. Firstly why can't extremely well paid football stars not keep themselves out of trouble in our City Centre and secondly why would Rangers sell their best player when their fans are already despondent about their early season form.

Having worked for a football club I know the provocation players face from the mindless fans of opposition clubs. There is no excuse, however, for them not avoiding conflict by surrounding themselves with an entourage who remove them from trouble hot spots or simply by walking away and leaving places where there is a threat. You don't see players from the better controlled Premiership clubs in fights or under arrest because they make it their business to know where their players are and to ensure their safety at all times!

Football truly is a funny old game and one most of Glasgow love to follow. If the Old Firm clubs and their players don't shape up and start behaving themselves it will be them who suffer in the pocket as we, the fans, desert them in our droves in search of better role models to adore.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

What To Do About Georgia?

The end of the Cold War was supposed to herald a new era of peace for Europe. We found ourselves in a world where the Russian Federation was reliant on international aide to help its people pull themselves out of poverty and a large number of eastern European countries looked to western Europe as its chosen partners in a free and fair trading world.

Having relied on our aide to improve the lot of its people, Russia suddenly discovered just how rich in natural resources it is in a world where raw materials, particularly oil and gas, are very often better than hard currency. With this realisation it has reemerged as a world superpower.

Russia has rearmed its armed forces with the very best equipment money can buy and has vastly increased their numbers - back to cold war proportions. It has become aggressive in the way it deals with its neighbours, particularly those who look to the west for protection, making them pay a heavy economic price for commodities.

And now we find that Russia is prepared to attack, with lethal force, neighbouring countries who have internal regions who look to Russia as a historic ally when the rest of the country looks to the West as its future.

Georgia has made it clear they see their future as part of the European Union. Its internationally recognised boundaries include the region of South Ossetia, who are in dispute with this national policy as they see their historic link as being loyal to Russia. In recent years the South Ossetian regional administration and the Georgian government have conflicted over the future of their region, with South Ossetia seeking independence and closer ties with Russia.

The Georgian government believe South Ossetia is a sovereign part of Georgia and set about reestablishing their grip on power in their country by sending in Georgian armed forces to a part of their country - only to be faced by an invading Russian army determined to see South Ossetia given both independence.

And what is the international communities answer to an attack by Russia on a sovereign nation state? Quite simply we verbally condemn their action but appear unwilling, or unable, to do anything about it!

Tonight we find that Russia has blown up, and sunk, a Georgian missile ship and continues with air strike in Georgia far beyond the boundaries of South Ossetia. It appears Russia is determined to destroy Georgia and ensure its supremacy in the region is reestablished by demonstrating its ability to deliver overwhelming force to anyone prepared to frustrate its will.

So tonight it becomes clear the international community is impotent in the face of Russian military might and that Gordon Brown and his government are truly on holiday from everything, including any ability to demonstrate leadership on the international stage.

I believe the United Kingdom should send a Royal Navy task force to ensure Georgia is able to receive goods by sea and that we should offer our Royal Air Force to protect Georgian international airspace from incursions by Russian military planes. If the Russians engage with us they are engaging with a NATO signatory and we will embarrass the Bush administration into getting off their back sides in Beijing and helping the people of Georgia who gave him a hero's reception when he toured their country. President Bush promised the USA would preserve the integrity of Georgia and is failing its people every second he delays in stopping Russia's aggression.

Too many civilians have died as a result of Russia's aggression and this has to stop now. I say the UK should show a lead on the international stage and not wait for a bigger world power. Too much is at stake and too many peoples lives depend on us now!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Will The Olympics Be Free And Fair?

The Union Flag was raised today in Beijing's Olympic Park. With the Olympic Games now less than 3 days away, every news channel is full of stories about China, the preparation of athlete's from across the world and speculation about whether the ideals of Olympic Games can be delivered in one of the most secretive State's on the planet.

The Olympic movement stands for everything that ordinary human beings wish our planet to achieve. Freedom to express ourselves, excellence in everything we do and the ability of every participant - no matter your colour, creed or relative wealth - to be treated equally.

The challenge for China throughout the Games is two fold. Firstly they must show that China understands that it now benefits from freedom to trade with the rest of the civilised world and that in return it must act as a responsible partner by preserving the human rights of its people.
We don't need the Chinese government to jump through hoops or to betray their history. What we need them to do is to ensure that their people, (who supply so much of what we consume in the West), are treated fairly, that their companies conform to basic levels of social corporate responsibility and that the economic development policies they pursue allow our planet to have a sustainable future.

The second thing we require of the Beijing Olympic Games is that the athletes competing are able to do so on a level playing field. Drugs cheats, even their own, must be weeded out and denied any medal joy. Athletes from around the world must be also able to compete in acceptable air quality, so that they are not disadvantaged by having to compete in an atmosphere they could not possibly be used to.

And finally, every athlete must be treated equally. I am horrified to hear that the British Olympic Association have made arrangements for our athletes to have better equipped rooms than the standard rooms given to athletes from poorer nations by throwing money at Games organisers. Every athlete should be able to pick from a menu of equipment for rooms and the host country, as organisers, should be required to bear the cost of this to ensure the Olympics truly are Games of an even playing field and not Games where those with the most money can buy their way to small advantages.

I am in no doubt that British athlete will win more than our fair share of medals thanks to our investment, in this country, into elite sport. I am equally sure our athletes would want to see opponents from poorer nations afforded the same living conditions as they will enjoy to show that the medals they win are won on talent, dedication and preparation alone.

So, in brief, China and Beijing have a lot to prove over the next few weeks. The Olympic Games, and the Para Olympics that follow them, mean the world's attention is focused on China as a nation and how they treat athlete, journalist and spectator. They have a lot to live up to and a lot to lose. I hope China will prove its doubters and detractors wrong and show us a willingness to deliver and perform to the Olympic ideals. Only time will tell if I am right!

A British Winner In An International World

During Wimbledon I wrote about Andy Murray's need to keep on winning if he wanted to make Britain proud of his achievements when everyone else was writing he needed to smile more to become a national hero.

By winning the Cincinnati Masters last night, (a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Novak Djokovic), Andy proved himself a winner of the very biggest grade of tournament on the planet short of a Grand Slam and someone the whole of Great Britain can be proud of at a time when we have very little to be thankful for.

With the Olympics and the US Open to look forward to over the coming month I don't expect to see a smiling Andy Murray on the international stage, nor do I want to see that. What I and the whole of the country want is gold medals and a British Grand Slam champion and if Andy can deliver that he can be as sultry as he wants with our blessing!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Why Our Energy Does Not Need Another Tax!

If reports in this weekends newspapers are to be believed, we should expect a windfall tax on our energy companies in the very near future.

While the need to help those who will not be able to heat their houses this winter due to the price increases announced by our utility companies is not in doubt, the method of helping those most in need is something our Labour Government must ensure does not leave the rest of society paying dearly for.

Any windfall tax on gas and electricity companies will, over time, be borne by those of us who pay their bills. This may not appear as an immediate burden in our bills but we can all be assured that over time these companies will find ways to pass the burden of their taxation onto us all.

With so many people already being forced into fuel poverty by government inaction in the face of international commodity price rises the answer is surely not to lift people in fuel poverty out of this categorisation only to put those just above the current measure into fuel poverty as gas and electricity prices rise to pay for their windfall tax!
The two simple and easy ways for Government to help control energy prices in the UK are to introduce a fuel price escalator, as already proposed by Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, and to work with the energy industry on long term energy security for the UK in order that our gas and electricity companies can depreciate their capital projects over the medium to long terms - enabling them to reduce this cost to their balance sheet and in turn the price we pay them today.

So my message to Gordon Brown and his government is don't make the same mistake you made with the pensions industry, which ruined a UK industry once considered the best in the world, by introducing a windfall tax on our energy companies. Instead make it clear that our gas and electricity companies are vital to the UK's strategic national interest and will be supported by government with a view to energy security for an island nation currently reliant on massive imports of material and energy to survive.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Milliband For Chancellor?

This time of year is commonly known as 'silly season' when it comes to the political news stories national media outlets are prepared to run.

Tonight a contributor to BBC Radio Five Live 'flew a kite' suggesting David Milliband will be promoted, in an imminent Gordon Brown cabinet reshuffle, to the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer. The principle rationale given is the old adage that in politics you "keep your friends close and your enemies closer".

Asked to give a couple of other reasons for this promotion the contributor responded that with the economy disappearing down a hole the post of Chancellor is possibly the worst job in cabinet, "a thankless task", and that being in the second most important job in British politics makes it difficult to launch any leadership bid without damaging yourself by being portrayed as treacherous and disloyal.

Whether Gordon Brown is Machiavellian enough to promote David Milliband to Chancellor remains to be seen. What is clear is that if he were to do nothing with/to Mr Milliband in the event of a reshuffle he will be portrayed as weak and this would strengthen the hand of those who accuse him of dithering and not being decisive enough.

Who would be an unelected, 3rd term, Labour Prime Minister, eh?

Friday, 1 August 2008

More Violence Disrupts Our Community

It is becoming almost the norm to pick up the Glasgow South & Eastwood Extra and to find yourself confronted by yet another tale of violent crime in once peaceful East Renfrewshire.

This weeks edition, (July 31st 2008), details two serious assaults in the Thornliebank area over the course of the past week. In the more serious of the two incidents the victim remains in a stable condition at the Southern General Hospital and police are asking residents to come forward with information because they "would have heard the disturbance or the car driving off at high speed".

The thing that really strikes me about this report is that police believe local residents have information they are apparently not willing to volunteer. This is something that somehow does not seem surprising in today's society and yet in years gone by the thought of not doing ones public duty, by coming forward to give vital evidence to the police, would have seemed ridiculous.

So, how do we ensure our police and local communities become closer to one another? I believe this is as simple as continuous 'dialogue' and making the Police directly accountable to the communities they serve.

One vital first step toward better communication is getting more "campus cops" into our schools, so that young people grow up both seeing and communicating with police officers. The things you learn in your youth help shape your attitudes in later life and I can't believe our Labour led Council voted down the Conservative 2008 budget amendment that would have put more "campus cops" into East Renfrewshire's schools.

The second thing we should do, to improve society's attitude to helping police, is to make our police far more accountable to the people they serve. I have previously advocated, on this blog site, the election of Chief Constables, citing the experience of communities in the USA in support of this policy. I don't want our police to become politicised but I do want local people to know whether their Chief Constable shares their law and order priorities and I want them to be able to pass judgement on whether they believe their Chief Constable has succeeded in delivering better policing to their local area.

I don't believe local people don't want safer streets, better communities and to feel they are able to help their police. It seems to me our police are simply experiencing a crisis of confidence in their ability to effectively protect those willing to come forward with information and to improve the security of local neighbourhoods. I believe we must start a two way dialogue between police and community at an early age and continue this in later life by making our police accountable to their local communities. After all, we all have a vested interest in the success of our Police Force!