Month: August 2009


Given the huge controversy, it seems very odd to say that I don’t really have an opinion on the decision to release Libyan terrorist Megrahi from prison.  If we choose to release people from prison on compassionate grounds, (and I am not entirely convinced we should), then we should at least treat everyone objectively and let someone whose job it is to use his judgement on these things to make the decision with the facts that he has in front of him.  I don’t envy the decision that Kenny MacAskill had to make, but it was his decision and whichever one he made he would be criticised.

But what does anger me is those Americans who now want to boycott Scottish goods.  As one writer in today’s Metro said, (and this is a paper whose letters page I would not normally use as a source of considered opinion), Scotland is a country whose soldiers are currently fighting alongside Americans in Afghanistan, and who are fighting alongside them as a result of united revulsion against an atrocity against their country and its people.  To say that Scotland is anti-American and doesn’t care about terrorist acts against the USA is wrong.

You may not agree with Kenny MacAskill’s decision, but he had to make one, it may not have been the right one, but it must have been a very difficult decision to make.   But please don’t use it to condemn a whole country that has been a good ally for many years.

Clever personalised advertising from Air New Zealand

I’m one of those odd people who likes getting advertising.  Basically, it’s the marketing and campaigning background in me, as I always hope to find a really clever idea that I can pinch.  One thing I’ve never really got to grips with though is online advertising.  Today though I received this brilliant email inviting me to enter a competition and it’s really clever.

The basic premise of the campaign called The Great Kiwi Invite is pretty good as well.  Air New Zealand have got New Zealanders to enter the email addresses of their friends and family who live abroad in to a competition to win a free flight to visit them.  Not only does this mean that Air New Zealand get to capture the contact details of people who have a reason to fly with them, but it also gets the recipient thinking, “I must go and visit [insert name of friend or family] in New Zealand some time”.

To enter the competition you click a link in the email which takes you to a page where you confirm your details and where you live, plus there is a funny animated video with two kiwis saying how great it would be to fly to New Zealand (they are flightless birds so can’t – geddit!) but the really clever bit is that two bits of the video are personalised with your name and the name of the person who sent you the invite.  It was just one of those moments when I see an advert and think “that’s really quite clever” and of course I have now remembered it and decided to tell others about it.

Screenshot of The Great Kiwi Invite ad campaign

Screenshot of The Great Kiwi Invite ad campaign

Politicians do the funniest things

Tonight we were ‘treated’ to the BBC2 programme ‘The Funny Side of Politics’.  I had slight doubts, perhaps unsurprisingly given my defence of politicians on this blog, but actually it was pretty amusing.

Whilst nowhere near the funniest bit, the bit I found most interesting was the excruciating interview with Cllr Keith House being asked why the Eastleigh By-Election was important.  Interesting for me, because during the time I worked for Eastleigh Liberal Democrats it was a bit of a local party legend, but I had never actually seen it.  Or realised quite how significant it was, or that it would one day appear on what is essentially an outakes show.  It’s a huge shame for Keith as I often describe him as one of the most able Liberal Democrats I know, whilst also being a genuine liberal.  He is also a very nice guy.  It’s a real shame when one moment can effectively ruin someones political career.  Whilst Keith is still the Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council and now Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Hampshire County Council, he is a huge loss to parliament.  Something which he could well have achieved had it not been for this one moment.

What is disappointing with this programme though is the credibility given to Michael Crick.  OK, you could argue that Newsnight does that every week.  But given the dodgy interviewing and the deliberate trouble-making he engages in, it is a shame he is made to look so much more capable and above these terrible politicians.

Making Plans for Michael by Christian Vassie

I ended up with this book by mistake.  It was given to me by a friend.  I also accept the only reason I read it was because it was written by a Liberal Democrat Councillor in York, albeit one that I don’t know.

The book is basically a farce, and I mean that in the best possible way.  The events are far fetched, fast moving, often lewd and full of innuendo but also humorous.  You could almost imagine it being performed on a stage with people rushing in and out of doors to much amusement.  It isn’t the best writing ever, and I was somewhat disappointed that he showed councillors in such a bad light given that he is one himself.

All in all, I was pleased I read this book even though I was sceptical of how good it would be considering its publication by an unknown local publisher.  But actually it was entertaining and most of all you did want to rush back to it to find out what would happen next.  If Christian Vassie does end up writing the sequel that he promises in the back cover then I may read it, but if I’m honest I won’t be rushing out to get it.

Lib Dem Conference – starting early, finishing later

I know a number of Lib Dems (myself included) who were thrown by the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference starting a day earlier for the last two years on the Saturday and finishing on the Wednesday.  In the past, whilst many of us always arrived at conference on a Saturday, the majority of the conference began on Sunday.  That is now not the case, and so given the distances some people travel it means that you need to arrive on the Friday if you want to go to the training and conference sessions on the Saturday.  That’s why ALDC is promoting “come a day early” for it’s campaign planning workshops starting on Saturday morning, as many people still don’t realise the earlier start time (and just get in a quick plug there for my employers).

But what many people may not have realised is that this year, the conference now finishes late on the Wednesday rather than at lunchtime.  As usual the leader’s speech is the last thing, but it isn’t over until about 4pm.  Something to bear in mind if you are booking advance train tickets.  Although there are always some people who like to leave before the leader’s speech to beat the rush at the railway station , I bet there will be plenty more this year.  With the new finishing time, I won’t get home until about 10pm.  Which does make me wonder if the conference hall will look as full as it should do, which will undoubtedly be picked up and then spun by the media.

And people wonder why decent people think twice about a career in politics

I was surprised to find out this last week that Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP John Barrett was retiring from Westminster at the next General Election. Surprised mainly because he hadn’t been in parliament long, but after reading the reason he has decided to go it seems perfectly understandable.

Whilst I don’t know John, I did meet him on the last Liberal Democrat Wyboston training weekend and from that and what I have heard people say about him at other times, he seems to be a decent, friendly and hardworking individual.  But contrast this with the vitriol aimed against him on The Scotsman website where they report his decision to retire. Comments such as:

“He wants to leave while he can still get the exceptionally generous MP pension package! And why not.”

“No by-election , he is waiting till the election , means he can pick up an extra £50K lump sum on top of the 9 months wages and expenses. He is not that desperate to be with his family.”

“As to being such a brilliant Edinburgh MP….what has he done, (besides get caught up in the expences scandal and NOT retire until the next election therefore getting loads of dosh and missing his family as he will still be an MP) and how did it get reported to yourself in Fife? lol”

“@ !O ,many of their U K leadership candidates proved to be “confused” over their sexuality ? their vote is barely scraping the low teens in scotland ? is any of this ringing any bells ? lib dumbs ?”

There were admittedly a number of positive comments about John Barrett’s record as an MP, but what other occupation gives people full licence to be rude about someone without any detailed knowledge of what they have actually done? Is it any wonder that good people don’t want to go in to politics, when they are automatically assumed to be a crook and only in it for the money.

I enjoy politics because I believe in getting involved rather than standing on the sidelines and I enjoy being able to make a real difference to people’s lives (perhaps I am too utopian).  But when I see the reaction to someone who is generally considered to be a decent MP it reminds me why I often wonder what on earth I am doing in politics and whether I would be better off saving myself from the agro and not bothering at all.  Someone once said to me that they didn’t think I had a thick enough skin to be in politics, maybe this post proves that point.

Summer in the city

The wet weather has put a real dampener on this summer’s outdoor events (not withstanding the success of last weekend’s Sheffield Music City), as shown with this sorry sight that greated me as I walked up The Moor in Sheffield earlier today:

Summer in SheffieldCoupled with the indoor sand pit the usual summer activities in the city look pretty washed out compared to usual.  This guy was doing his best with his singing to brighten things up, but in the pouring rain huddled under an empty shop canopy he wasn’t getting much interest.

One of the benefits of being off work during the week is finding out about things that I didn’t know happen because I am usually at work.  Yesterday it was seeing the open-air bingo (it hadn’t started raining at that point) in the middle of The Moor!  Four hours later when I walked past again it was still going strong.