George Galloway Deported

Just reported as breaking news on BBC News: George Galloway MP has been deported from Egypt back to London after trying to enter Gaza with a humanitarian convoy.

I’m no fan of Galloway or of RESPECT, but this does seem a rather bizarre act and I’m waiting for the full story to find out what he was actually up to. Israel had been bombing tunnels and others sites within Gaza City yesterday after mortars were fired into Israel, so perhaps the authorities felt Galloway could be too much of a political risk, especially given that the mainstream media haven’t really picked up on the latest attacks on Palestinians yet.

I somehow highly doubt that Galloway will get the same support from the freedom-of-speechers here that Geert Wilders got when deported from Britain last year…

Update: The Independent have now released details that Galloway was trying to return to Rafah after seven members of the humanitarian convoy had been arrested there, and was refused and instead carried onto a plane by plain-clothes police officers.

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Tories’ Tax Breaks for Toffs

So following on from my earlier post, which Tory Bear was so keen to pass on, here’s my rebuttal to the Tory’s position on inheritance tax.

Their policy in their draft manifesto is to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million. The current threshold, which has been rising with inflation, is £325,000 so this would be an absolutely massive jump for the Government to fund. Indeed, the Lib Dems have costed the proposal at a staggering £7 billion.

The Tories have form on this though: when they last gained power in 1979 they doubled the threshold from £25,000 to £50,000 during their first year in office, and as they were staring at inevitable defeat in 1996 they bumped it up again from £154,000 to £200,000 in a blatant attempt to shore up the core vote. You can see all the historic changed on inheritance tax thresholds here.

For a party basing their campaign on cutting Britain’s deficit, this move is incredulous. The Tories latest poster campaign is pushing the message that they won’t cut services, but if they’re planning to cut taxes too then I would like a Tory to tell me just which end of the magical rainbow they’re planning to raise money from.

The Tories made a massive fuss when the 10p tax rate was removed, so it’s rather funny that they would now rather fund tax breaks for the richest than the poorest. In mid-2009, it was estimated that there were 242,000 millionaires in Britain, considerably down from a pre-credit crunch peak. In contrast, 13.5 million people in the UK are estimated to be living below the poverty line.

Who should see the tax cuts first, and who will be hit hardest when the Tories slash public spending?

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Returning Soon…

I intend to start blogging here again shortly. In the mean time, enjoy this response to the latest Conservative ads…

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Lockerbie Bomber Drops His Appeal

The news today has been filled with stories about the man accused of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, dropping his appeal in order to be released on compassionate grounds, and the resulting opposition from US Senators to his possible release.

Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, probably has at best a few months to live. This leads me to ask what would we gain from keeping him in prison, other than satisfying some internal id that wishes to see him punished. The aim certainly isn’t for rehabilitation if he is to die in incarceration, and neither will it help in bringing real justice in finding out what happened that day in 1988 for him to die in custody. Ultimately we must make a stand against the cruelty of the Lockerbie bombings and show that we have compassion and care for others, unlike those who create acts of violence and terror.

The USA’s intervention is farcical. With one hand they seek to denounce the NHS and our political system for their own personal gain in their internal affairs, and with the other they still expect us to tow their line and appease their citizens’ desire for personal vengance against Megrahi. It is important that we now make an independent, rational decision on Megrahi’s release and show them that we are an independent state that runs our own affairs; not some satellite colony of Obama’s empire.

I hope Mr MacAskill will do the right thing and let al-Megrahi free.

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Norwich North: The Candidates

There is little information available anywhere about all the candidates announced for the Norwich North by-election together, so I thought I would pull what I’ve found out together here. I’ve also given my predictions on who will give a strong performance, and who will be amongst the also-rans, although I feel it’s too early yet for me to predict places. Warning: may contain pro-Green bias!

I’m not entirely sure at what point the nominations for candidates close, but given the election is three weeks today I presume it has passed and from what I can see the electors will have a choice of ten candidates to choose from:

Libertarian Party – Thomas Burridge
As the first ever Libertarian parliamentary candidate, not to mention at age 18 being the youngest ever parliamentary candidate, Thomas Burridge should in theory be an interesting candidate to watch. However, the party seem to be incapable of generating any publicity, and searching for the candidate brings up only a Facebook group, blogs run by party members and a Wikipedia page that is being threatened with deletion as electoral candidates aren’t considered notable (the Libertarians do have a reputation for being nothing but a loose association of bloggers). It also remains to be seen how popular the party’s policy of a complete dismantlement of government and public services is with the British public, given that even the ultra-capitalist USA give their Libertarian Party a marginal vote.

Prediction – They’d be lucky to beat the Loonies, and hopefully they won’t.

Independent – Bill Holden
Mr Holden stood as an independent candidate in Norwich North back in 2005, taking less than 1% of the vote. His somewhat difficult-to-read-in-places website reveals an eccentric mix of policies, with a curiously strong emphasis on banning the use of mobile traffic speed cameras. Despite again having poor media coverage, he could potentially pull on the current anti-party politics feeling as the independent candidate who’s ran before.

Prediction – Hard to tell; anywhere from middle of the pack down to bottom.

Official Monster Raving Loony Party – Alan “Howling Laud” Hope
A great British political institution, the Loonies could well be on the receiving end of a decent share of the protest vote. With their absurd policies and tongue-in-cheek pokes at many of the so-called more serious politicians, they could well be seen as a strong plague-on-all-your-houses vote against political parties. The Loonies are experts in generating publicity, and party leader Alan (or by his preferred moniker, “Hawling Laud”) has stood for election numerous times, and unlike so many of his party’s faithful members has actually been elected (at one point, he served as Mayor of Ashburton Town Council).

Prediction – Middle of the pack behind the “serious” candidates; deserves a good result.

Independent – Craig Murray
The wild card of the election – Craig Murray presents a notable figure standing on a Martin Bell-esque anti-party sleaze ticket. He has an interesting political past as British ambassador to Uzbekistan and as a past student president and current rector at the University of Dundee. In 2005, he stood in Blackburn against Jack Straw and just missed saving his deposit by a handful of votes. However, he’s having trouble getting media attention – the BBC in particular seem to be sticking to their by-election rule of only representing parties already in Westminster, despite that clearly working against independent candidates. He’s a strong supporter of human rights, and campaigns against atrocities in the Iraq war and the use of torture. He can also claim local roots having been born in North Norfolk.

Prediction – Like the other independent, hard to tell; could beat the Lib Dems, but unlikely to win without a local campaign base.

Labour – Chris Ostrowski
There have certainly been better times to be a Labour candidate than now. Chris will be under pressure to defend Labour’s reasonable 5,500 majority but seems more likely to be the sacrifical lamb to take the fall in Labour’s demise. He has considerably less political clout than some of the other candidates; notably he stood in the Eastern region in the European election just past, but was listed 7th out of 7. He appears to be based in Ipswich up the road, and so lacks the local connection. He also, rather ironically, is an employee of John Lewis, who became synonymous with the expenses row for the “John Lewis list”.

Prediction – Obviously a contender for the top spot, but faces a huge struggle to win.

Liberal Democrats – April Pond
In the true Fib Dem tradition of hypocrisy (I warned you there would be bias) enthusiastic campaigning, the Lib Dems delivered a letter to the Conservative candidate promising to run a clean campaign, then immediately launched smear attacks against the Green candidate. Strangely enough I’m having a hard time finding out anything about their candidate though, except of course that it’s a two horse race and she’s “winning here”. She stood in South West Suffolk in 2005, delivering a respectable increase in the Lib Dem vote share, and she’s planning to stand in the new Broadlands constituency in the next general elections, which partially overlaps with Norwich North. She’s also a former Norwich councillor, so she comes across as being a career politician.

Prediction – In the top half, but no chance of winning (lol, bias!).

Green Party – Rupert Read
Top of the Green list for the Eastern region in the past European elections, a Norwich city councillor, and a lecturer in philosophy, Rupert Read is distinctly the most qualified candidate in this election (yes, bias, although it’s true). Norwich has become something of a hotspot for the Greens, with us taking a majority of votes across the city in the European and local elections, winning 7 county council seats and coming just 1% short of sending Rupert to Brussels. He has a good chance of becoming the first Green MP, which has Green activists swooping into the city from all over (by sustainable means of transport, naturally) – an enthusiasm that probably only the Tories could hope to match.

Prediction – Will strongly challenge the big two, possibly beating Labour if they have a real slump; I fancy his chances of a win (bias, last time, promise!).

Conservatives – Chloe Smith
While it’s substantially better being a Conservative candidate than a Labour candidate, the question remaining is how much better. While Labour have taken a lot of the blame over the economy and the expenses scandal, the Conservatives have hardly been delivering comprehensive economic plans for a recovery, and they’ve been responsible for some of the worst excesses of the expenses row, including duck houses and moat cleaning. Chloe herself is local, but comes across firmly as an establishment figure with a history of work in Whitehall. On an even national swing, Norwich North is the 163rd seat that would fall to the Tories, so winning here would be unlikely in normal circumstances, and will highlight impending doom for New Labour.

Prediction – Good chance to win, although it’s not quite hers to lose yet.

UKIP – Glenn Tingle
Fresh from a miraculous turnaround in the run up to the European election (before the expenses row hit, they were widely predicted to be wiped out), UKIP will be feeling rejuvenated and confident about a good performance. However, their performance in the city has traditionally been lacklustre with no councillors and a low vote share outside of Euro elections. Mr Tingle is an ex-Army medic and now runs a local business. However, a UKIP blogger reports that he was formally a member of the National Front until he joined the army, although I stress I can’t find any other verification for that at the moment, but it still puts his credibility into serious doubt. I now have it on better authority that he was never an NF member, and that this is a rumour being spread by the BNP (another good reason not to vote nasty!), so I redact that comment and I would like to apologise to Mr Tingle for any undue insult. I doubt how much work UKIP is doing on the ground, as their publicity so far seems to just consist of unveiling billboards.

Prediction – Middle of the table.

BNP – Robert West
I can’t say much about the nasty party candidate (okay, last bias this time), Robert West, mostly as searching for his name just brings up a pile of stuff of the BNP website, which I really don’t want in my history on a university computer. Needless to say, people shouldn’t vote for him.

Prediction – Near the bottom of the list.

EDIT: Nominations have now officially closed, and we have two additional candidates. Independent Peter Baggs who I literally can’t find anything about, and NOTA candidate Anne Fryatt.

NOTA stands for None Of The Above and they support electoral reform to allow voters to register a negative vote against all the candidates. None Of The Above may not be the best name given that their candidate is third in the list and above all the major candidates. Maybe you guys should all change the first letter of your surname to Z by deed poll when you stand. :P

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Coatbridge North & Glenboig and Europe

The result of the Coatbridge North and Glenboig by-election was as follows:

First preferences:

  1. Peter Sullivan, Scottish Labour Party – 1,529
  2. Allan James Stubbs, Scottish National Party – 1,254
  3. Julie McAnulty, Independent – 557
  4. Bob Burgess, Scottish Conservative and Unionist – 361
  5. Hugh Malcolm Banford, no description – 217
  6. Kristofer Keane, Scottish Green Party – 115
  7. Fraser Coats, Scottish Socialist Party – 81

And the final round:

  1. Peter Sullivan, Scottish Labour Party – 1,759
  2. Allan James Stubbs, Scottish National Party – 1,696

I was reasonably happy with my result.  I was surprised at how well Julie and Hugh did.  Julie is a well known local campaigner and kept her deposit when she stood for Holyrood as a Save Monklands independent in 2007, and I imagine she picked up a lot of the protest vote, limiting mine.  I was also restricted by having only a week after my last exam to campaign, plus pretty limited help.

I notice that Iain Gray called the Labour gain a victory, which is somewhat strange given that this is a Labour heartland.  The new local electoral system whereby a ward elects 3 or 4 councillors can lead to strange by-elections where one party had a sizeable majority, but the seat contested belongs to another party, as happened in this case.  Labour was defending a majority of first preferences, but the seat happened to be SNP, so does it really count as a Labour gain?  If anything, Labour suffered a huge swing, and barely clung on in the final round to a  seat which should be ultra-safe Labour.

I also have the European results for North Lanarkshire:

  1. The Labour Party – 18,949
  2. Scottish National Party – 17,302
  3. Conservative Party – 4,695
  4. Liberal Democrats – 2,553
  5. United Kingdom Independence Party – 2,536
  6. Scottish Green Party – 2,407
  7. British National Party – 1,993
  8. Socialist Labour Party – 1,935
  9. Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship” – 1,268
  10. Scottish Socialist Party – 769
  11. No2EU: Yes to Democracy – 560
  12. Independent Duncan Robertson – 543
  13. Jury Team – 302

We almost beat the Liberal Democrats, which is excellent for us in North Lanarkshire.  I’m annoyed to have been beaten by UKIP (I’m guessing their huge billboards around the county won some votes, because they had no other presence) but I’m very relieved that we were safely ahead of the BNP.  The Socialist Labour vote seemed very high, and there were a lot of SLP to Labour corrections on the spoilt ballots, so I think there has been some degree of voter confusion there.  The SSP remains in terminal decline, and the Jury Team seems to have been a huge flop.  Labour still clung on to the top spot here, something they only managed in a few counties, but even then the SNP pushed them close.  All in all, I see it as something for us to build on and feel positive aboout.

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