28 March 2011

Haste Ye Back Hugh

I was very disappointed to read that Hugh O'Donnell has decided to quit  as a candidate for the Holyrood elections and indeed the Lib Dems.

Hugh has been a tireless worker for people with disabilities during his four years as an MSP but also before hand when he worked for eight years as Donald Gorrie's Assistant.

Hugh cites his reasons for going as disillusion with what the Westminster Government is doing  relating the vulnerable people. I have to say I disagree with Hugh on this.

There are things being mooted that I don't like; some of the Housing Benefit changes I am distinctly nervous about and other benefits changes also cause me concern but many of these are being consulted on and we have seen that on benefits the Ministers are prepared to listen and backtrack if a good enough case is put to them.

There are areas relating vulnerable and  disadvantaged people which are really positive though. I have blogged on the tax  threshold increases but there is also the restoration of the earnings link for pensioners giving our poorest pensioners a real increase in the pockets is a good thing. So too is the future introduction of a £140 a week pension for all pensioners moving away from a situation where women in particular have poor or even no pensions. That  has to be welcomed.

Then there is the Universal Benefit. This would merge the tax and benefits system and at a stroke remove the disincentives for working. I have advocated this approach for more than 25 years. What it alone could do to transform peoples lives makes being in power worth while.


At the Holyrood level it is only the Lib Dems who are squaring up to those advocating wholesale centralisation of polcing, fire and social care.

Hugh I for one will miss you and hope that you can return to the fold soon.

23 March 2011

Medal for Edinburgh Wave Power Pioneer

Congratulations to Professor Stephen Salter who has won the Scottish Governments inaugural Saltire Medal for his work on wave energy. Professor Salter developed his"duck" at Edinburgh University in the 1970's and has been a hero of the renewables movement ever since.

I am a humble chemist by background so won't begin to explain how it all works but I have put a link below which explains it all!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Salter

Well done and well deserved!  

19 March 2011

A Letter From Nick Clegg Relating to the Libya Situation




As you will have seen in the news our coalition government has successfully led efforts in the UN Security Council to agree a ‘no-fly zone’ across Libya.

Colonel Gaddafi’s treatment of his own people has been brutal, savage and wholly unacceptable. We have worked with Libya’s regional neighbours, especially the Arab League, and countries across the globe, to secure a resolution in UN Security Council. This resolution will allow us to act lawfully  in deploying our forces to up-hold a ‘no-fly zone’ in Libya.

The Prime Minister gave a statement yesterday, which you can read here. And on Monday we will have a full debate in the House of Commons, followed by a vote. In addition we will be publishing a summary of the legal advice of the Attorney-General. 

That is the right approach. This is a coalition government that will act decisively to protect innocent lives and uphold universal human rights. But one which will do so working with, not against, international law and the international community. 

Best wishes,   

Nick Clegg MP
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Ireland Are Grand Slam Party Poopers

The script was well and truly torn up for the last day of the Six Nations. Scotland refused to be the  Championships whipping boys and saw off Italy relatively easily in the end. The score was 21 -8 and Chris Paterson managed a clone of his try saving tackle of last week. Scotland also did well enough to avoid the wooden spoon. The story of their season has been of narrow defeats and concession of early tries. That happened again today  but they pulled it all back thanks to a couple of good tries from De Luca and Walker.
Richie Gray
Now I can't be the only person who has noticed that an Owen Wilson double seems to have started playing in the Scottish pack. I have  copied a couple of snaps of Wilson and Scotland's best player this year Richie Gray to assist readers. Curiously actor Wilson is the one with the broken nose rather than the rugby player. Gray is only 21 years old so will I am sure will manage to perfect the look in the not to distant future.

Owen Wilson

All eyes turned then to Dublin  and England's attempt to win a Grand Slam. 

Ireland simply hammered England. I can't apply any other description.  They were at one stage 21 points ahead. They played  with a passion and aggression that they haven't displayed this season and their backs played with speed and finesse. There was some good old fashioned back play by their midfield, the type of loops and flair that one rarely sees in the modern game so reliant on crash balls and angled runs. A joy to watch. 

Brian O'Driscoll managed to notch up his 25th Try in the Championship beating the record of Ian Smith one of the Scotland Grand Slam side of ....1925! He played along side winger Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame.That is how long that record has stood so besting it is a magnificent achievement.

A great team performance from the boys in green. Bowe got the other try and was always dangerous.   Sexton was possibly  the best player on the park was taken off and replaced by Ronan O'Gara who gave a superb display of  how to close out a match by kicking behind the opposition defence and  into the corners. He looked like he was having a ball. The final score was 24-8 with Ireland scoring 21 in the first half. They had a try disallowed and  the score could have been much higher.This added to their win against the old enemy in the Cricket World Cup and their total domination at Cheltenham rounds off a good few weeks against the old enemy for them.

18 March 2011

Reaping the Benefits of Sound Advice

This afternoon I was fortunate enough to speak at the opening of an event marking the work of EHAP, the Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership.

Over the last three years one of the most successful policy initiatives I have been involved with is our radical Homelessness Strategy. Aimed at  meeting our legal requirement to eradicate unintentional Homelessness by 2012 the strategy has delivered year on year reductions in homelessness. This is quite an achievement considering the economic backdrop over the last couple of years. 

One of the ways we have managed that is by strong preventative work, helping people keep their homes by early intervention and Housing and Welfare advice. Enter stage left EHAP! 

Over 3000 advice contacts were made with 2000 households between April and December last year. The results: 99% of people with no prior history of homelessness who use EHAP's services do not go on to present as homeless! That is a jaw dropping success rate and one they are rightly proud of.

17 March 2011

England Bounce Back of the Ropes

One of the things I like about cricket is that one player can change the whole course of a match and that the direction can change like the snapping of fingers. 

That happened this afternoon as England were heading for World Cup exit. The West Indies had plenty of time to sp four wickets in 20 balls saw England pull off a remarkable come back.

What ever you say about this side they are not boring to watch!

16 March 2011

Green Light For Nelson On St Patricks Day



I have just bumped into ex Lord Provost Eric Milligan sporting a fabulous green and blue striped tie. Eric, a life long fan of Hearts, is not switching his allegiances to the Mighty Hibernian (Hearts are the other, less cultured a football team in Edinburgh). No Eric was wearing it in honour of St Patrick's Day which falls tomorrow.

Eric explained how he had been contacted by the Irish Consul to see if he could persuade Historic Scotland to light up Edinburgh Castle in green in honour of their Patrons Saints day. Sadly it was a no go this year but he said that they did manage to persuade the powers that be to light up the Nelson Monument in Calton Hill pictured above.

Eric  enjoyed greatly  the rich irony of this being the place to be bathed in a green glow noting what had happened to Dublin's monument to the great seafarer. The Nelson Pillar in Dublin (see right) and blown up by former IRA members in 1966.

Six students then swiped the head of the statue from a shed as a fund raising prank. They were keen to pay off the student unions debt. Oh where are they now when Ireland badly needs you on a much grander scale?

They rented  the head to an antiques dealer in London for display in his shop window. £200 a month was the rate ( a lot of money for the head of a statue in those days). It also appeared in a women's stocking advert and on the stage  with The Dubliners.I am pretty sure I have that recording at home. The students finally gave the head to the Lady Nelson of the day about six months after taking it.   It now resides in the Gilbert Library.

Bury the Hatchet to Secure Fairer Votes

I am deeply disappointed in the refusal by Ed Miliband to share a platform with Nick Clegg. 

My observation from years in politics is that the most successful politicians are those who know when to rise above partisan politics and build consensus.

"No Platform" was the slogan used to debate in the 80's when debating whether we should allow the the far right National Front involvement in organised debates etc with mainstream politicians. It was never intended to be applied to members of mainstream parties.

The Scotsman editorial of the 20th February makes the case for change very well
AV will be a vast improvement on Westminster politics as currently constituted. No vote will be a wasted vote. Every MP will have the consent of a majority of the voters he or she represents. Through this, voters will feel better connected to the process of choosing their representative in the Commons. And - politicians beware - voters will therefore have a higher level of expectation when their MP makes it to the green benches. It's a Yes.

The Yes Campaign is not private property of Miliband or any leader and it looks to me as if he is using it as an opportunity to pursue narrow partisan interests rather than building the consensus required to achieve this long sought after reform. For the Yes Campaign to succeed, as I hope it will, we need a broad front  and our leaders to work across party boundaries. That means burying the hatchet to ensure winning on this issue. 

15 March 2011

Gordon Lishman to Deliver Edinburgh Social Work Lecture

I am delighted that Gordon Lishman, former Director of Age Concern England, has agreed to deliver the Edinburgh Social Work Lecture this year. 

Gordon has a wealth of experience in the voluntary sector and is an expert on Older Peoples issues. He will be speaking about the "The Future of Services for Older people". 

The lecture is free and takes place at 6.15pm on Thursday March the 31st in the City Chambers, High Street,  Edinburgh. 

We already have healthy interest in this event so if you do want to come along it would be useful if you could contact socialworklecture@edinburgh.gov.uk  so we can keep an eye on the numbers.

14 March 2011

4500 Edinburghers Low Earners Lifted Out of Income Tax

I thought I would share this  story from the Edinburgh Evening News with readers. Margaret Smith makes a very valid point here.



MSP claims Lib Dem deal takes 4500 in Capital out of tax


MORE than 4500 people in Edinburgh will no longer pay income tax from next month, Liberal Democrat MSP Margaret Smith claimed today.

The increase in the personal tax allowance - one of the concessions secured by the Lib Dems in their coalition deal with the Conservatives - meant that from the beginning of the new financial year no-one will pay any tax on the first £7475 they earn.

Ms Smith, MSP for Edinburgh West, said: "Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, over 4530 people in Edinburgh will not pay any income tax and more than 218,600 people will pay much less than they did before.

"Liberal Democrats promised at last year's General Election to increase the personal allowance. I am proud that my colleagues in Westminster are delivering that promise.


"It is not fair that people on the lowest incomes paid so much of their income in tax. In just 11 months, 223,130 people in Edinburgh have benefited from Lib Dems in government. This figure will only increase as the tax system gets fairer under Liberal Democrats."

The increase in the threshold to £7475 is the first step towards setting it at £10,000.

However, a drop in the higher rate threshold will also mean more paying 40 per cent tax.

13 March 2011

Labour Flip Flop on Council Tax Rise

After years of Labour councillors and MSP's whining about the Scottish Governments Council Tax freeze  and how it  neuters local democracy I was amazed to learn that they intend to do precisely the same to councils should they win the Holyrood elections.

I expect we shall see a bit more in the way of convergence  of commitments as people try to "out populist" each other or at least try not to be "out populisted" by the others!

Calcutta Cup Stays at Twickenham

England squeezed home to retain the Calcutta Cup. A spirited Scottish team kept in the chase right up until the end but were just edged out 22-16. This included a 10 minute period  with one key player missing - very questionably sin binned. The try count was one a piece and  England were kept to that thanks to a fantastic try saving tackle by Chris Paterson Scotland Full back on the day who scythed down Ben Foden just a few feet short of the try line.

Next up for Scotland the wooden spoon decider against the Italians, conquerors of France yesterday, while England go for a grand Slam when they,lock horns with Ireland. How the other half live!

12 March 2011

Gunners Need to Put it All Behind Them

You have to pity Arsenal fans. They have had a tough couple of weeks. In the running in four major competitions just a couple of weeks ago they lost their best chance of ending their silverware drought by handing Birmingham City their first trophy in my lifetime. Earlier this week they were out played and suffered appallingly from a duff refs decision resulting in Barcelona bundling them out of the Champions League. As if fate wanted to rub salt into the wound bitter local  rivals Spurs  saw off  AC Milan to progress to the Quarter Finals for the first time since the Champions League was formed. "Are you watching Arsenal" the Tottenham fans sang.

Today they face Manchester United in the FA cup and Arsen Wenger will have a real job to pick them up for this. They are still in second spot in the League and  they have a game in hand which if won would take them on to level pegging with Man U but I have seen them in 1980 lose a cup winners cup final  to Valencia, the FA cup final  to West Ham and end up with absolutely nothing. 

There really hasn't been a team who have stamped their authority all over the  Premiership this year. The only thing more uncertain and exciting is the battle for relegation which arguably could be any one of eight or nine teams at present. Normally there is a one team who find themselves adrift early on and never quite recover.That hasn't happened this year with many of the  strugglers pulling off unlikely wins against the big boys. 


It makes for great drama for us neutrals but I'd hate to be a manager of one of those teams!

£10 Million Boost for Autism

I welcome the £10 million, announced by the Scottish Government, to help support  the 50, 000 or so people in Scotland who have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. 

This cash is part of the Scottish Governments Autism Strategy and neither cash nor strategy would be there without Lib Dem MSP Hugh O'Donnell's Members Bill on the subject. This has been portrayed as an unsuccessful Bill by some but it has achieved its desired outcome in spite of not being enshrined in legislation. Hugh has much to be proud of.

11 March 2011

From Ashes Heros to Whipping Boys for Minnows

It was only a few weeks ago that England's cricketers were being hailed as future World Champions coasting to an Ashes Series victory in Australia for the first time in  more than 20 years. Now almost half way through the group stages of the Cricket World Cup their record seems  very  different. A tie with India and  narrow wins against South Africa and the Netherlands have been over shadowed by  defeats at the hands of the Irish and, today, by Bangladesh.

They may still come good but they are not playing like world beaters. This is great for the neutrals who love a good upset but soul destroying for my pals down south who felt they had a reasonable expectation of doing well.

So much for the theory that in these days of 20/20 that there  is no place for the one day game!

Mid Market Rents in Milton

On Wednesday I was along at the ceremony to mark the handing over of keys to new tenants in Moray Apartments down in Milton. Dunedin Canmore Housing Association acquired 15 homes from a developer supported by an innovative rental guarantee scheme, involving the Scottish Government and the Council, which meant that these homes have come into use rented at a “mid market” rate to new tenants with no subsidy from the public purse.   

There is a need for 16600 additional affordable houses in Edinburgh over the next ten years. The term affordable is an umbrella term applied to social rented, first time buyer homes, homes which are part mortgage and part rented and also mid market rental- rents between social rent levels and market rent.  Of those 16600 around 4800 are people who could be suitable for accessing mid market rental properties.  

We have a chronic shortage of housing and any tenants going for mid market ease the demand for social rented flats. The rental guarantee scheme is just one of a number of eye catching and cutting edge developments we have tried here in Edinburgh a point made by Housing Minister Alex Neil who was on hand to pass the keys over. He praised the City Council saying that we were extrodinarilty innovative in ouir approach.

9 March 2011

March or Die - 180 Year of Légion étrangère

March the 10th marks the 180th anniversary of the creation of the French Foreign Legion. Established by French King Louis-Philippe, to support  French colonial ambitions in Algeria, they enjoy a fearsome reputation.



Notoriously tough and often the hiding place of fugitives the sense that Legionnaires have no where else to go and nothing to lose gave them the air of utter ruthlessness and fearlessness. The exploits of the  Legion are thus the stuff of legend.


The officers are French but they take all nationalities. About 25% of Legionnaires are French but Germany has produced the largest number of Legionnaires, though that figure is slightly questionable due to many Alsatians  joining up while Alsace was part of Germany.



The roll of Honour reads like a map of the old French Empire; Algerian, Indochina and Mexico were particulrly important to their history.

In these post colonial times the Legion still has people queuing up to join and they are often deployed in Peace Keeping roles and UN duties.

Louis-Philippe was turfed out in a revolution in 1848 the year of European revolutions which had a striking parallels with what has been happening in North Africa and the Middle East. That is another  post though.

Penrose Inquiry Gets Underway

The Penrose Inquiry into HIV/HCV Infection from Blood Products  has kicked off in Edinburgh .I worked for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service for almost 20 years. It would not be appropriate for me to pass comment on the issues raised while the Inquiry is underway but  here is a link for anyone wishing to follow the course of the Inquiry.

http://www.penroseinquiry.org.uk/

8 March 2011

Urban Spacemen

I tripped across this little tale about the Observers Science Editor Robin McKie and his encounter with Yuri Gagarin. 

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-12661377

At least he had the excuse of being only eleven years old. Three years ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Interplanetary Explorers Conference dinner when they splashed down in Edinburgh. My right hand, I often boast, has shaken three hands that have been in space! The astronauts and cosmonauts I met were real super men and women. They were such brave and inspiring people and they were in Scotland speaking to school children up and down the country about their real life space adventures.

7 March 2011

Death of Che Guevara's Road Trip Companion

Alberto Granado, who famously chummed his pal Ernesto Che Guevara around South America on a motorbike, has died in Cuba at the age of 88.

The pair’s epic journey was recorded in Che's Motorcycle Diaries which were later made in to an award winning film.

The 1951 journey exposed the two medical students to deep poverty and awakened in them their revolutionary tendencies.

I read the Diaries after seeing the film. I was struck by a number of things. Obviously their deep seated anger at what they saw and the formulation of their response to the iniquities was what first struck me. I was then struck by thoughts of South American nationalism. The thought that in South America where people generally speak Spanish or Portuguese - which are pretty similar and the main religion is Catholic so what defines a nation in South America? Often, in Europe, it is language that a Nation has in common (Germany, Netherlands, UK, Spain, and France) or where language is divided it might be religion that unites as in Belgium. Then there is the Balkans where people speak the same language but it is religion that divides and the Nation state seems to have grown up round that. Where you have both in common what makes a Venezuelan a Venezuelan rather than a Colombian?

Lastly I was also surprised to read in the introduction to the Motorcycle Diaries that Ernesto Guevara's real name was Ernesto Guevara Lynch! Che was of Irish stock (like me and president Obama...distantly in the last case!) Over the Andes, some 130 years before the epic Motorcycle journey, a revolutionary called O'Higgins helped liberate Chile. You have to wonder what contribution our shared Irish heritage i.e. the love of a good barney, made to South American liberation movements.

Alberto Granado moved to Cuba in 1961 and taught Biochemistry there at the University of Havana. He didn’t have his face emblazoned on Tee shirts or anything but speaking as a former Scientist I think he made a positive contribution to mankind by teaching biochemistry.

Inside Housing Scottish Hustings

I have just been attending the Inside Housing "Scottish Housing Hustings" meeting. A very civilized panel from five parties and admirably chaired by Bill Jamieson of the Scotsman. The setting was the Merchant Company of Edinburgh's Hall which is one of Edinburgh secret gems tucked away next to Clydesdale Bank in Hanover Street.

Issues thrown up included whether we wanted  house prices to rise or fall (I want stability), energy efficiency and the poor share Edinburgh and the South East gets as a share of the Housing investment.

I thought all speakers accounted for themselves admirably and I was delighted to hear very complimentary words about Edinburgh Councils innovation and  performance from  the panellists and from the Minister particular praise for our leadership on Housing in Edinburgh.

6 March 2011

Clegg Rallies the Troops

The Clegg speech was suitably defiant. Much was expected following our poor by-election showing. He reminded us that it was thanks to us that the earnings link and all that flowed from that was re-established for pensioner.

He reminded us that it was thank to Lib Dems that the scandal of child detention in Dungavel was ended and he reminded us that it was us that had pushed through fundamental constitutional reform from repatriating powers to Holyrood to the AV referendum.

Pretty good stuff all in all.

Suarez Takes Man Utd Apart

I know one should never say I told you so but I did predict that Luis Suarez would be a great buy for Liverpool. See previous postings. He was the creator of two goals in Liverpool's thumping 3-1 win against Manchester United. The record books will have Kuyt as the hero with a hat trick but he was gracious enough to heap all the praise on his Uruguayan team mate. 

Since I last posted about the tribulations of the Mighty Hibernian the boys in green have undergone a surge in form winning five in a row and drawing yesterday. Funny old game as someone once said!

5 March 2011

Locals Lib Dems Reps Fight to Save RAF Bases


Just waiting for Nick Clegg's big platform speech. We have a very passionate debate about saving the RAF bases in Scotland from closure.
The debate initiated by North East Fife, the powerhouse Lib Dem constituency, was kicked off by Sir Menzies Campbell. Various passionate contributions ranging from former RAF padre and Lord Provost of Edinburgh  George Grubb to local Councillor Tim Brett and local MSP Iain Smith. All spoke passionately about how much impact closure would have on the area and how important the RAF was to our defences. George laid into the MOD for sending e-mails sacking soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan.  Tim spoke very well about the impact on local schools. He is the councillor for the Luchars area and one of the finest councillors I have come across.
The conference backed a motion raising concerns about closure. Now the ball is in the court of the MOD.
                    

Public Sector Innovation

This morning we had a debate at Conference about public service innovation. A good if not a little vague motion which was crammed with good bits. 

I was more than happy to grandstand on some of the items we have tried here in Edinburgh such as neighbourhood working, our homelessness strategy and off course reablement.
 
I have always been very proud of the team I have worked with in the Council and it was good to see Edinburgh out there in front again.

4 March 2011

Lib Dems Rail Against Centralised Police Force

Another issue we had debated at conference was the centralisation of Policing.  The case against was superbly put by Robert Brown MSP (see picture).

Robert pointed out that the centralisation had serious governance issues. Would we have a super Chief Constable like the Met? Who would they be accountable to?  The Justice Minister? A Board?  He also pointed out that  such reorganisations usually led to increased costs.

I also spoke in the debate raising my concerns that in order to sort out a  relatively short term financial problem we were in danger of  setting up a centralised  police force  which went totally against British Policing traditions. Robert Peel set up local Policing and we haven't had  the issues of highly authoritarian State Police they have had abroad.

Below is an excellent article on the principles of this by Edinburgh Evening News columnist Martin Hannan. I disagree with Martin in his branding of the Lib Dems but my point is that we cannot gamble on whether  future Justice Ministers are going to be liberal enough to trust with a centralised police service.

http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/martin-hannan/Martin-Hannan-Throw-them-all.6686309.jp

Q&A in Perth

I have been up in Perth for the Lib Dem Party Conference.

The troops were in good fettle in spite of a by election last night where we trailed in sixth. We, in Scotland, have been in government before and  we had a similar experience  during our  first term. Our then Scottish Party chair got beaten into sixth place by the Hamilton Accies Supporters club. In spite of that we still ended up with an increased vote at the next diet of elections.

Today started with a Q&A to Chief Secretary for the Treasury Danny Alexander. Unlike any other large party Danny fielded real questions some of which were not comfortable. I am afraid mine fell into that category! I asked about Council House Debt write off and  raised concerns about Housing Benefit.

He dealt with them well enough but in doing so  was not giving me the answers I wanted to hear  i.e. no Debt Write Off for the foreseeable future as we have no money at present. 

I didn't expect a positive answer. I am  very disappointed  that we are still going to see councils whose tenants reject transfer of their stock discriminated against. I find this mystifying as 50% of our rents service our debt and 80% of tenants are on Housing benefit.  The treasury are indirectly paying a substantial amount to service our debt.

Anyho' no further forward with that one but  at least he fronted up to answer real questions and we didn't have the stage managed  panto that others do.

3 March 2011

Clegg Champions Multiculturalism

I was deeply disappointed to learn that David Cameron had a downer on it and was somewhat mystified at him preferring, what he referred to, as  "muscular liberalism".

I would describe myself as a practitioner of muscular liberalism and I do not see it as counter to multiculturalism. Indeed respect for other cultures is an important component of it.

Step forward Nick Clegg to who also sees the importance of multiculturalism in an open society.

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12638017

It is good to see a real liberal leading from the front on this.

2 March 2011

Irish Eyes Smiling

A great  few days for Irish sport. Last weekend they put Scotland's rugby players to the sword. Today in Bangalore their cricketers pulled off a shock win against England! The upset  included the fastest century in World Cup history by Kevin O'Brien.  

On the political front Rupert Murdoch seems likely to off load Sky News in order to circumvent  calls for his take over of BSkyB to be referred to the Competition Commission. The move is expected to be approved by Jeremy Hunt the Culture Minister. 

I personally feel that Rupe owns too much of the UK media and I would welcome the Competition Commission  doing a better job of ensuring we don't have monopolies or oligopolies.
 


1 March 2011

A View from The Lords

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a talk by UK Justice Minister, and Lib Dem Leader in the Lords, Tom McNally.


He was in town speaking  at a conference on Freedom of Information but he managed to drop by Corstorphine before departing. It was great to get a first hand account of the workings of the Coalition. He successfully scotched the notion that Ken Clarke was a Liberal. The joke doing the rounds was that in the coalition negotiations, David Cameron had said to Nick Clegg he could have five Lib Dem Cabinet ministers and he'd throw in Ken Clarke for free! According to his Lib Dem deputy Ken is definitely a Tory albeit of the "One Nation" variety. That being said they do seem to rub along very well together. 

I then chaired a session at the Gathering, a major voluntary sector event, on the "Big Society - Good Bad or Indifferent".

I was disappointed at the scorn thrown at the concept. The panel, with three critics of the Big Society and only one advocate in it's favour, was perhaps not balanced enough to ensure a fair hearing.

Never mind what you label it as the notion that we could make better use of volunteers is for me a no brainer. I accept that there are issues about to what extent volunteering, and the voluntary sector, can be used and what is required to make that happen. 

I did get the impression that, for critics,  the major stumbling block was who was championing the Big Society. If it had been another persons idea it might have been in receipt of fewer brick bats! I think that attitude is misguided. When the most senior politician in the country is championing a cause you believe in, then surely that is cause for some celebration not complaint.