Gordon Brown and his car crash politics


Saw this on the Irish Times website

Apparently this Volkswagen Golf crashed into a bus shelter metres from a car park where Gordon Brown was unveiling a new Labour Party poster campaign.

The driver apparently lost control after the car was involved in a collision with a bin lorry.  The people driving the bin lorry had apparently been so enthused at hurling abuse at Gordon they forgot to watch the road and hit the car.

Gordon continued with his speech, aimed at re-energising his campaign in the final week of the election, as emergency services attended the scene.

Embarrassing for the lorry drivers for being such prats on the road.

Embarrassing for Gordon because of all the easy satirical innuendos that just trip over themselves to be used. 'Gordon's car crash policies', 'Poster campaign crashes at launch', etc, etc, etc.

What quip can you come up with?

Ex-Sinn Fein councillor 'up a ladder' about quitting the party


Just saw on BBC news online that Moyle Councillor Padraig McShane has resigned from Sinn Fein but is keeping a bit shtum over exactly why.

Slugger reports 'tenetatively' that it may have been something to do with a fight in a Bar in Larne - though at this moment exactly what the truth of the matter is remains uncertain.  I am sure it will be out soon enough.

However, in the meantime he has been reported as being 'up a ladder'.  The BBC reports that
He was unavailable for comment on Friday, leaving only a message on his mobile phone to say that he was "up a ladder".
Perhaps trying to hide from anyone trying to ask awkward questions.

A general election on Twitter


Just had a wee run through of as many of the candidates onas I could and found a total of 35 so far.

That's 32% of the 108 candidates are using it.  Some well, some not so well.

You can find them on my ownlist.

SDLP getting picture slapped now


Just found this from the blog of Niall ó Donnghaile (Sinn Fein Westminster Candidate for East Belfast)

What do you think?

BBC NI Online election debate


Just for you, the BBC online debate. I would be interested in your thoughts on the performances

4 Questions - answered by Claire Hanna (SDLP), Strangford


Claire Hanna, SDLP

Claire Hanna, SDLP

Westminster candidate standing in the constituency of Strangford

Answers the 4 questions.

Why are you standing for election?
To contribute to creating a better Northern Ireland which is pluralist and outward looking, with a genuinely shared future and a commitment to social and economic justice.

What is important to you in life?
Family, friends, people, social justice, a safe clean environment.

What will you bring to the post of MP that others will not?
A commitment to principles of social democracy, energy, representation for all.

At the end of your term in office as MP what will you have achieved?
A strong record of work on behalf of constituents.

All questions must be answered in 140 words or less.

What do you think of Claire's answers?

Typogate hits UUP and DUP


To err is human as the saying goes and the DUP have pulled up the Conservatives and Unionists on their spelling abilities.  As can be seen below

Woops a bit of an oversight there.  Obviously the DUP were having a few fun days pointing this out over the old interweb.  Fair play for picking it up and running with it.

Now a press release has come out from Conservatives and Unionists HQ stating,
"Unfortunately we do not have the resources to bring in a professional Public Relations and Marketing company to run our campaign, as other Parties have been able to do, and indeed have to use real people in our literature rather than models or poached pictures of rival politicians.

"Human error means that mistakes are unfortunately made, but these do not detract from the central message of our campaign - that it is right and proper to bring Northern Ireland to the heart of the union. We are confident that the electorate will overlook this typo and concentrate on the positive policies and politics that we are offering at this election."
Fair enough. (Of course i am going to be easy on them!).

Then a friend emailed me through an interesting little tid bit that reminds us all that when you start pointing out fun mistakes, keep a little eye on your own material, because you can bet your bottom dollar there are a few mistakes in your own pile.

And so i give you

What don't see anything there? See it now?

No?  How about now?

Yup that's right, West Tyrone had its own Assembly election in 2009, without telling anyone else till now. 

This is becoming a more and more interesting election every day.

My Conservative and Unionist adventures at the Manifesto launch


Well, what an interesting day I had.

Having had a good meeting as the Chair of Huntingdale Residents Association I was then off to the Conservatives and Unionists manifesto launch in Mossley Mill, Newtownabbey.

Have to say - beautiful surroundings my Council has. A fantastic spot.

The place was really buzzing when i arrived (would love to say it was me, but no.) at about 12.15.  the manifesto launch kick off was at 12.30 and Owen (of 3000 verst fame) had set up a live blog on his website for the event.

The place was full of media with all the usual suspects - including the inimitable Eammon Mallie, who I caught preparing his notes for the manifesto launch - and I half suspect preparing a few very direct questions to put to the politicians.

Eamonn preparing his notes for the launch
Mike Nesbitt (Conservatives and Unionists candidate for Strangford) started it all off by giving a bit of a rousing introduction including focussing on what seems to be the common theme now of building up the private sector.  He ended by saying that,
Conservatives and Unionists will not exploit the Union. We will promote it, by offering people the opportunity to join the government of the United Kingdom.

This then led into Lesley Macaulay (Conservatives and Unionists candidate for East Londonderry) who called for 21st century politics in Northern Ireland and reminded everyone that the Conservatives and Unionists have four strong women candidates and the DUP have none.

Then it was onto Sir Reg to give it all a bit of wellie.

He highlighted Northern Ireland has been a place apart with no real say in who would be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  He said this will change.  The UUP and Conservatives are standing on a single manifesto in Northern Ireland, working in partnership to end Northern Ireland's semi-detached status within the United Kingdom.

Reg put forward that while others parties say that Northern Ireland would be best served by a hung parliament and that it was hard to believe that other so-called unionists are promoting this as a good thing.  He said,
Not only would a hung parliament undermine the ability of a government to take the decisive action required to lead our country out of recession. It would hand influence to the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, determined to break up the Union. It would hand influence to the Lib Dems, determined to see the UK in the Euro and governed by a federal Europe.

For a strong economy, Reg put forward, there must be a strong mandate for a Conservative and Unionist government and not the indecision and grubby back-room deals of a hung parliament.

If Northern Ireland is to see real, meaningful change then it will only come through a Conservative and Unionist government, and this will been done by growing Northern Ireland's private sector.

Reg then tore into the other Parties who had been promoting it as a bad thing by saying that their words are worthless as they have all said the same thing about the public and private sectors in Northern Ireland.

Reg continued by strongly pointing out that the Conservatives and Unionists want to take  Northern Ireland into the heart of the Union.

William Hague then spoke - I put his speech below

I'm delighted to be here in Northern Ireland today to launch our Conservatives and Unionists manifesto for this General Election.

"And it's a great pleasure to be doing this in the South Antrim constituency alongside Reg Empey.

"Reg is a distinguished minister in the Northern Ireland Executive and is rightly admired for his courtesy and integrity in an age of political scandal.

"He will make an outstanding Member of Parliament, as will any of our Conservative and Unionist candidates who are here today.

"Without doubt we have the strongest and most able team of any political party in Northern Ireland at this election.

"And each of them is ready to serve as tireless champions for the people of Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union in Westminster.

"I am proud of the fact that because of the alliance between our two great parties we are the only political force putting up candidates in every part of the United Kingdom.

"We are the one truly national, United Kingdom party standing in Northern Ireland at this election.

"Any of our candidates elected here will take their place as part of David Cameron's team with exactly the same rights and responsibilities as Conservatives from Scotland, Wales, England… and Yorkshire.

"And any of them will have exactly the same opportunity to serve as a minister as MPs from anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

"Imagine the message that would be sent around the world if, in time, the Foreign Secretary or the Home Secretary, the Environment Secretary or even the Prime Minister in a UK Government sat for a constituency in Northern Ireland.

"There would be no better way of saying that the semi-detached status of Northern Ireland had come to an end and that Northern Ireland was back in the mainstream of British politics.

"So between now and 6 May let everybody who cares about Northern Ireland's future; about the Union; and about getting rid of Gordon Brown from Downing Street and replacing him with David Cameron get behind these candidates as never before so that we can push on to victory.

"This election is crucial. And the choice is simple. However the Liberal Democrats and the nationalist parties try and muddy the waters by campaigning for the instability of a hung parliament.

"It's about 5 more years of the same with Gordon Brown or change with David Cameron.

"At the end of this, when the votes are counted one of them will be Prime Minister of our United Kingdom.

"Not Nick Clegg. Not Peter Robinson. And certainly not Gerry Adams. Gordon Brown or David Cameron. That's the choice.

"Five more years of a man who has virtually bankrupted our country, taken us through the deepest recession in memory, done nothing to repair our broken society and presided over political scandal after political scandal - or David Cameron with the leadership, the ideas and the determination to deliver the change our country needs.

"And, as if I had to remind you, five more years of a man who thinks that the British Government should be neutral on the Union, or David Cameron who has said that he will never be neutral on the Union.

"It's because of our shared belief in the Union, and our passion for the United Kingdom, that we are here together today.

"But it's also about our values and our vision for that Union.

"We reject the little Ulster mentality, just as we reject the little Scotland, little Wales or little England mentality across the rest of our country.

"We believe in a big Union, outward looking, tolerant and generous.

"And we believe in a Union for all, in which everyone, whatever their background is treated equally and equitably.

"We are proud of what our four countries have achieved together in the past - the shared sacrifices as well as the shared victories.

"But equally we are optimistic about what our country can achieve together in the future.

"That is what the manifesto we are launching today offers - a mixture of change, optimism and hope.

"It's a manifesto that says things don't have to go on like this.

"It's a manifesto that sets out how we can repair our broken economy; how we can mend our broken society; and how we can fix our broken politics.

"And it's a manifesto to put Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union.

"So, on the economy we'll tackle the deficit to keep mortgages lower for longer; we'll stop Labour's jobs tax that would wreck the recovery and we'll cut corporation tax across the United Kingdom.

"And here in Northern Ireland we'll look at how we create an economic enterprise zone, and we'll bring forward a government paper on the mechanisms for lowering corporation tax.

"We'll also consult on the introduction of a fair fuel stabiliser that will help every family and every business in Northern Ireland.

"And we'll help our farmers by supporting the long-term sustainability of UK agriculture; by minimising repetitive on-farm inspections; working to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board; and introducing real honesty into food labelling.

"Let me just stress for a moment the importance of tackling the deficit. This year the British Government will spend £42 billion alone on interest payments on what it borrows.

"That's more than double public expenditure for the whole of Northern Ireland. It's money that will never be invested in our schools, our hospitals or on our Armed Forces.

"So we need to get it under control, and that's what a Conservative and Unionist Government will do but in a measured and responsible way that allows us to protect key frontline public services.

"We want to re-balance the Northern Ireland economy to end its over-dependence on the public sector. But we recognise that it will take time, perhaps as long as 25 years.

"To do nothing would be irresponsible. But to do anything too quickly would be a reckless too.

"On society, we'll seek to turn the UK into the most family friendly country in Europe. So we'll recognise marriage in the tax system; we'll extend flexible working for people with children age 18 and under; and for pensioners we'll restore the link between the basic state pension and earnings.

"On politics we'll clean up the House of Commons; we'll ban the scandal of double-jobbing at Stormont and Westminster; and we'll give voters the right to sack their MP if they are found guilty of serious wrongdoing.

"There are other commitments specific to Northern Ireland, like no more costly and open ended inquiries into the past; no universal Recognition Payments; and any Northern Ireland specific rights to be incorporated into our UK Bill of Rights that will replace Labour's Human Rights Act.

"And one more thing. A Conservative and Unionist Government will make sure that our brave men and women in our Armed Forces and of whom we are so proud will have the support they need.

"These are the commitments that a Conservative and Unionist Government will deliver.

"But to deliver first we have to win.

"It can be seductive to think that the best thing for Northern Ireland would be a hung parliament in which MPs from here join up with the Scottish and Welsh nationalists to hold the UK government to ransom.

"I believe that view is dangerous for two reasons.

"It would prevent any government taking the decisions that are necessary to get the recovery moving. Instead of action politicians would be locked in endless negotiations.

"And it could hand over excessive influence to parties like the SNP and Plaid Cymru who are dedicated to tearing up the Union.

"So be in no doubt. On 6 May we need a Conservative Government with a decisive mandate for change across our United Kingdom.

"A Conservative and Unionist Government that will repair our economy.

"A Conservative and Unionist Government that will mend our society.

"A Conservative and Unionist Government that will fix our politics.

"And a Conservative and Unionist Government that will put Northern Ireland at the very heart of the Union."

Overall, the event was slick, smooth and had a number of questions from a number of journalists - including Eammon Mallie who kept asking the same question about three times and gave Reg a real chance to shine.  Reg really impressed with how he stepped up to the mark.  Eammon asked about the possibility of reductions in the block grant if corporation tax was reduced.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being behind the scenes seeing all that was going on.  I could have done more for this blog post, but I got so wrapped up in chatting to people - and being on tv - that I lost what little journalistic instinct that I had (and we are talking a very low threshhold).

Will try better next time.

Are these guys Mormons too?


Just had the DUP canvassers around the doors tonight canvassing for Willie McCrea (can you guess what constituency I live in?).  And received a very nice 8 page pamphlet with William's face on the front and the usual bumph inside.

A lot of very nice pictures inside of people doing different day to day things all saying 'We're voting DUP'

Now remembering my previous post 'I can't vote, I live in America' I wonder.............

Well, the wondering was right.  These guys have also been plucked from iStockPhoto.

Yup, you too can have a bit of 'Family fun', see a 'Farm worker', meet a 'random woman closeup', or bump into 'happy seniors'.  Still looking for the other ones.  Maybe if you find some of the other photos you can let me know?

Prohibited Uses. You may not do anything with the Content that is not expressly permitted in the preceding section or permitted by an Extended License. For greater certainty, the following are “Prohibited Uses” and you may not:

use or display any Content that features a model or person in a manner (a) that would lead a reasonable person to think that such person uses or personally endorses any business, product, service, cause, association or other endeavour; or (b) except where accompanied by a statement that indicates that the Content is being used for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted in the Content is a model, that depicts such person in a potentially sensitive subject matter, including, but not limited to mental and physical health issues, social issues, sexual or implied sexual activity or preferences, substance abuse, crime, physical or mental abuse or ailments, or any other subject matter that would be reasonably likely to be offensive or unflattering to any person reflected in the Content, unless the Content itself clearly and undisputedly reflects the model or person in such potentially sensitive subject matter in which case the Content may be used or displayed in a manner that portrays the model or person in the same context and to the same degree depicted in the Content itself;
The above picture certainly looks like endorsement of a cause to me.

I wonder if the DUP actually read the terms and conditions of the licence agreement before they bought the stock American images to put in their pamphlets and onto their posters?  You would have thought that they would have learned from the poster fiasco that was also covered by the BBC here and here.

But then again, maybe not..

What a Balls over no party logos


Mr Ulster has highlighted an interesting omission on the old voting slip (he has a postal vote and so got it early). Alongside highlighting that there is very little information on timetabling when to send it back, he notices that the Conservatives and Unionists candidate in this case Mike Nesbitt) does not have a Party logo in the little space where one would normally find one. Everyone else has one, but poor Mike is left .... er..... logoless.

So have the Conservatives and Unionists made a bit of a boo boo? Have they forgotten to get a logo registered with the Electoral Commission?

Well after a little bit of hoking around, I have found a bit of a pub quiz factoid.

The Conservatives and Unionists have not forgotten about the logo. They have, in fact, not been allowed to place a logo where you would find the little party logo due to a legislative oversight. 

All elections abide by electoral law. 

The European Union sets electoral law just before each EU election (normally in the January/February beforehand). In the European Parliamentary Elections (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 2009, to be precise, it allows for joint candidates (where a candidate is standing for more than one party) to use a single registered logo.  So Jim could stand as a joint candidate with a nice little logo to go with it all.

However, the UK electoral law, which dates back to 1983 (with some updates since) has never been updated to reflect the idea of joint candidates and the probable need for a wee logo to nicely polish off the candidate's name on the voting slip.  As far as I am aware, if it is not in the law, then it can not be done.  It has to be specifically referred to within the legislation so as to legitimately allow it.  What I have found out as well is that the Electoral Office have been aware of this for a while now (you would also like to think the EU elections would have really highlighted it too) but done nothing about it.

So, the Conservatives and Unionists have been snookered.  Or have they? Well, yes they have. 

But they are not on their own.

All our Conservatives and Unionists candidates are in the illustrious company in the personage of Mr Ed Balls - of Labour Party and Education Department fame.  

He is a joint candidate for Labour and Co-Op (yup fresh veg and government Ministers).  He does not get a logo either. Poor Ed.  

In fact there are 42 candidates in total who are standing jointly for Labour and Co-Op are in the same boat.  Nice photos, but no logos.

Cuts, cuts and more cuts? or how I don't always believe the hype


I pick up the Saturday's Belfast and what is on the front page? 'Cameron: I'll target Ulster for Cutbacks'

And I thought, what on earth has he said now?  

Well, my first reaction to this was not a good one - feeling very angry about the issue of financial cuts, especially when it comes to cuts in the public sector.  Yes I am and Ulster Unionist, yes I am a Conservative supporter, and yes I believe in a social conscience. A bit mixed up, but you can't be perfect.

On reading through the headlines and reaching once more for my trusty filibuster busting book "The Tiger That Isn't" to calm me down and move me towards a more clinical questioning standpoint.

So lets go through the headline 'Cameron: I'll target Ulster for Cutbacks' - OK David Gordon (the correspondent of the piece), where exactly did he say this? I am not the greatest in constantly picking up on small things but i listened to the Paxman interview and could not hear anything. Nor was it actually quoted as verbatim in the Belfast Telegraph report.  Hmmmm.

Maybe David Gordon should have looked a bit harder through his red tinted glasses and also had a wee look at what Peter Robinson and Sammy Wilson have already said.

"I want to serve notice to this Assembly and to the wider community that I am determined to take the drive for greater efficiency in public services to a new level.  I am simply not prepared to stand back and leave unchallenged the countless instances, large and small, across all our public bodies where taxpayers’ money is being wasted on over-staffing, absenteeism, poor working practices and a resistance to radical change in the way we go about delivering services. We owe this, not just to those who use and need our public services, but also to the many public servants who want to see change and improvements in the way they do their jobs.

I believe that we can go further than this in finding ways to free up more resources for reinvestment in public services. In the period between now and my announcement of the final budget in January, I want to finalise and then publish details of how departments will deliver on their efficiency programmes.  I will also want to examine the scope for delivering even higher levels of efficiency beyond the 3% a year targets already set, and I will announce new targets for reductions in the size of the Civil Service over the next three years.

Given the changes already introduced under direct rule, such as the review of public administration and cuts in the number of quango's councils and bodies controlling health and education, people will need to be redeployed quickly from the public sector into the private sector.
Now I would have thought these comments were more stark in making cuts.

David also in his first paragraph states 
"Tory leader David Cameron has signalled his intention to slash public spending in Northern Ireland — picking out the province as a region where Government expenditure must come down."

Cameron never said slashes, cuts, or anything else - he did say that 

In Northern Ireland it is quite clear – and almost every party accepts this –that the size of the state has got too big ... We need a bigger private sector. There are other parts of the country, including in the north-east. The aim has got to be to get the private sector, to get the commercial sector going.
He merely states that he wants to increase the size of the private sector.  This does not mean cuts in the public sector.

I want to see the Private Sector in Northern Ireland grow, but not to the detriment of the public sector.  We do not need cuts (and I realise David Cameron's speech does not yes or no to a reduction in funding.) we need business improvements in our public sector, where they can be made.  We need Sammy Wilson to stop rewarding the top civil servants with such large percentage salary increases (though he has stopped the bonuses that were given on top of the salary increase) bonuses, whilst reducing head counts in the Departments of lower grades.

I expected a bit more accurate, or even reflective reporting from David. But then he is a bit of a Lefty, so I can forgive him that ;)

I hope to be at the Conservatives and Unionists Manifesto launch tomorrow. And i will investigate further.


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