Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scottish MPs – what do they actually do?

Part 1 of a weekly series of web delving.....

Yes, yes, I know they seem to spend their entire time shoving their noses into English business at Westminster – but what about their constituents, what do they do for them? Is it busy, busy, busy-all or bugger, bugger, bugger-all?

Because now that devolution has well and truly taken constituent enquiries for Planning, Local Government, Transport, Health and Education out of the in-trays of Scots MPs and piled them up in ever increasing numbers onto their MSP counterparts, we at Hereward House have been wondering what an average Scottish MP now actually does to occupy their time and earn their corn – and what constituency queries they tackle in their surgeries....

Let’s find out by taking a dip into the varied and interesting life of your average Scottish MP via their paid-for-by-the-public websites...

First stop is to the website of Gavin Strang (Labour, Edinburgh East). We are at Gav’s site first because he has provided a useful ‘MP or MSP’ button on his website. This will presumably stop all those embarrassing episodes at his surgery when he has to tell a constituent that he will have to take up the matter with the MSP Organ Grinder and not with him, the MP oily rag....

According to his site, Strang is responsible for - The Constitution, Defence, Foreign affairs, Electricity, coal, oil & gas, Nuclear energy, Employment, Financial and economic matters, Social security...

Susan Deacon the local MSP is responsible for - Agriculture, fisheries and forestry, Economic development, Education, The environment, The arts & sport, Food standards, Health, Housing, Social work, Local Government & planning, Transport policy (Scottish Ports & roads), Tourism....

As can be seen from the Gav-list, Strang is responsible for foreign affairs and defence – I wonder how often someone has sat down at his surgery desk and said “Mr Strang, I’ve been having a lot o’ trouble with Paraguayans parking their tanks on ma lawn – can ye write a letter?”

It is clear to see that Deacon has control of most of the real life day-to-day concerns of an average constituent – who therefore will see their MSP as being more relevant to their aspirations, achieving their goals and righting their wrong.

Assessment of Strang: Thumb twiddler.

Frank Doran (Labour, Aberdeen North) likes to think he has been very busy – as he keeps telling us just how busy he is... Under the sub head of ‘Local Issues’ and the bravura statement which follows it - ‘Below will give you an idea of the varied work that I have undertaken over the years in Aberdeen. Also you will find coverage of other local issues that are important to me personally'.

If you were expecting a typographical tirade of all things passionate from Frank then you really will be disappointed.

Frank’s last entry for the local issues that are apparently important to him personally is about how he was chosen to be a judge a Christmas Card competition. The competition was for Christmas of 2007 – a full year ago. There are no entries for 2008. All in all, there are just 10 ‘Local Issues’ that are important to Frank, stretching all the way back to 1997 – roughly one important issue per year...

Assessment of Doran: Useless lead swinger who isn't passionate about much at all.

Meanwhile, over at Aberdeen South, Anne Begg (Labour) has, according to her web strapline been ‘Standing up for her constituents' In her web page entitled ‘Working hard for you’, Anne shares with us punters exactly what passions have been driving her lately. First story is her protesting about job cuts in the local council (not relevant to her as Local Government is a devolved issue). Then there are three stories about the opening of a Health Centre, a Roving Surgery and a Coffee Morning for a local cancer charity. (All but the last item is not relevant to her as Health is a devolved issue).

Assessment of Begg: Not enough to do, not working hard for anyone. Desperate to get herself linked to local issues that simply have nothing to do with her.

And talking about ‘linkage’, over at Dunfermline West, Willie Rennie (Liberal Democrats) tries a different approach in order to try and hide his rather emasculated constituency duties. Willie has ‘teamed up’ with Jim Tolson, his MSP LibDem counterpart to head up one website. According to the site strap Both Willie and Jim are ‘fighting for Dunfermline and West Fife’.... Phew, that is a relief!

At every opportunity on the site it’s Willie & Jim pictured together doing stuff and fighting for Dunfermline and West Fife. Willie & Jim in hard hats, Willie & Jim in front of hospitals, Willie & Jim pressing the flesh.... It’s like they are joined at the hip. The deception is further enhanced with the single email address, you can only send to info@dunfermline.org.uk for any query – so it is the LibDem constituency backroom boys who decide which Dunfermline Defender of Democracy a constituent eventually gets to see.

Assessment of Rennie: The Willie & Jim show is more of a joke than a comedy act – although admittedly, one is short and fat while the other is tall and thin.

Willie & Jim - "It's 'good job' from him and 'no job' from me"....

Nigel Griffiths (Labour, Edinburgh South) on the other hand comes out fighting. Nigel is an aggressive, tough and no-nonsense type of MP... Throughout his site, Nige is portrayed as a sort of McRambo man of action for his constituents. It’s photos, photos, photos of Nigel as he gets to grips with the great issues concerning the folk on his patch. Got a problem? Call for Nige – if nothing else, he’ll give you a signed photo of himself to stick on your mantelpiece....

Suddenly, I’m getting the faint vibe of the Ghostbusters theme...
If you’ve got a prob,
And it don’t seem real,
Who’re gonna call?
Nige Griffiths!!

(and he will put you in touch with the local MSP who can actually do something)...

Nigel’s news section is a joy to behold. Within are a series of photo opportunities in which Nigel manages to get himself associated with Al Gore (green issues), Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Opposition leader(human rights issues) and a couple of survivors from Nagasaki(nuclear arms race issues). That’s all the world stuff taken care of – but what about the mundane constituency stuff?

No problem! Nigel has simply sashayed over to MSP reserved issues like Education, Transport, Local Government and Health to fill his pages. One news story proclaims - “Fighting to ensure that our schools have proper funding is one of Nigel's key priorities”.... But Nigel baby, surely that is the business of Scots Lib Demmer, Mike Pringle, who is your constituency MSP! Surely it is him who is doing all the fighting on the education, health, transport and planning front. Nigel, thanks to Labour’s great devolution experiment, you have as much influence as any other constituent of Mr Pringle’s?... Surely the best way for you to try and get extra funding is for you to go to one of Mr Pringle’s surgeries and ask him to do what he can to persuade the Scottish Nationalist government to stump up more Barnett cash?

Hey! Who the hell is that guy shaking hands with Nige Griffiths?

However, the prize for brass neckery goes to this entry on his news page –
‘Nigel has produced a leaflet for every resident on the new free medicines service. Everyone who is entitled to free prescriptions can now obtain free medicines from your local pharmacist. This scheme is designed to encourage people to seek the professional advice of a pharmacist for minor conditions to relieve pressure on our doctors. The scheme applies to all children, expectant mothers, senior citizens, unemployed people and others who are on low income. It covers every condition from sore throats to bunyons (sic). Local pharmacist Fiona McCready helped Nigel prepare the leaflet - she is a key Government advisor on community health matters’.

So that’s nice isn’t it? Nigel’s constituents have got free prescriptions all thanks to the Scottish Nationalist administration – and Nigel produces a leaflet about it! What about the seven quid ten pence that we have to pay down here Nige?

Assessment of Griffiths – Likes the rich and famous. Got a narcissistic complex of galactic proportions..... Has delusions of adequacy.. Is he related to Peter Mandelson or what?

Next week – more revelations from the cybersofa of the well paid idle.... Also, we’ll be offering hints and tips to those MP folk north of the border on how to more convincingly look busy without actually doing anything. We'll also be giving them some important daytime telly schedules and be asking them 'is the Jeremy Kyle Show really all that bad?'....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


After an illuminating telephone conversation with some bolshy Scottish woman at Tesco Customer Care Centre, yesterday, I have received some disquieting news.
I was informed, that due to specific, constant and deafening requests by their English customers, the existing, very few own brand references to English products in Tesco stores are to be dumped – and replaced with the ‘British’ moniker.
I really do have to say that the conversation was one of the most surreal I have ever had – even by Tesco standards.

I thought I should ring them to discuss ‘CountryLife-Gate’ – and that company’s shameless rebranding of English butter to British butter. I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk (yet again) to Tesco about their branding policy.

I told the Tesco lady that I was looking for another butter to buy with ‘English’ written on the pack – and couldn’t help noticing that Tesco own brand butter did indeed say ‘English Butter’, but unfortunately, the accompanying flag was not the flag of St George but was the flag of the Union.....

I then tried to expand the discussion, sort of telling her that I would like to buy English stuff in Tesco, but there are precious few products in Tesco with the English ident on – and how I thought it was about time they expanded their English range – and as a start, they could change the flag on the Tesco English Butter pack to make it consistent.

“But we are changing it to make it more consistent”

“Well that’s bloody great!”

“Yes, in the very near future, our butter will be labelled as British butter – and of course we will keep the Union flag to make it all consistent”....


She repeated it – and then added “In fact all the remaining products with England of English on them are to be rebranded as British”.


“Because all our customers in England want their products labelled as British – while all our customers in Scotland, Wales and Ireland want their produce labelled as Scottish, Welsh and Irish”....

“Well who decided that then?”

“Our customer focus groups”

“So let me get this straight – customers in England have specifically demanded that the very few English branded products that Tesco sells must be rebranded to British – because, presumably they find it all too upsetting? “So why haven’t the Scots etc demanded that their products are to be labelled as British also?

“Well they don’t see themselves as British – they see themselves as Scottish – it’s the same with the Welsh and the Irish”...

“How very convenient..... So what you are saying is that the few remaining English products are soon to be bulldozed from the shelves in favour of British ones”....

She did indeed confirm that rogue products like Tesco own brand English Butter and Mild Cheshire Cheese are to be axed for a more apparently palatable British version.

She then read out a communiqué from Head Office –

“Regarding product branding, this is what our Customer Forum has asked us to do”
‘As most English inhabitants look on themselves as being British first – therefore, a Union flag is used to identify the region. NOTE: Regional information is printed on the pack to indicate which area within the region it comes from’.

There then followed a deep and meaningful discussion. The Scots lady said that every time she came south of the border she couldn’t move for union flags – because apparently, all English people are revelling in their British ident... While in her own country she and all her fellow compatriots were Scots first, second and third.

The whole conversation ended in a vexatious row. She just couldn’t grasp how insulted I felt to have my country rebranded as both a ‘region’ and as default Britain’. There is now a definite shift in strategy. They are now quoting ‘Focus Groups’ from the region of England as justification to rebrand to a British ident – and it’s all coming to a Tesco near you.

Utterly shameful....

Today’s action – To ring Wembley Stadium to ask exactly who gave the instructions for Saturday’s pre-match announcement to supporters to ‘stand for the national anthems’ just prior to the England footy match....

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tesco rebrand Cornwall as a country....

Shabby attempt to rewrite geography and history by the world's most hated supermarket chain.
The Tesco 'finest' range includes a flurry of stuff from the English county of Cornwall. And as a craven slave to the pc agenda (and another opportunity to rubbish England), they have seen fit to whack on the Cornish county flag onto the whole product range. As this is Tesco - the hand wringing Rottweiler of the High street, county flagism does not extend to any other own brand produce from the rest of the counties of England.

Lancashire celery, Devon biscuits, Lincolnshire potatoes, Yorkshire Puddings and Cheshire Cheese - all devoid of their county flag moniker - well, they would be, wouldn't they?....

So it's official - even non-countries like Cornwall qualify as a bone fide nation state in the eyes of Tesco - and is suitably rewarded with de facto national patronage. Why? Could it be they are playing the Celtic card yet again? Probably.

Whatever the reason, it's an outrage that Tesco don't apply the same articles of nationhood to England - a country consisting of many, many counties - one of which is Cornwall.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Brian Simpson - Labour MEP getting a bit fed up with the English..

Asks Brian Simpson,North West Region Labour MEP in a recent edition of the Labour magazine “Egremont Today”

“I don’t know about you, but I am getting a bit fed up with those who keep telling me we need to have an extra public holiday centred around St George’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for an extra public holiday, but I am afraid I do not consider myself English. I consider myself British and I believe the extra public holiday should be on a day that is close to all of us British people, not one of its regional parts.

So, I find myself in agreement with George Galloway MP, when he says Battle of Britain Day in September would be the ideal candidate. It is an important date in our history and September can still offer some reasonable weather on which to have a public holiday. Unfortunately English nationalism is on the rise and although 56% of the population still favour being in the UK, 34% believes we should separate into 4 different countries, which I believe would be a disaster. Fuelled by Margaret Thatcher who did her level best to destroy all three of them. For the Welsh, Scottish and Irish, a national identity exists, but what identity exists in England?

I feel as a born and bred Lancastrian, that I have more in common with the Scots and Welsh than I do with Southern England. For me, the English Parliament would be an object disaster for the North of England, as it would be dominated by London and the South East and we would be treated like second-class citizens. No, keep the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the sports field; but in the world that really matters, let’s stick to the United Kingdom and end all of this nationalism nonsense. I am proud to be British, so let’s have a public holiday on a day relevant to Britain. What do you think?”

Brian Simpson’s email is:- Briansimpson.Labour@virgin.net