Saturday, 30 April 2016

The day my window became a tourist attraction

Well, as of today, my front window is a tourist attraction. People have been stopping, taking photos with their mobile 'phones, calling their mates to tell them, and generally providing me with an ever increasing level of laughs.

It's obviously the posters that are getting to them, but they have been up since the 31 March, and none of my neighbours has even mentioned them. That's probably because they are sick and tired of me bending their ears about the need to ensure that the list vote is used to try and ensure that Holyrood is more responsive to public opinion, which a double vote for the SNP would not do, but never mind that now.

What's going on is that today is the last Saturday of the month and my street has a trendy food festival which all good Leithers ignore, but which pulls people in from the more salubrious parts of Edinburgh. They are the ones who have decided to take in interest in Uncle Ken's window display.

Folks, we have two votes on Thursday, so I am splitting my vote!

The parties strut their final stuff as Scotland's election day looms

Today is the final Saturday before Thursday's vote, so I wandered along to the Foot of the Walk to see what the parties had to say for themselves as we head into the final straight.

The SNP stall is massive, and well stocked with balloons for the kids, pens for their parents and tons of party literature. It's manned by enough volunteers to answer people's questions, and believe me there were plenty of people stopping off to speak to Ben Macpherson, the candidate for Edinburgh Northern and Leith. That's him on the left of the photo, talking to one of his future constituents.

I met Ben for about two minutes a fortnight ago, but he greeted me by name and said nice things about this here blog. Given that I often cannot remember what I had for breakfast, I was impressed that his political talents are already so well developed. 

Labour were represented by these two guys, along with a woman and Malcolm Chisholm, the retiring MSP. They told me that they hope to grab two or three seats on the list, which strikes me as a reasonable hope. They might even manage four, given that they are certain to lose the constituency to the SNP. It really all depends if their vote holds up on that all-important second ballot paper.

Of all the activists that I spoke to today, these were the two that I would most like to go and sink a pint or three with. They came over as sane and sensible, just like you expect from men of my generation - ahem...

The Greens were represented by these two blokes, who told me that they are hoping to improve on their 2011 performance, which saw them take one seat on the Lothian list. That may very well happen, if their mainly under thirty voting core remember to go along and vote - always a problem for a party that relies on the kiddie vote.

Finally, we have RISE, which is an alliance of various small parties and grouplets. Their stall was attracting quite a bit of interest from the passing shoppers, even though it was stuck in a corner and seemingly out of the way. Needless to say, they are very confident of making an electoral breakthrough, as all minor parties are until the votes are counted.

You might be wondering where the Tories and Liberal-Democrats were, and so was I, but nobody seemed to know or care. They have candidates for the constituency and  full slates for the list, but if they cannot be bothered to set up a stall in the centre of Leith, on a day when the whole town and his wife will probably walk past, then they cannot hope to do well on Thursday. I think we should forget about those parties, don't you?

The SNP are clearly going to take the seat, but there is still everything to play for on the list. If Labour can get its vote out on the day then maybe, just maybe, they can surprise themselves by increasing their representation on the Lothian list.

That would be good for them and good for democracy.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Elaine Smith is the living proof that not all Labour's candidates are deadwood

Meet Elaine Smith, who is seeking to be returned as the MSP for  Coatbridge and Chryston, a division she has represented since Holyrood was established in 1999. She is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, and her campaign can be summed up in her own words of "tax the rich, invest in education and stop the cuts." 

She is up against Fulton MacGregor, who is the SNP candidate. By all accounts he avoids answering questions, dodges hustings, and represents a party that is split from top to bottom in that constituency.

Nationally, the SNP has reneged on the promise that it made last year to increase taxes for the wealthy, and since the Central Scotland region could only muster a derisory 6.4 percent for the Tories in 2011, you would expect that to be a vote loser for the SNP in a region that has seen its economy destroyed over the past thirty-odd years.

Perhaps needless to say, given that this is today's Scotland, Elaine Smith is fighting for her political life, and looks pretty certain to lose the battle.

That is a pity, because Labour needs to sit back after next week's impending train wreck and remember exactly what it was created to achieve, and people like Elaine Smith will be central to that debate.

Stripped of all the verbiage, Labour's foundation stands on the principle that it is the party that will keep the wages up, the management down, and the benefits flowing to those who cannot work due to the vicissitudes of capitalism. Everything else, all the social policies that now dominate the party and its thinking, were originally nothing more than add-ons that aimed to increase the party's support amongst middle class types.

Labour forgot that simple truth a generation ago when it became the party of social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it created an enormous void that the SNP was only too happy to fill. However, the SNP cannot become the party that will tax the wealthy and their middle class stooges at a level that is appropriate to even begin repairing the damage that their votes have inflicted upon us down the years - but a party that has its roots deep inside every council estate and job centre can.

That debate should start on the 6th May, with the likes of Elaine Smith adding her weight to it from her position as an MSP.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Why the 2016 Scottish elections are so boring

The plan was to post a running commentary of this year's Scottish General Election, but since this is the most boring election I have ever witnessed, I decided not to bother. Given that the first time I ever voted was in October 1974, I have a lot of elections to look back on, but I have never experienced anything as predictable as the current one.

That the SNP will be returned to office is accepted by all and sundry, with the only question being the size of their majority. As the Scottish parliament was set up with the aim of ensuring that no single party would ever be able to dominate the chamber, that fact alone should tell the reader just how popular the governing party is. Out of 129 seats, we can expect the SNP to take around 70 on the 5th May 2016, something which is a tribute to their own abilities, as well as being a condemnation of the opposition parties.

The simple truth is that the SNP has produced a very good government for Scotland, which means that an awful lot of people who voted No in the independence referendum will  vote for the SNP next month because they are quite happy with all the goodies that are provided by that government.

The Tories have already given up the ghost, with their manifesto telling us just how much they will oppose the SNP government. Think about that for a moment, as even the Liberals back in the day used to tell us what they would do if they became a government, but the Tories cannot even work up enough enthusiasm to do that. Instead, they cling pathetically to their last remaining strongholds in the Borders, and pray that the Grim Reaper does not scoop up the last of their voters before the election is over.

As for Labour, at least they are putting forward a programme for government, but the problem is that hardly anyone believes a word that they say. The party's voters are jumping ship to the SNP on a daily basis, with the result that Labour and the Tories are in a race to see which party suffers the most next month. Will the Tory vote die off quicker than Labour's abandons that party? We will know in less than a fortnight.

To make matters even dafter, a bout of quite entertaining infighting has already broken out in Labour's ranks even before the polls open, as various factions try to take control of the mangled corpse of that once proud party.

So what is there to report? The activists are all being very active, but there are hardly any window posters to be seen because the population at large knows that the SNP will be returned handsomely to government next month.

Which is as it should be.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Best Brexit poster ever

Probably the best Internet poster ever. Says it all, really. Let's spread it around the web.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The SNP promise to help the disabled

This is the first really good news for the disabled since the scummy Tories took power in 2010. Well, good news for those of us who are disabled and who live in Scotland, that is.

The Tories started to replace Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment in 2012, and PIP aims at one thing and one thing alone, which is to reduce the benefits' bill by doing over the disabled. In Scotland, the SNP government plans to subvert that in the following ways:
1. Reform the whole assessment procedure to remove the stress that the current private provision of the "service" creates.
2. Restore the long-term awards for people with a condition that will never improve.
3. Create sensible time-scales for the assessment process.
4. Ensure an open and accessible appeals process.
5. Continue to provide DLA/PIP as a non means tested benefit.
People will complain and say that PIP is harder to apply for than DLA, but it is a step in the right direction for the disabled. 

Looking ahead, all of this will need a new Scottish social security ministry to oversee the quarter of state benefits, excluding pensions, that are on the cusp of being devolved. As this ministry replaces the infamous ATOS with state employees to carry out and administer the devolved benefits' process, that will create several hundreds, at least, of new, permanent jobs here in Scotland.

For the disabled, we can finally start to look forward to a system that was similar to the one that we had before the cataclysm of 2010. It will not be perfect, nothing ever is, but it will at least aim at meeting our needs, instead of seeking to save money for a government that only wants to reduce taxes for the rich and the middle class who grovel to them.

Another good reason, as if you needed one, to give your constituency vote to the SNP next month!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Scottish Cuisine: Stovies

Stovies look a bit like scouse or potato hash, but they have one secret ingredient which makes them very different and utterly divine. They are cooked with genuine beef dripping, and it is regarded as an insult to the Scottish nation if anyone makes them with any polyunsaturated piss-oil. I had forgotten just how great food cooked in dripping tastes until I moved up here and discovered that the only cooks who don't use dripping are those who prefer lard instead.

Yes, yes, I know how veggie oil took over in the 1960s down in England, but it never did in Scotland. My mother bought it as well, much to my father's disgust, because it was so much cheaper than proper dripping back then, but today an eight ounce block of beef dripping can be had in your local Tesco for just 60p, so there is no longer any excuse to eat badly.

Right, settle back 'cos here's Uncle Ken's recipe for stovies:

You will need:

1 ounce best beef dripping
1 pound mince
1.5 pounds potatoes
2 onions
Salt and pepper - and in my case chilli powder, 'cos of all those years in Mexico.

Now then, pay attention as I'll only say this once:

1. Slap the dripping into a saucepan that is big enough to hold everything, and set it on a medium-high heat.

2. Toss the onions in. I buy mine frozen and ready chopped: you know it makes sense, don't you? So a couple of good handfuls will do. Otherwise chop up a couple of onions if you want to make work for yourself.

3. When the onions are nice and soft, throw the mincemeat in and let it brown.

4. Chop your potatoes into 1/4 inch scallops.

5. Put the potatoes into a bowl and half fill with boiling water. Put that in the microwave and cover with a plate, then zap it on full power for five minutes.

6. Take the potatoes out of the water and add them to the saucepan that has the mince in it.

7. Give it all a good stir, and add your salt and pepper. Trust me, you cannot have too much salt and pepper so go to town with it.

8. Turn the heat down to low-medium, cover the saucepan with a lid, and leave it all to bubble away for about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time, if you can remember. Don't worry if you forget, as the burnt bits on the bottom only add to the taste of the final dish. 

Some people add a half cup of water with a beef stock cube in it, but I don't, since I prefer my stovies dry. In any event, if you buy cheap mince it tends to have water in it, anyway, which saves you the bother of adding it yourself. I sometimes do add a handful of chopped mushrooms, if I think on, as well as a similar handful of chopped carrots, if there are any to hand in the freezer, since they all add to the bulk, but they are not essential to the dish.

The nice thing about this quintessentially Scottish dish as that if  friends arrive unexpectedly all you need to do is slap some more spuds, carrots and mushrooms into yesterday's pan to bulk it out a bit more and feed 'em on the cheap.

Just remember: never, ever use anything other than beef dripping for your stovies!
Views Themes -->