Friday, 28 November 2008

Recession: For Beginners

When talk of recession was starting to bubble, I received a phone call from somebody a few years younger than I am (I won't name them), who wanted to know what exactly a recession was. Goodness knows why they think I am the fount of all knowledge! Anyway, it struck me that there is a whole generation of young adults who haven't experienced a recession before, and it's going to hit them hard.

Not a week has gone by recently when I haven't met somebody who has just lost their job, and it is absolutely devastating - especially in the current climate, because they aren't confident about being able to find another one. It's disgraceful that people have been landed in this situation, through no fault of their own. The greed of bankers and the failure of governments to rein them in would be unbelievable if we weren't now living with the consequences.

What particularly worries me about this current financial downturn though, is the added ingredient of record levels of personal debt. Over the last decade or so the UK Government has encouraged people to take on huge (and unsustainable) levels of personal debt. Banks have been allowed to lend people more money than they could afford to pay back - either in the form of mortgages or personal loans. A whole generation of university students have been indoctrinated into the debt lifestyle, because they had no choice if they wanted to get a degree. I remember my first £100 overdraft in my first year at university. I felt sick to my stomach being in debt, but over the years, like most students, I got used to living with debt - it was normal to be in debt!

And then there are credit cards - buy now, pay a LOT MORE later! Yes, we all bear personal responsibility for our spending, but what about the responsibility of government? Why have they let this culture of debt flourish? Well, because it was in their interest to do so. If people have access to credit, then they feel more affluent and they can buy things that they want. The more affluent and satisfied they feel, the more inclined they are to support the party in government. Little wonder either that Gordon Brown was very happy to preside over unsustainable house price rises over the last decade... It made people feel better off.

While we (in general) have been getting into debt, Gordon Brown has also been getting the UK taxpayer further into debt. A double whammy. Now, we have really been landed in it with this latest round of borrowing. The full extent of the financial shambles Brown and co. have landed us all in will not be clear for a few years yet, but one thing is for sure - we will all pay later.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


The latest issue of destiNation has now been published - view it here.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Glenrothes - What Now?

Don't worry regular readers, I haven't been hiding in a cupboard over the weekend, distraught over Thursday's result in Glenrothes. I just haven't had internet access.

I think both Richard and Anne's postings on the result best reflect my own feelings.

Obviously, I was disappointed not to win - not least for Peter Grant and all the activists who have worked so hard over the last few months on this by-election campaign. Suddenly, those 'campaigning holidays' we took in Glenrothes at the expense of a genuine holiday seem even more of a sacrifice.

I was disappointed, but not deflated. As Anne says, defeat can be as motivating as victory. Personally, I was texting our campaign coordinator in Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East about our planned activities for November first thing on Friday morning!

In the face of such a negative campaign from the Labour Party, I am very proud of the SNP campaign. We could have stooped to their level and distributed nasty anti-Labour leaflets, but we didn't. I'm glad we didn't. On polling day itself I spoke to one woman who had already voted SNP that day, who stated her intention to write to Peter Grant after the election - regardless of the result. I initially thought that she had an issue she wanted him to take up on her behalf, but no - she wanted to congratulate him for the positive SNP campaign. She said we were the only one of the main parties not to have put something 'nasty' through her door.

Yes, I think we all recognise now that the SNP should have been more direct in taking on Labour's smears about certain local issues, but that doesn't mean that we should have engaged in the kind of negative campaigning that Labour resorted to out of desperation.

This by-election has reminded me that we cannot take it for granted that good ideas, reasonable arguments, hard work and positive campaigning are enough to persuade people to vote for the SNP. We are up against a barrage of negativity from all the parties who want to deny Scotland independence. That doesn't mean that we have to fight dirty to counter their tactics, but we do have to be constantly aware of the need to overcome it.

Thursday, 6 November 2008


After lunch, I have the afternoon off work to head up to Glenrothes for polling day.

I'm a little wary, as I sprained my ankle while canvassing there on Sunday. I couldn't walk on Monday, and had to stay at home with my feet up. That seemed to do the trick, because it is feeling much better now. Goodness knows what pain I might be in later though!

I'm not exactly a robust character. Exercise always seems to bring an injury of some variety. I can't stand the cold either. I have Raynaud's, which is a circulation problem. So, in the winter my hands and feet get VERY cold and it is often quite painful. My GP's advice a few years ago was not to go out during winter if I could help it, and if I did venture out, then I'd better get some ski gloves. Not good news for a political activist like myself! If I confined myself to campaigning in the warmer months, then I'd hardly be out. I did buy ski gloves (or more accurately, I think my mum bought them for me), but they are too bulky for canvassing and leafleting - my hands get stuck in the letterboxes!

Anyway, enough of this self-pity. We have a by-election to win!

It always evokes a wry smile from me on the doorsteps when people say that party activists are in politics for themselves. Believe me, the hundreds of SNP activists that are in Glenrothes today would be much better off staying at work (and not losing precious annual leave) or at home with a nice cup of tea. Then there are the train and bus fares, or petrol, to get there. But if you believe in something, and you want to make a difference, then you can't help but get involved and work towards that.

Today, the world does feel a slightly different (and better) place because of what has happened in the US. The world has become an increasingly cynical place over the last decade, and I think it is about time that we looked at things afresh and at our potential, as individuals, communities, countries and global citizens to really change things.

I do think that this mood may impact on the decision of people in Glenrothes on whether or not to cast their vote today, and on who they decide to cast it for.

We will have to wait a little longer to find out though, and I've got a train to catch.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


So, did my endorsement swing it for Obama? I'm far too modest to comment ;o)
I stayed up as long as I could last night to watch the results (even doing some ironing to stay awake) and I missed him crossing the finishing line - but it was clear by the time I was dozing off that victory would be his.
On the train this morning, and coming in to my office building, I could hear conversations about Obama - and even a little chanting! His campaign has not just energised the US, but it has also given a little bit of hope to people all over the world.
I don't envy him. He has a massive task ahead of him. Despite the current economic situation, expectations of him are high - especially from those who voted for the first time in this election. There are a lot of people who are looking to him to make their lives better. Four, even eight years, is not a lot of time to make the kind of changes that are necessary to transform the lives of Americans struggling in low paid jobs or to tackle the massive challenges posed by the US system of health care.
One thing is for sure though - along with Joe Biden, he will do a whole lot better than the McCain/Palin duo ever could.
I think it is in the international arena that Obama can deliver the most clear change, and he has the potential to change the way the rest of the world perceives the US, and also how the US interacts with the rest of the world.
Back to an election closer to home now, and to Glenrothes. There have been a few people talking about the US elections on the doorstep, and they were talking optimistically about the future. Hopefully people in Glenrothes and across Scotland will be motivated by this momentous result, and grab a bit of change for themselves.