Category Archives: Politics

Will Biden keep the Veep?

It is said that you learn something new every day and today I have learned that the shortened form of VP (Vice President) of the United States is “Veep”.

The forthcoming elections see Paul Ryan for the Republicans and Joe Biden for the Democrats fighting it out for the title and they are about to go head to head in a live TV debate later today.   Joe Biden is already the Vice President, having held this office since 2009, while Paul Ryan is the Republican Congressman for Wisconsin.

As is always the case in politics, it is easy to find stories that will discredit the individuals and make us doubt their integrity.  For instance, Paul Ryan once said he’d run a marathon in under three hours – but later admitted it was more likely four, while Joe Biden pulled out of the presidential nomination race in 1987 after allegations that he’d plagiarised part of a speech by the then Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock.

But what exactly is a Veep and do they matter?

Well they are expected to take over if the president is no longer able to govern – hence the phrase “only a heartbeat away from the presidency”.   This has happened 14 times in total, including when JFK was assassinated and when Richard Nixon resigned. They preside over the Senate and cast a deciding vote.   In the 1930’s, Vice-President John Nance Garner described the role as “not worth a bucket of warm spit”, but many vice-presidents now take on important portfolios and act as a “sounding-board” for the president.

Perhaps more attractive is the opportunity it can present.  The VP office often serves as a springboard to a later presidential bid – George Bush Senior, and Al Gore were both VPs first.

Book ’em Danno!

I don’t pretend to fully understand America’s political system or what is happening in the latest Presidential elections and I have no idea whether the USA should stick with Obama or vote in Romney instead.  What I do understand, however, is that the behaviour of the individuals themselves, like our own less than savoury lot, always manages to regress back to their childhoods with the sort of playground bullying tactics coming into play that make us all want to cringe with embarrassment.

Putting Romney’s tax affairs to one side along with Obama’s dope smoking whilst at High School, the latest row seems to centre around Obama’s heritage.

Mitt Romney firmly believes President Barack Obama was born in the United States, or at least he says he believes it. But apparently he also believes there’s no harm in jokingly implying otherwise.  At a campaign stop in Michigan, the presumptive Republican nominee happily pointed out he’s a native and that ‘no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.’ 

The usual partisan fireworks ensued with an Obama spokesman claiming Romney had chosen to ‘enlist in the birther movement,’ (don’t you just love these made up words?) and Republicans crying hypocrisy over Democrats ‘feigning outrage.’ 

The best response however may have come from the President’s Twitter account which posted the following tweet: Song of the day: ‘Born in the USA.’

If Obama (aged 51) does lose the campaign in November, may I suggest an alternative career for him?  If he was indeed born in Honolulu, he could perhaps take the lead role in a new TV series called Hawaii 5-1!!!

What happens in Vegas can no longer be expected to stay there

Oh dear, what were you thinking Harry???

As nude pictures of the 3rd in line to the throne have spread across the Internet this week, British websites, newspapers and television stations have been banned from showing them which, in this age of technology is pretty silly as a simple Google search provided the evidence.  There is an element perhaps of running scared following the recent Leveson Inquiry, together with the fact that Prince Charles has instructed lawyers to threaten legal action for infringing Prince Harry’s ‘privacy’.   Regardless of Codes of Conduct and legislation however, the internet will always have space for as many nude photos of Prince Harry as partygoers with mobile phones can muster.

After much thought I have decided not to include the naked pictures in this post but if you want to check them out for yourself, last night a Google search for ‘Prince Harry Naked’ produced 68,300,000 results and a search for ‘Prince Harry Naked Pictures’ generated 25,800,000 results.

Whatever your opinion on this matter we should remember that Harry is no longer a teenager, he will be 28 next month – his position as an Officer in the British Army demands his observation of their own code of ethics as well as his obvious status within the Royal Family.  So what possessed him to show off his very own “Crown Jewels” in a game of “strip billiards”?  Prince Charles probably hasn’t seen his son naked since he was a baby. Now, anyone who has looked at a Hollywood-based website has.

And another question?  Where was his security and why did they not stop him?  Earlier in the day, bare-chested and wearing sunglasses, he blended in perfectly with the rest of the pool party revellers.  But the man sharing Prince Harry’s Jacuzzi in Las Vegas is in fact his taxpayer-funded police protection officer.  The unnamed Scotland Yard officer, on the left in the picture above, was one of at least three personal protection officers tasked with guarding the 27-year-old prince round the clock on his US holiday.  His police detail is estimated to cost the taxpayer £2million a year, and the photos are bound to raise questions at the highest level.  Dai Davies, the former head of Scotland Yard’s Royalty Protection Squad, said it was a ‘very tricky situation’ for the officers.  But he added: ‘I’m not exactly sure how [protecting Harry] can be done when you are wearing your swimming trunks in a Jacuzzi. Where is his gun for a start? And if he is not deemed to need one then is there any justification for him being there?’

Harry and his entourage left Vegas on Tuesday, arriving in Los Angeles just an hour after his naked photos hit the internet.  In blue shirt, cream Panama hat and sunglasses, the prince looked apprehensive as he waited in a car park outside a restaurant in trendy Venice Beach.  While his friends ate inside, he spent much of his time on his mobile phone suggesting that the news had been broken to him that he was now an internet sensation.

Whatever the fallout is from his latest antics, I am pretty sure that when he gets home he’ll find out that Granny is not amused!!!

Cracks are appearing in the glass

The term Glass Ceiling refers to “the seen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.  The Glass Wall – Refers to the phenomenon of high rates of women advancing to executive positions but only in certain industries.

Throughout history women have become aware of the strains being put on them and have begun to fight it. An example of this would be Hillary Clinton’s run for presidency, which is often seen as the highest glass ceiling in America.  While many women have already broken these barriers and have successfully become CEO’s of companies, putting a woman in the White House remains the ultimate challenge.

It was with delight, and not a little amazement, therefore to discover that the TUC, which throughout its 200 year history has always been “also known as the Men’s Movement”, has chosen a woman, Frances O’Grady, to be its new leader. 

Ms O’Grady (age 52) has been an active trade unionist and campaigner all her working life.  As Deputy General Secretary of the TUC since 2003, she led on winning the 2012 Principles of Co-operation Agreement with the Olympic Authorities, guaranteeing on-site minimum standards for local jobs, health and safety and the London living wage.  Ms O’Grady has also led on industrial policy arguing the case for a strategic approach to rebalancing the economy in the wake of the financial crash. Fair pay remains a core ambition and she represents the TUC on the Low Pay and the High Pay Commissions, and on the Resolution Foundation’s Commission on Living Standards. Frances is a strong believer in protecting the public service ethos, opposes privatisation and leads the TUC campaign to save the NHS.

There is no questioning her credentials or her suitability for this role.  A little part of me can’t help but think though that they thought they were appointing a Francis instead of a Frances – nudge, nudge, wink, wink!

Independence Day

And so to the 3rd in my series of “On this day in History”.

Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence on July 4 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain. 

Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political speeches and ceremonies.  In addition there are usually various other public and private events celebrating the history, government and traditions of the United States. 

Historians have long disputed whether Congress actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later confirmed that they had signed it on that day.  Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.

In a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.  Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but another Founding Father who became a President, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third president in a row who died on this memorable day.  Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only President to have been born on Independence Day.

Poor Barack Obama – he was born on 4th August 1961 – exactly a month too late !!!

Beckham for PM?

Another exciting week in the world of football!

On Monday night, the return of the King – Thierry Henry!

For those who thought it was a joke that Arsenal were turning to Henry, well, the old ones are the best.  So much for the legacy being tarnished.  So much for him losing his touch in the MLS.  It had to be Henry scoring here, recording his 227th goal for Arsenal. The script was written, the stage was set. It just needed Henry to rise from the bench, replacing the disappointing Marouane Chamakh, whose shocking form was another reason why Arsenal need the man on loan from New York Red Bulls. No wonder Arsène Wenger wants to extend the loan to the maximum eight weeks.

For those lovers of symmetry, Arsenal’s No 12 struck his 12th goal in 12 appearances against Leeds 12 minutes from time. At the final whistle, as a fourth-round tie against Aston Villa was secured, Henry almost did not want to leave his field of dreams. The Leeds centre-half, Tom Lees, requested his shirt, but Henry was not in the mood for giving away such precious souvenirs. This was one for the private collection.

Then on Tuesday we hear the news that Jason Euell is returning to Wimbledon on a loan deal from Charlton Athletic.

Jason might not stir the imagination like Thierry Henry but the veteran forward can expect an enthusiastic welcome on his competitive return to Wimbledon 11 years after he left south-west London.

So what about the latest headlines where it has been claimed that Eric Cantona is in the running for the French presidency?  Even as the news was announced, igniting hope in his fans and a host of bad jokes, it felt like a dream. In the end, it was a sort of mirage.

Cantona had written a letter in the French newspaper Libération which seemed to state his intention to gather 500 signatures, the symbolic number needed to launch a campaign for the presidency. He described himself as “very much aware of our times” which he argued offer “limited opportunities” to the young and generate “violent” and “systematic” injustices.  It sounded like the perfect platform from which a man most famous for a swift piece of retributive justice – that kung-fu kick – could launch an equally fiery and passionate campaign to unseat the current French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

It prompted much excitement and some excellent comments on Twitter, including many along the lines best expressed by the BBC presenter, Jeremy Vine, who tweeted: “Cantona wants to be the next president of France. Oh yeah, and Thierry Henry is going to play for Arsenal again and score the winner on his debut.” 

But then the excitement crumbled just as rapidly as the current Manchester United frontline in the second half against City last Sunday.  Cantona had played a blinder, sold a dummy, feinted in front of goal: pick the bad football pun of your choice.  The paper’s deputy editor explained that the letter was not a presidential bid as such, but rather a call to get 500 mayors to sign a petition about the French housing crisis for the charitable Abbé Pierre Foundation.

Despite being voted as Manchester United fans “Player of the Century” last year, this is surely a stunt too far.  Whatever will we see next?  Beckham for Prime Minister or maybe even Sir Alex as Scotland’s next First Minister?  Stranger things have happened I suppose.

Dentally defective rat?

Conservative senator Nicole Eaton has said in a statement to the Senate that the beaver is no longer fit to be Canada’s national emblem, and should be replaced with the polar bear.  She apparently said that the beaver was “an outdated symbol, and a destructive rodent”.

The polar bear – with its “strength, courage, resourcefulness and dignity” – would be a better fit, she argued.

The beaver has been the official emblem of the country since 1975 but the senator believes that it is time for an an “emblem makeover”.

“Many accuse the dentally defective rat of being a nuisance that wreaks havoc on farmlands, roads, lakes, streams and tree plantations,” she said, adding that a country’s symbols can “change over time”.

“It is high time that the beaver step aside as a Canadian emblem or, at the least, share the honour with the stately polar bear.”

Ms Eaton’s staff told The Globe and Mail newspaper that the senator was a fan of polar bears – she has several photos of the Arctic beast in her office. However, a member of Parliament who represents Manitoba said removing the beaver would ignore the animal’s impact on Canada’s history.

“Polar bears are cool but the beaver played a pivotal role in the history of Canada,” said New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin. “It was the relentless pursuit of beaver that opened the great Northwest.”  Early French and English colonists worked and lived in the country’s far reaches to trap beavers for their pelts.

Removing beavers entirely from Canada’s national symbols would be labour-intensive: a stone beaver sits on top of the entrance to Parliament and appears on Canadian nickels.

Michael Runtz, a natural history professor at Carleton University told Canadian television that the national emblem is not just a question of history.

“They are like Canadians. Their demeanour is very pleasant,” he added. “Polar bears inspire fear.”

Thank goodness we don’t have this problem in the UK.  All the countries in Britain have their own patron saint and floral emblem:

England, the Rose and St. George, Scotland, the Thistle and St. Andrew, Ireland the Shamrock and St. Patrick and Wales, the Daffodil or Leek and St. David.

I really can’t see this changing anytime soon – or being debated in Parliament for that matter!!!

Where to find Salmond in deep water

When I started writing this blog I made a semi-conscious decision that I would keep it pretty light-hearted and not enter into too dangerous territory.  For this reason I haven’t thus far written about anything remotely political as this is an area which is always controversial and subjective. 

Today, however, I just can’t help myself when I hear that Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, has been caught out, yet again, with what he terms a “mistake” but which the opposition  would call “misleading parliament”. 

He had to apologise yesterday for saying that referendum expert Dr Matt Qvortrup had endorsed the SNP government’s plans for a two-question vote on Scotland’s future.  He later corrected his comments, saying he had used information at Holyrood which was “wrong”.  Prof Qvortrup had told the Times that a two-question referendum was untenable.

We don’t have to look too far to find some other “howlers” from the man himself.

In 2009 his comment in a Spanish television interview that “sterling is sinking like a stone” is indefensible from a UK government minister and could have had serious repercussions on Scottish jobs.

In 2010 during a live television debate he conceded that the perpetrator of the Dunblane massacre would have been treated differently to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi by the Scottish Government had he survived.  Mr Salmond admitted Thomas Hamilton would never have been freed on compassionate grounds had he lived and later contracted terminal cancer.  Political opponents called for an apology and the US families of the Lockerbie victims said the remarks were “astounding”.

The First Minister has a habit of grandstanding and he will say anything to please an audience. 

On this latest debacle, Mr Fraser, the deputy Tory leader, said: “It speaks volumes about this government that, when it comes to their flagship policy of an independence referendum, they mislead, manipulate and manufacture evidence in support of their stance and they browbeat and bully those who dare to take a contrary view.”

The First Minister wants to put two propositions on the ballot paper, one that would mean Scotland becoming an independent country and the other that would preserve the Union with England, albeit with Holyrood being handed all tax powers.

Confusingly, Mr Salmond wants Scots to vote ‘yes’ to both questions. This could give him the consolation prize of more financial powers if he cannot convince people to back full separation.

But the Liberal Democrats questioned what would happen if a majority of Scots did as he wished and supported both propositions, despite their contradictory positions on the Union.

The First Minister’s senior special adviser responded that Scotland would become independent, even if more people backed the second question advocating extra powers but remaining part of the UK.

The astonishing admission appears to confirm concerns expressed by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, that Mr Salmond will attempt to bamboozle Scots into backing independence.

But what do the people of Scotland really want? 

The vast majority of opinion polls conducted post 2006 show support levels for independence at between 20% and 40%.  Despite the large number conducted on the issue, it is difficult to gauge definitively Scottish public opinion on independence because of the often widely varying results.  Poll results often differ wildly depending on the wording of the question, with the terms such as “breakup” and “separation” often provoking a negative response.  For example, an opinion poll published by The Scotsman newspaper in November 2006 revealed that a “Majority of Scots now favour independence”.  However, a poll conducted by Channel 4 only two months later reported that “The figure in support of Scottish independence had seemingly dropped”.  A third poll by The Daily Telegraph claimed that a significant proportion of Britons would accept the breakup of the United Kingdom.  Research conducted in early 2007 revealed a rise in support for nationalist parties across the UK amongst younger voters.  A notable comparison made was that in 1981 55% of respondents claimed to be ‘Very proud’ of Britain whereas in 2007 that number had dropped to 45%.  In a poll in 2007 commissioned by The Scotsman newspaper it said support for Scottish independence was at a 10 year low with only 21% of people in support for it.  Conversely, a 2008 opinion poll commissioned by the Sunday Herald newspaper, showed that support for independence was 41%.  When polls give three options, including an option for greater devolution or a new federal settlement but stopping short of independence, support for independence significantly declines.  In a poll by The Times, published in April 2007, given a choice between independence, the status quo, or greater powers for the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom, the last option had majority support.

Polls show a consistent support for a referendum, including amongst those who support the continuation of the union.  Most opinion polls performed have a figure of in-principle support for a referendum around 70–75%.  In March 2009,  The Sunday Times published the results of a YouGov survey on Scottish support for independence (mirroring the earlier 2007 poll).  Support for a referendum in principle was found to have fallen to 57% of respondents, with 53% of respondents stating they would vote against independence and 33% stating they would support independence. The Times reported that the fall in support for independence was likely linked to economic recession.

In August 2009, a YouGov survey with the Daily Mail asking if Scottish voters would support independence found that 28% would vote Yes, 57% would vote No, 11% did not know and 5% would not vote.

Another YouGov poll in October 2010 showed 34% saying Yes, and 50% not in favour of independence, with the other 16% not sure how they would vote.

A December 2010 face-to-face poll by TNS-BMRB showed 40% supporting independence, 44% opposing, and 16% unsure.

In June 2011, after the SNP majority election win, a poll by TNS-BMRB, with a 1,022 sample, showed independence support up 6% from 18 months previously, with 37% favouring independence in a potential referendum, with 45% against the proposal, and 18% not sure. The poll indicated 46% of people in Glasgow, and 51% of people under 24 supporting independence.

In August 2011, according to a TNS-BMRB/Herald poll, support for independence overtook opposition to independence for the first time since 2008, with 39% of voters saying they would vote yes, 38% saying they would vote no and the remainder of 23% was undecided or refused to say. This poll was the first one out of a series of ten conducted which all showed support for independence greater than outright opposition and as such was celebrated by the SNP as a positive sign that they may be able to reach the 50% mark.

Confused?  You should be … guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens ….. but remember this … theoretical opinion polls only tell half the story. What matters is who actually turns out to vote.

%d bloggers like this: