This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.

Barrett’s Blog

From 1st January 2010 this site will no longer be updated, in accordance with Parliamentary rules.

The site will be kept online and can still be used to find information and to contact John, but the latest news will be posted on the West Edinburgh Liberal Democrats website.

This blog aims to give an insight into the day to day life of an MP, rather than being a political soapbox.

November 2008

28 November 2008

Prudence is dead

This week has witnessed more financial turmoil. Starting on Monday with the Chancellor's pre-budget statement and ending with the Government owning almost 60% of the Royal Bank of Scotland. After being told that excessive debt and reckless borrowing are at the heart of the global financial problems, much of this driven by the government and the banking system. The proposed solution will now leave the government with more debt and promoting reckless borrowing. "Prudence", Gordon Brown's best friend for many years, is now dead. Not only will we have tax rises in the future to pay for the current borrowing, I have serious doubts the medicine is going to help cure the patient at all. One small crumb of comfort on page 20 of the Chancellor's statement was a direct response to my campaign to make sure that those already unemployed and receiving help with their mortgage interest costs are not hit by falling bank rates. This sounds strange, but under the present system one group badly hit by falling bank base rates are unemployed mortgage holders.  I spoke to the Treasury Minister this week about this matter and he assured me that further work will be done on this issue in the weeks ahead. No other MP has been raising this with him.  With more job losses expected in the year ahead, it is good to get one safety net in place. At the RBS their shareholders decided to snub the offer of new shares and the Government has stepped in with £15 billion for a majority stake in the bank as well as £5 billion for preference shares. Hopefully an end to fat cat city bonuses for those delivering massive losses will be the next item on the agenda.

23 November 2008

Chrismas starts early

Like many other people, I feel that Christmas starts too early, with some shops installing their Christmas displays at the end of October. I tend to do most things, like shopping, closer to the date, when the Christmas spirit is in the air. One thing that as an MP I can no longer leave to the last minute - is the sending out of Christmas cards. Sending out around 1,000 cards each year is quite a task and I know that I will miss out someone by mistake, so this is my apology in advance. I have started, but will not finish for a while yet. Over the years I have got to know so many people that the card list grows and grows, no doubt it will increase again in 2009. This year we have produced a card which will hopefully do some good for two organisations, Sightsavers and the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The design is one of Carol's, from when she was working at the CCF and those who have seen it say that it stands out. It also captures the real spirit of Christmas, as it encourages people to give some thought to those less fortunate than ourselves as this time of year.

British Computer Society Awards

19 November 2008

Best MPs website in Scotland - It's official

Was absolutely delighted when this web site reached today's final of the British Computer Society's 2008 Website Awards. This is an annual event where the BCS review every MP's website and produce a shortlist of 50 sites which have reached the final. Three sites then reach the final in each of four categories, design, accessibility, engagement and overall best MP website. I had to leave the award event early as I was intervening in a debate and did not find out what had happened with the final result. It was only later when one colleague said "congratulations" that I found out this web site had reached the final three in the "Best MP Website" category and in the end, as the only Scottish finalist, it is in fact the best MP's website in Scotland. Thanks go to everyone who has contributed to, and who had given me feedback over the years.

14 November 2008

A Happy Ending

The day began with an early phone call to say that the mother of a constituent had been detained by the immigration authorities at Heathrow Airport. She was visiting her daughter, who was graduating from Napier University, and was travelling from Nigeria. I had been involved in the case for a while and new that she would arrive late for the event, however the immigration inspectors noticed thought this was a fraudulent attempt to get into the country. The end product was an older lady, with high blood pressure, was now in detention. With poor English and a frantic family in Edinburgh everything else had to go on to the back burner while I contacted a variety of people to sort the problem out. By the end of the day the mother, in traditional dress, met up with the daughter she had not seen for a long time and I was pleased to be able to stop by the graduation party and welcome her to Scotland.

11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

More people than ever are now remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and with our troops in action in a number of war zones, this is a difficult day for many.

Following the results in the Presidential elections I received an invitation from the American Ambassador in London to come to an event in the evening at Winfield House, his London residence. This would be one of his final gatherings with MPs as he would submit his resignation in the New Year and would be replaced some time after that. As a Republican, his days were numbered. He produced cardboard cut-outs of the President and Vice-President elect to stand by his side as he gave a warm and well measured speech to all present. Following this, his wife told of the history of the building and of how it was given to the US Government by the Woolworth's heiress, who had given up using it as a family home just before the second world war.

8 November 2008

Rally on the Mound

As the guest speaker at a rally on the Mound against the camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where many have been held without trial for years, I arrived to be met by dozens of young people in bright orange boiler suits. The protest was organised by school pupils in Edinburgh and supported by Amnesty International, who have long campaigned against the camp's existence. Following a human rights lawyer, I spoke to the crowd and then we marched to the American consulate. It was the fastest march I have ever attended and we reached our destination in record time. Clearly this issue has fallen off the news agenda and it was good to see so many young people taking an interest in the issue of detention without trial. Nobody was saying that everyone detained was innocent, but what was being demanded was a fair trial so that innocence or guilt could be proved. Some time ago I listened to the father of a British detainee. He was asking for same, asking for justice to be done. Many years later his son was released - without charge. It is good to hear that already, the President elect is wrestling with this problem.

5 November 2008

History in the making

A late night spent watching the results come in for the USA and in the end a stunning victory for Barack Obama in the race for the White House. Hopefully this will bring not only an end to the Bush years and the influence of the "old guard" in Washington, but also hopefully the call for change will see an early end to the war in Iraq and the return of our troops in 2009.  Not only was the result stunning, the interest in politics in all sections of American society and the millions who voted for the first time proved that Obama had tapped into a belief that he could deliver a brighter future. The expectations for a new President have never been higher. Only time will tell if he can deliver.

Glenrothes by-election candidate Harry Wills with local Fife MPs Ming Campbell and Willie Rennie

3 November 2008

Election Week

This week, with lots of elections in the air, it was good to speak to journalism students at Napier University and pupils at St. George's school. Most interest was naturally enough in the prospect of a new President of the USA, with Obama the current favourite. In Scotland there would also be a parliamentary by-election in Glenrothes and a council election in Edinburgh with every election under different systems there were lots of questions about how best to deliver democracy. While the school pupils were all interested in the subject, it was interesting to see many of the journalism students drift into their lecture after it had started and to have missed part of what was being discussed. They will get a rude awakening if they go to a briefing or an interview late, or deliver copy late for a deadline. Their careers will soon be cut short.  

This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.