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.
31 December 2009
Blogging into 2010 - click on the link above
This is the final entry before this blog has to close and this web site has to be "frozen" to comply with the rules of Parliament. This web site cannot be updated from 1st January 2010 and while it will remain live, for access to the information, such as advice surgery details on the web site, no updates or news feeds are allowed from tomorrow. There will be no updates on speeches I make or questions I ask in Parliament and I have raised with the authorities the need for these to be on the web site up to the date the election is called. Unfortunately the Parliamentary authorities did not agree with this. There will now be a link to an external site, which is no longer an MP’s site, where I will continue to update my blog and it will also be more political as the other site will not have any political restrictions on its content. The months ahead will be dominated by the General Election and I hope followers of this blog will continue to use the link above to hear what is unfolding in the weeks and months ahead. All that leaves me to say is to wish you all the best for the New Year and for a peaceful and prosperous 2010 to you all. All that leaves me to do this year is to go out and end the year watching the best fireworks and laser light display in the country, over Edinburgh Castle.
30 December 2009
One Perfect Match
I was the guest of honour today at the wedding of David and Batya Forsyth, who had flown from California to get married in Edinburgh, where David was born. Some weeks ago it had looked like the wedding might have to be cancelled as Batya's visa had not come through; fortunately I was able to sort things out. The service was in the old Lothian Regional Chambers, where I used to work when I was an Edinburgh City Councillor. The reception was in the Royal Scots Club, but the surprise end to the day was when we were all taken to Tynecastle to watch a Hearts v Motherwell game. David clearly had happy memories of Hearts from his childhood, unfortunately the standard of this match was grim and when it started to snow I could feel every icy blast as I sat there in my kilt. At least there was one perfect match today.
29 December 2009
Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of William Ewart Gladstone, known as the Grand Old Man; he was a Liberal statesman and Prime Minister four times. He had an amazing life and also found time to promote major constitutional changes - as well as the rescue of fallen women, even when he was Prime Minister. A group of Liberals braved the weather and joined former Liberal Party leader, David Steel, to place a wreath at the Gladstone memorial in central Edinburgh. Part of Gladstone's old constituency of Midlothian is also in my own constituency of Edinburgh West. Also there was the previous MP for Edinburgh West, Donald Gorrie and MSPs, Councillors and friends. As we shivered in sub-zero temperatures, a message from his family mentioned how he liked to spend his birthday in the Mediterranean - wise man.
18 December 2009
The final day at work before the Christmas break just gives me one last chance to look back at the year and to look forward to my last Christmas as an MP. It has been a memorable year for lots of reasons and I am sure the year ahead will also be an interesting one. With a General Election and a complete change of direction for me, after a decade in which I was selected as a candidate - then became the MP, got re-elected and then decided to stand down. I have enjoyed every minute of it and would like to thank all those who supported and worked with me over this period, many of whom have become real friends. A big thanks also goes to all those constituents who have also made it such a worthwhile job and who have sent me hundreds of letters, cards and emails. Apologies in advance for anyone I missed out from my ever expanding Christmas card list. Finally I would like wish all the blog readers all the best for the festive season, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. More from me in 2010.
17 December 2009
Peter Sarstedt or is it David Howarth ?
Clearing the desk at Westminster today, before flying north from a snowy London for Christmas and the New Year. Feel like I will not need to eat anything at all today, as I enjoyed my third Christmas dinner yesterday evening and still feel full. It was also the final Christmas at Westminster for my colleague David Howarth, the MP for Cambridge and we had invited friends to share our last supper. Before the meal, I paid a short visit to a music industry event and the first person I was introduced to was Peter Sarstedt. For those of a certain vintage, his name conjures up one song everyone knows the words to, he was number one in the charts in the 60's and Right Said Fred covered the same song, "Where do you go to my lovely" in the 90's. It was a classic - sang it to myself on the way home.
16 December 2009
The Iraq Inquiry
The last day of Parliament and the last PMQ before Christmas. I tried to get called during Prime Minister's Questions, as I wanted to ask a question about the Iraq Inquiry, which has given witnesses a really easy ride. From today's newspapers it also looks like the inquiry has been misled over the evidence given to it about the weapons that supposedly could be launched from Iraq with only 45 minutes warning. That was a key part of the argument at the time, from those who were pushing for war. At the start of next year Tony Blair will be giving evidence and I wanted to makes sure that he was thoroughly cross examined, but this looks increasingly unlikely. He might "get away with murder" as some would say.
15 December 2009
The Legg Letter
After the publication of the 2008/9 expenses last week, today MPs received their individual letters from Sir Thomas Legg regarding overpayments which will have to be repaid. My own letter stated that there were no issues and no amounts to be repaid. His report will now go to the Members' Estimate Committee and no doubt this will continue to drag out right up to the next election. I am also planning to close down this blog when Parliament breaks up at the end of this week for Christmas and then to launch a new style blog in the New Year. Watch this space for more details and for links to the new blog.
14 December 2009
Volunteers' Christmas Party
An early start to the day was followed by the volunteers Christmas party in the office. It was good to say thanks to some of the many volunteers, who are the backbone of the local organisation. Said farewell to family who would have gone to Greece by the time I returned to Edinburgh. Then it was off to the airport for a mid-afternoon flight to Heathrow, so that I could attend an early evening meeting in London. After that, said goodbye to the current Convenor of the party in Scotland, Audrey Findlay, as tonight she was her final meeting in her current role. I checked with Alistair Carmichael, who has organised tonight's event, to find out if the dinner for Audrey was yet another Christmas dinner - fortunately it was not.
13 December 2009
Third Runway at Edinburgh
Enjoyed my second Christmas meal of the festive season and this was the real Christmas experience, with the tree looking good and grand-children opening lots of presents from under it and enjoying the paper as much as the presents. Everything from a robotic toy dog, which was more real than many real ones, to clothes, toys and the star present - which was a mini vacuum cleaner. Not sure what the attraction was, but it clearly impressed more than anything else. In the sub-zero temperature outside I set up my two lines new blue lights along the garden path only to realise that from a distance it looks like a mini runway at Edinburgh Airport. Hope that there are no emergency landings in the weeks ahead - except by the man with the white beard.
12 December 2009
The Christmas Tree
While out and about in Murrayfield this morning I am still meeting many more constituents who want to chat about my decision to stand down and what my plans are for the future. The more I discuss it, the more settled I am about my decision to go and am confident that the time is right for change. The other priority for today is to buy an eight foot Christmas tree and set it up as there will be an early Christmas for family heading abroad next week. I usually get one from the Dalmeny estate, the home of Lord Roseberry, and again they had just what I needed. I went back out late in the afternoon to get round some more distributors and deliver a final bundle of literature. As it was getting dark my foot disappeared down a hole which had a missing drain cover - was lucky not to twist my ankle - time to call it a day.
11 December 2009
The week ended with another series of expenses stories from bath plugs to Bell Towers. As usual the Edinburgh Evening News went through in detail every Lothian MP and what they had claimed for. Most of my claims were for rent and utility bills and with rent currently being much more expensive than mortgage repayments, this increases the relative level of claims of those who have not bought property in London. Although I was at the top of the list, this was because of a refundable deposit paid to my landlord, which was included in my total, but will go back to Parliament when I stand down. Without this I would have been well down the table. What was noticeable was the number of "floods" experienced by Lothian MPs. I know global warming is increasing the flood risk, but for three of the nine MPs to have experienced floods in their flats does appear hard to believe. Each flood requiring redecoration, tiling or a laminate floor. No wonder the public find it hard to believe - I do too.
10 December 2009
Amnesty International Event
Met up with Tavish Scott and Mike Crockart at Edinburgh University's Potter Row site for an event with Amnesty International. This was to highlight the plight of a doctor in India who has been in prison, on a trumped up charge, for the last two years. India is not in the same league as China when it comes to abuses of human rights, and I was surprised by this case and hope the Indian Government will act quickly to see that justice is done. After that I made my first appearance on "Tavish TV". Not yet available on Sky or Freeview, but I was told that Fiona, the director on the shoot, was working on this.
9 December 2009
The Most Expensive Glass of Wine I have Never Had.
I am not one who supports the blanket increase in alcohol prices as I believe there are better ways to tackle the problem of binge drinking. There are real problems associated with alcohol, but most drinkers are sensible and do not turn to violence or crime after a drink or two. I don't think that penalising law abiding citizens is the way forward, neither do I think that they should pay for the bad behaviour of others. Last night, on the way home from the Commons, I did stop at a hotel for a glass of Pinot Grigio and was told by the barman (fortunately before he poured it) that it was going to cost £14.95 for one glass. I left - no chance of much binge drinking there. Maybe raising the price might work after all - it did for me. Tonight is my first Christmas dinner of the season with colleagues and staff - drinks are extra.
8 December 2009
High Speed Rail (again)
Started the day in a debate about High Speed Rail, with another great speech which was not delivered, as time ran out before I was called. Nobody will now hear my thoughts on how it is good for the economy, good for the environment and good for passengers. One thing HSR has managed to do is to unite Edinburgh and Glasgow, as they are now united in the campaign to ensure that HSR serves both cities in central Scotland. If it can achieve that, anything is possible.
7 December 2009
A Sad Loss
A really sad start to the week with the funeral of a friend, Amanda Alabaster. The service was a humanist one and was really moving. Her lovely daughters, sister and other gave readings about her life as we listened to music by her favourite artists, such as Van Morrison. She was a vibrant personality who loved life, white wine and chocolate. In September she was fine, in October she was unwell, in November cancer had taken hold and by December she had died. Another victim of this terrible disease and much too young too die. She will be missed by many and is a real loss to us all.
7 December 2009
Welcome J K Rowling
It is always good to welcome new residents to Edinburgh West. One new resident about to move in is J K Rowling, who is moving into Barnton in the near future. With an estimated personal fortune of £560 million pounds, she will be able to rest easy as her £1.9 million house falls just below the Mansion Tax threshold proposed by my colleague Vince Cable. I hope she and her family enjoy her new home and find the privacy they deserve.
6 December 2009
So much for my plan not to do emails at the weekend and concentrate on other things, that plan did not last long. I might make it a New Year resolution for 2010. I did manage to get out and round a number of members and helpers today, but many were out - I suspect that they were doing normal things, like Christmas shopping. Now that Princes Street has re-opened to buses and taxis it sounds like it will be worth a visit next weekend, but as a "non-shopper" I normally do all my Christmas shopping on one day and avoid the city centre. I will have to go in to Princes Street Gardens as I received an email today informing me that Santa will be there with real reindeer pulling his sleigh - and much more. It has also just struck me that I am glad I don't twitter. I notice more people with their heads down, sending off comments to people they don't know and will never meet, while ignoring people who are next to them. I would rather speak to people around me, rather than bury my head in a Blackberry. Life's too short to tweet.
5 December 2009
The final Scottish Party Executive of the year started with a minute's silence in memory of Roy Thomson, who had been a long time Executive member and a party member for nearly 50 years. All members of the Executive are up for election in December, so it could be my last meeting as well, but I hope not. I had to miss out on the Women Lib-Dems offer of attending their meeting and a Christmas lunch, as I had to fly down to the Cramond Christmas Fair. This is possibly the most up-market fair of the festive season in the constituency. Then it was on to the Blackhall Church Christmas Fair, who would be contenders for that "up-market" title. After stocking up again with more tombola prizes and questionable purchases. On the way home there was time left to get round to some distributors with our latest production and just time to nip into Tesco before darkness fell.
4 December 2009
High Speed Rail
Before my advice surgeries started today, I had a briefing from Edinburgh City Council about their views on High Speed Rail. This is something I have campaigned on for years and I have no doubt it will still be a decade before we are likely to see any light at the end of that particular tunnel. While there is an increased head of steam building up in support of HSR, some of its supporters are not convinced that the economics stack up as it heads north of Midlands region. In reality it becomes more of an attraction the longer the journey is and the more of an attractive alternative, which would then take passengers from short haul domestic flights leaving Edinburgh and Glasgow. Next week at Westminster there is an all party meeting on the issue and a debate on the subject triggered by one of my colleagues.