Sunday 28 February 2010

Poll weather in Scotland..outlook the same

Some encouraging poll figures for Brown out of Scotland too where the SNP has fallen a full 17 percentage points behind Labour on voting intentions for the Westminster election and is now just a single point ahead of the Conservatives.

The Scotland on Sunday YouGov poll of 1,000 Scots has Labour has 38 per cent, the SNP has 21 per cent, the Conservatives have 20 per cent, while the Lib Dems have 15 per cent.

At Holyrood, the SNP is down by the same amount based against a comparable YouGov poll in November. On the constituency vote, Labour has 33 per cent, the SNP has 28 per cent, while the Tories and the Lib Dems are locked on 16 per cent.

The Westminster seat projections from these percentages mean that the picture would remain broadly the same in Scotland - Labour 40, SNP 7, Tories 1 and Lib Dems 11. There won’t be a uniform swing, of course and there could be some seat swapping for the parties to end up back where they started.

Nonetheless the status quo would spell a huge success for Labour and a big disappointment for the Tories, who have to win another in England for every one they don't gain in Scotland.

The SNP put a brave face on the results after what was a relentlessly bad few weeks for the party in the media. They think there's a better poll on the way tomorrow morning which others have paid for so I won't break their embargo.

One poll has Cam down, I said calm down

Cameron on the run in Brighton this morning but The Clunking Fist is catching up

For a Sunday morning that was an extraordinary amount of phone, e mail, text, twitter and blog traffic - all on the one subject. The Tory lead over Labour is down to two per cent - 37% to 35% - which has sent a jolt of electricity through the political village.

It left the Tories gathered in Brighton quite stunned, I'm told, but in his speech David Cameron didn't find the counterpunch he needed to rally the troops. There was a commitment on the marriage policy but the broadbrush approach isn't going to work from now on.

Vote for change is a powerful message after 13 years of any government but the electorate is entitled to ask change to what?

Cameron has to spell out what he stands for and he didn't do that well enough. As Kevin Macguire, the Mirror man, noted wryly: "This late in the game, he's having to explain what he stands for? Something's gone wrong there."

The instinctive Tory game changer, the rabbit out of the hat, would be promising tax cuts. But having made reduction of the national deficit a priority for the last six months it would be policy suicide to go down that route.

But wait a minute, keep the Brown Ale on ice. This is only one poll and a point or two further apart would make it far less dramatic. The average of the most recent survey from each of the accredited companies last week, the Tory lead is eight points. The story in the Ashcroft-funded marginal campaigns could be quite different.

Unless we're jolted out of our beds some morning this week there is a long way to go to an election and a lot more polling and pitfalls on the way.

Brown is in front of Chilcot this Friday. There is a budget to be presented to parliament - a budget, mind, not just a clever, boring one hour speech. Then there are these crucial television debates and another round of economic figures in April.

But even if the UK slips back into recession that still might work for Labour. The more uncertain people are about their future, particularly in the public sector, the less likely they are to take a risk with the Tories.

And there there is trend in all the polls -Tory support is going down like a slowly deflating balloon. Inch by inch Gordon Brown is clawing his way out of the electoral pit that had him down as low as 24% last summer. The Clunking Fist is catching up.

Friday 26 February 2010

Big Tory wobble this morning

Indicative graphic only - indicative of pulse rate at Conservative Campaign HQ where I hear all the Cameroons have decamped to from their Westminster offices.

The Tory lead is down to five points today, according to the Telegraph, opening up the possibility not just of a hung parliament but of Labour being the largest party by some 19 seats.

It's hard to take that kind of predicted outcome seriously, or without a wry smile at least. But,once again, the Tories should be home and dry by now and they're struggling to find the side of the pool.

It is one opinion poll and not the picture in the marginals that will decide the outcome of the election. There the Tories have spent Ashcroft's millions to ensure victory although even then some Labour bastions will refuse to fall.

But this is the kind of poll that will really put fire in the bellies of challengers and defenders in any seat that might switch. This really is going to be a battle royale of an election, intriguing to watch, and incredible to take part in.

On this read out the Tories are two wobbles and a panic away from serious trouble. Are their leadership team capable of withstanding the same kind of pressure that Brown has taken recently?

In the last eight weeks Brown has faced bullying allegations, an attempted coup, a very marginal start to the economic recovery, a relentlessly bad press and a high spending opposition advertising blitz. He is still moving forward, like a bulldozer.

Read the inside account from the Spectator to see how the Tories are beginning to sweat.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Nazi gold - that's the problem Athens says

Heightened tensions between Greece and Germany over the perilous state of Athenian finances, I'm afraid to report.

This from ITN political editor Tom Bradby's new blog which quotes the Open Europe press summary. Obviously written by someone with their tongue stuck firmly in their cheek:

"Greek Deputy Prime Minister, Theodore Pangalos, said Germany had no right to judge Greek finances after wreaking havoc on the economy during the four years that the country was under Nazi occupation in the Second World War.

He added that Germany had failed to make adequate compensation. “They took away the Greek gold that was at the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back. This is an issue that has to be faced sometime,” he said.

Andreas Peschke, a spokesman at the German Foreign Ministry, replied, “A discussion about the past is not helpful to solve the problems…facing us in Europe today.” The Telegraph quotes a banker saying, “How can they call the Germans incompetent Nazis and still expect a bail-out?”

(Tom, I discover is wasted on political reporting. He has six novels to his name which puts the rest of us shysters to shame.)

Wednesday 24 February 2010

The World Cup - so who will you support?

A great "little Scotland" story here about the Aberdeen store that was baffled when the police visited to gently warn that the xenophobic football t-shirts in their window might cause offence.

The vendor simply can't see the dark side of their "Anyone but England" T-shirts for this year's World Cup.

(Yes, we can all see how the "funny" side and also see how it slots us again as nation that can only define itself in terms of it's neighbour's success or failure).

It looks like this company hasn't done it's market research either. Scots are regularly asked their opinion on independence but there's only a little work done on transferability of national sporting loyalties.

The t-shirts and the Caledonian cringemouths aren't right - a majority of Scots do support England over other football teams when their own isn't playing.

I recall a huge Telegraph survey on the state of the Union in 2006 and a very little reported question it contained.

Asked who they supported when England was playing a foreign team, 48% of Scots said that they would support England.

A far smaller number, 34%, said they would support the foreign team, or the "anyone but England" side. This poll was taken at the high tide of support for independence when 52% of Scots surveyed backed the break-up of the Union.

So, on these figures almost half of Scotland will be supporting England in South Africa this year. But you won't know because they won't be wearing the shirts - probably because they're not available in many stores in Scotland.

Statistically speaking anyone selling England football tops in Aberdeen this summer would find a far better market than those appealing to Little Scotlanders.

Nicola - her candour does her some good

This candour bug does seem to be catching. Nicola Sturgeon's apology in the Scottish parliament this afternoon saved her skin, even if it left Alex Salmond scuffed.

Finding herself trapped in a corner she came out with her hands up and said sorry - she admitted she made the wrong call on a matter of judgement. Really, she had no option but it's not often you get any apology in politics and even rarer to see one so well delivered.

She didn't shirk her responsibility, and while sidestepping some awkward questions about why she backed a convicted fraudster in a court appeal, she came across as being genuinely contrite.

Even when offered a club by her own side to beat the opposition she declined, which was a particularly smart move. It was a bravura political performance. This isn't a view universally shared,I know. The Holyrood lobby is, I'm told, divided between admiration and nausea.

I think she'll survive the enemies in front of her for now but it's those behind her she needs to worry about. Having slipped up like that Sturgeon no longer looks like the unassailable inheritor of Salmond's mantle.

Labour - between heaven and hell

"PM denies forces of hell attack" is the BBC headline, as if it was Lucifer himself who had been spinning against the chancellor.

Well, Brown is the devil actually, if you read another online headline: "Church attacks Labour record on family values". That's Cardinal Keith O'Brien's opinion of the government after Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy strode into a religious minefield with a speech on faith last night.

Labour could conclude that if they are being attacked by both Heaven and Hell simultaneously then they must be doing something right. But these are both headaches they could do without.

Just as the Bullyhill allegations were being extinguished last night Alistair Darling appeared to have suffered one of his regular outbreaks of candour. He's a pretty unspun kind of politician, the chancellor, and he has the unerring ability to says all kinds of grown-up things that would pass without comment in the real world but inevitably get magnified, amplified and distorted in the media and political lense.

Last night, when he told Geoff Randal that the "forces of hell" had been unleashed against him when he predicted the worst global recession in 60 years, the pyre caught fire again . It's true, the dogs of war were out for him were in the shape of damning briefings from anonymous "sources" or "c***s", as Maggie Darling is said to have described them.

(By the way, I can't tell one way or another which parts of Rawnsley's books are accurate or not but I know Maggie Darling would never use the kind of language that is attributed to her. Well, maybe if pushed)

With Darling confirming another plank of the Rawnsley book Brown and Darling had to put on a Gilbert and Sullivan style kiss and make up at Prime Minister's Questions. The surest sign that two politicians are at daggers drawn is when they are chatty and animated in each other's company.

Murphy's problems on the other hand, is that he has fallen out of favour with someone very close to him - the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews.
Murphy's speech to a Labour thinktank is, at face value, a nuanced challenge to the party to take faith seriously in the future. It was an attempt from someone who has strong faith himself to get the party to engage with faith communities. Whatever the finessing that kind of message isn't going to be translated straight into print or on tv.

The usually sure-footed Secretary of State must have known which religious tripwires he would have set off in Scotland by wandering into religious territory.

The Cardinal predictably pointed out that there is no evidence of faith being at the centre of politics on issues ranging from abortion, stem cell research to civic partnerships and equality laws.

Murphy's people deny it was a masochism strategy to draw out the inevitable criticism ahead of the election campaign, or indeed that it was electioneering at all. Everything is political, particulary speeches by a Secretary of State in an election year.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Bullygate - Taiwan style

Crazy video that's becoming a political craze in Westminster today. This is apparently a Taiwanese news report of Bullygate - complete with animated recreation of the alleged incidents in Rawnsley's book. It all kicks in at about 35 seconds and looks like a pirate version of an x-box game but we, er, get the point.

Monday 22 February 2010

Chingford polecat looking for answers

Waiting for my three minutes of Caledonian fame on Newsnight Scotland to debate today's political shennanigans and their polling impact with the psephologist's psephologist, Professor John Curtice.

Browsing the blogs I came across Norman Tebbit's take on Michael Heseltine's take on the latest opinion polls (hang in here).

Hezza, in a move we all think was a ploy to frighten wavering Tory voters into supporting Cameron, warned that the Tories couldn't win an election outright.

That doesn't please Lord Tebbit who thinks that a Euro-sceptic, hard right Tory party (that's the one behind the curtain in every shot you see of Cameron) would make more headway.

He says: "I think Michael Heseltine owes us all not only a betting tip, but also a better explanation of why he thinks what should be the favourite for a runaway win against the most clapped out old nag ever to be entered in the General Election Stakes is not in better form."

He's right - the Tories should be home and dry by now but they're not. An ICM poll in the Guardian tomorrow has them down to 37% tomorrow, Labour only up one from it's new plateau to 31%.

On a universal swing that's hung parliament territory, with Labour 25seats behind the Tories. But the marginals, where the Tories Ashcroft money and the effort has gone, might tell a different story.

But then the role of UKIP, which could shave enough Tory votes to save Labour skins has to be taken into account too. That could make all the difference in East Renfrewshire and Dumfries. These right wing Tories, tempted to go Euro-sceptic, are the people Heseltine was appealing to on Sunday. It's going to be fascinating and Tebbit, who recommended that voters go Euro-sceptic in last years' EU election adds another twist of intrigue.

"I was glad to hear from my one-time supporter in Chingford, aasvogel, but sad that he like so many others has been driven to go over to UKIP. I understand why, and nearer to polling day I will offer my advice to voters… but not just yet."

What a tease Lord Tebbit is, and his blog is good value too.

Bullyhill - Labour guns more accurate

Still hanging around Westminster at the end of the second long day of politics fuelled by allegations of Prime Ministerial bullying. After the phoney war it finally felt like the opening salvos of the dirty election campaign of 2010.

In the chamber Diane Abbot is on her feet in a huge debate about reforming the House of Commons. Sorry Diane, no one is listening tonight.

The whole day, and yesterday, was dominated by the Andrew Rawnsley allegations about Gordon Brown. You'll be familiar with the picture by now - Gordon Brown he throws a strop, he throws things around, he grabs aides by the collar and generally gets shouty. Last week it was tears, this week tantrums - parents will begin to recognise a pattern.

Rawnsley's tale and his take on Brown would have stood as history, and still might, because of his reputation for having impeccable sources.

However, along came Christine Pratt, of the National anti-Bullying Helpline, to claim that Number 10 staff had been in touch with her organisation. At first it looked highly damaging for the Prime Minister but then Labour realised Christine Pratt was the best thing that had happened on the whole weekend.

Her allegations - she quickly emphasised that none of the complaints related to the Prime Minister - were vague betrayed the confidentiality inherent in her anonymous helpline. She mentioned receiving complaints from the Deputy Prime Minister's Office in the last 18 months but the department hasn't existed since John Prescott left the cabinet in 2007. Was she talking about Malcolm Tucker, people wondered openly?

Labour were quick to sprinkle some odour of Tory black ops, which weren't really apparent and there were immediate questions about the commercial arm of her husband's operation. One shouldn't step into the crucible so unarmed and Pratt and her story were quickly shredded.

She and her organisation limped home like a wounded Lancaster last night, all engines on fire, with four of her patrons having bailed out. The counter-spin from the right-wing blogs last night was that Labour was in danger of creating another David Kelly, the ill-fated weapons inspector who put himself at the centre of the WMD controversy when he naively overplayed his hand with the media.

The rebuttal operation was led by the old bruisers - Mandelson with the stiletto knife you wouldn't feel between your ribs and Prescott with the club that splayed everyone from poor old Mrs Pratt to Andy Coulson, Cameron's chief of staff.
(Another chapter in the News of the World phonetapping saga in a Commons report tomorrow which will throw the spotlight onto Coulson again)

Still the allegation that Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, had to give Mr Brown a dressing down over his behaviour hung in the air for nearly 48 hours before it was shot down - by Sir Gus himself. The denial took a long time coming and was carefully crafted to contradict Rawnsley directly but still leave wriggle room in Whitehall.

In contrast to Labour the Tories ran a fairly teenage spin operation, suggesting to journalists what they should write and who they should speak to. Labour put the big guns in front of microphones and fired off salvos that flattened any opposition.

A few lessons there then - don't let civilians wander onto the battlefield and either bring on the heavy armour with accurate shellfire quickly or leave well alone. I reckon Labour won the opening battle of the campaign but it's going to be a long war.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Hooray for Dave Cameron's Schooldays

Yahroo! - Tory central office must be trembling in their boots at the prospect of this account of David Cameron's schooldays, to be published by a fellow Old Etonian.

I'm still not convinced this isn't a spoof press release itself but the book - subtitled "sex,lies and caning" - is entirely made up ,especially the bits about being a paparazzo and porn dealer.

But ex-Sun lobby hack and Cameron classmate Bill Coles assures us his novel "may even contain valuable insights" into the mind of the man who could be the first Old Etonian Prime Minister in more than four decades. Somehow, I doubt that.

The real read of the weekend - serialised in the papers anyway - will be Andrew Rawnsley's "The end of the party". This is his bookend to the "The servants of the people" which charted the rise of New Labour. Less fiction, more friction guaranteed by Rawnsley.

For the truth about David Cameron's schooldays read Francis Elliot and James Hanning's biography, "The rise of the New Conservative".

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Home - new video from Colin MacLeod, the boy who...

Came across this latest offering from Swordale singer-songwriter Colin MacLeod - aka The boy who trapped the sun - yesterday (You can tell that parliament is in recess can't you).

It's a polished version of the hand-knitted video I posted here some months ago.I prefer the hand-knit although the landscape is stunning here - oh, and the song is very good too. Brings on a touch of the cianalas, but not too much.

He's playing in Islington tonight and the Home EP is being launched in Stornoway and London at the end of the month. All the best, Colin.

Poileataigs 's a chanain - a suid 'sa seo

Pìos inntinneach an seo air làrach Slugger, sàr-bhlogger à Èirinn a Tuath, mu dheidhinn poileataigs a' chànain thall an sin.

Tha sinn dualtach dìochuimhneachadh dìreach dè cho duilich 's a tha e adhartas sam bith a dhèanamh nuair a tha poileataigs treubhach nam pàrtaidhean a' tighinn a-steach air leasachadh na Gàidhlig.

Cha dh’fhuair mi cothrom - dè le “piegate” agus a h-uile sgainneal eile an t-seachdain sa chaidh - èisteachd ris an deasbad mu dheidhinn BBC Alba agus Freeview ann a Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. Leugh an t-sàr-sgrìobhaiche an seo.

Bha a h-uile duine aca, na BPAs, ag aontachadh gum bu chòir an t-seiribheis a bhith air Freeview, le glè bheag gearain mu dheidhinn. Bidh e mì-chiatach argamaid sam bith eile a dhèanamh. Buail air, chanainnsa.

Ach tha e inntinneach, nach eil, le uidhear de thaich oifigeil agus poileataigeach aig a' chànan, cho duilich 's a tha e leasachaidhean mar sgoiltean Gàidhlig a chur air adhart sna sgìrean Gàidhealtach fhèin. Tòrr taic, 's beag oidhirp.

Monday 15 February 2010

Murphy not moving anywhere

Some cheeky mischief making from SNPTacticalVoting on Jim Murphy's possible future. Basically, given Holyrood boundary changes an opportunity may open up for a certain someone to stand for the Scottish parliament in the East Renfrewshire area 2011. There's about three ifs in the theory which makes it more watering can than watertight. And what do any of us know is in store for us, I ask?

The Secretary of State for Scotland is in a "no sleep until Dover House is safe from grasping Tory hands and Caledonia is free of gnat malaria" mode just now, is the reply, and he can't contemplate life beyond a general election campaign. End of speculation, then.

New Tory poster - new ridicule

They're quick of the mark these photoshop graffiti artists who've already altered the latest Tory poster. Removing David Cameron from the artwork obviously doesn't stop the backlash.

Gordon Brown - unspun by television

I'm being told, unofficially, that 4.2 million people tuned in to see Gordon Brown being interviewed by Piers Morgan on ITV last night. That's 24% of the audience share and a respectable figure for a Sunday night.

For the sake of context there were 6m viewers for the Antiques Road Show earlier in the evening and that Skating on Ice stuff got 7.4m.

The question being chewed over this morning at a near empty Westminster is did Gordon Brown do himself any favours on television? There wasn't a dry eye in the house when he spoke about losing his daughter and, with his wife Sarah giving visible support, viewers must have felt some empathy for him.

The professional cynics accused him this morning of parading his dead child to garner a few votes but these are the hired girns, the paid attack dogs of the Tory press. Over at Radio 5, the "bloke radio" phone-in format that Downing Street constantly monitors to see how politics plays in the real world, sympathy outweighed cynicism on the speed dial.

But I felt, as I have for some time, that some people have stopped listening to Brown regardless of what he is saying. I was watching him close up a few months ago in committee, giving evidence to the Speaker's conference on parliamentary representation. He spoke first, had more to say, and made a better case but many of the cross-party MPs he was invited to talk to seemed to be doodling in their notebooks.

Next into the same seat was David Cameron, whose party's record on gender and minority representation is woeful. But Dave managed to use his charm, his new boy wattage, to make himself sound interesting and sincere in his desire to do better. The contrast, in the persuasiveness of the message, and in the body language of the listeners, was marked. They paid attention these MPs and they are the most cynical audience on the block.

Brown last night described himself as someone whose life has been a series of setbacks - sporting accident, thwarted leadership, family tragedy - from which he has always fallen forward, learning all the time. In one of the clips, when his family spoke about how he lost his eye, how that was a turning point for the young man, crystallised a few thoughts for me about why people don't connect to Brown.

Until the cruel attack on the Prime Minister over his clumsily scripted letters of condolence to the families of fallen soldiers, few people outside politics realised that Gordon Brown is blind in one eye. Those inside the Whitehall beltway rarely comment on it but it is something we've all aware of even though we might not realise.

Being deaf on one ear I'm always carefully positioning myself around people, shuffling around the room, re-arranging chairs, so that I can listen in properly. On stage I see the partially sighted Prime Minister doing much the same thing, checking himself and others spatially, constantly moving his head left and right, working hard to make sure he misses none of the visual cues most of us pick up without noticing.

Sitting in the stalls at a Downing Street press conferences, watching Brown talk with a foreign leader say, all that behaviour seems perfectly natural and understandable. Watch the same press conference again on television, with the Prime Minister's small movements framed and exaggerated by the confines of a camera and it has a totally different effect.

On television compensating for the eye loss creates a barely perceptible impression of someone who is not entirely comfortable in the situation he is. His posture makes the viewer feel uncomfortable themselves and it breaks that crucial thread of connection all television performers strive for with their audience.

It's not something anyone can do anything about, least of all Mr Brown, and not anything he should apologise for. He can only carry on being the least televisual politician of the age.

How this play out in the election television debates we're promised will be intriguing. Labour strategists are convinced that they can unspin Cameron on television, that his shallowness and the lack of experience will be exposed by the gravitas and driller killer knowledge of the Prime Minister.

Unfortunately for Brown people do more than just listen to television, they take all kinds of messages from the image as well as the words. Cameron has the light touch the medium requires, Brown has an intensity suited for radio.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

The British Museum of the Isles

I'm getting badly addicted to Neil MacGregor's excellent History of the World in 100 objects on Radio 4.

It was the legend of the Minotaur and the Minoan bull leaper today. Why do we quibble about the licence fee?

The Lewis chessmen, now guardians of the British Museum's Medieval section, aren't part of this series. They're using some Walrus ivory pieces found in a sewer in Salisbury instead and they'll be equally impressive I'm sure.

The chessmen have been home to Lewis in the past, quite successfully, and they will be back to the sands of Uig (where they were found in 1831) in the future. But isn't the perennial complaint that the Lewis chessmen, like the Elgin Marbles, be returned to their rightful "home" a very limited ambition?

Instead of moving the Lewis chessmen to Scotland why not bring a branch of the British Museum there instead?

That isn't quite as mad as it sounds. London's Victoria and Albert Museum is proposing to open a branch in Dundee in the future, the Tate has successfully exported to St Ives and Liverpool and the Guggenheim is in Bilbao.

Museum franchising is a growth business. It creates a huge cultural wave for a place and it pushes tourism figures into the stratosphere, according to the Sunday Times. Famous old museums are, quite literally, branching out.

Cities and nations bid for them, effectively buying their names, their curatorial expertise and the right to dip into their collections. Given that most leading national museums have far larger collections than they can ever show, and that they need to pull in as much income and as big an audience as they can, this makes perfect sense.

They're talking about £47m for the Dundee V&A with a return of 900 jobs and 500,000 visitors a year. That's a huge impact on Tayside.

Of course opening a "British" museum in Scotland would be a loaded political challenge for the SNP government in Edinburgh but it would be embraced as a union-salving balm by Labour or the Tories after the election.

Now, I'm not proposing a huge development. A modest display gallery perhaps linked to an high calibre university archaeological department near an existing academic campus would do for starters. Call it boutique museum franchising, call it anything you want.

It would have to be in a place that already has an incredibly rich archaeological and cultural heritage and for plain security and exotic appeal an island location would be best.

A branch of the British Museum on the site of the Lewis Castle in Stornoway - that would kill two birds with one hundred odd artefacts. Anyone got £20m and Neil MacGregor's number?

Scottish hedge fund boffin-eating machine

Who was that Hugh Hendry hedge fund monster on Newsnight last night?

The Scottish hedge fund manager ate up the Spanish ambassador and US academic Joseph Stieglitz as if they were kebab and chips after eight pints in a Dumbarton Road pub.

Hendry has bet millions against the Euro, along with other hedge fund managers, bringing Greece to the edge of the financial abyss.

Hendry was quite unrepentant, shutting up the table with lines like: "Hello, can I tell you about the real world."

"Let me tell you," he said. "Greece is a cheat's charter. Greece has debt that is 107% of its GDP." Scary guy but good television.

Greece came up three times at Prime Minister's Questions today. PM wouldn't rule out Britain being part of a bail out for the beleaguered Balkan nation but Downing Street spokesman sees it an issue for Eurozone members at the informal of the EU leaders in Brussels tomorrow.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

What's your MP up to - there's an app for that

I don't know what kind of handheld is favoured by blogging MPs but you can be sure King Blog Tom Harris and Top Tweeter Jo Swinson will be tempted by the latest i-Phone app.

The new software launched today allows constituents to give their views on local and national issues as well as watching and taking part in discussions between their MP and others.

There is also information on surgery times and constituency. Derek Wyatt MP has been trialing the MyMP app in his Sittingbourne and Sheppey constituency and more than 5000 people have signed up for the free download.

Wyatt has received hundreds of messages from locals via the app and he is hopeful that many other MPs will use it too.

At least 25 MPs have expressed an interest, though the £2,000 cost for the installation might be a bit offputting, particularly as the controversial communications allowance is being done away with.

At the launch Wyatt said he is very impressed with the sheer volume of messages he has received and believes the ease of use is a major factor in its success.

"Now people can alert me in real time to any issues that I need to address, and they don't have to visit my website to find out what I’m doing," Wyatt said. "I believe this is the way of the future and hope other MPs will follow suit." Go on yourself, Austin Mitchell.

Monday 8 February 2010

Scotland polls

Today's Herald made for good reading for the Labour party in Scotland and probably gave Alex Salmond another bout of indigestion in the wake of "piegate". I'm still wondering, with the experience the Tories had of trying to auction meals to grease wheels at Westminster, why the SNP would bother trying the same fund-raising stunt at Holyrood.

Anyway, that's beside the point. The poll figures.

At Westminster Labour is on 42%, the highest level since the 2005 General Election. The SNP is up one point to 26%, good but not enough to come near Salmond's target of 20 seats at General Election. (He's notoriously over-optimistic).

The Conservatives are unchanged on 18% and the Liberal Democrats are down a point on 11%.

In the Holyrood vote Labour has gone from trailing the SNP by eight points on both constituency and regional list votes to a lead of two and seven points respectively

Support for Labour in the Holyrood constituency vote at 37% while SNP support fell to 35%

SNP are on 30% in the regional vote and 37% backed Labour.

LibDems and Tories are static on 12% over the last three months, while the Greens improve by one point to 5%.

Okay, got all that. Now the fun part.

Running today's Herald poll figures through the Scotland Votes website gives the following figures:

Westminster result:
Lab 42 MPs (+2)
SNP 7 (-)
Libs 7 (-4)
Con 3 (+2)

Holyrood result:
Lab 53
SNP 42
Libs 15
Con 14
Grn 3
Ind 2

All this has as much bearing on reality as these polls saying that the Tory lead in narrowing so much nationally and that Brown will go for a snap election.It's hard to see Labour gaining in Scotland against the UK tide and local Lib Dem support is usually under-estimated by polling. Hey, but why spoil Labours' ray of winter sunshine?

The big challenge for Labour in Scotland is turn-out of their supporters. They can be motivated by the threat of another Tory government, so deep is the cultural resentment of Thatcherism.

But that 39% to 30% Tory lead is a chimera. It represents Labour votes beginning to stack up in Labour constituencies, the Tories have eaten well into the 117 marginals they need for power. The Tories may be jittery but Labour needs to sew a lot more doubt about team Cameron to see the Tories off.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Retribution will follow humiliation of MPs

First the humiliation and next the retribution. One black day follows another at Westminster over the expenses scandal.

Today nearly 400 MPs, past and present, had the details of their overclaimed expenses paraded in public again in the Legg report. Tomorrow six parliamentarians will find out if they are to face fraud or false accounting charges over their expenses claims.

The Crown Prosecution Service, which has been considering police files of evidence against six MPs and members of the House of Lords, will announce its decision.
Among those known to have been investigated by detectives are Labour MPs Elliot Morley and David Chaytor and Labour peer Lady Uddin.

Morley and Chaytor were examined by the police inquiry for claiming thousands of pounds for mortgages which had already been paid off.

Jim Devine, Labour MP for Livingston, was reportedly under investigation for invoices he submitted for electrical work worth more than £2,000 from a company with an allegedly fake address and an invalid VAT number.

Devine, who was banned from standing again by Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, protests his innocence. The Daily Record revealed last year that the Livingston MP had reported himself to the police investigation to prove his innocence.

If he is vindicated he has promised vengeance and so the whole sorry expenses tale could take on another twist in the Livingston constituency that Devine inherited from the late Robin Cook. Labour has already selected a candidate to stand in Devine’s place.

Scanning the pages of Sir Thomas Legg’s report the most shocking aspect is the scale of the repayments and the numbers involved. Many details of MPs expenses had been leaked or released before, and £800,000 was repaid before his inquiry began. Legg found another £1.12m that they owed the public purse.

Sir Thomas found that MPs did not uphold the principles of selfishness, accountability, honesty and leadership that public office demands and that heaped shame on Westminster and the reputation of MPs, innocent or otherwise.

While Legg was highly critical of how MPs worked the system his review cost £1.16m which is almost the same as MPs have been ordered to repay. The whole process has been just about self-financing.

Many MPs are furious with Legg, claiming he changed the rules on gardening and cleaning expenses for example and ensnared many otherwise innocent MPs.
There isn’t much sympathy for the political class but spare athought for that one third of MPs who Legg has "no issue" with but who find themselves tarred with the same brush as those guilty of the worst exceesses.

Every sordid detail is there for voters to see now. People can make their own minds up on who should represent them.

Scottish MPs - the repayment list in full

Here's the full list of Scottish MPs and what they owe in expenses repayments. according to Sir Thomas Legg.

Mr Danny Alexander MP
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey

Mr Alexander was overpaid £40.83 for utilities and £4.75 for insurance (totalling £45.58) in 2008-09.
He was paid £125 in April 2007 for financial planning advice which is not allowable under Green Book rules.
He was paid £781 for council tax in 2007-08. This was £120.24 in excess of the council tax charged for that year.
Total repayment recommended: £290.82
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £512.92
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP
Paisley & Renfrewshire South
Mr Alexander has no issues.

Mr Willie Bain, Glasgow North East
Elected in 2009

Mr Gordon R Banks MP Ochil & South Perthshire
Mr Banks has no issues.

Mr John Barrett MP Edinburgh West Mr Barrett has no issues

Miss Anne Begg MP Aberdeen South
Miss Begg has no issues

Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP
Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath
The Prime Minister was paid a total of £21,189.53 for cleaning costs between April 2004 and March 2009, exceeding the maximum allowable by £11,189.53.
He was also paid £1,396 twice in April and July 2006 for internal redecoration.
He was further paid £1,302.50 in 2007-08 for garden maintenance, exceeding the allowable maximum by £302.50.
Total repayment recommended: £12,888.03
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £13,723.04
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Rt Hon Desmond Browne MP Kilmarnock & Loudoun
Mr Browne has no issues.

Mr Russell Brown MP Dumfries & Galloway
Mr Brown was paid for 13 months’ rent in 2008-09, resulting in an overpayment of £1,146.63.
Total repayment recommended: £1,146.63
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £1,146.63
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr Malcolm Bruce MP Gordon
Mr Bruce was paid a total of £622 twice for insurance (£309.87 in October 2004 and £312.13 in September 2006).
Total repayment recommended: £622.00
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £622.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr David Cairns MP Inverclyde
Mr Cairns was overpaid by a total of £2,782.30 for his service charge and parking space for January to June 2007.
Total repayment recommended: £2,782.30
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £2,782.30
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell CBE QC MP North East Fife
Sir Menzies was paid £1,490.66 over the period 2006 - 2008 for the services of an interior designer, which are regarded as unnecessary.
Total repayment recommended: £1,490.66
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £1,772.94
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr Alistair Carmichael MP Orkney & Shetland
Mr Carmichael was paid a total of £243.90 twice for three items: phone bill in September 2005, £70.12; phone bill in December 2005, £42.28; and TV licence in July 2006, £131.50.
He was also paid £90 for legal costs associated with non-payment of council tax in 2007-08 and £146.88 legal fees due to late payment of service charge/ground rent in May 2007. These costs, totalling £236.88, were not allowable under the Green Book rules.
Total repayment recommended: £480.78
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £0.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £480.78

Ms Katy Clark MP North Ayrshire & Arran
Ms Clark was paid a total of £336.39 between November 2006 and January 2007 for mobile phone bills and accessories, which are not allowable under the ACA, although they could be claimed under the Incidental Expenses Provision.
She was also paid £446.50 in January 2007 for removal expenses from the former second home to the main address in August 2006, which was also not allowable.
Total repayment recommended: £782.89
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £782.89
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Rt Hon Tom Clarke CBE JP MP Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill
Mr Clarke has no issues.

Mr Michael Connarty MP Linlithgow & East Falkirk
Mr Connarty was overpaid by £309.02 for service charges during 2004-05.
He was also overpaid by a total of £4,872.54 for mortgage interest for the years 2004-05 and 2005-06.
Total repayment recommended: £5,181.56
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £5,181.56
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP Edinburgh South West
Mr Darling was paid £1,104 for a chest of drawers in February 2007. That exceeded the guideline price of £550 by £554.
Total repayment recommended: £554.00
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £1,512.04
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr Ian Davidson MP Glasgow South West
Mr Davidson was overpaid £474.47 for mortgage interest in 2007-08.
He was paid a total of £120 for court costs associated with non-payment of council tax (£55 in July 2005, and £65 in June 2007).
He was also overpaid by £646.92 for council tax in 2007-08.
Total repayment recommended: £1,241.39
Reduced on appeal by:£474.47
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £766.92
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr Jim Devine MP Livingston
Mr Devine has no issues.

Mr Brian Donohoe MP Central Ayrshire
Mr Donohoe has no issues.

Mr Frank Doran MP Aberdeen North
Mr Doran has no issues

Mr Nigel Griffiths JP MP Edinburgh South
Mr Griffiths was overpaid by a total of £4,005.84 for mortgage interest (£464.51 in 2004-05; £961.38 in 2005-06; and £2,579.95 in 2006-07). Mr Griffiths’ mortgage lender has acknowledged that the interest calculations they provided to the MP, and were used as the basis of his claims, contained errors. The mortgage lender is therefore arranging to reimburse the House of Commons directly for this element, which has yet to be determined.
Total repayment recommended: £4,005.84
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £4,005.84
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr David Hamilton MP Midlothian
Mr Hamilton was overpaid by a total of £2,595.51 for mortgage interest (£783.36 in 2004-05; £511.10 in 2005-06; £304.24 in 2006-07; and £996.81 in 2008-09).
Total repayment recommended: £2,595.51
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £0.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £2,595.51

Mr Tom Harris MP Glasgow South
Mr Harris has no issues.

Mr James Hood MP Lanark & Hamilton East
Mr Hood was overpaid a total of £1,185 in 2006-07 (for the following items: £400 for food, £80 for utilities, £75 for council tax, £100 for telephone and telecommunications, £200 for cleaning, £200 for service/maintenance and £130 for repairs, insurance, security).
He was also overpaid by a total of £3,783.35 for mortgage interest (£2,434.46 in 2004-05 and £1,348.89 in 2005-06).
He was further overpaid by £445.14 for mortgage interest in 2006-07.
Total repayment recommended: £5,413.49
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £5,413.49
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0,00

Mr Stewart Hosie MP Dundee East
Mr Hosie was paid £379.45 in February 2009 for staying in a hotel when his home was flooded. This cost should have been reclaimed from the insurance company.
Total repayment recommended: £379.45
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £379.45
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Rt Hon Adam Ingram MP East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow
Mr Ingram has no issues.

Mr Eric Joyce MP Falkirk
Mr Joyce was over-paid by a total of £5,002.56 for mortgage interest (£1,645.77 in 2004-05, £1,037.59 in 2006-07 and £2,319.20 in 2007-08).
In addition Mr Joyce was paid twice for a claim of £3,000 for mortgage interest for the period November to December 2007.
He was also paid twice in the same period for council tax, cleaning and service/maintenance claims totalling £600.
Total repayment recommended: £8,602.56
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £0.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £8,602.56

Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP Ross, Skye & Lochaber
Mr Kennedy has no issues.

Mr Mark Lazarowicz MP Edinburgh North & Leith
Mr Lazarowicz has no issues.

Rt Hon Thomas McAvoy MP Rutherglen & Hamilton West
Mr McAvoy has no issues

Mr Angus MacNeil MP Na h-Eileanan An Iar
Mr MacNeil was overpaid by £133 for council tax in 2007-08.
Total repayment recommended: £133.00
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £133.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr John Mason MP Glasgow East
Mr Mason has no issues

Rt Hon Thomas McAvoy MP Rutherglen & Hamilton West
Mr McAvoy has no issues

Rt Hon John McFall MP West Dunbartonshire
Mr McFall has no issues.

Mr James McGovern MP Dundee West
Mr McGovern was overpaid by £266.54 in December 2005 for various items of furnishings and hardware.
Total repayment recommended: £266.54
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £794.10
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP Stirling
Mrs McGuire has no issues.

Miss Ann McKechin MP Glasgow North
Miss McKechin has no issues.

Mrs Rosemary McKenna CBE MP
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East
Mrs McKenna was overpaid by a total of £3,008.93 for rent (2005-06 by £1,195.85 and 2007-08 by £1,813.08).
Total repayment recommended: £3,008.93
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £3,008.93
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Ms Anne Moffat MP East Lothian
Ms Moffat was overpaid by £1,617.09 for mortgage interest in 2008-09.
She was also paid a total of £1,256.44 in 2008-09 for items that related to her main home (£152.16 for insurance, £476.09 for telephone bills and £628.19 for a Sky package).
Total repayment recommended: £2,873.53
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £0.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £2,873.53

Mr Michael Moore MP Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk
Mr Moore has no issues.

Mr David Mundell MP Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale
Mr Mundell was paid for 13 months of rent in 2006-07. This included a payment for rent for March 2006, which was not identified as such and which had not been included in claims for 2005-06. The overpayment involved was £1,300.
Total repayment recommended: £1,300.00
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £1,300.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr Jim Murphy MP East Renfrewshire
Mr Murphy was overpaid a total of £197.46 for mortgage interest over two years of the review period (£9.94 in 2004-05; £187.52 in 2006-07).
He was also paid £380 twice for food in May 2004.
Total repayment recommended: £577.46
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £577.46
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mrs Sandra Osborne MP Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock
Mrs Osborne was paid a total of £1,343.50 twice in April 2004 (£749 for furniture, £544.50 for council tax, and £50 for utilities). She was also overpaid by £1,268.62for rent in 2005-06.
Total repayment recommended: £2,612.12
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £2,612.12
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr Alan Reid MP Argyll & Bute
Mr Reid has no issues.

Rt Hon John Reid MP Airdrie & Shotts
Dr Reid was paid £1,410 twice in April 2007.
In July 2007, he was paid £1,179.63 for removal costs. £975.00 of this was used for the transfer of furniture to a residence in Ireland, which was not an allowable expense.
In April 2008, he was paid £346.88 for marketing the previous second home, which was also not allowable.
Total repayment recommended: £2,731.88
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £7,336.51
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr William Rennie MP Dunfermline & West Fife
Mr Rennie was overpaid a total of £123.10 through duplicate payments for electricity in 2006-07.
He was also overpaid a total of £2,450 through duplicated payments for rent (£1,250 in March 2006 and £1,200 in January 2007).
Total repayment recommended: £2,573.10
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £2,573.60
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr Angus Robertson MP, Moray
Mr Robertson was paid £2,324 in February 2006 for a leather bed settee, exceeding what was necessary by £1,114.
He was further overpaid by £103 in 2007-08 for a DVD player.
Total repayment recommended: £1,217.00
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £1,217.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr John W Robertson MP Glasgow North West
Mr Robertson was paid a total of £1,750 in petty cash between April and November 2004.This was not an allowable expense under the Green Book rules.
He was paid a total of £7,225 for cleaning costs (£2,350 in 2004-05; £2,350 in 2005-06 and £2,525 in 2006-07). These exceeded £2,000 a year by a total of £1,225.
Total repayment recommended: £2,975.00
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £0.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £2,975.00

Mr Frank Roy MP Motherwell & Wishaw
Mr Roy was overpaid by £545.79 for mortgage interest in 2005-06.
Total repayment recommended: £545.79
Reduced on appeal by:£545.79
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr Lindsay A Roy CBE MP Glenrothes
Mr Roy has no issues.

Mr Alexander Salmond MP
Banff & Buchan
Mr Salmond has no issues

Mr Mohammad Sarwar MP
Glasgow Central
Mr Sarwar was paid a total of £123.83 twice for telephone bills in 2005-06.
He was also paid £122.12 in February 2005 for mobile phone bills, which are not allowable under the ACA, although they could be claimed under the Incidental Expenses Provision.
Total repayment recommended: £245.95
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £245.95
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr James Sheridan MP Paisley & Renfrewshire North
Mr Sheridan was overpaid by £200 for food in October 2008.
He was also overpaid by £200 for council tax in May - June 2005.
Total repayment recommended: £400.00
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £779.41
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Sir Robert Smith MP West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine
Sir Robert has no issues

Rt Hon Gavin Strang MP Edinburgh East
Dr Strang has no issues

Ms Jo Swinson MP East Dunbartonshire
Ms Swinson has no issues.

Mr John Thurso MP Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross
Mr Thurso was overpaid a total of £548.21 for council tax in three years (£297.95 in 2005-06; £175.10 in 2006-07; and £75.16 in 2007-08).
Total repayment recommended: £548.21
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £548.21
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Mr Mike Weir MP Angus Mr Weir has no issues.

Mr Peter Wishart MP , Perth & North Perthshire
Mr Wishart was overpaid by £1,408.53 for rent in 2007-08.
He was also overpaid a total of £223.97 in 2008-09 (£66.11 for a telephone bill, and £157.86 for an electricity bill).
Total repayment recommended: £1,632.50
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £1,632.50
Balance recommended to be repaid: £0.00

Some noteable former Members of parliament:

Baroness Irene Adams Paisley North
Baroness Adams was paid £2,895 for cleaning costs in 2004-05, exceeding the allowable maximum by a total of £895.
In default of evidence to support payments for mortgage interest of £4,110.00 for the period April 2004 to April 2005, I must regard these payments as having been invalid. Accordingly my recommendation is that Baroness Adams should repay the whole of this sum.
Total repayment recommended: £5,005.00
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £0.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £5,005.00

Mr John Lyons Strathkelvin and Bearsden
No reply has been received from Mr Lyons to a number of letters sent to the address held by the House authorities. In default of evidence to support payments for mortgage interest of £18,780.80 for 2004-05 and April 2005, I must regard these payments as having been invalid. Accordingly my recommendation is that Mr Lyons should repay the whole of this sum.
Total repayment recommended: £18,780.80
Total repayments received since 1 April 2009: £0.00
Balance recommended to be repaid: £18,780.80

Mr David Marshall Glasgow East
Mr Marshall has no issues.

Rt Hon the Lord Martin Glasgow North East
Lord Martin has no issues.

Legg report weighs in with £1.2m repayments

Judgement day has arrived for MPs over the expenses scandal with the publication of the Legg Report.

The official confirmation of what MPs overclaimed on additional Costs Allowance and had to repay is contained in the huge report which is being torn asunder for detail all over the Westminster this morning.

We're just absorbing the detail of the latest chapter in the expenses scandal. Some of it is a reprint of what we already know but more than half of all MPs have had to repay something

The big Tory grandees are the hardest hit - five of them having to replay between £24,000 and £37,000 each. Barbara Follett, the London MP, leads the field in having to repay her personal security costs.
The largest sums ordered to be repaid by sitting MPs - after appeals are taken into account - were £42,458 by Barbara Follett (Lab, Stevenage), £36,909 by Bernard Jenkin (Con, North Essex), £31,193 by Andrew Mackay (Con, Bracknell), £29,398 by John Gummer (Con, Suffolk Coastal), £29,243 by Julie Kirkbride (Con, Bromsgrove) and £24,878 by Liam Fox (Con, Woodspring).
On first glance of the listings Scottish MPs come out with a relatively clean bill of health. Most of them, according to Legg, have “no issues”, which will only increase their anger that they will be tarred with the same brush as their pay-back colleauges.
Eric Joyce, the MP who usually tops the expenses league table, has had to pay back £8,602.56 of mortgage claims. But, oops, it looks like Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister is the biggest of the Scottish pay-back MPs £13,723 for cleaning costs and a little for garden maintenance and redecorating. Ironically Jim devine, who was banned from stadning again over the scandal, has "no issues" according to Legg.

The highlights so far:
Three MPs were ordered to repay more than £40,000, with Legg ordering the highest repayment of just under £65,000. But Sir Paul Kennedy reduced that. The highest repayment is £42,458 is Follett.

On top of that 56 MPs were ordered to repay between £40,000 and £5,000; 182 MPs were ordered to repay between £5,000 and £1,000; 149 MPs were ordered to repay between £1,000 and £100.

Legg is scathing of how MPs milked the system but the review cost £1.2m which is almost the same as MPs have been ordered to repay. It’s a self financing exercise. More later, including I hope, all the Scottish repayments.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Changing of the guard for Scottish Labour

Almost a quarter of Scottish Labour MPs have now signalled their intention to stand down at the general election in what will be a real changing of the guard at Westminster this year.

Nigel Griffith’s announcement that he is to stand down as MP for Edinburgh South after 23 years service brings to nine the number of Labour MPs who will not contest their seats again.

Given the rate at which Scottish Labour MPs are announcing their departures and replacement candidates being found there could be more retirements from the 39-strong Labour ranks before the election.

The change will see jockeying for position in the next few weeks for some of the safest parliamentary berths in the land. Former ministerial advisers could go head to head with veteran local activists for nomination and party bosses still face local skirmishes to impose all-women shortlists in one or two seats.

Most of the departures were expected but Nigel Griffiths kept his cards close to his chest until Friday night. There had been intense speculation that Griffiths, defending a majority of just 405, would look for the exit door after being caught in a Sunday newspaper sex sting which alleged that he cheated on his wife inside the House of Commons

He only signed for his new post, as director of an international educational institution, on Friday afternoon and started putting the wheels in motion to stand down then.

Over 120 MPs from all parties have already announced they are leaving the Commons at the election in what will be the biggest clear out of a generation.

The other big Scottish Labour guns announcing their retirement are former Home Secretary John Reid (Airdie and Shotts),

former Defence Secretary Des Browne (Kilmarnock and Loudon), and former Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram who is standing down in East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.

Also departing from Westminster is SNP leader Alex Salmond. He is letting go his beloved Banff and Buchan seat to concentrate on the task of being First Minister and MSP for the Gordon constituency. John Barrett, the Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP is also standing down.

Some of the faces of the next generation of Scottish MPS are already familiar to voters. Labour MSP Cathy Jamieson, the former Scottish justice minister, has been selected for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, being vacated by Des Browne.

Jamieson will bring the fight to the SNP which won the equivalent Scottish parliament seat and runs the local council. Labour no longer fear the charge of "dual mandate" - politicians sitting in both parliaments - which they threw at Alex Salmond. The party simply wants the best candidates with the best chance of winning.

Former civil servant and trade union official Michael McCann was nominated as the Labour candidate in East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, last weekend to defend Adam Ingram’s generous 14,723 vote legacy.

The selection process for a replacement candidate for John Reid in Airdie and Shotts hit an obstacle when the local party rejected the idea of an all-women shortlist. Labour’s ruling National Executive Council is now expected to impose an all-female list to make up for the lack of female Labour MPs in parliament.

Most local members had rallied around North Lanarkshire councillor Jim Logue as their candidate, while the party hierarchy appeared to favour Joanne Milligan, a former chairwoman of Scottish Labour students. Johanna Baxter, who is close to Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, has also been linked to the seat

Rosemary McKenna signalled some time ago that she would retire from as MP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth which she has served since 1997. Greg McClymont, a local boy who worked as a speechwriter for John Reid and now teaches history at Oxford University, is to return home to stand.

In Glasgow Central the Mohammed Sarwar hopes to hand on the chains of office to his son, Anas Sarwar, the 26 year old dentist who has proved himself to be something of a political livewire.

Scotland’s longest serving MP, Gavin Strang, who was first elected in 1970 and served as a Minister under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, is calling it a day in Edinburgh East. Labour’s replacement candidate for the safe seat is Shiela Gilmore, a former Edinburgh councillor.

Another candidate new to Westminster but used to hustings will be former West Lothian Council leader Graeme Morrice who has been selected as the Labour candidate in Livingston. The sitting MP Jim Devine was deselected by the party following a probe of his expenses claims.

The future of Anne Moffat (East Lothian) is in the hands of the NEC after she was recently de-selected by the divided local party. Despite the battles at Prestonpans Labour club the majority of over 7000 makes the seat an attractive prospect for would-be politicians. Edinburgh South, where the Griffiths majority was a slim 405, is likely to be an open selection.

The biggest nomination battle will be over the12,000 plus majority bequeathed by the scourge of the banking classes, John McFall MP. The chair of the Treasury select committee, who held bankers to account over the credit crunch, announced his retirement to the West Dunbartonshire party on Friday night and there is a lot of interest in the seat.

Stephen Ballie, the husband of local Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, is being named as the local favourite but he could face stiff competition. Scotland Office adviser John MacTernan, who worked in Downing Street with Blair, is known to be looking for a parliamentary seat and other former special advisers are looking for safe berths too.

These ambitions could be curtailed if Labour bosses decide on an all-women shortlist. Even after the battle for selection the candidates have to fight a general election campaign too.