#365 and #364 to 50

I’m having to face up to the fact that on July 31st, 2017, I’m going to turn 50. When I was young ,50 seemed ancient. Now I’m almost in its embrace, I feel confused, because in my heart I’m still in my 20s. I am so not ready to even be middle aged.

For the run-up, I am going to shamelessly rip off an idea from my friend Emma Farthing-Sykes who posted an image every day for the last year of her 20s.

Now, I’m not a particularly brave sort so the chances of me making a bucket list with things like abseiling off the Forth Rail Bridge on it are less than zero.  I do intend to have a fair bit of fun on the way to my half century though and to share it with you.

Actually, #365 to 50 was yesterday. We went to a place called Bowling, the western end of the Forth and Clyde canal, to visit the Dug Cafe. You can’t really wish for more than tea and cake with dogs running around. Our Hazel found it a bit overwhelming, and hid under the table for a while. Here she is after she ventured out.

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#364 to 50

Today I’ve got my sleek new hairdo for my upcoming holiday, shopped like a demon and spent a bit of time out in the garden reading. Reading and food are two of my favourite things in the world so give me a cookery book and I’m in heaven. Give me a cookery book with feminism, political gossip and Lib Demmery and I’m very happy indeed. Miriam Gonzalez Durantez’s Made In Spain has kept me amused today and I’ll be writing my review tomorrow.

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My aim is to have two years of fun and celebration. The first to get used to the idea of hitting 50, the second to cope with the reality. There’s no other way to deal with it that I can see.  Come along and enjoy the journey with me.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton on Edinburgh schools “fiasco”

As 17 schools in Edinburgh remain closed, here’s the statement  Lothians and Edinburgh Western Lib Dem candidate Alex Cole-Hamilton made over the weekend:

Our first priority in the PPP1 schools debacle is to ensure pupil and teacher safety.

Nearly 10,000 Edinburgh kids and their families will face considerable disruption in the coming days, so it’s vital we ascertain the structural integrity of these Schools as soon as possible.

Coming as this does on the eve of the May exams I’m calling on the Scottish Qualification Authority to consider steps to mitigate the impact schools closures may have on the ability of pupils to prepare for exams, postponing certain papers if necessary.

I think it a measure of the strength of our community that today we’ve seen church leaders offering halls and chapels to local schools for the purpose of classes and exams, I’m sure this will be welcome to School staff and pupils alike.

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Video: My speech to Lib Dem Conference proposing the Electing Diverse MPs motion

Apologies if you are sick fed up of this speech already, but, thanks to Lizzy Adams’ partner Richard Buckley, I have an actual video of my speech to Conference which I am narcissistic enough to want to preserve on these pages for posterity. It is 8 minutes of your life you won’t get back, but you might find them moderately enjoyable.

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My speech proposing the Electing Diverse MPs motion


Photo credit: Hilton Marlton

I was at a training session, a fairly intense one, at the end of January when my phone rang. It was Party President Sal Brinton. She asked me if I would propose the Electing Diverse MPs motion at Conference on behalf of the party’s Federal Executive, of which I am a member.   I was completely gobsmacked. My first reaction was to say that someone important should do it, but she was very encouraging in the way she suggested that it should be me. 

I always worry about speaking in public, more than anything else because my gob doesn’t have a backspace key. When I do do it, I always enjoy it, but this was an important gig. I couldn’t afford to stuff it up.

The very next day I was listening to Radio 4 in the car. Will Smith came on, talking about the controversy over the lack of diversity in Oscar nominees. He said something that struck me, that “Diversity was America’s superpower.” He added that “You need to get everybody’s ideas in the gumbo.” That, I knew, had to be in the speech. It really is the whole point of why we need diverse voices, so that lived experience informs policy and changes the culture. I immediately noted it down. Well, I say immediately, but I might have spent half an hour drooling over Gumbo recipes on the internet first.

I used it first in a speech I wrote for the Scottish Conference for our diversity motion but, like many others, I didn’t get called. That became the basis for the speech I gave yesterday.

I put together my first draft last Monday and sent it to various people for comment and was surprised to get some good feedback. I was still editing it up until Saturday night when I printed out a final version. I was still making notes on it until about 2 minutes before I was called.

When you are making the most controversial speech of Conference, it plays on your mind a bit. The butterflies, or maybe they were moths, moved into my stomach on Saturday evening and for 15 hours it felt like they were playing Tug-of-War on a trampoline.

My nerves were only briefly interrupted by a senior party figure saying on my Facebook jokingly telling me that if the motion fell, it would be all my fault so “no pressure.” That really made me laugh, as was his intention.

Just when I thought I’d reached peak Butterfly Action, I looked over and saw Tim Farron come in to the hall and sit right in front of the lectern. I hadn’t quite expected that, although I knew he’d put a card in. I don’t know what I thought would happen – maybe someone would go and fetch him if he was called. The butterflies started doing acrobatics. 

Just as a tangent, I have to say that I am full of respect for Tim over this. He knew that the response when he spoke about this motion at the rally had been muted. He knew that we were having a tough time selling it in the bars. He could have bailed, distanced himself from it. He didn’t, though. He did get called in the debate and he basically told Conference that he needed a diverse team around him and that he’d changed his mind, just as Jo Swinson had done.

Anyway, I definitely knew I was going to get called. As soon as I was on the stage, in front of the lectern, the butterflies helpfully buggered off. This is what I said… Continue reading

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65,000 job losses doesn’t constitute an employment crisis, according to SNP MSP

This article first appeared on Liberal Democrat Voice

One of the weirdest things about Scotland at the moment is that there is no great sense of an asteroid, let alone a bullet, being dodged. The SNP’s predictions about oil prices, based on them being around $113 a barrel, have been shown to be well wide of the mark. They said we’d have this massive oil boom. That’s before some of their more excitable supporters started going on about secret oil fields whose existence was being kept from us by a malevolent Westminster establishment.

Nobody really appreciates how lucky we are. Scots could be facing independence, which the SNP had said would happen on 24th March this year, that’s in less than 10 weeks’ time,  with the price of oil barely above a third of their estimates. It wouldn’t be much freedom for people who desperately needed public services. There would have to be either massive cuts or massive tax rises to cope with that massive hole in the public finances.

The plummeting oil price had, according to Oil and Gas UK, cost 65,000 jobs as far back as last September. It’s had a devastating effect on the economy of North East Scotland. Aberdeenshire West MSP Dennis Robertson doesn’t seem to think so, though. He said that there was no jobs crisis in the North East.

From the Official Report: Continue reading

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My favourite typo ever…

I happened to mention on Facebook this morning that I’d ordered our Christmas wine from Laithwaites. I could have done it online, but their call centre is one of the best to deal with. I know that flogging wine to people is hardly a difficult or challenging task compared to, say,  fixing their boiler or trying to avoid paying out on an insurance claim, but the call centre people are always human, funny and interested. They will always go the extra mile to help you out.

Anyway, the guy I spoke to on the phone (Matthew), spotted that there was one space left in the box for another bottle. Unable to contemplate such a waste of space, I added in an old favourite, The Waxed Bat.

I mentioned all of this in my Facebook status. I won’t identify the friend who typed the following in reply. It is a fantastic illustration of why we need punctuation.

OH I’ve got Waxed. Bat in my Christmas order

Brilliant! What’s your favourite typo?

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Mixed emotions after Syria vote

Yesterday was a very strange day, full of mixed emotions for me. I had instinctively felt from the start of all of this that the case for extending air strikes into Syria had not been made and, although I came very close, I could never get to a place where I felt the risks to people on the ground outweighed the potential benefits. Had I been a Liberal Democrat MP, I would have voted against. I watched a huge chunk of the debate and it was, at times, difficult to see my feelings being expressed by members of other parties.

This wasn’t like the coalition years, though. On more than a handful of occasions, I sat through parliamentary debates with gritted teeth, often feeling apoplectic because I could not understand why on earth we had even entertained the idea of voting for, say, secret courts or some of the more brutal elements of welfare reform. Yesterday, though, I could totally understand and empathise with our leader’s stance, driven as it was by the best of liberal, humanitarian and internationalist motivations. He made an absolute cracker of a speech, delivered with passion and confidence. If you haven’t seen it, watch this extract:


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