TAG | Tory
Alberto Costa has sent a letter to postal voters in Angus, in which he writes:
Remember, a vote for the SNP or the Lib Dems will only risk another five years of Labour or a hung Parliament.
Of course, the only thing that would make another five years of Labour more likely in Angus, is a vote for Labour candidate Kevin Hutchens. But Alberto does not mention that, as his intention is clearly to spread Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about voting for the SNP or the Lib Dems.
Mentioning the Lib Dems as well as the SNP, but not Labour, clearly shows that Alberto knows that Angus is now a three way battle.
What is particularly worrying, is the sense of entitlement Alberto Costa displays in his letter to Angus residents. There is an assumption that the Tories have a right to power and that Angus residents have a responsibility to vote for him:
If we really want change, we all need to play our role and that means electing a new Conservative MP for Angus.
The reality is that if they want real change, then Angus residents have the opportunity to vote for the Liberal Democrats who can deliver it for them.
Montrose Academy held a mock election on Friday, run magnificently by Ian Watt. It was great to see Sean Massie, the Liberal Democrat candidate win the mock election. Congratulation to Sean and his class who ran an excellent campaign. I’ve had to ask Sean for a copy of his stump speech, as it included some key points I hope to use.
I really appreciated being invited to attend a hustings after the vote, between the Angus parliamentary candidates. During the discussion, Angus SNP candidate, Mike Weir admitted that there are three parties whose candidate could be elected, saying:
Whoever gets elected whether it is the SNP, the Tories or the Lib Dems,…
Conspicuously absent was any mention of the Labour candidate, Kevin Hutchens. Clearly, Mike has recognised that people in Angus are looking at all the main options available to them.
The national campaign shows this will not be just a once in a lifetime election. It will be a unique opportunity to sweep away the two old parties’ grip on power. They have and will do anything to stop things really changing.
It is no longer a two horse race nationally, nor is it here in Angus. Residents do not have to pick the least worst option.
When choosing between myself, Mike Weir and Alberto Costa, Angus residents now realise that by voting for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, by voting for me, Sanjay Samani, their vote will count and their voice will be heard.
I was really disappointed to read two new articles on the ongoing ugly spat over donations and expenses between Mike Weir and Alberto Costa. Angus residents really do deserve better from their prospective representatives.
I highlighted how this spat has become national news in my previous post, which you can read by clicking here. The whole sordid affair reflects badly on Angus and I had hoped that the matter would end there. Unfortunately the argument has continued to rumble on.
Firstly The Daily Record highlights how Alberto Costa’s campaign received £10,000 from Swiss banker, Henry Angest, funnelled through a City company called Flowidea Ltd. You can read the article in full by clicking here.
Then Alberto Costa hit back, accusing Mike Weir of accepting a £4,000 donation from someone who he is running a campaign for taxes on holiday lets. You can read the full article in the Press and Journal by clicking here.
The merits of the accusations and counter accusations aside, there is clearly a need for our politics to be cleaned up.
In my previous blog post and in an open letter to all the other candidates, I called on them to give cross party support to full political reform, rather than nips and tucks or little tweaks here and there, asking:
Will the other candidates back proposals for a fairer political system, including the right of Angus residents to recall their MP, to cap donations to political parties, independent auditing of expenses and limits on spending by political parties? Crucially will they back a written constitution that clearly sets out the role and powers of MPs, ministers, judges, the Head of State, parliament and national assemblies?
On a separate issue, will the candidates back proposals for a fairer, proportional voting system, as used in Angus Council elections? Mike Weir was elected as MP for Angus, with just over 1 out of 5 of those eligible actually voting for him and very nearly 2/3rds of actual voters, voting against him. Surely the Angus MP needs to have a better mandate than that?
The letter has appeared in all the Angus local newspapers and I have yet to hear a response from any of the other candidates. This is hardly a surprise as Labour, SNP and Conservative MPs, including Mike Weir, have all voted in the past against proposals by the Liberal Democrats to clean up politics. It is little wonder that Nick Clegg described the last session as “the most corrupt parliament in history”.
I make my call again:
I would ask for full backing from Mike Weir MP, Kevin Hutchens and Alberto Costa. Angus residents can that way be assured, that whether it is myself or one of the other candidates that is elected at the forthcoming election, they will be voting for genuine, open, fairer political reform.
Will the other candidates back full, genuine, fair political reform to create a functioning, responsive, clean democracy in this country?
Before the Iraq War, we stood under a banner of “Not in My Name” in the two giant demonstrations in London against it. This YouTube video from WikiLeaks shows the video footage from a US helicopter gunship in Baghdad in 2007. The US soldiers believe that a group of men have weapons, including AK47′s and an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher). They open fire, killing most of the men, leaving only one alive, but injured. In fact the men were all civilians, gathered around a Reuters photographer and his driver. The weapons were cameras. A van comes to try and help the injured Reuters driver and the soldiers open fire again, killing those trying to help. Two children in the van are injured.
It is an extremely graphic and disturbing video.
Before seeing the video, I wanted to give the soldiers the benefit of the doubt and appreciate that the realities of war sometime mean that there are situations close to the limit of what is acceptable. I thought it might be one of the situations in war that are appalling, but unavoidable.
Having forced myself to watch the entire video, I feel fairly confident in saying the US soldiers displayed appalling judgement. Those innocent men were killed unnecessarily, very likely unlawfully.
All wars are brutal and the media age is bringing that brutality home to us. We should not dismiss the brutality, just because it has always been that way. Instead it should be a wake up call to ensure that we only engage in wars if absolutely necessary.
Many civilians have been killed as a result of the war in Iraq, both by our own troops, in our name, by suicide bombers and as a result of a collapse into lawlessness. Some estimates put the civilian casualties in Iraq at 600,000. I am not sure I believe that figure, but it is clear that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children have lost their lives as a result of this war conducted in our name.
This was should never have happened, the public never supported it. It went ahead, because Labour and the Tories supported it. Because they did not have the integrity to properly scrutinise the legality and justification for the war.
Iraq still matters in the 2010 election, not just because we sent our soldiers to war under-equipped and under-paid, nor because legal advice was manipulated or ignored. Iraq still matters because we have a wholly undemocratic system that cannot hold a government to account. It matters because in the UK, there is little to stop an illegal war being conducted in our name, or civilians being murdered in our name.
And that will not change whilst either Labour or the Conservatives are still in power, because they will not lift a finger to provide real democracy in this country. For that reason, Iraq will matter not just in this election, but in every election, until we are able to say what is done in our name.
Alberto Costa, the Tory candidate for Angus, recently wrote to the Brechin Advertiser to set out his views on tackling alcohol abuse in Scotland, particularly amongst younger people.
In his letter, he talked at length about how in mainland Europe, “children are exposed to alcoholic drinks, such as a glass of wine over a normal family dinner… removing any of the mystiques that so many of our youngsters attach to alcohol.”
Mr Costa is clearly completely out of touch with the real causes of under age drinking in Scotland. Fellow Angus Lib Dems and I have discussed precisely this issue with social workers, teachers and community workers. We recently met organisers of The Attic Project in Brechin when, amongst other issues, we discussed under age drinking. In a study amongst their youngsters, by far the most common factor for drinking was being surrounded at home by heavy drinkers, in many cases to the point where the children are neglected.
In fact, charity Turning Point, claimed last year that 1.3 million children across the UK are living with parents who misuse alcohol. Far from being a “mystique”, alcohol is a regular part of these children’s lives, disrupting their families, and leaving them exposed to rage, violence and neglect. This has been shown to create a negative self image amongst children, increase levels of depression and truancy, and affect their attainment at school and later in life. These children are growing up thinking that heavy drinking is normal behaviour.
No fewer than 40,000 children have been fined, cautioned or taken to court for alcohol related offences across the UK in the last five years. Criminalising these children will just expose them to an even harsher existence, and may well condemn them to long term drug and alcohol abuse and a life of crime. Instead we must break the cycle of alcohol abuse and demonstrate to these children that there is a positive alternative.
We have to be serious about helping parents overcome their alcohol addiction, provide separate support for the children and then help to rebuild these families.
We need to get young people who have been drug and alcohol abusers themselves, to go and talk to children about their experiences. Just like the excellent Fiona Walsh is doing for the Volunteer Centre Angus, based in Arbroath.
By coincidence, this week, 14-20 February is the Children of Alcoholics Week, and I would encourage everyone to learn more about the issues facing the most vulnerable members of our community by clicking here to get tot he Children of Alcoholics Week website.
If Mr Costa and the Tories want to solve such a crucial issue for Scotland, they first need to properly understand the causes.
I welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to include the Liberal Democrat proposal to remove the right-to-buy for new build council and social landlord houses in the draft Housing (Scotland) Bill. There is an overwhelming case to abolish the right to buy for new build council houses.
However, I was disappointed to hear that my fellow parliamentary candidate, Tory, Alberto Costa, is not supporting the proposal. I am surprised that Mr Costa does not appreciate the hugely negative impact this policy has had on the most vulnerable families, Angus Council’s budget and taxpayers’ funds.
Families across Angus and indeed, Scotland, are having to wait for years for suitable council accommodation. Councils have had to sell off their best assets at steep discounts, under this old Thatcherite policy.
There are much better methods for helping first time buyers get onto the property ladder, such as equity mortgages, that do not disadvantage vulnerable families and do not disrupt Angus Council’s ability to provide suitable housing.
Does Mr Costa seriously expect Angus Council to continue the cycle of finding suitable land, planning, funding and building houses, just to sell them off cheaply to property speculators?
He seems to want to nationalise the costs and privatise the profits. It demonstrates that the Tories have not changed and cannot be trusted to run this country.