We Are What We Eat!

September 25, 2012 1 comment

This post was originally posted on Liberal Youth’s blogging platform The Libertine on the 25th of September 2012.

So said one delegate speaking on the Good Food Shouldn’t Cost The Earth motion at Conference on Sunday 23rd September.

Now that has some truth; what we eat has a significant impact on how healthy we are.

The motion before Conference spoke of how important it was to eat healthily, and for government to promote healthy eating behaviour and give us citizens the ability to make informed choices about what foods we consume.

It should have been an interesting debate but it wasn’t. The debate was sidetracked by the farming and agricultural parts of the motion to promote sustainable food production, as well as one speaker who devoted his whole speech to arguing for legislating for the “traffic lights” system to be used on all food labels.

I know Liberal Reform were keen to see this motion voted down because of the “consultation on fiscal measures such as the taxation of heavily sugared drinks” and the “adopting a timetable to achieve a minimum of 30 per cent organic food.”

I’m against those things for the same reasons as Liberal Reform are but I also have another reason which I’ll come to in a moment.

What surprised me most about a debate on a motion which was primarily about healthy eating to try and combat the problem of obesity and obesity-related diseases, was that exercise was not mentioned once.

Now, I’m borderline obese but incredibly fit. I’ve got a lot of fat on me but my gym says that I’ve got one of the highest, if not the highest, target in the whole entire club. That means, all the machines I work on are tougher for me than anybody else in the club.

I also had bloodwork done recently and all came back normal. In fact, as my GP remarked, that my cholesterol was excellent and that those levels were rarely seen in the West of Scotland. I don’t live in the healthiest parts of Scotland.

What matters most in healthy living is not necessarily what you eat but how your body processes what you eat.

Science is only just beginning to delve into this. Research being done in the UK by Professor Jamie Timmons is showing that with just 3 minutes of high intensity exercise a week, you can dramatically increase your body’s insulin sensitivity i.e. reduce your risk of developing diabetes.

Research being done predominantly in America is showing that if you ‘calorie restrict’ or fast at least 2 days a week, you can also reduce your risk of developing certain cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

This research is showing that if you fast 2 days a week (by eating 500-600 calories on a fast day) or fast on alternate days a.k.a. alternate day fasting, then you can eat foods that are high in saturated fats or loads of sugar and not see any rise in cholesterol or blood glucose or any other health indicator related to those so called “unhealthy” foods.

As someone who tries to put the science to the test and uses it to improve my health, why should I be punished by taxing the foods and drinks I eat on feed days (non-fasting days) because other people are choosing not to regulate how their bodies process these foods?

A party that claims to make evidenced-based policy has just passed a motion that fails to even ask the question of “how do our bodies process the food we eat and how does that affect our health?” We failed to ask if there are there other ways of regulating how our bodies process, through exercise or other means?

When it comes to healthy eating and exercise, one size does not fit all, yet we as a party, have just passed a motion that tries to say that one size does fit all.

The party that claims individualism, has just passed a motion, claiming that when it comes to how our bodies process food, we are all the same. It was almost like I was watching the Labour party conference, instead of the Liberal Democrat party conference.

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Davey’s Safe Energy Hands

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Yesterday, Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made a speech in which he said, he was playing safe with Britain’s energy future.

“When I was asked to look after the country’s energy and climate change future, some people called me “a safe pair of hands”. When it comes to gas and electricity, I think that’s a good place to start. Not least because some people want me to play it anything but safe. They want me to risk Britain’s energy policy on one solution – one technology. Bet the economy on nuclear. Gamble UK plc only on renewables. Play Russian roulette with shale gas. Well, these safe hands won’t take those kind of risks with jobs and Britain’s growth.”

Now in some sense, it is good and right for the government to invest in more than one technology, if one succeeds and outperforms then fantastic but if one technology were to go wrong, then we have other investments to cover for the failing technology.

That’s all well and good but I also get the feeling that if we don’t put all our eggs in one basket, or put it in another way “gamble UK plc” on renewables then we won’t get the success of renewables that we could achieve.

After all, lets remember that renewables isn’t one technology in itself but several. They are nearly all directly or indirectly powered by the Sun, all apart from tidal power, which is powered by the moon.

If your cautious and bet safe, you might get a modest return on investment, or a modest decline on investment, but the bigger gamble you make, you increase your chance for a big return on investment or a bigger loss. Yes, those investments need to be balanced out, but perhaps Davey is being too cautious.

Personally, I’m not a fan of nuclear at all. I don’t think we should invest in it at all. I don’t like the huge commissioning and decommissioning costs of nuclear programs let alone the nuclear waste, thats generated which won’t decay for centuries.

I admit, we need to invest in oil and shale at the moment to cover ourselves if renewables fail. The big bet should be on renewables, after all why should we rely on a source of energy generated by the past when we can generate all our electricity needs from the present.

The sun hits the Earth with enough energy to power us for years, yet some people on this planet don’t want to use it.

The sun powers our climate including the wind, which is currently howling outside right now, yet people do not want to harness the sheer energy that it produces.

The sun powers the rain cycle, that is used in hydro-electric power.

The moon powers the tides that hit this island every day.

Considering the sheer amount of energy available in renewables and that we are taking energy from the present and not the distant past. I don’t see why we shouldn’t gamble on it.

If Liberal Democrats, want a green future, renewables are the future.

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Nick Clegg apologises but is it believable?

September 20, 2012 6 comments

Most of you by now will have seen the next LibDem party political broadcast in which Nick apologises. In case you haven’t, here is the video:

I admire Nick for apologising, I really do. Neil Monnery told him to do it a year ago & Neil pointed out that he or his advisers thought that an apology would be laughed at or that questions would arise as to why did you do it in the first place.

Now whilst it was good to see a politician do something as refreshing to apologise for what everyone sees as a giant mistake and damaging to your electoral chances.

I thought the video was very badly done and it was done in a manner that made the apology not believable. I use the words that it was far too staged and scripted. What I mean by that is that the way it was staged and scripted & the way Nick delivered the script made the whole thing not believable.

Now lots of LibDems think the opposite to me and that Nick’s apology was completely honest and sincere. Yet had Ed Miliband and Ed Balls apologised for their parties mistakes, then every LibDem in the same manner. Of course their advisers would make sure the tone is right, the lighting etc. was right but we would see it for what it was, a dishonest and insincere apology.

The video, is everything the public hates about politics. Its part of why trust in politics has been eroded. The public see these videos with the nice lighting, the politician talking straight into the camera & saying this & that, whilst going and doing the opposite. The public have been trained to see everything in that video as its been staged and scripted as “oh, look my polling figures are bad, let’s do something to increase my polling figures” or “oh look, lets see how we can best persuade these suckers to vote for us, in order to screw them once we get power”.

The apology would have been much done, if it had been scripted into his conference speech so that it appeared Nick had gone off-script, in order to say what he actually believes in & to connect with us. Of course in order to convince us, a different speech would have to be leaked to the press only for him to follow it to veer away from it.

The Guardian has a story, that his advisers were against it but Nick became convinced it was the right thing to do, after the summer tour. I agree an apology was necessary, but it needed to be done better.

In the language of the video, Nick says it was wrong to commit to a policy that wasn’t affordable at the time when there was “no money” lying around. If it wasn’t affordable, why was it in “our fully-costed manifesto”? If it became unaffordable because we were in government, which it did, if it became unaffordable because we had different priorities, which we did then say that but don’t contradict something else that we said at the time of the election. That makes what we say at the 2015 election, seem like its complete lies.

Instead of rebuilding trust, he’s actually eroding it further.

The apology also shows that Nick doesn’t get that the tuition fees is a symbol of distrust, that the people who went away from us over the broken promise see other broken promises so addressing one but not the others, I believe shows that he just doesn’t get it.

Now, I believe Nick Clegg should be Prime Minister, but I feel because of his “voters will miraculously come back” strategy, which it seems he still doesn’t want to move away from, will lead us into opposition for another century. I don’t believe this “apology” helps, I believe it entrenches that distrust.

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The Case For A Second Question!

August 28, 2012 8 comments

I’ve been mulling this post over for a while, ever since Jade Holden wrote a piece against a second question on her blog.

I was glad to read that the fringe event at Scottish Liberal Democrat conference and my speech to the floor of conference, made her agree and excited to join the campaign against a Yes/No ballot.

I was disappointed to read that she changed her mind later that weekend.

I still believe in a second question. Why?

As I said to conference, “a vote against independence is a vote for the status quo”. I am not and will never be in favour of the current constitutional settlement.

However, unlike Andrew Page or Graeme Cowie, I’m not in favour of independence. I don’t believe going a step too far might be better than not going far enough.

I firmly believe being one step back or one step ahead of the right constitutional settlement are as bad as each other.

If I wasn’t interested in this question or had I not been taught about democracy around the time of Scottish Devolution, had I not thought of how I would like to see the constitutional settlement solved then it would be so easy for me to vote No in the coming referendum and think nothing of it.

But because I am interested in the question and in politics, I won’t be able to bring myself to vote No.

I can’t vote No because of one simple reason: Trust in politics and politicians, in particular David Cameron & the Tories and Ed Miliband & the Labour party.

In 1979, there was a referendum on Scottish Devolution. The Tories said “Vote No and we’ll come up with a better solution”. Well, 33 years later the country is still waiting for the Conservatives’ better solution. Let me put that into perspective for you, thats my life plus almost a decade. It can’t be that hard to find a solution that the Conservative party can agree on, can it?

In 2011, there was a referendum on AV, the ‘No’ side tried to reassure everyone that if they voted No, there was still a chance for voting reform. This vote was specifically on the proposal of AV.

After a No vote was declared, David Cameron amongst others claimed that this was a ‘Yes’ vote for FPTP.

Now the question of independence or not is too important to me for me to allow my vote to be manipulated in this way so I’m making the conscious decision not to vote in any Yes/No referendum.

I believe in change so I believe there should be a change option on the ballot.

I agree with Jade and others who say, complicating the issue with devo-max, devo-plus and devo-extra (my pet name for Home Rule). I agree with the ‘independent’ panel that says rest of UK should have a say in whether the current constitutional settlement should be changed.

The ballot paper could ask:

The current constitutional settlement sees the Scottish Parliament deciding issues on matters such as Health, Education, Law & Order among other things whilst Westminster deciding on matters to deal with Welfare, Economy, Defence, Foreign affairs, Immigration. Should the current constitutional settlement change?

Yes

No

If Yes, should Scotland become an independent state?

Yes

No

There is no Rennie’s riddle here if there is a Yes/Yes, we go independent, if there is a No to the first question we stay as we are. If there is a Yes/No we continue on the debate as to what Scotland we would like to see and hopefully bring the rest of the UK into the debate as well.

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Debunking the “Better Together” leaflet!

August 25, 2012 13 comments

Today, the “Better Together” came to Ayr High Street and various other high streets up and down Scotland to campaign against independence.

I popped down to see which activists turned up and from which parties. I also went to snag a leaflet and to see what arguments the “Better Together” campaign think will win Scotland over.

Below are images of the leaflet that the “Better Together” campaign have been handing out today around Scotland.

Health Warning: If you are allergic to bulls**t & lies, don’t read any further.

Whilst, this is true. Its only true for now, isn’t it?

After all, opinion polling suggests that 70% of Scots prefer a middle option between independence and the status quo. Something like Devo-max which would give control of pensions to the Scottish Government.

Devo-plus doesn’t send pensions to the Scottish Government but it does give other welfare payments to the Scottish Government so its not hard to see that if Scotland goes for Devo-plus, that soon after pensions might come north as well.

Inside the Better Together leaflet!

I’m going to take each of those points one by one!

1) Woohoo, we have 270 embassies! *sarcasm* Having 270 embassies around the world is not really of interest to me. Do we really need all those embassies? I’m for quality not quantity!

2) Unless, Westminster puts up trade sanctions with Scotland, stopping imports from Scotland, this is sadly going to stay the same unless of course we use our independence to build trading links with the rest of the world.

3) Are English, Welsh & Northern Irish firms all of a sudden going to leave Scotland, if Scotland goes independent? I think not.

4) Those 31,000 workers could easily re-train and join the new Scottish Foreign Office, Home Office, Defence Department, Department for Work & Pensions and all those sections of departments that are currently reserved to Westminster.

5) Scottish banks were bailed out. It sure would be interesting to see what would have happened had Scotland been independent. Would Westminster still needed to step in, at least in part to protect the rest of the UK’s accounts and pensions. I have a feeling they would.

6) A Swede doesn’t need papers or passport to live and work in Denmark and vice versa. Or are “Better Together” saying that relationships between the two nations would be too sour for that kind of thing.

7) Again, 2nd biggest aid budget, not the biggest vote swinger. Helping out other countries is good, but we’ll still give aid and I assume the rest of the UK will still give aid so does it matter that it comes from 2 sources instead of one?

8) Seat at the top table of the UN alongside Communist China, Putin’s Russia – those lovers of democracy & America, ah that country that has so much inequality. Do we really want to sit with these guys?

9) The triple AAA credit rating. We don’t know what credit rating companies will decide to give an indy Scotland but does it matter? If Scots want to be independent, what others say about our credit rating won’t matter, will they. After all independence is about making the decisions that affect Scotland, in Scotland by those who live in Scotland.

Last but not least the back page:

Back page of “Better Together” Leaflet

The “Better Together” leaflet is really disappointing. Its clear its been dreamt up by the pro-status quo camp. I think anyone who wants change, like myself, should disassociate themselves from this leaflet and the Better Together campaign. A better campaign name would be the Status Quo campaign.

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Nick hits back at Cameron over Lords Reform! Is it a winner or out?

August 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Nick Clegg made a statement on Monday announcing that the government was going to drop Lords Reform, due to the fact that Cameron can’t control his backbenchers.

Nick Clegg started fighting back over Lords Reform by saying that since Lords Reform has been dropped, the LibDems will vote against the Boundary Proposals when they come back to Parliament.

The critics of the speech saying its tit-fot-tat politics at its worst.

I agree with those critics but I also believe it was the only option left on the table.

What was wrong with the statement is the fact that it needed to happen in the first place. Labour and the Conservative rebels rang rings around Nick pushing Nick into this position.

As a sports and in particular a tennis far, Nick was left scrambling around on the baseline so by the time of the final shot hit by Cameron, saying that he couldn’t get his backbenchers to support him on this, Nick was beyond the tramlines, where the only viable shot on the table was to hit a winner or hit the shot out.

Whether it goes in or not, is minor because even if it goes in, your not going to be able to hit that shot every time. However, being in that position shows you that something with your strategy is wrong, if your opponent was able to dictate play like that and in this case they were able to dictate play so easily.

It sadly appears to be the story of the coalition to date, with Labour and the Conservatives getting the easy shots and us, the LibDems having to play defence on every single point.

What is even more disheartening for someone who believes in the Liberal vision, is that Nick Clegg believes that if we keep going with this strategy that somehow, the electorate either in 2015 or 2020 will come back to us & that one day, we’ll manage to get a majority.

I have news for Nick Clegg, it won’t happen, if we keep the current strategy of trying to counterpunch everything that the Tories & Labour throw at us. Why? Because their good at offence, their not new to this whole politicking thing, they know that in order to get elected that you have to be able the attack stories as well as attack the other parties by putting the other parties in difficult positions.

Yet, at the moment, the only party who is being continually being put in difficult positions is the Liberal Democrats.

Nick conceded the game on Lords reform & hit back by threatening the boundary changes. Yet the press his statement received was mixed, some praised him (The Independent) and others hit straight back at him (Daily Mail). Tavish Scott thinks it brings fresh hope to the LibDems. It will only bring fresh hope to the grassroots if it comes with a new strategy. A strategy that doesn’t leave us scrambling around the baseline, trying to defend ourselves and the LibDems from the attacks that are coming from the left and the right, but leaves us fighting back strongly and Labour & the Tories scrambling around on defence.

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An argument against the so-called debt crises!

July 25, 2012 1 comment

So today the GDP figures came out for the UK and its not good. The UK economy shrank by 0.7% between April and June.

Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer is still blaming Labour, the Eurozone crises, for the economy shrinking and blaming the “difficult decisions” on a large deficit increasing our national debt.

The argument is that because we have a huge debt and are adding to that at a huge rate, the solution to the “debt crises” isn’t to max out another credit card.

That would be true if we were facing a debt crises. I don’t think we are.

First of all it is true that governments around the world well mainly in the western world have a lot of debt and have huge deficits. It is also true that banks gambled with money they didn’t really have, forcing governments to bail them out.

But the economic crises we face isn’t because of government debt or government deficits.

Last week saw the release of official figures showing that the Scottish economy is back in recession. The Scottish economy as an individual unit is incapable of having debt or a deficit for the period between January & March, therefore unlike George, Scotland can’t blame debt or a deficit for going back into recession.

Scotland’s economy is incredibly more complicated than if you just take the UK as a whole. Why?

Because we have the Scottish Government taking decisions as to where to spend the UK handout in areas such as education, health, law & order, apprenticeship schemes etc. that are different from the UK Government’s decisions but you also have the Chancellor deciding how much money we get, and paying out on items such as welfare and all economic decisions.

Yet, I think there is a valid argument that because the Scottish economy has only just fallen into recession again, later than the rest of the UK, that the deficit is not the number one priority to be dealing with at the moment.

That being said there are a number of questions to be asked about this such as how much the deficit and the debt of the whole UK affects the Scottish economy? Scotland relies on a handout, is that affecting positively or negatively on the Scottish economy?
How much are the Scottish Government decisions affecting the economy versus how much the UK government decisions are affecting the Scottish economy?
You could answer these questions from various different angles. I have to say, it is incredibly difficult to work out the right answer.

I do know the SNP will use this to blame Westminster and not take responsibility but we don’t know what effect if any the UK Government’s decisions are having on the economy.

P.S. If you think I’m wrong on this and that my argument is completely invalid and my logic is flawed please leave a comment. Also if you agree, please leave a comment.

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