Saturday, April 28, 2007

Labour getting riled in Hamilton

According to the BBC,

In Hamilton, Labour candidate Tom McCabe was involved in a confrontation with an SNP activist as his leader Jack McConnell appealed to undecided voters.
One possible reason for this is the number of knockbacks he is getting in Hamilton from his constituents. One of these was my wife's Aunt , who when asked by Mr McCabe if he could count on her vote simply replied
"Indeed you cannot"
She has apparently, after years of voting solely for the Conservatives, decided to vote tactically for the SNP and Conservatives to help get rid of Labour. She is also on the trail of educating her fellow older voters on the way to vote as she feels the new voting system is going to cause confusion in these elections.

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Election scuffle as tempers fray

Friday, April 27, 2007

MTAS - RIP for the moment

You've probably seen this on the news or in paper somewhere, but the systems that was being used for Junior Doctors to apply for Training Jobs in the UK has had to be shut down as it had serious security problems. This came at the end of a long list of problems that have beset the system and its implementation.

I have also blogged on it a number of times see here. Dr Crippen has also blogged on it a number of times see here.

So now you maybe wondering who the guy is in the picture, well he's Paul Dacre and that name should ring a bell, he is the editor of the Daily Mail which is part of the Associated Newspapers Group (AN) and is on the Board of the Parent Company DMGT (Daily Mail and General Trust PLC).

So now you are wondering what this has to do with the MTAS system. Well the AN group also owns a few other companies including those who have websites here. One of these is Jobsite which you might have used, whilst looking for a job (clue here!). They also run, for the NHS, the website used to search for jobs in the NHS for England and Wales. It was this experience that gained them the contract along with Method Consulting for the MTAS system. Jobsite actually host and run the website for the NHS.

It is interesting to note that if you search the Method Consulting website here for MTAS, MMC or NHS you get no relevant results, are they ashamed or what?

The MTAS terms and conditions on their website used to have the following (It's not available at the moment!)

This web service is provided by *Methods* *Consulting* Ltd and Jobsite UK (Worldwide) Ltd for the Department of Health as a service for the NHS. The service is subject to the contract between the Department of Health and *Methods* *Consulting* Ltd as construed in accordance with English Law and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of England and Wales.
These terms and conditions apply to all users of the website.
While the Contractor intends this site to be continuously available, virus free, and to contain accurate information, the Contractor does not guarantee that it will. The Department and the Contractor accept no liability for any consequences arising from inaccuracies, viruses, the unavailability of the site, misuse of the site, or any User's inability to access or use the site.
Not bad so far apart from the continuously available bit. It then goes on with the following
Data Protection Notice

The Contractor records statistics about visits to the pages of this site to help us administer and improve the site. The personal data provided by an Applicant on a submitted application form will be passed to Recruiters in order for them to consider the application; it will be stored securely in the site's database and will not be available to other Applicants. The application data held on the site will be deleted 13 months after the end date of the recruitment round for which it was submitted. Appointing Employers will retain the application forms for appointed Applicants separately as part of their staff records.
Statistical data on recruitment activity will be provided to the Health Departments and Deaneries for campaign management and workforce planning.

Maybe that should should read slightly differently as it appears the site is open to all comers to do with as they like.

So what has the Daily Mail got to say on MTAS and the system. The latest article is here, no mention of any link here to the fact the Daily Mail might be in anyway linked to the mess that is MTAS. In fact checking through the Daily Mail site we find no link between MTAS and the Daily Mail or Jobsite. As one commentator in the latest article says:
"This is a system that was obviously failing as a project. They had to produce a very quick and dirty result in order to serve their customers. They didn't even do that properly in terms of the most elementary form of password protection.

"This has to be one of the worst types of public sector security failure that I can think of."

This sort of incompetence on top of all the other problems is nothing short of unbelievable.

Worse is the fact that as Dr Crippen reports
And now a trivial matter. Or a matter that seems consistently to be treated as trivial by the department. What happens to the doctors? MTAS, for all its failings, is their source of information about forthcoming interviews and appointments. There is nowhere else for them to turn.
And finally a quote from Mr Eugenides on this as my language does quite stretch to his levels:

Just stop and think about that for a moment. If I could access someone else's internet banking simply by changing the account number in the requested field, someone at RBS would be fired by close of business. In no other field of endeavour is incompetence and waste so routinely shrugged off as par for the course as it seems to be in the governance of the country.

Imagine a pile of shit so large it could be seen from space: the air black with flies for miles in every direction, rivulets of stinking liquefied effluvium wending their way from the base of the huge cack-heap into every nook and cranny of this land; an all-pervading stench so horrendous that it put families from Inverness to Exeter off their food. Wouldn't you expect someone to clean it up? Wouldn't you expect the arses that had deposited this great heap of filth to at least acknowledge their part in creating it? Instead, Patsy tells us that "fewer beds are a sign of success", that the NHS has just enjoyed its "best ever year" (presumably 2007 is already on course to be a fucking triumph), and that MTAS is the best thing since banana Nesquik.
What has this pile of cack cost us, well apparently over 5 years it will have cost us 6.3mm pounds. Its real cost will be in the damage it has done to Junior Doctors.

Heads must roll for this debacle starting with Patsy (Best year so Far) Hewitt.

NHS Blog Doctor: MTAS - what next?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cameron's Auntie

Nice to see Annabel getting some praise during this election.

She has been back to her best and is doing a good job, even if this is not showing up in the Scottish Polls. I expect the Tories to do much better than the current polls show, particularly at the council level, as Scotland is notoriously difficult to poll in. The only real and accurate poll will be the elections.

The main problem at the moment is the amount of voters who are supporting the SNP to ensure that Labour and the Lib Dems do not get back into power. Many people want change and are willing to back the SNP to achieve this. The problem, though, may come in 2-3 years when the SNP hold their referendum and it fails. The SNP will then be left to pick up the pieces and work out what their "raison d'etre" is and how they will go forward.

Looking at the other party leaders and how they are getting on, we see, that the Lib Dems Nicol Stephen has shown his true ability and is fading quickly. Jack McConnell is struggling to cope and has had to call in the B team from London to hinderhelp him. The only other major leader doing OK is Alex Salmond and he faces a bit of a battering today from all sides about the SNP's tax policy.

Oh, and just remember to vote to get rid of Labour and their pointless poodles the Lib Dems.

Cameron's 'Scottish auntie' steals the show

Errors of my way? Hoodies Clean Up Shock.

I saw the original story on this on the BBC website yesterday and thought it was a good story, but I most admit the "real" story behind it and details of how the police now operate is even more fun.

Read and enjoy!

Errors of my way?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tell me no secrets - Postal Voting

John M Morrison has the following article in Comment is Free at the Guardian. In it he states

Absent voting is fundamentally incompatible with the secrecy of the ballot - and without this principle elections are neither free nor fair.
His contention , which I would tend to agree with, is that the voting is not secret unless it is done in person at the ballot box where it can be done fairly and in secrecy. No one can see your vote and no one can check, if you are being coerced, that you have done what you said you would do.

Continuing on the secrecy theme he points out
Gladstone understood the strange paradox of the secret ballot: the honesty and integrity of the electoral system as a whole is underpinned by giving each individual voter the freedom to lie to family members, neighbours and community leaders about how he or she has voted. Postal voting, by shifting the voting process into the family and the community, reopens the door to the abuses that Gladstone's great reform successfully eliminated.
Basically what he is saying is that the nature of the secret ballot, is, that it allows us to vote in the way that we want, despite outside influences that say voting for a particular party is a betrayal of your upbringing, your colour, your creed or your religion.

He also points out that if France can manage an 85% turnout with no postal voting then why can't we in the UK manage this. They have much the same sort of lifestyles but take the time to vote.

His other problem with the postal vote is how it is administered and used. This has been the subject of many stories in the press , a few are here and here and some more here.

The last article shows how lessons learnt in England are not being followed up in Scotland as ballot signatures are not being checked and date of birth checks on some papers will happen south of the Border, but not in Scotland.
He has the following to say on this
The government pays lip service to cleaning up postal voting, but has no real intention of putting the clock back to the days when it was only available to those voters who could not get to the polling station. Labour's increasing reliance on dodgy postal votes explains why it has resisted calls for individual voter registration, and why it still allows political parties to go around banging on doors collecting up completed(or in some cases uncompleted) ballot papers. Instead of relying on the ballot box and the polling station to stop abuses, it has brought in a voluntary code of conduct for parties on how they should handle applications and postal ballot papers. Behind closed doors, who knows how many people are being influenced or instructed about how to fill in their ballot papers? The police have been briefed to be on the lookout for abuses in the May 3 elections, but how many people are going to shop members of their family/ community to the police for insisting that they vote Labour?
He finishes off by saying
Perhaps postal voting on demand really is as popular as the government says it is. I doubt it. Most people know it is a scam far worse than anything perpetrated in the world of TV phone-ins. When dodgy elections are held elsewhere, in Nigeria, Russia or Zimbabwe, the UK government would be well advised not to be too critical.
I agree with him that we should curtail postal voting, we are already on the way to becoming a third world nation under the current Labour Government, we shouldn't allow our voting system to become third rate as well.

Tell me no secrets ...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monteith and the Tory Party

Earlier this week I blogged, how, under the leadership of Annabel Goldie the Tories are now the only major party with a realistic cash plan for the Scottish Elections, according to Professor Midwinter.

Well I thought I'd just contrast that with how well the last cash plan shaped under Brian Monteith, who appears, to be as usual trying to put a spanner in the works. Under Mr Monteith's budget Professor Midwinter was scathing as he concluded

"The Conservatives’ budgetary arithmetic does not add up, with a shortfall in their planned savings of around £670 million.

"This DIY approach to public accounting is not good enough.

"The Conservatives need to master the basics of the financial system they aspire to manage. This is a poorly costed programme, which will be difficult to implement without further cuts in public spending, to compensate for the missing £856 million in the current calculations."

Contrast that with what Midwinter had to say about the current plan.
The Tories are the only party to give "modest, fully costed proposals", rather than making "fiscally irresponsible" assumptions. Despite being a vociferous critic of the fiscal policies of the Thatcher government, Prof Midwinter praises the party for setting realistic goals for efficiency savings and costing promises made on issues like crime and education.

He wrote: "This is quite simply the most transparent and realistic set of policy and financial proposals I have read in the lead-up to the current election and far superior to the creative accounting and rosy assumptions in the policy statements of the other major opposition party, the SNP."
So what is Monteith doing now.

According to Scottish Tory Boy, he is briefing, again, against his own party. Have a look here or here.

He also has tried to undermine the Tories at ContinuityIDS, both under his own name and a few others as required.

One wonders if he is not a tad upset about the fact that he got found out when he was cheating us on Taxi Fares after ratting on his leader as the Scotsman said at the time
"I doubt there will be anyone within the group shedding tears over this. We all knew Brian had an enormous taxi bill while he was attacking David over his taxi use and accounts, so perhaps he should have been a little more circumspect - but that's never been Brian's strong suit." - SOURCE WITHIN TORY PARTY News - Conservative Party - £850m 'black hole' in Tories' finance

Monday, April 23, 2007

Scottish Election leaflets - Part II

Part I is here.

Now onto the final 2 leaflets we have received. I had to retrieve the Conservative one from my kids who are quite excited about it as the candidate is also one of their teachers at School and we had previously met him when my wife (with some help from the kids) delivered leaflets for him in the 2001 General Election.

Fourth SNP - Dennis Robertson

Not the most inspiring leaflet which is cheaply printed A4 sheet with just one picture, though the re-cycle message on it may explain this.

Not sure if he means this but according to the leaflet he lives

with my wife Ann two, teenage daughters and guide dog Woody.
Yes, the punctuation is just a bit suspect! Either that he is just very Liberal minded!

Explains he knows constituency has diverse interests which he understands and would represent with equal enthusiasm.
On the back are a list of "Its Time" messages and explanations. Basically Nuclear-free Scotland, better future, axe council tax, safer Scotland, revitalise rural Scotland, Scotland to take the lead in Education, back small businesses, healthier Scotland.

Rest are instructions on how to vote, with another unfortunate spelling error, apparently your "Fist" vote (Regional) should be for Alex Salmond, probably for the reason that he will making a better "fist" of it as First Minister.

Not one single mention of Independence or a Referendum, very strange!

Fifth and Finally Conservative - Stewart Whyte.

Again an A4 sheet rather than a glossy, though much better printed than the SNP sheet. This leaflet is very similar to earlier mailshots by Stewart and has an "Election Special" mark.

Main article is about Crime saying Don't stand forIt. This is apparently one of his main motivations for standing. Says Tories will increase Police numbers and cut paperwork. They will also replace Human Rights act, condemns Lib Dems for their less Jail and more Community Service message.

Also asks for end of bias against NHS Grampian, Grampian Police and Aberdeenshire Council who receive 10% less funding than the poulation merits from the Scottish Executive

On the back mentions Education, Affordable Housing and NHS Dentistry (Whats that?).

Generally very locally aimed and much more explanation of issues relevant to the constituency.

The Conservatives have also sent me two bits of information about "No Voice" for the Regional Vote. These are very much aimed nationally for the list votes. Mention of fact that Scotland wants change and that the Lib-dems have only opposed Labour 8 times in 8 years (That's not a voice its and echo). Very professional looking.

So that's them all. Which is the best depends upon on how you look at them. The SNP and Labour ones are a bit of a joke both not very professional and basically looking like they realise they have no hope in the constituency and aren't going to spend much money here.

The Lib Dems is glossy and full of the candidate and pictures of him, but little real substance, This appears to be the Lib Dems all over.

The Conservative one is much more homey and squarely aimed at local issues.

I know which way I will be voting! Vote Stewart Whyte Conservative.

P.S. I'm still to see any of the MSP candidates in person round my village during the campaign and little sign of any advertising. Stewart Whyte did personally deliver leaflets round our area about 8 weeks ago but no hint of anybody else. Bruce Luffman our local Tory Councillor also hand delivered the leaflets for both local and MSP elections to the whole of our village as well as stopping for a chat with residents.

Frankie Boyle - Dysfunctional Comedian

Scotsman on Sunday Headline

"SNP win in polls but lose erection"
Honest that's the headline on this article. In fact the whole piece is about as intelligent as the article headline and has about as much to do with Politics as Tony Blair has to Honesty.

I believe Frankie Boyle, the author, is supposed to be some sort of comedian, looking at this it appears he may not yet have got out of short pants. His jokes are as old as Ming (gosh I haven't heard that one before) and short of either humour or irony.

What this is doing in the Politics section of a "Quality" Newspaper is beyond me, it is neither Politics or Political humour, it is just drivel.

Thank goodness there are, at least, some decent articles on the election available here

Scotland on Sunday - Politics - SNP win in polls but lose erection

Tories the only party with realistic cash plans

Yes you've guessed it the only party with realistic cash plans are the Scottish Tories.

According to Professor Arthur Midwinter who is visiting professor at the institute for Public Sector Accounting at Edinburgh University,

The Tories are the only party to give "modest, fully costed proposals", rather than making "fiscally irresponsible" assumptions. Despite being a vociferous critic of the fiscal policies of the Thatcher government, Prof Midwinter praises the party for setting realistic goals for efficiency savings and costing promises made on issues like crime and education.

He wrote: "This is quite simply the most transparent and realistic set of policy and financial proposals I have read in the lead-up to the current election and far superior to the creative accounting and rosy assumptions in the policy statements of the other major opposition party, the SNP."
He continues in similar vein

"The report is well written and lucid, and returns to traditional Tory concerns, such as families, decentralisation to local government and the primacy of law-and-order issues, with little right-wing rhetoric favouring pro-market approaches across the public sector.

"The Conservatives' return to the centre ground increases the prospects for influencing developments - even outwith a coalition."

He does have some criticisms and said
the Scottish Conservatives are wrong to cite low growth and increased local taxation, which have in fact improved. He also said their policy on mutualising Scottish Water, cutting council tax for pensioners and allocating hospital resources to follow patients must be redrawn.
Annabel Goldie, the party leader, pledged to stick to
"credible" plans to influence the next Scottish Parliament: "We know from the doorsteps that our policies are being well received and are in tune with the voters' concerns about the bread-and-butter issues."
So as usual we see the Tories coming out with simple sensible policies based upon sound finances. Professor Midwinters comments for the other parties are below

Condemned the SNP's plans as
"an uncosted wish-list with a £1.8 billion black hole at its heart".
He has also criticised the Labour Party for merely
"muddling through" rather than taking important decisions on the economy
and he accused the Lib Dems of
"confused political and economic theorising".

Tories 'only party with realistic cash plans'

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Blair sends Cabinet into Scotland

Apparently Mr Blair in a final realisation that he is about to be kicked out in Scotland is sending the "Big Boys" into Scotland, thereby sidelining poor old Jack McConnell our humble First Minister.

According to the Times

Tony Blair has ordered his Cabinet colleagues to clear their diaries and spend time in Scotland over the last ten days of the election campaign in a desperate attempt to turn the tide on the Nationalists.
I should think Alex Salmond will be laughing all the way to Holyrood at this. I don't think Blair has quite cottoned onto the fact that Labour is dying in Scotland at the moment and sending up the Blair lackeys will just make it worse. The examples of Milliband and Gordon Brown being seen in Scotland should make quite a few more votes move away from Labour.

The Times goes on:
Downing Street says that Mr Blair wants to plant the message in voters’ minds that, while they may consider voting SNP because they “fancy a change”, that cannot be viewed as a safe vote because of the SNP’s independence aim.
This is again shows the lack of understanding of what is going on in Scotland. After 10 years of mis-government and the woeful Lab/Lib/Dem coalition at Holyrood, it is not that Scotland "fancies" a change, it is that Scotland demands a change from their current corrupt government.

Now I'm not saying vote SNP to get this change, but with our voting system, I am saying vote anything but Labour and their trough feeding lackeys the Lib Dems. It is time to send a message to Blair/Brown that they are no longer wanted in Scotland or indeed in the rest of the UK.

Blair sends Cabinet north in late challenge to SNP

Scottish Round Up

Well worth a good look at this week, and for the next few weeks, good links and some great entries to be seen this week. The Round up is being published three times a week for the next few weeks during the lead up to the Elections.

Find it here.