Media and graffiti

OK then media first! Was on the Tay Talk In this morning regarding the future administration of the City Council. The Talk In is a great programme as Ally allows everyone their say and the programme is dynamic, with the listeners deciding the content.

So … that’s today’s positive story about the media. So here’s the all too inevitable negative one!

A few days before polling day, I got a call from a BBC researcher from the ‘Scotland Live’ programme asking if Dundee Liberal Democrats would participate in an eve-of-poll feature on the Dundee West constituency; the idea was to interview local activists from each of the four parties contesting Dundee West about their experiences of the campaign. I was advised that the parliamentary candidates could not participate but any other local activist could and that, due to the need for electoral balance, if any party refused participation, the feature could not go ahead.

To be frank, their wish for an interview at 8.30am on eve-of-poll was something I’d have rather avoided. We had a huge logistical exercise involving teams in West End, Coldside and Strathmartine Wards organising the delivery of leaflets and the thought of fitting in BBC Scotland was a bit of a pain. But we agreed. Always like to be helpful!

My brother in law (Murray – candidate in Coldside Ward) and I were trailed round deliveries in Hazel Drive by a friendly lady from the BBC who asked lots of questions about the election.

At lunchtime, I listened to the programme on my mp3/fm player (while deliver leaflets for Chris Hall in Charleston!) Interviews with Labour, Conservatives, SNP … but no Liberal Democrats! So why?

It turns out that the BBC had failed to explain to us that council candidates could not participate (in addition to a bar on parliamentary candidates) and at BBC HQ they had sussed that I was a council candidate. OK, a mistake by the BBC, but in the interview with the Conservatives, they interviewed the Conservative council candidate for the West End Ward. Total and abject BBC incompetence.

Phil Wells, the BBC ‘Scotland Live’ producer, has phoned and e-mailed me an apology, but he has made it perfectly clear that the BBC attitude is not to try to redress matters, simply to apologise and move on.

I do not think this is good enough. At the very least some reassurance that BBC Scotland now had procedures in place to stop this happening again would have been nice.

I think I can genuinely say I am not a natural moan. I doubt any other member of Dundee City Council had received so much adverse media comment in the past few years, but I have always found the best way forward is to ignore it and continue to work hard for your constituents. This is not a case of complaining because you have been criticised, but I feel it is not good enough that BBC Scotland believes it can simply ignore electoral balance and think it doesn’t really matter. So, I have lodged a formal complaint. Will report back on outcome in due course!

I had two conversations with constituents today on the same subject – graffiti in the Perth Road district shopping centre. I have proposed a graffiti-specific rapid response team for the City; I think this is a sensible way forward.

Way forward, Utility Box fly-posting

Yesterday saw our councillors from across Scotland meeting in Perth to discuss ways forward. Obviously different Councils have different priorities and will form differing administrations depending on local circumstances, but it was good to meet colleagues. Although some disappointments in a few councils, the picture is generally very good.

I was asked (along with Kate Dean, who has been the LibDem Council Leader in Aberdeen) to speak to a group of new councillors in authorities where we had not had representation in the past. It is brilliant to see the breakthroughs in places like Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, Stirling, North Ayrshire, etc, and having originally been the sole LibDem on Dundee City Council (no longer the case!) I was able to explain the need to work with others.

There was an update on national negotiations and it is very clear that Nicol & team are simply not going to waver in making no independence referendum a precondition of any talks with the SNP Parliamentary Party. Totally agree with this. I made the point that there are equally concerns about the huge list of SNP spending commitments which are frankly not properly costed and I said this will make a national partnership agreement with the SNP exceptionally difficult to achieve. The SNP is simply not going to deliver what it promised. The audience burst into applause when I said that. Methinks an SNP minority administration is on the cards in Holyrood.

I also spoke on the Tay Talk In, pointing out why we do not support an independence referendum. People had the right to choose independence last Thursday by voting for parties that support separation (SNP, Greens, Solidarity and SSP) but far less than half the people of Scotland did. We are hardly going to support a costly referendum designed to deliver something we are diametrically opposed to! Talking on the Talk-In was a total challenge – on my mobile, in a covered car park in Perth, with poor mobile reception, not really able to hear what Ally the Talk-In presenter was asking me!!

I am trying to keep our LibDem members fully updated on any discussions involving myself & my colleague Helen with the other groups on the Council. The Courier this morning fairly summed up the current situation (click on headline above to read this). I am the only “surviving” group leader as Bruce Mackie and Jill Shimi (formerly Conservative and Labour Group Leaders) stood down from the City Council and Willie Sawers (formerly SNP Group Leader) chose not to stand for the SNP Group Leadership on the new City Council.

This morning I spoke with all three new group leaders and agreed to meet the SNP tomorrow morning, the Conservatives at lunchtime and Labour later in the evening (quite late on actually as I want to go to West End Community Council tomorrow night!) The basic principles Helen and I are working on is that policy comes before position, how “workable” an administration arrangement is matters greatly (decision making process, involving all in the administration) and that the arrangements are sufficiently robust to last the whole four years.

I am keen to read others’ manifestos (I am giving them all copies of ours) and if today’s calls to all three parties are to go by, I think a constructive exchange of views is probable.

If you go to http://www.dundee.prai.co.uk/news/000518.html you can read about my complaint about the Solidarity Party and the disgraceful fly-posting of utility boxes in the West End (and indeed right across the City). According to the Courier today, Solidarity’s response is that I am highlighting their irresponsible behaviour as a smokescreen to hide some apparent disastrous LibDem electoral performance. Sorry, Solidarity, the disastrous electoral performance was yours. What I was highlighting was the complaints from dozens of West End residents about the mess left by supporters of this party and I hope we’ll see them clean the posters off right away.