‘So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye,’ from SNP’s Alex Salmond to the Union, but he forgets it’s cuckoo…

The referedum on independence for Scotland may be more negotiating position that set it stone...

It was with some interest that I settled down to listen to Alex Salmond’s official announcement on the proposed independence referendum.

As he explained the multiple options that he was planning to put to the Scottish people I couldn’t help be reminded of the slightly sad song from the Sound of Music, as the von Trapp children head off to bed.

His options are in many ways the ones that make sense to most people; the status quo, the Calman Commission, the ‘devolution max’ option or full-blown independence.

But, throughout I couldn’t help feel, however passionately he spoke, that this was a negotiating position.  It just seemed like he was backtracking from full independence, and seemed to be urging a common position on the ‘devolution max’ option.

Although the White Paper will go ahead as a referendum that includes a choice of independence this proposal should be seen as the SNP just trying to nudge the debate forward, beyond Calman, to a stronger form of devolved government in Scotland, short of independence.


Goldsmith to the right of me, Goldsmith to the left of me, Goldsmith’s in front of me, I marched into the interview…

The interview was the strangest I have ever had, which would you pick The Guardian, The Telegraph or The Morning Star...?

All this discussion of Zac Goldsmith, and his apparent lack of desire to pay the UK Taxman and Lord Goldsmith and his apparent uncertainty as to the legality of the war in Iraq, has reminded me of my visit to Goldsmith’s College 20 years ago.

It was my second choice University, but as I was very keen to study History in London I arrived at the interview in good time.

I was taken by a very large lady to a chair, placed outside the office of the Professor I was due to see for my interview.

After about 10 minutes the previous person, as I thought, came out of the interview room and said that I should go in.

Behind the desk all I could see was a copy of The Times and a rising plume of pipe smoke coming up from behind it.  Thinking this would end fairly soon I just waited patiently.

After a few more minutes of pipe smoke and page turning I noticed that there were three newspapers neatly place, pointing at the candidate’s chair.  They were The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Morning Star.

I divined after a few more minutes that the Professor behind the paper was not intending to stop reading his paper so I decided to pick up one of the newspapers sitting in front of me.

Having never seen a copy, let alone read a copy, of the The Morning Star before I picked it up and started reading. 

After a few seconds at last came the first evidence that the man on the other side of the table even recognised my existence.  He grunted, ‘why did you pick that one?’

I responded with the answer that I had never seen it before, let alone read it so I thought I would take the opportunity.

‘Hmmm,’ he said, ‘we’ll offer you two Cs, will that be OK?’ I responded it would and for the next 30 minutes we just chatted about politics, and why I had joined the SDP, not the Liberal Party.

As I didn’t take the place up I never discovered what the offer would have been if I had taken The Guardian or The Telegraph.

You might think over 40 years after his death there weren’t many new Churchill stories…

Even years after his death Winston Churchill can still generate new stories...

Despite dying in 1965 Winston Churchill still throws up a few new stories.  Today would have been his 135th birthday so it seems an appropriate time to tell my Churchill story.

Before we start let me make it clear that I never met him, unfortunately, as he died many years before I was born, but only recently I was having a discussion about him.

Being a slight student of history, and bearing in mind the regular TV documentaries about the great man, I was surprised to be asked this question in conversation.

‘So, you are telling me that Churchill was posh?!’ It was difficult to know how to answer this question.  Apparently the person I was in discussion with was under the impression that Churchill was a working class hero who had risen to power through, ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat,’ rather than a more traditional Victorian/Edwardian route.

I actually had to prove to my colleague that Churchill was ‘posh’ by showing him this website and explaining that people who are the grandson of a Duke are generally considered ‘posh’.

It was even more disappointing when I discovered that he had studied ‘A’ Level politics and history and had a degree in British Politics.

‘Local Liberal Democrats are on a war-footing!’ – The Press Officer’s Guide Lesson 7 – Know when to get up early!

Standing in front of the portrait of Gladstone I commented on the news that the local Tory MP had announced his retirement

It was a cold morning when a knock on my door woke me. It was strange to be woken by the couple I lodged with at the time, and even stranger to hear the strains of ‘Happy Birthday’ at the same time, especially as it wasn’t.

Shaken out of my reverie I asked what on earth was going on, I was met with the sort of news that really you don’t mind being woken up to.

Radio Cornwall was reporting that the popular local Tory MP had announced his intention not to stand at the next General Election. With all these sorts of stories you find yourself not too sure whether to believe the news until you actually hear it for yourself.

True enough the 6.30am news announced that Sir Robert Hicks had decided to throw in the electoral towel, making the seat that more winnable for the Lib Dems.

I called as many people as I could to get them to the office as quickly as possible, the candidate, Colin Breed, was unfortunately away working.

Nonetheless the Liberal Democrat press release was with local editors before the 8am news.

The phones began to ring in the local office and both BBC TV News and Westcountry wanted to do interviews so that they could progress the news before the lunchtime programme.

As Colin was away I was expected to act as the spokesman for the party. Standing in front of a very large portrait of Gladstone in the local Liberal Club, the message on the regional news was the perfect one to steal the Tory MP’s valedictory address.

‘And in South East Cornwall the Liberal Democrats are on a war-footing following the local MP’s announcement that he plans to retire…’

My quote would have any Lib Dem agent proud, ‘as everybody knows it’s a straight fight between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in South East Cornwall, Labour cannot win – it’s a Two Horse Race!’

Now that’s what I call an on-message agent!

‘It might be quite embarrassing to be stuck in a lift with me!’ said Miss Whiplash as I stood there in my dressing gown – The Press Officer’s Guide 6 – Avoiding Sex Scandals

Mark Ramprakash ended the day on 26 I ended the day in a lift with Miss Whiplash...!Cleo Rocos is well known for her portrayal of Miss Whiplash in the Kenny Everett Show in the 1980s and early 1990s, so you can probably guess I was surprised to find myself in a Leeds hotel lift with her in my dressing gown.

People who know me will know that I quite a keen cricket fan and, when the time allows, I like to take in a Test Match or a One-Day International.  The West Indies were touring, and with Headingley being the second nearest venue I bought tickets for the first four days of the match, knowing that, at this time, England were very unlikely to make it past the fourth day.

As I was about to go to bed on the evening of the third day, with England in a fairly good position, Graham Gooch having just passed 100, with Mark Ramprakash on 26, I heard the unmistakeable roar of the hotel siren.  As with all these things you wait just long enough to see if it is false alarm before careering down the twelve flights of stairs, in my dressing gown.

I arrived in the front car park with the tell-tale sirens of the local fire brigade in the distance fully aware that this was not a drill but that the it was a suspected fire and the fire service were about the attend the scene. 

I became increasingly aware that I was surrounded by dozens of well dressed ladies and gentlemen who were clearly attending quite a prestigious cricketing function, some of whom I had seen playing cricket earlier that day.

After a few minutes of smirks at my slight state of undress the all clear was called and we all, me first, piled back into the hotel.  The dinner resumed and I headed straight for the lift as did Cleo Rocos, the erstwhile Miss Whiplash.

She gave me a rather crestfallen look up and down and said, ‘it might be quite embarrassing to be stuck in a lift with me.’

Never a truer word spoken, I thought red-faced to myself, wishing I had taken the stairs to avoid the potential scandal.