Thursday 30th November 2006

11:35 pm

Surbiton chains

Gravatar Now these haven't been worn for many years... In 1936 Surbiton was given its charter as a borough, within the county of Surrey, and installed its first Mayor. At the same time, Malden & Coombe also took borough status. But in 1965 the three boroughs of Kingston, Surbiton and Malden & Coombe were conbined to form a new London borough. From then on the older insignia of Kingston became...
11:12 pm

And as I face the final curtain...

Gravatar And so, as promised, my tenure as Chair of Dulwich West Norwood Liberal Democrats into a new era. We even found a Treasurer, and I must thank Jonathan Price for stepping forward. With Janet Coy-Taras, our long time Membership Secretary moving on to be Vice Chair, and Theresa Connolly continuing as Secretary, that only left one post to fill. My invitation to the gathered throng going unanswered,
11:02 pm

A gain from Labour in Newcastle

Gravatar Breaking news: I've just been phoned by Newcastle to tell me we have gained Lemington from Labour in the byelection today. Remember this is a Lib Dem controlled council - we took it from Labour in 2004. The gain means that we now have a majority of 20 on Newcastle.As well as being an unmitigated disaster for Labour it is worth looking at the Conservatives' performance - 4th place. The votes were
11:00 pm

Is Keith secretly in favour of a unitary Oxford?

Gravatar For those beyond the confines of this city and its hinterland, Keith is Oxfordshire's Tory county councillor. Cllr Mitchell is single-handedly running County Hall (with a little help from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). But he doesn't, as I've explained before, get any help from the city, where 'Conservative' is a term rarely seen beyond the caption to an exhibit in the Natural History Museum, in the display cabinet just beyond the dodo. Many see a logic to having a unitary council for Oxford. But up to now, Keith has shook his gory locks and suggested the gravediggers ...
10:45 pm

Berlusconi, once again

Gravatar He doesn't really deserve all the attention he's getting. But at least I'm not alone in giving Sig. Berlusconi's little health difficulties space on the web. My favourite Italian newspaper*, Il Corriere, has collected references to his collapse from international websites. I particularly like the last of the five that they present -- great headline. *My favourite, except I feel I should apologise if your eyes are diverted to other parts of the screen when checking this link. They do seem to feel high-class journalism and a fascination with a certain sort of calendar are entirely compatible. And they ...
10:31 pm

There is such a thing as a free launch

Gravatar The New Statesman e-mailed me t’other day to ask me to blog-up their re-launched website, Which I am perfectly happy to do not least because they have adopted a permissive browsing policy, with all articles available free - and, more interestingly, an eight-year archive that can now be plundered by any casual visitor with no subscription required. A trend is emerging:
10:29 pm

Sarah Teather goes one better

Gravatar I have been known to poke gentle fun at the tendency of Liberal Democrat education spokesmen to complain about "a two-tier service". (Try Wednesday, Monday, Sunday or Tuesday.) Tonight I can reveal a worrying development: Sarah Teather has sighted the first three-tier service.
9:36 pm

Church conversion

Gravatar We all know that Britain is becoming a more secular society. Churches are being converted into nightclubs. But not in Shropshire: Nightclub converted into church For some reason this reminds me of Cows - a situation comedy written by Eddie Izzard. The cows in question lived in a barn conversion. It used to be a cottage and they converted it into a barn.
9:12 pm

No wonder people think that the law is an ass - In...

Gravatar Many times we've heard the phrase "the law is an ass", I've used it this week on my blog myself. However, the EDP has highlighted a case today where Meg Matthews, the ex-wife of Oasis member Noel Gallacher, has had speeding charges against her dropped because not all the correct documents were in the correct place. Read the story HERE. If this was the private sector, someone would lose their job. As it is, it was probably the fault of somebody well paid in the CPS or Police. Either way, what a disgrace ! Taxpayers deserve better. ...
8:30 pm

Sir Peter Tapsell and apologies on behalf of Henry...

Gravatar Funny today to see a Tory MP making the same point I was making about apologies for past mistakes by others. Sir Peter Tapsell asked in parliament today if the Prime Minister was prepared to apologise to all women for the discraceful behaviour to women by Henry VIII. See the BBC story HERE. Exactly the point I was trying to make, and I also though it very amusing. Well done Sir Peter !
8:17 pm

Will jobs come with new Tesco?

Gravatar An article by Jeanette Winterson standing in for Will Self in tonight's Evening Standard (can we make the swap permanent please) higlights how Tesco have replaced 60% of their checkouts at their Bishopsgate store with NCR FastLane self service lanes. I begin to have doubts about Tesco's claim that their new Orpington mega store will create 400 jobs Why do they need bother paying people, when
7:45 pm

I wonder what he means

Gravatar Nick Clegg made an interesting speech the other day. But I am not sure I have decoded it yet.
7:29 pm

Is this the most extravagant teapot ever?

Gravatar Our canteen has this machine to make the tea (full video here). It is quite extraordinary. It turns the mundane exercise of getting a cup of tea into a major entertainment extravaganza. The machine is called the "Lipton T-Bird" and is part of their "Tea Revolution". It even has a big yellow light that flashes periodically when the machine is not in use, to remind you that it is still there and is
5:47 pm

Adelaide, British and Australian sport

Gravatar The second Ashes Test begins this evening. I will be watching for the first few overs. I have never visited Adelaide, though I understand that it has an interesting layout based round a grid-system. As for the sport - well, Britain/England have not being doing so well. We slumped in Rugby League, we can't get off the canvass in Rugby Union, and in the last cricket Test-match we didn't show up. I have always thought that a perennial weakness of English coaches (even if, like Duncan Fletcher, they are not English by birth) is that they pick sides on reputation ...
5:41 pm

Oh to be a magistrate!

Gravatar Instead of the usual punishments, I think that instead we could sentence our miscreants to the enforced public wearing of garments from this wonderful company. Wouldn't it be far more effective?
5:13 pm

Micro turbines: mis-selling likely

Gravatar I've been waiting on tenterhooks for Newsnight's Ethical Man to get his micro turbine. Rather than say anything about them, this being television, you have to buy one and film it and see what happens. Well, it's off. Windsave have changed their mind about the suitability of his property. Justing by Justin's description, the property seems typical to good for wind, so what is going on? It appears
4:58 pm

Cameron labelled an undeserving icon

Gravatar Readers of Arena have given David Cameron the thumbs down, listing him fourth in a poll for the men’s magazine’s “Anti-Icon of the Year”. Sky News reports that Cameron was picked as an “undeserving icon” for “attracting ridicule for his ‘hug a hoodie’ campaign and for cycling to the House of Commons while a gas guzzling [...]
4:50 pm

Conference motion: Local devolution, autonomy and innovation

Gravatar It's that time when people try to get motions in through local parties for spring conference, and Oxford East Lib Dems have asked for some suggestions. So, following on from my "Abolish DCLG" petition, and acknowledging that you can't really have proper devolution and localization without freeing up areas like Health, Education and local Policing from central control, here is an expanded version in all its daft draft glory.Local devolution, autonomy and innovation A. Conference believes that: i. a defining principle of a functioning democracy is that government is legitimate only with the consent of the people ...
4:32 pm

Unintended Recipient

Gravatar I’ve previously complained of the Mayor’s press office ignoring requests for photos and to be added to their external mailing list. Today things have to shifted to the other end of the spectrum. This morning I was asked for an email address so a member of staff could send a press release containing Ken Livingstone’s response [...]
4:30 pm

Great Campaign Photographs, Part Three

Gravatar This photograph accompanied a press release in which the Brecon & Radnorshire Welsh Liberal Democrat MP, Roger Williams, welcomed signs that new rules for the sale of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) introduced by the UK’s Competition Commission are producing reductions in the price of LPG to householders in his constituency. I know that farmers can become attached to their animals but such affection for an LPG tank is unprecedented in my experience.
4:24 pm

Provoking memories

Gravatar Just visited the Birley Fields Web Site and left my pledge on their map - when I first went to work at Loreto, which is close by, I passed this tree every day. Seeing this photo again has brought back powerful memories and resolve to help protect green spaces. See Also - trying to get permission to be in Heaton Park this weekend with our petition! We await!
4:00 pm

Well deserved awards

Gravatar I was not able to get to the ITV Wales sponsored Welsh Political Awards last night as I was engaged in a marathon two and a half hour public meeting in my Council ward instead. However, reading the outcome this morning, it is very difficult to disagree with many of the decisions taken by the judges. Whether you love him or hate him, Peter Hain has dominated Welsh politics in the last year. The Government of Wales Act may be flawed but it is a masterful political fix in Labour Party terms, whilst there can be little doubt that ...
3:52 pm

Typos and other errors

Gravatar I have to admit that there have been times when I have rushed a press release, made a silly mistake, sent it out before noticing and had to issue an embarrassing correction to all and sundry as a consequence. I do not wish therefore to draw any inference from this rather amusing correction that was sent out today by a North Wales AM other than the fact that I felt the need to share: *CORRECTION* Please note: This amends the previous press release, as Richard Brunstrum's official title is of course Chief Constable Burnstrum, not Superintendant Brunstrum. ...
3:45 pm

Safe at night

Gravatar So what do you do if you come out of a nightclub in Kingston in the early hours and there's a very long queue for the black taxis? Now you can go to one of the three mini-cab kiosks, each situated near one of the clubs. The local MP and others have been campaigning for years to have a system in Kingston where people can safely book mini-cabs, which you can't, of course, hail in the...
3:35 pm

Citizenship class

Gravatar Each month I have the pleasure of welcoming people as they formally become British Citizens. Before they do so they usually attend classes to prepare them for the tests on language and British culture. These are the members of two of the current classes. I showed them round the Guildhall, answered their questions about local government, then entertained them to tea in the...
3:35 pm

Not taking advice

Gravatar This morning's Western Mail reports that legal officers on Blaenau Gwent Council are trying to prevent a local Councillor from voting on an important matter of policy affecting his ward because he has been actively campaigning on the issue. Sadly, this sort of nonsense is becoming all too prevalent in local government as officers seek to use the law to tie the hands of elected representatives in an effort to stop them campaigning on matters of importance to their constituents. If anything legal advice like this is a complete negation of the stated role of Councillors as community ...
3:30 pm

Turbulence in the Pacific

Gravatar It looks alas as if there is a military coup in Fiji. Couple this with the unsavoury goings-on in Tonga where the ruling elite is facing the anger of the fellow-citizens they call 'dirt-eaters'. This suggests interesting times in some Commonwealth countries. Hat tip to Idiot/Savant in New Zealand for keeping on top of these events.
3:19 pm

Recycling - not the great panacea

Gravatar Via Libertarian Home I've just watched a program about recycling. The program is called Bullshit and exposes those fallacies people cling onto. You can watch it here here. This confirms some of what I've had an inkling of for a while. It doesn't completely debunk recycling, but it does expose many common fallacies and exposes the waste of money recycling often is. I've long argued for reuse as
2:37 pm

All About Chucky

Gravatar I’m currently working my way through a three-months-for-the-price-of-one offer from those nice people at LoveFilm and consequently watching far more movies than usual. This week’s two films would struggle to be more different: bona fide 1950’s classic All About Eve and 1998’s slasher Bride of Chucky. What they have in common is that both are surprisingly [...]
2:36 pm

Scandal Of Unpaid Fines

Gravatar If you have paid a parking fine, or forgot to pay the London congestion charge I would advise you not to read on. The table below was published in Parliament yesterday and contains the unpaid fines by...
2:36 pm

Bromley's walk on the wild side

Gravatar The Bromley Times has also reported an exhibition that is soon going to happen locally - showing Bromley isn't quite as boring as many may have thought. If you look at my profile you will see Lou Reed/Velvet Underground and Bowie listed among favourite music. The Bromley Times says: A display charting David Bowie's early years in Bromley and Beckenham, where he invented his alter ego Ziggy
1:27 pm

Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque

Gravatar Typing this at home before I go to bed, will put it online in my lunchbreak tomorrow. It was the last budget scrutiny session tonight - housing, education and health/social services. There was a big turnout from the public, as there were proposals to merge two day centres, Winkfield and Haven. They are both well attended and cater largely for different user groups - and the Committee recommended that the Executive do not push through that proposal. Now we wait and see if they listen to us. There was also a proposal to close the Keston Road centre, ...
1:18 pm

Joining UKIP

Gravatar I know some other Lib Dem bloggers have already posted about this, but this is an extract from an email sent to me from Nigel Farage (he's the chap that "leads" that UKIP lot). ...we intend to build up on local government representation and would welcome a conversation with anyone that might consider working with us or joining us. It is time to stand up and be counted. We give you an absolute assurance that you can contact us on a completely confidential basis. It presumably has gone to all councillors - hope he remembered to pick ...
12:24 pm

Whitehall Press Offices told: 'clear the decks' on Monday

Gravatar Major announcement coming…
11:57 am

How Britain can be a true friend of the United Sta...

Gravatar Lurking under a headline worthy of The Times’s new tabloid format is a damning indictment of Tony Blair’s failure to manage Britain’s relationship with America. According to Dr. Kendall Mayers, a UK specialist at the State Department, Blair’s relationship with George Bush has been “a one sided relationship that was entered into with open eyes… there was nothing. There was no payback, no sense of reciprocity”. Herein lies the root of much of the failure of Western policy in the Middle East. I have been and remain a staunch defender of the Atlantic Alliance and Britain’s “special relationship” with ...
11:33 am

Letter to the Times

Gravatar In today's Times, Anatole Kaletsky writes Anarchy or tyranny? I choose tyranny. His argument is that rather than political stability resulting from economic success, the reverse is true. While his assessment is correct, his recommendation is surprisingly flawed for the Principal Economic Commentator of a leading newspaper. In response, I have written the following letter to the Editor. Sir, Anatole Kaletsky makes an elementary error in choosing tyranny over anarchy (Anarchy or tyranny? I choose tyranny, 30 Nov). While he is correct to suggest that economic benefits require social and political stability, this is because the exercise ...
11:32 am

Crystal Palace 70th Anniversary Fireworks

Gravatar Last night a fireworks display marked the 70th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the Crystal Palace. I took this video of the burning of the replica.
11:15 am

A note of reality

Gravatar The relationship between Britain and the US has come under the spotlight again. As the "Yo Blair!" incident showed, the oafish Bush administration has taken Britain for granted for some time. The fact that this is now openly acknowledged in Foggy Bottom will not solve the problem. When the inevitable change of personnel happens in Downing Street next year, we can only hope that a more sober appraisal of British interests will follow. Yet another extradition of British citizens under the one-sided US extradition treaty reminds us that there are major aspects of British American relations that need to be ...
10:51 am

Focussing on rain, wind and flood

Gravatar Let’s FOCUS on high winds (and indeed floods). You may have noticed some excitement in the press about tornadoes in Britain. Well, this is not exactly news – I remember startling some visitors from Kansas way back in the 1970’s by telling them that the UK had more tornadoes per year than their home area did. There was a tornado in Milton Keynes in the early 19990’s that damaged the roof of my son’s school and there have now been serious waterspouts off Brighton two years in succession. Not just Global Warming to blame – as TORRO (The UK Tornado ...
10:29 am

Especially strained relations in Cameron's team

Gravatar There is mixed opinion in today's papers about the remarks of a US State Department advisor that the 'special relationship' gave the junior partner little or nothing.The Telegraph gives the remarks full coverage - surprising perhaps given their traditional Atlantacist predilections in terms of the UK's foreign policy - however it avoids commenting on the remarks directly.  The Times is less bashful and devotes its main leader to the issue.  Looking to the future it notes:The man who is the favourite to succeed Mr Bush — John McCain — is a committed Anglophile, much as Mr Blair’s near- certain ...
10:04 am

More Tory trouble on party funding

Gravatar “The Conservative Party was last night under the spotlight over its massive debts to backers with overseas addresses and ‘non-trading’ companies. Several of the firms which lent money to the Tories are operating in tax havens or countries noted for banking secrecy.” (From The Times). conservatives Opposition watch party funding
9:52 am

Voluntary code for blogs?

Gravatar According to this report from the BBC Tim Toulmin (director of the Press Complaints Commission) has said that Blogs and other internet sites should be covered by a voluntary code of practice similar to that for newspapers in the UK. I cannot see how this would work in practice. Presumably those who sign up to it would be most likely to stick to it in any case and those who would not stick to it would not sign up. To say nothing of the fact that there is always the option for someone to sue for libel in any case. ...
9:40 am

John Prescott rescued by Hansard

Gravatar Tom Brake MP writes about John Prescott's verbal coordination yesterday at PMQs: The Hansard writers, who are responsible for writing down (and finessing into a semi-coherent speech if it is necessary) every word said in Parliament will really have earnt their crust. You have to admire the poor Parliamentary transcribers. Somehow, they managed to turn this, which John Prescott actually said: I think it is a matter that the Prime Minister I think has mentioned to the House on a number of occasions, that he would like to encourage in the neighbouring countries to participate in those ...
9:39 am

The Guinness is on me!

Gravatar Last night I got this great email Subject: your winning ticket number(44-40-23-777-01) GUINNESS® CUSTORMERS PROMOTION Dv-2006 program Guinness plc, South Africa. St Christo road (Sun City)                           FINAL_ NOTIFICATION. We happily inform you about our (guinness® national lottery program)held on the29th of November 2006, which you enterd as a dependent client and finally took the [...]
9:28 am

Written Parliamentary Questions: 30th November 2006

Gravatar Gas IndustryTo ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he has taken besides his efforts to liberalise the European gas market to ensure security of supply within the UK gas market.(John Hemming) A:holding answer 21 November 2006 The recent review of the UK's energy policy confirmed the Government's view that security of supply is best ensured by a competitive and liberalised
9:21 am

Tory Tossers?

Gravatar Last week the Conservatives launched an internet advert about debt, basically they accused people with debt of being tossers. This week it turns out that the Conservatives have £35.3m worth of debt - so who are the tossers now?
8:59 am

Vince Cable and ballroom dancing

Gravatar I didn't see PMQs yesterday but I heard that super annuated Prescott stood in for Blair whilst the latter was sunning himself in Latvia. Vince therefore led for us on PMQs. I don't know what question Vince asked but I heard about the response from Prescott. It was Mark Littlewood, head of media for the Lib Dems who told me. He arrived at my desk shortly afterwards asking for material on Labour
8:40 am

Joined up Government

Gravatar The projected loss of nearly a 1,000 Welsh jobs from Revenue and Customs over the next five years is a particular blow. These cuts have nothing to do with providing a better service to Welsh people and everything to do with arbitrary targets set by the Chancellor. Jobs will be lost across the region I represent, with 120 going in Bridgend alone. This type of crude ‘efficiency saving’ makes no sense, especially in parts of Wales which already have low levels of employment, and we will see a worsening of the service provided to people claiming tax credits and to ...
7:53 am

Autumn temperatures to hit new high

Gravatar More evidence of global warming (as if we needed it) from Mondays Guardian. Apparently average UK temperatures for September, October and November look set to break the 12C mark for the first time. The previous highest temperature for autumn in central England was 11.8C, set in 1731. A spokesman for the Met Office said it is "virtually certain" that this autumn will be the warmest for 300 years, and the forecast for the next few days is for further mild weather. The spokesman also said it is "possible" that 2006 could be the warmest year on record, despite the ...
5:25 am

Blogosphere is talking in a united voice

Gravatar Seems blogosphere is talking in a united voice. Everybody has something to say about the report Voluntary code for blogs needed. I've lost track of the postings on LibDem Blogs but as expected LibDems have been pretty vocal on the issue. Cicero's Songs posting is short and sweet but straight to the point. Then there's all the usual top bloggers having their pennyworth here, here, here and Chicken Yoghurt has really gone to town. He writes, First, last week, we had Tony Blair's senior policy adviser Matthew Taylor telling us that blogs and bloggers were undermining the relationship between ...

Previous days:

Wednesday 29th November 2006, Tuesday 28th November 2006, Monday 27th November 2006, Sunday 26th November 2006, Saturday 25th November 2006, Friday 24th November 2006