Friday 16th March 2007

11:17 pm

Hugh Warren passes away

Gravatar Sad news of the death of another long-standing Liberal and then Liberal Democrat activist - Hugh Warren. For many years no Lib Dem by-election campaign has seemed complete until (a) Erlend was printing leaflets on the RISO and (b) Hugh had turned up to deliver them. I was amazed to discover that he was 89 when [...]
10:23 pm

Nice things about Lembit

Gravatar A couple of bloggers have commented on Lembit’s strong performance on the BBC’s Question Time last night - see Nich, and Anders.
10:12 pm

Kick start the green revolution today for a prosperous Wales tomorrow - Öpik

Gravatar Today, Lembit Öpik, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrat’s and MP for Montgomeryshire, challenged the Westminster and Welsh Assembly Government to come forward with a new Green Economic Strategy that would kick start the green revolution in Wales and set the country on a new economic path built around green jobs, business, R&D and manufacturing. Specifically, Lembit called for three things to be included in a new Green Economic Strategy: · A Green Jobs Strategy for Wales · Ambitious Targets for Renewable Electricity Generation for Wales · A Green Investment Programme for Wales Lembit said: “With the ...
10:09 pm

Randerson Demands Fair Pay for Welsh Nurses

Gravatar The Scottish Executive has taken action to ensure that Nurses will receive the fully recommended pay rise for Nurses of 2.5% on 1st April. Gordon Brown announced that the pay rise offer would be 1.5% in April and 1% in November. Jenny Randerson AM, Health Spokesperson for the Welsh Liberal Democrats said: “While I am sure that nurses in Wales will be pleased for their Scottish colleagues I can’t help wondering why Wales can’t manage the same. For every £100 earned by nurses in Scotland from April 1, their colleagues in Wales will receive £99.02, for the same work. ...
10:08 pm

Strident Öpik issues Trident challenge to Welsh MPs

Gravatar Today, ahead of a key Commons vote on Trident, Lembit Öpik, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and MP for Montgomeryshire, has re-iterated his challenge to Welsh politicians planning to vote with the Government on Wednesday to replace the Trident Nuclear Weapons System, to justify their position to the people of Wales. Commenting ahead of the vote this evening, Lembit said: “I admire Nigel Griffiths’ principled decision in resigning over the replacement of trident, and if Chris Ruane leaves his Government post in the Wales Office, Ministers will have even more to think about. Labour’s justification for replacing Trident ...
9:35 pm

Silver Hill development goes before Planning

Gravatar The "Silver Hill Renaissance" is the most significant development plan to go before Winchester's Planning Development Control Committee during my short time on the City Council. It involves the re-design and re-building of a substantial and, currently, unprepossessing area of the city centre, including both the Friarsgate Multi-storey car park and the Bus Station. As there is much public
9:03 pm

Lembit Opik

Gravatar Last night on Question Time I remembered how good Lembit can be. He was serious, thoughtful, articulate and strong. He could make coherent and intelligent points whilst still being punchy and catchy. Something that plenty of other Liberal Democrats seem incapable of doing. I suppose I shouldn’t sound so surprised, as I have [...]
8:47 pm

Student union elections

Gravatar I will write something longer and more substantial later, but for now I am happy to say I have been elected the next Life Sciences Faculty Officer in the University of Manchester Students' Union! Out of the seven Liberal Democrat candidates standing, five of us were elected (our chair, Gary, lost in a very close race for Humanities Faculty Officer by about 80 or so, and Tom who was standing for Services Secretary lost due to unfortunate vote-splitting). I'm really delighted that I - and my friends in the Lib Dems who won - have been elected so we ...
8:34 pm

Sally Clark RIP

Gravatar It is very sad to hear of the death of Sally Clark. She was a victim of the courts in the UK that claim to be based upon justice. She is not the only victim, but one of the more high profile victims. Some people wonder why I am so concerned about the way in which our system persecutes parents (particularly mothers). The story of Sally Clark should explain why.
8:23 pm

New York's a go go and everything tastes nice.

Gravatar WOW, that's all I really have to say about my little trip to the big apple. I've posted some photos from my whistle stop tour round the city after the conference. The event itself was inspiring and fr...
8:05 pm

Quick - Playstation 3 (PS3) pre-orders are available through ebuyer

Gravatar In the same way as I was able to alert potential buyers about the availability of Nintendo Wii consoles before Christmas, I'd just like to make potential buyers aware that ebuyer have PS3 consoles (only 20) available to pre-order. Am I getting one ? No. I have an X-Box 360 and a Wii. I don't want to pay £450 for a PS3 when they appear to be trying to use the console to also push their Blu-Ray High definiation DVD system on to people. I am not prepared to pay through the nose in ordr for Sony to try and ...
8:05 pm

Hilton Lane junction - activity tomorrow

Gravatar Tomorrow I will join Cllr O'Hanlon and some local residents to have a closer examination of the Hilton Lane / Scholes Lane junction, and take some photos to support our campaign to make the junction safer. There are no pedestrian facilities there, and it's a very busy junction close to schools and shops. Local people have been campaigning for a good while to get something donw, and we've signed
8:00 pm

Leaflet expansion - sure sign of campaign fever

Gravatar Tonight saw the worrying development that occurs around this time each year - our first foray into group weeknight leafleting... I am no stranger to the phenomenon myself of late, but that's more to do with a desire for exercise and the mild evenings than any campaign madness. Now though we're all at it, a sure sign that lections may be looming. Where once it was OK to go out as a group only at
7:59 pm

Who told the BBC that Fearne Cotton is a good presenter ?

Gravatar I enjoy Red Nose Day, and the TV that goes with in in a way that I don't enjoy Children in Need. Children in Need, although a completely worthy cause in every way tends, for me, to be embarrassing. It involves talented people doing things that they shouldn't be doing. If you are good at reading the news or at being a TV chef, then stick to that, don't do poorly rehearsed songs from South Pacific. Comic Relief however, is about funny people being funny, which is why I like it. However, this brings me to Fearne Cotton. She is ...
7:57 pm

Spring Vale success!

Gravatar Great news today about our campaign to get Spring Vale re-surfaced. The problem came to light a couple of weeks ago when a local resident contacted me to say his road was full of holes. And he was right! I reported the issue to Cllr Donal O'Hanlon (Lib Dem - St Mary's) and after pressure from him and the Lib Dem controlled Prestwich Area Board, the decision has now been made to resurface the road
7:51 pm

Raising Aspirations

Gravatar To watch the speeches of Tony Blair in reaction to the recent shooting of fifteen year old Billy Cox in Clapham bought home just how little Blair understands of the lives of ordinary Londoners. As we all should be, the...
7:31 pm

Balsa Wood Crow

Gravatar Here is an exciting craft project for young and old alike. Follow the instructions carefully and you will be the proud and happy owner of a toy crow made out of balsa wood. Imagine the flabbergasted looks of family and friends as they admire your handiwork, and resolve to become better, more productive citizens by [...]
6:55 pm

Some Conservative Councils "hit families the hardest " says Tory Spokesman

Gravatar The headline is correct, so long as you follow the reasoning of Caroline Spelman, Tory shadow spokesman for local government to the logical conclusion. She is quoted on the BBC website as saying saying about the axing of weekly bin collections "Axing weekly collections will hit families the hardest ". Really Caroline ? Is this your honest view, if so, all those Conservative run Councils around the country are "hitting families hardest". Now I know that a good number of Lib Dem council's are also running twin bin systems, with fortnightly collections. Indeed, I was part of the panel that ...
6:34 pm

Most inappropriate headline on BBC Look East tonight

Gravatar The main headline on BBC Look East "But first, news of an aggressive new campaign against prostitutes in Ipswich" Have BBC Look East not noticed that there was a very "aggressive" campaign against prostitutes in ipswich about three months ago when a number were murdered ? If the BBC are reporting on a new council initiative, which is what the news story was about, couldn't they have found a more appropriate way to word it ?
5:52 pm

Why we shouldn't support the Sustainable Communities Bill

Gravatar Ways to make yourself unpopular in the Lib Dem blogosphere attack a seemingly localist measure. But seriously, the Sustainable Communities Bill, what a pile of crap. One of the knocks on the Government's ID card programme has been that it was being touted as the saviour from such a multitude of problems, from terrorism to illegal immigration to benefit fraud, that it was too good to be true.
5:39 pm

Frank Luntz on Ming Campbell

Gravatar I’ve occasionally been known to give US pollster Frank Luntz some stick - though not nearly as much as some others - so it’s with some interest I read his analysis of his focus group on the party’s leaders in today’s Grauniad. It looks to be a pretty objective summary, with pluses and minuses against all of Messrs Blair, Brown, Cameron and Campbell. Here’s what he has to say about Ming: [The
5:34 pm

Not in denial. Absolutely not.

Gravatar Not that it’s been hanging over me at all - and not that I’m remotely bothered by its looming inevitability - but I turn 30 in 3 days' time. So this week’s Friday YouTube clip is an early birthday present to myself with no purpose other than it makes me laugh. Which I understand helps keep you young. So, with any luck, I may never reach my fourth decade.
5:02 pm

Better racism through technology

Gravatar Those nutty Finns. When they aren’t going around scarring people’s childhoods with disturbing cartoons about Moomins (okay, okay, and inventing Linux), they are coming up with zany new wheezes like this one: Intopii has opened Naama Candidate Finder to provide voters an easy, entertaining, and fast way to choose suitable candidate for Finland’s parliamentary elections [...]
4:54 pm

Rights and Wrongs

Gravatar The situation is Zimbabwe is terribly, desperately sad. But yet more depressing is that no one in the international community is taking action. We, the colonial oppressors of old, cannot just go romping in like we did in Iraq (spurious though the rationale for that may have been) as pointed out by The Belfast Telegraph:Mr Mugabe has responded to every British criticism of his government by reminding his followers of Britain's past as Africa's colonial master - a line which British ministers frankly admit has resonated with other black ...
4:44 pm

Smile for the Camera

Gravatar I have spent the afternoon in fairly horrific Media Training at the Civic Hall. I say horrific in like all truthful exercises it was quite painful. However the event by Maypole Media ( was excellent. I also got to meet the delightful Cllr Vonnie Morgan ( Lab, Killingbeck and Seacroft) . Only two of us turned up for the afternoon session and it could have been quite awkward with us being in exercises together. I hadn't met her before and shes a warm genuine person who was a delight to work with. I have done lots ...
4:03 pm

Solving problems with new Joint Action Groups

Gravatar A multi-agency task force is being in created in Redcar and Cleveland, aimed at focusing on troublespots across the Borough. The Council has joined forces with senior officers from Cleveland Police, Cleveland Fire Brigade, Youth and Children's Services, Redcar and Cleveland Primary Care Trust and Coast & Country Housing to establish Joint Action Groups. The Council's Cabinet Member for Community Safety Councillor Joyce Benbow explained: "These groups will be building on our existing partnerships at ground level, bringing together a wealth of expertise and experience to try and solve all sorts of problems. "The issue might be ...
3:47 pm

Protesters "false claims and sabotage tactics" have cost council taxpayers almost a quarter of a million pounds

Gravatar Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has today revealed that a small group of protestors acting against the proposed £88million housing and leisure development at Coatham Links in Redcar has cost the council taxpayers of the Borough approximately quarter of a million pounds in additional legal fees. The financial information – made available through a routine Freedom of Information request – has shown that the programme of activity by protestors to delay the consideration of the scheme has increased legal costs by £243,941 over a four-year period. These activities include a recent bid to register public rights of way ...
3:32 pm

Blair relies on Tories to get Trident

Gravatar Tony Blair has only been able to push his 'legacy' of replacing Trident through the House of Commons because of Conservative support. A Liberal Democrat amendment to delay taking a decision until after crucial Non-Proliferation talks in 2010 was supported by 95 rebel Labour MPs. The Labour Government's majority would have been easily wiped out if it wasn't for the Conservatives giving Tony Blair their wholehearted support.
3:21 pm

"Phwoaarhh!" action photos prove highly popular

Gravatar My flabber is well and truly gasted. These last 24 hours, I have been basking in the glow of mega hits for my Newbury Action Photos page. It was all because of this entry by "Brenda" on the discussion forum: Phwoaarhh! Am I the only resident who has spotted these steamy pics courtesy of one of our well known local bloggers?
3:02 pm

Running for a Belsize Post Office

Gravatar Last weekend I ran the Paris Half Marathon (see photo) in a reasonably respectable 1 hour 45 minutes. I'm older than you think, you know! My next targets are the Belsize 5km Fun Run, which some of you may remember I organised last year, and the 2008 London Marathon. I was trying to think of a Belsize charity that I could raise money for when I run the marathon, but then I wondered whether it might not be better to try to raise funds to secure a new sub Post Office on Haverstock Hill. After all, that's ...
3:00 pm

Lewisham Lib Dems expel councillor from group

Gravatar “A LIBERAL Democrat councillor has been expelled from the party and is at the centre of a police investigation. Cllr Sera Kentman, who has represented Whitefoot ward in Lewisham since last May, was axed after breaching rules, which included failing to disclose her debts as a councillor.” More  Hat tip: Indigo
1:54 pm

Your cut out and keep guide to spiralling Olympic costs

Gravatar Courtesy of the BBC: 2003: Consultants Arup put total cost of building and staging the Games at £1.796bn2003: Tessa Jowell launches bid in May telling MPs it will cost £2.375bn - including a 50% contingency2005: Bid succeeds in July with "prudent" estimate of preparing for games of £2.4bn2006: Tessa Jowell says Olympic Park costs up to £3.3bn2007: Olympic Park budget now at £5.3bn - including regeneration and infrastructure2007: Total budget, including contingency, security and tax, reaches £9.35bn
1:50 pm

Column of the day: Simon Jenkins

Gravatar Congratulations to Simon Jenkins for making a three-course meal of the hand that feeds him. His Guardian column this morning attacks that newspaper for a supplement it carried on Wednesday: The section ominously carried no advertising, but was not headed "advertising supplement". Yet it was paid for by the government's Housing Market Renewal Partnerships - which agreed the synopsis - to boost the controversial Pathfinder housing policy. In return for a large sum of money, the agency was offered pre-sight of the copy to "correct inaccuracies". In effect, it secured sympathetic coverage. None of the writers (nor the Guardian's readers) ...
1:46 pm

The Macra Terror

Gravatar After delving into just why it’s more difficult than you’d think to see much of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor in action (and don’t forget to watch his The Web of Fear on BBC4 on Sunday night), it’s time to look more closely – or as closely as a Reconstruction allows – at a story from 1967, and marvel at just how very 1967 it all is. So exactly why is it that giant crab-monsters running an Orwellian holiday camp should result in one of the most uncompromisingly Liberal messages ever heard in a Doctor Who story? And is it any good? ...
1:38 pm

Green is the colour

Gravatar The Guardian reports: Chelsea have banned celery from Stamford Bridge and ordered fans to stop throwing it during matches after the Football Association launched an investigation into instances of salad tossing at their recent matches.
1:04 pm

Goodman backs Blair (again!)

Gravatar Wycombe Conservative MP Paul Goodman has again voted with Blair on a key vote. This time was the decision to spend billions on replacing Trident. The last time was when he backed the invasion of Iraq – and we know how good that decision was. There is considerable evidence that a decision on replacing Trident should have [...]
12:55 pm

A Fine City…

Gravatar A day in Norwich for work yesterday, and a night spent at the home of the Hon Norman Lamb MP and his family.  Most of the evening was spent laughing hysterically as Mary Lamb attempted to transform a bath-towel into a man-sized nappy for teenaged son, Ned. Did you know that there are dozens of web-sites [...]
12:54 pm

Mike Newell - what a hypocrite!

Gravatar Mike Newell plants his foot in his mouth again and finally finds a boot planted firmly in his a*** by his bosses at Luton Town.It’s impossible not to feel a certain fondness for Newell because of his habit of launching spectacularly tactless rants to the listening media.  Football is an entertainment business where spin (and [...]
12:21 pm

Plans will restore Coatham Boating Lake

Gravatar Redcar and Cleveland Council is starting work on restoring Coatham boating lake to its former glory, including the creation of a shingle beach to an island for wading birds. The project, a separate but complementary initiative to the proposed Coatham Links development, will install new seating, new footpaths, a new perimeter wall, improved planting scheme and night-time lighting. The designs for the work, which do not need planning permission, have been drawn up after consultations with Natural England, to ensure the value of the lake for birds can be maintained and enhanced. The Council's Cabinet Member for ...
11:50 am

Graham's blog entry 16th March 2007

11:12 am

More heat than light in global warming debate

Gravatar Last week I reported on The Great Global Warming Swindle, Martin Durkin’s documentary claiming that the “climate change consensus” was a conspiracy of bad science, protected because it justifies massive research grants, that will ultimately retard the development of desperate Third World nations. My original article contains a précis of the programme and is followed by comments providing links to some counter-arguments. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the various arguments, I was at least glad that a debate was taking place. I had been aware for some time that there the so-called consensus was actually a widely-held prevailing ...
11:09 am

Can religion make animals disappear?

Gravatar Honestly, who’d be a pig these days? It was bad enough in the 70s and 80s when you were associated with the police force (George Orwell’s doing?). Now, your very existence is regularly said to offend both Jews and Muslims. The latest example of this is an attempt (ultimately futile, but why let that get in [...]
10:55 am

Lest We Forget

Gravatar I was showing an American friend who is leaving the UK around London for the last time. He pointed up at St Paul's and said that in his three years living here he had never visited the cathedral. So we went in. Of course, Wren's masterpiece is one of the most spectacular buildings in the world, befitting its status as the cathedral of the capital. The Dome with its spectacular views; the Crypt, containing the tombs of many of the great and good of British History all help to give a visit to St Paul's a sense of occasion. ...
10:52 am

Visiting the Middle East

Gravatar Busy week so only just catching up on blog now – first there was a visit to the Middle East and then it was the Trident vote. So here goes with my retro-blog, part one… I am not going to do a blow by blow account of my two days in Israel and one day in the West Bank. So instead here is an over-arching view of the impressions and information gleaned from the trip. I was travelling with my
10:22 am

Olympics costs have not trebled!!

Gravatar Classic case of the media's inability to understand numbers this morning, especially when it gets in the way of a good story. There are screaming headlines everywhere that the costs of the 2012 Olympics has more than trebled from the £2.4 billion quoted in the bid, to £9.3bn. That simply isn't true. As Evan Davis (the BBC's economics pixie) details here it would be fairer to say that the
10:20 am

RIP HP and University entrance forms

Gravatar Today sees the last bottle of UK produced HP sauce roll off the production line in Aston. There is also much in the news about students applying for university having to declare the level of parental education, and occupation type. I have often joked in the past that you could gain sociodemographic information from asking a simple question of how do you take a bacon butty (red or brown sauce, white or brown bread). Like most sociodemographic indicators its not 100%, but can provide clues. We often find that on UCAS forms that where applications describe their parents occupation type, ...
10:20 am

Sir Hayden proposes a limit of £50,000

Gravatar Sir Hayden Phillips, who has been looking into Party funding, has proposed a limit of £50,000 from individuals or organisations, increased state funding and a cut in spending between elections. Overall this package seems to be good news, but as always the devil is in the detail. I am less sure about a £23million a year increase in state funding.
9:55 am

More on the CAP

Gravatar The Globalisation Institute has something on the latest absurdity of the CAP, and Tom Papworth expands on it. Will the LibDems call for scrapping it yet?
9:36 am

Peak Oil predictions converge

Gravatar The current prediction from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil is for all liquids to peak in 2011. This is coming closer to the IEA's one model of 2015. The IEA's normally quoted 2030 figure relies on assumptions that are not proven. Gas is also expected to peak at around 2011. It is entirely rational to expect the predictions from the "optimists" and "pessimists" to converge as they
9:31 am

Shaking at the Count

Gravatar This week I discovered my favourite pop and politics fact ever. Motown leviathan Martha Reeves continues to represent the motor city, these days in a more municipal capacity, since she now holds a seat on Detroit City Council. So, let’s enjoy Cllr Reeves and her Vandellas in this ace 1965 performance of Nowhere to Run.
9:23 am

Leeds attempt to put together buy back for Elland Road

Gravatar Apparently Leeds are attempting to persuade Leeds City Council to help them buy back Elland Road and the Thorp Arch training ground. They are currently paying £1.5m a year in rent to some British Virgin Islands company called Teak Commercial. Ownership of this company is not known. There is a buy back option for £13m on the stadium and £5m on Thorp Arch. The club have approached the city council asking them to provide a mortgage so that both properties can be repurchased. The Council would then take a charge over the properties and the club would then be ...
8:43 am

Wheely Big Issue

Gravatar I was more than a litle surprised, I have to admit, to see the story about fortnightly bin collections become lead the line on BBC Breakfast. Firstly because its just not that interesting and secondly because I thought that's what most places did now anyway? Scientists tells us, with their usual confidence, that having your main rubbish bin collected only every other week is not a health hazard. I can offer some insight here, as Ashfield District Council, on which I sit, has done this for quite some time. There are significant cost and environmental benefits to doing ...
8:29 am

Rent seeking farmers

Gravatar There’s been a little lunacy emanating from the Welsh Liberal Democrats recently, but this really takes the biscuit. This is basically a call for tariffs and protectionism. Its a call for putting the interests of farmers over those of everyone else. Farmers already gains from obscene tariffs and the inhuman Common Agriculture Policy which sees $1200 a [...]
8:28 am

State funding

Gravatar Sir Hayden Phillips' review of party funding is out in the open at last and all the headlines are focussing on the recommendation to limit donations from individuals or organisations to a maximum of £50,000. This will have major implications for Labour, who may find the bulk of their funding from Trade Unions cut off. There are also proposals to limit national election expenditure so as to level the playing field. Sir Hayden Phillips has not been able to secure all-party support for these proposals, largely because of the implications for the Government. However, he has suggested a way ...
8:20 am

Today programme - past its use by date?

Gravatar Listening to Today I'm horrified how it has turned into a cheap 'phone-in' show, on top of its usual sanctimonious self. A huge amount of time this morning was devoted to 'use by dates' on food. Where has all the serious political comment gone? If they are going tabloid they ought to do it properly. The best bit so far this morning has been the piece on the Tablet's racing tips! Father Breem (?I think that was his name) should be a regular - he was a hoot.
8:14 am

Rate of pay

Gravatar An e-mail arrives to say that Assembly Members will be getting a 0.66% pay increase on 1 April. Personally, I have no problem with that as I believe that we are more than adequately remunerated for the work we do. It would be nice to know however that any money saved might be used to fund better pay rises for key workers such as nurses. Somehow, I do not think that is Government's intention.
8:09 am

Chapter Eleven

Gravatar In which Flossie has her ears syringed, and Umberto becomes involved in an altercation with a beekeeping enthusiast down by the docks, together with a disquisition upon certain matters related to the crinkling of pastry; also, a chuckling maniac is discovered in the belfry by the intrepid infants, whereupon our story takes a sinister turn, [...]
7:22 am

Tuesday to Friday

Gravatar Tuesday night's West End Community Council meeting had a useful update on paths and cycle routes by a member of Leisure & Communities staff. There was an update on the proposed Western Cemetery Association and I updated the Community Council on how the embryonic Friends of Magdalen Green group is progressing. There was a discussion about helicopter noise complaints about the airport and I advised that I have had a response from the airport manager on this issue. Taking of the embryonic Friends of Magdalen Green group, we met again on Wednesday morning ...
12:33 am

Sappensopp Days

Gravatar Kloppstock’s Jugband Crumpled Baize Tarboosh, the latest bestselling paperback by Pebblehead, is a wonderful evocation of those much lamented Sappensopp Days. “Tipping, tapping, flimflam… goose grease and lavender and a tin of polish for the porch… the light in the tunnels and the flap of the flaps in the flappery out by the byre… those [...]

Previous days:

Thursday 15th March 2007, Wednesday 14th March 2007, Tuesday 13th March 2007, Monday 12th March 2007, Sunday 11th March 2007, Saturday 10th March 2007