Tuesday 27th March 2007

11:54 pm

How does the party actually work?

Gravatar I am often fascinated by the lack of knowledge of the party's internal structures amongst otherwise very capable, very bright Liberal Democrat campaigners. I always assumed that my lack of knowledge was almost entirely caused by my lack of involvement but on being elected to the Regional Executive in November 2004, I made a point of reading the Regional Constitution (a thrill a minute, let me
11:48 pm

Is it surprising that Ann Widdecombe promotes the company?

Gravatar Two more companies I will not be using again are React Fast and Sky. Both companies have failed to live up to their promises that they made and then were very rude with their customer care.
11:31 pm

My 100th Facebook friend

Gravatar In the (sad?) world of internet social networking I have my 100th Facebook friend: Emma Price - who works in Cowley Street, and was a candidate in Penge & Cator at the Council Elections last May.
11:29 pm

I thought there were only 4 people in this cast (the 39 Steps - Criterion Theatre)

Gravatar The Girl and I celebrated World Theatre Day (didn't you know it was today?) by taking in the 39 Steps at the Criterion. Adapting for the stage Hitchcock's 1935 film of John Buchan's novel, which famously includes a biplane crash, a chase along the roof of the Flying Scotsman and a jump from the Forth Rail Bridge, may seem a little ambitious. However, with a little inventiveness, the judicious
11:25 pm

The folly of Norwich and its unitary status bid

Gravatar The government have shortlisted Norwich City Council and 17 other council for consideration of becoming unitary authorities, but in Norwich I have to ask at what cost ? Norwich submitted two bids. The first was to become a unitary authority on its present boundaries. I doubt many people in Norfolk, other than those with a vested interest in the County Council could have come up with many reasons to oppose this simple plan. Indeed, I could see how working with neighbouring local authorities, this plan could be made to work for Norfolk and for Norwich. So what is ...
11:11 pm

Liberal Democrats up 3% in latest poll

Gravatar The latest Communicate Research poll has Conservatives 35%, Labour 31% and Liberal Democrats 20%. The Lib Dem score is up three points, though the party’s rating in the last six Communicate Research polls has bounced around all over the place: 14, 17, 14, 21, 17 and now 20. So make of that what you will.
11:05 pm

Day 2274: DOCTOR WHO: The Nightmare of Black Island

Gravatar Saturday: It is POSSIBLE that you may have heard that the BBC are to revive their OLD SERIES of DOCTOR WHO. Well, in order to him get back in the MOOD, I have told Daddy Richard that he must read the last three Doctor Who books staring Dr Who and Rose, before the Doctor's new lady friend Ms Martha arrives! So here we go… Mike Tucker, in addition to providing a lot of the special effects model work for Doctor Who on the television, is the author of several previous BBC books, most of them featuring Sylvester ...
10:57 pm

Nick Clegg's Leadership Plans

Gravatar This evening I popped into Westminster on my way home. I had arranged a meeting, for myself and fellow party protaganist Paul Reynolds, with Nick Clegg before catching up with ex Bedfordian Dan Rogerson. Whilst waiting for Paul to arrive I bumped into "blushing" Greg Simpson............ So, Paul and I had an interesting meeting bending Nick's ear about a host of issues, then I had a quick conflab with my local MP Patrick Hall about an event he is jointly sponsoring with Alistair Burt and Simon Hughes for Elijah Trust in June, followed by a pleasant while on the ...
10:32 pm

Child poverty increases

Gravatar I am really surprised there hasn't been more news coverage about the rise in child poverty. Apparently the figures for the last year (05/06) show an increase in the number of children living in poverty in the UK - and has led to angry condemnations of the government by charities like Barnados. The government's original goal was to halve the number of children living in poverty by 2010 - but as Barnados has pointed out - they are no where near achieving that.
10:24 pm

Library Circle

Gravatar I made the (understandable) mistake of thinking that the Malden and Coombe Library Circle was a book group, so I turned up ready to tell them about some of the books I had written as well as books I had read and enjoyed. But it seems that this group enjoys a weekly speaker on a large variety of topics, from travel to local history, and not just on book related themes. They don't even...
10:12 pm

Rockin', bloggin' Lib Dems

Gravatar Just stumbled across this from the Bexley Times a couple of weeks ago referring to Nich Starling, Matt Davies,Ryan Cullen and me all going to see the Inspiral Carpets. A slight touch of sarcasm at the end of the piece: Maybe the lyrics of the Inspirals' first hit resonates with them all: "This is how it feels to be lonely... this is how it feels when your word means nothing at all." Well
10:10 pm

Faceless Tories

Gravatar Now these are my sort of Conservatives. Who said that Cameron's party is suffering an identity crisis? Hat tip to Mark Pack on Liberal Democrat Voice.
9:27 pm

Detritus: 18 Doughty Street, liberal blogging and David Cameron

Gravatar Let’s get the plugs out of the way straight off - if you want to watch last night’s Blogger TV on 18 Doughty Street, in which I appeared alongside fellow Lib Dem blogger Andy Mayer, click here. To my left, geographically and politically, was Chris Ames, author of the excellent Iraq Dossier website, which “is dedicated to telling the truth about the British government's September 2002 dossier
9:25 pm

Things you do whilst driving

Gravatar Just doing a YouGov prize survey (the ones where you get no cash) which seems to be going on for ages, and I have reached this question: Which, if any, of the following do you do WHILST driving? [Please tick all that apply] Smoke Eat Speak on a mobile phone Write/ read text messages Read directions/ a map Listen to loud music Listen [...]
9:24 pm

NUS budget woes

Gravatar I've just discovered the NUS budget for the 2007-8 period. To summarise: the deficit this coming year is estimated at £675,067 which admittedly is an improvement over the current year's deficit forecast of £1,120,503, but still pretty shocking. I'm going to tackle four issues - NUS Extra, National Executive Committee (NEC) salaries and budgets, student union affiliation fees, and the annual conference. The disaster that is the NUS Extra card was supposed to counteract the budget deficit, but unsurprisingly students proved to be largely unwilling to pay for a student discount card (especially one which is only valid ...
8:41 pm

The perils of modern communications

Gravatar This evening I leafleted in Rainshough, on Halliwell Road and the roads nearby. For once I was by myself, although my mother was supposed to be out helping. I'd given her a call on the way home from work to confirm the time, only to receive no answer. I thought it was a little odd, and after a few more failed attempts to get in touch, started to think the worst had befallen her (injury to
8:35 pm

A stupid protest ?

Gravatar A question about today's headlines seeking "I want my 15 minutes of fame" protest at Westminster Abbey. With a name like "Toyin Agbetu", am I right in assuming that the protester is a descendant of immigrants who came to this country for a better life, not a slave brought over here 200 years ago ? If that is the case, didn't his family come here to share in the wealth, a wealth created from slavery, or so protesters like him claim. Also, why if he works for a group concerned with slavery is he not challenging the ...
8:26 pm

What would have got the police interested ?

Gravatar The tragic case featured so prominently today in the news about the death of Peter Woodhams brings in to sharp focus just how little support ordinary members of the public get from the police when there are issues of serious anti social behaviour. Months before Mr Woodhams death, he was almost fatally stabbed by a teenager. It appears, that the police did next to nothing, refuse to properly investigate the case, and refused to follow up evidence provided to them about who the attacker was. Read about it HERE. Just weeks later, he was shot dead by another ...
7:41 pm

Do Harborough Conservatives know who they are?

Gravatar I only ask because of this apparent outbreak of existential angst.
7:36 pm

Has three jobs moved yet?

Gravatar The selection of a Tory candidate from Lewisham to defend Bob Neill's seat on the GLA reminds me. Has Bob moved from Tower Hamlets yet? He said he would.
7:28 pm

Neil's Good Practice... on recycling

Gravatar Following my comments about recycling in Epping Forest and how to improve the system without necessarily returning to weekly collections, here is some information from two councils. Firstly Rushcliffe District Council although they collect in 3 bins (very similar to Epping Forest eg 1 for rubbish, 1 for dry recyclables (apart from glass) and one for garden waste) they collect a far greater
7:09 pm

Hitchens to Cameron: 'You're not on my list'

Gravatar Peter Hitchens is a controversial figure, but you've got to hand it to him. After being made redundant by Dave Cameron's modern conservatism, he got on his bike and went to look for work. We'll see whether the fruit of his recent labours will cause a riot amongst the Tory faithful though. I've written about David Cameron before, which is why I find Hitchen's portrayal so interesting, especially this observation: 'The current storm of personal abuse directed against Gordon Brown is a coded way for New Labour people to endorse the new Tories, in whose hands the Blair legacy ...
6:44 pm

This town isn't big enough for the two of us

Gravatar The Pink Dog who has supposedly commented on Liberal Democrat Voice isn't me. It's a forgery. Outrageous. Is there no low to which those astro-turfing sock puppets will not sink? I blame Iain Dale. Or Tim Ireland. Or Guido Fawkes. Or the International Cat Conspiracy. Or someone.
6:27 pm

Ian Swales is selected again for Redcar

Gravatar Liberal Democrats in Redcar Constituency have selected local resident Ian Swales as their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate. Members voted on a short list of three candidates at a hustings meeting at James Finegan Hall, Eston. Ian Swales said “I am very pleased to be selected again after a hard fought contest. I look forward to meeting more residents and will continue to campaign for a better deal for the area. After a big swing in our favour last time it is clear that people see us as the real alternative to Labour in this constituency. I will be working hard ...
6:10 pm

Who heard the evidence on Trident?

Gravatar I have a couple of quibbles with Linda Jack's post (21st March) which asked whether FPC's authority would have been undermined if the Trident motion had been defeated. The quibbles are with the suggestion that FPC, having heard all the evidence, had come up with the motion. First, the FPC did not hear all the evidence. It did not hear any of the evidence. The Trident Working Group (an ad hoc sub-committee of FPC), or rather those members of it that turned up to evidence sessions, heard the evidence. What the FPC heard was a presentation from the majority of ...
6:06 pm

Written Parliamentary Questions: 27th March 2007

Gravatar Miscarriages of Justice: Family Courts Q:To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) which Minister would be responsible for assessing whether systemic miscarriages of justice were occurring in the family courts; (2) if she will establish a review of family court cases where Dr. David Southall retained a special case file. A:My right hon. Friend The Lord
5:49 pm

After A Long Pause

Gravatar The first 2 minutes or so of this clip from US drama Boston Legal is quite good:
5:42 pm

Sustainable Communities Bill - Ming Video

Gravatar Here is video of Ming speaking at last night's Sustainable Communities Bill Rally. Hat tip Ming Campbell's website.
5:21 pm

Latest update ....

Gravatar A few days since I have been able to pause for breath and update the blog - so here goes! Firstly, many of you will have read in the local press on Saturday and heard me on local radio yesterday about the deep concern of a number of tenants regarding a local landlord who has served eviction notices on them, despite their being long-standing and good tenants. I am of the view that the tenants have been treated very badly and the comments by the landlord in Saturday's Courier accusing me of "electioneering" for having the cheek to ...
4:57 pm

Watch: Campbell backs Sustainable Communities Bill

Gravatar Last night, Liberal Democrat Leader Ming Campbell spoke at a rally in support of the Sustainable Communities Bill. You can watch his speech below, courtesy of Unlock Democracy who recorded the video.
4:07 pm

Finding a dentist

Gravatar No one really likes going to the dentist, but it seems that in the North West you are highly unlikely to be able to find an NHS dentist. Which magazine (the consumer publication) did a survey across England and it seems tht the North West is one of the worst places to be when it comes to getting a dentist. This isn't completely news to us here in Liverpool. As a councillor I have had complaints from people about not being able to get NHS treatment . In fact at one time there was no spare ...
4:02 pm

Time to shake up local government

Gravatar As we approach the May silly season, I find myself despairing at the future of local government. Many of our local councillors are complacent - and well they might be - since half of our seats are ’safe Tory’, and the others can only be won by a lot of hard work. One problem for [...]
3:16 pm

Burning the midnight oil

Gravatar One of the questions people often ask is why Parliament sits through the night. And the short answer is that it doesn't any more - normally. But tonight I will be glad if I get to leave Westminster much before 0130am. The reason for this is twofold. First, we have emergency legislation to enable the Northern Ireland power sharing deal to go through. This adds an extra 3 hours of business, but I don't think anyone who saw the extraordinary scenes of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams yesterday can really begrudge a few hours towards ...
3:07 pm

Stepping outside the boundaries

Gravatar The man who was so insistent that the forthcoming Assembly elections should be fought on Welsh issues and who announced that he had no opinion on the Iraq war because it fell outside his area of responsibility, has intervened once more in a UK matter. According to the Western Mail website Rhodri Morgan has warned off any Cabinet heavyweights who might be considering a challenge to Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership: Mr Morgan told the ePolitix.com website, "The thing that has worried me all along was if there was going to be a heavyweight, knock-down, dragged-out, 15 ...
3:02 pm

All Nighter Expected

Gravatar I came across a notice in the gents near my office in Parliament today referring to the person responsible for cleaning the area as a 'Janitorial Inspector'.   I always thought such work was...
3:02 pm

Oxford city's unitary bid fails

Gravatar Bad news here in Oxford, following the Government’s announcement today that the City Council has failed in its bid for unitary status, which would have seen it become responsible for all local government services. Sixteen local authorities have been successful in being short-listed, including two cities: Norwich and Exeter. But not us. There’s a tendency among politicians to get obsessed with
2:55 pm

Paying for devolution

Gravatar Like other bloggers I received a press release from Lee Waters of Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, urging us to establish the truth about the Barnett formula. This was picked up by the Western Mail this morning and has already been raised in the chamber today as part of First Minister's question time. Sustrans have joined with the British Medical Association and the National Association of Headteachers, to call for an independent inquiry into the Barnett formula, the method used to decide how much money Wales gets. The reform of the Barnet formula is not a subject that ...
1:48 pm

Adam Curtis and Isaiah Berlin

Gravatar Having previously welcomed Adam Curtis's series The Trap as "television for grown ups" I now have to express my disappointment with the third episode in particular. It took Isaiah Berlin's distinction between positive and negative liberty, and argued that the West had embraced the latter concept as a philosophical bulwark against Soviet communism during the Cold War. Further, is still the ruling philosophy of the Blair and Bush governments today. Much as I admire Berlin, it is impossible to deny that the standing he enjoyed during his lifetime was bound up with the Cold War. But to argue ...
1:22 pm

Nuneaton's Labour MP to stand down

Gravatar Bill Olner MP has announced he is standing down as Nuneaton's Labour MP at the next General Election. He said he says he wants to spend "quality time" with his wife. He was elected in first 1992.
12:52 pm

Robot World

Gravatar I am sitting here in my office in Westminster late on Tuesday night waiting for the Budget votes (we expect upto four at around midnight).  As I look out over the Thames, shimmerin...
12:38 pm

200 years after abolition of Slavery - No time to Celebrate.

Gravatar I have not posted for a while on here as I am snowed under with the local elections that are just 6 weeks away. However over the past few days I have seen headline capturing words from Tony Blair expressing deep sorrow over Britain's role in the slave trade, words from the Church and the usual suspects who love to publicly hang their heads in regret of long past events infront of ever present TV cameras. Hypocrisy !!! This is starting to really annoy me. OK I agree we should show regret, but a far better way ...
11:26 am

Lots of Big Brothers are no better than one

Gravatar theguardian reports a well-meaning but bizarre suggestion that we could roll back the invasion of privacy that comes with CCTV by turning CCTV cameras into webcams. Footage from surveillance cameras must be made freely available to the public if Britain is to avoid becoming a Big Brother state, researchers warned yesterday. Under the proposals, networks of CCTV [...]
10:17 am

Coppell signs

Gravatar According to the Guardian this morning Steve Coppell has signed a new contract with Reading. He is unusual in the footballing world in that he will normally only sign a one year contract. The fact that he has this time around agreed to sign a two year contract is a testament to what Coppell has built at Reading (as their most successful manager ever) and I assume to the working relationship which he has with John Madejski. This guy is already a Reading legend and I expect to see more boring "feet on the ground" interviews over the ...
10:08 am

People's Assembly

Gravatar It is quite nice of the People's Assembly to video and upload speeches to YouTube. I have extracted mine which is above. This does highlight how I really do need to lose weight. I did this speech last week. We will be doing videos with the press conference/lobby tomorrow about miscarriages of justice. Indeed I think it will be a good idea to do a video about local issues in Yardley etc.
10:01 am

Better biking in Brum?

Gravatar Information about a Friends of the Earth event next Monday: Speaker event - Can we make the city of the car the city of the bike? Precedes a potential future planning session for a cycling campaign. *Graeme Sherriff, Manchester FoE Award-winning "Love Your Bike" campaign *Birmingham Critical Mass members: Ethan and Rob *Graham Lennard, Birmingham City Council Cycling and Walking Team Monday 2 April, 7:30 pm The Warehouse Cafe, 54-57 Allison Street, Digbeth, B5 5TH Talk starts at 7:30, but come at 6:00 onwards to: - Enjoy great vegetarian food from the Warehouse Cafe. Special ...
10:00 am

Poll result - was the Trident mailshot OK?

Gravatar Did the movers of the Trident motion act properly by sending a mailshot to constituency chairs outlining their policy ahead of conference? Yes: 40% (41) No: 60% (62) Total Votes : 103
9:12 am

Foster Hall

Gravatar I was delighted to be asked to be the chair/trustee of a new charity in Bodmin last night. Although I have quite enough work on my plate right now, it is funny how somethings come up which you simply can't say no to! Foster Hall was a thriving community hall located on our old hospital site. It is a fascinating place - absolutely beautiful, absolutely huge with lots and lots of potential to become a conference venue, performing arts centre and in fact a badly needed centre of the community again for Bodmin. Whenever I speak to people ...
9:09 am

They’ve Stolen Dobson’s Brain!

Gravatar Such a hullabaloo there was when they discovered Dobson’s brain had been stolen! One cub reporter called it the hullabaloo to end all hullabaloos. Initially beside herself, Marigold Chew soon grew to appreciate the peace and quiet – the unhullabaloo – in the house itself, where Dobson lay perfectly still, as if asleep, on a [...]
8:53 am

Blair to announce his standing down on May 9th

Gravatar Well thats my best guess anyway.
8:43 am

Baffled of Brussels!!

Gravatar Tuesday 27th March 2007 - I was baffled when I heard the Commission had opened a review into duties on energy-saving lightbulbs from China, (which should have expired last year), because ending the duty on Chinese imports would cut the price of energy efficient light bulbs to the level of conventional light bulbs. On the one hand we have the German Presidency calling for an outright ban on
12:43 am

Unfortunate Headline of the Day

Gravatar From the BBC: Man loved murdered wife "to bits"
12:39 am

It’s perfect! It explains everything!

Gravatar Just one more episode of House before I hit the sack… just one more. Bah, I’m as addicted to the programme as Greg House is addicted to V… (I’m not going to type it, it’s a huge spam magnet.) House is not a good thing to watch during an election campaign. I get urges to berate [...]
12:15 am

Credit where credit is due

Gravatar So Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams have shared a table and agreed to go into Government together. And no demons have so far been spotted ice skating to work. I will leave later historians to judge (and endlessly argue over) exactly who gets how much credit for bringing this about, but I think its fair enough to say that Tony Blair will get a reasonable chunk of it. Although John Major laid some of
12:06 am

St Mary's in the Parlour

Gravatar St Mary's School Council, in the Parlour, learning from Harry Kempson about the Mace Actually they started by having a meeting with Barry Allen, the Neighbourhood Services Manager for South of the Borough, because they wanted to discuss some local issues with him. We then showed them round the Council Chamber and Parlour - they were full of bright questions -...

Previous days:

Monday 26th March 2007, Saturday 24th March 2007, Friday 23rd March 2007, Thursday 22nd March 2007, Wednesday 21st March 2007, Tuesday 20th March 2007