Sunday, September 27, 2009

And the result from the Commission into the Bleeding Obvious is...

Some schools waste money, according to a report (read this). But isn't the report itself the biggest waste of money - I could have told you this for free, as indeed could most of the people who work in schools?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

When will Gordon's parliamentary maths not add up?

This week another Labour PPS and now a Business Minister have quit. It seems every week another person or people are jumping out of Gordon's tent. Yet, somehow, these people must be being replaced.

Labour have 350+ MPs and just upwards of 200 peers.

Hasn't Gordon run out of people to do jobs yet? I am amazed there is anyone left to serve!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Zzzzz" ... Conference responds to Norwich Lib Dem speech

During my mammouth watching of the LibDem conference I was lucky enough to be able to watch Eaton Councillor Ros Wright addressing the main hall about consumer policy. Her speech - devoid of any point as far as I could see - must have been so riveting that when the camera panned to 2 crowd shots during it, one showed delegates fast asleep and the other recorded a batch of delegates leaving the hall. I will leave you to make of that what you will...

In Brown and Clegg, Cameron is very lucky in the quality of his opponents

I could write a very long blog post about how awful the week has been for the LibDem Leadership, with Clegg and Cable taking the brunt of it. But has a review far better than anything I could write so please take a look.

I have been told by 2 people this week, who have watched the conference in full, that is has actively put them off voting LibDem. In almost disbelief at this, I have today made time to watch the conference ... I haven't watched a LibDem conference in any detail for some time (probably since university) and thought that as politics becomes more profession that surely it must have been better than I remembered. Erm, no, it was if anything worse ... Oh dear, a week that Clegg may want to forget.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Lessons to be learnt" admit LibDems as Cable's tax policies fall apart

The BBC reports on a very stormy meeting of LibDem MPs and frontbenchers who collectively tear apart the shambolic tax policies announced by Treasury Spokesman Vince Cable. Apparently they say that lessons will be learnt - will the first lesson be that not everything Cable says is gospel and, despite being the most influential LibDem in the country, he cannot carry the whole party and his own disasterous leader along.

Monday, September 21, 2009

5 steps to an acceptable tax hike ... but can it actually work?

Want to raise tax? Want to avoid the unpopularity that comes with wanting to raise tax? Follow these easy steps and you won't go far wrong!!

1. Only tax the "rich"
2. Define "rich" as anybody with a "million" of something
3. Make the tax rise sound small; only do things in demonination of "1%" or "2%"
4. Say the cash is for something very important indeed - so rich people are supporting good projects
5. Completely over-value the tax rise to make people think it is a great way of raising money

The trouble is that even if you do all 5 of these, most tax plans of this ilk tend to fall apart quite easily. Unless, of course, you think people will believe anything you say and do...

Obviously St. Vince of Cable has been taking the advice but already there are concerns about it. Even some LibDems are worried about this - they are worried because the people it hits live in some of their marginal seats in the South West and also South West London, and others remember the fate of Guildford in the 2005 over the "local income tax" policy (which shared a number of the criteria 1-5 too).

However I worry more that policies like this tend not to work. This one will hit house prices and independent financial experts have already said it won't raise anywhere near the figure that Cable claims. Houses that fall into the tax band will suddenly fall just under it - that is just one way to get around it. Many more will no doubt will be worked out later.

Cable has a position in politics where he feels and acts like he's untouchable. I think this may be a policy too far and not even his soft press can cushion the blow if it all falls apart in the wind.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Battle of Britain

Just a few words about the wonderful service to mark the sacrifice made by the RAF in the Battle of Britain. With Civic pagentry in full flow, a fly past of a Spitfire and a marching band to boot it was a very special event. I also find the Battle of Britain week such an uplifting event - praise and thanks for the greatest of sacrifice with the cornerstone thought of liberty. The remarks by the RAF chaplain were particularly meaningful drawing parallels between the 1940s and military conflict today.

On Friday we are having a Conservative event to commemorate the event too; we having a visiting speaker about the role of Norwich & Norfolk in the Battle of Britain. I am really looking forward to it.

We shall, indeed, always remember them.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Who told Clegg this was a good idea?

The start of the LibDem conference has been marked by a "savage attack" by Nick Clegg on David Cameron - though the interview I saw on ITN was rather more stuttering than savage. Clegg, who was elected in part because of his media savvy skills, seems to be getting worse as time goes on. Either that or in comparison to Cameron he just seems to be getting worse.

This betrays the worry of the LibDem Leader about who the real challenge is at the election. I am told that the loss of their South West powerbases at the recent county elections has made a lot of LibDems across the country very jittery about the Tory threat in their seats. What would happen if they went backwards at this election? For a start, Clegg's leadership would be over and (assuming he clings on in his own marginal seat) Chris Huhne would be ready to strike.

However, let's say the election result shows a collapse against the Tories but losses are offset against a dozen or so gains from Labour; even if the numbers are down, Clegg could claim a victory of sorts and if Cameron landslides then he could claim nothing could have stopped the Tories and the defeats are to be expected.

So therefore, what on earth is Clegg doing having a political pop at Cameron when the wide-open goal of Labour sits before him and with it, the only chance of him clinging onto his job.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

LibDem caught in expenses row (and how he could have avoided it)

One LibDem MEP has been caught employing his girlfriend and then massively hiking her salary.

That is one reason why I have said that I will never employ a member of my family in any way shape or form. Even if this employment is totally legitimate, the salary is justified and she is working very hard for the money, then the public will still be suspicious because of the way it looks. Answer: be above board and look like you are above board by staying away from employing family* in this way.

*I am very aware that a girlfriend is not a relative as such, but apparently their relationship is well known and, to me, the same rules should apply.

Sewell Toy Library - Open for Business

I am pleased to say that the Sewell Toy Library reopens at Norwich North Surestart Centre on Saturday 19th September from 10.30 - 12.30.

This is a fantastic project, part run by a local Labour Councillor and part by commuity volunteers. My girls always love visiting and given the usual concentration span on a toy is pretty low, this is great and affordable way to keep them entertained!

A great community project - if you haven't done so, pay it a visit.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Save General Election Night

One thing where both Charles Clarke and I agree - don't worry, there aren't many like this - is the issue of the when to count votes. We both greatly support the idea that we continue to count on a Thursday after votes have been cast and an evening of high-drama on live TV. The idea that people would be at work and miss things like Michael Portillo or Ed Balls losing their seats (oh hang on, the second one hasn't happened yet) would be awful. What about the security of the ballot boxes? What about the seemless transfer of power in a democracy?

The cross-party alliance running the campaign put it better than I could ... After reading this, go onto Facebook and sign up to the campaign.

This is more than just a political anorak obsession, it is actually important ...

Here are a few reasons why you might support the campaign:

*We want to know who won as soon as possible*
Quite simply, once the polling stations have closed we want to know the result as soon as possible. And this argument holds on two levels. Firstly, on a constituency level, but more significantly on a national level: if the general election is going to be close, then it is possible that if lots of seats are not counting until Friday - especially marginals - then we will not know who is going to be Prime Minister, form the Government etc until Friday lunchtime.

*It would be a backward step*
In the digital 24-hour media age when we are used to getting news quicker than ever before, it would be a backward step to delay election counts. If anything, we should be seeking to persuade the few constituencies which historically count on a Friday to bring their counts forward to Thursday night.

*Fewer people will be able to follow the results coming in*
Sitting around the television into the early hours is an election night ritual for people across the land, many of whom do not perhaps follow politics closely on a daily basis. But if there are fewer results to announce - and the potential of not getting a national result to boot - they are less likely to bother tuning in and when the remaining constituencies declare and the national result becomes apparent on the Friday, anyone at work is not going to be able to witness the climax of the electoral process.

*The TV coverage of the election will suffer*
The outside broadcasts (OBs) at counts up and down the country have provided many a memorable moment over they years, and they bring the results to life. However, the reason why broadcasters are able to provide such a variety of OBs is that there is no other call on the satellite trucks and outside broadcast units during the night. If there were an increasing number of counts on Friday during the day, fewer of them would have cameras present, thereby reducing the ability of the broadcasters to give full coverage of the results.

*It's a tradition, dammit*
The traditional British way of doing elections is to have people come out to vote and then count the ballot papers immediately afterwards. It's how we do it and what we're used to.

*Threats to the integrity of the ballot*
Security is a less important concern, but worth a mention all the same. Some of us might be just a little uncomfortable about increasing millions of ballot papers being left overnight before being counted.

HOW YOU CAN HELP Please contact your local council (most likely the electoral registration department or Chief Executive's office) to discover when the votes for your constituency at the general election will be counted.

Sir George Young should just be the start

As a long-term supporter of Sir George Young (particularly backing him in both Speakership contests as my first choice candidate) I am thrilled to see him back in as a lead player in the Shadow Cabinet. This move tells us a lot about Cameron's leadership.

Cameron can be both loyal and ruthless - he backed Duncan during his PR blunders but then chose his moment to demote - not sack - this very able but misguided Tory MP. But his choice of replacement say more. Young is moderate, experienced and has cross-bench support. A perfect guy to lead the Conservative fightback on expenses but also an interesting choice to face Harman over the dispatch box. Her shrill proclaimations will fall flat against the decent, polite and measured Hampshire MP Sir George.

So what now? Personally I hope Sir George will be the first of a number of long-serving and experienced Tory MPs who are bought back to the service of the country and the party. Cameron won't lose any of his fresh style or reforming zeal by doing this, but he will gain people who really know how to run the country.

In 1997 Tony Blair really lacked key frontbench support who had held government posts in the past and so his Ministers spent a lot of time learning on the job and relying heavily - perhaps too heavily - on the Civil Service. But then Blair's lot were out for 18 years and Cameron has a much deeper pool to choose from. So, will there be another shadow cabinet re-shuffle before the election (I doubt it) or will Cameron simply choose to add some names to his Ministerial ranks after the '10 election.

I note that the number of Ministers will fall next time - we will already have Business Secretary Ken Clarke but I hope there will be jobs for James Arbuthnot, Peter Ainsworth, Iain Duncan Smith, Peter Lilley and Tim Yeo?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

SNAP: We're serious about ASB

Anti-social behaviour and speeding have once again become priorities after the meeting of the Bowthorpe Safer Neighbourhoods Action Panel. At a meeting yesterday held at Chapel Break, the Bowthorpe SNAP decided upon 2 new priorities.

The first was to tackle speeding down Rawley Road by investigatingpossible traffic calming measures and increasing traffic officer presence. Rawley Road is a commonly used cut through in the area with a school at one end and with residential homes along it. There is an issue with speeding and with the school term about to start local people felt thisought to be an issue which is highlighted. The local police are very supportive of this initiative because it fits well with other traffic calming projects in the area and across the City. Bowthorpe has suffered the tragedy of losing of our youngersters in a road traffic accident and this priority hopes to remind all motorists of the need to stick to the speed limit.

The second priority was to tackle anti-social behaviour in the Peverell Road area by invetsigating the use of Dispersal Orders, increasingwarden/PCSO/Police foot patrols at key times and working with Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council to design out the crime (i.e.block up alleyways used for crime and disorder).

This was the number one issue raised and I am grateful to local peoplefor their input into the matter. This is something which we have lookedat before, but the weakness of the SNAP priorities is that you can worktowards solving an issue, it then ceases to be a priority and then theproblem comes back.

Local hard working people have a right to live their lives in peacewithout intimidation. We were told of large groups of youths throwingstones at windows, lighting fires, urinating in gardens and pulling upplants in gardens. If challenged by residents, local people are jeeredand have abuse thrown at them. This has to end.

If yobs want to make life difficult for local residents they ought toknow that we will use every tactic to stop them. The Police are actively looking at Dispersal Orders to stop gangs of young people from hanging around, especially late into the night. We are ensuring that more footpatrols go on at key times to discourage anti-social behaviour. And we want to work together to make sure that we don't make crime easy - by cutting off alleyways that are used for nothing but crime and disorder we can send a strong message that we the community won't tolerate this anylonger.

I am glad Peverell Road is back on the agenda; we owe the decent residents of the area every chance to live their lives free from crime. This SNAP priority shows we are on their side and ready to fight for them.

New Year's Day

Well, the firsy day back to school was exciting but largely uneventful - just a reminder about the amount of work we need to do before the kids even hit the classrooms! Bishop Michael Evans celebrated a wonderful Mass with us this morning, wishing the teaching staff a "Happy New Year". We were joined by a visiting priest from Cambodia and a stark descriptions of the differences between the teaching professions in our two nations. A very sobering start to the year, really.

The best bit about the first day back to school is all the "catch up chats" you get with colleagues and friends, many of whom have the luxury of spending most the break abroad. It was pleasing to see how many people have had my latest campaign leaflet and remembered it - the photos worked well and people certainly liked my "Honesty Promise".

Childcare means I couldn't go to the leaving party for John Jones at the Council - a real shame as John has been a dependable and methodical Head for the Legal & Democratic Services at City Hall (spelling errors aside!! Sorry John, had to be said!!) and we will be very sorry to see him go. His replacement has, meterphorically, big shoes to fill.