Sunday, October 28, 2007

First Leadership Hustings

I attended the first of the leadership hustings in Rugby yesterday. This was a chance for both candidates to outline their vision for the party. It was also an opportunity for members across the West Midlands to question each candidate on a range of issues from policy, party organisation and their vision for the future of the party.

This is going to be a tough choice for all members and we are fortunate in that we have two very talented candidates.

Chris Huhne has led the parties green agenda, which has stood out from amongst the other parties and received much acclaim from environmental groups. These are not pie in the sky policies, you instinctively know they are realistic and will make a significant contribution.

Nick Clegg as Shadow Home Affairs secretary has challenged Labour’s appalling record on the erosion of our civil liberties and highlighted a catalogue of government failures from our prisons through to immigration.

On policy there are few differences between them, each instinctively Liberal. Both spoke about the need to break the mould in British Politics, to bring politics closer to people, to make it more relevant. This has always been our strength and one I passionately subscribe to.

People in Warwick & Leamington tell me they are fed up with feeling that politicians do not listen to them; they feel as though their vote does not make any difference.
This will be an interesting contest and I am confidant that whichever leader we choose will excite the British public and provide a much-needed voice for those who are frustrated with the current brand image style of the other two parties.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nick Clegg

I have read a lot about Nick and Chris over the past few days and believe this is going to be an interesting contest.

I am amused that already the media is trying to dig up the dirt, Chris it seems wrote an article in a student mag in the early 70's discussing drugs and may (or may not) have experimented. Nick on the other hand, as a student burned down a greenhouse full of cacti, the article did not mention whether or not they were hallucinogenic.

Well its probably best to get this all out of the way early on.

A more sinister edge though is the hints by some corners of the media suggesting that Nick Clegg will try to shift our party away from its core values, undermine its structures and is a Tory at heart.

What crap. The truth is that the Tories fear Nick Clegg more than the next flip flop statement from their own leader. If it is put about that Nick is a closet Tory who aims to change the party it is an attempt to create fear in the Lib Dem membership. This is how Nick will be attacked. If Nick does become leader, this will become a theme I fear in months to come as much needed changes are made. If any of us are in doubt about Cl egg's Liberal Credentials, he writes in The Yorkshire Post, "Under my leadership, I want the Liberal Democrats to become a gathering point for everyone who wants a different type of politics in Britain. A politics that begins by giving power to individuals, their families and their communities. A politics which places its faith in people, not systems – in communities not bureaucracies."

We will have to see through these attacks and be bold as Nick says in reinventing the way our party reaches out to people, works internally and gets our message over.

Although I have tried to be objective and not make my mind up until I have heard both speak at the hustings, I am finding that not only am I swaying more and more in favour of Nick, I am excited by it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ming's Resignation

Events this afternoon have moved very quickly and at 6:30 Sir Ming Campbell resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Ming's legacy is that he has made the internal operations of the party more professional. I have personally seen much of this and am sure it will put us on a strong footing long into the future.

For the moment though there will be a leadership election which is a good opportunity to showcase our excellent policies. We have strong talent in the party and I look forward to seeing who will throw their hat into the ring.

In Praise of Local Tradesmen

A few weeks ago a bit fell of my TV aerial and so eventually I got around to doing something about it and upgrade to a new digital aerial at the same time.

I call a national installation company who give me what I consider to be a reasonable quote and I book them for this morning.

The installer turned up at about 10am and tells me that the work will cost more than twice what I had been quoted on the phone. He tries to blind me with science, which is never a good idea with me as I have an engineering background. My bullshit detector was going into overdrive.

So I politely decline his offer and then phone a local installer who turns up at about mid-day.

Allen the TV aerial man tells me he installed the whole development where I live when it was built about 15 years ago. He has years of experience on where the best and worst reception areas are in the town and the best transmitters to use to get the best signal. He replaced my Aerial and aligned it to Sutton Coldfield so I now get more channels than I did before, he also gave me some free advice as to how to set up my TV and my various bits and pieces up to get the best signal.

As I was paying him the reasonable amount we had originally agreed, I told him about my experience with the national company. He told me that was a common trick and that an old lady had been charged five times what I had paid to do similar work.

It is so easy for people to get ripped off on technical work like this, especially if you are seen as elderly or can be blinded by science. It is worth using well established local tradesmen as they know the area and it keeps local enterprise alive.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Return to Punch and Judy Politics.

This afternoons Prime Ministers Question Time saw the spectacle of David Cameron making far too much political capital out of Gordon Browns decision not to call a General Election. This would not be quite so distasteful had the Tories genuinely wanted one.

The depths of Cameron playing 'Judy' in a return to the Punch politics he promised to avoid came when he accused Brown of being Phoney and stealing all the Conservative policies.

The term, Pot, Kettle and Ethnic Minority springs to mind. In the village of Westminster this is of course all good sport. On the Radio Sets and TV screens across Britain it does little to raise Cameron's profile out of his old Eton common room.

Then again Tories seem to like this style of politics. From reports I have heard, heckling and tearing people apart in committee rooms may be creeping into our own council, following a new intake of Conservative councillors in Warwick.

Of course many of yesterdays announcements were in fact Lib Dem ideas,

  • Charging aviation tax on planes, not passengers (passed by Liberal Democrat conference in 2004)
  • Taxing non-domiciles (passed by Liberal Democrat conference in 2007)
  • Increasing the inheritance tax threshold (passed by Liberal Democrat conference in 2007)

I suppose this is where recently Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy has something in common. Lib Dem Policies are voted for by members at the Lib Dem conference whilst at the same time Tory Policies are voted for by Lib Dem members at the Lib Dem Conference. I was there and voted for these three myself.

I guess if Cameron shouts about it loud enough people may really think they were Conservative policies all along.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Grand Old Duke of York

I stumbled across this, made me laugh anyway, well worth a watch.

Personally this whole thing has been a total waste of time, I personally know of many politicians who have poured masses of energy into a possible election when they could have been spending time on real issues in their constituencies.

I became convinced over the past few days that this whole set up has been staged to flush out the aces of the other two parties.

A good argument for fixed term parliaments. While we are at it, lets get a fair voting system. Its time to modernise this antiquated system we have and lets have the modern, effective democracy Britain deserves.

Carding Mill Valley, Shropshire

I took a well deserved break from Politics today and went hill walking with Sarah and some friends to Carding Mill Valley in Shropshire. This is a stunning part of the country and a particular favourite of mine. You can walk along an old glacier valley up to a waterfall which we climbed before walking along the top of a ridge back to the car. The whole walk took us about two hours and is a great way to spend an autumn afternoon.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

No General Election

I have just heard on the radio that there will be no election this autumn. I had worked out a great plan with my team and was ready to go. On the positive side we can tinker with the plan and carry on with some other work I have been wanting to get involved in.

Top of my agenda at the moment is the Phlebotomy service in Warwick & Leamington which has been reduced in many areas causing a real problem for residents. I will write about this in a few days.

The other key issue is crime in Leamington which is on the rise and we all, as a community need to tackle this urgently.

I believe Gordon Brown has been very clever, flushing out the strong cards in the other parties hands. Personally I think this has made a mockery of the whole democratic process and I would favour fixed terms, then we all know where we stand.

Surgeries & Euro Delivery

Its been a busy day, I managed to get round all of our regular surgeries today, this is a great opportunity for people to meet their local councillors and talk about issues affecting them.

We hold surgeries at the following times.

Crown Way Shops 1st & 3rd Saturday each month 10:00 to 11:00
Landsdown Street 1st Saturday each month at 11:15 to 12:15
Rugby Road 1st Saturday each month at 11:30 to 12:30

I then went round Leamington delivering leaflets on behalf of one of our European Candidates. Our selection rules (the so called neutering of the candidates) probably forbid my telling you who I am supporting so I wont.

This is also a great opportunity for me to meet as many of our members that I can and I always find this a really positive experience.