Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Investing rather than spending our way out of the crisis.

I was in Leamington at the weekend catching up on some Christmas shopping, looking on as shoppers picked over the bleached carcass of Woolworths who were now offering 60% off, no bailout for Woolworths.

Yet we have seen massive support for the banks while we see little relief for people who face loosing their homes, the same tax payers who funded the bailout before their jobs fell victim to the economy. At the same time the government is considering propping up the car industry so they can make cars no one can afford to buy.

I wonder whether we have got out priorities right. Yes we need to support jobs, but wouldn’t it be better to fund something we all need. We could spend the money on and extension to the High Speed rail network for example from London to the Midlands and North of England, providing a viable alternative to road and air travel. Or we could build the Severn Barrage that would generate the equivalent of Four Nuclear Power Stations which would make a significant contribution to reducing our carbon footprint and assist in our energy security.

If we are to spend our way out of this crisis, perhaps we should spend it one something that would create a legacy that could last decades and benefit us all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Police State tackles live music!

I have just read about Form 696 on Facebook. This is a new regulation in London (perhaps coming to a venue near you). This is an appalling intrusion into the culture of music lovers in London which could threaten a thriving activity enjoyed by performers and audiences across the country. Just what the Police want with this information is anybodies guess. What about pubs such as my local frequented by many musicians in Warwick, where impromptu musical activity can happen at any moment. Under these new regulations would such a treat for patrons be banned.

This new piece of bureaucracy will force licensees to reveal a mass of information about performers. Publicans and managers of other small venues are forced to comply with a new piece of bureaucracy called Form 696.

The form demands that licensees give police a mass of detail, including the names, aliases, private addresses and phone numbers of all musicians and other performers appearing at their venue, and the ethnic background of the likely audience. (what happens if the form says they expect a 60% black or ethnic minority audience and only 50% turn up?)

Failure to comply could mean the loss of a licence or even a fine and imprisonment. It applies in 21 London boroughs, but professionals in the music business fear that if it becomes accepted, it will be copied in other cities. These new rules will make putting on live bands next to impossible for most small venues. An 'open mic' night could not happen under such rules.

Feargal Sharkey (singer of Teenage Kicks) is campaigning against the new rules - see below for more details.Please sign the petition on the 10 Downing Street website against 696. See here: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Scrapthe696/

I have many friends in the musical community in Warwick & Leamington and oppose these measures fully! I will be lobbying my Parliamentary colleagues to get this intrusion into the very fabric of our society stopped.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Save Leamington Allotments - Welly Walk

This afternoon I took part in the ‘Welly Walk’ organised by BLAST (Bring Leamington Allotment Societies Together) to continue our campaign to protect Leamington’s allotments and to protect the greenbelt to the north of the town.

This is in response to Warwick District Councils ‘Options for Growth’ consultation document that placed some of the arrows on their map directly across some of Leamington’s popular allotments. This has naturally raised concern amongst allotment holders who do not want to see their allotments, many who have tended their plots for decades bulldozed to make way for housing.

I visited Binswood Allotments earlier this year and saw for myself what a fantastic source of healthy recreation these plots are. In fact these facilities are in such demand amongst such a cross section of people that there is a waiting list of almost 200 people. Leamington Town Council (Lib-Dem Run) has said that it would support the case for more allotments. You can read the full Town Council proposal here.

There is more at stake here, as green spaces such as our Cricket Pitches, back garden’s and green belt to the north of the town are also under pressure from developers.
The crisis in the housing market does not mean the threat has gone away and plans to be discussed at the District Council will determine where thousands of houses may be built over the next 20 years.
So that is why campaigns such as those organised by the Allotment Holders is so important. Decisions taken now will have an impact to the character of the towns in our District for decades to come.

My personal view and the view of the Lib-Dem’s in Warwick & Leamington is that development should not be at the expense of the facilities in our town. In fact is there is development on the scale proposed we will need more facilities, more allotments so we can maintain our towns as great places to live.

So in spite of the icy weather and the mud, well over 100 of us spent this afternoon walking along the green belt that is at risk. We had a short pause for some speeches before we returned via some of the allotments.

We should not build on the Green Belt to the north of Warwick & Leamington for two important reasons. It forms a natural barrier between our towns and Kenilworth and Coventry to the north, halting the urban sprawl. The area to the north is stunning Warwickshire countryside along the course of the Avon (a flood plain) dotted with little villages. The choice is clear, Urban Sprawl or Stunning Countryside!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Last night the United States elected their first sensible president for over eight years. I really feel there was a sense of optimism across the world this morning. What America needs is someone who will restore this nations standing in the world. I have watched Obama during the course of the campaign, he is a fantastic speaker and I really feel his policies are needed to meet the challenges America faces today.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Warwick School

This afternoon I visited Warwick School to speak at the sixth form afternoon assembly. I briefly spoke about what Liberal Democrats stand for and where we sit in the political landscape. I kept this short as I wanted to spend more time answering questions and talking about what the boys wanted to talk about.

The questions asked were excellent and at times tough, covering a range of subjects from the economy, immigration, Europe, taxation, the balance between a free market & social policies and electoral reform.

I left some information containing a set of websites that the boys might like to look at and have posted them below.

Email - alan_beddow@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Conference - Exhibitions and the Glee Club

I have had a more relaxed morning today. Conference can get a bit intense at times. So I strolled through the park that runs through Bournemouth to a little cafe for breakfast. Bournemouth is a great place; it has elements of a European city with its open spaces and some of its art deco buildings, a little like Barcelona on some ways, then it has the elegance of a Victorian city and sea side town. I took a walk along the shoreline, the firm wet line of sand right by the water. Bournemouth has some of the best beaches in Britain.

I then made a proper visit to the Exhibition so I could talk to some of the exhibitors. I had an interesting debate at the ‘Friends of Israel’ stand (which for various reasons is not next to the ‘Friends of Palestine’), spoke to the Federation of Small Businesses about our town centres, used the cashpoint at the Post Office stand (which for the Lib-Dem conference at least was still open and I wondered whether it would remain open for the whole of the Labour conference), chatted to printers, the Countryside Alliance (which are not all about fox hunting) and a whole host of others.

My first true event of the day was with the, Institute of Directors where Vince Cable spoke about the future of the economy. Vince spoke about bonus payments in the financial industry, liberal regulation in the market to provide institutions people can trust and who would provide a stable financial environment. The speaker from the IoD gave a constructive and favourable response to our policies. He stressed that it was important that Britain remained competitive.

A very long walk up the hill for an interesting training session.

I needed a sandwich at this point and so went into a coffee shop and while I ate read a copy of the Daily Mail. At the conference its so easy to be in a bit of a bubble, so I was reassured to read that; Britain is officially the most crowded place in Europe, there are paedophiles round every corner and three teenagers have been stabbed 666 times and eaten by Russian Satanists.

Tonight I am having dinner with some people from the region, not sure who yet, I am filling a place that has become free, and then it is the glee club!

OK, I will tell you about the glee club. You would not believe it unless you had seen it.

It is basically the end of conference party, with a tradition that goes right back to who knows when, Gladstone probably! (now there is a thought). The party faithful gather for a few drinks and to sing songs ancient and modern ranging from hymns on land reform, Jerusalem and more recent irreverent versions of catchy tunes celebrating the exploits of former leaders. These are accompanied by John Hemming MP on Piano and an assortment of turns by heroic campaign teams from by elections past. It is something to be witnessed I can tell you! Last year Paddy Ashdown told the longest and eventually pointless shaggy dog story. I wonder if Nick will do a turn this year, I hope so.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Serious Debating on Monday

Each year the BBC put on an informative Breakfast which is a good start to the day. This year they used it as an opportunity to preview their new BBC Persian service. Countries such as Iran have a large, educated & progressive young population. I am convinced that the only constructive hope for progress in Iran is through its youth. This new BBC service is vibrant and will celebrate Persian culture and I am convinced will contribute to progress of freedom for the people in this part of the world.

I then headed down the hill to attend the Party Reform Commission consultation where one of our local councillors, Sarah Boad spoke, stressing the importance of our councillors.

More training with Jenny Willott MP, then off to a lively fringe by the NUT discussing 'Who Should Run Schools?', (for example Academies vs Local Authority) with MP’s David Laws and Paul Holmes, I always like listening to Paul as he is plain speaking and with conviction.

So then onto the debate on our Pre-manifesto, ‘Make it Happen’. (After a cup of tea) It will be interesting to see how the media write this one up tomorrow.

Each conference there is always a debate that is both controversial and enjoyable. A contentious debate at a Lib-Dem conference will find most delegates applauding a speaker even if they disagree with what they had to say (very Liberal). Fellow delegates have told me how much they enjoyed such a debate even if their point of view lost.

So I have just popped back to my holiday flat to drop off some campaign materials I have been meaning to take away for a couple of days. I have a busy evening, Regional and then a National European Campaign team meeting, then the Parliamentary Candidates reception which will be a chance to grab something to eat and chat to colleagues, before rounding it off the evening at the ‘Liberal Review – Humour Balance Task Force’ which could be a lot of fun.

I can only give you a small view of a Party Conference as there is so much to do, be informed about and get involved in, that any person can only see a fraction of it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

So what happens at Party Conferences?

Anyone who has never been to a party conference might wonder what we do all day. Well its not all sitting in a huge conference hall listening to debates on taper relief of capital gain tax, followed by partying till the early hours in the conference bar. There is training, fringe events, photo sessions, campaign groups to talk to, media and meetings with colleagues and various party bodies. There might be some drinking in the hotel bar, but tonight I am having an early night as I have an early start tomorrow.

So I started the second day again with some more training, there is no shortage of training in the Lib-Dem's, yet its all useful.

On the way out of the conference centre I got talking to campaigners from Rethink, a mental health campaign organisation. There is real inequality in just about every area of life for people with mental health issues, including mild depression that can effect any of us. Then there is the bigger issue of the huge percentage of people in our bulging prisons who have mental health issues. Surely treatment is more appropriate than banging them up!

Time cup of tea before attending a fringe from the 'ippr' with Norman Lamb looking at the balance between Public & Private provision of Public Services. This is a debate all major parties are having at the moment and we can learn much from countries such as Sweden.

I managed to grab something to eat then went into the Q&A with Nick Clegg. Nick answered a range of questions including; is he Cameron Lite, or Clegg Full Strength. Nick answered this by comparing policies, finally stating David Cameron would never do that! Nick believes we have the best policies on for example; housing, public services and the economy. Nick's ambition is that we remain the trend setter in British politics in the way have been on the environment.

Quick trek up the hill for a briefing with Vince Cable. Vince discussed some of the issues with the housing market. Councils should be able to buy empty properties or where people are unable to keep up with their payments and rentback.

Vince clarified our new tax proposals through closing tax avoidance, green taxes & savings. Regarding regulation of banking, ask me about, Countercyclical Regulation when I get back and see if I remember.

Finally an evening fringe run by Oxfam discussing how Climate Change is a Foreign Policy issue, with shifting weather patterns, basic resources such as water will become a valuable commodity which are already creating tensions around the globe. Countries such as the USA are not immune to this as deforestation in Brazil will affect rainfall in parts of the mid-west. So we need an international framework to agree how much water can be taken out of rivers and regulate the activities of countries that would affect neighbours. Quite a challenge!

Another full and interesting day, we have been so lucky with the weather. I think I have earned a pint on the conference hotel lawn overlooking the sea.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday at The Lib-Dem Conference. Training, Debate and Dancing.

I started the conference on a sunny morning with a walk up one of the many hills here in Bournemouth for a training session.

Its interesting to note that polling shows that Crime, Health & Education are still top issues, however Cost of Living is rising as an issue people are concerned about.

I had time for a quick sandwich then onto a briefing. I had time for a quick photo shoot with Liberal Youth; graphically putting the case for votes at 16, then back up the hill for more training.

Its proving to be a full day, quick spin round the exhibition, a chat to a couple of colleagues I bumped into, then a needed cup of coffee before going into a Policy Debate on International Security in the main hall. Our policy on International Security includes; Prevention rather than cure, Work within and strengthen the International Communities and Support our troops so they are well cared for and equipped for when we have to use them. (In fact the way our service personnel is cared for is appalling, not only lack of equipment, some of their housing is so bad I would not board my cat there.)

The rally was opened by an excellent dance troop from a youth project in Grimsby. Nick Clegg developed the theme, 'politics is broken'. Only one man can be trusted with economy, Vince Cable and only the Liberal Democrats can unite people & politics.

Thirsty work so I ended the day in the conference bar, followed by dinner with the chair of neighbouring constituency Kenilworth & Southam.

Bournemouth is a cracking venue for the conference and so far the weather has been bright and sunny. Stunning view of the moon over the bay this evening, let’s hope it keeps fine.

I will be interested in how the conference comes over in the media, so please let me know how you see it from the papers and TV.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Equitable Life. - Government should pay out.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been contacted by local residents, following the publication of the Ombudsman’s report into the Equitable Life scandal.

Now this issue goes back to early 1999 after Equitable Life launched proceedings to cut bonus payments, effectively going back on promises made to policy holders. This affects many people in Warwick & Leamington, some of whom joined Pension Schemes from local employers.

The Ombudsman’s report into the Equitable Life scandal makes very disturbing reading. Its findings show that many Equitable Life policy holders lost money as a direct consequence of regulators failing to keep close enough scrutiny of the company.

The list of the regulatory failures includes:
  • The failure to adequately scrutinise Equitable Life’s returns and accounting policies and the value of its liabilities from 1990 onwards

  • The failure to act on the problems of the differential terminal bonus policy - and the over-bonusing of some investors at the expense of others

  • The failure to force Equitable Life to create a contingency fund to cover the risk of losing the Hyman case - which challenged Equitable Life policies and, if lost, would leave them open to massive liabilities

  • The decision to allow Equitable Life to keep trading after losing the Hyman case

It’s clear that many policy holders have been badly let down by regulators, have suffered financial loss as a result and deserve compensation for the losses caused by the failings of the regulator.

Lib-Dem shadow treasury spokesperson, Vince Cable has taken a very strong line on this:

  • After eight years and 13 reports it’s time for the Government to finally admit that it comprehensively failed to regulate Equitable Life properly.
  • For years ministers have acted like they were in a castle under siege, hoping that Equitable Life policy holders would give up and go away. Today’s report shows that, rightly, this is not going to happen.
  • Gordon Brown has overseen a complete and repeated failure of regulation spanning a decade. The outrage expressed by policyholders over this ’serial regulatory failure’ is entirely justified.
  • After months of dragging its feet, the Government needs to accept the Ombudsman’s recommendation that ‘wrongs should be remedied’.
  • If ministers choose to disregard this report, as they have done over tax credits and occupational pensions, it will be the final nail in the coffin for the Ombudsman’s credibility.
  • These are large sums of money, especially at a time when belts are being tightened. Gordon Brown must now admit fault and apologise to policyholders.
  • It is critical that the Government now sets out a credible, transparent and independent process to enter into a dialogue with policy holders over compensation.

Vince has also written an excellent article in the Telegraph.

Policy holders who have saved for their retirements, fully deserve fair compensation after this appalling maladministration over more than 10 years.

Links to useful sites.

BBC Website

Equitable Members Action Group

Sunday, August 24, 2008

David Cameron's UK Holiday Sham!

Three weeks ago David Cameron took a holiday in Cornwall in front of the media spotlight to show solidarity with British families affected by the credit crunch.

Yet in secret he has taken his family on a luxury holiday on board a yacht in the Turkish Rivera.

“The break was dubbed an opportunistic attempt by Cameron to show himself as a humble stay-at-home politician who had tightened his belt and gone on holiday in Britain in the wake of the credit crunch” Says the Daily Mail.

'Bucket and spade' Dave has shown his true 'blue' colours by holidaying on a £21,000 a week yacht, surrounded by an armada of seven boats of 74 mates and family and banqueting in the finest restaurants,” added the Mirror.

Well what can I say, this is one in a long line of examples where Cameron will do one thing in front of the camera’s and another when he thinks no one else is looking.

David Cameron has looked the part of a Prime Minister in waiting while Gordon Brown has been floundering. Yet the British people should not be fooled by Cameron. If Cameron becomes our next Prime Minister we can expect more spin than we had under Blair and very little substance.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Leamington Schools Political Conference.

I took part in a Political Conference for schools across Warwickshire in at the Spa centre in Leamington today.

The subject for the morning dealt with the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and whether British troops should stay in these countries.

I argued that the neglect of the international community to provide post conflict support in Afghanistan after the Russian War ended in 1989 allowed the country to be controlled by Warlords and the Taliban. Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan in 1996 and used it as a base to launch attacks against Taliban enemies and the West. Although success in this country is slow, we are making progress and are focusing on state building. A failed Terrorist state threatens the safety of the region, the West and the World.

With Iraq the story is different. There was no UN authorisation for the invasion and it is deemed by many to be illegal under international law. Our presence in Iraq is now part of the problem. We should shift our efforts to a diplomatic solution, focusing on state building rather then perpetuating a war we cannot win.

I was very impressed with the quality of the questions raised from the floor and we have an interesting and lively debate about the issues raised.

In the afternoon we discussed Immigration, and whether we should have tighter controls. I discussed the various types of immigration:

Those entering Britain legally from our former colonies or within Europe for example contribute in our skills market. Rather than imposing a state led, points or quota system as Labour and the Conservatives propose, I believe legal entrants to Britain who come here to work should be led by the market. Only this way can the market respond to the needs of our global economy.

I discussed how we should have a better system to handle asylum seekers and process their claim and how we need a strong border force to stamp out crimes such as People Trafficking, modern day slavery and international crime and terrorism.

There was some debate about the ghettoisation in some communities and a balance needs to be struck between people actually wanting to live in their own communities and be able to integrate into the nation as a whole.

Labour’s proposals to use ID Cards as a way of controlling immigration, introduced for immigrants only, created a lot of comment from the floor. I really cannot see how this would work. If only immigrants need ID cards, then for example someone here illegally say from Chechnya could just pretend to be from Poland an EU country, who would know the difference? What about someone born in this country, a third generation Muslim for example, how can he prove that he is British?

All in all a really good day with some lively issues.

Warwickshire Political Conference Notes - Monday 7th July.

As promised I have included some useful links to various websites with some background material on the subjects we discussed at the Political Conference today.

Please email me if you have any comments or questions on the issues discussed.


Council of Europe page on the issue of Human Trafficking.

Liz Lynne – West Midlands MEP Website

Poppy Project – Support for Women who are victims of Human Trafficking

Destination UK – BBC website dealing with Immigration

Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees.

UK Border Agency

Liberty – Page dealing with Asylum.

Office of National Statistics – immigration and emigration


Afghanistan – Wikipedia

Afghanistan – CIA world fact book

Taliban - Wikipadia



BBC Page on Iraq War

Stop the War Coalition.

The Iraq Commission

Article on the Iraq Commission – Independent

US Iraq Study Group

Friday, July 04, 2008

Leamington Town Councils response to the 'Options For Growth'

Cllr Bill Gifford has sent me a copy of Leamington Town Councils response to the 'Options For Growth' consultation. You can find a copy on our local Lib Dem website.

I find this captures my own thoughts very well and I feel it is important that the Town Council has a strong position on something that may affect the very heart of the town way into the future.

I welcome any thoughts you may have on where new homes should be built in the future.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Save the Allotments - Wheelbarrow Walk.

I attended one of the most fun demonstrations this afternoon, the Wheelbarrow Walk to save Leamingtons Allotments from the threat of development. A colourful procession of allotment owners carrying watering cans and pushing wheelbarrows headed down the Parade during a busy Sunday afternoon to the Pump Room gardens.

The demonstration was organised after the District Council issued a consultation on possible sites for future development. Residents in Leamington became concerned when Option 1 featured a large arrow pointing right across land where their allotments stand.

I was asked to speak after the demonstration had assembled at the bandstand, along with my colleague Bill Gifford who is one of Leamington's Lib-Dem councilors.

I have written about these allotments before and I really do believe that all our facilities, Allotments, Sports fields, Our Cricket Club which is also threatened with development, parks and open spaces add significantly to the quality of life in our towns. These facilities are used by people of all ages and bring people together.

This is one of the things that I love about living in this area is that we are an integrated community, we do have a wide range of activities and culture. If we destroy these things then we destroy all that makes Leamington and Warwick the towns they are.

If anyone featured in the pictures above has an objection then please email me and I will take it off this page.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Binswood Allotments

I spent a really pleasant time this morning visiting Binswood Allotments where two members of the allotment society John Shuttleworth and Geoff Southgate showed me around and explained their fears that it may all be lost to future development.

The regional spatial strategy has allocated 10,800 new homes to be built across Warwick District in the next 20 years. This could mean land the size of Warwick Gates and South West Warwick developments put together may be used for housing. There is currently a consultation underway to gather public opinion before a decision is made where these will be built. Some of the options are considering land north of Milverton where the allotments are located.

I was able to see for myself the value these allotments are to the area and the people who enjoy them. These allotments were created in 1920 for returning servicemen from the first world war. They have been enjoyed by people in our towns ever since.

I was struck by the diverse range of uses these plots are given over to and met some of the people from all backgrounds and ages who work them. Some of the plots employ traditional methods of growing and some are experimenting with newer ways of growing their own produce.
It would be very sad to see these destroyed in a rush to build more houses. 117 people and their families already enjoy these plots and there is a waiting list for this set of allotments alone. As modern houses are built with very small gardens additional development will only increase demand for this superb source of recreation.

Where to build all the new homes we need is going to be a difficult decision. I am certain though that this cannot be at the expense of our green open spaces that let towns such as Warwick and Leamington breathe and make our towns fantastic places to live.

The allotment society is running an excellent campaign to protect these and other allotments across our towns and need your support. You can find out more on their website and please sign their petition.

There is still time till the 10th July to get a copy of the councils ‘Options for Growth’ booklet at libraries or the council buildings or from their website. I would encourage everyone to take part in the consultation so your views are heard.

Link to story on the Lib Dem local website.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Has 800 years of British Freedoms been auctioned off with our tax payers money?

I was appalled by yesterdays vote on the extension to 42 days of detention without charge. Partly because I believe this the extension to 42 days is totally unnecessary, unworkable and the Government has presented no remotely convincing evidence that it is needed.

The protection of British subjects not to be detained without charge dates back almost 800 years. It was set out in the Magna Carta, forming the backbone of legal systems right across the globe. Yet Britain’s current limit for detention without charge, at 28 days, is already the longest pre-charge detention period in the world.

Detaining someone for up to 6 weeks without even presenting them or their lawyer with any evidence against them; tramples on 800 years of our hard won freedoms. These freedoms have survived the middle ages, civil war, two global conflicts, the cold war and terrorism.

What concerns me almost as much is the suggestion made in parts of the media; that the support of Labour rebels and the Ulster Unionist party has been won in exchange for concessions.

Nick Robinson, speaking on the Today programme on Radio 4, said, “One Labour rebel was told he would get money for the Miners’ Compensation Fund in recent days. Another, that Gordon Brown would oppose sanctions on Cuba. Another who has not had a telephone call for 20 years from Gordon Brown had 20 minutes on the phone with Gordon Brown, pleading him to vote.”

Glancing at a front page in the newsagents this morning I saw figures of £200,000 mentioned in some concessions, paid for out of our tax payers money.

If this is true, this is nothing more than the auctioning off the very foundations of the British state! Gordon Brown and the rebels he bought should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Labour doing a Ratners on Tax

I have just seen the details of the concessions made by the Government to 'compensate' people who have lost out on their tax policy. It has descended into a complete farce.

The abolition of the 10p rate was designed to help Labour win the election that never was. Now this by-election budget is designed to help them cling on to Crewe in next week’s vote. The Chancellor is desperately trying to backtrack from the disastrous decisions of the Prime Minister but has still hasn’t managed to get it right.

Surely it would be better to admit they were wrong and put things back to how they were, yes it would be a U-Turn, yet if they came clean and admitted they had made a mistake, something the entire country knows anyway, they may be able to claw back some respect. Figures I have seen show that this u-turn leaves 1.1 million of the lowest paid workers losing up to £100 each.

The chart I have included shows that only a small proportion of those affected by the removal of the 1op tax band will be compensated. 1.1 million people earning between just over £6,500 and £12,800 will still lose out.

The whole thing has been a total disaster for Labour hitting hardest those that are their core vote. An act of political suicide comparable to 'Ratners Jewelry'.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Great Result for Lib-Dem's across the country.

We did not have elections this year in Warwick & Leamington, though I have been greatly encouraged by the results across the country and especially closer to home in places like Stratford where we gained 5 seats from the Conservatives.

Russell Field in Coventry was elected back onto Coventry City Council after a hard fought battle in one of Labour’s top targets. I am not sure whether the local Labour party wheeling in Gordon Brown at one stage was more help to Russell.

I’m especially pleased with these results in particular as I took the decision to pause our own campaigning and lead some teams into these areas to lend a hand.

Across the country we had a challenge; the seats we were defending had been won in 2004 when we received a large anti-war protest vote. I know that at Lib-Dem HQ it was felt that to hold our position would have been a good result. So a net gain of 34 councillors, taking control of one addition council, holding Liverpool against a massive and at times dirty Labour campaign and winning 3 seats on the London Assembly is cause for celebration. Pushing Labour's share of the vote into third place demonstrates just how much Labour have lost touch with their core supporters.

Though its not just about winning seats, the whole point of Politics is to care for our communities, stand up for our values and maintain a sense of social responsibility. For all our newly elected councillors who have worked hard to win their seats, that is something I know they will put just as much into.

Full details of the result can be found on the BBC website.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I have been watching the shambles over the abolition of the 10p tax rate over the past couple of weeks and am unconvinced by the compromise that has been hacked together in order to save further government embarrassment days before the local elections.

The winter fuel payment is not the appropriate method of reimbursing pensioners, some pensioners are very wealthy and are not hit by the 10p tax issue. How are poorer elderly people going to cope until the Government sort this all out?

Increasing the minimum wage to help younger people will mean that industry and commerce will foot the bill, harming Britain's competitiveness in the global market and affect inflation. This is simply the wrong tool for the job.
I am still unconvinced that families will be compensated through tax credits. I have had families locally telling me they are still worse off .
The simplest thing would be to reinstate the 10p rate, though that would be a U Turn, even if it would have avoided what has become a rather messy road accident.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Better Off under Gordon Brown.

Well some of us are at least. This morning I got my first payslip since the new tax rates started. I am paying less tax now than I was about 7 years ago, so thank you Gordon!

Of course those on lower incomes and young people already being hammered by student loans and no prospect of being able to buy their own homes are worse off.

The new tax regime that came into effect this weekend removes the lower 10% tax band and reduces the basic rate. This means that people on incomes lower than £18,500 a year are worse off.

New Labour can no longer cling onto the claim that they are the party standing up for ordinary hard working people. It is not the Labour party that my Grandfather worked for.

I will be using my tax cut to help campaign for a fairer government.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Snow in Warwick.

I got up this morning to about 3 inches of snow over the whole town, It looks stunning. I had a pleasant time wandering round the town with my camera before it all melted.
A lot of other people had the same idea and I bumped into many people I know out and about.
I've posted a few of my favourites here, though the small pictures do not really do it justice.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

New Refuse Collections - But for some Rubbish Piling up in the Street.

The controversial new refuse collection started this week in Warwick District. Most residents will get new Grey and Green wheelie bins to put their household refuse and garden waste. Collections will be alternate weekly, with one week collecting garden waste and recycling (from the red box) and the other week collecting household waste.

Residents in terraced streets have been able to request a supply of bags if they are unable to store a wheelie bin.

Roads in Chase Meadow left off the list and refuse is piling up in the streets.

A council blunder has left roads in the Chase Meadow development in West Warwick off the list for the new refuse collection. Now that the new service has started rubbish is piling up in the street and residents do not know when it will be collected.

I visited the road on Monday to see for myself and talked to some of the residents.

Residents have received no information about the new service and have put their rubbish out on Tuesday morning as usual. It has not been collected and people are very worried and confused. One resident I spoke to with young children is worried about health risks with the bags outside in the sunshine.

I cannot understand how the council has overlooked these streets. Cllr Kinson who is responsible for the whole scheme is one of the Conservative councillors for this area. Refuse has been collected under the old scheme since homes were occupied in November, people are paying their Council Tax and are even on the electoral roll so its not as if no one knows they exist.
When I contacted the council I was told that bins will be issued shortly though they did not tell me when. Collection in this area will be on a Friday, starting with recycling. This means that refuse will be outside in bags for almost two weeks in the heat. It is simply not good enough!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lib Dem Conference in Liverpool

I’ve only just had chance to write about the Lib-Dem conference at Liverpool last weekend.

I have to say I was slightly apprehensive after the events of the week before. I had feared another conference with mutterings over leadership. My fears proved unfounded and I was relieved to note that Nick Clegg mentioned the events in his opening talk at the rally on Friday and even made a joke about it during his closing speech.

I was able to gather some inside information about the rebellion and it seems the whole thing was quite good natured. Some MP’s felt they had to honour the wishes of their constituents in some parts of the country.

Those events aside, the highlights from the conference for me include:

Health Debate

The Health Debate, where we passed amendments to our policy that will ensure we have a greater say in the running of our health service as opposed to the centrally run megalith that it has become. It seems the NHS is now one of the largest, most centrally run organisations, second only to the Chinese Peoples Revolutionary Army, hardly a role model for a progressive democratic British public service.

Vince Cable & The Economy

I enjoyed Vince Cables speech and was able to attend a Parliamentary briefing with him afterwards where he outlined the key challenges to our economy which strongly feature early signs of tightening, increase in home repossessions and bankruptcy. This highlights what Vince has been warning the government of for some years now, the unsustainable rise in personal debt. Gordon Browns economic Miracle has been paid for on our collective credit cards and now we have hit our limit. I do hope that with the shift in exchange rates Britain can muster its manufacturing industry (which still exists in some places) and pull us out of its current difficulties. I would like to see the government do more to encourage this.
(I hope to write more about bankruptcy soon as figures I have seen show an exponential rise since 2001 in the Warwick & Leamington area, a pattern following a national trend, I am waiting for 2007 figures to come out and I will show the full picture.)


I attended a debate on Housing; again passing changes to our policy that will effectively give local authorities more power to build the affordable housing it desperately needs. Warwick & Leamington have had more than its fair share of new houses, yet with many of the executive style flats lying empty and the four bed double garage properties occupied by commuters, while many people who grew up in the area and actually work here cannot afford to buy a house (including my friend who is a doctor) I do feel the developers have been building the wrong sort of houses.

Paul Holmes who was recently our shadow housing spokesperson spoke with real conviction and having discussed housing with him recently was pleased to hear his contribution to the debate.

On this theme I had chance to discuss this with the lovely Julia Goldsworthy (communities and local government spokeswoman). Julia later gave the first speech I have heard her give at conference, I was quite impressed and am sure we will see a lot more of her in the future.

I had a few drinks in the bar with some of the usual suspects from our regional party and was saved from the Glee Club (end of conference party, which an oath of secrecy forbids me from disclosing details, other than to say that you would not believe it unless you saw it) by having dinner with Phil and Penny Bennion at a local curry house.

Nicks Speech

Nick’s first conference speech lived up to expectations.

During his speech I started to see the narrative coming together that we have been developing since a one day conference I attended a couple of years ago in London. There seem to be two strands to this.

1/ Politics is Broken, public confidence in our politicians is at an all time low, following cash for honours, MP’s expenses rows, people feel politicians are only in it for what they can get and voter turn out is at an all time low. Our electoral system focuses only on swing voters in marginal constituencies and there is little to choose from two establishment parties.
(If Gordon Brown had not bottled out of an election in November analysts say just 8,000 swing voters would have won the election. That is less that half the voters in Warwick!)

2/ We intend to change that and fix our political system by bringing democracy closer to us (the people) so we can regain a voice in what is becoming a faceless centralised state.

All our policies based on Liberal principles hang around this theme like a well-tailored suit.

Nick also ruled out doing a deal with the other main parties. A well needed position in my view, which put to rest any speculation of voting one thing and getting another.

I sense Nick has real conviction and the ambition for our party and our country to strike a chord with all of us across Britain.

So all in all a great conference and a solid start to the next couple of years campaigning.

If you want to ask me about these or any of our other policies, or tell me about your experiences or thoughts please email me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Affordable Housing money plundered by Tory Council

Affordable Housing is a real issue in Warwick & Leamington. Even people with well paid jobs struggle to find somewhere to live. So you can imagine my disbelief when I find that the Tory Council have taken money set aside to assist affordable housing for two other projects.

Now when The ‘Right to Buy’ of Council homes by sitting tenants was introduced by Thatcher in 1980, the money raised from the sale of over 4000 homes in Warwick District was put in a reserve to help development costs for housing associations to enable them to provide affordable homes for local people.

At a Council budget meeting on Thursday, £320,000 for the purchase of Oakley Wood and a further £100,000 to fund the Rural Initiatives Scheme was taken from this money. I am sure the two projects are quite laudable, yet why were they not funded from the £2M sitting in the General Reserve.

It really goes to show just how serious the Tories were during their election campaign when they pledged to improve housing in the area and only 9 months later they plunder the fund set aside for that purpose.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Climate Change - Question Time - Warwick University

Last night I took part in a Question Time style debate on Climate Change as part of Warwick University’s ‘Go Green Week. The panel included representatives from each of the main parties, and a couple of experts on climate change.

The event was very well attended and there were some challenging questions from the audience.

Neuclear Power
The first question on Nuclear Power provoked some debate, with Jayne Innes from Labour taking the view that the decision to invest in new Nuclear power stations was the right one. I felt the general mood of the panel and the floor favoured our position that the money could be spent more effectively on a broader range of renewable options without increasing our already huge (£70Bn) cleanup costs from the power stations we already have.

Too Much Stick & Not Enough Carrot.

The second question asked how we could encourage people to change environmental behaviour. The panel outlined a broad range of measures from education, government and industry and I made the point that I would like to see a lot more carrot and a little less stick. I feel this is especially true of transport. Whilst tolls, congestion charges and other measures to discourage driving can be effective, the one thing that really makes me switch to alternatives is the availability of effective public transport.

High Speed Rail.

A later question dealt with High Speed Rail; again the Labour line was just how far we had come in 10 years. I could not resist this opening to point out that we had come exactly 70 miles, from the Kent Coast to St Pancras. With no further High Speed Lines planned it was anybodies guess how long we would wait for HS2 and that we had the smallest High Speed network of all the major countries in Europe.

Other questions included the part the international community has to play and how other countries had tackled climate change.

Green Economy.
A question on how a climate change could affect the economy provoked some interesting answers. Ian Davison from The Green Party seemed to think the economy should and would contract. I disagree; a reduction in Carbon should not automatically mean a reduction in the economy if we get it right. It will mean a different economy and by investing in new technology Britain could be a world leader.

How far has Labour Come.
One question from the floor was a direct challenge to Labour to explain what the Government had done to combat climate change during its 10 years in power. I had to correct the Labour representative after she appeared to indicate that Labour’s record was good and we had met all our targets. In fact CO2 emissions are up 4% since 1999 and the Government have admitted that they will fail to meet their target of 20% reduction by 2010.

I did not get chance to mention my favourite quote from Two Jag’s Prescott who in 1997 stated that: “I will have failed if there are not fewer journeys by car. It is a tall order, but I urge you to hold me to that.” Oh well perhaps next time.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Warwick District Cheated by Labour.

This week the government voted on its Local Government Settlement. Now many of us may think that all our council tax goes to Warwick District Council and they use it to pay for our services.

Well its not as simple as that. A huge slice of it goes off to Whitehall and they give some of it back in terms of grants. Of course a lot of our money leaks out in terms of costs and layers of bureaucracy. This way the Government manages to keep control of what our councils are spending our money on.

So, this week the Government voted on the Local Government Settlement. Warwick District has been given just a 1% increase, amongst the lowest in the country. You can see a copy of a spreadsheet on a government website here that shows just who has got what.

Now I know that the government is giving some councils small settlements to force them to become more efficient. Yet Warwick District during the Lib-Dem jointly run administration received praise from the Audit Commission that said the Council was well run and provided value for money.

James Plaskitt MP for Warwick & Leamington even voted for this settlement! I will be asking him why.

Now if we are going to be cynical we could wonder if this is because Warwick District is now controlled by the Tories after Labours defeat in the local election last May. But then I have to wonder why Kenilworth Tory MP, Jeremy Wright abstained from the vote. Only 3 Conservatives joined the Lib-Dem's in voting against this penny pinching settlement.

So ultimately it will be us, the council tax payer that will be left to foot the bill. The rise barely takes into account inflation and the additional costs of services the government requires councils to provide. The end result is that councils are being forced to increase council tax above inflation and cut services. It is a case of pay more and get less under Labour.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

More on Guy Street Parking

The latest round of proposals to fix the parking issues in Warwick was put before the Warwick Area Committee on the 22nd Jan. I was able to speak at the meeting in support of residents in the Guy Street area. The latest plan will create a one way system with cars entering along Broad Street and Guys Street, meeting in the middle of Guys Cliffe Terrace and then trying to get out along Cherry Street. At the same time the cycle path will head into the stream of traffic. I just hope this is not a recipe for an accident blackspot. This plan fails to meet the full 60 spaces needed by residents in the area.

Proposals favoured by residents to narrow the pavement in Guys Cliffe Terrace (where there are no houses on the north side) were rejected by the council. Residents now face the upheaval of the new one way system and a continued protest when it fails to provide all the spaces needed.

A new Council Chamber - but how much will it cost us?

I was appalled to find out that a Freedom of Information request put in by one of our Lib-Dem councillors in Stratford was refused with a ‘Public Interest Refusal Notice’. As a member of the public paying for the work it is very much in my interest.

Conservative led Warwickshire County Council have refused to reveal the likely cost of refurbishing the County Council council chamber at County Hall, Warwick. A freedom of information request on the costs by the Liberal Democrats was rejected with a ‘Public Interest Refusal Notice’.

The issue is not that the council is refurbishing the council chamber, I know some of the work is to make it more accessible. I am more concerned that the Conservative led council are refusing to reveal how much it is costing us. If they can withhold the cost of the very chamber that is supposed to represent open democracy in this county it makes you wonder what else they are hiding.

The comment in the Warwick Times from a council representative that they do not know how much it will cost just seems lame to me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Brown refuses to answer repossesion question.

I have a moment to comment on yesterdays Prime Ministers Question Time. Gordon Brown showed a remarkable skill in not answering both of Nick Clegg’s questions on House repossessions.

Nick opened by asking what comfort the Prime Minister could offer the 45,000 British families who now face the prospect of losing their homes this year?

Gordon Brown replied that he is determined to have low interest rates and that to have low interest rates we have to have low inflation; and to have low inflation we have to have a decent economic policy.

This does not answer the question. Low interest rates have got nothing to do with home repossessions increasing by 50 per cent, with one repossession every 12 minutes.

Nick then pushed the Prime Minister on the issue, pointing out that he allowed, on his watch, grossly irresponsible lending practices by banks to destabilise the housing market.
Brown responds with another non-answer reminding Nick Clegg that there are 1.5 million more homeowners under Labour.

The real issue is that the banks have been allowed to lend increasing amounts against income, over longer terms and often more than a family can afford.

This increase in the supply of money, coupled with the shortage of housing has driven up house prices such that it now excludes a significant proportion of people from the housing market. In South Warwickshire (a prosperous area) 73% of all couples are excluded. For example some friends of mine, late 20’s professional couple (one a Doctor) cannot afford to buy a house in Warwick.

My house on the other hand has doubled in value since I bought it. Am I significantly better off? I don’t feel it, I still have the same payments to make, same disposable income. If I move the increase in house prices are all relative. When I die my estate (scrap of damp lawn) falls over the Inheritance Tax threshold. The only way I make anything on the increase in house prices is if I sold up and lived in a tent on Newbold Comyn.

The only people making any money on this are the banks, with no restraints from the government have been encouraging us to borrow more and more money for the past decade and now the money has run out.

Consumer spending on our collective credit card has fuelled Gordon Browns Economic Miracle. Sooner or later we were going to hit our credit limit. We now face, what we all face when our spending gets out of control and lets face it we have all been there. A collective tightening of the belts and this is going to hit the retail and services sector first.

The slide in the pound will make imports more expensive, yet exports, which have suffered in recent years, become viable again. Perhaps our Manufacturing will pick up to take up the slack in the labour market, lets hope so.

One thing is for sure; the years of economic stability are over. Some British families are going to find themselves in economic difficulty.

The 45,000 British families who now face the prospect of losing their homes this year should be insulted that Gordon Brown refused to ask the question that Nick Clegg asked on their behalf.

Interesting points to note:-

  • The new Housing Act is going through the committee stage in the House of Commons. I look forward to reading it and will comment when it has been published.

  • An interesting post by Paul Holmes MP on council housing that is worth a read. Paul was until recently our shadow-housing minister. I had the opportunity to discuss some of this issues with Paul at a conference a couple of months ago, worth a read as Paul puts the situation quite clearly.

Alan Beddow is also the Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson for the West Midlands

Saturday, January 12, 2008

One quarter of the income tax I paid this year went to bail out Northern Rock... I want to know when we are going to get our money back

It's been my first full week back at work this week and the first that I have felt fully back to normal after a bout of flue over Christmas. So many people I have spoken to say they have felt wiped out for a couple of weeks by it.

My day job this week has been focused on managing some changes to emails that gets sent out to tell my clients customers that their bills are ready to view on line. All quite simple you would have thought! Not so, my client keeps changing his mind at the last moment and as this is part of a huge commercial system it has to be carefully tested and planned in with dozens of other changes happening at the same time.

Another project involves transfer of personal information and you will be glad to know that it will all be encrpted and secure before transfer. Just as well after I have been quoted in the media this week as saying the government needs to adopt the same best practices followed by the IT industry. None of this is difficult, it just needs a degree of respect for the data concerned, something I feel has been lacking by our government departments.

I was disappointed this week that Gordon Brown has announced a whole set of Nuclear Power Stations to be built. I notice that these will be built at current sites and these are all based in areas of low population. That must say something.

Now the arguments for Nuclear Power include, low carbon footprint, less reliance on foreign power and that in 60 years the industry must have moved on and be more safe and efficient.

All valid arguments, though my two concerns are that it is massively expensive, surely we could spend the same money on the Severn Barrage we have been talking about for the past 30 years, or invest in kick starting a new British Industry in state of the art renewable energy.

The other issue is that the cost of cleaning up radioactive waste currently held in Britain stands at £56billion, that's almost the same as we have put into Northern Rock.

Incidentally Gordon Brown may have no choice but consider Vince Cables calls to nationalise Northern Rock. The British Tax payer has poured £57 Billion into the bank and I for one want to know when I am going to get my money back. To put this into context, I worked out the other day that this is about £2000 each, 1/4 of the income tax paid by the average tax payer last year!