Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Guest Post from my student son, Luke Beddow on Tuition Fees

I’d like to announce a change in your regularly scheduled programming. I am not Alan Beddow. My name is Luke, and today I’m going to be your guest columnist. I am twenty-one years old. I am a student. I am also Alan’s son, and should point out that the views I express here do not necessarily reflect those of my father.

Earlier this year I voted, for the first time, in a general election. I was riding on an orange-coloured wave of enthusiasm. I hoped, without daring to believe, that this time things might be different. Political hope was a new feeling for me, and I liked it.

Last night, sitting in a Whetherspoon’s pub reading the subtitles on Sky News, I felt its opposite. For the first time in my life I felt a sense of deep, helpless political anger. The news ticker said that all Lib Dem MPs had agreed to vote in favour of higher tuition fees. How could they do this to us? Hadn’t they signed a pledge to oppose a rise in tuition fees?

I study at Birmingham City University. The English department there is a small but thriving community. Everybody there knows all of the staff and most of the students in their year group by name. In the past few months though, the tension in the department had been hanging in the air like a Dickensian pea-souper. One senior member of staff reportedly offered to take a ten per cent pay cut, if others did the same, in order to help combat the problems caused by proposed budget points; another has expressed hope that the government would u-turn over the proposals. As I watched the yellow news ticker run along the bottom of the screen, I knew there was almost no hope of that happening now. And I felt there was nothing I could do.

So I sent my dad a text message. When he replied he pointed out that while ‘ideally all uni fees should be paid by the state’ the country simply can’t afford to do that at the moment, and that the increase in tuition fees will come with ‘an increase in support for those from lower incomes and an increase in threshold where you have to pay it back’. This helped to dull my worries, as always, there is more to the story than the media like to admit, but I still feel deeply uneasy.

Interestingly, the view that all tuition fees should be paid by the state is one that my dad shares with David, a mature student on my course, who has generally voted Conservative. When I asked David how he felt about the tuition fees he explained that his reasoning is that if graduates are beneficial to the state, it follows that the state should pay for them. He also believes that the money students get should be means-blind. An opinion I understand. I have a housemate who only qualifies for the lowest level of financial support, but her parents have their own debts to pay, and so she has to survive on what little she can earn.

So, the rise in tuition fees is a situation which nobody wants, at this stage though, it seems unavoidable. While there are things being proposed which might improve the current system I’m still a little angry at the government for not suggesting a better solution, and I’m still worried about what it will mean for higher education as a whole. Tomorrow the liberal democrats face a decision which goes against one of their key principles. I understand that there may not be much they can do about it, but if they vote in favour of the tuition fees, they run the risk of seeming, to a large section of their supporters, to be breaking a promise. To a party who put so much importance on breaking form the political status quo, this could be devastating.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Housing Benefit - Labour Hypocracy and Distorted Market

"Our goal is to make responsibility the cornerstone of our welfare state. Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford. And we will continue to crack down on those who try to cheat the benefit system."

(Labour Manifesto 2010 General Election, page 20.)

A colleague explained to me the other day that in many areas of the country the cost of rented accommodation matches the amount the government will pay in housing benefit..

As Brian Turner writes in Finance Markets,

"The truth is that landlords have been shafting councils for Housing Benefit for decades. And because the public sector has been forced to put so much taxpayer money into the market, it has artificially inflated rents for everyone. Let’s be clear – there is going to be no mass exodus of “the poor” from cities across Britain.The most likely reality is that landlords who leech the housing benefit system will be forced to cut rents."

I have suspected for some time that housing benefit was distorting the market, so perhaps we will not have ethnic cleansing of our inner cities after all, all that may happen is landlords will have to start charging rates that the market will stand as opposed to the rates the government will pay and working people without the luxury of housing benefit may be able to afford to live close to where they work once more.

Labour were right to put this in their manifesto, its a shame they are so caught up in coalition bashing to recognise the government implementing one of their own policies

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trail by Television

A German TV show, Tatort Internet modelled on a Texan show, To Catch a Predator plumbs new depths in reality TV. Actors posing as underage children attempt to entrap Peadophiles in internet chat rooms and are then filmed confronted with the TV presenter posing as an angry mother.

This Jeremy Beadle style trial by television witch hunt is wrong on so many levels not least because reducing child abuse to subject of reality TV entertainment denegrates the seriousness of the issue; and not to mention that trial by media follows no due process short circuiting the legal process to protect the innocent.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Gen Xer's Guide to Mainframes

For my new project I am having to learn all about Mainframe Computers, the level of knowledge that has seen me through a lifetimes career in IT; "they are big blue things" is now way out of date, not least because as I found out the other day they are now painted black.

So I found these interesting articles on Mainframe Computers 'The Gen Xer's Guide to Mainframes.

Part 1 -
Part 2 -
Part 3 -

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hitting Tax Avoidance and Cutting Red Tape part of deficit reduction - Alexander.

Danny Alexander's speech this morning in Liverpool was well attended as he outlined that although going into coalition was not the easy thing to do, it was the right thing to do.

Reading some of the revelations from recent political memoirs, Danny explained that we have replaced One party at war with itself - with Two parties working together for the good of the country.

Danny also outlined a few things the Government is going to do to balance the budget. Necessary as the previous Government borrowed one pound in four that it spent, doubling the national debt and left us with the biggest deficit in the G20. We have to clean up Labour’s mess to get the economy moving.

A key announcement is the plan to crackdown on Tax Avoidance, bringing in £7Bn over the term of Parliament; this will include higher earners using tax avoidance schemes which may prove popular with the rest of us who want to know we are not the only ones sharing the burden.

Many targets and red tape in the public sector will be scrapped, empowering public servants, saving money and improving services. The vast amount of waste and shear frustration from the police, teachers and the medical profession was a theme I came across time and again during the general election.

These announcements won’t take away all the pain of the cuts to come, but at least a couple of areas I wanted to see addressed, tax avoidance and wasteful beaurocracy will be included in the plan.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Coalition Government appoints former CIO to help cut costs.

Even as a critical friend of the new coalition government my approval of initiatives has so far been restrained to nodding acceptance. After 7 weeks in the new government has come up with something I find very encouraging, and is a step in the direction of something I passionately believe in, and have campaigned for.
"I have long believed that IT can deliver better public services at a lower cost".
Now this may not be the perception from the public who has been given the impression that IT is a colossal waste of money and invariably fails. Of course there have been high profile government IT failures and having worked in both Public and Private sector IT I have a pretty shrewd idea where some of the issues lie.

After-all if IT had failed to deliver any benefits to the commercial sector the industry would have died out sometime in the mid 1950's and would have been seen as a passing fad.*

Today The Register reported that the new government has appointed Ian Watmore the former givernment CIO to become the head of the new Efficiency and Reform Group - I see this as a massive step in the right direction.

The Cabinet Office said Watmore will work with the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, at tackling waste looking for efficiencies in ICT, procurement, project management, property and HR.

* Note - My careers advisor when I was taking my A Levels who doubled up as a French teacher told me not to go into IT as it was only a passing phase and soon the bubble would burst. Advice I remember to this day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Alan's pre-budget statement.

Every minute that goes by the government spends a staggering £80,000 on interest - that's about the same as my mortgage which will take me a lifetime to pay back.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Should I buy and I-Pad and what would I use it for?

I visited an Apple store during my lunch hour to take a look at the new I-Pad. I have to admit I am tempted. As the store only had the most expensive models in stock checked my impulse buy and a period of reflection.

I like the way that Apple stores are set out to actively encourage you to play with the products. From the age of 14 when I started to take an unhealthy interest in technology Dixons shop assistants we constantly discouraging me from teaching myself programming on Saturday mornings in the very early ‘80s and so I find this approach refreshing. (Note to self:- I should have asked out the girl that asked me to dance at Anthony’s party, while I was trying to be hard with my mates and our halves of lager.)

I do like the I-Pad, the look and feel of it and the way in which I can interact with the content in ways that I cannot on my laptop or PC. There are a few niggling issues that helped stave off that impulse to buy the top end model solely on the basis that I could have one now.

As Andrew Clarke pointed out to me via Facebook on the day of its launch, the I-Pad does not play media clips from the BBC website. Given that I most want an I-Pad to be able to interact with some of my favourite websites from the comfort of my sofa this is a drawback. I understand there is some industry politics going on which I won’t go into here.

It would be useful if I could get the I-Pad to synch with my Address Book, Contacts List, To Do and Notepad. This is a set of personal data that I have maintained for well over a decade now and has lived and migrated across a range of devices, currently sitting on Lotus Notes on my Laptop which I use for work, my Blackberry and my Palm Pilot. As there is only one of me, I took the decision years ago to maintain one diary and this has stood me in good stead.

The bright young sales assistant helped me come to the conclusion that there was no way of achieving this easily.

The Mobile-Me service at around £60 per year is not a satisfactory solution to this dilemma, it does not easily synch with Lotus Notes and is a cloud based solution ideal if all you own are Apple devices and are prepared to pay for the privilege. There are Apps that may do this from the server, however I doubt I could or indeed should attempt to connect an I-pad to my company’s intranet, what I wish to do is synch directly from my .nsf file on my laptop. There may be a way of synching with Outlook or through my personal Yahoo Mail yet that may extend my synching chain from Palm - Lotus Notes – Blackberry – Outlook – Yahoo Mail – I-Pad, which is far too many links in the chain and do I really want to be bothered.

So I have to accept that the I-Pad will not do all of the things my PC will do and perhaps that does not matter, its about understanding what an I-Pad is and what its for. If I want to make a phone call I use my phone. If I want to write a document, create a spreadsheet or a project plan, that is work and I will do that at my desk on my PC or Laptop.

I really want an I-pad to belong in the living room, next to my sofa. I want to browse the net, listen to music, watch on line content (BBC clips excluded), check my social networking, read online newspapers. Currently to do that I either have to sit in my office, which is too much like working and I do enough of that. Or I undock my laptop and bring it downstairs, which annoys the cat and still does not give me the tactile interaction with content where the I-Pad really scores.

The I-pad is a great product, its not a PC, perhaps I don’t need it to be, it would have a use in my living room, I just need to work out what it is, what’s its for and can I justify the price. Or do I wait until something else comes on the market, a tablet PC perhaps?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

David Laws.

I feel very sad for David Laws who resigned this afternoon. As Julian Glover puts it in the Guardian, "This is a scandal – if it is a scandal – caused by one man's inability to face up to his sexuality, not a desire to fiddle expenses."

David Laws was respected as an honorable man and was proving to be a great asset to this country through his work at the Treasury. I hope the media respect his wishes and give him and his family the space they need at the moment.

Iain Roberts has a good analysis of the situation in his Blog.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Compensation for Equitable Life victims is long overdue

Local victims of the Equitable Life collapse can finally expect compensation as Liberal Democrat MPs push forward new legislation.

Some of our local firms had pension schemes with Equitable Life. Many of my colleagues were affected and I had many letters and emails from people during the general election who were worried that years of saving would amount to nothing.

The previous Government continually ignored the millions of people who lost their savings. The Equitable Life Bill, which was outlined to the House of Commons on Wednesday, will give the Treasury the authority to make payments to policyholders or dependents who have been fighting the Labour Government for compensation since 2000.

I am delighted that we are using our position in Government to give policyholders the money they deserve.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Thanks for all your support.

I just want to say thank you for all your support during the general election. Your support, hard work and encouragement really made a difference to me personally and locally leaving our party here in Warwick & Leamington stronger than ever. This afternoon during a quick trip to Leamington many people stopped me in the street with words of encouragement, which I really appreciate.

Nationally It is clear that no party has been granted an overall majority. It has been a mixed set of results for all of the major parties. We had some disappointing losses and at the same some stunning results such as Redcar where we won on a massive 25% swing.

There is a lot of media speculation over what may happen next and it is clear that Nick Clegg and his team are holding their nerve, after all we have been preparing for the eventuality of a balanced parliament for a long time. I am sure we are not going to give that away lightly.

As the Conservatives gained the most seats and highest share of the vote it is only right, as Nick has stated right from the start that they be given the opportunity to form a government. Whether this is possible; with or without our support will be subject to discussions over the coming days.

This morning Nick spoke on his way into meetings with key advisers and our new Parliamentary team. He was clear that he would press our case for our four priorities - tax reform to make the system fairer, a "new approach" to education to give a "fair start" to all children, the economy and "fundamental political reform to our political system".

It is clear from the Unlock Democracy demonstration supporting electoral reform this afternoon that there is a lot of support for electoral reform as key to these discussions, something I find encouraging.

Back here in Warwick & Leamington we continue to hold our District and County councils to account as the effective opposition. Our leadership of Leamington Town Council is recognised across the country as outstanding.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Lib-Dem Pub Policy

I think I've missed a trick in this campaign. The other week a landlord in Warwick told me how much he liked our policies on pubs. This evening a landlord in Leamington asked me about them. Not that I have spent the entire campaign in the pub you understand, yet it seems having a quick read to refresh my memory I could have done a lot worse.

I especially like the part about relaxing the rules on Live Music and I think overall our policy to support this great British institution is spot on.

Liberal Democrats have a proud history of championing British heritage and tradition. We will address the issues facing pubs to enable them to compete with the offlicence alcohol trade to preserve these valuable social and community assets.

We will create a more equal playing field for pubs by preventing supermarkets from selling below-cost alcohol. Supermarkets and off-licences selling alcohol at pocket-money-prices have undercut the pub trade and contributed to the binge drinking culture. We will set up an independent panel to consider the evidence for a fuller scheme of minimum pricing for alcohol.

We will also reduce the burden of bureaucratic licensing requirements which prevents pubs from putting on live music events. We will re-introduce the “two in a bar’’ rule allowing two performers of unamplified music in any licensed premises without the need for an entertainment licence. We will also exempt small venues from the requirement to apply for a new licence if they want to host live music performances. However we will provide for a review if local residents object.

Local pubs often form the social hub of a community, strengthening local social networks as well as facilitating many local services, events and activities which contribute to local life. These can include: hosting a range of important public services such as running post offices, and general stores; and providing a place for local charities, sports clubs and civic groups to host meetings and activities. We believe that every effort should be made to keep local pubs open and that where pub companies are seeking to sell community pubs, the community and current lessee should have the opportunity to buy the business at a fair market price.

In addition we will address issues in planning legislation that make it difficult for communities to protect and preserve their pubs.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Carers, Farmers, Schools and Motorbikes.

Over the past few days I have been asked to talk to Carers, Farmers, Businesses, Schools and Bikers. This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a candidate and something I have built up a talent for in my own job; talking to people and understanding their own particular issues.

A theme running through listening various groups is how the previous government has been fixated with measurements, control and bureaucracy often with unintended consequences. It seems to me that if government cut back on much of this control and let people get on with Nursing, Teaching, Caring or any number of things they do, it would cost this country a lot less money and we would all get a better service.

Talking to the Farmers this afternoon, we could improve things a lot by breaking up Defra to create a ministry that looks after Farming and Food production (we could call it MAFF) and put a minister in charge that actually knows something about farming, rather than an MP for Leeds.

Its time to put a bit of common sense back into politics.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Castle Hill Baptist Church - Questions

Had a great meeting at Castle Hill Baptist Church this evening, met some great people and discussed many issues.

One theme was to respect each others right of conscience, which lead to an interesting debate including the right of MPs to vote according to their consciences, which I totally agree and the right of people to celebrate their religious views which has been in the news recently on such issues as wearing religious symbols.

I have yet to meet anyone offended by for example Christians wearing a cross so why should it be an issue.

Campaigning in Warwick and Leamington

A lot of people have contracted me over the past week offering support and encouragement.

It has been hard work balancing a full time job and campaigning, taking part in public debates, radio and TV interviews and answering hundreds of emails. I finished work on Friday for the election so I now have some time to catch up.

It has been a fantastic time getting around our towns, meeting some tremendous people involved in all aspects of life here in Warwick, Leamington & Whitnash. It reminds me why we are so lucky to live here.

Over the past couple of weeks this campaign has suddenly got really exciting. We have the opportunity to build something new, a real change in this country!

I'm standing for election as a Liberal Democrat because I believe our area, our region and our country deserves something better. Not change for changes sake or yet more empty promises - but well thought out, honest and fair policies that deliver the real changes people want to see.

We can build sustainable, green economy to lead us out of the recession. The best possible education no matter where you are born. A healthcare system fit for the 21st century. Those are just some of things the Liberal Democrats can deliver.

I've lived in both Warwick and Leamington for about 15 years. It is a great place to work, live and socialise - although we do have our share of problems too. Jobs, health, education, crime - they are all concerns for local people. I'm not a professional politician or a PR person. I work in IT so I'm used to dealing with complex issues, talking to people, and getting the job done.

What I offer the people of Warwick and Leamington is that I will work for you - and you alone. No special interests. No spin. No lies. If you want real change vote Liberal Democrat on May 6th.

If you can help our campaign please email me.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Comment on housing development sites.

Just a quick reminder. You can comment on new sites being considered for housing development by following the link below.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Warwick School Bouncathon

I adjudicated at the Warwick School World Record Bouncathon this afternoon. This attempt by the boys to break the world record of bouncing on a bouncy castle which currently stands at 26 Hours. At the same time they hope to raise over £1000 for the NSPCC

The team of eight boys will be bouncing through the night. I wish them the best of luck with the rest of their marathon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Warwick Town Centre Plan

I've just had a look at the Warwick Town Centre Plan. The consultation is available on the website its worth a look as this is our chance to have a say on how the town may develop in the future.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Warwick University Interview - Just Vote 2010 Campaign

I have just seen the Just Vote 2010 interview recorded for the Warwick Uni Just Vote 2010 campaign which was launched last Friday. Its important for students to vote as it will force Politicians to listen to the issues that students care about.

You can see the interview on U-Tube.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Raw Radio Interview

I've just been listening to the interview I did a week or so ago for Raw Radio the award winning student radio station at the University of Warwick.

They recorded a News Special exploring the issues at stake in forthcoming general election. Questions included Student Fees, the Iraq War, the economy and who is Jedward!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I am putting fairness at the heart of the Liberal Democrat campaign

People in Warwick and Leamington are rightly frustrated with their politicians. I am going into the election with a clear direction and a manifesto that is short, direct and to the point.

Fairer Taxes
We will introduce fairer taxes by closing loopholes for the richest, introducing a tax on mansions and tax cuts of £700 for everyone else.

Fair Start for every Child
If your child is at a local school we can promise investment to help reduce class sizes, improve discipline and develop one-to-one tuition.

Fairer & Cleaner Politics
We would also give you the right to sack your MP. The Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to real change of our political system, flushing out big money and corrupt donors and reducing the number of MPs by 150.

Fairer and Sustainable Economy

And we will rebuild the economy in every part of Britain in a way that promotes green technology and creates lasting jobs. We will put an end to casino banking, bring back competition and support local entrepreneurs to make sure businesses in Warwickshire can find the money they need to grow.

The coming months are a crucial time for politics and I will be using them to focus on these four priorities and delivering real change for Warwick and Leamington.