Monday, 27 June 2011

Saving Medway's Highstreets

Recently in the local Press there was an article regarding the purchasing of a shop on Rochester High Street by a charity, I forget which one, and the fear of shop keepers and locals that the high street will become a haven for second hand shops and charity shops thus ruining the quaint nature of the Cathedral city.

The local Labour party are keen to blame the Council administration for the collapse of Gillingham and Chatham shopping centres and indeed they do have some points. The parking in Gillingham is atrocious and the road works and constant changes to the one way system and infrastructure of Chatham does put people off attempting to go into the town and the poor town management that has placed too many superstores on the outskirts that draw people away from small shop owners like green grocers, butchers etc . Prices have to go up in small shops so that they can pay their overheads and large faceless Supermarkets can and will always undercut them for price and draw in shoppers.


There are two factors that they haven't considered fully.

1.) Gillingham High street has been dying for years, decades even. As a boy I remember there were many more shops and even the parade of shops on Sturdee avenue had a green grocers several corner shops were scattered around the residential areas. Now most have been converted to houses or eaten up by Tesco or Co op chain stores who can afford to have lower prices than an individual shop keeper.
Gillingham has lost a lot of trade to Chatham high street and Hempsted Valley as it has more choice and larger shops. Hempsted has much better parking (free to boot) and with the 182 Bus route that runs from Twydall to Chatham runs handily (especially for me as it stops outside my house!!!) through Gillingham high street so a lot of people just travel down to Chatham.
Gillingham is therefore left with the bare essentials, mainly charity shops and cheap outlet stores like "The works" and "99p stores".

Chatham itself is holding its own, the Pentagon Shopping centre does house a good mix of high street names and offers plentiful choice and competition. I'm afraid to say that Rochester will eventually succumb to the same pressures although slowly as it does have a seasonal tourist base who are unaware of the draw of Chatham town centre.

It must also be remembered that one of the great temples to the Capitalist gods, Blue water, is less than an hour away, as is Maidstone.

2.) An economic shift away from shop owning to Internet retail.

The current economic situation is not condusive to shops, be they chain or individuals. Prices have risen on luxury items and the average house hold budgets can no longer stretch to buy the newest X-box games, or go overboard with the weekly shop. Charity shops and second hand stores are very helpful to people on a budget, after all my wife and I have managed to clothe Sophie in many good quality baby clothes that are second hand, her Moses basket was second hand and she always appears clean and smartly dressed for pennys rather than pounds. My wife purchases odd home ware and myself books again for pennys too.
Yes they aren't in keeping with the city of Rochester's Victorian aesthetic but they are functional and obviously popular with the wage slaves of Medway so why fight it?

It is the same trend that is killing local pubs, once a cornerstone of British society and any community, after all who wants to spend £3.50 on a pint of beer in a bar when you can spend £4.57 on a four pack of Kroenenburg and drink it in your own home, watch the footie match of your choice and smoke if you are that way inclined.

If the deaths of chains like Zaavi and Woolworths have taught us anything it is that large, popular stores can still go under BUT can successfully relocate to the Internet like Amazon. You can operate from a simple warehouse full of stock with a few workers mailing out to the customers home address for less overheads than an established shop thus can make more money.

It is indeed a worrying issue and no body would like to see their high streets die out however I fear that the situation is difficult to reverse and I would be genuinely interested to hear Medway Labour's plans on the matter as short of evicting the big super markets they will only be able to ease the situation with addressing the local issues like transport infrastructure.

Friday, 24 June 2011

On General Strikes and Minimum wages,

Well the inevitable has happened and the AMT, NUT and PCS will more than likely be out on strike on June 30th over increased pension contributions and a raise of the retirement age to 66 years old for men and women.  As a member of the civil service and an ex member of the PCS I can completely understand the grievances of the membership.

When the media use the term "Civil Servant" it conjures up images in the public's consciousness of Sir Humphrey-esq mandarins who secretly control government with their reams of red tape and earn ridiculous salaries.
What they don't think of is the guy at the Job centre help desk, the gallery attendant in the museums, Librarians, office workers who sift through the mountains of official paper work and enquiries from the public all low paid unglamourous jobs, many of whom are hit by a £21k pay freeze for two years whilst the cost of living and inflation rise steadily. The expendable income for these people does not leave much, enough to survive but not enough to live outside of work.

Should they strike though? I am inclined to say yes, if all other courses are proving fruitless it is the only way.


They must beware that they must not be tarred with the same brush as the RMT. The RMT under Bob Crow's leadership does seem to strike at the drop of a hat and the last threats of strikes because of the suspension and dismissal of two Union men for health and safety issues was ridiculous.
Commuters have to pay the price of the more than comfortable drivers wages and they feel no sympathy for the union when they call their week long strikes which grinds London to a halt.

Retirement is a bit of a sticky subject. As an aging society and people living upwards of thirty years after their retirement on pension and benefits it becomes very costly to support this so I can understand why the government are moving the goal posts and such a move was ultimately inevitable, and any move at anytime would make things difficult for someone but what other options are there?
Let them retire at 65. People should be allowed to live their lives and enjoy it not be tied into work for longer just because they cannot afford to exist without state pension. Also, and selfishly, if people work longer and older then there won't necessarily be jobs for younger school/university leavers adding to the large youth unemployment and benefit seekers.
Bringing women in line with men at 65 is a good move and encourages equality but I think the government has got it wrong on pushing the age up further under the current climate.

Minimum wage:

It was suggested last week by Mr Davis MP that disabled people should take jobs at below minimum wage in an attempt to vie for jobs.
His logic being that employers will always employee able bodied people over the disabled and so to give them more of a fighting chance they could offer to do the job for less.

I see his logic BUT the suggestion is quite clearly absurd. You cannot expect anyone to work for less than minimum wage, that is why it is the minimum! Also you cannot actively discriminate like that.
Everyone is equal and they should be treated as such.

Debating this later in the day with others the question of whether or not a minimum wage should exist. In my view it should as if it was removed companies would go back to paying workers, such as cleaners and fast food industry workers a pittance that they would barely be able to survive on but due to the economic conditions would gladly take.

At the moment a minimum wage worker, earning around £5.93 an hour and working 45 hours a week for a 4 week month would earn: £1067.40 losing some 20% to tax and NI payments it would decrease to £800's which minus rent (which in central Winchester can be upward of £400's a month), utilities, transport and food does not leave much to live on, thus there is a thin line between Surviving and Living.

This prospect is obviously not an attractive option for the UK's unemployed and many would rather stay on the dole than work menial jobs for menial pay.
How can I prove this? Well lets take a look at your local fast food eatery, the majority of those in London are staffed by eastern Europeans, when I worked in catering we found a lot of the agency staff was made up again by Polish and Eastern Europeans.
On Sunday, BBC Politics show South east segment, they ran an article about Strawberry pickers in Sittingbourne. The majority were migrant workers from Eastern Europe, one employee from Romania said he was earning up to £6k for six months work and then returning to Romania for the winter. The farmer himself estimated a good worker could earn up to £11's an hour!
So is this a case, that Daily Mail readers would argue, of "Bloody Foreigners" stealing our jobs!?


The reporters went to a local job centre and asked members of the public whether they would work as Strawberry pickers. Most said that they felt the job was beneath them or they wouldn't get up that early to go to work. Only one said that he would do the job. If anything the migrant workers are filling a niche that would probably remain unfilled then who would carry out the work in the service industry or fruit picking? No one. Also many are working here for good wages they cannot get at home and then returning with decent savings and buying a house. Who can blame them?

A year ago in response to George Osbourne's June budget, C4 news held a forum in Sheffield where a lady revealed that she was desperate for work but had been unemployed for a considerable amount of time yet hadn't taken a menial job to pay the way.

So on the subject of minimum wage the Government should definitely not remove it but instead encourage British unemployed to take jobs, even basic ones, as preferable to sitting indefinitely on the dole, even if it was to take a crap job now and apply for better ones later. As my careers advisor told us at School:

"We can't all be astronauts."

I don't say "You must all work crap jobs for crap pay or be cut off by the state." but I think the government shouldn't make it quite so easy to stay at home.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Scottish devolution vs. Falkland sovereignty

In Prime Minister's question time on the
15th June there appeared, to me, to be a slight contradiction of policy towards territory of Great Britain.
One MP, I forget his name, wanted clarification that the Falkland Islands would not be returned to Argentina and would remain British territory.

Interestingly there were also questions regarding the future of Scotland within the union and the plans of the SNP to move to greater autonomy and possibly devolution. This was met with Mr Cameron saying that Scotland will always be part of the union.

It seems to me an interesting double standard. The Falkland Islands, which were absorbed into British sovereignty because of a technicality as the Navy dealt with some pirates operating from them as Argentina was not interested get the right to stay within British sovereignty if they so wish BUT Scotland, a country of its' own right with its own democratically elected parliament cannot move to break from the union. If anything they have more of a right to independence than the Falkland islands because they were a sovereign nation absorbed by political manoeuvre and almost genocide violence.

Don't get me wrong I think that if Scotland broke from the union it would be disastrous for both our nations and it wouldn't feasibly work, however if their democratically elected parliament, under Alex Salmond does institute moves for devolution, a policy that his party, the SNP have long stood for then who are we to block it. If the people of Scotland held a referendum on independence and voted "Yes" then the British parliament would have to honour it. So I am not sure what Mr Cameron is talking about, he may not have meant it to sound as it did but to me he seemed to be denying the right of the Scottish parliament to represent its constituents wishes.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

CCTV cars and Potholes - Medway

There has been a lot of debate concerning the CCTV smart car fleet that drives around Medway taking pictures of parked cars and getting images of law breakers and prosecuting them  after the event.

The merits of the car fleet are impressive, they are cheaper than traffic wardens and much more mobile, able to cover vast areas faster and even use the telescopic periscope to take pictures from behind hedges and walls etc.

Now policy also dictates that the vehicle should be watched for two minutes before details are taken and passed on, however this is open to interpretation and there have been instances where this has been contested.
( )

Unlike a traffic warden, the anonymous Car can not be reasoned with!

There are two major issues with this vehicle though.
1:) The CCTV car does not always abide with the traffic laws, and I'm not refering to the Medway Traffic Regulation Order, which allows drivers to park on double yellow lines to photograph offenders, which in my opinion is a fallacy! 

If you are not an Emergency Service or the Military you haven't got the right to break the law.

There have been incidences of the CCTV car driving erratically/dangerously, footage of this has been seen on the Internet including this little nugget which was reported on in the Medway News. There are a few minor infractions but then also incidents that I'm sure a traffic policeman would label as "Dangerous Driving" including hitting the central reservation at the Dockyard!

On 25 May this year I personally witnessed a near miss at the Livingston Arms round- a-bout from the Zebra crossing. The CCTV accelerated to get onto the round-a-bout and sped off without giving way to other vehicles, including some one who was already going round the round-a-bout and almost collided with it!

I have also heard, at a Medway Lib Dem party meeting that the car has been seen parking on double yellow lines outside a bakery so that the drivers could nip inside and get some lunch! This is a definite abuse of power!

Concerning the video, a Council representative told the Medway news on 14th April that the driver was being overly conscious of the motorbikes who were tailing him and swerved.
Now, I Don't drive but it is my understanding that you must be aware of ALL of your surroundings including physical objects such as central reservations and riders or no it is, in the eyes of any traffic police officer, driving without due care. Also what of the Livingston Arms incident?

As for the illiberal use of filming people in their everyday life and the use of footage this is where it gets sticky. I agree that the parking in Medway is atrocious and as a pedestrian it annoys me that I find my pavements blocked especially when I am pushing a buggy or carrying shopping. It also annoys me that my drive way is blocked by people who are nipping to the shops opposite. Traffic wardens cannot be everywhere and so a CCTV car does mean they can cover a larger area.
Also, having worked in CCTV, there are strict procedures of what is done with recorded footage and who gets to see it so the only people who should be worried are the people who have been caught out


What I do not agree with is the use of the telescopic sight to rise up from behind bushes and sneakily take pictures of parked vehicles.

Another concern is the use of the car as a cash cow for the Council. When the first car was deployed they made £200k from 9000 fines in its first year. Now the two cars are making over £1 million a year! What is concerning is that should the council need more money they will just become more vicious and strict. This is not fair. There should be one rule and everyone should be equal under it.

Pot holes and road maintenance.

Medway has some 600 miles of road running through the three towns. It was brought up in the House of commons by Labour Shadow transport minister John Woodcock MP that Medway needed £35 million to be repair extensive damage caused by general wear and as a result of the cold spells.
This figure is disputed by the council who claim that that is a high end figure that would be needed to have all the roads at 100% condition all the time and preventative works. The council has allocated a further £250k for repair work, £500k on highway improvements, there was also a further £500k from the government for road repairs.

However as you can see from these photos taken around Gillingham station this week the road is in desperate need of not only repair but resurfacing.

I invite anyone to walk across the pelican crossing at the side of the station by the Balmoral hotel and not notice that the road is furrowed and humped.
This is no side road but the A231!

As a place running for city status it seems striking to me that the basic infrastructure could be so poor.



In other pictures we also have this on Livingston Road

This at the end of Franklin Road

Finally this shot... This is the pavement outside Baran's Fish and chip shop on Sturdee Avenue near Tesco. It is a serious trip hazard for elderly and residents who aren't as spry on their feet.
Many pavements are a patchwork of scarring and damage caused by poor maintenance and roadworks.

What I'm asking the council is this:
Why spend millions of pounds on a Bus station we don't really need, or on a bid for city status that not everyone in the towns wants when the money could be more wisely spent in improving the towns and the basic improvements that we the citizenry want and deserve?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Letter from Theresa Villiers to Rehman Chisthi MP about Southeastern performances.

As many of you shall know, at the beginning of the year I wrote a letter to my local MP Mr Rehman Chisthi about the abysmal service.

Well, and I apologise for the slow write up, in a letter dated 23rd March 2011, Ms Villiers responded to Mr Chishti and myself with this letter.

Dear Rehman

Thank you for your letter of 7 February concerning a complaint from your constituent Mr Chris Sams of XXX Sturdee Avenue, Gillingham, Kent about Souteastern's rail franchise. I am responding as the minister responisble for rail.

I fully appreciate the concerns of your constituent regarding the quality of service and fare levels on Southeastern.

Southeastern Performance levels

I recently met with senior representatives of the rail industry to assess the performance of the railways during November and December. I emphasised to Network Rail how important it is for them to improve the performance of the rail infrastructure used by the Southeastern franchise.

As a result, the rail industry's National Task Force have been reviewing operational performance by Southeastern and Network Rail.

When delays occur, it is important that those in charge of our railways and train services do the very best they can to minimise inconvenience for passengers, by keeping passengers properly informed.

The Office of Rail Regulation, the independent safety and economic regulator for Britain's railways is also undertaking a review of communications performance during the severe weather disruption. I hope you will reassure you that this is an issue which the Coalition takes very seriously.

Fare levels and investment supporting the Southeastern franchise

The RPI+3 formula was included in the Southeatern franchise when its terms were agreed by the last Government. The last government took this decision to reflect the substantial investment in the trains and infrastructure used by the franchise. Their aim was to ensure that there was a fairer contribution by fare payers towards the improvements that had been in the area in the period up to April 2006 when the franchise began.

The investment programme included more than £600 million in in new rolling stock in Kent '(i.e. 57 four-car Class 375 Electrostars and 36 ficve-car Class 376 Electrostars) and £93 million of investment in power supply, stations, depots and related infrastructure.

This taxpayer support was in addition to a subsidy to Southeastern which is expected to be £585 million over the eight years of the franchise.

Your constituent mentions the 12% increase in  a specific season ticket. The regulatory rules on fares permit train operators to increase some fares, by up to 5% above the cap so long as the average increase across a specified fares basket is no more than the general formula applicable to the franchise. Were the Government to remove that flexibility, this would involve an additional call on the taxpayer which would be very difficult to meet in the light of the Spending Review settlement and the pressing need to tackle the deficit we inherited from the last government.

I am sorry not to be able to promise fares reductions. However, our approach on fares has to reflect the gravity of the problems we face with the public finances. We need to balance the interests of both taxpayers and fare payers.

The deficit we have inherited from the last Government has meant we have had to make some very difficult choices. Without the move to RPI+3 as the general formula, we simply would not have been able to deliver vitally needed rail investment within the constraints of the Spending Review settlement.

However, we are committed to fairness on rail fares. That is one of the reasons why we believe it is imperative that the cost of running the railway comes down. As you know, Sir Roy McNulty is leading an independent study on how to do this and concluded that substantial savings could be made bringing the costs of the railways closer to the levels prevailing in some of our European neighbours.

The Department for transport is working closely with Sir Roy's team so we can be ready to act promptly on those of his recommendation which we believe will deliver the best result for taxpayers and fare payers.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me on behalf of your constituent in order to raise these important issues.



I was grateful that she took the time to respond to my query.

The only qualm I have with the response is that a chunk of our money has been awarded as bonus' to the Southeastern directors and some of the improvement money went on the Highspeed rail link to St Pancras. Don't get me wrong, I think a HS link is vital to the growth of the country but I also feel that we should get the standard domestic line that 90% of us travel on should be sorted out first.
As for fares, I think it is fair to say that we necessarily want fares to go down but at least stay at their level in line with pay freezes. After all some of us may find themselves priced out of work in three or four years as we will no longer be able to pay the exorbitant fare and find ourselves unemployed and possibly labelled as "undeserving poor" and "scroungers". I'm not sure the Government are looking at that as a possibility, or perhaps as it is only a minority it is not of consequence.
Why should I move my family to London or give up a perfectly good job to find one in Medway because of rising fares?

Anyway, there it is.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Arch Bishop of Canterbury writes for the New Statesman - So what?

This week a political maelstrom was whipped up by Dr Rowan Williams because he guest edited and awrote for the New Statesman, more importantly he disagreed with the Coalition Government policy and criticised Labour for not showing any proper opposition.

As a senior member of the clergy and a member of the house of Lords he should not be commentating on such matters.

Why Not?

After all he has as much right to talk on political matters as anyone else in the nation.
I personally disagree with religion in politics. There was once a time when they were inextricably linked but now in the modern age and with society made up of many religions and denominations I do not believe it is right for spiritual Church of England lords deciding policy.

However, Dr Williams' text was not written from a religious point of view, nor was it written as an all out attack on the Government or a misuse of his office. If anything it was written from the point of view of a concerned citizen who has an interest in politics.

Many people have stated that they do not believe that the Coalition doesn't have a mandate from the people, which technically it doesn't but has one from the Queen, or that Coalition policies may be a little rushed and not thought through, again a good point one that we as Lib Dems have argued in favour of regarding the NHS bill, and that Labour under Ed Miliband have failed to provide a viable alternative to the government policies, again true hence the talk of Miliband's "Blank piece of paper."

There was nothing new in the text, nothing that many of us had not already talked about.

He also did not force Anglicanism down any ones throat, a fact that would turn many people away including myself, nor said "As Arch-Bishop of Canterbury I think.... and you should to!"
so I wouldn't say that he is using his office to influence the readership, especially of a left leaning magazine which stereotypically is the side of the spectrum that steers away from religion. He came across as a straight talking, concerned member of society who is as welcome as any of us to their opinion and to speak it. I do not understand why there was such a furor.

The best way to look at it is... Would there be such a stink if I said it? Or the bloke on the tube?

No. Thought not.

Friday, 3 June 2011

When did the Liberals become illiberal - LD conference 2011

Yesterday the story broke about the issues of security clearance required for people who wish to attend the Lib Dem Conference in Birmingham this autumn.  

At first the questions are pretty standard; name, address, phone number, party number etc...
Also a request for a fresh passport photo for a security pass which is all fairly straight forward.

Then it takes a turn for the worse. They also want to know your address for the last five years, where you were born, nationality, driving licence number, passport number, National insurance number - If you don't have any of these documents then if you talk to the Greater Manchester Police they'll come to some sort of agreement with you - They also want to know the exact date you joined the party. I cannot recall, it was two and a half years ago and I cannot remember surely that's something they would know.

So what's all the fuss? I hear you cry! Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Afterall Government ministers will be present and there could be a terrorist strike!

This is true, and there is a strong argument to support this move and I kind of agree except for that its total Boo-hockey.

The party has ALWAYS stood for personal freedoms, especially against state intrusion into our personal lives. Its about freedom to act and live our lives as free individuals as we learnt from Mills. The State should have NO reason to delve into our private lives for many reasons. There is also the added question as to how the information is stored and who has access to it. Is the system secure or could it be hacked and someone could walk away with our complete identity? Call me paranoid but I wouldn't want even want that chance to be available.

There are occaisions where CRB checks are necessary, i.e. working with Children and the vulnerable or in a secure/government location and I have no qualms with handing information over when it is needed and have done to get my current job. This is not one of those occaisions.

Yes there is a security risk but then there is one for those of us who commute and work in London, at any time someone could blow themselves or an object up taking me along with it and no one on the streets or railways are security cleared. We have fought long and hard against the ID data base and now we have to  hand over the same sort of information.

It begs the question "Do they trust the membership?"
I mean, there will always be detractors and protestors within the party as well as outside but they don't require these sort of draconian security measures. Also It is how the party functions, debate and disagreement which leads to a better policy being decided on.

A simple bag check at the door and if you were feeling doubly security conscious maybe a magnetic sweep as people went in to the hall to see if anyone is carrying a bomb/weapon. True that shows distrust but it is not as invaisive as answering the many questions the Party and Police want and the vast majority of the membership would understand this as a reasonable measure to protect members and Politicians from harm.

I understand a petition went around Twitter yesterday of outraged members.
The link can be found here

IF we stand for this then the party has definitely lost it's way. One of the cornerstones of our very existance, even the name LIBERTY, if we don't draw a line now then it can only get worse.

Please do sign it if you feel the same way.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Are Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem party evil?

It is easy to demonise Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. We represent the worse kind of political scum in the country. We are riddled with corruption, traitors, weak willed cowards who betrayed the electorate and are out to do the same to our Coalition partners. At the head of this collection of cut throats and blaggards is Nick Clegg, a spineless sell out who swapped his idealism for a comfy ministerial car and whose incompetent blundering knows no bounds. He wants your votes so he can overthrow the electoral system and rig it with AV to ensure future political instability that only his party would benefit from. He then wants to get rid of the Lords and replace it with a Senate?!
Then what? Remove the Monarchy and proclaim himself PRESIDENT CLEGG!!!!!

Of course this is all Boo-hockey - Unless you read the popular press.

For years the Lib Dems have been a nothing party -  A sad remnant of a once grand old party, a group of humus eating sandal wearing idealists or a desperate band of ambitious political animals - Take your pick, these are all popular views.
Granted the party provided some excellent MP's and leaders but it is only Lord Ashdown and Charles Kennedy that stick in anyones mind. One election the party was even vilified for saying they would be increasing income tax by 1p per person so that they could improve public services whilst the main two parties promised that they wouldn't be raising tax at all and then did.

Ever since the first successful leadership debate the media appears to have taken a dim view of the Lib Dems and Clegg. I'm not including genuine, researched critique of the party's policies or role in government as these are the duties of a the press, to report the truth and to criticise policy. This does include the prickly nettle of Tuition fees.
The press were right to single us out for a certain amount of Flak. The party had stood against tuition fees in principle and against rises, pledges were signed and SHOULD have been upheld by all those who signed them, no abstentions, straight "No" vote.
What wasn't mentioned in the press is that not all the party voted "Yes". Greg Mulholland gave a very impassioned speech to the house imploring his LibDem colleagues to vote "No" and I believe Julian Huppert also voted "No" to name just two. It would be a shame for them to lose their seats in 2015 for the Tuition Betrayal.
Nor is the LibDem inspired revision of the repayment system that actually makes University fees cheaper to pay back if you don't get a high paying job, which lets face it is fairly difficult for graduates.
What is also cannily forgotten is Labour's role in all of this. The party that brought in Tuition Fees, then raised them, then commissioned the Brown review in the first place. They cannily sat on the opposition benches and denied any involvement and repainted themselves as the defenders of young people. Nor are the Conservatives attacked for it either, after all the majority vote of "Yes" came from them!

What does frustrate me, and other Lib Dems around the country is the non stories that are thrown around including headlines like:-


A story followed that stated that all Nick had said was that World War Two had ended and that we were no longer the Empire we used to be. All true, no National Socialist policies there, no antisemitic or pro Germanic slogans.

Other stories include:


Again, a nothing story about a sarcastic throw away comment by the Deputy Prime minister.

But the media's attention is just limited to Calamity Clegg!

Doctor Vince Cable, a well respected Liberal Democrat and economist, whose wisdom and experience made him indispensable to Clegg and the party in power. Yet he was a target of a sting by the Telegraph along with many other Lib Dem ministers because "There might be a story there..."
As it transpired there was a story... Doctor Vince had an opinion! What's worse he had an opinion that was contrary to the Governments and he was willing to talk about it!!!!
Now Vince is somewhat of an outcast among the front benches and distrusted by the PM and maligned as a trouble maker in the eyes of the media rather unfairly as he was stating Lib Dem policy and his beliefs.
Of course the biggest casualty was David Lawes. The Telegraph's timing was well placed to strike at this rising star within the party just as he came into office. I don't deny that fraud is not illegal, nor that it should not have been published its just that it happened some months after the main body of accusations and the sceptic in me says they only released the story in May last year because before then no one had heard of him.

Even Chris Jefferies, the lead suspect in the murder of that poor girl at Christmas was described as an eccentric loner Liberal Democrat. What has his party affiliation got to do with anything? He wasn't a councillor, nor an MP, just an activist. I don't think I have ever seen anyone else described by their party membership, nor is the fact that he is a Liberal Democrat got any link to murder.
The other parties have a deft ability to manipulate the printed media. Ed Miliband has been able to absolve any former guilt for his party or himself and is able to oppose for oppositions sake and criticise Government action. His impassioned speech at the TUC cuts event had negated the fact that his party had no alternative to the cuts and whose mis-management had caused the crisis in the first place. He was also quick to criticise any government policy and play off people's passions without any substance or an alternative. Good opposition should offer alternative routes and policies rather than sniping from the side lines.

As for the right-wing, Murdoch press - well, we were always going to lose there as we are diluting right wing policy.

It is as if the left and the right fear what the Lib Dems could be, a new voice of the left or a new direction that could alter British politics for good. A party that does not have allegiance to the TUC or to big business and the young charismatic Clegg could have led the party to greatness. Not now though.

The Public love a hate figure, they also love to get riled up over causes and campaigns the Sun or Mail start. Clegg, as an outsider, is an easy target as are the Lib Dems but it is a real shame as our policies are actually benefiting real people, higher threshold for income tax, free preschool education from poor backgrounds, pupil premium, scrapping the ID data base, setting up the Green bank, none of which are publicised. The people aren't interested so why should the papers report it? Last week a friend and colleague said we were Spineless and cowardly and Labour should be given another go, all this a year after they were ousted for mismanaging the whole problem! He was also unaware of what we had done for the people, including himself! Also ignorant or ignoring the fact that we have a mere 50 odd MP's so only have a limited affect on national policies, in fact we have been punching above our weight in the policies we have pushed through, this is also little reported on! This for me is a mass failing of the media and it isn't isolated to one person.

It should also be mentioned that the populous are lazy or lack time to seek out information and were more interested in whom was responsible for the Super injunction for the sleaze factor than the notion of freedom of speech. The press must therefore deliver a fair and balanced view of party's policies and actions, it is their duty as well to be neutral rather than sensationalist to sell papers. I understand people aren't all interested in politics As it has been said before;

"What is in the public interest is seldom in the public interest."

BUT surely the amount of negative press received by the Lib Dems is disproportionate to the amount of bad press. In Nick Clegg there is no evil oppressor nor crook and the Lib Dems are not the harbingers of evil out to oppress your rights and steal your hard earned money, far from it.

I apologise if this has turned into an angry rant, however I feel quite strongly that the Press have a duty to report all of the news all of the time and treat every party on its merits and drawbacks weighing them against each other.