Sunday, 30 September 2012

Libdem conference Votes NO to Boris Island

Peter Welch of Southend West
Whilst some political groups and commentators will still warn you off the almost inevitability of Boris Island as the "least negative option" but last Sunday a big step was taken at the Liberal Democrat Party conference.
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Medway's very own Cllr Geoff Juby, leader of our Council group was due to speak and a good contingent of our exec committee were there too including our Chairman Tony Jeacock.

In the end Geoff was not called to speak but Peter Welch of Southend West spoke passionately and eloquently against the proposals.

Conference voted AGAINST any estuary airport.

Let's just be clear so there can be no calls of inconsistency or claims to the contrary;

The Liberal Democrats are in support of creating a new HUB airport. They are AGAINST any Heathrow expansion or development in the Thames estuary.

Hope everyone has got that.

Any way, I've attached the party email from Mr Welch and included the link to the petition.


I spoke against Boris Johnson’s idea of a Thames Estuary Airport at Liberal Democrat conference last Sunday – and won a big vote. I told conference delegates that the ideas being pushed by London’s Conservative mayor were wrong on environmental, economic and aviation grounds.

I reminded delegates of the beauty of the Estuary, inviting them to come and see for themselves:
Come and visit the estuary sometime. Come to Leigh on Sea and to Old Leigh. Gaze out across the Estuary. You will probably be surprised at how beautiful it is. Locals are always tweeting pictures of the estuary, while they wait for a train in the morning. Every day it is different. You’ll be surprised at all the wildlife, so close to London, even while the centre of the estuary is a busy shipping route. There are 300 000 sea birds in the estuary, harbour seals, even seahorses. You’ll probably say to yourself: this should be protected.
And guess what? It is!  If you destroy the unique wetlands of the estuary, you breach the Ramsar convention, you breach the Habitats Directive, and you destroy sites of Special Scientific Interest. You’d be breaking international agreements.

I told them that the Isle of Grain proposals were estimated to cost at least £50 billion, would involve building far out into the Estuary, and would that there would be no return on this investment for years and years.
Lastly I told the conference that the Chief Executive of NATS had described the Estuary as “the worst possible place to put an airport”. It would interfere with the flight paths at least four of our present airports – and the risk of bird strike would be unacceptably high.

Conference voted for my amendment - ruling out the Estuary option  - by a massive majority.

Peter Welch 
2010 Liberal Democrat candidate
Southend West

PS: We need to continue campaigning. It helps if you can forward this email to people you know who are or may be opposed. They can then sign the petition at http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/Estuary%20Airport%20Petition
A special thanks to all the people who have printed out petition sheets and collected signatures from friends, neighbours and colleagues. We have had a great response.



It will be interesting to see if Labour's members back the move in today's motion. Even more so, the reception it will receive at the Conservative party conference next week. The Liberal Democrats have stood up for common sense on this matter - lets hope the others do to.

If there is a general consensus of all three parties Nationally, as there is locally in Medway, in Southend and in North Kent then we can block this proposal and sink Boris Island once and for all.

Extremists? Really Nick?

In Nick Clegg's speech at this years Autumn conference said;

BUF uniform held at the IWM London
If history has taught us anything, it is that extremists thrive in tough times.

So yes, if we fail to deal with our debts and tackle the weaknesses in our economy, our country will pay a heavy political price. But the human cost would be higher still. Not only would we fall behind internationally, we would leave a trail of victims at home too.

I found myself thinking back to the 1920s and 30s across Europe and through the political mire of European politics. There is the rise of Fascism and ultra nationalists in Southern and Central Europe with Communist powers and agitators in the East spreading to Germany and France.

Even in the UK the BUF (British union of Fascists) gained support as did the various different Marxist groups and the two even clashed on the streets of London.

Did they achieve anything in those desperate times?

William Joyce aka Lord Hawhaw earned himself a Pierrepoint necktie as did a few others who joined the Legion of St George, a detachment of the Waffen SS. Others served prison sentences for aiding the Germans or were interned if they stayed in the UK.

As for the Marxists- they went underground especially when the Cold war started. The Rosenberg case in the US was enough to scare anyone.

The British popular psyche doesn't like dictatorship. A cursory glance through history reveals only one successful dictator - Oliver Cromwell. Any Monarch who grew too big for their boots usually ended up meeting sticky ends or in exile. If you don't believe me check this out;
John - Forced to sign the Magna Carta by armed Barons and poisoned later.
Edward II - red hot poker inserted in him.
Richard II - disposed then murdered.
Richard III - betrayed and butchered at Bosworth.
Charles I - publicly executed.
James II - died in poverty in France.

The English/British people are quick to rally around their rights as far back as Watt Tyler and Jack Cade. Although a certain- alright a good proportion of the current Nationalist groups are fuelled by Racism be it anti Muslin or European or even an ignorance and fear of other's culture. These groups are no where near as politically active or backed by any real political philosophy or, as in the case of Hermann Goering and the NSDAP, a decorated War hero or celebrity backing to attract followers.

As for the Socialists and Marxists - They're absolutely on the scene. When I was in the Union on the solitary strike I went on we were inundated with Socialist newsletters and one guy from the Communist party. They agitate at national strikes but most people at those sort of Demos are not politically motivated in that way. They're vexed at things and making a statement but not yet ready to start singing the Red flag.

Groups like TUSC and UKIP are enjoying more support but they are hardly extremist groups in the same way as the BUF.

I agree with Nick that there is a possibility of it happening and if it all goes up Chutney creak then chaos will probably descend but I think we would have to be right up the creak, tied up in the bottom of our paddle less canoe that was slowly sinking!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Andrew Mitchell's symptomatic of society.

There is no denying that what Andrew Mitchell said to Police officers last week was uncalled for and rude. In my Grandfather's day as a Police officer you would have faced immediate repercussions and even arrest as Officers were people to be respected. Now however times have changed.

I've worked with the General Public for around Fourteen years now and, if I'm honest, society has got ruder to people in uniforms be it Civil servant (like the Police) or corporate. A very "Upstairs/downstairs" attitude has come in where the ideology of the Customer is ALWAYS right has come in and is now fundamental.

Because you are a nametag/uniform you have to obey my whims

Well, this is not always true.

I worked for MacDonald's for three and a bit years and the way the public spoke to you sometimes was just unbearable - it was like you'd been scraped from their shoe. One guy for example kept telling me that he was the customer and demanded that I opened a till for him. When I politely pointed out that I was kitchen staff and exceptionally busy with no float or switched on till available, he just repeated his demands and demanded to see the manager - who then repeated what I had said.

I've seen commuters lose their temper and scream at platform staff about a train which failed to stop at London bridge. I understand their anger (I wanted that train too!) but its not the poor sod on the platform's fault it didn't stop.

It even occurs in workplaces. I've found in my current and previous jobs that certain departments are looked down upon and treated as servants at times. As a supervisor in the Catering department I was treated as almost like a skivvy and ordered around by officer administrators and Conference/events staff. I've even had a finger clicked at me followed by a point with; You, clean this.
 There can also be a big disregard for procedure and some staff think that the Poloshirt wearing name tag who is refusing to do something (for procedural reasons) is wrong and further more beneath me. I am telling you to do it ergo you must do it.

I admit that sometimes staff are rude. We all have bad days, you never know the guy who is being short with you at Sainsbury's wife might have just left him. Others are just straight up rude or unhelpful and by all means let these guys have it but lets be clear staff are staff not servants or slaves. I was brought up to talk to people politely and patiently but society it seems has gone another route - apparently you can talk to everyone else as human beings until they don a uniform and name badge and this is not limited to Conservative Chief whips but to the person on the street as well.

Maybe I'm more patient with staff because I've been there but I would urge readers to be patient and polite - speak to people as you would expect to be spoken to. Don't make assumptions and do not think that people are there to serve only you. We're all equal and should be treated as such.

Video: Inside Libdem HQ




Who says I take my politics far too seriously???

Here is CCTV camera shot in Libdem HQ of Nick's recent meeting after the apology and a forecast of our run in the Coalition...


-Made me chuckle!

Nick Clegg's Brighton speech

This summer, as we cheered our athletes to gold after gold after gold, Britain remembered how it feels to win again. But more importantly, we remembered what it takes to win again. Whether from Jess Ennis or Mo Farah, Sarah Storey or David Weir, the message was the same: we may be the ones on the podium, but behind each of us stands a coach.  And behind the coach, a team. And behind the team, the organisers, the volunteers, the supporters. And behind them, a whole city, an entire country, the UK nations united behind one goal.

What a contrast from a year ago when England’s cities burned in a week of riots. When the images beamed to the world were not of athletes running for the finishing line, but the mob, running at police lines. When the flames climbed, not from the Olympic torch in east London, but a furniture shop in south London. A 140 year-old family-run business, which had survived two world wars and countless recessions, razed to the ground. Of course, even then, amid the smoke and embers, we saw our country’s true character when residents came out onto the streets to clear up the mess.

And we saw it again this summer when the Reeves furniture shop in Croydon re-opened in new premises, the walls decked with photos of young people holding up messages of hope. And who put those pictures up? Young volunteers from Croydon and an 81 year-old man called Maurice Reeves, who, like three generations before him, ran the shop before handing it over to his son. Maurice, your example should inspire a generation.

You see, what Maurice has shown – what our Olympians and Paralympians have reminded us of – is that, for most people, success doesn’t come easy or quick. That’s what our culture of instant celebrity obscures: that real achievement in the real world takes time, effort, perseverance, resilience. The war veteran: a victim of a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, competing at the Paralympics. The businessman: a victim of an arson attack in south London, serving his customers again. The millions of people up and down the country, who, no matter how heroic or mundane their battles, keep going, keep trying, keep working, whatever life throws at them.

These are the qualities that will see our country through these tough times. And these are the qualities that will guide our party through tough times too. So let us take our example from the British people as together we embark on the journey ahead. Our party: from the comforts of opposition to the hard realities of government. Our country: from the sacrifices of austerity to the rewards of shared prosperity. Two journeys linked; the success of each depending on the success of the other. Neither will be easy and neither will be quick, but it will be worth it. And be in no doubt. If we secure our country’s future, we will secure our own.
We live at a time of profound change, almost revolutionary in its pace and scale. Here in Britain, we are faced with the gargantuan task of building a new economy from the rubble of the old. And of doing so at a time when our main export market – the Eurozone – is facing its biggest crisis since it was formed. And while the European economy has stalled, countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, India and China continue to grow, and at a phenomenal rate.

The potential consequences of this shift in power, should we in the West fail to respond, cannot be overstated. Our influence in the world, our standard of living, our ability to fund our public services and maintain our culture of openness and tolerance – all are in the balance. For power would move not only away from the liberal and democratic world, but within it too; from moderates to hard liners, from internationalists to isolationists, from those committed to the politics of cooperation to those hell-bent on confrontation. If history has taught us anything, it is that extremists thrive in tough times.

So yes, if we fail to deal with our debts and tackle the weaknesses in our economy, our country will pay a heavy political price. But the human cost would be higher still. Not only would we fall behind internationally, we would leave a trail of victims at home too.

So to those who ask, incredulously, what we – the Liberal Democrats – are doing cutting public spending, I simply say this: Who suffers most when governments go bust? When they can no longer pay salaries, benefits and pensions? Not the bankers and the hedge fund managers, that’s for sure. No, it would be the poor, the old, the infirm; those with the least to fall back on.

Labour may have thought it was funny, after crashing the economy and racking up record debts, to leave a note on David Laws’ desk saying: “there’s no money left”. But it’s no joke for the most vulnerable in our society; the people Labour claim to represent but let down the most. So let’s take no more lectures about betrayal. It was Labour who plunged us into austerity and it is we, the Liberal Democrats, who will get us out.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that the debate we’re having in this country is playing out across our continent. It’s a debate between those who understand how much the world has changed, and those who do not. And between those who understand the need to adapt to those changes, and those who baulk at the size of the challenge. And the fate of every European country – ours included – will depend on the outcome.

In the coming years, some countries will get their own house in order. But some will not. Those that do will continue to write their own budgets, set their own priorities and shape their own futures. But those that do not will find their right to self-determination withdrawn by the markets, and new rules imposed by their creditors, without warning or clemency. That that will never happen to us is often just blithely assumed; the comparisons with Greece, breezily dismissed. Yet it is the decisions we take – as a government, as a party – that will determine whether we succeed or fail. For the first time, the future is ours to make.

Our journey from austerity to prosperity starts, of course, with economic rescue; dealing with our debts and delivering growth. If you listen to Labour, you could be forgiven for thinking that austerity is a choice; that the sacrifices it involves can be avoided; that if we only enacted Ed Balls’ latest press release we’d be instantly transported to that fantasy world where there is no “boom and bust” and the money never runs out.

But the truth is this: there is no silver bullet that will instantly solve all our economic problems. Some of our problems are structural, others international. All will take time to overcome. We are dealing with an on-going surge in global energy, food and commodity prices. An existential crisis in the Eurozone. And a banking collapse which, more than four years on, is still blocking the arteries of our entire economic system.
Ranged against these forces, the idea that if government just deregulated a bit more as Liam Fox proposes, or borrowed and spent a bit more as Ed Balls proposes, we would, at a stroke, achieve strong and lasting growth, is just not credible. In my experience, if you’re being attacked by Liam Fox from one side, and Ed Balls from the other, you’re in the right place.

You see, what is needed – and what we’re delivering – is a plan that is tough enough to keep the bond markets off our backs, yet flexible enough to support demand. A plan that allowed us, when the forecast worsened last year, to reject calls for further spending cuts or tax rises and balance the budget over a longer timescale. A plan that, even at the end of this parliament, will see public spending account for 42 per cent of GDP – higher than at any point between 1995 and 2008 when the banks collapsed. And a plan that, because it commands the confidence of the markets, has given us the room to create a Business Bank, provide billions of pounds of infrastructure and house building guarantees and an £80 billion Funding for Lending scheme – the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world.

Of course so much of this is about perception. People keep telling me we should be doing what Barack Obama did with his fiscal stimulus. What they don’t tell you is that much of what the President had to legislate for, we are already doing automatically. So let’s not allow the caricature of what we are doing go unchallenged. If Plan A really was as rigid and dogmatic as our critics claim, I’d be demanding a Plan B, and getting Danny and Vince to design it. But it isn’t. Which is why you were right, earlier this week, to overwhelmingly reject the call for us to change our economic course. We have taken big and bold steps to support demand and boost growth. And we stand ready to do so again and again and again until self-sustaining growth returns.

Of course, arguments about economic theory are of no interest to the millions of people just struggling to get by right now. The home-help whose earnings barely cover the cost of childcare. The builder who knows the company will be laying people off, but doesn’t yet know if he’ll be one of them. The couple who want to buy their first home but can’t raise the money for a deposit.  To them and to all the other hard working families just trying to stay afloat, I say this: the Liberal Democrats are on your side. You are the ones we are in government to serve. Not with empty rhetoric but real practical help. That is why we promised to cut your income tax bills by raising the personal allowance to £10,000. So you can keep more of the money you have worked for. So your effort will be properly rewarded. So the task of making ends meet is made that little bit easier.

At the last budget, we made two big announcements: that we were spending three thousand million pounds increasing the tax-free allowance, and just fifty million pounds reducing the top rate of tax while recouping five times that amount in additional taxes on the wealthiest. I insisted on the first. I conceded the second. But I stand by the package as a whole. Why? Because as liberals, we want to see the tax on work reduced, the tax on unearned wealth increased, and the system as a whole tilted in favour of those on low and middle incomes. The budget delivered all three.

But let me make one thing clear: Now that we have brought the top rate of tax down to 45p – a level, let’s not forget, that is still higher than throughout Labour’s 13 years in office – there can be no question of reducing it further in this Parliament. All future cuts in personal taxation must pass one clear test: do they help people on low and middle incomes get by and get on? It’s as simple as that.

At the next election, all parties will have to acknowledge the need for further belt tightening. That much is inescapable. But the key question we will all have to answer is who will have to tighten their belts the most?

Our position is clear. If we have to ask people to take less out or pay more in, we’ll start with the richest and work our way down, not the other way around. We won’t waver in our determination to deal with our debts. But we will do it in our own way, according to our own plans, based on our own values. So we will not tether ourselves to detailed spending plans with the Conservatives through the next Parliament.
Colleagues, we should be proud of the fact we have delivered fairer taxes in tough times. We should be proud of the fact that we’re taking 2m people out of income tax altogether and delivering a £700 tax cut for more than 20m others, and should never miss an opportunity to tell people about it. But as we do so, remember this: our tax cuts, like our extra support for childcare, for schools, for pensioners – these are not stand-alone consumer offers. They are part of a broader agenda of economic and social reform to reward work, enhance social mobility and secure Britain’s position in a fast changing world. In short, national renewal. That is our mission. Our policies either serve that purpose, or they serve none at all.

One of the things about governing is it forces you to confront the inconvenient truths oppositions choose to ignore. Like the fact that, over the last 50 years, our economy has grown threefold, but our welfare spending is up sevenfold. Or the fact that, to sustain our spending, we are still borrowing a billion pounds every three days. Or that, as a result of that borrowing, we now spend more servicing the national debt than we do on our schools. In combination, these three facts present us with a fundamental challenge: to not only regain control of public spending, but to completely redirect it so that it promotes, rather than undermines, prosperity.

How we do that – how we reshape the British state for the economic challenges of the 21st century – is a debate I want our party to lead. For there are only two ways of doing politics: by following opinion, to get yourself on the populist side of each issue, or by leading opinion, and standing on the future side of each issue. The first brings short-term rewards, of course it does. But the big prizes are for those with the courage and vision to get out in front, set the agenda and point the way.

So let us take the lead in building a new economy for the new century. An open, outward looking economy in the world’s biggest single market. A strong, balanced economy built on productive investment, not debt-fuelled consumption. An innovative, inventive economy driven by advances in science and research. And yes, a clean, green economy too, powered by the new low-carbon technologies. Britain leading the world.

But I have to tell you, we will not succeed in this last task unless we can see off that most short-sighted of arguments: that we have to choose between going green and going for growth. Decarbonising our economy isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s a fantastic economic opportunity. The green economy in Britain is growing strongly right now, bringing in billions of pounds and creating thousands of jobs – in wind, solar and tidal energy; the technologies that will power our economy in the decades to come. Going green means going for growth. But more than that, it means going for more energy that we produce ourselves and which never runs out; it means going for clear air and clean water and a planet we can proudly hand over to our children. Going green means going forward.

So let the Conservatives be in no doubt. We will hold them to their promises on the environment. Of course, there was a time when it looked like they got it. It seems a long time ago now. When the Tories were going through their naturalist phase. The windmills gently turning; the sun shining in. As a PR exercise, it was actually quite brilliant. Until, at last year’s party conference, they went and ruined it all, admitting that you can’t in fact “vote blue and go green”. Well of course you can’t. To make blue go green you have to add yellow, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

As we plot our path from austerity to prosperity, we need to remember that nothing we do will make a decisive difference if we don’t make the most important investment of all: in the education and training of our young people. For we will only fulfil our collective economic potential, if we fulfil our individual human potential. Yet the legacy of educational inequality in Britain is an economy operating at half power, with far too many young people never getting the qualifications they could get, never doing the jobs they could do, never earning the wages they could earn.

The true cost of this cannot be counted in pounds and pence. Yes it’s a huge drag on our economy, but more than that, it is an affront to natural justice and to everything we Liberal Democrats stand for. Because if you strip away all the outer layers to expose this party’s philosophical core, what do you find? An unshakeable belief in freedom. Not the tinny sound of the Libertarian’s freedom – still less the dead thud of the Socialist’s – but the rich sound of Liberal freedom, amplified and sustained by the thing that gives it real meaning: opportunity. The freedom to be who you are. The opportunity to be who you could be. That, in essence, is the Liberal promise.

And that is why this party has always been – and must always be – the party of education. Because just as there can be no real freedom without opportunity, so there can be no real opportunity without education.
Every parent knows how it feels when you leave your child on their first day at school. That last look they give you before the door closes behind them. The instinct to go with them, to protect them, to help them every step of the way. That’s how we should feel about every child. That’s the responsibility we have to every parent. To support them at every stage: from nursery to primary, from primary to secondary and from secondary to college, university or work.

That’s why we’re providing more money so the poorest two-year-olds, as well as every three and four-year-old, can now benefit from pre-school education. Delivering our Pupil Premium – £900 per child next year – so the most disadvantaged children get the more intensive, more personalised support they need. And why, when they leave school, we’re providing scholarships, bursaries, grants, loans, apprenticeships and wage subsidies, to help them go on learning or start earning.

But extra resources won’t make a difference unless matched by greater ambition. Which is why money must be accompanied by reform. Reform to ensure all children can read and write. To make schools focus on the performance of every child. To turn around failing schools, and put more pressure on coasting schools. And yes, reform to replace GCSEs, not with an O Level, but with a new more rigorous qualification that virtually every child will be able to take, and every well taught child will be able to pass.

And to ensure they do, I can announce that from this year, we will provide a new ‘catch-up premium’ – an additional £500 for every child who leaves primary school below the expected level in English or maths. If you’re a parent whose child has fallen behind; who fears they might get lost in that daunting leap from primary to secondary school; and who is worried by talk about making exams tougher, let me reassure you. We will do whatever it takes to make sure your child is not left behind. A place in a summer school; catch-up classes; one-to-one tuition; we are providing the help they need. So yes, we’re raising the bar. But we’re ensuring every child can clear it too.

I am proud of the resolve we Liberal Democrats have shown over the last two and a half years. We’ve had some real disappointments: tough election results, a bruising referendum. But through it all, we have remained focused, determined, disciplined. It hasn’t always been easy, and, when we’ve made mistakes, we’ve put our hands up. But we’ve stuck to our task – and to the Coalition Agreement – even as others have wavered. The received wisdom, prior to the election, was that we wouldn’t be capable of making the transition from opposition to government. The choices would be too sharp, the decisions too hard.

The Liberal Democrats, it was said, are a party of protest, not power. Well two years on, the critics have been confounded. Our mettle has been tested in the toughest of circumstances, and we haven’t been found wanting. We have taken the difficult decisions to reduce the deficit by a quarter and have laid the foundations for a stronger, more balanced economy capable of delivering real and lasting growth. But conference, our task is far from complete, our party’s journey far from over.

I know that there are some in the party – some in this hall even – who, faced with several more years of spending restraint, would rather turn back than press on. Break our deal with the Conservatives, give up on the Coalition, and present ourselves to the electorate in 2015 as a party unchanged. It’s an alluring prospect in some ways. Gone would be the difficult choices, the hard decisions, the necessary compromises. And gone too would be the vitriol and abuse, from Right and Left, as we work every day to keep this Government anchored in the centre ground.

But conference, I tell you this. The choice between the party we were, and the party we are becoming, is a false one. The past is gone and it isn’t coming back. If voters want a party of opposition – a “stop the world I want to get off” party – they’ve got plenty of options, but we are not one of them. There’s a better, more meaningful future waiting for us. Not as the third party, but as one of three parties of government.

There’s been a lot of discussion on the fringe of this conference about our party’s next steps; about our relationship with the other parties; and about what we should do in the event of another hung parliament. It’s the sort of discussion politicians love – full of speculation and rumour. But I have to tell you, it is all based on a false, and deeply illiberal, assumption: that it is we, rather than the people, who get to decide. In a democracy, politicians take their orders from the voters.

So let’s forget all the Westminster gossip and focus on what really matters: not our relationship with the other parties, but our relationship with the British people. Imagine yourself standing on the doorstep in 2015 talking to someone who hasn’t decided who to vote for. This is what you’ll be able to say: we cut taxes for ordinary families and made sure the wealthiest paid their fair share. We put more money into schools to give every child a chance. We did everything possible to get people into work - millions of new jobs and more apprenticeships than ever before. And we did the right thing by our older people too - the biggest ever cash rise in the state pension. But most importantly, we brought our country back from the brink and put it on the right path.

Then ask them: are you ready to trust Labour with your money again? And do you really think the Tories will make Britain fairer? Because the truth is, only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted on the economy and relied upon to deliver a fairer society too.  And to help get that message out there, I can announce today that Paddy Ashdown has agreed to front up our campaign as chair of the 2015 General Election team. I must admit, I’m not quite sure I’m ready for all those urgent e-mails and 5am phone calls. But I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have by my side. Paddy, it’s great to have you back.

Fifty, sixty years ago, before I was born, small groups of Liberal activists would meet up to talk politics and plan their campaigns. Stubborn and principled, they ignored the cynics who mocked them. They simply refused to give up on their dreams. They refused to accept that Liberals would never again be in government. And they refused to accept that Liberalism, that most decent, enlightened and British of creeds, which did so much to shape our past, would not shape our future. We think we’ve got it tough now. But it was much, much tougher in their day. It was only their resolve, their resilience and their unwavering determination that kept the flickering flame of Liberalism alive through our party’s darkest days.

At our last conference in Gateshead, I urged you to stop looking in the rear view mirror as we journey from the party of opposition that we were, to the party of government we are becoming. But before we head off on the next stage of our journey, I want you to take one last look in that mirror to see how far we’ve come. I tell you what I see.

I see generations of Liberals marching towards the sound of gunfire. And yes, I see them going back to their constituencies to prepare for government. It took us a while but we got there in the end. These are the people on whose shoulders we stand. They never flinched, and nor should we. We owe it to them to seize the opportunity they gave us, but which they never had. Taking on the vested interests. Refusing to be bullied. Refusing to give up. Always overturning the odds. Fighting for what we believe in, because we know that nothing worthwhile can be won without a battle. A fair, free and open society. That’s the prize. It’s within our grasp. So let’s go for it.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Dr Cable's speech and my comments

If you attend conference regularly you may remember five years ago. We were interrupted by news of the collapse of a small bank in Newcastle. That was the beginning of a terrible economic storm which rages to this day. It has left behind broken banks, lower living standards, ballooning budget deficits, job insecurity and a sense of permanent crisis.

In a time of crisis what the country needs is national government. That means working with political opponents in the national interest. Indeed, one of our central aims as Liberal Democrats is to show that coalitions work. And Nick Clegg’s major contribution as leader has been to do just that. At a time of crisis, Coalition government was and is still the only way forward – and it required considerable political courage from Nick to make it happen.

For myself, I take pride in the fact that my department in government has two Lib Dem ministers – and I’m absolutely delighted to have Jo Swinson as a minister – and five very able Conservatives, led by David Willetts, working well together as a team.

Many of the decisions we face – on banks, industrial strategy, climate change - go way beyond the limitations of one party or one parliament. That’s why I also make sure that I have good communications with politicians across the political spectrum.

But I do confess that I occasionally lapse into party political tribal thinking. What has sustained me, in my darkest moments, has been the Daily Telegraph poll showing I was the Cabinet Minister who Conservative activists most wanted to evict from Government. Sadly I recently discovered that I had lost my badge of honour to not one but two conservative colleagues.

But more seriously we will ultimately be judged by the Government’s handling of the economic crisis.

I am at heart a realist, and deep down, an optimist. We can’t recreate the fool’s paradise of the pre-crisis era; but we are perfectly capable of sustainable growth in this country.

To that end, I believe we need an industrial strategy – a positive and ambitious vision, built around long-term investment in innovation, skills and science. We are so good at so many things in this country – but for too long the mirage of growth based on property speculation and financial gambling has hidden the harder virtues of making things productively. We must get behind successful British-based firms in vehicles, aerospace, life sciences and creative industries and our world-class scientists and universities.

I have been working at the heart of Government to make this happen. Despite spending cuts, we have increased apprenticeships by over 60%. We launched German-style innovation centres so that British industry can access the newest technologies in advanced manufacturing, bioscience, sustainable energy, and digital. We are bringing lost supply chains back to Britain. The Green Investment Bank is now up and running, financing the green industries of the future.

We have had some real successes. Working with the American chiefs of General Motors and British trades unions to save thousands of Vauxhall jobs in the North West. With the Indian owners of Jaguar Land Rover to create in the west Midlands a global hub for design and vehicle engineering. Boosting research to keep Britain as the second aerospace economy in the world. Working with Siemens and others to develop offshore renewable engineering in Hull: a key low carbon industry.

There are some common threads: understanding that markets fail and that governments can and should sensibly intervene and support enterprise; and a will to fight the British curse of short-termism – both in the corporate world and in government.

Banks

Industrial strategy can only work if finance supports business investment and growth. Currently it doesn’t. Our leading banks are often anti-business especially anti small business. They threw traditional relationship banking over the side and sold useless insurance and dodgy derivatives instead.

Public anger at the greed and stupidity in this industry will continue for a long time. But I am looking forward to and I want to work with the new generation of sensible bankers to support the real economy.

We must now implement the ‘pioneering’ coalition policy of splitting the investment bank casinos from mainstream personal and business banking, as in the Vickers report. Without Liberal Democrats in government you can be absolutely sure this would not have happened.

There is still so much to do. Four years ago only a massive taxpayer bailout stopped RBS from dragging the whole economy over a cliff. Two years ago there was talk of an early sell off. That is history. It has been a drifting, rudderless hulk but is now getting more shipshape. And it needs direction from us – we own it - to get up steam, and to lend more to support British business.

This is no time for the state to be stepping back. We need a new British business bank with a clean balance sheet and an ability to expand lending rapidly to the manufacturers, exporters and high growth companies that power our economy.

Today I can announce we will have one. I am working with the Chancellor to develop a new institution that will combine a billion pounds of new government capital with a larger private sector contribution. This will apply leverage through guarantees to support up to ten billion pounds of finance to small and mid-sized business – a significant portion of all the lending currently available.

Industrial strategy; reforming the banks; these are parts of a bigger project: creating a culture of responsible capitalism. I launched a debate on this issue at conference two years ago, you may remember when I echoed Adam Smith saying that ‘Capitalism takes no prisoners and kills competition when it can’; this led to loud moans about Communists in government. Now everyone has seen the scandals of market rigging, mis-selling and phone hacking; the abuse of monopoly power; and the outrageous rewards for failure.

Despite all of that we must work within a market based, private enterprise system. Business will drive our recovery. And there are many outstanding and responsible British companies.

In two years we have done a lot to support them. Our legislation to introduce binding shareholder votes on executive pay is progressing through Parliament. We are scrapping unnecessary red tape on small business while strengthening regulation where it is necessary – as on the environment. We are getting more women into top business positions, on boards. And we have seen off the ‘head bangers’ who want a hire and fire culture and seem to find sacking people an aphrodisiac: totally irrelevant in a country with flexible labour markets which have created over a million private sector jobs in the last two years. Instead, we have concentrated on practical tribunal reform and supported progressive firms who want worker participation and share ownership.

Furthermore, we want the costs of our current crisis to be fairly shared. ‘We are all in it together’ is a good slogan. Forget the Tory messengers; let’s apply the message. Cracking down hard, not just on criminal tax evasion but on abusive tax avoidance. Working with our allies to close down tax havens. No one keeps their cash in tax havens for the quality of investment advice; these are sunny places for shady people

There could be no better time to promote our Party’s commitment to progressive taxation. We have lifted tax thresholds: taking 2m, lower paid workers, mainly women, out of income tax and cutting taxes for 20m on average pay. But the very wealthy have so far got off lightly.

I know some of you hanker after a Hollande-style assault on top incomes. But we know that very high marginal rates of income tax are counter-productive. If I were advising Monsieur Hollande, I would recommend a ‘chateau tax’ – for those of us who never even managed a dumbed-down GCSE in French, that means a ‘mansion tax’. Core Lib Dem policy. A first step to the proper taxation of wealth and land. It horrifies the Tory backwoodsmen but it is popular and right. The super-rich can’t move their chateaux to Monaco or Switzerland so let’s get on with it and tax them here.

Now you might say: "That’s fine. But how do we get out of the present mess?"

We are in a dangerous phase of the crisis as consumer spending is squeezed by falling real incomes and debt and exports to the European Union are hit by the Eurozone crisis.

Our critics on the left say – "cut more slowly". The government has already extended the period to eliminate the structural deficit from four to six years. Yet Ed Balls says: "workers of the world unite. We need a Plan B. We should not cut the deficit in six years but seven".

Our critics on the right say that all we need is supply side reform to liberate the animal spirits of business. Of course we need and value entrepreneurs. But no amount of push from supply side reform can possibly succeed without the pull of demand.

Other critics say, "why not borrow more when interest rates are so low?". Actually that is what we are doing: absorbing the slowdown and restoring some of the savage cuts in capital investment made in the last year of Labour government. So borrowing has been allowed to rise - this is entirely sensible in an economic downturn. I have great personal sympathy for the Chancellor who is being attacked for borrowing too much, and borrowing too little, at the same time.

Actually it is not a matter of Plan A versus Plan B or Plan C or even Plan V. Plan A+ is OK by me or plan A++ if you prefer. When we came into government we had to balance competing risks: of aggravating the economic downturn through excessive cuts versus the risk of losing the confidence of lenders. I believe we struck the right balance and adopted a deficit reduction plan. I make no apology for my continued support for that fiscal discipline.

But right now we are fighting recession. The need is for a demand stimulus. And that does not just mean pumping more money into the banks. That great Liberal Keynes had exactly the right analysis of the problem we now have – not enough spending power in the economy. And not only him – but also the International Monetary Fund, who no one could accuse of financial irresponsibility and the coalition understands this very well.

One big step will be carrying out our commitment this month to get more houses built. The numbers of houses completed are currently the lowest in peacetime since the 1920s. Millions of families are in housing need. There is distress in the construction industry. The private market will only heal slowly. Because mortgages are scarce. What we need is an aggressive programme of house building by housing associations and local councils, with government providing guarantees so they can build, in large numbers, now. We need an extra 100,000 houses a year to meet demand. That would create half a million new jobs.

The central point is that the country must not get stuck on a downward escalator where slow or no growth means bigger deficits leading to more cuts and even slower growth. That is the way to economic disaster and political oblivion. We will not let that happen.

There is still time to turn the economy around. Last year I talked about the economic equivalent of war. We mean to win it.

I have talked about our national imperatives. But this is a party conference. I know many of you worry that while we do what is right for the country, the party is suffering for it.

But think about our opponents. The Labour Party currently has reasonable poll ratings. We know from their union funded campaigns against us in Northern cities that Labour can still be a ruthless political machine. But it used to be a lot more than that. It once had a soul and new ideas. Then we had 13 years of rootless New Labour. A hard earned reputation for economic competence disappeared under the rubble of collapsing banks. Their party’s long standing commitment to individual freedoms was buried in a graveyard of civil liberties. Principled foreign policy was laid to rest in Iraq. They have scarcely begun the long march back from there.

Most of our MPs will face Conservatives at the next General Election. They face the enticing prospect of a Tory split.

We are not like that. We have unity in adversity. Liberal Democrats are not in hock to fat cats or union barons and media bosses. Nor will we be bullied by them. We remain willing to work with other parties in the wider national interest. We fight for liberal and social democratic principles just as strongly inside government as out.

After over two years in government we are battle hardened but certainly not war weary. None of us knows exactly how it will end. But we all know we must fight the next General Election as a totally independent, national, credible challenger for power.

I don’t believe tactually that he British people will want to entrust their future to any one party next time. If Britain wants sustainable growth, competence with compassion, fairness with freedom and more equality not ever greater division: then that government must have Liberal Democrats at its heart


Well, I think Dr Vince hits the nail squarely on the head.

For a long while Britain has not physically constructed anything. Ship building, aircraft and cars have moved to Asia and to Germany. Too long governments have been moving finance away from production and into risky investment banking. This was ultimately doomed to failure and now the State HAS to intervene to clear up the mess.

Small and medium sized businesses do need support and banks are not willing to invest in them so I think Vince is right to work with the Chancellor to set up an Investment bank under Government control to assist them. It is basic economics that business should move the economy on and puts money in everyone's pockets not just into those of the few at the top.

I also quite agree with the move for the mansion tax and closing the nets on those at the top who move their money to where it is safe. mansions and property cannot be moved and it is only fair that those who are the most sucessful are the one's who help those who are unable to at the bottom, the very ones we as a party have lifted out of Income tax.

I won't re list our successes, they're clearly listed by Vince but it is worth mentioning again that we have had an effect on Government and that we are working, as part of the Coalition and with Labour for future Governments to have a Long perspective for economic recovery. We can't just look to 2015 and say Bugger it that's when our term ends - that would be irresponsible. Successive governments have an end of term view of not creating a continuance.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Dissecting Tim Farron's speech

Having published the speech here I spent my evening commute reading and annotating Tim's speech. As I skimmed down the margins to my notes three themes stick out. There's "Backs Nick", "our role/future" and "citing differences with Conservatives" - there is also the word Epic written next to the end of paragraph ten.

I joined the Liberals to change the world - and you don't change it from the luxury of opposition

The speech itself is very good, unfortunately I've been trapped at work and unable to go to Conference so can't comment on delivery.

I agree with what Tim is saying, somewhat wholeheartedly. Being in a Coalition is difficult, a lot more difficult than many of the electorate and media pundits will acknowledge. We have achieved a lot but there is more work to be done. Society is unequal, there are great signs of poverty and a lack of affordable housing. There are those on the far right of the Conservative party who find protecting the environment an inconvenient truth.

We need to acknowledge the work of our ministers like Sarah Teether, Ed Davey and Chris Huhne. More importantly we should acknowledge the hard work of Nick and his achievements. What's more is that there is more to do.

We are different from the Conservatives and we do disagree on many fundamental issues. I've noticed that this conference has seen more comments and public statements of difference, that's either bravado because it's conference or it is, hopefully, the party trying to define itself and show those differences to the public and Tim also puts forward that we need to define ourselves and vision for the future.

The Coalition has given us a chance to show the public what we stand for and what Liberalism can do for the nation and for you. As Tim said, we shouldn't seek power for the sake of it as Labour seem to be doing now, or simply because it is our turn as many Conservatives felt in 2010. There is a place for us and we're proving it in Government.

Tim's speech was very energising and talks to members and reassures them that we're still holding onto our soul in Government and reassures those who are doubting our record and role. At a time when many are writing the party off Tim is encouraging us to keep up the good work and achieve even more.

You know what? I think we can

Tim Farron's speech to Conference 2012

Wherever I go, I find Liberal Democrats who are infinitely more upbeat, positive and determined than anyone in the media thinks we should be. You have every right to be upbeat.

You are the most important people I know. Never have Liberal Democrat voices and values been so important.  Never have Liberal Democrat victories been so necessary. Because over the next two and a half years our economy and our society will either get rescued or wrecked; fairer or more divided; greener or darker.

Like us the Conservatives also want economic recovery.  But they don’t care about a fairer and more equal society, or a green economy.  That is our job.

The battles that matter take place in the second half of this Parliament. We have to win vital arguments in the media, on the doorsteps, at the school gates, in the pub, in the workplace and in the corridors of power that we share with our coalition colleagues. There will be compromise and competition between two separate visions, ours and the Tories.

Only two parties matter and neither of them is Labour.

Britain: better, fairer, greener?  It is entirely down to us.  When you joined the Liberal Democrats, didn’t we tell you that you could make a difference?  Well we were talking about right now. All those leaflets, all those surveys, all that door knocking for such a time as this.

And you won power, you earned this historic opportunity by winning arguments, recruiting members and building the base that won us thousands of councillors, and dozens of MPs.
I need us to see this as the moment when the 2015 General Election began, when we committed the energy, the time, the resources to winning against our opponents. You’ve beaten them once, go out and beat them again.

You came to Brighton for a reason.  So let’s remember why we are here.  At 10.30 on a Sunday morning! Why are you a Liberal Democrat? What brought you to Brighton? My road to Brighton started 26 years ago in a terraced house in Lancashire. What brought me to Brighton, what made me a Liberal Democrat is that I am an internationalist, an environmentalist. I want a society where no one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. I believe in seeking peace. I believe in transferring power and wealth from the powerful and wealthy to the powerless and poor. I believe in equality, in personal freedom and liberty – I am a Liberal.

Wherever we started, our road to Brighton is one that we share. The triumphs, the setbacks, the survival against the odds.  We are driven by a liberalism that stands firm whatever the fashion – we survive despite the fact that we have no vested interest to protect us, but our survival is essential precisely because we serve no vested interest.

So that road to Brighton took us via the Granada studios one night in April 2010. The place where Nick Clegg wiped the floor with David Cameron and Gordon Brown – the night when Nick single handedly prevented a majority Tory government; And the road to Brighton took us to the day when for the first time in five generations, Liberal Democrat ministers entered government. Because I didn’t join the Liberals to comment upon the world, I joined the Liberals to change the world – and you don’t change the world from the luxury of opposition.

But you have changed things, you change them every day. You increased the state pension by the biggest amount ever. You kicked Trident into the long grass. You won a 5.2% increase in welfare benefits. You brought in the Green Investment Bank. You doubled the number of apprenticeships. You scrapped ID cards. You had the balls to stand up to the press barons. You made sure that Britain meets the UN target on overseas aid. You cut income tax for the 23m lowest paid people in this country. You are realising the dreams of generations of Liberals.

You know, I bet you’re sick to death of knocking on people’s doors and them thanking you for all this. But I’ll tell you what, we have too much still to do... we are nowhere near done...this is it.....this is our time!
And we will not waste this opportunity, we will learn from others mistakes. Labour’s 13 years for instance – what a mandate, what a disappointment.  Could have reigned in the banks – too chicken to upset the bankers; could have transformed our democracy – too chicken to face down their own dinosaurs; could have made our tax system fairer – too chicken to offend their donors.

We have a much harder job than Labour did, the British people chose not to give us a majority, Mr Brown left us with no money, our options were not immense but our passion to serve our country is immense and we are not going to waste this chance. Every week when I go out knocking on doors I can guarantee that before the evening is out I will meet a teacher, a nurse, a young copper, who will tell me they have no hope of finding a decent affordable home. All they want is somewhere they can afford somewhere they can call home in the community that they serve. This is our chance to help them and build ourselves out of recession at the same time.

It’s an immense challenge: immense challenges require immense ambition – so let’s commit now to put a roof over the heads of families in need, let’s commit now to build 250,000 council houses, and lets commit now to do it by 2015. And our banks are failing the British people, the very people who saved them.  We must act to stop them killing off good businesses. Some of the poorest people I know run small firms.  A friend of mine runs a small business in Kendal. He has the livelihoods of his twelve employees and their families on his conscience – keeping them in a job keeps him awake at night.  To keep his staff in a job, to keep his business afloat he pays himself less than the minimum wage.  These are the people that the banks are betraying.

So I’ve had enough of giving carrots to the banks, it’s not worked.  It’s time to use a big stick. We must get British businesses the money that they need, creating jobs, escaping recession.  If the banks won’t lend, then we must now build – or acquire - a government business bank. And I want us to be Britain’s tax cutting party.  Cutting taxes for the millions who need a tax cut, paid for by the millionaires who don’t.  The £10,000 tax threshold is a triumph for you, a triumph for millions of workers, but it is not enough!
Taxation is the subscription charge for living in a civilised society.  It is unacceptable when tax makes struggling families struggle more. And it is unacceptable for the staggeringly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.

Friends, as your President I want us to commit to keep going, to keep liberating more lowpaid people from a burden they can’t bear, to make sure that no one on minimum wage pays a penny on income tax. We live in a divided society where some get to bequeath their privilege to their children and others get to bequeath their lack of opportunity to theirs. What a disgrace and what a waste.

I saw a speech from the headteacher of a private school recently, he said his was the school where the leaders of tomorrow, the leaders of industry, finance, politics and the arts are created. It’s not the brightest way of picking our leaders is it? I wonder how many innovators, wealth creators, leaders we have forgone because they didn’t have that opportunity? This is still a society divided at birth. And divided we fail.
In the last 50 years, no one has done more to correct this inequality, this outrageous waste than Sarah Teather and Nick Clegg. Be proud that Liberal Democrats now preside over the best early years education in history, be proud that the pupil premium redistributes advantage to the disadvantaged and opportunity to the excluded. And be proud that we have stopped the return of the CSE! Be proud, but do not be satisfied, there is so much more to do.

We have to win the battle for our environment. Be proud of what Chris Huhne and Ed Davey have achieved at Energy and Climate Change but do not be complacent in the face of Tory climate change deniers.
You remember the Tory slogan: vote blue go green?  So Dave, how’s that going? David Cameron has stopped making nice speeches about climate change, stopped making trips to the north pole to hug the huskies, and he’s started sending poor Zac Goldsmith straight to voicemail! They should take that little squiggly tree that they have for a logo and replace it with a 747. So, if we are to have a green future, then the Liberal Democrats must win the argument all day every day over the second half of this Parliament.

To those Tories who want to pretend there is no climate change. Well try denying it to the Australian farmer whose once fertile land is now desert. Try denying it to the Bangladeshi family who have been displaced as water levels rise. Try denying it to the thousands of householders across the UK whose homes have been flooded this last five years.

So for the sake of all of our tomorrows Liberal Democrats must ensure that this is the greenest government ever. Backing ambitious green projects to create a legacy to be proud of, a new deal, a green deal, healing our environment, creating legions of jobs, grabbing our chance to turn the tide of climate change. On housing, on banking, on fair tax, on fair education, on our environment – there are battles to be won at the heart of government and in front of the British people.

For the next two and a half years, Britain is a two party system, and we are one of them.
William Gladstone; David Lloyd George; Roy Jenkins.  I have no doubt that they would share our frustrations in government.  I equally have no doubt that they would be immensely proud of us. Fighting for a free-er, fairer Britain we honour their memory, we are true to our Liberal heritage.  But to me, what matters much more is what comes next.

Our Liberal vision should not be to win power for the sake of it. But it should be to win power.  Let’s seek to govern, and govern, as Liberals. And if we choose that vision, we would be foolish to write off those voters who have gone off us in the last two years. I absolutely refuse to give up on them. They may be disappointed, angry, perplexed but it is up to us to give them a vision, reasons, a passion to return. And you know we can’t rescue our country for better if we don’t win elections.

That rescue is not a foregone conclusion – but that rescue will be in vain if it doesn’t also leave Britain fairer and greener. This is the 25th successive September that I’ve chosen to spend a week with you lot, and I wouldn’t be anywhere else! So you’ve always been important to me, but today you’re as important as it gets.

We are not going to waste this time. We are precious, powerful, the only progressive party that matters and we have an immense responsibility to our Liberal heritage to our Liberal Democrat future and to our country that put us where we are.

I am proud of the difference you have made, but there is so much more to do. Never crave the comfort of opposition. Never get nostalgic about the easy life before everything supposedly became our fault. Never look at Labour’s position of glorious irresponsibility with envy. Be grateful that we are where it matters when it matters, that when good needs to be done, we are now there to do it.
Others will fight for their vested interests. We will fight for a better, fairer, greener Britain because that is why we started on our road.  The hard road, the only road, the road to a Liberal Britain. To survive, to thrive, to govern.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Referendum for the airport proposal?

This was something that first surfaced at the beginning of the year. From memory it was at full Council and was voted down by the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Independent group by a sound majority. If that had been anything else it would have been dropped right?

Well... no. It's still going on and Councillor Osborne (Lab and PPC for Chatham & Aylesford) is still leading the charge on his proposals though support is gaining.

During my Leave I reaffirmed my opposition to the the referendum. Unfortunately at the time I had not slept properly in weeks, was restricted to 140 Character tweets and at the exact moment was heavily involved in a pitch battle with a 4 week old baby who wouldn't stop crying and a two year old who refused to believe daddy when he says;

You can't open the gate it is locked with a padlock and daddy doesn't have the key... Sophie stop that and- You get the idea.

Basically I could not out line why I think this is a complete waste of time so I thought I would write about it - then forgot - now been reminded by a recent post.

Right...

1. In the brief discourse Tris mentioned the AV referendum;

Public opinion was against AV, didn't stop referendum

Fair point.

There are a lot of comparisons that can be drawn between the two referendum;

Firstly its not that popular - yeah sure there's a very vocal support group but if you ask the average chap/ette on the street I'm sure there'd be a general apathy and the ultimate; What's the point? (I'm coming to that later)

The other comparison that a lot of we AV supporters found was that we all agreed with AV, all our friends on Twitter and at political meetings, the papers we read, the people on TV all agreed with AV but the public did not. I propose, and if you really think about it (go on) that it is the same with this one too. There is plenty of noise but from the same people. All the people I've spoken to think it is a waste of time. Like I said in a previous post - deafened by their own noise.

Also, similar to AV, there has been little debate on the subject especially in the local media. The average citizen hasn't really heard the debate from organisations such as DRINK or from Lord Foster etc. Indeed a while ago there was a meeting out on Hoo about the airport and it was a complete white wash of anti- airport propaganda and no one from Foster and Co to defend the project.

Further to that, the local Labour media machine has demonised anyone who thinks that the airport might be a good idea. Happened to me and I'm a no one really (for saying; Also... This hurts to admit this but... If it will benefit the nation as a whole and boost British Business for many decades then... well... can it really be a bad thing), I imagine many Councillors are running scared of even suggesting they like the idea.

How can you have a balanced and fair referendum with an automatic public bias to the idea?

Surely, any independent survey and or Consultation would take that into consideration and dismiss the results?

Especially that the window for such a referendum is shrinking. The proposals were to tack them onto the Police Commissioner's election this November - the clock is ticking and it doesn't look viable.

2. The cynic in me thinks that this is no more than a large stick to beat the Tories with. After all it is about giving people a voice and people like that. Thoughts of practicality go to the wind, there almost inconvenient.

After all, Zach Goldsmith has threatened a bi-election, Heathrow area might get a referendum! Why not here!!!! Booooo- Tories!!!!

Of course if the airport gets built, that's the Tories fault because we didn't get a referendum and if it doesn't then they can claim victory for the over all campaign... win-win

But as I say, that's me being cynical.

3. Ultimately the referendum would mean nothing.

The Government is looking to improve National airport capacity, they will be looking coolly at environmental effects, infrastructure, space, housing etc... Of course local opinion will be taken into it but let us be brutally honest - will it really matter if the Nation's needs are more important.

I cite Spock (see video - about 1:14) and you cannot argue with that logic. The NATIONAL government must make decisions for the many, rather than the few. Any referendum will look NIMBY, especially if debate has not occurred and/or there is a low turn out.

If all potential sites were to return with referendums with a No vote what would you expect the Government to do?

4. There is still no guarantee that a new airport will be built as there are options like maximising current space and ports. There is also no guarantee that there will be one built here, what with all the problems that threaten the island/Hoo environmentally and logistically which are enough to sink the project before you include the lack of political support by the Libdems, Labour and Local Conservatives nor any of the local councils.

A referendum would work out as overkill.

5. Finally, and I do concede a little ground here...

The Referendum/ bi-elections are a one shot weapon. You can only use them once and it is too soon to do that. The Consultation starts next year and as I have illustrated here, and before, there is no need to run about like a wet hen firing of salvo after salvo. It is commonly known that you hold your best hand to last, or your doomsday weapons to the end - you don't drop an H-bomb to capture a bridge.

If a referendum does prove to be the only solution, the last straw or line of defence then let it be. We have time on our side and a huge ball of possibilities to unravel well before talk of a referendum or Bi-election becomes necessary.

Right, that all said, I'm going to put my ear plugs back in and wait for the inevitable return barrage....

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Nick Clegg apologises

Last night when I saw the email from Nick Clegg entitled "it is difficult to say this but..." I honestly thought he was resigning.

My heart lodged in my throat as I fought to stream the video.

I, personally, feel Clegg has done a good job. Well as good as anyone can do in a Coalition. Yeah we've had to back down on things, I was disappointed about Trident, I was deeply hurt when we had to abandon Lords reform and I, like many was devastated over Tuition fees.

The decision to vote with the Government and not stand by the pledge like Julian Huppert or Greg Mulholland, or even to abstain like Simon Hughes has been a millstone around his neck and it has cast a shadow over everything we have achieved in Parliament and I fear that this will be the Libdem legacy and what he is remembered for.

According to Andrew Grice's report in today's I;

He decided to "fess up" to the country during his summer holiday in Spain - and refused to be talked out of it

There are suspicions that he has made this move to boost his flagging popularity, fend off talks of a leadership crisis at Conference or to just make a point. I believe, and you can call me naive if you want, that he is genuinely sorry. After all it was conference who voted to continue the campaign against tuition fee rises when leadership knew holding to it was a risky gamble especially with the high prospect of a Hung Parliament yet they continued on with it.

How many of our politicians actually apologise for their mistakes? Not many.

I think it takes real balls to come forward with this, to open himself up to the criticism that was rained down on Twitter and Youtube and even the press.

The Liberal Democrats have done a lot of good in this Coalition, and even though it would be easy to blame the Tories for all the bad stuff we must hold our hands up and accept a slice of the blame but being in Government means adult decisions, tough problems that need resolving in the worst deficit that we, as a nation, have seen in a ludicrous time. May be it would have been better to sit in the comfort zone of opposition and sniping about cuts and tuition rises but we have rolled up our sleeves and got involved for better or worse.

All Nick, and indeed I, would ask the electorate to do is to judge the party on its successes as well as its shocking defeats. Look at the toddlers who are getting free pre-school, look at the higher threshold on income taxes... Clegg has worked hard and fought hard, even recently calming down Michael Gove's education bill... Coalitions' are tough, especially with the problems and the amount of change and reform that was needed in this country, and there are not always going to be wins.

Any way, that's enough from me... If you haven't already seen it, here's Nick and I'll let you all judge for yourselves.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Political leaders our out of touch with reality

Taken on Gillingham High street last week
In his article for Party People last week Councillor Geoff Juby, leader of the Medway Liberal Democrat Council group has rightly indicated that those who run the economy are not seeing the whole picture.

The situation at the bottom is indeed dire. The Medway towns are indeed suffering, in fact the three poorest wards of Chatham central, Gillingham South and Gillingham North have been granted improvement funds to be administered by the CAB due to their poverty.

Across the towns we have empty buildings, both commercial and residential and with people's outgoings far exceeding incomes it is no wonder legal loan sharks and pawnshops are so popular, especially with 17% of houses in the area have no one in work and 174 applicants for 22 jobs at a local Tesco. The people of Medway aren't lazy or looking for handouts they want to be listened to and good economic judgement from those at the top.

Geoff said: Whom can we trust with the economy? Ed Balls presided over the the scandalous greed of the big banks and unfortunately our current leaders live in a world of private schools and high income. It would do them all good to come and live for a week at the level of some of our workers, existing on the minimum wage with families to support - there might be a bit more compassion then!

I think it's a fair comment. After all, of you've never had to scrimp and save in your life time, had to stretch the food budget to its limit, been faced with the balance screen at the cashpoint saying "amount available £0 " whilst having to pay out still, will not appreciate what they have got. I've been that poor before and I regularly review things so that it won't happen again.

I'm not discriminating against George Osborne or David Cameron but lets be honest, they have never known such times, I'd wager neither have the Eds and to be brutally honest I doubt Nick has. It is difficult to empathise with a situation which you are not familiar with.

Although this plan to encourage the building trade will bring welcome relief to areas of the country and to those in the building trade there is also the problem that here in Medway, no one can afford to do the work. What is more important to you? Getting to work? Keeping a much needed car on the road? Extending your conservatory?

Politicians need to think about us, those at the bottom of the ladder, who want to make ends meet, who don't want hand outs, who work hard but still want family life. Yes, the Liberal Democrat influence in Government has helped with the raising of the Income tax threshold, immeasurably so as now my wife won't have to pay it putting money back in our pockets, but we need more action like this rather than sweeping measures.

Morgan Spurlock, the American documentary maker once spent 30 days living on the US minimum wage and he was shocked at how much of a struggle it was. I, like Geoff, would welcome members of the cabinet doing the same thing!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Arming the Police

In the light of the tragic shootings in Manchester today many commentators and reactionaries are calling for the Police to carry fire arms as they do on the continent but is it really time?

The armed Police record is constantly called into question such as the Barrister who was shot 3 times whilst on a rampage on his roof or the case of Mark Dugan which sparked last year's riots. Even in the case of Raol Moatt, a clearly dangerous man who was on the run has had his death analysed by many different bodies and discussions as to whom was in the right.

Further to this is the Tomlinson case. A man with a heart condition was knocked to the ground (and killed) by a scared and desperate Police officer. What happens if you arm that officer with a pistol?

Horror stories of police officers on a power trip abusing their positions and killing people who don't deserve it like the recent case in Jamaica of a police officer who killed an eight month pregnant woman and wounded her two sisters for "resisting arrest". I'm not going to lie, it will probably happen here to.

On the flip side though, the bad guys are carrying better weapons the terrorists! They're throwing grenades, using Uzis to shoot up cars and newsagents and we're sending our cops in with nothing but an ASP and pepper spray. We can look forwards to more incidents like today, where two unarmed officers are gunned down in the street mercilessly.

In defence of some of the incidents of over zealous police fire arm use and I quote a former Sergeant in the Met;

When you see a man with a gun threatening to shoot you or others, you shoot first.

It is also worth noting, again quoting the Sergeant;

When you aim at a man there are so many variables that can effect the bullet's trajectory, wind variations, dirt in the barrel... you may be aiming for the torso and you end up striking an arm or a leg.

Of course when my Grandfather told me that he was talking about shooting at German soldiers but he said the same was true of any fire arm and that it is often mistaken that Police have shot a man dead when the officer was aiming to wound.

I'm not suggesting that we should arm our Police officers up like those pictured or for an immediate rush of armed cops on the streets but I think the time has come that we, as a nation start to think about this seriously.  The streets of London are massively more dangerous than when my Grandfather patrolled Brixton, I wouldn't do their job in urban areas especially with these Postcode gang wars and the readiness of individuals to splash you over a wall knowing they'll get an easy stretch in jail and ultimate hero status as a Cop-killer. I think it is time for stiffer sentences and level the playing field and let the thin blue line be able to return fire when needed.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Page 3 debate

I must admit I only caught a bit of the Page 3 debate on Twitter last night but I think I get the general gist of it, for it is an age old argument.

Basically, the pro page 3 lobby states that it is freedom of expression, a British institution, there are worse images available in lads mags etc.

The anti lobby says that it is degrading to women, brings sexually explicit imagery into the home as well as within the reach of children and is just not the sort of thing that modern enlightened human beings should be looking at.

I offer no solutions to this, only opinions and suggestions really.

Firstly, and much to teenage Chris' annoyance, I do agree with the point about the availability of the paper and the Sun's portrayal as a family paper.
(yep just heard a door slam in my head and Garbage has been cranked up- he's annoyed.)
I don't read the Sun, nor the Star or Sport (if you can read the Sport) unless I'm stood in a takeaway waiting for my order. I find it poorly written and embarrassing when trying to read Page 2's politics and Penny 22 from Gravesend is flashing herself at me. I feel judged by the proprietor in a family restaurant.

I also agree that such images should not be available in a "family" paper. I know that certain Lads mags like FHM and Loaded have an age restriction on the tills at Tesco but the Sun and magazines like Nuts and Zoo do not. Such images, and teenage Chris is definitely upset at me now, cannot appear on television before a certain hour or in a movie without a certain rating (12 or 15) do why should they be available in print to all ages?

In defence, there is the freedom of speech and publication and if you don't like it you have the freedom not to buy it. This is a little flimsy in the face of the age restrictions though.

I'd also say that, although it may be degrading and reduce women to the status of sex objects - sorry but that is how men can be wired- it can also enforce a positive Female image.

Now, hear me out on this...

If you look at models like Sophie Howard, Lucy Pinder, Lucy Collette (pictured) or others, they're all curvy models not the stick thin androgynous models of the catwalk. Also, the Sun's "no implant" policy means they are all naturally curvy.

The other thing is a lot of these girls do a lot of charity work and use their public appearances to raise public interest and money for worthy causes. Take for example all of the hard work Peta Todd has done for Help the heroes. Seriously, she's been tireless - seriously go check it out, she's an inspiration. There's also the tours as "forces sweethearts" to Iraq and Afghanistan. It's only through their wide circulation that they're able to do this.

As I say, I've got no solutions just a few considerations. I do think however that an age limit is a good idea.

Tim Farron in the Telegraph today

In today's Telegraph, libdem president Tim Farron had his words slightly twisted and misquoted but what he said was very valid.

Firstly, affordable housing is much needed. This isn't just for the hundreds of thousands of young people who cannot afford to even take the first step onto the property ladder and lost into the black-hole of renting or those who, like me, had to tragically wait for a relative to die to be able to afford it.

It would also be invaluable for encouraging the growth and work of the lagging construction companies, more so than the puny measures at the moment which relies on homeowners having enough money to improve their houses. Lets face it, that's only going to be in affluent areas and Medway and other large urban areas are not going to be able to afford it.

We need to build 250,000 social and affordable houses by 2015. - Fact

I would also argue that we need to continue the Coalition's work in bringing "Abandoned" and unused houses back and refurbish them for new owners and tenants.

Tim goes on to suggest that funding could be found by Quantitative easing from the bank of England with Social housing bonds being handed straight to local councils and housing Associations.

Suddenly out there alot of people are worrying about the rise in council housing across the nation. Why shouldn't there be? Here in Medway it has been revealed that 17% of house residents having no bread winners and the CAB suggests that the average debt of someone who has come to them is £40k!
On top of that the average price of a house, like mine, in Gillingham with three bedrooms in a terrace is somewhere between £100-150k to buy and to rent a 4 bedroom house very similar to me its £1400 pcm! With jobs so scarce that 174 people applied for 22 places at the new Strood Tesco you can see that housing is something that people need help with.

I also think that Tim is right that the South east is where it is going to have to fall. Now I can hear other parties scoffing etc but lets be honest; the south east is beautiful, I love the Weald and rural Kent but unfortunately we do have a huge population density and something needs to be done otherwise urban centres like Medway, like Maidstone - will have slums in them and we're straight back to the Victorian era.

I did find the articles "concern" at Tim's statement about coalition with Labour interesting too. Its as if they're are trying to paint the party as another leftist threat. What was said on the topic was;

I don't see why not - of course we can work with either party, it's up to the British electorate - whoever is the most popular party has the right to form a government and we won't hinder that.

Which is what Nick said after 2010 election. If either party approaches to form a coalition we're listening, surely that's a given? Doesn't mean that we are pro Labour any more than we are Pro Tory.

There is also the criticism of the Coalition and the Conservatives. Now, I don't think that it is an attack, nor is it Tim flag waving in an attempt to attract votes for the up coming presidential election or even dare I say it(?) future leadership prospects, (I'll discuss this in another blogpost soon!) but indeed just a Libdem standing up for Libdem values. After all - we aren't the Conservative party and we have an opinion - Tim is just voicing it.

It may well be that the Prime Minister is trying to move in that direction (right) He can pick and chose his ministers but he cannot pick and choose what is in the Coalition Agreement. So that means Heathrow ain't happening. Neither is any edging away from our commitment to be the greenest Government ever.

If this is a shift right, it really is just a bit silly


Its not an attack just a statement of fact from the Libdem perspective.

So lets put down the faux right wing anger and stirring that, personally I thought, ran in the under current.

I for one, back Tim on this, for what it is worth, and agree that we are a Coalition of two different parties, with different views and its good - no wait it is better than good, lets say FANTASTIC to hear a vocal Libdem on the subject and outline differences and future policies.