France following form

Apparently France are threatening a walk out from the G20 summit in London.

It wouldn't be the first time the French have made an untimely and unwanted exit from a major world event. I seem to recall they did it in 1940 too !


Throwing the baby out with the bath water

Why is it that because a few bad MPs have bent and twisted the second home allowance in order to pocket vast sums of cash that other MPs who have not been corrupt and live in rural constituencies some distance from the Westminster will miss out in the future ?

It strikes me that there must be many MPs who do their work in Westminster much better because they do have a small place of their own to store suits, fresh clothes and even a small desk to get some work done, things that are not always possible of MPs are to be asked in future to use hotels to stay overnight.

Simply clearing up the system and making better rules that work seems a far better option.

The Trouble with Boris - Channel 4 Dispatches

No doubt Tories will come out with a ringing endorsement of Boris Johnson after the Channel 4 expose of his first year in charge in the capital, but at the half way point through the hour long investigation the basic accusation against Boris Johnson is, as I understand it, that he ;

1) Is obsessed with gimmicks that have no meaningful effect.
2) Makes claims about making London more eco friendly but his policies have the opposite effect.
3) Writes letters to interest groups but then does the opposite of what he promises.
4) Seems to favour friends who employ him or offer him free rooms for his campaigns.
5) Consults with staff on the basis that they reply quickly so he can "get the story in to The Sun".
6) Appoints people to high office within London who seem to be unqualified or have dubious qualifications for the role.
7) Pushes excessive new "social" housing in to Labour boroughs and away from Tory ones, in a way that I assumed to be a "Gerrymandering" exercise.
8) He has not got a clue about the way the Police have to remain operationally independent and that he sought to exert pressure on and intervene in police matters.

And we are only half way through the 60 minutes.

Labour had hoped that a Boris victory would let the cat out of the bag about what the Tories are like when in power. It appears they may be getting their wish.

Common sense on education ?

What a complete and genuine surprise from the government today. An announcement on schools which should be greeted by teachers, parents and learners alike.

The government, it seems, have woken up to the fact that school league tables really are no proper measure of how good a school is. It is clear to anyone who has any knowledge of the education system that league tables record only what is measurable and not what is important.

Instead of simple tables recording SATs results, the government wants schools to be graded in a similar way to that used in New York with grades given judging the "added value" that schools gives to children's results, the schools record on discipline, school attendance and a whole host of other measures.

Don't whisper it too loud but Ed Balls, the education minister, might not be as dim as he seems !


The sad irony

Today, in Scotland, the Dunfermline Building Society, Scotland's biggest such society, was taken in to government control after effectively going bankrupt.

This is sad news for the employees who may lose their jobs but it says something about Gordon Brown, doesn't it, that his constituency includes parts of Dunfermline ?

Where on earth were the police ?

A man was assaulted and is now fighting for his life in hospital after being beaten up in the heart of Norwich's "clubland" down Prince of Wales Road.

The big question for me is how could this have happened at 1.00 am, in the heart of Norwich, an area where there has been a constant history of drink related violence late at night, yet the police were seemingly not there or failed to intervene before the victim suffered life threatening injuries ?

If I had to place police anywhere on a Friday night in Norwich is would be half way down Prince of Wales Road between Mercy and Chicago's, which was exactly where the incident took place last night.

The other issue is what were the numerous doormen doing whilst this was happening ?

A friend of mine some years ago was beaten badly in Norwich late at night whilst so called professional trained doormen shouted a warning to the men beating him up to "go now, the police are here", whilst when it came to court the doormen told the CPS that they saw "nothing".

People out on a late night in Norwich need the police to anticipate danger. If I know where the problems will be, why were they not there ?


Google Street - Doing wonders for Norwich's tourist trade

Google Street is getting lots of headlines this week and Norwich is one of the 25 cities that Google decided to feature, although it is a Norwich I barely recognise.

Oddly, virtually every shot of Norwich seems to be in great weather and sunshine, things which I certainly don't recognise as being typical of Norwich. It did make me wonder when the city was photographed, but looking at specific shots of buildings I knew to be closing and area where building work was ongoing, I have worked out he photography was done during late July, which oddly was our sunny week last year.

So Norwich had better prepare for a boost in tourist numbers who having seen Google Street, will be under the false impression Norwich is some sort of tropical paradise. Oh how disappointed they will be,


Michael Winner on Question Time ? A new low

I am not going to watch the rest of Question Time if the first question is any pointer to the rest of the show.

What is the point of having a guest like Michael Winner ? He offered nothing on a really important question about Iraq and couldn't really answer the subsequent question put to him by Dimblebore.

And as for Caroline Lucas .... ZZZZZZZZzzzzzz. Time to sleep


Looking forward to the new series of The Apprentice

I am an unashamed fan of The Apprentice. I have watched it since the first series when it was slightly hidden away on BBC2 and have always found its production values and tasks to be of the highest order. However, this does not stop the moaners and whingers in society from slagging of the show or seeking to talk it down.

I heard on Five Live this morning some pillock arguing that the show was not suited to a recession and that Alan Sugar ought to change his catchphrase from "You're fired" to something more suitable for our difficult times. Honestly, it makes you want to scream at the radio to these idiots that :

1) It's an entertainment show.
2) Nobody is forced to go on to the show.

Probably the most interesting thing in the early shows is the way that people go in to the show claiming things like "I was born to make money" or "I don't understand the meaning of failure" or even "Making money is better than sex", only to find within a few weeks that these people have been shown to be hopeless individuals with no business sense, no people skills and a complete waste of space.

Still, when they get fired they could always find a job suited to people who cannot add up and know nothing about business. I hear RBS and HBOS are looking for Chief Executives.


So I made a mistake ... but it could be worse

On Saturday night, rather late, I posted a story about how Iain Dale really didn't get it when it comes to Vince Cable. Due to the lateness of the day and a lack of sleep, I didn't really go in to the depth of research I my normally do. In short, I cocked up with some of my facts, perhaps made worse by the fact that when adding an update in Sunday I didn't check up on Peter Lilley and the fact that he had actually been shadow chancellor.

Iain Dale actually contacted me to point out my error, and I guess some would have deleted the story and hope people would forget about it. However, I get sick to death of bloggers deleting stories they have written in order to make out they have some sort of unblemished record of accuracy.

So I decided to leave the story in place. Iain linked to it and a received the abuse that perhaps I in part deserve. I also think that like our politicians, bloggers and journalists should hold up their hands and say when they have made errors. It is too easy for people on the internet to press delete.

I still believe that Iain Dale fails to given Vince Cable the credit he deserves, but before calling Iain names (even in jest), I need to double check my facts. Lesson learnt.

However, it could be worse. I love they way when anyone makes a mistake the anonymous trolls come out to play and leave silly and abusive comments. Many of them are anonymous, but you also get those who I think are lower in the food chain than the anonymous poster. Those are the people who register their Wordpress or Blogger ID, but choose to keep it anonymous.

These people, who snipe and hurl abuse, have neither the guts to write their own blogs or the bravery to put their name to their views.

So whilst I may make mistakes, and I am sure I will again at some point in the future, but I'd rather read another blogger like me who shows they are human, stands up to be counted and doesn't hide behind some electronic veil rather than be a sniper from the sidelines who offers nothing other than barbs and bile.

Tony McNulty is right, but also so very wrong

Tony McNulty, the Minister who has pocketed £60,000 by claiming expenses for a second home which he does not live in is write when he says he has broken no parliamentary rules. But so wrong when we look at what he has done as Joe Public.

The man in the street does not care that he has followed some archaic rules which allow some MPs a way of legitimising fraud on a massive. What the ordinary voter wants is MPs who understand what is right and decent and more than that, what is honestly earnt and honestly claimed.

So he is right when he says he has followed the rules but it is clear, and the voters of his constituency will no doubt take the opportunity to tell him that he is so wrong.


Who says the Premier League is boring ?

I am no Liverpool fan (I support Everton), but I have to take my hat off to them today for re-opening the title race after everyone seemed prepared to had the title on a plate to Manchester United.

Whilst the Premiership might be a closed shop in respect of the top four nearly always being the same, there is no doubting that the Premier League really is the envy of the world.

Would you feel safe living near this place ?

A mental institution in London that holds serious violent and sexual offenders has had yet another escape.

This report makes it clear that this is not the first recent escape. Would you feel safe living nearby ? Who is in charge of the security at this place ?

Put simply, why on earth is this allowed to happen over and over again ?

Iain Dale just doesn't get it

Iain Dale asks where Vince Cable was in 1997. One would have hoped Iain would know this but Vince was only newly elected that year.

Secondly, for the second time this week he is trying to claim that the Tories were first to predict the economic crisis. Oddly his justification for this last time was a quote from Robert Peston (the BBC economic guru) that stated the Tories were asking questions about the economy before Labour. What the Peston quote didn't say was that the Tories were first to say it. But this didn't stop Iain from taking the quote and claiming it showed the Tories were first and said it before the Lib Dems.

But now he is saying that Peter Lilley, back in 1997, was saying that there were problems ahead. This is odd in itself as it seems to be that Peter Lilley, a Tory, was saying just as the Tories were leaving office, that the Tories policies were wrong. And given that Labour pretty much adopted Tories spending for the first two years of their government, clearly Peter Lilley must have been saying that the Tories own policies were to blame ?

It might make Iain feel better to make spurious claims that the Tories were right, but the country and the press know the truth, and a few postings like Iain's are not going to persuade people otherwise.

Update : As Iain points out to me in the comments, Peter Lilley was explicitly referring to the government decision (Labour) to set up the FSA. I accept that this is not a direct criticism of Tory policies up to 1997 but does beg the more important question as to why it is that Peter Lilley has been sidelined by the Tories since the late 1990s. It seems his criticisms were not welcome in the Tory party, a party reliant on hedge funds managers and city types making large donations from their bonuses. So let's be kind and accept that one Tory might have made a good point. Out of all the Tories in parliament you might bless at least one of them with a brain. You can say he spoke for the Tory Party at this point but when the Tory Shadow cabinet hasn't exactly been repeating Lilley's line since 1997, it tells you where the Tories stand on the issue.

Compare this to Vince Cable who speaks for the Lib Dems officially and remains a key member of the Lib Dem team and there is your difference Iain.


Fred the Fraud

Tomorrow's papers are apparently full of revelations regarding Sir Fred Goodwin, the man who liked to be known as Fred the Shred for his costcutting.

Apparently various newspapers and the Lib Dems have found out that his office was decorated with wallpaper costing £1000 a roll, his limo bill per month was £100,000 and on top of this, in the very height of decadence, he liked his fruit to be flow in on a daily basis from Paris.

Isn't it about time he was referred to as Fred the Fraud ?


So spectacularly wrong on so many levels

Peter Mandelson took it upon himself today to give a lecture to the few remaining car companies producing automobiles in this country today, advising them to make the right decisions to ensure their futures. I am sure the car industry could barely control their excitement at getting advice from the UK government.

What is clear so far is that the UK government have got it so wrong when it comes to supporting industry in this country during the depression and sadly seems so completely unable to recognise successes in other countries. In the case of the car industry, Britain should be taking a lesson from the Germans.

Our Labour government are handing out the prospect of large sums of money to support car companies and stop them laying off workers, although no payments have yet been made by the UK government. This means the depression is deepening, the prospects for these manufacturers is getting worse, and so we have a catch 22 situation which the money from the UK government will do little to put right. The UK is expecting 500,000 less new car sales this year. That is the state of the hole we are in.

Compare this to Germany where the government is subsiding people who want to sell old inefficient cars and buy new cars to the tine of 3000 Euros (£2500). This means that in Germany this year they are expecting to sell 200,000 more new cars this year than last year.

So perhaps Peter Mandelson should shut up and listen rather than giving lectures.

Update : Iain Dal e-mailed me very late last night to tell me that I had spelt "shut" with an "i". A Freudian slip from me ?


Only a week late

Iain Dale tagged me a week ago to take part in a small challenge/meme which asked if I had seen any of the 25 DVDs that Barack Obama had given to Gordon Brown.

Shamefully I didn't see the e-mail saying I was tagged until last night, so belatedly I am taking the challenge.

Those I own are

1) Star Wars (No, I will not call it "Episode 4" or "A New Hope". I saw it at the cinema in 1978 and it was simply called Star Wars.)
2) It's a Wonderful Life. Surely one of the greatest films ever made ?

Those I have seen are

1) Schindler’s List - Brilliant
2) ET - Brilliant
3) Gone With The Wind - A Ripping Yarn
4) Singin’ in the Rain - Harmless Fun
5) Lawrence of Arabia - Incredible
6) Vertigo - Tense and brilliantly made
7) The Wizard of Oz - Always bored me

8) 2001 A Space Odyssey - Again, always bored me.
9) The Graduate - Fun, of its time, a good film.
10) Psycho - Brilliantly made
11) Some Like it Hot - Classic film, brilliant acting.
12) The Godfather - A must see film.
13) To Kill a Mockingbird - Incredible. Show it to any racist and see them squirm.
14) Casablanca - Seen it, pleased I did, wouldn't bother to watch it again.

Not Seen -
City Lights, Sunset Boulevard, , The General, The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, The Searchers, On the Waterfront, Chinatown.

So I score 16 out of 25. Not too bad I think.


F1 becomes a cup tie

It strikes me as odd to change Formula One from something that means the most consistently good driver ends up as champion to a lottery whereby luck now becomes more important than consistency.

Changing from the F1 champion being the one with the most points to the one with the most wins opens up the possibility of the F1 champion next year only finishing three races, winning them all, and then beating in to second place another driver who finishes all the races, wins two and comes second in all the other races. Fair ? Hardly.

It all seems a little desperate and turns what is a league based on real results over a whole season in to one of chance more akin to a cup tie in football.

The worst possible thing to find on your doorstep ... a racist leaflet full of lies from the BNP

The people in my village are probably arriving home this evening to find their doorsteps littered with something even more unpleasant than a cat turd. Yes, the BNP have been out delivering hate filled leaflets full of contradictory myths that they claim to be fact.

I cannot be bothered list all the errors and lies they claim as "facts" in their leaflets, but needless to say if you are blaming the EU and immigration from Europe for the vast majority of immigration in to the UK, you can hardly claim that the UK will have white people as a minority in 50 years time, after all, most people from Europe are also white people.

As I said, it doesn't take a large brain to work out that if the BNP cannot get this simple fact right then there is a good chance that their other "facts" are equally wrong and misleading.

Still, there are plenty of thick people about who believe such rubbish or articles in the Daily Mail claiming we will be overrun in 50 years time.

A good argument stands on its own merits, but if you'll have to lie, you've lost the argument.


Why do the BBC and Eastenders get politics so wrong so consistently ?

Eastenders apparently prides itself on getting its facts right on issues. So what do they get it so wrong when it comes to politics ?

When it came to mark Fowler getting HIV, they spoke to people from the Terrence Higgins Trust, they spoke to people in the NHS, the spoke to real people who had HIV/AIDS.

When they dealt with Diana Butcher running away from home they spoke to groups who deal with the homeless like Shelter, they spoke to charities who help children with problems like Childline.

In fact, on every social issue the BBC and Eastenders make great efforts to be as correct on the issue as possible and avoid sensationalistand factual errors.

But for politics who do they speak to ?

When Iain Beale stood for the Walford East by-election back in 1998, there were a series of factual errors, not the least of which is the assumed belief that candidates do not know the result until it is publicly announced. So have the BBC spoken to anyone since then ? Obviously not.

There is in Eastenders at the moment a by-election in Walford East again. Peggy Mitchell is the candidate. The by-election is in three weeks time (2nd April). And that brings up the first error. Why is it on a Monday ? No explanation and a clearly odd day for an election, especially given that Thursday is an Eastenders day, but clearly the producers of the show decided that holding an election on a traditional day for elections was not important.

The second "gaffe" from a political hacks point of view was that Peggy handed in her nomination papers about a month ago. this would have been seven weeks before the election day. Any political hack or former election agent knows that you cannot hand in papers this early as the election timetable has a clear window for the handing in of nomination papers. You could argue that Peggy might have been pro-active in this case and got them in advance, but this is a by-election and things are very strictly controlled in such elections with less chance of being pro-active when it comes to nominations.

This second gaffe though was compounded by a third gaffe as Peggy Mitchell got her nomination papers handed in during the evening. She even made comment about the fact that she "handed them in". Oh that we could all live in Walford where council offices stay open so late.

Perhaps though the most common gaffe in TV is the belief that a public meeting is still the centrepiece and deciding factor in any election campaign.

Tonight's episode of Eastenders featured a public meeting of candidates which was attended by all of 20 people yet Peggy's performance was enough, in front of only a handful of people, to make people think that she was set to win ? Public meetings might have been decisive in the period up to the 1960's, but I have yet to go to one that has made any difference to a campaign.

And what of Walford East ? How big would the ward be ? 3000 houses ? More ? Yet no mention is made of canvassing or delivering leaflets. A leaflet was shown in one episode but it was like something from the 1950s and nothing like leaflets 90% of people get through there doors at election time. So it begs the question why one landlady in one pub would be so well known outside of Albert Square. Clearly the Eastenders producers think that local council wards are made up of 50 houses only.

In truth, none of this is important and for 99.9% of the viewing public, none of the machinations of politics is of any interest, but if Eastenders can go to the trouble of doing such great research in to serious issues which require lots of explaining, couldn't they speak to someone who knows something about politics to ensure that at least they get the very basics right when it comes to elections ?


The truth the Tories won't acknowledge

Vince Cable pointed out at the Lib Dems Scottish conference that whilst the Tories might be apologising now for calling for less scrutiny of banks and the City of London and for not seeing the current financial crisis coming, there is something the Tories don't want people to know. Speaking about "Call me Dave" Cameron, Vince said

"It would have been rather bigger of him if he had also admitted that the Liberal Democrats did see this coming, and we did warn about it,"

Indeed I seem to recall the Tories attempting to ridicule Vince Cable for what he was saying 18 months ago. Still, when your party is essentially funded by hedge funds managers and people with their noses in the trough in the City of London, you cannot expect the Tories to really do anything about it.

Another example of biased reporting towards Apple

I am not an Apple fan. The company's obsession with seemingly making their technology not work with other manufacturers equipment is something that I find hard to fathom in the modern digital world whilst those who would buy a dog turn if it had an Apple badge on it also turn me off their range. And to prove just how biased the world is in favour of Apple, look at THIS article on the BBC website which hails the new Ipod shuffle which "tells you what song is playing". Every MP3 player I have had since 2004 has told me what song is being played via the built in screen, so the fact that Apple have failed to add screens to the Shuffle in the past and are now finding away around the absense of a screen should hardly be sold as a feature, but its a sign of the massive bias towards Apple from the press.


Are Cheshire Police "institutionally racist"

It seems that if you are a man window shopping in certain parts of Cheshire, not only is your custom unwelcome, but the local constabulary will turn up mob handed and try to make out that you are about to rob the shop.

What is so ludicrous in the case from last Wednesday was that not only was the person that the police did this too a Premiership footballer, but he was on crutches having undergone a major operation after suffering cruciate ligament damage in the Everton match against Newcastle some weeks ago and the police tried to take his crutches away from him.

Oh, and of course the player, Victor Anichebe is black. One might wonder if his teammates Philip Neville, Leighton Baines or Dan Gosling would have received such treatment from the Police. I doubt that those white men would have been treated in the same way.


Student Loans Company - Not fit for purpose

Last year, after an enormous amount of effort from both myself and an amazingly helpful member of staff who deals with teachers pay, I finally got the Student Loans Company to admit I had repaid my Student Loan in full. The Student Loans company wanted me to carry on repaying my Student Loan for another year, whereupon they said they would repay me a year's worth of repayments at the end of the financial year.

Now, some 11 months later, the Student Loans company have sent me two further letters claiming I owe them different amounts.

To describe the Student Loans Company as "not fit for service" is to discredit other government agencies that have also been given this label.

The SLC are the student version of the Child Support Agency. Incompetent, unhelpful and totally unfocused on helping customers.


Teaching in 6 months ? Idiocy from Labour

The government's latest bright idea is to say that the way to improve standards in education is to bring in a load of people with no educational experience, no previous inclination to want to teach, and get the trained in six months. What a joke.

I did a PGCE to qualify to teach, a one year course, and I would argue that even that is not really quite adequate to teach, but just about covers everything briefly. However, I cannot see how bringing in so called "high flyers" and offering them a shortcut to teaching is going to actually raise standards in education.

It seem that teaching is constantly treated as a second thought by ministers in government. We wouldn't offer doctors a 50% length course to qualify. They wouldn't offer RAF pilots a half length course in order to fly RAF Typhoons. I doubt that the government would consider allowing Royal Navy officers a shortened course in order to steer ships and submarines. However a teacher, who in effect controls the standard of education a child gets in one year of their life, they believe, can get a shortcut through the system.

What I fail to understand is why high flyers, with no experience of classroom management, rules, laws, teaching standards, school ICT, or lesson planning and structures can't go through a full one year PGCE like everyone else. If the government believe that making them do an extra few months will put them off, then what does it say about these people and their commitment to young people and education.

More to the point, what does it say about this government that they think this is a good idea.


Pathetic army excuse about base security does nothing to answer the questions

In the wake of the death of two British soldiers in Northern Ireland, am I the only person who finds the answers coming from the British army in Northern Ireland to be totally lacking in an awareness of the shocking way base security has been treated.

The head of the British Army failed to properly answer questions about why base security guards failed to fire a single shot in return and instead asked the press if they expected security guards to fire in to a group of people that included British soldiers. Quite clearly the press did not want security guards to shoot at British soldiers. What the press were asking was why it was that three terrorists could shoot for more than 30 seconds, why they could approach and fire further shots at those they wounded and why they could then withdraw on foot without a single shot being fired at them.

Furthermore, we all ought to be asking why it is that at a time when it is known that Islamic terrorists have wanted to target British soldiers and when the terrorist threat level had been raised in Northern Ireland, why are British army bases protected by civilians with the same powers as a special constable ? Why are they only lightly armed with pistols ? And why is it that when UK armed forces are specially trained in base security (the RAF Regiment stands out as being expert at this), why on earth are the armed forces not responsible for their own base security ?

As it is I found the army's response to questions about base security to be very poor and reminds me of the way equipment failures and shortages in Iraq and Afghanistan have been constantly excused by the armed forces, only to find a few months later when a senior officer quits that he speaks openly and says what he really knows to be true.


More lazy journalism from the BBC politics team

I am a fan of the BBC, but I also feel there is a large amount of laziness amongst journalists which is endemic within the BBC. Locally the BBC news team in East Anglia, and I am sure in other regions too, miss real political news stories and instead only print what is sent to them in press releases by the councils. This means we get a half baked version of the news, and this is true beyond the politics arena too. Too many journalists wait for a press release rather than finding a story themselves. So what does a BBC journalist do when sent to a Lib Dem conference if they want to be seen as a "go getter" or "investigative" ?

They revert to one of two stories that have been used over and over again. Either they report about what delegates are saying "off record" about the party leader or they ask people who the Lib Dems should work with in a coalition government. Interestingly they never ask the second question to Tories or Labour members at their conferences ?

So why should I be surprised that BBC journalist Brian Wheeler went for the coalition question this year ? The party are united behind Nick Clegg, so there is no party leader story to make up this year, so Mr Wheeler went for the other option.

It's just another example of very lazy journalism from the BBC. How about something original ? How about some proper in depth political analysis ? I won't hold my breath.

Lock her up

Whether you like Peter Mandelson or not, and I fall in to the "not" category, he is a minster, he ought to have had proper protection from any potential terrorist threat (especially as he was Northern Ireland Minister), and as a human being, he has the right to walk along our streets free from harassment and physical assault.

I tend to agree with what Peter Mandelson said on the Andrew Marr program this morning when he questioned why it was that some broadcasters (and the BBC were very much to blame in this case) seemed overly keen to offer the protester the oxygen of publicity, seemingly rewarding her illegal behaviour with the reward of an instant interview and a chance to pedal her politics live on air.

The way she was pandered to by Nicky Campbell on Radio Five Live with a total failure to question her methods, allowing her to claim she was standing up for democracy, and a lack of tackling her on her claims that she spoke for "the majority who oppose airport expansion", showed me that some radio broadcasters are nothing without briefing notes given to them by researchers.

I hope the police take the proper action against this woman and that she learns to accept that we do have democracy in this country and she can exercise it at the next general election.

One of the best reasons why you should have a Lib Dem MP

Irfan Ahmed points us to the a poll by Politics Home which shows that people who have Lib Dem MPs rate them as more local, independent, approachable, experienced, independent and perhaps best of all, they keep in touch more often than MP's of other parties.

If you are really undecided about whether to vote Lib Dem or not, take a closer look at the poll and put your "x" in the correct place.


Tories lead by example when it comes to the credit crunch

News reaches me that one Tory run council is offering staff a 0% pay rise this year whilst the councillors themselves took a large increase in allowances and in addition to this, another council (Broadland) has seen the Tories ignore Lib Dem pleas at the last full council meeting to halt plans for a further rise in allowances in order to "show solidarity with council tax payers at this difficult time". Sadly Broadland Tories felt a pay rise was more important.

Isn't it odd that at this particular time some Tory councils are notably unaware of the credit crunch and the need for councillors to lead by example.

Tories humiliated in Norfolk by-election

The Tories in the new Broadland constituency were given a salutary warning about the prospects for the Lib Dems when the Lib Dems sensationally took the Buxton seat on Broadland District Council from the Tories in a massive reversal of fortunes.

The Lib Dem candidate, Barbara Rix, won by 354 votes, gaining 555 votes to the Tories 201. The Greens trailed in a miserable third with just 22 votes.

The Broadland seat is a new Lib Dem target seat and the Tories, aware of this, pushed an enormous effort in to the campaign with dozens of Tory activists outnumbering the Lib Dems on some campaign weekends still unable to stop the Lib Dem Juggernaut in Broadland.

The Tories produced some high quality looking literature, but as ever, their campaign themes missed the point, failed to address real local concerns, and many voters are now starting to realise that Broadland District Council, under the Tories really offers nothing to those outside of the city fringes.

A big well done to April Pond (Broadland PPC) and her team who can look forward to the County elections with real hopes of further gains.


My memories of the miners strike

I was thirteen years old when the miners strikes started 25 years ago. I was not, perhaps, th best placed person to make judgments on the strike, but neither was I your typically stereotypical ignorant teenager. Yes, even then I was interested in politics. So what do I remember of that time ?

Most abiding memory was that the NUM and Arthur Scargill refused to allow a vote by members of the union on whether they should strike which for me was the key reason why I could not, back then, support the actions of miners. And as I recall this was the view of many people from non Tory midle class families who were probably union members but saw the NUM as being on a political crusade more than representing their members.

I cannot deny that Thatcher was playing politics too and it is well know that the government had prepared for the strike for 18 months in advance, but if Arthur Scargill had had any sense at all he could have called for a ballot, which at the start of the strike I am sure they would have won, and could have removed one of the government's key arguments from the debate. The constant government line that the NUM did not want to consult its own members because it was scared it would not get support for the strike was vital.

The winter and New Year of 1985 also stood out in my mind as a time when we genuinely feared that power cuts could come back. My parents were not overly stressed by this, they still had hundreds of candles from the 70's and the power cuts back then, but as a teenager with no real memories of such disruption, I found myself back then wanting to see the government win. Selfish, I know, but as I have got older and wiser and can see the very real reasons why miners went on strike, but can also still see why the government felt they had to take on the unions.

The saddest thing is that the scars of the strike still run deep with so many, even 25 years later. I used to go out canvassing in North Norfolk with fellow Lib Dem who was a former Kent miner. He said he had learnt to get on with the police and by moving to Norfolk he felt he could trust them, but back in Kent he could never speak to a policeman, couldn't help them and would never trust them, and he assured me that if I had witnessed what they did I would feel the same.

I cannot coment on whether he is right, but it is sad that the strike affected people so that they can still feel like this.


How many standing ovations would you trade in ?

So Gordon Brown has received a number of standing ovations from the US Congress for what was a proficient and actually rather fluent speech to them today.

I wonder how many of them he would trade in for some good news at home ?


In praise of the SNP

Which ever side of the argument you sit on over the thorny issue of raising alcohol prices with the aim of reducing excess alcohol use, you have to be impressed with the SNP's willingness to take the issue on, make unpopular decisions and not shirk the responsibilities that come with the trappings of office.

I heard a member of the alcoholics excuse group (also known as The Portman Group), an organisation funded by alcohol producers to ... erm ... well let's be clear, their job is simply to promote alcohol whilst pretending to want people to drink less or, as they say "drink responsibly". This is the same group that tells publicans to promote very alcoholic cider by "pouring it in a long class with ice". Anyway, I heard him wetting himself with fright on the radio this morning because the Portman Group will now be found out one way or the other.

If Scotland does see a fall in alcohol related illness, if alcohol consumption does drop north of the border and the SNP are proven to be right, then the credibility of the Portman group will be destroyed.

If, however, alcohol consumption does not change and the only result of the price increases is more people paying more and the SNP suffering a backlash the SNP can, in the short term, rely on the unpopularity of the Labour Party and can expect to retain much of their support for this simple reason.

So although it appears to be a gamble, the SNP really don't have much to lose and, more than anything else, it shows them to be willing to take risks and think the unthinkable.

So I raise my glass to them with cheap English bought Port. Cheers !


BBC investigating University Challenge winners eligibility

The BBC are investigating whether one of the winning team in University Challenge was actually a student at the college at the time of the filming.

Perhaps the contestant should be taken away from the police and given a "Slumdog millionaire" style interrogation by the police ?

Labour hypocrisy

When I first started this blog more back in 2006 one of my first blog posts was about a former Lib Dem activist, something of an "odd bod" if you understand what I mean, who had after some rows and internal party issues (to do with him thinking he was more important than he actually was), jumping ship to the Labour party. Subsequently to me posting my original story I was told he was actually rejected by the Tories, so in effect Labour were his last port of call.

Anyway, back in 2006 this person wrote a letter to the Eastern Daily Press attacking me in my position as a councillor and used this letter to also totally misrepresent the Lib Dems new policy on the Post Office.

Now, interestingly, Labour have in great part adopted about 50% of the Lib Dem proposals on the post office, only leaving out the Lib Dem proposal to hand 30% of the Post Office to staff so they can be shareholders in their own future.

So it is very odd that 30 months on from Labour members attacking the Lib Dems over a policy, Labour themselves are actually now flipping 180 degrees and largely agreeing with the Lib Dems.

It does though rather make an idiot of this former Lib Dem colleague of mine who attacked me personally, but then again, if you knew him (and I am sure many Norfolk Lib Dems will have a good idea who I am on about), you'd know it does not take much to make him look like an idiot !