13 December 2014

David Steel on Borders Rail

David Steel's thoughts on the closure (and reopening) of the Waverley rail line are featured in these two videos from Borders Rail:



It also has some interesting updates on the engineering progress of the project.

20 November 2014

Jihadi terrorist estate agent headline of the day

The Surrey Herald reports: 

Jihadi terrorists force Staines estate agent name change

To distance itself from the Jihadist terrorist group, an award-winning estate agents in Staines will change its name from iSiS to Oasis

9 November 2014

Waverley route - tracks reach the Borders for first time since 1970s

With track laying now reaching the actual Scottish Borders I stumbled across this progress video.  Hopefully the promised David Steel interview will be available soon.

25 October 2014

A last trip round Kingston's Hawker factory

The Hawker factory on Richmond Road in Kingston was the first building I saw when I moved to Kingston in 1990.  Its massive Art Deco facade was a dominant feature of the area and its bulldozing in 1993 remains one of the worst decisions of the planning inspectorate.  But I stumbled across this film recently showing the factory after its closure - which quite strangely only hints at the granduer of the main building just at the end of the video.

20 September 2014

Saturday song

It's time for that fantastic alliterative replacement for 'Friday favourite' - it's a post referendum 'Saturday song':

16 September 2014

Why we're not better together

Thursday's Scottish referendum looks set to go to the wire and despite the best efforts of the Westminster establishment the last days of scaremongering looks like it has only halted YES's momentum - but has clearly not turned it into any movement for the NO campaign.  So its likely effect is to reduce participation and drive turnout down - particularly from those who don't usually participate in the democratic process.

The pitch of the NO campaign is basically that it is too risky and uncertain for Scotland to take any decisions other than those Westminster, Whitehall and the City of London are happy to give away to the Scots.  The upsurge in YES voting intention didn't change this essential power relationship it only made the list of things the establishment were prepared to give to the Scottish Parliament to determine a bit longer (assuming the Westminster parties can agree an any of it).

The UK remains one of the world's most centralised states - with more than 95% of all public revenues and spending being the responsibility of the Treasury - just 4.4% is raised and accountable to local authorities through the Council Tax.   This bureacratic over centralisation drives out local initiative - in England as much as elsewhere - and contributes to the disconnect between the government and the governed - particularly the further you go from the south east of England.

Now this isn't news and liberals have had a long held belief in political and constitutional reform - and particularly decentralising power to local communities.

So it wasn't surprising that many in the party were confident post 2010 with the Liberal Democrats part of the coalition and with Nick Clegg having responsibility for constitutional reform that progress would have been made in recasting the UK into a more modern decentralised and pluralistic democracy.  Sadly reform of the House of Lords and the voting system have been an abject failure, localism proved nothing more than spin and with MPs snouts in the expenses trough like never before Clegg and the Coalition have failed to make any meaningful progress.

So all that's left of the constitutional reform agenda is the Scottish independence referendum courtesy of the SNP government in Edinburgh.

The break up of the failed centralised UK state and the opportunity to decentralise power - not just to Scotland - but to the parts of England that are being squeezed by the sucking of power and wealth into the south east ought to have been a no-brainer for the Liberal Democrats.  But sadly the current leadership of the party north and south of the border have rejected a 100+ year history of campaigning for Home Rule and turned the Scottish party into an empty vessel of the Labour dominated and Tory funded unionist NO campaign.

When I was a member of the party in Scotland I never counted myself as a unionist and rejected the label vehemently - but that is sadly what they have now turned into - consigning the party to the margins in the post referendum landscape (whatever the result). A more sensible positioning as Scotland's honest broker between the unionists and nationalists would have given the party a role and relevance and made it the fulcrum of bringing both sides together after the vote.

But it is all too clear a NO vote on Thursday will send the message to the Westminster establishment - now sadly including the Liberal Democrats that they can carry on - with a few more tax trinkets thrown to Scotland and a new gimmick or two - such as more executive Mayors - to England's northern conurbations.  The essential power relationship of the UK's unitary state will be unaffected and London and the south east will continue to suck in more and more people and resource.  And that will only encourage the Poujadists of UKIP and promote a narrow and insular  English nationalism that won't be good for any part of the current UK in the long run.

That's why I'm hoping Scots vote YES on Thursday - it's the last remaining hope to bust the system that is so clearly broken.  Voting to stay together is a vote for more of the same.  And that's not in anyone's best interest.

6 September 2014

Scottish referendum - yes takes the lead.

With less than a fortnight to go before the Indy referendum Political Betting reports that a YouGov poll puts the Yes campaign in front by a whisker.  I'm not surprised - the shamefully negative and insulting No campaign - funded by Cameron's Tories and run by west central Scotland's Labour mafia has made no case for the union and failed to agree what new powers Scotland will get in the event of a No vote.

The Yes campaign has also been helped by a bit of social media creativity - such as this:

31 August 2014

The Clacton danger for Clegg...

... the Liberal Democrats will not win the forthcoming Clacton by-election.  If tonight's opinion polls turn out to be at all accurate Clacton will be the scene of the largest ever by election swing - at a massive 47.5% to UKIP. 

I think a UKIP victory of that size is unlikely, but they are rightly clear favourites:

At the last local elections (the counties in 2013) UKIP were just 1,000 votes behind the Tories (8,200:7,200) with Tendring First picking up almost 4,000 votes - Labour were a bit behind in fourth and the Lib Dems and Greens fighting over avoiding fifth.   On these kind of figures it is clear UKIP has the essential ingredient for winning parliamentary by-elections - local organisation and credibility.

The longer term risk for Clegg is that the expected UKIP victory doesn't just give them their first elected Westminster representation (and possibly unlocks further defections) - it consolidates UKIP as England and Wales's third party in terms of popular vote.  With just eight months before the next general election there is not much time (and no evidence that Clegg or his highly paid strategists have the ability) for the Lib Dems to turn it around.

And if the Lib Dems were to come fourth (or even fifth) in the popular vote at the 2015 general election - it would be the worst result in the party's history - regardless of how many MPs were returned - and put the party's very existence at risk.

A new leader before the election might not make the difference - but what is clear is the current one is going down to a historic defeat from which the party may not recover.