25 November 2015

Kingston Council seeks illiterate communications chief

The benighted burgers of Kingston, who already stump up the highest Council Tax in London, are soon to stump up a further £60k for a new spin doctor for the Tory administration.

The gushing language declares they are  'looking for someone who is fully conversant with the full range of communications tools'  but with four typos in just six sentences proof reading is clearly not one of them...

Here's the full text:
There has rarely been a more challenging or opportune time to work in local government communications. Seismic changes in the way local government is operating means that it is no longer sufficient to simply tell local people and others what the council is doing - we need to really engage and win peoples support for a shared vision for the local area.

Kingston council has created a new role of Head of Communications to work closely with the Senior Leadership Team and leading members to ensure that the council not only tells it's story but builds real engagement with residents, staff and key partners.

We are looking for someone who is fully conversant with the full range of communications tools from excellent media skills and campaigning ability to the latest digital techniques and innovative ideas on community engagement, but that just gets you to, first base.

To be successful in this role you will be a leader, bridge builder, strategist and true innovator.

Above all you will have an absolute passion for public service and it's ability to improve lives.

If this sounds like you and you ready for the challenge of building the best corporate communication service in local government we would like to hear from you.

9 November 2015

Is this the UK's most sexist school?















If you can't read the text (taken from a poster on the rear end of a speeding bus in Kingston) it says:

Above the picture of a boy and pilot "Speed on the wing.  For a life in the air."

Above the picture of a girl and woman "Testing materials.  For a life in fashion."

You can presumably find out more about their equal opportunities policy at www.stgeorgesweybridge.com

6 November 2015

Balgreen Halt reborn

The ever excellent Liberal England - possibly overstretching his geographical remit - dug out some excellent footage of disused railways in Edinburgh, including footage of Balgreen Halt on the Corstophine branch line.











But Balgreen Halt is not really disused anymore with a tramstop of the same name on the increasingly successful Edinburgh tramline.  And my visit to Edinburgh last week wouldn't have been complete without a ride on the tram coincidently to Balgreen:



16 October 2015

The A-Z of Corbsplaining

Labour Uncut has a rather wonderful and humourous A-Z that probably reveals just a little too much of the internal machinations of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party.  It's just too good not to share.

My personal favourite is:

Burnhamite – A malleable substance that can bend and merge to form any shape required of it before ultimately imploding.


26 September 2015

Lib Dems still in denial

On Monday I spent an enlightening day at Lib Dem conference.  I've been mulling over events then and the various media reports and analysis for the week and although the majority are positive about the party's future I'm less sure.

The lack of corporate sponsors and the wide open spaces of the exhibition areas might have suggested a party on its knees - but the stories of hundreds of first time delegates and new found confidence were only slightly exaggerated by party bigwigs.  But, but but...

The Trident debate was a great traditional political occasion - more than a thousand voting delegates packed into the hall, party big wigs wheeled out to speak in front of the camera - including the venerable (but increasingly mistified Shirley Williams) - and also deployed at the back of the hall  to vote down the insurgents.

The vote was won narrowly on a single and very old argument - that the Lib Dems needed to have serious policies if they wished to be taken seriously as a party of government. There were some other really silly arguments including those of Gerald Vernon-Jackson who said we needed to spend £100bn on a weapons system to stop the poor in Portsmouth going to Tory foodbanks, but they were rightly discounted.

The reality is with just 8 MPs the Liberal Democrats are a very long way from being considered a 'serious party of government' in Westminster.  They are also a long way from government in Edinburgh and Cardiff.  Tim Farron gets to question David Cameron once a month alternating with the DUP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. 

The reality is actually the Lib Dems are a long way from being considered a serious party of opposition.  So the party need to stop playing by the old rules.  Having a small number of clear positions - different to Westinster establishment - would be a good place to start.  Unfortunately the leadership flunked it in Bournemouth on Trident.

22 August 2015

Friday favourite 141

Here are Aussie Beatles tribute band Beatnix performing Led Zep's 'Stairway to Heaven' as if it were 1962.

It's absolute genius...

14 August 2015

Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank in 3 minutes

In a rather strange back to front view - here's the full journey on the reinstated Borders Railway.  What srikes me is the lack of twin track - something that will no doubt will have to fixed at enormous cost as passenger numbers exceed predictions.

21 July 2015

Exclusive - Farage reacts to new Coetzee role

The news that Nick Clegg's 'world class' strategist, Ryan Coetzee, has been appointed to run the yes to EU campaign has at least one supporter:


Put your money on a big NO vote...

8 July 2015

So what did the Lib Dems actually stop the Tories doing?

Today's budget rather gives the lie to the Lib Dem 'Scooby Doo' message of 'look what the Tories would have done if it wasn't for the meddling Lib Dems'.

The budget contained  two major public policy changes. Firstly switching the focus from the government subsidising low pay to the government forcing employers to pay a living wage.  And secondly lengthening the period of fiscal consolidation to smooth the public spending cuts.  These two changes would almost certainly (rightly) have been supported by the Lib Dems if they had remained in government (and the latter was basically the party's economic position two months ago).

The fact that both leadership candidates slammed the budget on the basis that the Tories were returning to right wing form without the Lib Dems was as predictable as it is wrong.  And it is extremely worrying for the future of the party that both contenders simply basically rehashed the disasterous Coetzee/Clegg messaging - the messaging that was comprehensively rebuffed by the electorate a few weeks ago.

The Scooby Doo message was ineffective as it relied on people understanding a bunch of imponderables - it's impossible to judge the effects of things that didn't happen.  And it was part of a wider failure of the Clegg leadership of failing to define a distinctive Lib Dem agenda for government meaning people could not tell what part of the coalition policy was down to which party.

But now that Osborne and the Conservatives have comandeered a fairly major part of both the Lib Dem and Labour economic policy and are likely to dominate the economic centrist space for the foreseeable future some rethinking is needed - and fast.

I don't expect Labour to come up with any credible rethink, but the Lib Dems must.  If whoever wins the leadership can't find a new and better vision for the economy that understands the values being promoted by Osborne's budget today, then there is little hope for the party. 

3 July 2015

Friday favourite 140

Stumbled across this the other night.  And what's not to like a Quebecois rockabilly cover version of Blondies' Call Me...


29 June 2015

A Farron victory is necessary, but it's not sufficient

I've voted for Tim Farron. 

It was a pretty easy choice - Tim clearly understands a different direction is required.  One that builds from the grassroots up. 

In contrast Lamb is campaigning as if we narrowly lost out in the election and with a bit of refining our messages, government is again around the corner.

But strangely if the party had just narrowly lost out and some of the party's big guns had held on - Steve Webb, Ed Davey, Lynn Featherstone etc - a leadership contest would almost certainly have been held involving one of more of them, Tim Farron but probably not Norman Lamb.  He's only in the race because of the lack of other credible candidates.

Back in 2012, I first warned of the existential threat the party faced if it carried on in government as it had been doing.  It sadly did.  And it was routed as a result. 

The Lib Dems are now a minor Westminster party - scrabbling around with the DUP and Plaid Cymru for time and traction.  Its profile as a national political force has gone and the credibility it had in appearing to challenge to win parliamentary seats has been lost.  A Westminster insider strategy won't magic that back and merely not being in government any more won't win back the lost voters - witness Labour gaining another Lib Dem council seat in a by-election in Cambridge last week.

The party needs to park its Westminster ambitions - use what's left of its troops to fight a guerilla war on the green benches and make as much nuisance as it can to the big parties.  But all the party's resources need to be focussed on building a mass liberal movement - using the opportunity of the Euro referendum to make the  liberal political case across the country - just like the SNP used the indyref for the nationalist cause.

But although I think Tim realises the scale of the challenge the party faces I remain unconvinced he knows how best to go forward - the pull of the Westminster establishment is strong - witness his recent appointment of those arch policy wonk insiders - Duncan Brack and Neil Stockley.

Changing policies is simply rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. 

The party needs to reinvent politics itself - finding new ways to communicate and building the skills and expertise of its members and supporters to enable new political solutions, policies and organisational structures to emerge.

It's year zero for the Lib Dems and whoever wins the leadership needs to understand things will never be the same. 

27 June 2015

My favourite Farron endorsement...








I suppose if we're in a fightback we better get some tats...

Norman Lamb's Greville Janner problem

Simon Danczuk - Labour MP for Rochdale - is a typical northern Labour tribalist who can see no good in his political opponents.  However he has worked tirelessly to uncover allegations of child sexual abuse in high places - even though the alleged perpetrators are dead in the case of Cyril Smith or demented in the case of Greville Janner. 

But earlier this week he claimed that Janner had sexually assualted boys in the Palace of Westminster in the 1980s.

Now whether this timing is deliberate or not, it does mean that Lib Dem Leadership candidate Norman Lamb will be asked what he knew given he was, bizarrely, Janner's research assistant for a year at the time the abuse was alleged to have taken place in Westminster.

There is, of course, no suggestion Lamb was involved, but given David Steel is still quizzed about what he knew about Smith's alleged activities, Lamb if he wins won't be able to ignore similar probing..

25 May 2015

Kim Jong Un is guest editor of Lib Dem Voice

Well you would have thought so from this pathetic article defending those responsible for the party's election disaster by using the excuse of legitimate concerns about staff welfare. 

What Caron Lindsay and the Lib Dem Voice Team are failing to realise is that by letting Ryan Coetzee, Tim Gordon, Hillary Stephenson and other senior (and highly paid) exectutives avoid legitimate criticism of their decision making, they are doing the party a big disservice.  Those at the top are not 'party staff' - they are executive management and it was their actions and decisions that determined the Lib Dem campaign.  They were the people carrying out the 'comfort' polls, writing the messaging, and advising the leadership on what to say and when.  In short they were responsible for the failure of the 2015 campaign.  And they should take responsibility and resign (like the Leader of the Party).

One final thought - if Coetzee is such a shrinking violet and unable to take criticism why then would he write a superficial and frankly deluded article for the Guardian (and reproduced by LDV) basically saying he ran the best possible campaign and wouldn't even change it now knowing its result. 

If you're foolish enough to try and  polish a turd in public - then don't complain when several buckets of the stuff get thrown back in your direction.

22 May 2015

First test train on Borders railway

The reopening of the Waverley route proceeds apace with the first test run along the entire length of the line. Borders Rail has some footage.

An interesting question for any railway anoraks out there.  The locomotive is number 37 604 and a quick check on Wikipedia  says they were built between 1960 and 65 and were frequently used in Scotland.  Therefore the question is - had 37 604 ever run over the Waverley route before this journey?
 

12 May 2015

After the rout...

Last week's results weren't a complete surprise to everyone - as far back as May 2012 I postulated that without a change of srategy the party faced an existential crisis.

The result on Thursday and the hole the party now finds itself in is a direct result of the strategy pursued by those at the very top of the party - both at Westminster and at HQ.

Nick Clegg to his credit (and in some style) has done the decent thing; taken responsibility and resigned. Now is the time for his coterie of incompetents to do the same. Tim Gordon, Hilary Stephenson, Ryan Coetzee, Tom Smithard et al should now resign too – taking responsibility for the disaster they caused and preventing any more of our membership fees going to waste on over inflated salaries. Doing this will also make sure the junior staff and volunteers – who were not responsible for the strategic decisions – aren’t blamed for their bosses failings.

And with more than 10,000 new members since Thursday - they if no-one else - deserve to have their subscriptions spent on a clean slate.

5 April 2015

RFK announces the news of the assassination of Martin Luther King

On 4th April 1968 Martin Luther King was shot dead.  It was an age before twitter, social media or even rolling news.  Robert Kennedy announced the news from a back of a flat bed truck in Indianapollis...



With thanks to an old university mate (and Lib Dem Cllr for Clitheroe), Alan Knox, for the tip off.






18 March 2015

Exclusive: leaked footage of George Osborne's budget speech rehearsal


Chancellor George Osborne made much of choices in his budget speech this afternoon.  In one short passge he used the phrase 'we choose' nine times.

But winging it's way to LOWA towers was this leaked footage of his private rehearsals.  As you can see some of his language was quite fruity then...

12 March 2015

Kingston Council leader proves David Cameron's maxim about too much tweeting...

The Surrey Comet has more.

Interestingly, despite twice being Leader of the Council, Kevin Davis has never won a borough wide election in Kingston.

7 March 2015

Electoral Commission oversteps remit

Mark Pack reports that the name Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party has been banned by the Electoral Commission.  This is a sadly inevitable consequence of bureaucratic creep that was always going to result in  the Commission overstepping its remit. 

The Commission is there to register parties, their donations and investigate any dodgy funding - not to decide matters of taste.  If voters think 'crumpet' is demeaning to women, then they will vote accordingly.  It's not for some unelected bureaucrat to take that decision out of their hands.


20 February 2015

So farewell George Mackie...

Although coming somewhat late to the tributes to George Mackie who died aged 95 earlier this week I thought I should put on record my one anecdote about him.  It comes from the 1980s when Mackie was the Liberal candidate for NE Scotland for the European Parliament (I was a student in Aberdeen at the time).

He was on a walk about in the city centre and was approached by a local punter who greeted him warmly...

'You're George Mackie'.

'Yes' replied Mackie.

'Your brother owns the dairy?' says punter.

'Yes' replied Mackie.

'Sold it to the fucking pakis' says punter

'Why don't you go and boil your head' replied Mackie and walks off.

14 February 2015

Borders track laying complete

Tweedbank (the for now terminus of Borders Rail) finally got its track laid earlier this week.  There has been a variety of videos celebrating this feat - but none so far (as I'm aware) involving drone footage and a cheesy soundtrack...

4 February 2015

So who is the one person certain to vote Lib Dem in Motherwell?

Lord Ashcroft has been busy north of the border polling some Labour heartlands (along with two Lib Dem seats).  And the headlines make grim reading for Labour and the Lib Dems with the SNP apparently on the rampage.  But hidden among the detail is the fact that just one person in Motherwell and Wishaw told Ashcroft's pollsters they were certain to vote Lib Dem in May.

We know from page three they are; male, 35-44, social class AB and voted Lib Dem in 2010.  So who is this brave/foolhardy soul? 


22 January 2015

Greg Mulholland in North Kingston

Chair of the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, Leeds NW Lib Dem, Greg Mulholland, visited Kingston earlier this week.

Greg visitied the Willoughby Arms in North Kingston where he met local residents and publicans and talked about the next stage of the campaign to Save Our Pubs - ending permitted development rights that can see pubs change use to a supermarket or estate agent without any public say so.

Greg and the all party group have tabled and amendment to the Infrastructure Bill on Monday to remove permitted development rights for pubs.

More here.





Richmond Park candidate, Robin Meltzer and landlord, Rick Robinson, welcome Greg to the Willoughby Arms in North Kingston.