30 June 2012

The strange history of Conservative Adrian Amer

As the by-election in Kingston's Grove Ward enters its final days the Conservative campaign has turned distinctly negative with an array of attacks on the Lib Dem administration of the council.

Their candidate a Tony Robinson look a like - named Adrian Amer - is described on the Tories election website as a: "Local Candidate, Crime Fighting Barrister, Kingstonian...  Adrian has lived in Kingston for most of his adult life. He has been actively involved in the Community in Kingston for over 20 years and stood as a candidate for Grove ward in the last election.

But it wasn't always that way.  Mr Amer has more political experience that the Tories are prepared to admit.  He has stood for Parliament - in the 1992 general election.  But he wasn't a Conservative then.  He stood as a 'continuing Liberal' in the Kingston constituency - won by then Chancellor Norman Lamont.

Apart from describing the Conservatives as 'greedy and selfish', his policy platform included:
  • Unilateral nuclear disarmament
  • Full cooperation with European partners - including defence 
  • An end to NHS trust hospitals 
  • The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law
  • Complete hunting ban
  • Phasing out all nuclear power stations
One wonders if he still holds these views and if so whether his new found friends in the Conservative Party agree?

Cllr Dennen resigns again...

Back in March, I reported one of my local councillors - Tim Dennen - left the Lib Dems to sit as an independent, citing 'personal reasons'. 

Over the intervening months it has become clear that he has become close to local Tories - who obviously have wooed him assiduously.  This close relationship culminated with him being supported by the Tories for the Chair of Kingston Town Neighbourhood - the local area committee that deals with planning, local environment and other community issues.  It, like everything in local government these days, comes with a generous stipend of £10k (on top of the basic £7.5k) for chairing a committee that meets six times a year.

With the resignation of a Lib Dem councillor in next door Grove ward at the beginning of June - the balance of the neighbourhood changed - with five Lib Dems, five Tories and Tim Dennen.  So at the June 13th Neighbourhood meeting the Tories seized their opportunity and voted for Dennen as chair with a quid pro quo of Dennen backing a Tory as vice-Chair.

Well the love in hasn't lasted long.  Just 15 days later Dennen has resigned as Chair and returned to the back benches.

Given the Tories knew in March that Cllr Dennen has 'personal reasons' for his exit from the Lib Dems one has to wonder if they did any due dilligence on him before stitching up their deal?  If not, it suggests a level of incomptence that might mean the public might question their fitness for office. 

But if the Tories did indeed know what these 'personal reasons' were in advance of backing him for chair, then his resignation proves what a cynical, unpricipled and manipulative bunch they are.  And that might also mean the public might question their fitness for office...

29 June 2012

Friday favourite 65

At just 1 minute 40 seconds - here's Norgaard a distinctly un-Scandinavian bit of modern punk from the Vaccinnes.  Here on Jool's Hootenanny

27 June 2012

Barclays cheating shows need to disband banks

The news that Barclays has been caught cheating by manipulating overnight interest rates - no doubt at a cost to mortgage holders - shows why Vince Cable is right that the big banks need to be broken up into retail and investment banking.  The chinese walls and regulatory arrangements that have allowed the banks' exectutives to claim there are no risks to them growing bigger and bigger have proved to be worthless.

Vince Cable is oft quoted as saying banks that are 'too big to fail are too big'.  And he's right.  It's clear that there is a cultural problem at the mega banks - they're not interested in the small customers when there are deals to be made with their rich mates.  Bob Diamond and the other senior execs should have the decency to admit they are responsible and go.   In addition the coalition has no excuse to drag its heels over banking reform.  Barclays and the other mega banks need to be busted and put on a human scale where the problems of local people, business and communities are the main focus of their operations.

And it needs to happen now - not in a few years time.

Rangers face the end...

Glasgow Rangers have been liquidated, their assets sold on the cheap to a company snappily named Sevco 5088, the majority of their first team have walked away for nothing (as they are entitled to do under employment law), six SPL clubs have declared they won't support a 'new' Rangers going straight back into the top division and lower division clubs are lining up to send them to start again at the bottom of the league (or lower). 

So just when Rangers fans thought it couldn't get any worse along comes BNP leader Nick Griffin to offer support...

As St Mirren supporting Scottish crime novelist Chris Brookmyre tweets: "We are Rangers Super Rangers No-one likes us.  And it appears we may have failed to anticipate some of the long-term ramifications of this."

When all you are left with is Griffin and his neo-nazis you know your goose is well and truly cooked.

25 June 2012

Good weather for growing mushrooms...

...as evidenced by this monster I stumbled across in Richmond Park yesterday.

22 June 2012

Friday favourite 64

Just to prove you don't need a big band to make a noise here are the White Stripes with Hotel Yorba on Jules Holland:

Will Celtic be the club to save Rangers?

On 4th July the Scottish Premier League clubs meet to decide whether to allow a new Rangers company formed from the wreckage of the liquidated one to continue in the SPL.

They need no more than four clubs to vote against their application.  At the moment Hibs, Hearts, Aberdeen and Dundee United are committed to voting against a 'newco'.  The Beeb's analysis shows how the other clubs may vote - and bizarrely the liquidated Rangers get to vote on their successor (only in Scottish football!).

But with four definite votes against it will take the vote of just one more club to throw Rangers out of the league as punishment for their misdemenours. 

One would assume that Rangers's greatest rivals Celtic would be guaranteed to be the fifth club needed to do just that.  But Celtic chairman Peter Lawwell's has said, "Our guiding principle is that we will do what is in the best interests of Celtic Football Club and our supporters..."  And the best interests of Celtic may well best be served by voting to keep Rangers in the SPL - without them the old firm veto on all decisions goes and of course they lose significant income without derby games. 

So Celtic vote to save Rangers - surely not?

A journey round the SDP

Thanks to Mark Pack's posting on Lib Dem Voice I visited the so-called SDP's website.  And a jolly good read it is too.

It starts off with the statement:

"Formed in 1981 by four senior Labour party members – David Owen, Roy Jenkins , Shirley Williams and Bill Rogers. The SDP was eventually to gain the support of 28 Labour MP’s and 1 Conservative MP...
...Believing Enough Is Enough, the SDP now stand alone as a patriotic, centre Left party that supports the ordinary people of this country, is for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and supports an English Parliament to give equality to all the Nations of the UK."

The idea that a party can claim the heritage of Jenkins, Rogers and Williams and in the same breath call for UK's withdrawal from the EU is somewhat bizarre to say the least.  But it gets better.

The election section has details of the fewer than 20 candidates the party fielded at the recent local elections (a significant number who appear to be town/parish candidates).  And it has an hilarious analysis of the relative success of their three candidates - all from the same family - in Birmingham who polled a grand total of 178 votes between them. 

But the best section is the entirely unself-aware section under 'About us' where they provide 'Some pictures from the past and the present' highlighting an old newsletter including an article calling for a federal Europe and a line or so down a picture of their current banner calling for EU withdrawal.

Sadly, they have set up their website so you cannot copy any pictures from it, but it is worth a visit even if only to confirm the approriateness of their web site provider - Moonfruit.

21 June 2012

A history of Kingston by-elections in one clipboard...

Had a reasonably enjoyable evening canvassing in the Grove ward by-election (the third one in my time in Kingston).  It's pretty clear that it's going to be a close run thing between the Lib Dems and the Tories, with a chunk of previous Lib Dem voters looking at Labour and the Greens as alternatives because of their dissatisfaction with the government.  Sadly for them - given the Greens are more than 1,300 votes behind the Lib Dems and Labour 1,400 - the only impact an improved vote for these parties can have is to hand the seat to the Tories.

But I did get my favourite clipboard to hold my canvass sheets in.  It has stickers from a variety of historic local elections Kingston - going all the way back to 1981 when the late Jean Godden won St James's ward from the Tories.  The Janke in the 'Harris, Janke, Tilley' sticker is Barbara Janke - who recently stood down as leader of Bristol City Council and the 'Oates' in the top right sticker is the Jonny Oates who is now Nick Clegg's chief of staff. 

But the most interesting thing is the change of emphasis from 'Focus' and 'Action' to party labelling and logos.  No doubt encouraged in the late 1980s by some ex-SDP suit with a mission to turn a campaigning party of local interests into a 'serious party of government'.  A mission tested to destruction by the actions of their likeminded successors - like Richard Reeves - who have failed to understand that being in government is not an end, but a means to an end.

19 June 2012

Jimmy Carr's future as a satirist...

... is probably over.  Channel 4 carries the story and reaction.  Top marks to Frankie Boyle for his comment, "It's ok to avoid tax providing every time you do a joke about a town being shit you add "Partly down to me I'm afraid" under your breath"

15 June 2012

Friday favourite 63

Here's the much underated James with 'She's a star'.  The video features a very young Keeley Hawes - star of Spooks and Ashes to Ashes (among others).

The ludicrous child poverty statistics

Good news - 300,000 fewer children are living in poverty than last year! 

The fact that this is down to the recession and a fall in average incomes shows the ludicrous nature of the concept of defining poverty as a percentage of average income.  Those 300,000 children are living in families most likely worse off than last year.

The 2010 child povery act - along with Tony Blair 13 years earlier - pledge to abolish 'child poverty' was one of those stupid stunts so beloved of new Labour.  You can't legislate poverty away - but being seen to be doing something was more important than actually doing something.  And if you define poverty as a relative to something else you cannot by definition ever abolish poverty because as incomes rise the bar you set rises with it.  Every time a multi millionaire Russian gangster oligarch moves to London we all get poorer.

Iain Duncan Smith is right to say that it is "increasingly clear that poverty is not about income alone".  And by way of a start he might want to find a more appropriate way of measuring poverty in the first place.

14 June 2012

Tony Greaves is right...

I don't always agree with Lib Dem peer, Pendle councillor, campaigning guru and icon of northern Liberalism the noble Lord Greaves.  But in  this month's edition of Liberator,  Tony Greaves writes an excellent article - Leaders on a different planet - on the challenges facing the party in government.

The key passages echo a posting on this blog analysing the disasterous elections in May.  Greaves writes:
"Attempts to improve the dire communications within the Liberal Democrats have all been about people at the top telling worried members and activists why the top people are right and the worried ranks are wrong, There is still little explanation of the trade-offs and compromises of coalition, why and how positions have been reached.

"We are still being lumbered with stuff that is politically bad for our party. Whether we have any more core vote to piss off is a matter for debate, but we still seem to be going out of our way to upset traditionally supportive lobbies such as civil liberties and the environment.

"It seems that, in spite of changes in personnel, the people around the leadership the special advisers and other advisers have no more idea of what this party stands for and what our activists will put up with than they had a year ago. Richard Reeves may, thankfully, have gone; but his successors seem no wiser. The bubble they work in may be more stratospheric even than the House of Lords, but it's just as remote from what remains of our party and, more desperately, from the real world."
The full article can be found here and I recommend it in its entirety.

12 June 2012

Lib Dems let Hunt off the hook

Lib Dem Voice reports that all 57 Lib Dem MPs will abstain on a Labour motion to hold an independent investigation into whether Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt broke the ministerial code.

The effect of this action is to give the Tories a majority - so its effect is no different from supporting him.  It is a ludicrous position to be in - if the party doesn't think Hunt's position is tenable it should say so and vote accordingly.  As this blog  argued back in April  - Hunt is toast anyway - and the more decisive the action against him the better it is for both parliamentary standards and the reputation of the coalition in dealing with sleaze.

Abstention reinforces the widely held view that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are the Tories poodles and will do nothing to promote the new kind of sleaze free cooperative politics that the coalition was supposed to represent.

It also shows that the civil service rules on collective governmental responsibilities are totally unsuitable for coaltition politics.  If the coalition is to survive then the rules of engagement between the parties have to change.  Coalition is not a marriage - it is a short term working arrangement.  And the rules need to reflect that.

10 June 2012

Vilnius churches

Just spent a couple of days on a work trip to Vilnius.  The old town is that rare thing in central and eastern Europe - an original old city that survived pretty much unscathed two wars.  And it probably has more churches per capita than anywhere else I've been to.  Here are just a few:


Interestingly the most Stalinist architecture I saw were these blocks of flats:

In Luton, near the airport...

9 June 2012

Belated Friday favourite 62

This week's Friday favourite is a day late due to a work commitment.  And having caught up with BBC4's excellent 'Punk Britannia' I thought Stiff Little Fingers would be good...

4 June 2012

Sopwith and Kingston

One hundred years ago Tommy Sopwith opened an aircraft factory in Kingston - in a converted ice skating rink.  Later he moved to new larger premises on Canbury Park Road a few minutes from the railway station - now converted into flats. 

Tommy, of course became famous for his first world war fighter plane - the Camel.  Sopwiths later merged with Hawker and in the second world war Kingston produced the Hawker Hurricane - the aircraft that won the Battle of Britain.  Hawkers later became part of BAe, but not before their engineers had designed and built the Harrier jump jet.  Sopwith died in 1989 aged 101.  He was interviewed a few years before by Raymond Baxter for the BBC:

So it is fitting that this aeronautical history has been remembered - despite the focus of festivities being elsewhere over the weekend.  Kingston market place has a small number of exhibits - including this replica Camel.

Kingston aviation archive  has far more information and it seems to me that the council ought to be making much more of the town's crucial role in UK aviation.  Hopefully the weekend's events will prove to be the start of something bigger.

1 June 2012

Friday favourite 61 (Jubilee)

As the bunting goes up and the sandwiches prepared for the weekend's street parties (at least round here) I thought this track 'Ready to go' seemed appropriate.  So enjoy Republica from 1996...

The one budget U-turn we won't see...

'... today George Osbourne admitted cutting the 50p top rate of tax was a mistake and agreed to continue with it until economic conditions were suitable for tax cuts.'

If he did however, he might start to restore some of his recently (deservedly) shredded reputation for economic competence.  It might also help the Conservatives deal with the issue that they are perceived as a bunch of out of touch rich boys.