30 September 2013

George Osborne joins the ranks of Keynsians

George Osborne's speech at the Tory conference today has been widely reported as a call for continued austerity.

But what struck was the key passage - his call for the public finances to be in the black when the economy was strong as insurance against a rainy day.

Isn't that what Keynes argued - run a budget surplus in the good times and a deficit in the bad to even out demand?

28 September 2013

Friday favourite 124

It's the end of the festival season, so here's one of the highlights from this summer.  It's Deacon Blue at T in the Park:

27 September 2013

Labour peer attacks Labour council for saving money

In a bizarre twist in the saga of Hearts bankruptcy, Labour peer, George Foulkes, has criticised Edinburgh Council for selling former school buildings which Hearts had been using part of as a car park. The site had been costing the council £80,000 a year to maintain and Hearts paid a nominal sum for its use on matchdays.

Foulkes told the Edinburgh Evening News "It really is very strange the council should take this attitude. Fans will be disappointed and annoyed" and called on the council to "bend over backwards"to help the club - presumably by continuing to subsidise the club, not selling off redundant property and making service cuts elsewhere.

Foulkes however is no stranger to extravagent spending - in 2008 he claimed £45,000 parliamentary expenses for a flat he inherited and a whopping £54,000 expenses from the House of Lords in a single year.  Known to like a refreshment, Foulkes was convicted of being drunk and disorderly in 1993 after a scotch whisky reception in the Commons.  After he knocked over a pensioner (who happened to be then Lib Dem MP, David Rendel's mum) he was apprehended by a passing rozzer to whom Foulkes took violent exception.

Just for the record - and in case Foulkes has forgotten - Hearts owe the City of Edinburgh Council more than £93,000 in unpaid rates and charges (presumably including unpaid rent for the car park) and the government, in the form of HMRC, more than £1.8 million in unpaid tax. 

26 September 2013

By election night 7

Lib Dem Voice had a partial round up of last week's results - which saw the Lib Dems losing both seats they were defending - Labour picking up Oxford North and the Tories in Woking.  But in a not unsurprising result the Tories lost to UKIP in Canterbury in a ward they were just 83 in front the last time it was fought in May.

This evening Vote UK reports another bumper crop of ten by-elections.  There's a distinctly southern bias to the contests with eight out of the ten in the south and south west of England and just two in the north - in Blackpool and Barnsley.  But Labour are defending five, with the Tories four and the Lib Dems just one - in the delighfully named Mickelham, Westhumble and Pixham ward of Mole Valley dictrict in Surrey.

Once again UKIP are standing more candidates than the Lib Dems (10:7).  Labour are also standing in seven and the Tories once again field a full slate.

There are three wards of interest for Lib Dems including the previously mentioned Mole Valley contest which the Lib Dems gained marginally from the Tories in 2011.  The Crockenhill and Well Hill ward in Sevenoaks was solidly Lib Dem until 2011, when they failed to stand and an Independent picked it up unopposed until Labour won it in a by election last March  where again the Lib Dems didn't field a candidate.  With the party finally standing again - it will be interesting to see what sort of vote it can recover.

The blue remembered hills of the Forest of Dean provide two contests - a very safe Tory seat in Redmarley and a more interesting contest in Coleford East caused by the death of a Labour councillor.   The ward has traditionally swung between the reds and the blues until 2009 when in a by-election an independent won it in a tight four way contest where the Lib Dems came second.  In 2011 Labour narrowly won two seats, with an independent taking the third from the Tories.  The Lib Dems improved their vote, but came in last.  UKIP did well in the Forest in the county elections earlier this year and with an independent forming the fifth runner 30% ought to be enough to win.

And the Storrington division of West Sussex could also provide an indication of the extent of public support or opposition to fracking with the intervention of a specifically anti-fracking Green (and former Lib Dem councillor) in a tightish Tory/UKIP contest.

25 September 2013

VAT cut day to support local pubs

Many local pubs today are reducing their prices by 7.5% to highlight just one of the unfair conditions they operate under compared to supermarkets.  They are calling for a reduced rate of VAT for the hospitality industry in order to help them comptete with the big supermarkets.  The BBC report has more.

It is clear many local pubs are operating under extremly unfavourable conditions - particularly those who are being forced to finance the over-leveraging by the big pubco's management.

I can't see the VAT cut getting Treasury support - even if their estimated cost of introducing the measure of £9bn is proved to be an exaggeration.

But if the day highlights the plight of many pubs and encourages the Business Minister Jo Swinson to move quickly to end many of the unfair pubco practices - it will have served its purpose.

21 September 2013

Friday favourite 123

Just finished watching a Channel 4 retrospective of the Tube - a programme that annoyed the establishment on Friday teatimes between 1982 and 1987.  So here by way of celebration are Killing Joke with Love Like Blood...

19 September 2013

Council by-election night 6

Four by-elections this evening according to Vote UK - with the Lib Dems standing in just two - a tricky defence in Oxford North where the party came third the last time the ward voted and in a Tory seat in Canterbury.  Labour, Tories and even the Greens are fighting all four and UKIP three.

In addition to the contest in Oxford, the Seasalter ward in Canterbury may prove of interest with UKIP just 83 behind in 2013.  Labour should hold comfortably in a six way battle in Dudley and the Tories in East Hampshire in a ward where the Lib Dems were once just 10 votes behind and are not even standing this time.

Clegg speech: more of the same please

I have finally caught up with Nick Clegg's speech having been in Birmingham for work yesterday.  And it is much better than previous ones as he sought to explain some of the process of government and the Lib Dems successes both behind the scenes and in public.  Most interestingly he tried to reestablish the party's 'outsider' credentials with a return to the 'red, blue' theme of the last general election - something I've been wanting to hear for a while.

But I do think Clegg has got it in for me personally with his policy announcements:

Improved leave for new parents - too late for me.
15 hours free nursery time - just after my youngest went into reception class
And now free school meals for all kids at infant schools - you guessed it in the year my youngest joins the jumiors!

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18 September 2013

By-election woe for Lib Dems on day of Clegg speech

The Lib Dems failed to hold their seat in Woking in the most emphatic way - coming fourth behind UKIP.

Vote UK reports the result as follows:

Con = 1,057
Lab = 833
UKIP = 255
Lib Dem = 252

Four more to follow on Thursday...

17 September 2013

Tuesday by-election night

A rare Tuesday by election takes place today says Vote UK.  It's a difficult defence for the Lib Dems in Woking following the disqualification of their councillor - they have a majority of just 16 over Labour, but the Tories hold the other two seats in the ward!

15 September 2013

Not news - Grayson completes his journey to Labour

In an entirely predictable development Lord Bonkers reports that former Lib Dem head of policy Richard Grayson has joined the Labour Party. 

So predictable that I wrote in February last year on the setting up of Grayson's self help group Liberal Left: "... its leading lights are seeking to work their passage into the Labour party - where their ridiculous and ill thought out views will no doubt be taken far more seriously than they are being taken in the Lib Dems."

14 September 2013

A visit to Coombe Conduit

The 500 year old Coombe Conduit is a hidden gem behind a non-descript wall opposite the popular Coombe Hill primary school in New Malden.

But for 350 years it gathered local spring water and piped it the three miles to nearby Hampton Court palace.  And today the water is still so pure it meets current EU drinking standards.

English Heritage has more.

13 September 2013

Friday favourite 122

The Beeb reports that the po-faced keepers of the Spartist flame at Edinburgh University have banned a song because it apparently violates their 'safe space policy' among others. 

So here is Robin Thicke with 'Blurred Lines' - just in case you are the one person in the world who hasn't yet been exposed to it:

12 September 2013

Council by-election night 5

Vote UK has a full round up of last week's elections and Lib Dem Voice reports more on the one bright spot of the evenings results - the Lib Dem gain in Wadebridge in Cornwall. 

The Lib Dems failed to gain Ely East with their vote falling nearly 9% since 2011 and otherwise came behind Labour and UKIP everywhere they stood - with the exception of Boston Fenside where they outpolled Labour 87 to 75 (UKIP gained the seat as expected).  In total 1,012 people voted Lib Dem in the six wards (out of ten) they stood in - fewer than half the number (2,129) who voted UKIP (who at least found candidates in all ten contests).  The party also gifted the Greens a win in Torridge by not defending their vacancy.  The Greens vote rose 25% - almost the exact share of the Lib Dems previously.

This week there's five contests - a county/district double vacancy in Hitchin, Herts, a unitary contest in Dunstable, Central Bedforshire and district contests in Wreake Villages, Charnwood, Leics and in Frithville in East Lindsey, Lincs.

Once again UKIP are standing more candidates (four) than the Lib Dems (three).  The Tories are standing everywhere with Labour not fielding a candidate in Frithville - which becomes a straight Tory/UKIP fight - which the kippers should pick up given the independent who resigned outpolled the Tory two-to-one the last time it was fought.

Labour should hold both the Hitchin seats caused by the death of their sitting councillor and will have hopes of picking up Dunstable from the Independent from third place (but only 200 behind).  Charnwood should be safe Tory.

7 September 2013

Friday favourite 121

BBC Radio 6 are apparently running a competition to find songs that mention Scottish football teams - so here's my contribution.  The Proclaimers 'Joyful Kilmarnock Blues' which gives you two for the price of one...

6 September 2013

Former Kingston Lib Dem leader charged with possessing 'thousands' of child porn images

The Surrey Comet reports former Lib Dem Leader of Kingston Council has been charged with possession of 'thousands' of images of child pornography - including 50 at the highest level 5 and more than 150 of bestiality.

If found guilty at Southwark Crown Court later this month he is likely to face a custodial sentence of years rather than months.

5 September 2013

Council by-election night 4

A bumper crop of by-elections tonight with 10 contests from Carlisle to Cornwall.  And already the Lib Dems have lost a seat with their failure to defend a vacancy in the Torrington ward of Torridge.

The Lib Dems are standing in six contests - Boston Fenside; Carlisle Yewdale; Cornwall Wadebridge East - where the independent councillor resigned over remarks about 'putting down disabled children' and had a majority of just four over the Lib Dems in May; Daventry Ravensthorpe; East Cambridgeshire Ely East and Northamptonshire Middleton Cheney.

In contrast the Conservatives are standing in every contest as are UKIP and Labour in nine out of ten.

The seats to look out for from a Lib Dem perspective are the previously mentioned hyper marginal Wadebridge and the constest in Ely East where the Tories have a majority of 57 over the Lib Dems.

UKIP will be confident of picking up the former English Democrat seat in Boston where they did very well in the counties.  Labour should hold comfortably in Charnwood (where the Lib Dems are not standing) and in Carlisle.  The Tories should pick up the rest - apart from Torrington where two independents, UKIP and the Greens make up the field and an independent already holds one of the seats.

Danny Alexander in North Kingston

This morning, Chief Secretary, Danny Alexander visited North Kingston, with Parliamentary hopeful, Robin Meltzer, to talk to local businesses - including Pascalle of the Kings Road Cafe and Jacqueline Lott of the North Kingston Focus Team.  Robin has launched a campaign against the corporate tax avoidance that means firms like Starbucks pay a lower tax rate than local cafes.

1 September 2013

Davey meets local Lib Dems and talks Syria

A hastily arranged meeting this evening at a local church hall saw Kingston and Surbiton MP and Energy Secretary addressing local Lib Dem members about the Syrian crisis, the recent Commons vote and his and the government's position.

Although extremely well received - particularly for his openess to question and debate - my feeling was that the vast majority of those there remained unconvinced of the need for any military action.