31 October 2013

CSI pumpkin?

Seen in a north Kingston street earlier this evening...

By election night 12

Last week's byelections were pretty predictable - with Labour picking up, as expected, Shepshed West in Charnwood from the Tories and holding their other wards. 

The Lib Dems held their Norfolk seat with a swing from UKIP and improved their position - but only back to 2010 levels - in Waterlooville in Hampshire.  But they failed to make any inroads in Bovey Ward in Teignbridge (a target seat) where the Tories gained a 6% swing in their favour.  The weakness of the party in large parts of the country was exposed by derisory votes in Loughborough (=26) where the party finished behind some BNP splinter faction, Wigan (=19 and seventh place) and coming behind the Greens in the Wirral and West Sussex.

This week there is a single contest (in the loosest sense of the word) in the Pillgwenlly ward in Newport , South Wales, where Labour should have no problems holding their seat.

30 October 2013

In praise of police commissioners

Durham's Labour Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, has called for a rethink on drug policy, calling for Danish style shooting galleries where intravenous drug users can access clean needles and medical advice while feeding there habit.  The Beeb's report claims 'Results published in the Lancet showed that prescribing pharmaceutical heroin in this way can reduce the use of street drugs and associated levels of crime.'

Meanwhile, the previous week Christopher Salmon, Dyfed/Powys's commissioner attacked the culture of the police that saw them trying to frame former Tory Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell.  In an attack reported by the Daily Mail he said: ‘The culture around police forces is too closed, too defensive, too politicised and, in some cases, feral.'

This sort of debate on drugs policy and call to account for overblown and unaccountable elements of the constabulary was almost entirely missing from the debate on crime and policing (or was easily dismissed by the vested interests at the Home Office and their media friends) before the election of police commissioners.

Now there is an influential cadre of local people - with a democratic mandate - who are able to move on the debate from the old, sterile race to be seen to be the toughest on crime - regardless of its effectiveness.  That's a good thing which I hope will lead to more of them questioning how we are currently policed and for the Lib Dems to actually take these elections seriously because - like elected Mayors - they are almost certainly here to stay.

27 October 2013

Lou Reed - a life on the wild side

I didn't get round to doing a Friday favourite this week, but with the sad news of the death of Lou Reed today, here he is with a live version of the seminal 'Walk on the wild side'.

24 October 2013

By election night 11

Last week not only saw the Lib Dems standing in more contests than UKIP, the party won its difficult contest against Labour in Luton and gained a second seat from the Tories in Dalston ward Carlisle.

This week there's another bumper crop of ten by-elections.  The Lib Dems are contesting nine of them (again one more than UKIP) including an interesting defence at North Walsham East where UKIP have been on the rise - coming second earlier this year.  The Dunfermline South contest will no doubt be overshadowed by the result in by Scottish parliamentary by-election - but it is a ward where the party has a councillor and topped the poll in 2007.  The local result may be a better indicator of whether the party is recovering north of the border than the constituency result which will be dominated by the SNP and Labour big guns.

The Lib Dems will also have hopes of a gain in Bovey ward in Teignbridge where a Tory councillor resigned in a ward they have won previously.

Labour will look to pick up Shepsted West in Charnwood where they were just 26 behind the Conservatives in 2011 and will expect to weigh their vote in South Lanarkshire, Wigan and the Wirral.

Lib Dem Voice, Florence Nightingale and the ludicrous national curriculum

Lib Dem Voice has published an article praising Simon Hughes for lobbying to keep Florence Nightingale on the National Curriculum.

Now Florence Nightingale is no doubt worthy of study - anyone who invented the pie chart can't be that bad after all - but I fail to see anything other than a ludicrous level of bureaucratic micro management in this case.

No wonder government costs so much when you have teams of civil servants coming up with changes (on the whim of a minister), others consulting on them and others deciding to not to do anything.  It would be far more efficient to abolish the curriculum and the ministry for which it is such a successful make work scheme.

As Liberator magazine's Simon Titley eloquently says in the comments, "I am disappointed that neither Vlad the Impaler nor Harry Worth are included in the national curriculum, but I trust the judgement of history teachers on such matters."

19 October 2013

Friday favourite 127

Still haven't worked how to get the video off my phone from Monday's Wilko Johnson gig, but fortunately with YouTube I don't have to...

18 October 2013

UK income falls more fairly than France

Hamish McRae wrote an interesting article on income inequality and  the recession in Monday's Evening Standard quoting a report from researchers at UBS.  In it they stated that the loss of personal income due to the recession in the UK has affected all income groups pretty evenly - which contrasts with most of mainland Europe and the US where the fall in income for the richest 10% has been much less than for the poorest.

I've finally tracked down the report on the web here and I've reproduced the table that compares income falls over the last five years by decile:

Those progressive paragons of France and Scandanavia - who the left are telling us to be more like - saw the poorest 10% lose far more than the richest.  In France the poor's income dropped nearly 10% whereas the richest dropped by less than 5%.  In Finland the richest 10% actually saw incomes rise over the last five year.  In contrast in the UK, the poorest decile's income fell by about 7% over the last five years - slightly less than the richest 10%.

One can't help wondering that the UK would look much more like the US and most of Europe if the Tories (or even New Labour) were governing on their own. 

17 October 2013

By-election night 10

Not a lot of interest from last week's results - particularly as the Lib Dems only stood in three of the eight contests - with all the elections being held by the incumbents.  The Lib Dems did poorly polling just 44 votes in Manchester and falling back slightly in Tweedale West in Michael Moore's constituency.  The remaining contest saw the Lib Dems actually increase their first preference share in Govan Glasgow to 1.5%, where the most interesting electoral stat of the night were the 23 transfers the 'No to the bedroom tax candidate' received from the eliminated Tory!

This week's six contests see for the first time in months the Lib Dems fielding more candidates than UKIP (5:4) and a tricky defence for the party in Luton's split Barnfield Ward which in 2011 elected one Labour and one Lib Dem in a previously safe Lib Dem ward (with Labour third).  The other interseting contest is in Carlisle's Dalston ward where the Conservatives are defending a vacancy in a ward with one Lib Dem councillor who has been unable to transfer his clear personal vote to fellow lib Dem candidates when he doesn't stand. 

15 October 2013

Wilko Johnson in Camden

Just returned from Wilko Johnson's farewell tour gig at Koko in Camden.  He played for more than an hour and half, ably supported by former Blockhead bassist Norman Watt-Roy and drummer Dylan Howe.  And a still angry Ruts provided the main warm up.

I have some video which if I can work how to download it I will share...

11 October 2013

Friday favourite 126

Saturday night family TV, Ted Rogers, Dusty Bin, impossible clues, the Police, Gloria Gaynor, Every Breath You Take... shurley shome mishtake?

No - but the most bizarre cover version ever:

10 October 2013

By-election night 9

Last week provided that rare thing in current local by-elections - a good night for the Lib Dems with the party winning two out of the four contests.  Labour rather surprisingly picked up an independent seat in East Lindsey, with the Tories easily holding off a Green challenge in St Edmundsbury.

This week's eight contests highlight the weakness of the Lib Dems in much of the country with the party only standing three candidates and failing to find a candidate in Salford'sWeaste and Seedley ward - a ward the party held all three seats until 2010 (although it polled just 58 votes in a by-election earlier this year).  In next door Manchester an old mate John Bridges is flying the Lib Dem flag in a ward where the party used to be solidly second, but its vote has collapsed since coalition - coming in fourth behind even the Tories last year.

But perhaps the most interesting contest is in Glasgow Govan.  Not only is it a super tight SNP/Labour marginal a grand total of 14 candidates (including Scottish Lib Dem blogger and drug policy reformer, Ewan Hoyle) are standing.

7 October 2013

So farewell Michael Moore...

The replacement of Michael Moore as Scottish Secretary with Alasdair Carmichael is being promoted by the party as a toughening of the party's stance against Alex Salmond.

If this is indeed the case then it is a mistake.  Taking a tougher line against the most popular politician north of the border is self defeating and futile.  As I have written previously, Moore's and the party's constitutional conservatism on independence has marginalised the party in Scotland and given it nothing distinctive to say on the major issue in Scottish politics.

I hope Carmichael uses the opportunity before him to take a more nuanced stance on independence - perhaps working with the Scottish government to define more clearly how the relationships with a post independence Scotland might work - rather than parroting the simple scaremongering of the Labour dominated 'Better Together' campaign. 

Scotland deserves a grown up debate on the real pros and cons of independence, not more sloganeering and name calling.

4 October 2013

Friday favourite 125

BBC4 is showing documentaries about Elton John this evening - so I was rather pleased to find this collaboration by Reg and Marshall on the outer reaches of YouTube...

3 October 2013

By-election night 8

After last week's ten by-elections there are just four this week.  And two are Lib Dem defences - in Aylesbury Vale and Taunton Deane.  The Oakfield ward in Aylesbury is a marginal Lib Dem/Tory contest but in an area UKIP outpolled all comers in May's county elections. And the Taunton Halcon ward is traditionally safe for the Lib Dems, but with UKIP coming up on the rails in second last May. 

Once again UKIP are standing in every ward - along with Labour and the Tories - with the Lib Dems in three out of four.

UKIP should pick up the independent vacancy in East Lindsey like they did in a similar vacancy a few weeks ago and it will be interesting to see what progress the second placed Greens make in the Abbeygate ward of St Edmundsbury.

Last week UKIP once again significantly outpolled the Lib Dems scoring somewhere between 15 and 30% almost everywhere.  The one exception was in Mole Valley where they were restricted to 13% in a winning Lib Dem campaign that increased the party's majority over the Tories.

More evidence of UKIP's appeal to lost Lib Dem voters came in the contests in Sevenoaks where UKIP won a seat the Lib Dems used to hold before their previous sitting councillor switched to independent.  And in Coleford in the Forest of Dean UKIP polled 29% - almost exactly matching the 25% the Lib Dems polled four years previously.

2 October 2013

Soldiers sing sectarian songs at Ibrox

The police are somewhat belatedly investigating an incident on Saturday where members of the armed forces joined in with fans of the Rangers in singing sectarian songs before their routine victory over Stenhousemuir.  The troops were there to celebrate armed forces day pre-match.

Singing sectarian songs as this YouTube video shows is an offence under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 - an act inspired by the late Donald Gorrie who championed anti-sectarianism as a Lib Dem MSP.

Fans of the Rangers (and their predecessor club Rangers) have sung these songs with impunity for years - the question is now will the authorities take any action now the reputation of the armed forces is on the line?

1 October 2013

Former Kingston council leader pleads guilty to child porn charges

At Southwark Crown Court today, Derek Osbourne - former Lib Dem leader of Kingston Council - pleaded guilty to 17 charges of making and possessing indecent images of children.  He had in total more than 5,000 images - some involving children as young as three.

The Surrey Comet reports that he faces up to five years in jail.