31 December 2013

Review of the year 2013

It's the last day of the year, so it's time to look back on the events that have caught the attention of this blog over the past 12 months.  So here's the Living on Words third annual review:

In January Michael Gove visited a local Girls' Schools and talked about boys toilets

In February, this blog spent some time reporting on the presidential elections in Kenya, but also managed to highlight a great footballing coincidence.

March saw the 50th anniversary of the Beeching Report as well as the introduction of secret courts - in the face of a campaign by Lib Dem activists.

In April Margaret Thatcher died and Tom Lehrer didn't.

May saw another local election disaster for the Lib Dems, but also a major split in the ranks of Brighton Greens.

In June I criticised the campaign being run by the Better Together campaign against Scottish independence.

July saw the death of one of Britain's finest footballers - Lawrie Reilly.

In August some interesting European stats appeared to show a connection between unemployment rates and pay rises - with the UK trading off lower unemployment for lower pay.

In September Labour peer George Foulkes wanted a public subsidy for bankrupt Hearts FC.

October saw the death of Lou Reed and the castration of a dog by Zac Goldsmith's mum.

The tendency of Liberal Democrats to reach for nanny was once again revealed in November.

And finally in December the 'most middle class petition ever' was submitted to the Kingston Guardian on the subject of Christmas trees in Surbiton.

Happy new year!

Has Zac Goldsmith left the Conservatives?

If so it might explain his open letter that he kindly dropped through my door yesterday that calls on the Lib Dems to stop a third runway at Heathrow.

In it Goldsmith calls on the Lib Dems to 'apply maximum pressure on your own local MPs and Ministers to kill of the threat of Heathrow expansion..."

Now given the Conservatives have more than five times the number of MPs of the Lib Dems, have the majority of Cabinet Ministers, including the Chancellor, Transport Secretary, Local Government and Planning Minister, as well as the Mayor of London and are responsible for the Heathrow review it seems a bizarre (if not desperate) call.

He clearly now has so little influence in Conservative party that he is forced to seek allies elsewhere. But if so what is the point in him carrying on as their standard bearer?

28 December 2013

Friday favourite 133

Had an interesting work trip to Leicester earlier in the week, and was rather disappointed not to bump in to the estimable Lord Bonkers.  But anyway its really just an excuse to feature Leicester's finest, Kasabian...

20 December 2013

19 December 2013

Bumper by election nights 19

Last week saw the Lib Dem vote collapse by 35%  in the one ward they were defending and failing to stand in the other three constests.

In the last council by-elections of the year there are nine contests today.  Labour defend two rock solid seats in Bolton and Torfaen, the Tories defend six and there is an Independent vacancy in the Black Isle Ward of Highland Council.

Once again UKIP are standing more candidates than the Lib Dems - eight to seven, but both beat Labour who are only standing in six contests. 

Wards to watch are in West Sussex (Haywards Heath East) where UKIP will be looking to win the division where they were they were less than 150 behind the Tories in the county elections and the Lib Dems came fourth in a seat they were defending.  UKIP may also have hopes in the linked Mid Sussex district vacancy but which is a good deal safer for the blues.

And in another County/District double vacancy the Scotter/Scotter Rural in West Lindsay/Lincolnshire UKIP will again be looking to build on good county results, but may be hampered by recent splits in their group,

There are also three by-elections early in the new year - a rare Tuesday by-election on 7th January in the former Lib Dem seat of Swinton South in Salford where the party is not standing but a former Lib Dem councillor is now standing for the Greens.

And two days later there are two contests - in the split Con/Lab ward of Haverhill East where Labour should pick up the Tory vacancy and in a safe Tory seat in Tonbridge and Malling where the Lib Dems are failing to contest.


14 December 2013

Historic whale jawbone to be removed from Edinburgh park

The Jawbone arch on Edinburgh's Meadows is being removed having been found to be structurally unsound.  It is being removed by the council to be dried out and apparently restored - but no timescale has been made available according to this STV report.

Given the council's record of delivering projects on time (the trams are years late) it is no wonder an appeal has been set up for its restoration.

12 December 2013

By-election night 18

Last week saw a Lib Dem near miss in the wonderfully named Splott Ward in Cardiff, where Labour held on by 100 and also comfortably saw off Plaid in Riverside.

In the other city contests Labour held on comfortably in Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester with the Lib Dems polling 148 votes in total, but the party did have the - ahem - satisfaction of seeing its vote double in the Glasgow Shettleston contest to 1.4%.

Outside of the cities all the seats changed hands with the Independents gaining from the Tories in Chelmsford, the Tories gaining from Labour in Nuneaton and Bedworth and Labour gaining from the Residents' Association in Dartford.  The Lib Dems didn't stand in the latter two contests and polled just 24 votes in Chelmsford.

This week there are four by-elections with just a single Lib Dem candidate defending a vacancy in split Lib Dem/Tory Iver Village and Richings Park ward in South Buckinghamshire.  The Tories are unopposed in Hambledon and defend in Hornby Castle, Richmondshire.  Labour are defending their Bedworth West stronghold in Warwickshire. UKIP once again stand more candidates than the Lib Dems (and Labour) with a candidate in all the opposed contests.

9 December 2013

Pat Nevin's Scotland cap

At the weekend took number two son on a trip round Stamford Bridge and stumbled across one of Pat Nevin's 28 Scotland caps in the Chelsea museum.

Nevin is one of the most interesting and articulate characters off the football field as well as having been one of the finest wingers on it.  Oh and he supports Hibs...

5 December 2013

By-election night 17

An extremely poor set of by-election results for the Lib Dems last week, with the party being significantly outpolled by UKIP everywhere it stood with the exception of Lambeth's Vassal ward.  There the party managed second place - but faced a massive 16.5% swing to Labour - enough to lose it every seat on the council next May.

Eight by-elections this week and for the first time in a few weeks we're back to UKIP standing in more contests than the Lib Dems.  UKIP have a full slate - two more than the Lib Dems - which is all the more impressive given five of the eight contests are in Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester.

And it's the two constests in Cardiff that are likely to be of the most interest - with Labour defending a seat in Riverside where Plaid previously held the seats and another in Splott which was untill 2011 a split Lib Dem/Labour ward and Labour are now defending a majority of less than 400.

It's a sense of deja vu for voters in Manchester's Ancoats and Clayton ward who are returning to the polls just a few weeks after the previous by-election .  The question for the Lib Dems will be can they improve on seventh place and 44 votes in this month's ten way contest?

For the Tories, they face a tricky defence in the marginal South Woodham, Elmwood and Woodvile ward where their majority is just 94 over the local independents.  The by-election was caused by the disqualification of their sitting councillor which is likely to make the defence even trickier.

4 December 2013

Margot Leadbitter is alive and well...

...and still living in Surbiton. And the irony is she's now called Goode!

Most 'middle class' petition ever.

With thanks to the Kingston Guardian.

2 December 2013

Remembering Paul McConville

Paul McConville died unexpectedly last week aged just 47.  His is not a name that I imagine many liberals will have heard of (and as I have never met him I don't even know what his politics were).  He was a prolific Scottish blogger, but didn't often write about politics.  His main passion was football in general and Albion Rovers in particular.

But McConville's blog was arguably the most influential Scottish blog of the last few years.  He used his legal training to dissect much of the spin and wishful thinking surrounding the collapse and eventual liquidation of Glasgow Rangers.  He was one of less than a handful of people - all bloggers - who ignored the spin emanating from Ibrox and the corridors of the SFA HQ and told the truth about Rangers theft of tens of millions of public money through non-payment of tax.  He was miles ahead of the mainstream media in explaining the financial shenanigans and exposing the shady characters who were running the football club.

He did this while so called experienced sports journalists were enjoying their 'succulent lamb' on Rangers expense accounts and regurgitating the lies if not their actual free lunch. And he was called a 'bampot' for his trouble.

With Scottish journalism so compromised by this affair - and seemingly not learning any lessons with almost entirely unquestioning reporting of the not too dissimilar Hearts collapse - Paul McConville will be very sorely missed.