31 December 2014

Only pizzas are delivered

Only pizzas are delivered is sound advice contained in a jargon busting document issued by the coalition government in the summer of 2013.

It's advice those around Clegg should have taken when launching the party's summer campaign earlier this year which I criticised in similar terms at the time.

And it wasn't just the jargon strewn language of the summer campaign that was a problem - it was its poverty of ambition.

Sadly, this poverty of ambition (along with some more Whitehall speak) is apparent in the party's pre manifesto - which is a collection of timid technocratic proposals - designed to keep the wheels of Whitehall turning slowly under another coalition government.

However, the public have had four and a half years of timid coalition government and so far have taken every opportunity they can of punishing the Liberal Democrats for their role in it - something those around Clegg fail to understand while continuing with their busted strategy.

They have just a few short months to change tack if 2015 is not to go down as an historic and wholly unneccessary rout.

Happy New Year!

13 December 2014

David Steel on Borders Rail

David Steel's thoughts on the closure (and reopening) of the Waverley rail line are featured in these two videos from Borders Rail:

It also has some interesting updates on the engineering progress of the project.

20 November 2014

Jihadi terrorist estate agent headline of the day

The Surrey Herald reports: 

Jihadi terrorists force Staines estate agent name change

To distance itself from the Jihadist terrorist group, an award-winning estate agents in Staines will change its name from iSiS to Oasis

9 November 2014

Waverley route - tracks reach the Borders for first time since 1970s

With track laying now reaching the actual Scottish Borders I stumbled across this progress video.  Hopefully the promised David Steel interview will be available soon.

25 October 2014

A last trip round Kingston's Hawker factory

The Hawker factory on Richmond Road in Kingston was the first building I saw when I moved to Kingston in 1990.  Its massive Art Deco facade was a dominant feature of the area and its bulldozing in 1993 remains one of the worst decisions of the planning inspectorate.  But I stumbled across this film recently showing the factory after its closure - which quite strangely only hints at the granduer of the main building just at the end of the video.

20 September 2014

Saturday song

It's time for that fantastic alliterative replacement for 'Friday favourite' - it's a post referendum 'Saturday song':

16 September 2014

Why we're not better together

Thursday's Scottish referendum looks set to go to the wire and despite the best efforts of the Westminster establishment the last days of scaremongering looks like it has only halted YES's momentum - but has clearly not turned it into any movement for the NO campaign.  So its likely effect is to reduce participation and drive turnout down - particularly from those who don't usually participate in the democratic process.

The pitch of the NO campaign is basically that it is too risky and uncertain for Scotland to take any decisions other than those Westminster, Whitehall and the City of London are happy to give away to the Scots.  The upsurge in YES voting intention didn't change this essential power relationship it only made the list of things the establishment were prepared to give to the Scottish Parliament to determine a bit longer (assuming the Westminster parties can agree an any of it).

The UK remains one of the world's most centralised states - with more than 95% of all public revenues and spending being the responsibility of the Treasury - just 4.4% is raised and accountable to local authorities through the Council Tax.   This bureacratic over centralisation drives out local initiative - in England as much as elsewhere - and contributes to the disconnect between the government and the governed - particularly the further you go from the south east of England.

Now this isn't news and liberals have had a long held belief in political and constitutional reform - and particularly decentralising power to local communities.

So it wasn't surprising that many in the party were confident post 2010 with the Liberal Democrats part of the coalition and with Nick Clegg having responsibility for constitutional reform that progress would have been made in recasting the UK into a more modern decentralised and pluralistic democracy.  Sadly reform of the House of Lords and the voting system have been an abject failure, localism proved nothing more than spin and with MPs snouts in the expenses trough like never before Clegg and the Coalition have failed to make any meaningful progress.

So all that's left of the constitutional reform agenda is the Scottish independence referendum courtesy of the SNP government in Edinburgh.

The break up of the failed centralised UK state and the opportunity to decentralise power - not just to Scotland - but to the parts of England that are being squeezed by the sucking of power and wealth into the south east ought to have been a no-brainer for the Liberal Democrats.  But sadly the current leadership of the party north and south of the border have rejected a 100+ year history of campaigning for Home Rule and turned the Scottish party into an empty vessel of the Labour dominated and Tory funded unionist NO campaign.

When I was a member of the party in Scotland I never counted myself as a unionist and rejected the label vehemently - but that is sadly what they have now turned into - consigning the party to the margins in the post referendum landscape (whatever the result). A more sensible positioning as Scotland's honest broker between the unionists and nationalists would have given the party a role and relevance and made it the fulcrum of bringing both sides together after the vote.

But it is all too clear a NO vote on Thursday will send the message to the Westminster establishment - now sadly including the Liberal Democrats that they can carry on - with a few more tax trinkets thrown to Scotland and a new gimmick or two - such as more executive Mayors - to England's northern conurbations.  The essential power relationship of the UK's unitary state will be unaffected and London and the south east will continue to suck in more and more people and resource.  And that will only encourage the Poujadists of UKIP and promote a narrow and insular  English nationalism that won't be good for any part of the current UK in the long run.

That's why I'm hoping Scots vote YES on Thursday - it's the last remaining hope to bust the system that is so clearly broken.  Voting to stay together is a vote for more of the same.  And that's not in anyone's best interest.

6 September 2014

Scottish referendum - yes takes the lead.

With less than a fortnight to go before the Indy referendum Political Betting reports that a YouGov poll puts the Yes campaign in front by a whisker.  I'm not surprised - the shamefully negative and insulting No campaign - funded by Cameron's Tories and run by west central Scotland's Labour mafia has made no case for the union and failed to agree what new powers Scotland will get in the event of a No vote.

The Yes campaign has also been helped by a bit of social media creativity - such as this:

31 August 2014

The Clacton danger for Clegg...

... the Liberal Democrats will not win the forthcoming Clacton by-election.  If tonight's opinion polls turn out to be at all accurate Clacton will be the scene of the largest ever by election swing - at a massive 47.5% to UKIP. 

I think a UKIP victory of that size is unlikely, but they are rightly clear favourites:

At the last local elections (the counties in 2013) UKIP were just 1,000 votes behind the Tories (8,200:7,200) with Tendring First picking up almost 4,000 votes - Labour were a bit behind in fourth and the Lib Dems and Greens fighting over avoiding fifth.   On these kind of figures it is clear UKIP has the essential ingredient for winning parliamentary by-elections - local organisation and credibility.

The longer term risk for Clegg is that the expected UKIP victory doesn't just give them their first elected Westminster representation (and possibly unlocks further defections) - it consolidates UKIP as England and Wales's third party in terms of popular vote.  With just eight months before the next general election there is not much time (and no evidence that Clegg or his highly paid strategists have the ability) for the Lib Dems to turn it around.

And if the Lib Dems were to come fourth (or even fifth) in the popular vote at the 2015 general election - it would be the worst result in the party's history - regardless of how many MPs were returned - and put the party's very existence at risk.

A new leader before the election might not make the difference - but what is clear is the current one is going down to a historic defeat from which the party may not recover.

27 August 2014

The easiest job in the world...

Nick Clegg is looking for a new member of staff - and it's the easiest job in the world.

Here's how a typical day might go...

Nick Clegg's new member of staff: "Hi can we arrange a leader's visit to your marginal seat?"

Marginal seat member of staff: "No, thanks, we'd like to win thank you"

Nick Clegg is on -43%.

6 August 2014

How Kingston's local paper reported Zac Goldsmith's speeding ban

Last week, Richmond Park MP, Zac Goldsmith, was banned from driving for six months and fined a mere £570 pounds (about 0.1% of his largess to the local Tory Party).

Significant local news one might think?  Obviously not if you are the Surrey Comet/Kingston Guardian...

Perhaps the rumours of a significant investment in the ailing local paper from the Goldsmith family are true after all.

26 July 2014

Friday favourite 137

BBC Four are doing a remarkable job in re-running TOTP from the 70s without featuring some of their now unsavoury presenters. Anyway here's the Stranglers from tonight's edition...

20 July 2014

Was Tory Terry Paton a BNP member for 8 years?

According to the leaked BNP membership list from 2009 Terry Paton used his real name, home address and mobile number which is a bit odd for someone who was supposed to be 'undercover'.

Most interestingly is that his name appears in the list entitled 'Apr 01 onwards' suggesting he was a member for at least eight years.

Kingston Conservatives have some serious explaining to do.

Kingston Tory councillor was BNP member

The local paper in Kingston leads on a strange story that one of Kingston's Conservative councillors was a  member of the BNP in 2009.  Councillor Terry Paton claims that this was because he was working undercover as a private investigator having left the Met police.

The Kingston Guardian quotes that when he left the police in 1999 - ten years earlier - he set himself up as a private investigator and his BNP membership was simply part of an undercover investigation.

Paton was the Tory candidate in the July 2013 New Malden by-election caused by the resignation of disgraced former Lib Dem council leader, Derek Osbourne, on child porn charges.  Paton was interviewed at the time by a local community website 'this is our town' where he said "I was a Metropolitan Police Officer until the end of 1999 when I retired following an injury in the execution of my duty. After retiring from the Police I started my own company carrying out Gas Safety and Inspection Certification in New Malden and across South London."

This is backed up by Companies House who registered his company - Paton Heating Ltd on 5 January 2000.

There is no evidence of Terry Paton being a director of any other company (or a sole trader) since he set up Paton Heating Ltd on his retirement from the Met.

So if he was running a heating company since 2000 - what was he doing in the BNP in 2009?

Blondie live in 78


2 July 2014

Boy racer Zac Goldsmith admits three speeding offences

The Surrey Comet reports that Richmond Park MP and Tory eco-poster boy has pleaded guilty to three counts of speeding (presumably in his faux-Green Toyota Prius). 

They also report he already has points from previous offences, meaning a driving ban would be expected - or at least it would be for someone without his very highly paid lawyers.

So if he does get a ban - he'll find the Transport for London journey planner really useful.  Unless he decides to employ a chauffeur...

28 June 2014

The new Lib Dem summer campaign is an admission of failure

I had the dubious priviledge earlier in the week to listen in to Nick Clegg and a couple of his teenage acolytes (who are apparently big in the campaign department these days) launching the party's summer campaign.

It is rather strangely entitled 'A record of delivery' - which sounds like the CD you might buy on the way out of the new Postman Pat movie.  Nick Clegg - with his tin ear to party history - claimed this would be familiar to Lib Dem campaigners - referring to the ALC inspired 'Record of action' - but failing to understand the crucial difference. 

Action is a word used by people on the street - it's what they expect their politicians to take   Delivery is what people who work for the Post Office (or indeed Lib Dem activists) do.

But one big criticism isn't the ugly, soulless (focus grouped) language (or indeed the typos in the document) - it is the fact that the party is now launching a campaign that one of these acolytes - Steve Jolly, the party's 'Head of National Campaigns' - says "Tell(s) voters that we have delivered a Liberal Democrat agenda in government"

I argued as long ago as September 2011 that the big failing of Clegg's strategy was his utter inability to communicate any sort of Liberal Democrat agenda for government.  So it is no wonder over the last four years that voters have decided this is a Tory government in all but name.

So now Clegg and his team are basically wanting what's left of the party to try and recover the ground (in ten months) he has lost over the last four years.  You have to admire his chutzpah if nothing else.  But it is a huge admission that his strategy over the last four years has utterly failed.

The other big criticism is the bit after the 'Record of Delivery'.  The 'Promise of More' works where Lib Dems have dealt with local concerns, campaigned for improvements and can point to solid successes over the years.  Sadly without that public acknowledgement that the party has achieved anything in goverment (which apparently the party's own polling recognises as a major issue) a promise of more sounds simply like a plea to keep Clegg and his dozens of (frightfully bright) advisers in highly paid jobs for another five years. 

And the five policies that form the 'promise of more' are hardly going to set the heather on fire:
  • More deficit reduction - but do it fairly
  • Further increase in the personal allowance
  • New 'fair' rules on immigration
  • Write pensioners 'triple lock' into law
  • Invest more in education
If that's the best Clegg and his vast team of SPADs can come up with then the game is really up.  It's a pathetic programme that show's he's run out of ideas going forward.  He's put the party in a place where he's trashed its past, failed to communicate any positive present and is now outlining a uninspiring, technocratic future (no doubt aligned again with Cameron's Tories). 

Sorry Nick - your time's up.

17 June 2014

Peter Kellner: Lib Dems could slump to 19 MPs in 2015 'meltdown'

In an interesting commentary on the YouGov website, one of the UK's top psephologists - Peter Kellner -  postulates some 2015 election scenarios that see the Lib Dems end up with just 19 MPs.

In it he states:

"Until the recent elections I assumed that the Lib Dems would regain some ground as next year’s election approached. Even if they remained well below the 24% they scored in 2010, most of their MPs would enjoy enough local support to minimise their losses.

"Now I am not so sure. That is, I still think that the Lib Dems could claw their way back to around 14%; but there is now a chance that they will remain stuck on around 8%."
And on 8% - the best scenario for the party is just 23 seats. 

Kellner also turns perceived wisdom on its head that a narrow Labour lead equates to a small overall majority, stating "Labour must also abandon its hopes of winning an overall majority with a narrow lead in the popular vote. Depending on Lib Dem performance and the precise size of the Tories’ sophomore surge, Labour’s lead needs to be at least 3% and possibly 5%."

6 June 2014

Cleggonia wins victory in the battle of Newark!

Communique no 1,843 from the Ministry of Truth was issued today at 09.42 hours:

"In the small hours of 6th June 1984 2014 the forces of Cleggonia won a massive victory over the lacky forces of Protasia!

With our glorious Conservasian allies the so called 'peoples army' of counter revolutionary bourgeois Protasia was destroyed in combat.  All hail Big Clegger!"

Inner Party member O'Ashdown added, "This victory confirms the superiority of IngCentrism.  Under the rule of Big Clegger we have seized coalition power and we will not be relinquishing it. Coalition is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a coalition in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the coalition . The object of campaigning is campaigning. The object of Focus is Focus. The object of Connect  is Connect.  The object of power is power.

"I have today by way of celebration increased the Focus ration to 250 leaflets per week"


3 June 2014

Rennard set to come back as general election director?

The Lib Dems are looking for a Director of General Election Strategy and the job description makes interesting reading:

Essential Skills and Experience

1. The ability to articulate a vision for Liberal Democrat electoral success in 2015
2.A record of delivering national electoral success.
3. 10 years’ experience of providing strategic leadership for a national political party .
4. A deep understanding of UK electoral politics.
5. A background and 5 years’ experience of delivering political marketing and market
6. 10 years’ experience of leading political communications or campaigns for a political
party, including for a national general election.
7. A passion for and a commitment to campaigning.
8. Experience of working with and inspiring volunteers and staff.
9. A demonstrated commitment to liberal values
10. A proven track record of success within electoral politics.
11. 5 years’ experience gained working in a senior role within government.
12. 10 years’ experience gained working in a senior strategic role within a political party.
13. An understanding of the political dynamics of coalition government.
14. An established understanding of the internal dynamics of the Liberal Democrats

Could this be the reason for Rennard's unexpected apology last week?  If it's not going to be Rennard - who ticks pretty much all the boxes - then who else could it be? 

1 June 2014

30 May 2014

Kingston Tories in palace coup

In a political coup worthy of Ken Livingstone's ousting of Andrew MacIntosh 24 hours after Labour taking control of the GLC in 1981, Kingston Tories have dumped their election winning leader just seven days after taking contol.

And in a move that will delight local Liberal Democrats, the Tories choice to lead the council is Kevin Davis.  Hapless Davis is well known to Lib Dems beyond the Royal Borough's boundaries - pledging (and failing) to oust David Laws in Yeovil in 2010 - just as he had done to Edward Davey five years earlier.  As a result of his lacklustre campaign in Kingston and Surbiton he was unceremoniously dumped by the voters of Berrylands Ward (scene of the 'Good Life') in 2006.

He is however not new to the leadership of Kingston Council, having been an executive member in the 1998-2002 Tory administration and Leader between 2001-2002 before losing the following election heavily.

As leader, the competence of his administration was in stark contrast to his overblown rhetoric:

He pledged to cut council tax, but under his watch it soared by 50%.  Davis was the first leader of Kingston Council to levy a tax of more than £1,000 a year.

In opposition he attacked the Lib Dems for increasing council staff numbers, failing to realise that under his leadership of the council a record 238 new staff were recruited in 2001/2. (The year the Council Tax hit £1,000).

He also made a fool of himself over several controversial schemes in Berrylands ward -where he attacked the Liberal Democrats for implementing them, when they happened under his watch.

And in a tear jerking post on his blog in 2007 - after losing out in the Tory parliamentary nomination for Kingston and Surbiton he said, "clearly my future no longer lies in Kingston".

But now in a puff piece in the local Kingston Guardian newspaper he is described as a 'PR guru', when in fact he runs a consultancy who seeks planning permission for property speculators.  This includes working for the developers of the controversial Surbiton Filter Beds scheme - which was finally defeated by residents (with the support of Ed Davey and the Lib Dems) after years of campaigning.

It promises to be an interesting few years under his leadership.

28 May 2014

Why I'm backing Libdems4change (despite the use of a '4')

Last Thursday's election results were a disaster for the Liberal Democrats.  But they were no isolated event.  They come on top of almost equally disasterous results (particularly in the big cities) over the previous four years.  In fact the party's losing streak began as soon as Clegg took over the leadership and before the party joined a coalition government in 2010.

The scale of that disaster is huge - no councillors in Manchester, Southampton, Islington, Lambeth or Lewisham (where just a few years ago we either ran the council or had high hopes of doing so), replaced as the official opposition in Liverpool by the Greens with a mere four councillors and returning just 118 councillors across all of London - more than half in just two boroughs: Sutton and Kingston.  And that's before you get to the utterly disasterous Euro results, after a campaign fronted by Clegg and promoting his European vision.

The leadership's initial reaction to this was crass and patronising - implying those losing candidates (of which I was one) didn't work hard enough.

And then Nick Clegg gave his view, saying in a 'lady's not for turning' moment:
I don’t begrudge anyone for raising searching questions, for asking challenging questions about strategy and about leadership, all of it. It’s the most natural thing in the world after the electoral losses of the last few very very difficult days. But the question is, is that really a shortcut to doing what the Liberal Democrats want to do for Great Britain. And I think that losing our nerve, buckling down, washing our hands of all the decisions, exactly at the point that our decisions are being proved right, would be the wrong thing to do. 
But unlike Clegg I believe it is clear the party cannot go on as it is.  The party's strategy of essentially rejecting most of its previous support base in favour of a new centrist electorate who vote for governing parties has been tested to destruction.

It is perfectly possible to govern as radical outsiders trying to change the system - but this has been repeatedly rejected by Clegg and his team.  Instead Clegg argues that the Lib Dems can be either a party of protest or party of government - a line he has used ever since he was being advised by the world's worst political strategist - Richard Reeves.

So, Clegg gives me no choice.  He's not prepared to change a strategy and direction that can only end one way.  If he was, I would have no qualms about backing him - this battle is not, and should not, be about personalities.  But Clegg and his advisors are now wedded to a strategy that plainly is not working and if he won't change, he needs to go and be replaced by someone else who will make that change.

You can sign the Lib Dems for change petition here.

29 April 2014

Kingston Lib Dems launch local election campaign

Council leader Liz Green among a group of campaigners and candidates launch the party's 2014 manifesto which contains a commitment to build four new primary schools and another new secondary.  At of course the Willoughby Arms...

4 April 2014

The lesser known Margo MacDonald

With the sad news of the death of Margo MacDonald earlier today many tributes have been made about her many achievements on the Scottish political scene.  But what is probably less well known is that Margo was a season ticket holder at Easter Road, leading to this tribute from the club this afternoon.

One interesting consequences of her death is that she has no replacement on the list as she stood by herself.  And unless the Parliament makes provision for a list by-election (which I don't think it does) then her replacement will come from another list - which may mean the Lib Dems gain her seat.

Edit 11.40pm - apparently according to section 10(2) of the Scotland Act her seat will remain vacant until the next Scottish general election.

27 March 2014

Nick v Nige factchecker

LBC have very conveniently published a fact checker after last night's debate.  And it suggests neither participant's claims were fully compliant with the actualité...

17 March 2014

23 February 2014

Tim Rice backs UKIP

Leading Richmond Park Tory (oh and Oscar winning musician) Sir Tim Rice has left the Conservatives and is backing UKIP - according to this report from the Daily Mail.

Given Zac Goldsmith's apparently genetically driven anti Europeanism, the fact even he can't keep his local Tory Europhobes on board doesn't bode well for the Tory party's ability to win the Euro elections later this year - even in a Conservative association as financially well endowed as Richmond Park...

15 February 2014

Ed and Emily Davey have baby girl

News reaches LOWA towers that Kingston and Surbiton MP Edward Davey and wife Emily (who did the hard work) have a new daughter - Ellie - born at Kingston Hospital.  Congrats go to them all.

14 February 2014

13 February 2014

Danny Alexander's currency union u-turn

Lib Dem Voice (among others) reports Danny Alexander has ruled out a post Scottish independence currency union in the strongest possible terms.  He states: "a currency union would create unacceptable risks both for Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom."

This surely can't be the same Danny Alexander as press spokesman for the pro european currency union campaign Britain in Europe who told the Guardian in 2002, "When the euro fell below dollar parity, anti-Europeans were rubbing their hands with glee. There's egg on faces now,"

Now I don't know whether Danny actually now believes currency unions 'create unacceptable risks' or has simply gone native and is just parroting the Osborne Treasury line.  But what I do know is that it is stupid politics both for the 'No' campaign and the Lib Dems.

It's stupid for the No campaign as there is nothing more certain to get the opposite reaction in Scotland than for Westminster politicians to tell the Scots what they can do.  And it is stupid for the Lib Dems as they have denied themselves the opportunity to point this out.

31 January 2014

Friday favourite 136

I stumbled across this the other day.  It shouldn't be funny but somehow it is...

30 January 2014

London waterways sound map

Thanks to Laura Willoughby for introducing me to the London Sound Survey and their Harry Beck inspired map of London's waterways.

27 January 2014

Robin Meltzer meets New Malden's North Koreans

There are approximately 400 North Koreans living in and around New Malden and I was delighted to be able to meet some of them on Saturday night with Robin Meltzer - the Lib Dems excellent candidate in Richmond Park constituency.

And if anyone doubts the need for the UK's borders to remain open to refugees and those fleeing persecution then a few minutes in their company should disabuse them of the idea.

17 January 2014

Friday favourite 135

This is for Tim Snowball, the Liberal Democrats' Director of Political Operations:

6 January 2014

Former Liberal MP appears on Antiques Roadshow

Former Richmond Park MP, Jenny Tonge, appeared with a couple of antique Spanish chairs on yesterday's edition.

You can catch the exchange on BBC iplayer here at 41 mins.

4 January 2014

Friday favourite 134

The beeb have run a series of documentaries about ABBA over the festive season.  And it reminded me of just how complex their songs are.  And it is also an opportunity to feature this 1984 Blancmange cover of 'The day before you came'.