Saturday, 29 November 2008

David Howarth: ID cards are bad news for Cambridge

From this week, the Home Office has announced, compulsory ID cards will be issued to foreign nationals including students and those granted a visa because they are married to a British Citizen.

Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge David Howarth has pointed out the ID card scheme's implications for the University city:
I am worried about the effect of this move on the economy of Cambridge, which relies on a stream of highly-qualified scientists, engineers and academics from all over the world.

Treating highly-qualified people as potential criminals rather than as welcome guests is not going to put us at the top of their list of places to go to use their talents.


Read the full story at Cambridge News.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Conservatives at odds over Heathrow third runway

Do the Conservatives oppose a third runway at Heathrow, or not?

Iain Dale has this:



There is growing disquiet among Tory MPs, and the Shadow Cabinet, about Theresa Villiers witchhunt against BAA. The Shadow Transport Secretary issued a press release yesterday headlined PROMISES FROM BAA CAN'T BE TRUSTED. The release went on to accuse BAA of breaking all its promises on a third runway.

[Iain quotes from Villiers' press release] "BAA are right to admit that they have lost the trust of Parliamentarians and local communities over the third runway. However today's letter is just the next in a long line of promises which may have been sincere at the time, that were subsequently cast aside by the company. We have seen this all before. What BAA needs to realise is that people do not want a third runway, we do not need a third runway, and under a Conservative Government there will not be a third runway."

All this was said in response to a BAA proposal that a completely independent body should be set up to ensure that it is impossible for promises to be broken. Surely that was something a Shadow Transport Secretary should welcome. One has to ask what kind of message this sends out to private companies who want to act responsibly? "Sorry, we don't trust you so don't bother trying".


So BAA are proposing a watchdog: that's a good thing, right? Not if you check the fine print. As the BBC reports:



Heathrow's owner says it will accept an independent body with the power to limit flights for environmental reasons - if a third runway is approved.

BAA says that if it wins the battle for a third runway and more flights, it will welcome being held to strict noise and pollution controls.



Stable doors, horses bolting, etc, spring to mind. In response to BAA's assurances, Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary Norman Baker has said, "This is a worthless promise, as BAA has to stick to EU emissions limits anyway."

You can read here how Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, is speaking up against Heathrow expansion plans, on behalf of her constituents.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Damian Green arrest: Gordon Brown "knew nothing"

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has told Sky News that he had no prior knowledge of the arrest of Conservative MP Damian Green.

For a Government not noted for minding its own business, it is odd that the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and other ministers were all unaware of the arrest until after it had taken place.

Especially so, since we learn that Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Conservative Leader David Cameron and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin all knew that the arrest was about to happen.

Here's the video from Sky:



The BBC also reports here.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Starbucks to use only Fairtrade coffee in Britain

Coffee shop chain Starbucks has announced that its 700 UK and Ireland branches are to sell only Fairtrade coffee by the end of next year.

The firm hopes the switch will stop a decline in sales caused by the economic downturn, while reassuring customers that growers are receiving a fair price for their coffee crops.

From the Telegraph:
The Fairtrade Foundation, which gives certification to growers who were given at least 92p for every pound of their coffee beans, estimated that 100,000 farmers in Africa, Asia and South America will benefit from the decision.

At present, only six per cent of coffee sold by Starbucks qualifies as Fairtrade. The company claims that it will now become the world’s largest buyer of Fairtrade coffee.

The company hopes the move will boost revenues. Earlier this week, it warned that its global sales would be down this year. After years of aggressive expansion in the US, Australia and UK, the company has been closing hundreds of outlets hit by reduced demand.

Howard Schultz, the company’s chairman and chief executive, told The Independent: “We’ve done something that’s far beyond what any coffee company has done before.

"This is a long-term commitment, which will not only benefit our farmers, but will give our customers the assurance that the coffee they’re buying in Starbucks ... is at a price that will allow sustainability for those people who need it most."


Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Watford Conservatives to usher in new candidate?

The Watford Observer reports that the Watford Conservative Association is moving quickly to replace Ian Oakley, the Tory PPC convicted of 68 criminal offences against his Liberal Democrat opponent Sal Brinton and her colleagues.

Curious, then, that ConservativeHome appear to have no knowledge of the advertisement (it isn't in the most recent list of advertised seats on ConservativeHome), and in fact their last entry for Watford reports Oakley's pleading guilty at St Albans Magistrates Court back in August.

Neither the local Conservative Association nor David Cameron have yet apologised to Watford Liberal Democrats for Oakley's reign of terror whilst he was their PPC.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Vince Cable endorsed by business leaders

Polling consultancy ComRes has been tracking business leaders' perceptions of party leaders and their Treasury spokesmen since October 2007.

Recent figures for business leaders' confidence in the abilities of Darling, Osborne and Cable make for an interesting comparison:

In September, confidence in Alistair Darling was 11%, George Osborne 40% and Vince Cable was 31%.

In October, it was: Darling 25%, Osborne 36% and our Vince 45%.

At a time when business experience among MPs is lacking, and when Liberal Democrat ideas are being filched from all sides, Vince Cable stands out.

ComRes' Chief Exec Andrew Hawkins has even gone so far as to say Vince should be made Liberal Democrat Leader.

You can get the full story in December's issue of Total Politics magazine, published today.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Forecasters say "UK recession has begun"

The BBC reports today that the start of recession in the UK has now been pronounced:

The UK economy has "deteriorated dramatically" in the past three months, and is already in a recession, top forecasters have suggested.
The Ernst & Young Item Club says the UK [economy] will shrink by 1% next year, before recovering in 2010 and growing by 1%.
The Item Club's chief economist, Peter Spencer, told the BBC: "Recession is already baked in the cake."


Read more here.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Government department in 'no lost memory sticks' shocker

From silicon.com:



It had to happen sooner or later. While seemingly a week doesn't go past without another government data loss as a result of a mislaid memory stick, one government department has made a shocking revelation: it hasn't lost any for several years.

In a written answer to Parliament, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Paul Goggins revealed that no memory sticks or desktop computers have been lost or stolen from his department between 2001 and 2008.

Figures prior to 2001 are not available, Goggins said in response to a question by Paul Holmes, Lib Dem MP for Chesterfield.

However, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) wasn't exempt from technology going missing.

According to Goggins, five laptops and one hard drive were stolen over the last seven years, while 22 mobiles were lost and six were reported stolen.

Despite the losses, the NIO still shines compared to other government departments.

In response to written questions this week by Holmes, the Department of Transport reported 14 memory sticks, 21 laptops, 10 desktops, one hard drive and 15 mobiles lost or stolen between 2003 and 2008 and the Department for International Development confirmed it had had one memory stick, 39 laptops and 28 mobiles lost or stolen between 2001 and 2008.


You can read the full story here.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Monday, 17 November 2008

A New Liberal Order

From Time Magazine, Peter Beinart’s take on the Obama Presidency: it is “just the beginning... Shifting attitudes about government will make Democrats the ruling party for a generation”



The death and rebirth of American liberalism both began with flags in Grant Park. On Aug. 28, 1968, 10,000 people gathered there to protest the Democratic Convention taking place a few blocks away, which was about to nominate Lyndon Johnson's Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, thus implicitly ratifying the hated Vietnam War. Chicago mayor Richard Daley had warned the protesters not to disrupt his city and denied them permits to assemble, but they came anyway. All afternoon, the protesters chanted and the police hovered, until about 3:30, when someone climbed a flagpole and began lowering the American flag.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Post Office Card Account: Labour's hypocrisy

On Monday 10th November a Liberal Democrat Opposition Day debate was held in the Commons on a motion on the Post Office Card Account.

The wording of the motion was the same as that used in Early Day Motion (EDM) 2008 from this session. The EDM was signed by 47 Labour MPs. In the vote on the motion, however, most of them voted against. Here are their names:

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Post Office keeps contract to run card account

The Government will allow the Post Office to keep the Post Office Card Account contract until at least 2015.

The contract had previously been put out to tender, risking the loss of 3,000 Post Offices if a private firm won the contract.

To cheers in the House of Commons, Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell announced that the bidding process had been closed, saying, "Now cannot be the time for the government to do anything to put that network at risk."

Mr Purnell stated that private company Paypoint would be compensated for the cost of bidding for the contract, insisting, "It is a good deal for taxpayers. It means a better service for customers but it also means a deal which is right for customers and taxpayers in general."

See BBC News.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Doing the Database Rag

From eclectech, soundtrack by Mushroom: a jolly database ditty about our stalker Government.

Enjoy!

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Peter Mandelson invents the Post Office

The Guardian has news of Labour's further inconsistency in their plans for the Post Office network:




Lord Mandelson is urging the prime minister to save the Post Office network by allowing it to provide government services and financial products, according to a leaked letter seen by the Guardian.

Mandelson suggests that the current economic downturn and "recent events in the financial services" present an opportunity for the Post Office to take on a new range of tasks.

In the letter to Gordon Brown dated October 30 - sent less than a month after he rejoined the government - the business secretary says: "We should examine the prospects for POL [Post Office Ltd] becoming a much more significant player in financial services - offering a wider range of attractive products within easy reach of the whole population, available from an institution they can trust."



Whatever next: Mandelson’s novel suggestion that Post Offices could provide a convenient local point to collect pensions, benefits and send parcels?

Campaign surgery at London Region Conference

Over on Lib Dem Voice, I've been plugging this Saturday's London Region Autumn Conference. The details are all on the Flock Together website.

While regional conferences are always an excellent way to catch up with members from neighbouring areas, I'm particularly keen to tell people about a certain fringe event:

Campaign Surgery is a chance for members of the, shall we say, more modestly sized local parties to discuss the challenges they face. Come along and get advice, swap ideas (and even phone numbers)! It's at 11.45 in Room 2.

And if you're from a big, thriving party, come and share how you do things and inspire the rest of us!

I know that my own campaigning skills have benefited hugely from the way larger London parties such as Haringey, Islington, Camden, and many others, have welcomed me in and shared their experience.

After all, Haringey was believed by some to be a "no-hope" area for the Lib Dems. Now, ten years (and a phenomenal amount of work and determination) later, the Lib Dems are close to taking control of the Council and Lynne Featherstone is the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.

So if you'd also like to make a success out of humble beginnings, this event is for you:

"Are you trying to win your first council seats or to strengthen a small group on the Council? If so, come along to this two-way surgery session where you can chat informally with some of our Regional team and staff.

Come and let us know about the particular challenges in YOUR target ward. Meet with other campaigners from other parts of London who may be experiencing similar issues so we can win together!"


See you there!

Monday, 10 November 2008

London Lib Dems: Talk to your neighbours!

It's always valuable to meet with campaigners from neighbouring areas, to share ideas (and helpers!)

In a change to the printed guide which has been sent out to London Region Liberal Democrats, this Saturday's Autumn Conference now features a campaigning pick-me-up.

Campaign Surgery, a fringe event at 11.45, is great for development parties. Here's the idea:



Are you trying to win your first council seats or to strengthen a small group on the Council? If so, come along to this two-way surgery session where you can chat informally with some of our Regional team and staff.

Come and let us know about the particular challenges in YOUR target ward. Meet with other campaigners from other parts of London who may be experiencing similar issues so we can win together!



Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Ros Scott's Presidential acceptance speech - the movie

From Saturday's Liberal Democrat Presidential Election count at Cowley Street: Ros Scott's acceptance speech.

Special bonus scenes: The announcement of the result, clips of Chandila Fernando and Lembit Öpik and the promise of a new First Kitten. (6:34)



Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Lib Dem President Elect sparks new poll!

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

I was at Cowley Street yesterday, reporting the Presidential Election result for Lib Dem Voice. It took a roomful of volunteers several hours to count the thousands of ballot papers.

While it was clear from early on that Ros Scott's pile was the biggest, even Ros seemed surprised and was definitely moved when she saw just how large her vote had been.

But there was one surprise still to come.

In Ros's acceptance speech, [video here] she thanked her campaign team, paid tribute to Chandila Fernando, Lembit Öpik and Simon Hughes, before addressing her husband, Mark Valladares:

"I started this campaign two years ago as a single woman. Then in the romantic, idealised setting of the Ealing Southall by-election, (it’s very Lib Dem, that, isn’t it?) Mark and I had what I now know to be our first date, and we got married during the campaign. Mark has made this campaign even more of a joy than it would have been, and his support and advice and encouragement has just been invaluable. Mark, I love you very much, and you can have that kitten.”

A sweetly blushing Mark V looked both chuffed and astonished as the room erupted with hoots, laughter and applause.

Obviously we're now faced with another poll, as we'll have to help Mark choose a suitable name for the new kitteh. Thousands more ballot papers will have to be counted, so volunteers (and donations) will all be gratefully received.

Friday, 7 November 2008

David Beckham


...attended Chase Farm Primary School in Chingford. That's where I was yesterday, as the school was being used as a Polling Station for the Valley ward by-election.

My role was to be a 'teller' which means I was there to collect people's polling numbers as they came to cast their vote. This is so they won't be disturbed later by reminders to go and vote.

I've always found telling a pleasant task, especially the truce-like nature of the conversations I've had with tellers from the other parties.

During the quiet patches, after a brief burst of politics and wondering whether voters would soon be queuing round the block as they had in the US this week, talk turned to sport.

David Beckham, the school's chair of governors proudly told me, had been a pupil at the school and continued to be an inspiration to the children at Chase Lane. A signed football shirt donated by Beckham during a visit had pride of place in the school foyer.

Anyway, the queues of voters didn't materialise* (or at least not on my watch!) and one person even said that her daughter might not get a chance to vote as she was going to watch Spurs play that night.

Incidentally, some voters had their own interesting reasons for visiting the polling station yesterday: A power cut in Titley Close made some people think, "Oh well, may as well go out and vote as I can't do much at home." And two elderly ladies sought the warmth of the school when they found their gas heating wasn't working.

So they came to where the power was! I wonder how many people saw the Valley by-election as bringing power to the people?

For me, that's what politics is all about.



Update: 4.30pm November 7 - Just heard that voter turnout was 27.8%.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Home Secretary to be cloned?

Guido Fawkes writes today that Jacqui Smith's fingerprints have been taken away for analysis and potential copying:



Jacqui Smith gave a speech today at midday on ID cards to an audience invited by the Social Market Foundation, at the end of the event the glass she was drinking from during the Q & A was whisked away by a NO2ID sympathiser. This picture was taken this lunchtime - the glass is now undergoing a technical process at an undisclosed location. This will not only identify Big Jacqui's fingerprints, it will allow them to create a plastic foil stamp that will enable anyone to leave her fingerprints behind.


Ok, so cloning a whole Home Secretary may yet be technically some way off. But wouldn't it be handy to have a spare, in case the Home Office loses one?

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Is blogging dying - or simply shrinking?

Paul Boutin thinks blogs are SO four years ago! Writing at Wired he says that the rise of other sites like Twitter, Flickr and Facebook offer quicker and richer ways to express yourself.

He particularly likes Twitter:

"Twitter — which limits each text-only post to 140 characters — is to 2008 what the blogosphere was to 2004. You'll find Scoble, Calacanis, and most of their buddies from the golden age there. They claim it's because Twitter operates even faster than the blogosphere. And Twitter posts can be searched instantly, without waiting for Google to index them. As a writer, though, I'm onto the system's real appeal: brevity."


Listen to Guardian writer and blogger Kate Bevan discussing with Robin Hamman (of computing consultancy Headshift) whether microblogging is overtaking the longer form. (From BBC Radio 4)

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Starbucks becoming biggest purchasers of Fair Trade coffee‏

News for caffeine-fuelled campaigners!

From Transfair USA, a non-profit organisation which certifies and promotes fair trade products in the States:



Starbucks, one of the largest buyers of Fair Trade Certified coffee, will double its purchases to 40 million pounds in 2009, making the company the largest purchaser of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee in the world.

"This commitment from Starbucks could not have come at a better time for coffee farmers as they face the threat of climate change, higher prices and brace themselves for a global slowdown," said Rob Cameron, ceo of FLO. [Fairtrade Labeling Organizations] "The partnership combines the expertise of Fairtrade in delivering grassroots-based farmer and consumer empowerment in global markets, with Starbucks incentive-based program for improvement of coffee quality and farmer incomes. Together, we believe we can forge a model of trade for sustainable development that the coffee industry has never before seen."


Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Driving in the rain

We had a really successful Membership Drive in Ilford South today: Six members signed up, with more leads to follow in the coming days.

Thanks to the team for all their hard work - especially as it was raining pretty hard today. Funnily enough, that was good weather for recruiting as it meant we found a lot of people at home.

If you'd like to give your local party numbers a boost, why not set a day to do it? It's a great motivation to have a bunch of people all going for it.

It was also fun to gather afterwards to share our news - and some of Marjorie's delicious home-made pumpkin soup!