Friday, 30 January 2009

Redbridge Lib Dem Leader says Cllr Patel will be a great asset

Shoaib Patel (pictured above) has been welcomed as "a great asset" to Redbridge by Councillor Hugh Cleaver, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the borough. Speaking about Councillor Patel, who won yesterday's by-election in Valentines ward, Councillor Cleaver said,

"Our candidate worked very hard and I am positive he will be a very good councillor and very good for the area."

The Ilford Recorder has the full story.

Six new Liberal Democrat councillors

A great crop of Liberal Democrat victories last night, in council by-elections around the country:

There were Liberal Democrat gains in Fenham, Newcastle (from Labour); Valentines, London Borough of Redbridge (from Labour); Bury St Edmunds (from Independent); Axholme South (from Independent) and North and West Marlow (from Conservatives).

Didsbury West (Neil Trafford’s seat) is held with an increased majority.

Congratulations to our six new councillors and their campaign teams!

Best wishes (and a much-deserved rest) also go to talented Liberal Democrat candidate Karelia Scott-Daniels who came third in Stoke Newington, Hackney, ahead of the Conservatives.

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

Lib Dem gain in Redbridge

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The Liberal Democrats have an 11th Councillor in the London Borough of Redbridge!

Shoaib Patel (pictured third from the left) gained the seat in Valentines ward, which has had Labour councillors for decades.

The results:

Liberal Democrats 963, Conservatives 781, Labour 756, Respect 112. Turnout: 29.7%.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

London Assembly: Lib Dems teach Tories a lesson on value for money

There was a certain tension among the Tories yesterday at Mayor’s Question Time in London: In a change to the usual format, the London Assembly were considering the Mayor’s Draft Budget.

Naturally, value for money was being debated, and who better to champion it than Conservative Assembly Member Brian Coleman, he of the expensive taxi habit.

He was keen to question the Mayor on value for money - Boris seemed surprised that this was coming from Coleman’s direction, so inserted a little put-down later on – when it came to the discussion on how to encourage an increase in cycling, Boris said that all members would support such a thing, “with the possible exception of Brian.”

Adam Bienkov has also blogged at Tory Troll about Coleman’s keenness to get the best value – at least for himself:
At a meeting of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority that he chairs, Coleman voted for an additional £7,564.91 (plus SR allowances) to be paid to authority members who are also on the London Assembly.

Coleman, who under a recent change in the law, already receives this allowance plus £25,612.50 for chairing the authority, was joined in the vote by his fellow Conservative Assembly members Roger Evans and Tony Arbour.

Currently, Assembly Members who are on the authority are expected to do the work as part of their basic £50,582 salary.

I wonder what the groups of students in the gallery made of all this; as usual, Jeanette Arnold, Chair of the London Assembly introduced each visiting college by name, and explained to Boris that they were all studying politics.

“There’s no politics here,” replied the Mayor, “It’s just pure common sense.”

Ok Boris, here’s a common-sense amendment to your budget (courtesy of the Lib Dem Group): giving bus passengers the option of buying “One Hour” tickets (as in Paris and other continental cities) valid for any number of bus journeys within an hour.

As Caroline Pidgeon has said, “If you can switch from tube to tube on the same ticket surely it makes sense to allow people to do the same with buses. At present people are penalised for using more than one bus on any journey. This is both unfair and in some cases a deterrent to people even using the bus. Other European cities recognise the benefits of time limited bus tickets and it is time the idea was adopted in London.”

Boris Johnson agreed yesterday to examine this proposal, along with others put forward by the Liberal Democrats.

The Mayor’s final Budget will be presented to the London Assembly next month.

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

Monday, 26 January 2009

Liberal Democrat candidate silenced in Redbridge

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Valentines by-election candidate Shoaib Patel was denied the chance to speak at a council meeting, even though council officers said it was within the rules.

The Wanstead and Woodford Guardian reports:

At a full meeting of the authority last week, Shoaib Patel, a Liberal Democrat candidate for the upcoming Valentines Ward by-election, attempted to ask a question during a slot for public speaking, but was denied the chance amid concerns over his political status.

Lib Dem politicians said they were furious that "legal advice granting permission for Mr Patel to speak was ignored", as Tory and Labour councillors voted not to let him ask his question.

Lib Dem Church End representative Richard Hoskins said he was "shocked" by the attempt to "gag" a member of the public.

He added: "It is unacceptable that the council leader should be allowed to arrogantly ride roughshod over the established rules of council procedures in this way."

Liberal Democrat Councillor Ian Bond said that the submitted question was a factual one about a local school and that neither the Mayor nor the Leader of the Council were "able to explain to the meeting under what power Mr Patel was being silenced."

Monday, 19 January 2009

Boris Johnson to keep City Hall's overseas offices

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced today that City Hall's offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Shanghai, Beijing and Brussels are to be retained. (The office in Venezuela is due to close.)

The running costs for the offices last year totalled £1.4 million.

After a review to investigate whether the GLA outposts offer value for money, Deputy Mayor Ian Clement has admitted, "There are significant savings we can make."

Today's London Evening Standard has the story.

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

Friday, 16 January 2009

Has Mike Gapes lost the plot? I've joined it!

I've signed up to be a "beneficial owner" of a plot of land on the site of the proposed third runway at Heathrow. (You can do the same, via Greenpeace.)

It's here in the village of Sipson, which the government would like to flatten and replace with tarmac. This will be devastating, not only to the community of 700 homes, businesses and a school, but to the natural environment.

The effects will be felt far beyond West London. Here in Redbridge, the Ilford Recorder reports:
"Planes could be roaring over Redbridge at levels lower than ever before, if ministers back a shake-up of aircraft plans.

The overhaul would allow an extra 60,000 planes to land at Heathrow Airport's existing two runways.

But with Ilford among a dozen outer-London areas that will be under the revised flight paths, the plans have sparked controversy.

Claire Dawson, of Thorold Road, Ilford, said: "We haven't been asked to give an opinion on this. It's something that's going to happen by stealth."

A decision on the overhaul of how planes come in to land at the airport is expected later this month, after plans for a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow were rubber-stamped by the government.

It is believed the proposals will allow both runways to receive planes that are landing and taking off, instead of each runway catering for one or the other, which is what happens at present.

To allow for this, the points at which aircraft turn to enter their final approach, either from the east or west, will be moved eight miles further from the airport.

Planes could be as low as 4,000ft when they pass over Ilford."

The same article says that Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford South, has merely asked "for clarification" about flight patterns over the constituency. He told the paper, "We can't assume that even if there's no development at Heathrow there won't be changes anyway because more people are flying."

Yes, this is the same Mike Gapes who told the Evening Standard last month:

"Given that ... it is my job to visit other countries, it is not surprising that I am the most well-travelled MP. I make no apology for this because it is my job."

This was his the defence he offered for his many and lavish trips abroad (by plane) which cost taxpayers almost a quarter of a million pounds in one year.

Maybe this is why Mike Gapes didn't sign the Early Day Motion in Parliament on the environmental impact of a third runway at Heathrow. (Unlike 41 Liberal Democrat MPs, including Lynne Featherstone, Susan Kramer and Norman Baker.)

Whose interests does the Ilford South MP really represent?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

It's *tweeting* cold today

...but still vital to get the Liberal Democrat vote out for David Schmitz in Seven Sisters ward, Haringey.

I was telling again at the by-election today (recording voters' polling numbers outside the polling station).

This involved standing (well, hopping up and down) in the cold for a few hours with tellers from the other parties.

During quiet patches, it was good to chat about politics, current affairs and thermal socks! I had an interesting discussion with the teller from the Greens, about today's Government go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow. And as always happens when I'm telling at Haringey by-elections, people from all parties praised Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone for her tireless campaigning.

Just then, who should turn up to collect my telling slips but Lynne herself - and she was warmly greeted by all.

I hadn't seen her since she was appointed Chair of the party's new Technology Board so I took the chance to congratulate her and nab her for a quick photo. Before she dashed off to do some more campaigning, Lynne and I agreed we'd both be tweeting about today's election.

Polls are open till 10pm and then I'm off to the count - I'll tweet the result from there, as it's announced.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Councillors’ Census shows diversity is still lacking

Sadly, it's not a surprising headline, but the 2008 National Census of Local Authority Councillors is just out: it shows that councillors in England are still predominantly white and male. There’s a bulge around retirement age. (I’m talking statistics here, not middle-age spread!)
Some of the main findings are summarised below:
• Most councillors (68.4%) were male, 30.8% were female (0.8% did not respond).

• The proportion of female councillors has increased from 27.8% in 1997.

• The average age of councillors has increased from 55.4 years in 1997 to 58.8 years in 2008.

• 96.6% of councillors were white and 3.4% came from an ethnic minority background.

• 56.4% of councillors held a position of leading responsibility within the council and 53.2% of all councillors received a special responsibility allowance in addition to their basic allowance.

• 88.0% considered themselves to be effective or very effective in their role as councillors which was a slightly smaller proportion than was the case in 2006 when 92.1% considered that they
were effective.

• 88.4% of councillors cited a desire to serve the community as their reason for wanting to become a councillor.

• Councillors spent, on average, 22 hours per week on council/political business.

• Most councillors (62.5%) indicated that they thought it was very important that there was a greater role for councils in the accountability of key local services like health and police. 40.4%
felt that it was very important that councils had a devolved, discretionary budget for individual councillors to spend on local amenities or initiatives.

• 54.5% of councillors intend to stand for re-election at the end of their term in office and 81.8% would recommend taking on the role to others.

You can read the Final Report here and the Preliminary report (October 2008) on councillors' gender and ethnicity here.

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

Sunday, 11 January 2009

This post has got the LOT: Twitter, The Daily Mail, free speech, James Graham, etc...

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

We know by now that the Daily Mail don't reckon much to Twitter, as I highlighted recently over on Lib Dem Voice.

Today, from new satirical* blog (Probably Not) The Daily Mail:

"Do you trust Twitter? Should you?

In response to a pathetic and rather lacklustre piece of "journalism" in the Daily Mail, I created ran a (mildly satirical) twitter account under the name @dailymail_uk

A flurry of tweets and all of a sudden I found myself with over 700 followers. About 6 times more than the "official" Daily Mail twitter. Not bad for a week's work.

A few minor blogs such as PressGazette picked up the "story" of a Daily Mail twitter account and taht - I thought was that. Until...

All of a sudden and with no warning I was locked out of Twitter."

Read the full story here.

(It even features a tweet from aforementioned James Graham, calling him as a witness to the account's satirical intentions.)

And how did I hear about this story? I bet you daren't ask! That's right, on Twitter - in fact someone retweeted it.

Thing is, that's another way that news gets around...

*I've bolded it just in case, as it's a bit subtle for some.

Government secrets may be revealed earlier

An independent review to be published this month is expected to recommend that the 30-year rule on government secrets should be changed to 15 years. Under current rules, 30-year-old confidential government papers are released annually by the National Archives in Kew.

The review was commissioned by Gordon Brown in 2007 and the team, led by Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, has already reported its findings to the Prime Minister.

From the Independent on Sunday:
“Secrets behind events such as the miners' strike, the poll tax riots and Black Wednesday may be laid bare as early as next year. A new 15-year rule would also see the battles of the first year of Tony Blair's government revealed in three years' time.”

The director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti said,
“It is ironic that when it comes to personal privacy it is a case of the Government saying you have nothing to fear, but when you apply that rationale to the idea of secrecy in Government it would seem it has rather a lot to hide.”

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

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Charles Darwin had blogger's block too

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

I was at the Natural History Museum today to see the Darwin Exhibition. It's an ambitious event, which covers not only the specimens Charles Darwin studied, but seeks to understand the man himself.

His own life was an evolution: first he studied medicine, then theology and had planned to become a clergyman. His five year voyage on the Beagle at the recommendation of one of his Cambridge professors proved to be life-changing. Working as a naturalist, he discovered a love for the subject that he hadn't expected.

"Darwin explored remote regions and marvelled at a world so different from the one he knew. He encountered birds with bright blue feet, sharks with T-shaped heads and oversized tortoises.

"Everywhere he went, Darwin amassed plants, animals and fossils, and took copious notes. These collections and records were to provide the clues he needed to develop his remarkable theory." (from the Natural History Museum website)

It was on this voyage that Darwin formulated his theory of evolution, which he delayed publishing for many years, knowing that his ideas were radical and guaranteed to offend.

I was at the exhibition with a blogging friend, and we had been discussing the art (or is it the science?) of blogging and how it's common to hit a sticky patch: a lack of inspiration, or confidence, or even desire to persevere with it.

So we were heartened when we spotted this quote from one of Darwin's many letters home:
"One great source of perplexity to me is an utter ignorance whether I note the right facts, and whether they are of sufficient importance to interest others."

Bam! That hit the nail on the head for me. If Darwin felt himself inexperienced at times, and unsure whether his ideas would appeal to anyone else, he overcame it. Not a naturalist by formal training, he learned on the job - although he scarcely considered it a job as he was simply doing what fired and fascinated him. His hunger to learn and improve created a virtuous circle: "In one thing collecting I cannot go wrong," he wrote from Rio to a friend.

If he had lived in the era of blogging, he would have been incredible at it. As it was, he had the courage to keep writing, developing and publishing his radical work - and causing, not an evolution, but a revolution.

Work starts on new East London Busway

News this week that construction has started on the East London Transit scheme, a rapid busway between Ilford and Dagenham Dock via Barking.

"The overall intention is to try and run ten buses an hour between Ilford and Dagenham Dock, taking in Barking town centre along the way. That puts the route in connection with the Hammersmith and City and District Underground lines, as well as National Rail at Ilford, Barking and Dagenham Dock. Sadly the abandonment of the Dagenham Dock extension means that an anticipated connection with the DLR will now not take place there."

The London Reconnections blog has the full story, including an artist's impression and map of the route.

Friday, 9 January 2009

My journey to the Dark Side

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
This is what happens when you combine a delivery round with a satnav that sounds like Darth Vader.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Charlotte Gore's also bought a guitar!

And she plays it very well! See blogger Charlotte's thoughtful rendition of 2009's hottest meme here:

And the less said about Pink Dog's, the better...

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Sarah Teather: Blair's US award "tainted"

The Daily Mirror reports today that Tony Blair is to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the USA's highest civilian award) from George Bush next week:

Mr Blair, to the anger of many British voters, was one of the staunchest allies of the US, particularly over the invasion of Iraq and following the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

"White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said President Bush is honouring Mr Blair, Mr Howard and President Uribe "for their efforts to promote democracy, human rights and peace abroad"."

Commenting on the award, Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East said,

It is highly fitting that Tony Blair has received this award, as he was the best friend that George Bush ever had. He didn't say no once, and happily lined up the British Labour party to do whatever Bush told them to do.

"This award is tainted with the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives and, to add insult to injury, will be handed over at a time when the Middle East is once more in the grip of horrific violence and bloodshed.

"Instead of parading with his old friends in the US, Tony Blair should be focussing on his new role and negotiating an immediate ceasefire in Gaza."

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

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Reasons to like Twitter...

...The Daily Mail doesn't!

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

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Another success for Will Howells, Guitar Tutor

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Will Howells tribute act, "The Howls" have discovered an old manuscript featuring the third verse to his biggest hit: "I didn't clean the flat"

Alex Foster's also done a cover version.

EDIT: Yes, that is a 'Flying V' ukulele. Because I'm hard.

LATEST: Rob Fenwick's singing puts us all in the shade!