Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Diagonal crossing for Wood Green

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Work starts in February on London's latest diagonal pedestrian crossing - outside Wood Green Underground station in Haringey, North London.

Pedestrians will be able to cross directly between the station and the Morrisons side of the High Road, towards Wood Green Library.

The £400k crossing, at the junction of High Road, Station Road and Lordship Lane, is being funded by Transport for London. Cyclists will also benefit from the scheme, which includes advanced stop lines at all approaches to the junction, plus additional cycle parking.

A short public exhibition will take place at Wood Green Library on 4 February 2010 between 5pm and 8pm. It's a pity that the exhibits aren't also available online, as they would have been more accessible, and of much wider interest.

However, if you're in the area, Council officers will be present on 4 February to answer your questions.

The best-known diagonal crossing in London is the X-shaped one at Oxford Circus, which opened to great fanfare in November 2009:

Oxford Circus diagonal crossing - miniaturised!

Just as Oxford Circus wasn't the first X-crossing, (that was Balham), Wood Green won't be the first "/" shaped one - for example, Hackney has one at Dalston Lane.

It's good to see more diagonal crossings being planned throughout London, which aim to cater for pedestrians' "desire line" and so make walking a more attractive choice.

For more information on the proposed Wood Green crossing see the Haringey Council website.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Video: Sarah Ludford MEP at Mass Photo Gathering

Campaign group I'm a photographer not a terrorist held a Mass Photo Gathering in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, in defence of street photography. Thousands of photographers came together to assert their rights and to protest against the misuse of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Section 44 allows uniformed police officers to stop and search people in designated areas if it is considered "expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism." I met Grant Smith, who was stopped under Section 44 by police in December. Sarah Ludford, Lib Dem MEP for London, had written a letter to the Independent in protest at his treatment.

I spoke to Sarah and Grant about the incident:

Video also available on YouTube.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

News reviews - and a digestion question

News. It's an unruly critter. It multiplies daily and yet brave souls try to wrangle it in alarming-sounding ways.

CBBC 'Rounds it up, Charlie Brooker 'Wipes it up and Radio 1, gulp, 'Beats it up.

I even take turns at writing a news roundup myself, over at Lib Dem Voice. It's called the Daily View, and it's based on news stories and blog posts from the last day or so, with a historical story or two thrown in.

I also enjoy reading news digests, and I keep a lookout for ideas to improve my own news summaries.

I've been searching all week for a "How to" guide on writing a news roundup, but so far it's been slim pickings.

I'm thinking in particular of online news reviews. Of course, there's no shortage of blogs, news services and aggregators, just as there are plenty of sites giving blogging advice. But I haven't found a website that tells you how to write a good news roundup blog post. Do you know of any?

These are some things that I think are important for a news roundup:

  • Context - when and why is this particular cross-section of the news being selected?

  • Comment - what makes these stories interesting, important, similar or even different? Can the reviewer add some new information, opinion or insight to the stories?

  • Character - who is selecting the stories? I like to know something about the reviewers themselves, to learn something of their perspective and preoccupations. These make their news reviews unique.

  • Credits - Hyperlinks are essential, so that readers can see who wrote the original story, and so that they can read it in full on the original author's website.

  • I know that all kinds of people read m'humble blog - different ages, interests, occupations, locations, etc, etc.

    So this leads me to the digestion question: could you write a news digest, from your own unique point of view?

    You might pick stories from a morning, a day, a week - whatever.

    If you're a teacher you could draw together news about education; if you're a photographer it could be your favourite recent photojournalism; if you're a copywriter it could be a critique of the best (and worst) headlines; if you're a musician you could sing a song. If you're a talker you could record an Audioboo. If you're a politician you could share the news about the area you represent. If you're a blogger of any kind, consider yourself tagged!

    It doesn't even have to be long. A list with links and a one-sentence biography is quick, interesting and helpful.

    And when you do, it would be especially good if you could post a link in the comments below.


    Friday, 22 January 2010

    Daily View 2x2: 22 January 2010

    It's January 22nd. It's one year to the day since President Obama ordered Guant√°namo Bay detention camp to be closed - within one year.

    2 Must-Read Blog Posts

    What are other Liberal Democrat bloggers saying? Here are two posts - each with a question - that caught my eye from the Liberal Democrat Blogs aggregator:

    • How good is the Taliban internal communications department?

    • Rob Blackie asks this because the Taliban have issued their members with a code of conduct:

      As anyone in internal communications will tell you - it's getting people to read and internalise this sort of guidance that's difficult.

    • How long does it take to deliver leaflets to the whole parliamentary consituency?
    • asks Philip Ling, Lib Dem PPC for Bromsgrove. Read on to find out his answer, and to take a couple of bundles off his hands.

    London Transport Museum launches online film archive

    If you haven't visited the London Transport Museum website, it's a real gem, and an important supplement to the Museum itself.

    Today comes the exciting news that London Transport Museum has launched an online archive of its films:

    London's public transport companies have been using moving images to promote services and train staff since the early years of the twentieth century. Although the film collection we inherited from London Transport is perhaps best known for the documentaries made by British Transport Films in the 1950s and 60s, we have chosen a broader range of titles for this initial online selection, covering the period from 1910 to 1970.

    Today's featured film is Our Canteens - a fascinating snapshot of dietary habits, working conditions and gender roles, 1950s-style.

    You can see the rest of the film collection here.

    Mass gathering in defence of street photography #phnat

    The campaign group I'm a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! invites photographers to gather in London this Saturday in defence of street photography.

    The Mass Photo Gathering is in Trafalgar Square at 12 noon on Saturday 23 January. (Map here.) Over 1,400 people have already confirmed their attendance via this Facebook page.

    We've covered many cases, on Lib Dem Voice, of anti-terrorist legislation being misused, particularly to detain photographers. Prompted by incidents like these, PHNAT calls on photographers, whether amateur or professional, as well as anyone who values visual imagery, "to defend our rights and stop the abuse of the terror laws."

    Thursday, 21 January 2010

    Election Night music: have we a winner?

    I'd never heard the whole of the theme tune to John Craven's Newsround until today.

    The first twelve seconds make my tummy rumble - a Pavlovian throwback to 70s teatimes. But after that: whoa.... WHAT IS GOING ON?

    If they'd used more of this track, a whole generation's formative view of the news would have been very different.

    Or they could have used it for the Panorama theme tune, instead of Aujourd'hui C'est Toi by Francis Lai - which, quite frankly, used to scare the living daylights out of me.

    But the best current-affairs-groove after all these years, is Weekend World's exhilarating Nantucket Sleighride, with its "it ain't over till it's over" ending:

    Those Election Night tunesmiths must already be toiling away in their respective garrets, but they'd better be coming up with something good. And not rehashing anything by Rick Wakeman. Much as I like prog rock, I somehow think "prog" won't be the overarching theme of the next government...

    Update: I've just played all these to my nine year old daughter, to her exponential bafflement. Instead, she nominated the apocalyptic rave that is the BBC News theme, and is now expertly getting down to the full three minute version.

    Update update: The Teenager, on hearing the BBC News theme, has wandered in to describe what it conjures up for him - "It's men at war. In sand."

    Tuesday, 12 January 2010

    I'm Swedish; I'm a hero; I've paid my TV licence fee

    OK, so only one of those statements is true.

    Watch this video and see if you can guess which:

    Interesting to compare Sweden's "carrot" approach to TV licence fee-paying with the UK's "stick" method, which majors on the £1000 fine.

    Whilst TV licenses in Sweden and the UK cost a similar amount (around €200 or equivalent), fee evasion in Sweden is much higher. According to the latest figures from the Broadcasting Fee Association the estimated evasion rate in Sweden is 11%, compared to 5.1% in the UK.

    Swiss and Austrian TV licences are among the most expensive in Europe, yet those countries have the lowest rates of evasion. Italy's is one of the cheapest, but has a whopping 23% evasion rate!

    I wonder why this is?

    Off to find some more licence fee ads, hopefully starring someone a bit more telegenic...

    Video also available here.

    Hat-tip: Jon Ball (I'm not even going to hazard a guess as to which of the statements apply to him!)

    Monday, 11 January 2010

    Real Women for Parliament?

    I've just watched Jo Swinson MP, live, on BBC Parliament.

    It's gone 11:00 at night, and Jo did a valiant job of leading the debate on body image in a chamber empty save for a tiny number of men. (Jo's speech echoed the work she has already started by launching the Real Women policy paper.)

    So it was disappointing to see the chamber so empty - yet entirely understandable at this time of night.

    Today's also the day that the Speaker's Conference on Parliamentary Representation published its final report.

    From the news pages of

    "The Conference recognises the inflexibility of Parliament's working practices together with the heavy workloads of constituency demands combine to create a lifestyle which is detrimental to Members with caring responsibilities, both for children and other dependents.

    It would like to see sitting times for the main chamber brought in line with what is considered normal business hours. However it recognises there would be considerable difficulties in achieving this because of the many duties MPs have both within and outside the House. Therefore it recommends a substantial further development of deferred voting to enable a more family friendly approach to sitting arrangements and unscheduled votes."

    There are many more reasons why women, parents, carers - in fact anyone breaking the stereotypical "middle-aged man in a suit" mould - don't seek to be MPs, or candidates for that matter.

    Barriers to entry and selection, cultural barriers, physical access difficulties, career and financial costs are just some of the issues which need to be addressed and solutions found.

    If women's representation in Parliament is not increased in 2010, then the debate on all-women shortlists will be reopened. Me: I'm not keen on them, but as the Parliament website reports:

    "If the political parties fail to make significant progress on women's representation at the 2010 general elections, Parliament should consider the introduction of prescriptive quotas, ensuring that all political parties adopt some form of equality guarantee in time for the following general election.

    The Conference fully supports the proposed extension of the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 to enable the use of all women shortlists until 2030."

    Changing the unsociable working hours could be a declarative step in making Parliament more accessible to a wider range of people, although of course only the beginning.

    We need more Real Women in Parliament. Flexible and family-friendly sitting hours would be a good place to start.

    Sunday, 10 January 2010

    The Contented Little Citizen Book? Clegg's approach to parenting reveals his attitude to politics

    Being a parent, like being a liberal, means being alive to the needs of the individual. Using systems sparingly, to free, rather than to oppress.

    I'm a liberal, and a mother of four, so I was interested to read Nick Clegg's interview in today's Sunday Times, in which he refers to The Contented Little Baby Book:

    "The Liberal Democrat leader, a father of three, described Gina Ford’s approach to bringing up babies, which involves encouraging them to stick to strict routines, as “absolute nonsense”.

    Speaking about trying to follow the guidelines in Ford’s bestselling book, which has brought her a worldwide following, Clegg said: “It was like following a sort of Ikea assembly instruction manual. It made us feel strangely passive as parents.” "

    "...Clegg made his comments to The Sunday Times after saying he had been up four times the night before the interview with his 10-month-old son, Miguel."

    Talk to any parent with young children and the conversation will soon come around to sleep. It's a great leveller. They'll find the subject as irresistible as a warm duvet at 2am.

    Countless nights I've stood, cotside, deranged with sleep deprivation - wishing for a magic spell to make the baby wake only at sociable hours.

    I was so resigned to broken nights and frequent feeds (what with a baby's stomach only being the size of its pudgy closed fist) that I was confounded by my third child - she never once woke for a night feed, nor any other reason. In the early weeks I'd wake up regularly anyway, and tiptoe to her side to check she was breathing! After that, I'd just feast on sleep, knowing that it wasn't anything clever I'd done, but grateful all the same.

    When I was a new mother, my son and I were thrown out of a postnatal class at the local health centre. It was called "How to stop your baby crying." I was keen to hear the advice, since my son cried day and night, barely slept and I was desperate to help and comfort him. It turned out that he had a painful medical condition, but the only advice I received from the people running the class was to leave. They didn't have a clue what to do, and besides, he was distracting all the silent, cherubic babies and their equally cherubic parents.

    I trusted my own instincts and a short time later I persuaded doctors that something was wrong and he got the treatment he needed. He always did cry a lot as a baby, but I subscribed to the "This too, shall pass" school of thought, and we got through that distressing period as best we could.

    (Now he's hit the phenomenal growth spurts of adolescence, he seems to be making up for lost sleep and gorges himself on the stuff. This too, shall pass...)

    As a young mother, in those pre-broadband days, I became fascinated by all the advice dished out to new parents. I marvelled at the array of childcare books giving conflicting advice.

    I read 'em all, pretty much: from James Dobson's disturbing, corporal punishment-laden Dare to Discipline to the joy-filled and retrospectively poignant The Fun Don't Stop by Paula Yates. I boggled at Gina Ford's books (including Potty Training in One Week, in which one is taken hostage by toddler and potty in one room for seven days - not a realistic proposition for anyone with older children. Or a life.)

    The best thing I read in any of them was Dr Christopher Green's introduction to Toddler Taming - along the lines of "Once, I had many theories and no children. Now I have four children and no theories."

    It's good to read and consult widely as a new parent, but trust your own instincts and be wary of letting anything over-ride them.

    Babies and children, just like the bigger versions of people, are all different. Parents and politicians alike need flexibility, attunement to people's needs, adaptability, sensitivity, frequent dialogue. Systems and routines should be your servant, not your master. Nanny books (like the Nanny State) over-simplify and don't help individuals to choose what's best for their own lives.

    So I wasn't surprised at Nick Clegg's response to Gina Ford's Contented Little Baby Book. Although Ford replied that "he has just insulted the parenting choice of more than two million British voters" - I'm certain that many of her readers have disagreed with her methods. Gina Ford herself has reacted angrily - and tellingly - to Clegg's independent thinking and seems to want parents to read her books unquestioningly.

    The greatest delight and satisfaction of being a parent is watching a child grow, become as independent as possible and reach their full potential.

    Isn't this what adults need too?

    Kings Cross Underground: which one is art?

    Just passed again through the new corridors at Kings Cross Underground Station.

    I find the blank advertising panels make a stronger statement than the commissioned art - Full Circle by Knut Henrik Henriksen. Their temporary blankness makes them even more poignant.

    Posted via email from Helen Duffett's posterous

    Wednesday, 6 January 2010

    Aspiring Independent candidate in Chingford changes his name to "None Of The Above"

    From the Waltham Forest Guardian:
    An aspiring MP has gone to extreme lengths to protest against the three main political parties.

    Adam Osen, 50, has officially changed his name to None Of The Above and hopes to attract support from disillusioned voters as an independent parliamentary candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green.

    The move was suggested by Mr Above’s brother, Gideon, who took the idea from the film Brewster’s Millions, which sees a character run a political campaign under the same slogan.

    The former Mr Osen, a painter and decorator of Woodberry Way in Chingford, said his wife, Rebecca, 43, tried to talk him out of the move and many did not believe he would go through with it.

    However, he admitted his two children, Gabrielle, 18, and Michael, 15, were less surprised as he has a reputation for coming up with “off the wall” ideas.

    Mr Above, or None as he is known to friends, has lost faith in Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties since the MPs’ expenses scandal.

    I spoke to Geoff Seeff, Liberal Democrat PPC for Chingford and Woodford Green, who said,

    Sunday, 3 January 2010

    Parties on a war footing - but what are they fighting for?

    New Year, old sabre-rattling. Gordon Brown and David Cameron are parading their leadership credentials, with a view to capturing an entire nation - the UK, that is.

    David Cameron made a speech (transcript here) in Oxfordshire yesterday saying that the country needs a change of direction and a new leadership:

    "We can't go on in these difficult times with a weak prime minister and a divided government."

    [See the BBC website for a video clip]

    You can almost hear the Tory munitions factory roar as they forge this, strengthen that and defeat the other.

    And here's Gordon Brown on New Year's Eve:

    "The Detroit plot thankfully failed. But it has been a wake-up call for the ongoing battles we must wage not just for security against terror but for the hearts and minds of a generation."

    It's a common political (and journalistic, and marketing) technique to play to people's fears, but what next in the Prime Ministerial arms race - Brown and Cameron appearing on the decks of rival aircraft carriers, squeezed into military uniform à la George Bush?

    Neither leader, for all their fighting talk, seems to have heard of liberty.

    Contrast with Nick Clegg's non-scaremongering approach, in an article for the Times more than two years ago: "Defeating terror the British way":

    "As the national debate on terrorism matures, our aim should remain steadfast and simple: to protect both our lives and our liberties, and to refuse to accept that one requires the sacrifice of the other."

    And what of this dispiriting headline on ConservativeHome yesterday? -

    70% of Tory members back ethnic screening of air travellers.

    Making arbitrary judgements about a person based on identifiers such as race or place is a bit like reading a book's index and saying you've appreciated the sweeping narrative and nuanced characters. Rather than nailing the plot, the Tories have lost it.

    Both Cameron and Brown are using the political rhetoric of uniting against a common enemy - but who? Johnny Foreigner? Party politics? Privacy? Whatever the threat, just all come and join Labour/the Tories. Fall in, little people. You need a strong leader, who will save you from yourselves.

    Trouble is, I don't want to be a hostage in their big tent:

    Going commando doesn't work - Ian Roberts pointed out (as only Ian Roberts can);

    Airport patdowns don't work;

    ID cards (another wartime throwback) don't work;

    Body scanning doesn't work;

    Owning people's bodies doesn't work;

    Owning people's thoughts doesn't work.

    Wars, terrorist attacks and other man (or woman) -made disasters don't just happen because of a single slip-up or security breach but because of a multiple systems failure in culture and communications.

    Stephen Glenn has blogged:

    "Ok surely by having a war cabinet you are admitting dividing lines with someone else. Do they really exist? Surely if you are taking one approach domestically and another internationally you are all messed up. If you are trying to ignore some dividing lines yet not seeking to understand others, either across Europe, with fundamentalist Muslims, or whomever, what is it you are trying to achieve?

    How about a national peace cabinet? To look for solutions. Or is that too far out there for the Tories?"

    Darrell Goodliffe exposes the "lunacy" of ethnic screening.

    And Liberal Revolution wonders whether Cameron's speech could well be the opening salvo in the General election air war proper.

    The Conservatives don't want to change the system that has served them so well. The "Spirit of Unity" passage in Cameron's speech is a bait and switch:

    "I will invite leaders of the main opposition parties to attend the war cabinet", he says.

    "When a nation is at war, it needs to pull together," he says.

    From Cameron's speech one can only conclude: who can be the enemy but - anyone who's against change. "Change" as a battle cry is a seductive one. After all, only unreasonable people could possibly be against change itself , why that would be, well, conservatism.

    But Cameron's hardly going to declare a war on that, is he?

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

    Friday, 1 January 2010

    A quarter century since Britain's first mobile phone call

    1 January 1985: Britain's first mobile phone call was made. In a seemingly random intersection of the Fates, comedian Ernie Wise was calling from St Katherine's Dock in London to a room above a Newbury curry house - the then office of a little company called Racal, later to be known as Vodafone.

    Why Ernie? And why was he calling from a dock? Because the only way to transport a big enough mobile phone battery in 1985 was by ocean-going liner?

    Here's an interesting video of the evolution of the mobile phone over the past 25 years, and yup, it's out of date already. Fun to watch those phones morphing though... will we even have mobile phones in 25 years' time?

    Also available on YouTube here.

    Update: Stephen Glenn has replied with a post which sheds some light on the phone that Ernie Wise used to make the famous call.