Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Thanks to Simon Shaw for the info
Sunday, 28 March 2010
Saturday, 27 March 2010
On Spring nights you can hear them
two miles away, calling their mates
to the breeding place, a wet slack in the dunes.
Lovers hiding nearby are surprised
by desperate music. One man searched all night
for a crashed spaceship.
For amphibians, they are terrible swimmers:
where it's tricky to get ashore, they drown.
By day they sleep in crevices under the boardwalk,
run like lizards from cover to cover
without the sense to leap when a gull snaps.
Yes, he can make himself fearsome,
inflating his lungs to double his size.
But cars on the coast road are not deterred.
She will lay a necklace of pearls in the reeds.
Next morning, a dog will run into the water and scatter them.
Or she'll spawn in a footprint filled with salt rain
that will dry to a crust in two days.
Still, when he calls her and climbs her
they are well designed. The nuptial pads on his thighs
velcro him to her back. She steadies beneath him.
The puddle brims with moonlight.
Everything leads to this.
Friday, 26 March 2010
I got an email a few weeks ago from the Leader of the Council saying that the press was sniffing around a story that a senior council officer of the council had been suspended and was being investigated over the disappearance of £3m . Tony told me that he had checked the story out with the Chief Exec and there was no truth in the matter.
Thursday, 25 March 2010
The FT has done an article this morning on the Sefton Central constituency.(you may need to -register to read it)
The article says how the Tory PPC "refused to answer questions from the Financial Times on the impact of public sector cuts on her constituency and declined to be interviewed for this article."
This follows her rumoured unavailability to take part in a debate with the Liverpool Echo (she was in London) and alleged insistence that she will only speak to sixth formers in Maghull on her own and if she is given the questions in advance.
Debi who is a councillor for Manor Ward-where the Lib Dems made a spectacular gain recently-has already announced that she is standing down from the council to go to Westminster. A little previous I think as Sefton Central is not in the bag for the Tories. Debi has never been a high profile councillor and I must check out her attendance record, after all as the HR folk say-the best guide to future performance is past performance-and we certainly don't want a part time MP. The Sefton Tories are tearing themselves apart and the forced de-selection of Eric Storey from his council seat even after his ward had unanimously backed him is certainly having repercussion. I hear strong hints that Eric will stand as an Independent in May.
Now I understand that the Tory game plan is just not to make any mistakes. Of the two Tory PPC's in Sefton I've met I would not say that Debi is the gaffe prone one when it comes to policy. Now here was me thinking the Tory party might have change-all this talk of open-ness and transparency. Well it clearly doesn't extend to Sefton Central. What has she got to hide?
memo to political betting: Sefton Central is worth a dabble on Richard Clein
I can fully see why the residents of Woodstock Drive get angry about the parking in their street. Often there are cars parked both sides of this narrow cul-de sac. As our photo shows they park up right to the junction and even obstruct the dropped curb -there for wheel chair users.
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
We reported last week on the roll call of Sefton Tory Councillors who had received the black spot from the Porter-Parry leadership: Wendy Jones, David Pearson, Ron Roberts, Les Byrom, Tom Glover and now Eric Storey. It would appear that the most dangerous thing to be in Sefton is a former leader of the Tory group. Every single one of them has been targeted by Ms Parry.
Let us be clear Eric was unanimously selected by Formby Tories to fight the seat. It seems that they have been over-ruled. So much for local control of the Tory party-you are not even allowed to choose your own council candidate. First Southport Tories were taken over by the national party and an outside chair imposed now Formby Party has been over-ruled.
Eric's crime-he is too old! Responding to Mrs Parry's statement dismissing him he said: “She has given voice to ageism.”
He went on:
This is dangerous ground for the Tories, in Mrs Porter they have a parliamentary candidate well passed retirement age. On our side we have always been clear her age is simply not an issue, the question is how well equipped is she to do the job. In Eric Storey the Tories have one of the brightest councillors in the chamber. He is well informed and thoughtful. He has a wide experience and takes his duties seriously. I can think of several younger Tories who wouldn't score as well as Eric on those tests. In elections in Formby he regularly tops the poll. But as the quotes above show Eric is not comfortable in the control freek style of the Tory leadership and I do not doubt that he has said as much. That I suspect is his crime.
Who is next? Well Peter Papworth must be vulnerable, they would love to remove Sir Ron Watson and I understand that there are already moves afoot to destabilise Jeremy Myers who has been selected to fight Dukes Ward next time. One day, surely one day they will get off their knees and fight back? Oh did I mention there are only 16 Tory Councillors left.-there used to be almost 40!
Full story in the Liverpool Daily Post thanks to Jack Colbert for the tip off
It is always worth having a look at Conservative Home. Their editor has a piece today when he correctly asserts that all the Westminster gossip items will have little impact on the election result. He identifies 4 things that he things will move the polls. You've gust it, he identifies party unity as one :
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
I understand that a Mrs Blackburn from Maghull was similarly honoured at the conference in Rochdale last weekend. I know our Sefton East Parishes colleagues think highly of her so congratulation Mrs Blackburn
I hope that both ladies will accept my apologies for being unable to attend. Living in a Lib Dem held parliamentary seat and having a council seat to defend this May I decided the priority was to be out canvassing and delivering this weekend.
Monday, 22 March 2010
The answer is : 'Ahr Jarge' for Southport sung to the tune of God save the Prince of Wales. It dates from the 1899 by election when George Pilkington fought and defeated C.B. Balfour who was cousin to Arthur Balfour the Tory leader of the House of Commons. Pilkington won easily-by Southport standards.
The Southport Guardian reports that after the declaration the victorious candidate went back to the Liberal Club and after speaking to the members his carriage took him past the Conservative Club (then on Neville St) and on to the Promenade on the way to his home Belle Vue on Lord Street West. On the top of Scarisbrick Avenue a band struck up 'Ahr Jarge for Southport' as he passed many supporters sang to him.
I was trying to imagine what would have in Tony Blair's brave new world if New Labour had managed to implement all their crazy 'tough' sounding law and order agenda. If we accept estimates that the Southport declaration-assuming that there are no recounts for Labours deposit-will be about 4.30am-I guess we would all get arrested, have our DNA taken and stored and no doubt marched to a cash machine in order to pay a spot fine!
There are some fine lines in the song which would fit in well to a modern day Focus :
He's always to be seen
He don't come just at 'lections
To grab our votes and run
Up to yon House in London
And say with us he's done.
Oh, jannock* that appears in the first verse means pleasant, honest, outspoken and generous. Those old Southport Liberals were a literate lot.
And finally a couple of corrections. I thought I was younger than Ramage when I fought Southport in 1983 and it turns out that I was by 4 years. Even younger was our old friend Baron de Forest who fought the first 1910 during which he celebrated his 31st birthday, which mean it was he whose record I took as I was 30 yrs and 5months old when I fought. 1983 also saw us topple Ramage's record for share of the vote.
Today I went to the Catholic Cathedral and was rewarded by hearing the girls choir rehearse. the circular layout of the building is ideal for my purpose. In the side chapels there are ofter exhibitions and today I stumbled upon a really impressive one about the Sreepur village in Bangladesh and the part that people her in the NW have been playing in its economic improvement. The story was around a Liverpool women Ruby Porter who is a leading light in the Merseyside Embroiderers group. Some years back she saw a television documentary about the building of an orphanage in this Bangladesh village. She became involved in the embroidery and textile work they do and was fascinated by many of the traditional colouring, weaving and embroidery skills there. The vocational training in the village now uses those skills to give people the means to earn a living. There were examples of their work and -even to one who knows nothing about embroidery-it looked amazing. I see that Ruby Porter also came along to the Southport Quilters earlier this year.
It is sad that we don't get to hear more about the stories of the many people whose activities make a real difference to peoples lives. Who said altruism is dead.
And while we are looking at stories on Lib Dem Voice I was pleased to see was that Craig Murray has re-joined the Lib Dems. Craig was a YL back in the early 70s before starting on his career which ended as Ambassador to Uzbekistan . His book Murder in Samarkand was recently turned into an excellent Radio 4 play with Craig being played by David Tennant. His principled stand against torture and his confrontation with Jack Straw has done much to exposed New Labour.
Sunday, 21 March 2010
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Friday, 19 March 2010
I had a very enjoyable holiday in a rented cottage at the Hill of Tarvit in Fife many years ago. I was very pleased to read that the Lib Dems there Ming Campbell and Iain Smith have been actively involved in the campaign to keep that and another National Trust for Scotland property-Kellie Castle -open. We visited Kellie during our stay and they were just embarking on restoring the walled kitchen garden on organic lines that Lawrence Hills would have approved of. I recall that whilst we were there we also went to a performance of the Pirates of Penzance put on by the local G&S Society in a local school at Anstruther. I trust they are still going strong.
Responding to Shelter’s affordable homes league table, Cllr Gary Porter (Conservative), chairman of the Local Government Association Environment Board, said:
“It is depressing that an organisation which presents itself as a serious advocate for better housing policy is using flawed research to lay the blame for the shortage of affordable housing at councils’ doors.
“Councils up and down the country want to build and refurbish homes that families need. A serious plan for increasing the number of affordable homes needs to address the barriers which stand in the way of councils building the homes they know people need.
“The fact is that until the housing downturn almost half of affordable housing was being built because councils make sure they negotiate with private developers when they apply for permission to build homes for sale. Councils have not been able to do anything about the impact of the global recession.
“Town halls have also been campaigning for years to change the way council housing is funded to allow them to build hundreds of thousands of much needed homes and have outlined proposals this week that could help councils deliver up to 500,000 affordable homes.
“It is good news that the Government has said it wants to address this. We are waiting on Ministers to unveil the next stage of their proposals as they have promised to do before the end of the Parliamentary session.
“It is also good news that for the first time in 20 years the Government is funding council building on a serious scale, and councils are building 4,000 new homes this year. The rapid takeup of this scheme shows there is an appetite among councils to deliver homes. They could do more if the Government allowed them to raise money to build homes in the same way as housing associations and private companies.”
Nick Clegg is on the BBC Politics Show at noon, Sunday 21st March, BBC One and later in the evening on the BBC iPlayer.
Like many other people I got an email this week with a campaign song. Southport has had many campaign songs and most of them are recorded in Michael Braham's History of Southport Liberals. The practice has died out and the last one that seems to have had widespread use was for C.B. Ramage in the 1929 election. He has an unusual man being a barrister and an actor. His most remembered role was as the barrister in Kind Hearts and Coronets where he defended Louis in front of his peers in the House of Lords.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
Birkdale Tories are slightly obsessed with this matter and ranted on about it in the last leaflet-and if they want help getting it delivered they should get in touch- but I get the impression that they are getting annoyed with the electors who are failing to rising up in even in their tens to support them.
LibDem Voice has a good round up of the Today programme interview with Hague this morning.
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Dear Cllr Dodd
Thank you for your email about the above matter.
The headline in the press on this issue is unfortunate, and indeed, quite inaccurate. As you will appreciate, the story has been taken from the Executive’s report to the Authority’s Policy and Resources Committee on 4th March, at which members endorsed the draft, revised Park and Ride Strategy and gave authority for consultation to commence (report no. PTE/13/10).
The draft Park and Ride strategy sets out a framework of possible options for consideration by project officers in the development of park and ride facilities in Merseyside. This is to ensure that park and ride facilities achieve their intended purposes – for example, reduce the overall distance driven by car, encourage the use of public transport, tackle local congestion problems, tackle indiscriminate parking, reduce demand upon city centre parking facilities etc.
One of the draft policies concerns the issue of demand management, and the suggestion that the case for car parking charges, as a tool to manage demand for park and ride is investigated. This is a possible way in which to discourage some of the very short car trips to park and ride facilities that have been observed, and ensure that park and ride spaces are available for people who live further away from rail stations, or who would otherwise drive the full distance to their destination.
However, the draft policy is very clear that introducing car parking charges is an option only, and furthermore, one that would be considered on a site-by-site basis. Indeed, the possibility of charging for rail-based park and ride has existed since 2006, as it formed part of the second LTP’s Rail Strategy, meaning that it is not a new concept. The draft park and ride strategy thus build on this 2006 policy statement by stating that the merits of car parking charges will be examined as part of a mix of policy options, and ensure that park and ride supports the government’s transport policies as set out in “DaSTS” (“Delivering a Sustainable Transport System”).
In the short term, there is no intention of introducing car parking charges at the stations mentioned in the press articles. As you highlight, looking at car parking charges is one aspect of a much wider review of park and ride, and one that we are seeking the views of members upon, as we develop the strategy and the third Local Transport Plan.
Again, it is unfortunate that this misleading story has sought to identify specific stations at which charges would be introduced – this is not the case and is most certainly not the intention of the draft, revised park and ride strategy.
I trust that these comments help to clarify the scope of the proposals agreed by the Policy and Resources Committee earlier this month and please don’t hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.
Chief Executive and Director General
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
If he fails to understand the Lib Dems at least he seems to have a handle on Cameron's Tories writing:
His (Cameron) polling advisers told him at the beginning of his leadership he must take on the Lib Dems as a major priority, which is partly why he discovered an enthusiasm for "green" issues that had not been a prominent feature in his career up until that point. Within months Cameron and George Osborne were suggesting to at least one Lib Dem MP that they should defect, as if the Conservatives had been "modernised" by a few speeches and a photo call with huskies on ice.
As we all know this policy has run out of steam. It is a blessed relief not to be being 'love bombed' by Eric Pickles. It was always ridiculous to have Tories parading their new found Green credentials. And it is reassuring to see how quickly they have dropped them. Look at the new Tory priorities -no mention of 'green issues'.
I am a tad more sympathetic to one or two Tories (David Davis) who genuinely had a belief in civil liberties-even if it was a narrow interpretation the issues. But the vision of some of our Tories with a new found belief in Liberalism was hard to swallow. We had a debate a while back about identity cards and our Tories split. The present parliamentary candidate voted against our motion. today she behaves as if that was someone else. On gay rights she put out a nasty scurrilous leaflet attacking Lib Dems for wanting to abolish section 28 and saying that Lib Dems were not to be trusted with our children's education!. No apology and now she goes about as if that was done by someone else. We have the nasty leaflet-published by her husband and campaign manager. He does seem to have repeated the folly of committing foolish and ill judged comments in writing. If you have not read it please take time to read his poison pen letter to a senior Tory.
The more I reflect on this the more I think we should use the possibility that new technologies give us to hold them to account. It would be much more compelling to see a video of them tripping up again and again. I think the public ought to see these things!
Monday, 15 March 2010
Like some dragon in a tale from the dark ages the Tory Leadership is being placated by sacrifices. Cllr Roberts has the 'blackspot' and is standing down and it is being whispered that a former Tory Leader-Eric Storey-is also in line for a visit.
Cllr Roberts is not a man I cannot recall ever having ever heard speak on the council-not even to ask to have the window open. He has done sterling work for the Tories propping up the Labour Chair of the Merseytravel-in fact he has been far more supportive than many Labour folk who utter dark threats under their breath. I well recall how without enquiring in to the details of Les Byrom's leaving of the Tory party many rightwing bloggers slagged him off about the level of his expenses. They really ought to take a look at Cllr Roberts from the Merseyside Transport body. It would make their eyes water. Do doubt the Labour chair thinks the money is well spent if it kept him supporting the Lab-Con pact. Now this is not the reason Ron has been given the blackspot ......
The History of the Conservative Sefton backspot
First Wendy Jones (Conservative Blundellsands) got the blackspot. She fought a valiant battle but lost. Then David Pearson (Conservative Dukes)moved from the naughty step to receiving the black spot without even passing go-talk about being condemned without a fair trail. The poor man didn't even know what he was accused of. Pearson battle against the Blackspot and managed (after a period of suspension) to defeat it. Then came poor Les Byrom who went from Leader to excluded almost overnight. Sir Ron dons his invisibility cloak whenever he is threatened and so far -apart from a severe slagging off from the Porter 'attack mice'-has survived.
Jackie Glover (Chair Southport Conservative Assoc) got the blackspot for 'speaking truth unto power'. Cllr Tom Glover(Cambridge Ward conservative -former Leader) had his delivered by post with instructions never to be in the same room as the Tory candidate.
Folk are clearly in good heart here in Birmingham. I cannot claim that this is my favourite venue, I still hanker after the seaside-maybe it is just nostalgia on my part. Talking of which The Liberal History Group held a meeting last night on the Red Guard Young Liberals. Sadly I couldn't get along but I'm told that it was well attended. Anthony Hill was our special correspondent and marked Bernard Greaves's contribution very highly.
The star turn was billed to be George Kiloh who was chair of NLYL. Tony Greaves who chaired the meeting confirmed my memory that back then 1966-70 Kiloh had real charisma and was a natural leader. Clearly he still looks back on those days as some of his most significant and despite his professional success he has not conspicuously build on those natural gift. Apparently he has kept all his papers from the time and is going to hand them over to a University. It is hard to grasp that what we did in our youth is now the stuff of serious academic study.
Some people don't change and whilst I was chatting to Tony Chris Huhne walked passed. Tony hailed him and like most Lib Dems if Tony hails you they stop. Tony had kept a notice that was displayed in his hotel, it read: If you want a trouser press-go to a dry cleaners.
For once in my life I've booked early for conference. I'm well passed the stage when I'm prepared to 'rough it'. I'm booked into a Weatherspoon Travel Lodge which is surprisingly good. Most of the rooms are taken by people attending Cruffs Dog Show and the Birmingham Science Fiction Convention. Surely they too would be better of at the seaside. Sci fi is not really my thing altho once along time I go I was doing a programme on Hospital Radio and they asked me for my favourite book. My mind went blank and the only tittle I could think of was the book I was reading which was Ursula le Guinn's 'The Dispossessed' , so for a while people used to come up and earnestly engage me in conversation about Sci Fi.
Back to the Conference. It is lunchtime. The final act of the morning was Vince Cable's speech. He does manage to combined serious economic commentary with humour. He got a genuinely warm standing ovation. I can't remember a Liberal Economic spokesman getting such a reception since Pardoe and in truth that was often for the manner in which he delivered his speech rather than the content. Vince is far more attuned to the television age. But I think the real secret of his success is that he treats is audience with respect. He addresses them as people who think seriously about these matters and want to engage at that level and not in the tribal 'ya boo' way.
I'm back at the Travel Lodge and have been talking to a 'Dog Lady' (well that is how she introduced herself). She has been explaining that there are some endangered breeds in the dog world. When I first attended a Liberal Assembly in the aftermath of the 1970 General Election the party was on the political equivalent of the 'endangered list'. Indeed people used to treat us as if we were only of anthropological interest. How days have changed. The party is clearly no longer on the register. In fact the only thing that seems to be really endangered is the political system which seems unable to adapt to reflect the changed voting habits of the UK.
Thursday, 11 March 2010
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
I have been asked by a number of residents about the cleaning of Hillside Pine Woods. I don't usually write up casework on the blog but I'm happy to put on record the chain of events.
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Question submitted by Councillor Shaw to the Cabinet Member – Communities (Councillor Porter)
“1. Will the Cabinet Member confirm that she is aware that her responsibilities include: “To co-ordinate the Council's response to community safety issues including crime/fear of crime, anti-social behaviour, drugs and alcohol?” (Clause B7 in Part 3 of Constitution – “Responsibility for Functions”); and
2. Is the Cabinet Member satisfied with the Council’s performance in this area?”
Response from the Cabinet Member - Communities
“1. Yes; and
2. I am never complacent. We can and will strive to do better at all times”
Now don't get me wrong I think that the government has long ago forgotten the second bit of Blair's clever soundbite 'tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime'. But to castigate Lib Dems and accuse of us running 'an incredibly lazy regime' when the Councillor responsible for such matter is none other than the Tory PPC Cllr Porter does display a certain cack handedness .
Another fine mess Regan has landed them in. Do take a look at the extracts from the book slagging off senior Southport Tories. It clearly reflects badly on whoever let the author become such a key player in the Tories at the expense of manifestly better qualified and experienced members. I know that is the issue which concerns many Tories in the town