Monday, 31 May 2010

Medway Fair's Fare? Will it speak?

Despite campaigns by local Commuters to keep train fares low. It will come as no surprise that under a Conservative Government, we are now facing the highest train fare rises in the country in the South East

Costs could go up by as much as three per cent above the retail price index (RPI), which is currently 5.3 per cent, meaning annual season tickets from eastern parts of the county into London may rise by around £350 to £4,230.
Pricing regulations allow the company flexibility to increase prices by up to five per cent, as long as the overall average across the area does not go above RPI plus three per cent.

Tunde Olatunji, Kent manager for Passenger Focus, an independent watchdog for rail users, said passengers are right to feel cheated.

“They will be paying higher fares than anywhere else in the country,”

All other train companies are limited to a rise of RPI plus one per cent.

This blog waits with anticipation the statement by the 'independent' pressure group Medway Fair's Fare. It is time that the government renegotiated the terms of the franchise agreement - this should now be a local priority for Kent Conservative MPs who need to now put there words into actions.

A major concern of this Group, despite its self-defined status as a 'non-political pressure group' was that it was anything but. Indeed, very relevant to the campaign of train fare's was its leader that:

" Don’t Let Them Get Away With It!

Whilst this incompetent government have seen fit to throw BILLIONS of pounds of our money at failing banks, allowing people like Sir Fred Godwin to walk away from the mess with gold-plated pensions in the process, we now think it’s time the government started subsiding it’s most important commodity – you and me!!!

After all, it’s our taxes Labour are using to subsidise their friends in big business through the recession – car manufacturers, property developers, arms manufacturers – so don’t you think it’s about time we started getting something back for all our hard work???"

It is hoped that perhaps, now we have a change in government, this campaign wont hit the buffers, just because of the 'relevant' beliefs of key protagonists.

Very real achievements to reduce fare's can now be achieved if the campaign keeps on track and pressure is kept on those who promised to act.

We will see if this Government does get away with it.

This blog suspects that ownership of this campaign will quietly change hands or indeed come off the rails into the google cache!

Police opposition to politicisation

Independent Police chiefs in Kent have rediculed and lambasted the Liberal Democrat and Conservative proposals to hand the running of constabularies over to “politically-motivated” commissioners elected by the public.

Controversial plans were announced in the Queen's Speech within the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, much to the dismay of several key Police figures who are very concerned at the chasing of votes which could take priority over the pursuit of criminals.

Kent Police Authority chairwoman Ann Barnes, also deputy chair of the Association of Police Authorities – said the scheme appeared to be driven “purely by dogma” and was “undermined by the absence of debate”.

Rochester & Strood MP Mark Reckless, who sits on the Kent Police Authority is a known and ardent supporter of the plan for elected police chiefs. Ann Barnes statement is therefore a direct snub to his position and will no doubt make his position on the Authority uncomfortable. Mark pledged to make policing a priority in Kent, so he now needs to clarify whether he will take the advice of experts and the police themselves, or is to allow the politisation of the police force, an idea with no expert support at all.

Anne Barnes added:

“Senior police officers and many MPs and peers of all parties have already commented on the dangers to our highly-acclaimed model which keeps policing free from party-political interference, but we fear the public is unaware of the turmoil that may be unleashed by these fresh proposals. The present model has built-in checks and balances that enable police authorities to represent the views of local people when shaping the local service."

“Police authorities want to ensure policing continues to be influenced at local and national levels by community voices – not by unconstrained individuals who may have a politically-motivated agenda.”

KPA currently consists of 17 non-elected board members, including a mix of independents and different party members from Kent County Council and Medway Council. Should the ConDem plans for directly-elected commissioners get the go-ahead, just one person will be afforded responsibility for the running of the county force.

This blog will oppose this farce of a Liberal Democrat and Conservative proposal. Elected candidates will always be beholden to interest groups, political parties and worrying about reelection prospects over the interests of the public. It will skew resources to particular areas and focuses at the expense of crime which may have little profile but high impact. In addition, putting trust into an elected chief, who may have little or no knowledge of policing is a significant risk to reduction in crime levels we have seen since 1997.

Crime has seen significant reductions since 1997 and was a major success of the previous Labour Government. This will be undermined by ConDem cuts to police budgets but also undermined by elected police chiefs who may have no knowledge of policing.

Kent Police Federation chairman Ian Pointon said: “What’s broken? We have a robust authority here in Kent, led by an excellent chairwoman who does hold the force to account, and one that consists of good people who bring different abilities, skills and expertise to the table."

Not one police officer or police chief wants this rank politicisation of the police. Liberal Democrat members should be ashamed. They stood to oppose this plan in the General Election and have duped there voters once again.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Eurovision 2010

Musicians from 39 countries have competed in the 55th Eurovision Song Contest in Norwary.

More than 125 million people watched last year's competition, when 23-year-old violinist Alexander Rybak took home the trophy with a record 387 points.

This year German teenager Lena has ushered in a new era for the annual music jamboree. Not only has she signalled an end to a politically-motivated, 13-year losing streak for the "big four" countries who help fund the competition, but her winning song, Satellite, has reclaimed the contest's musical credibility.

With echoes of Lily Allen and Paloma Faith, it is the first contemporary pop hit Eurovision has produced in decades.

Josh Dubovie, 19, from Basildon in Essex, the UK entry, scored just 10 points with a song penned by Pete Waterman. Dubovie said it had been "a privilege to represent the UK" and one of the best experiences of his life. 

The Eurovision Song contest is a fantastic achievement of Europe. Where in difference, we can come together to celebrate talent. It highlights the positive of being a member of Europe.

Some of this blogs favorite highlights:

Saturday, 29 May 2010

A Law onto themselves

Three weeks in and the first scandal of the Conservative-Liberal coalition has hit the press.'

David Laws, the self declared axe-man on superfluous cost and cuts has been essentially fiddling the books by paying his lover private rent of £800-1000 per month in exclusive London postcodes and benefiting themselves to the sum of £40,000. The men have also benefited from the sale of property paid for by the public.

What makes this more surprising is that David Law's is a millionaire and has significant income from previous careers within investment banking. He was therefore able to afford property on his previous earnings. To what extent his 'partner' had the same wealth has not yet been revealed.

David has accepted culpability. In his statement he indicated that:

"I now accept that this was open to interpretation and will immediately pay back the costs of the rent and other housing costs I claimed from the time the rules changed until August 2009"

Mr Laws was considered one of the stars of the new coalition government after the Liberal Democrat helped negotiate its founding agreement. His role was significant in the announcement last week of harsh cuts to child trust funds and extra university places.

David Cameron now has to decide if his chief secretary has the credibility to carry on as the man deciding where and what to cut in government spending. It is clear however that if he deceived the public over his own personal finance then he has little credibility in trying to cut services under the auspices of austerity. He has benefited from the tax payer. 

His defence is he did not regard Mr Lundie as his partner. A 'lawyers' response and a highly  dubious answer because of the extent of tax payers money that he and his 'partner' had benefited. He may not have been married but he has benefited in kind from the public.

The parliamentary rules state MPs are banned from "leasing accommodation from a partner". A partner is defined as "one of a couple... who, although not married to each-other or civil partners, are living together and treat each other as spouses".

Their relationship was a secret, even from some family and friends we are told. 

This blog has sympathy for those who do not want to reveal their sexuality. However this blog would come to the same judgement if this were a female partner or indeed a non-sexual relationship between two adults. It smells and looks rotten. In addition, Mr Laws and Mr Lundie have been in a relationship since 2001 and most people would class that as a serious relationship. Mr Laws admitted he increased his mortgage at one point to help Mr Lundie buy a new house which brings back echoes of the Mandelson 'Home Loan' scandal from the late 1990s.

Mr Laws' job - to cut spending - is the top priority which leads to charges of hypocrisy. His straight talking went down well amongst the right wing when he outlined the first wave of cuts last week. Many think the former City high flyer, who made millions on judging the markets, brings an intellectual prowess unsurpassed by many of his peers. He also symbolises the marriage of politics and policy which gave birth to the coalition.

His fiddling of the books however looks crooked for someone who is charged with leading austerity and cuts. He either should stand down from his present post or resign from the front bench. 

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Lessons for Local Election Success

Much less commented upon, amidst the tumult, twist and turns of the general election result, were the local election results announced on the same day. 

Holding the locals at the same time as the General can often have a big influence on the results because of the traditionally low turn outs at local elections, the combination of the two usually allows for a more democratic outcome as turnout increases. This can be a sore point to those in local government, as it indicates a lack of concern about what we do the rest of the time. Also, and as this blog indicated yesterday with the Medway Liberal Democrats, because it leaves our fate disproportionately in the hands of our Parliamentary colleagues – and leadership – making their faults, faux pas and fighting a factor in our campaigns.

What was most striking this time around was the contradictory trend at the polls. As Labour majorities fell and seats disappeared nationally, the opposite happened in local government. Labour gained control of 15 councils, almost doubling our total. Labour Councillors who have, for the last few years, been culled in their hundreds every May, found their numbers swelled by over 400 new recruits nationwide.

Labour was the only party to gain councillors this year. Brent, Camden, Coventry, Doncaster, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Hartlepool, Hastings, Hounslow, Islington, Lewisham, Liverpool, Oxford, Southwark, St. Helens and Waltham Forest all became Labour councils on May 6th. A further group of councils, like Leeds, have since formed Labour-led coalitions, further strengthening Labour in local government.

The list, some argue is comprised of former 'Socialist' fiefdoms which should be Labour anyway. However, the list isn’t just dominated by traditional Labour heartlands. Enfield for example, has only been Labour controlled 3 times in history: in 1964 when Labour as rising under Wilson and ‘94 and ‘98 when we were peaking under Blair. Hastings too, having gone Labour for the first time in 98 until 2002 is – against the recent trend – Labour again. Liverpool has only been Labour controlled for 3 of the last 20 years; gaining it back from the Lib Dems is a very significant victory indeed.

Of course the Conservatives start from a very high base so arguably, and something which younger Tory campaigners should note, the only way now is down. The heights have been reached, the campaign won, ministers elected ... within a coalition government. Ambition for the future can now be put on the back-burner unless a safe seat can be secured. Something which locally will require challenging the entrenched factions and interests within the Medway Conservatives.

Diversity is lampooned by those on the right who lack the intellectual understanding of the term. All evidence points to healthier and more successful organisational outcomes if it has a diversity of talent. This is not political correctness, it is fact based reality.  

Perhaps fewer mistakes would have been made on the bungled Primary School re-organisation, had more of our ruling group had children at this age?

The heart of the Labour success, if a lesson is to be learnt in Medway, has been the localist programmes and manifestos; the constant door by door, street by street campaigning; and the reliance on the Labour grassroots message; not the media-driven showpiece. Selection of diverse candidates, which in some cases rally against the entrenched local party interest, must be considered. Labour, unlike the Conservatives, have always been more welcoming and tolerant of difference, this is a major strength, which can and should be used to highlight the strength and depth of Medway Labour at the next Local Election.

Labour in local government has become somewhat distant from the Westminster circus – and has connected better with the public for that. We will be better connected with a younger, more diverse base locally if we embrace a change in campaign style and candidate.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Cllr Juby elected Leader [..again]

Less then 18 months since the formidable Cllr Maureen Ruparel was elected the leader of the Medway Liberal Democrats, residents have been subject to another sudden and unexpected change in Liberal leadership.

Another new leader, or perhaps a return to the old leader.
For it is the ever presentable, articulate and charismatic Cllr Geoff Juby who now takes the reins of supporting the ConDem Government cuts agenda for local government.

On taking office, Geoff stated that he would be scrutinizing the Conservative Council closely. He was however, along with colleagues, happy to abstain on the important Council Budget, which saw significant cuts to services and the expansion in number of CCTV cars across the borough.

Geoff Juby will be remembered by voters as the Liberal Democrat PPC for Rochester & Strood and the man unfortunately bitten by a dog at last year's Luton & Wayfield byelection.

The Liberal Democrat Group on the Council now have to accept that though they are an opposition group, the public will now see them as part of the national government. The ups and downs of government will hurt or shun them at the ballot box, just as it has done for Labour since 1997.

Geoff, along with his colleagues will be held to account for the cuts of David Laws. His bloodied axe will rub on Liberal Democrats at the ballot box next year, of that they can absolutely certain.

A braver group would have put a stamp on the future, rather then select a voice from the past. A brave group they are not.

Geoff is a tried, tested and a safe pair of hands. Just what Labour needs.

Council will suffer and soon

Major concerns are being raised today from local councils and those who oppose the current ConDem coalition and its soon to be seen effects on Medway residents.

Liberal Democrat and Conservative proposals in the Queen’s Speech on education and referendums on council tax increases confirm fears that under the guise of localism the ConDem Coalition is bent on marginalizing councils and councillors.

Contrary to the arguments peddled by Michael Gove, councils do not currently ‘control’ schools, they support them, oversee standards and admissions policies and link them to other council services. The Government now appears clearly determined exclude councils as much as possible from the crucial education agenda, rely on market forces to rule the roost, while retaining ultimate control themselves.  

A major concern raised by Kent County Council Conservative leader, Paul Carter was that the expansion of 'free schools' will lead to reduced funding for those schools already in the state sector. This means that schools may have to forgo new buildings and teacher assistants because funding is skewed into upkeep costs for low attendance 'free schools'. In a time of budgetary constraint and where Medway Council is having its Local Government Grant cut (as this is now the reality) it would be ridiculous to spread the current budget even more thinly. 

Local Tories wont speak up against this idea even though they know it will be a disaster when budgets are tight.

In addition to plans on schools, one-way referendums on council tax and referendums on any issue substantially dilute the principle of representative democracy - the Government would not subject itself to this kind of process in relation to taxation and it is recipe for local politics to descend into who can slash budgets the most, which will harm the most vulnerable, the voiceless and the young.  Even the superficially attractive proposals around housing and planning in reality are a charter for nimbyism rather than a responsible approach to difficult questions of development, in which few councils can be entirely autonomous.

Directly elected police commissioners, under whatever name, and directly elected members of NHS bodies will further fragment local governance between people and bodies with competing mandates- a recipe for conflict and confusion.

The Liberal and Conservative plans make no mention of councils’ role in tackling the growing housing crisis, the reduction of re-offending and its enormous cost, or in relation to social care.

Many Tory and Liberal councillors must share that view? 

What will they be prepared to say and do to encourage the Coalition to think again and strive to achieve consensus across the local government spectrum?”

Time for an elected mayor?

Could May 2011 could see Medway finally having a referendum on an elected Mayor?

The Council is currently undergoing a survey to find out about what people think about the prospect of electing a mayor.

The arguments for and against having a mayor have been debated in other cities across the UK, including at present in Bristol.  

The timely survey comes as the current Mayor of Medway has been in the press over the last fortnight, and for the wrong reasons. The Tories having gerrymandered the election of the position stand accused of rubbishing the reputation of the position. The present incumbent, Cllr Brake, is no doubt a qualified candidate, but it is unfortunate that he has taken office after such a gerrymander.

So is it time for an elected mayor?

Sadly, this blog believes that the Medway Conservative group is opposed to the idea.  It is a threat to the power of Alan Jarrett and Rodney Chambers, both of whom are well embedded to the consternation of residents, who believe that at the least the former of the two, is not a particularly competent steward of the Council finances. However, with the policy being promoted by the coalition Government the vast majority may find themselves caught by a pincer movement from their very own government.

This blog has always supported the idea of an elected mayor. The council’s current leader is selected by just over 33 councillors. 33 people deciding who speaks for 250,000 people is not sensible.

Someone who has been put up for a universal city election has a clear responsibility to all of Medway and is not beholden to voters in any ward or particular wards of the ruling Group. They would be subject to scrutiny by the local media prior to the election and public interest in local government would increase as a result. It would also be clear where the buck stops and would reengage people in politics.

The system of elected mayors is criticized by some as being an American model of politics but it is also standard practice in Europe where the City state lasted much longer than in Britain

This is one Coalition policy which this blog will be supporting but will Medway Lib Dems and Conservatives? This blog very much doubts it.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The 'Loveless' Queens Speech

Today the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government has published its plans for the legislation it wants to bring in over the next 18 months.

A full list of the bills proposed by the government can be accessed here

Labour will not oppose for the sake of it - that's not what the public wants. But we will not pull our punches. Labour will be vigilant - to protect jobs and businesses. We will be determined - to prevent unfairness. And we will speak up for the public services that matter so much. 

Economic growth has returned. The challenge now is to embed the economic recovery, not put it at risk. 

The new government has proposed political reform. Where that strengthens our democracy - the opposition will support them. Where they give more power to the House of Commons to hold government to account - the opposition will support them. 

But it is not progressive to politicise the police, scrap the Human Rights Act, to pack the Lords and rig the Commons, and Labour will oppose those measures.

Labour have a strong team and excellent base to build upon throughout England, Scotland, and Wales – in Parliament, in local government, in the European parliament and with our trade unionists, staff and party members - together we will hold the government to account.

Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman led the Labour response to the Coalition Queen's Speech.

Ms Harman said the government had "no mandate" for their plan to make sure parliament could only be dissolved if 55% of MPs backed the move. 

We will oppose government plans for £6bn in cuts would "blight the prospects" of young people and threaten jobs. While acknowledging reducing the deficit must be a priority for the government, she said this must be done "fairly and transparently" and criticised plans to cut university places and axe the Future Jobs Fund, part of Labour's guarantee of work or training for all 18-24 year olds out of work for six months.

We will oppose the government's proposed bill to reform the political system, saying fixed-term parliaments should be four not five years and plans to make all constituencies the same size and reduce the number of MPs were designed to "rig the Commons" in favour of the Conservatives. 

We will oppose a plan to require 55% of MPs to trigger a dissolution of Parliament, which would allow a weak government to "cling onto office": "They have no mandate for that change." 

Labour will be vigilant in its support for public services at a time of anticipated budget cuts and defend our legacy on the minimum wage, Sure Start centres and hospital waiting times. 

Monday, 24 May 2010

What Nick Clegg meant...

£6,243,000,000 Cut on Aspiration

The Liberal-Conservative axe fell with a vengeance today as £6.25 billion of cuts were announced. Savage and brutal Liberal-Conservative cuts which will be felt by every family, every child and every business across the land.

Cuts which will harm every young adult who is aspiring for their future. 

The axe has fallen on 10,000 planned student places,  the cherished Child Trust Fund and several thousand public sector jobs. 40,000 young adults on the Future Jobs Fund will be fired and they will be expected to move onto Apprenticeships, on a wage of less then £2.50 an hour. Jobs are being slashed before the private sector has seen recovery, a worry, which could lead to a double-dip recession if badly handled.

The Liberal Democrat David Laws was the key axeman.  

Any voter who wanted to keep the Tory axeman out are now welcomed by an ever harder nosed Liberal Democrat. At least you knew where the Tories stood; the Lib Dems have committed a massive u-turn on cuts in this financial year and have sold out on their principles. For that they will suffer at the polls in future years. 

On announcing the cuts David Laws, stated that

"We are being very draconian and very inflexible, deliberately, over the next year to drive out these type of costs"

Further savings will see cuts in front line services including £125m of police budgets that are used to catch criminals and reduce crime, £2bn from government IT schemes and £835m from the Business Department which will see cuts to SEEDA and EADA, the development agencies, used to promote enterprize and aid small business.

Worryingly for commuters Transport for London will see its grant cut by £108m and Network Rail will need to find an additional £100m and the DfT an extra £112m. Those right wing campaigners who advocated lower train fare's will be snubbed, as not only are commuters going to suffer because of Conservative cuts, but privatised train companies will be allowed to raise train charges by eye-watering amounts as there subsidies are withdrawn.

The Liberal-Conservative government has targeted the Olympics with a £27m cut off the 2012 budget.

Local Government grants will see massive cuts by £310m in a first installment. Medway Conservatives who have callously whinged for years about 'increases' in local government grants and 'floor damping' have now led us to a period of massive cuts to public services - that is your sports centres, road repairs, recycling, community safety and regeneration.

Some of the cuts announced today were necessary and more tough decisions are expected but many were ideological and 'inflexible'.

Rumours are swirling that ConDems are considering raising the age of pension entitlement, prolonging the public sector pay freeze and extending it to all state employees. Active consideration is being given to a hike in VAT and means-testing is likely to be extended.

The biggest Liberal Conservative cut today was on your aspiration. Shame on them

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Vice Cllr Brice still roaming the Council

The news that Councillor Brice, the shamed kerb-crawler is still roaming the corridors of Gun Wharf should send pangs of shame down those who work and represent the Medway Conservative Group. 

Cllr Brice, a 'former' Conservative Councillor for Rochester South & Horsted, was convicted of kerb crawling in 2009 and was publicly shamed for his actions. This blog led the call, in conjunction with Medway Newspaper groups and Labour PPC for Rochester & Strood, Teresa Murray, for his immediate resignation as a Councillor and by-election in the ward.

Cllr Brice should have had the honour and decency of character to stand down. He did not. 

Cllr Brice's actions were referred to the Council Standard's Committee which has responsibility for maintaining Standards of Publicly elected individuals. Unwelcome news to residents therefore, that the Council monitoring officer report has still not been discussed, in what could lead to accusations that the report has been 'sat on' when it should have been fast tracked.

This issue has been ongoing for five months, meanwhile the Councillor in question still continues to roam the corridors of Gun Wharf and continues to receive his annual stipend of £8,000 from the Council tax payer for the pleasure.

It was very unfortunate, that at the time none of the Medway Conservative PPCs had a single pronouncement on Cllr Brice. Yet, when the issue of legalised brothels was raised during the General Election, many came out to oppose the measure, saying the public would never support legalization of such activities. Many Medway Conservative Councillors have publicly called for tough measures against kerb crawling. Some could say that a lack of resolution on this issue, could lead to accusations of hypocrisy to its core.

Why is that leading Conservatives can have strong opinions on areas of policy, yet turn a blind eye to a clear case of action amongst their own?

A sheer lack of principle that was on clear display as Cllr Brice sported with pride a Conservative rosette watching the election results on May 6th/7th with Conservative colleagues at the Black Lion Leisure Centre. He also coincidently, continues to speak in support and vote with the Conservative Group at council meetings. 

Medway Conservatives appear to have sanctioned silence and must now resolve this issue with haste. The public are paying for this man; not just in a lack of appropriate representation, but to the tune of £8,000 per year in allowance. Money squandered.

Councillor Brice is a fitting epitaph for the current administration in its wretched totality. A Group which has no remorse or apology for its action, whose 'down but not out' reflects the utter arrogance of Councillors who have bodged issue after issue and squandered tax payers money, despite record increases in local government grant. A Group who simply can not grasp the simple and insoluble truth that partisan games with the public only in this regard erode trust, albeit slowly and over time, in them and their actions.  

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Coalition Fudge

The Coalition Programme for Government runs to 32 pages under the slogan 'Freedom, Fairness, Responsbility.' 

The full document can be accessed here

In a joint forward, David Cameron and Nick Clegg wrote that

'this is an historic document in British politics. As our parties have worked together it has become increasingly clear to us that, although there are differences, there is also common ground.'

In reality, today's detailed agreement was only achieved by fudging dozens of policy decisions about which the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat partners disagreed before the election.

No fewer than five “commissions” will be held on policy areas where agreement was not possible, including splitting up the banks, replacing the Human Rights Act, and funding care for the frail elderly. In addition, there will be more than a dozen “reviews” on other issues, such as council finance. Mr Cameron acknowledged there could be trouble ahead but said: “I don't want to disappoint people later, I want to be clear now.”

Today's document, an expanded version of the seven-page agreement that led to the coalition being formed, was launched with a show of unity by ministers, including Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable, who have disagreed strongly on banking reform.

Mr Cable is known to have opposed going into coalition with the Tories.

Among the compromises, Lib-Dem MPs are allowed to abstain if Tory plans for a married couples tax allowance are put to a vote in the Commons.

They can also abstain on planning reforms that have been proposed to speed up the construction of nuclear power stations. The replacement of Trident goes ahead, against Lib-Dem wishes, but savings will be sought.

“Even if you've read 100 party manifestos, you've never read a document like this one,”

Mr Clegg told an audience of (yes) civil servants, who applauded after the launch at the Treasury.

“Compromises have, of course, been made on both sides, but those compromises have strengthened, not weakened, the final result.”

The Coalition 'manifesto' covers policy areas in alphabetical order, from banking to universities. There is no mention in the document of the Tory election pledge to scrap government-imposed targets in the NHS. The party's plan for a flat £25,000 a year tax on non-doms has also been dropped along with Lib-Dem policy on non-doms, in favour of another review.

This is the biggest fudge in recent political history. It only serves to highlight the fundamental differences between the coalition partners and the desperate manner in which the leaderships are kicking fundamental issues into the long grass. 

There may be trouble ahead.

Keep Royal Mail Public

The news that the coalition government wishes to privatise the Royal Mail has been slammed by the public and CWU as "regurgitated failed policies." It will be opposed by this blog. 

Despite the company's strong financial performance and newly agreed three-year modernisation strategy, the new Coalition government has unveiled proposals to split Post Office Limited from Royal Mail Group and privatise the UK's postal service. This will likely see massive numbers of redundancies and closures of local Post Offices across Medway. 

Pointing out that the government's announcement clearly contradicts its boasts of "new politics," CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said: "This is old politics wrapped in new language.

"The British public has consistently rejected the privatisation of Royal Mail and the move to regurgitate failed policies will be deeply unpopular."

When the Labour Government recommended a privatisation 18 months ago, a key justification that was made at the time was that private-sector involvement was the only way to improve industrial relations and modernise the business.

This blog opposed the privatisation plans of Peter Mandelson in 2009 as they were ill conceived and would destroy a service respected by the population. The bodged privatisation agenda failed in the 1990s and only saw inflated prices and reduced services. We do not need competition in the domestic postal market. We need investment and improvement in technology.

The recently concluded national agreement between the CWU and Royal Mail - Business Transformation: 2010 and Beyond - clearly proves the Coalition Government wrong on this score. Royal Mail's annual financial results, which were released on the same day that the government unveiled its privatisation plans, provide strong evidence that modernisation by agreement within the public sector is a recipe for success.

The Liberal Democrat membership should feel ashamed that its government is pushing ahead with a crude privatisation agenda. It should be rejected.


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Draconian repeal of Drinking Laws

The news that Conservative Government is to potentially repeal liberal drinking legislation highlights the authoritarian tendency within this new Coalition government.

The repeal of the laws will harm pubs, bars and clubs who are already struggling in tough economic times. It undermines the core message that the Conservative Party has pledged to support local pubs. This regressive and backward step will undermine income streams. In conjunction with a VAT rise to 20% we could be at the start of mass closures of pubs.

The vast majority of adults drink alcohol. Most people live within walking distance of a pub or bar. Alcohol is part of our national life. That's why the introduction of extension to drinking hours was important. For far too long we allowed a small minority to rule the streets at night and our main recourse has been a national curfew. This was unfair in principle and wrong in practice. It harmed the law abiding majority.

This blogger accepts there have been problems with the extension of drinking hours. But the correct recourse of action is to crack down on yobbish behaviour and treat adults like grown-ups. Getting the national relationship with alcohol right is a massive undertaking and will of course take time. This government has undermined this by jumping on a right-wing authoritarian bandwagon to curtail the rights of the majority.

Despite the charges by the right wing press, Labour did not oversee a massive increase in 24-hour drinking. Indications are that one half of one percent of licensees have applied for a 24-hour licence and many of them do not intend to use it regularly.

This blog agrees that we should agree to tackle alcohol related violence and anti-social behaviour in all its forms and crack down on those who encourage it by irresponsible retailing. Hpwever, evidence that the Licensing Act has helped reduce alcohol fuelled disorder by providing the police with new tough powers to close down problem bars and increase penalties for premises that sell to underage drinkers has been ignored.

The Tories calling time on when the law abiding majority can enjoy a drink is regressive and backward. 

A compromise too far?

Growing strains in the ConDem coalition emerged today as David Cameron and Nick Clegg prepared to unveil a landmark new pact.

The two leaders are set to publish a 30-page document tomorrow detailing compromises on key policies. One day after another row has engulfed the coalition around a Tory election promise to replace the Human Rights Act on hold. 

In their manifesto, the Tories promises to replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights after it was blamed for rulings benefiting criminals and asylum seekers. However, senior Liberal Democrats have played the 'resignation' card if the Act is ditched. Mr Clegg clouded this position in The Times today when he stated that 'Any government would tamper with it at its peril'

It was always disingenuous of the Tories to suggest that they could replace the Act with the Bill of Rights to solve these problems; whatever happens, the UK will remain subject to the European Convention on Human Rights which the Act expresses. Oh well, it looked good.

Meanwhile, the Conservative manifesto is now a tattered document. It has been so compromised as to appear totally worthless. Major compromises that have  benefit the Liberal Democrats can be noted in the following areas:

Capital Gains Tax

The Liberal Democrat Policy of raising Capital Gains to an eye watering 40% from its current 18% level. This will hurt Conservative-leaning supporters who are more likely to own second homes and shares.


David Cameron is still honouring his pledge to give the Commons a free vote on foxhunting with dogs. However, the coalition will not introduce legislation unless a motion to test opinion is passed. Another watering down of the Tory manifesto

Tax Burden

The Tories have already backtracked on the cut to inheritance tax and there is a major question mark over tax breaks for married couples.


There are squabbles between Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable are at major loggerheads over whether banks should be split to separate high-street banking and risky investment functions

1922 Committee

The wholesale destruction of the 1922 Committee by the Cameron leadership. Cameron has already indicated that he wants to undermine and rubbish his right wing base. Expect this to be on the agenda very shortly. CCHQ leaks indicate they want to undermine the vehicle of the right to remove him and silence his critics like David Davis.

It is now clear that Cameron has gerrymandered his government into permanent power for the next five years by amending the century old rule on dissolution of Parliament. He is also seeking to undermine and destroy his right wing opponents in the Party, whilst giving the Liberal Democrats policy after policy!

Could Cameron be overreaching? This blog suspects we will find out shortly 

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Voted Lib Dem?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

David Miliband visits Medway

David Miliband visited the Medway Towns today to listen to voters, members and residents on the future direction of the only opposition party to the current Conservative-Liberal administration.

He indicated that Labour had to renew itself after suffering a kicking from the electorate across Kent and the South East. He stated that we now had to listen and learn from our mistakes and he stressed the importance of the Labour movement as the only opposition to a Conservative-Liberal administration which has the wrong values for the British people. 

His core message of listening, engaging and learning from people was a key theme for the remainder of the meeting. The meeting was closed to the press as local activists and residents raised issues with the aspiring leadership hopeful. People inside the room were extremely candid and multiple topics were discussed including immigration, welfare reform, civil liberties, Gordon Brown, anti-social behaviour, crime and education.

As a candidate for Luton & Wayfield ward, this blogger made clear that the party needed to engage on the issues of immigration, benefit reform, anti-social behaviour, crime and community cohesion. There are problems, which if not addressed, have led to people flirting with the far-right. 

On taking the stage he made it clear that the strategic direction of a Labour opposition will be to win back marginal seats including those across Medway. He made clear that the party would re-engage locally with a more coherent strategy to local campaigning because

"If we can't win in the Medway Towns we are not going to have a Labour government again"

Mr Miliband also spoke to voters along the High Street to find out why they did or did not vote for his party. Many of whom voted Conservative at the last General Election but were open to a return to Labour in the future. 

Speaking after the meeting, he said:

"I think we've got to accept that we got a kicking and we do accept we got a kicking.

"There were a range of reasons that were put forward, people felt that we had become disconnected from the aspirations and hopes of too many voters.

"Some of the voters I have met have told me that, and they have raised issues like housing, education, immigration, also pocket book issues where people felt that we were not really offering the sort of change the country needed and that's something we have to take very seriously."

His meeting with Medway voters was scheduled as his brother Ed Miliband, spoke at the Next Left conference and announced his intention to battle David for the role of Labour leader.

Mr Miliband was also asked what he offered that his brother did not, but brushed off the question, saying: "I'm not going to say anything negative about any of the other candidates but what I am going to say about myself is that I think I can rebuild Labour to be the great reforming champion of social and economic change in this country."

Friday, 14 May 2010

Chatham Highsteet Chaos

The news that Chatham town centre is once again a gridlocked no-drive zone will come as no surprise to motorists, who are sick and tired of the mismanagement of road works, road schemes and poorly coordinated works.

Thousands of residents have sat for hours as the ongoing saga of incomptence continues at pace. Not only is the Globe Lane/Medway Street turning still a total mess, with cars having to travel through a car park to bypass speed cameras, we now have another set of works on Dock Road. Itself a site of constant speed regrading over the last 3 months. 

The constant mismanagement of road works on Globe Lane/Dock Road and its impacts became apparent when the traffic light system totally failed which caused absolute and utter chaos on the route. The Police were called to co-ordinate. People were trapped in busses and business once again no doubt suffered.

Of course works will need to happen and this will cause disruption, but the Dock Road traffic mess and the coordination of works is not a new problem. It was clear that the temporary traffic lights had not been phased [well] with those on Globe Lane as huge queues developed. 

In addition, more coordination between parties needs to happen, as many residents were simply unaware of this major work and were caught totally unaware. Notices and diversions were not visually recommended on in-routes, despite this being a major through road.  

Medway Council’s front line services boss Phil Filmer said: 

  “These are essential works being carried out by Southern Gas to ensure all homes and businesses in the area have a continued gas supply and unfortunately, the location of the work has caused some inevitable delays.

  “Chatham centre is open for business as usual and we are working hard to ensure people can travel easily and safely around the area."

Despite looking, this blog has failed to find any visual diversions and alternate roots into Chatham.

Chatham is suffering under this administration. Already facing difficulties because of the global recession, we need an administration who has some competence around road works and schemes in what is the key retail location for the towns.

Business warned that Chatham would become a no-go area for business if road upgrades around Chatham were mismanaged.

This is now the case.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Labour membership surge

According to the Guardian, the Labour Party has seen a massive influx of membership since the election amid signs that disgruntled Liberal Democrats are flocking to the party.

Almost 10,000 people have joined the party since the close of the polls. The post-election boost represents a 6% rise in its overall membership, after years of dwindling numbers willing to commit to the party.

A huge number, which only likely to turn into a flood once the harsh ConDem cuts come into place are from the Liberal Democrats. 

The sharpest rise in new Labour members came after details emerged of the coalition agreement. During the course of yesterday alone, as Nick Clegg and David Cameron held their joint press conference, 4,211 joined Labour.
One of the new members is Layla English, a drugs researcher at John Moores university in Liverpool.

"I joined because I was so angry about what's been going on for the last couple of days, particularly about the way the Liberals have conducted themselves," she said.

"Some of their polices were more leftwing than the Labour party, and they've just abandoned all that for a place at the top table with the Conservatives."

Newly signed-up members are asked to state their reasons for joining. A selection of these comments, published on the Labour party website suggest many have joined as reaction to Liberal Democrats' role in the new coalition. Some said they felt betrayed by the Lib Dems.

"I was appalled that Nick Clegg has backed the Tories," Amy from Chesterfield said.

"I made the mistake of voting for the Liberal Democrats, first, and last time"
Scott from Manchester is quoted as saying.

Similarly Mark from Newport told the party "Frustrated at tactically voting Lib Dems who then form an alliance with the Tory party. Will never vote Lib Dem again."

The Labour Party has struggled to attract and retain new members while in government. Membership peaked at 405,000 in 1997 in the aftermath of Tony Blair election. But 10 years later it had fallen back to 176,891, thought to be its lowest level since it was founded.

Labour is the progressive party of the future. Join us today to fight the ConDem Cuts coalition.

NHS Insurance Question

Nick Clegg has called for the NHS to be 'broken up' and said the Lib Dems should consider replacing it with a European-style insurance system.

According to the Daily Mail, In a little-noticed interview which will worry millions of NHS staff, he said the party should consider a social insurance system to replace the present tax-funded Health Service.

It would mean healthcare would no longer be free at the point of use - with patients who can afford to pay more getting better care

In the interview, carried out while Charles Kennedy was leader and two years before Mr Clegg took the job, he said:
'I think breaking up the NHS is exactly what you do need to do to make it a more responsive service.'

Asked whether he favoured a Canadian or European-style social insurance system, he said:
'I don't think anything should be ruled out. I do think they deserve to be looked at because frankly the faults of the British health service compared to others still leave much to be desired.

'We will have to provide alternatives about what a different NHS looks like.'

Under a social insurance system, members pay into an insurance scheme, either themselves or through an employer, to guarantee their healthcare. It means that those who pay into a more expensive scheme can get better care.

In the interview, Mr Clegg said 'defending the status quo' is no longer an option. Instead, he called on his party to 'let its hair down', 'break a long-standing taboo' and be 'reckless' in its thinking.

A year earlier, Mr Clegg had contributed to the notorious Orange Book in which those on the right of the party, who now conveniently form the majority of Cabinet place in the new administration discussed how policies should change under Mr Kennedy's leadership. The conclusion of the book outlines in more detail the type of insurance scheme he was outlining.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

UKIP Referendum Pledge Fudge

UKIP voters must be exasperated today as it became clear that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat alliance has no plans to engage in a referendum on the European Union.

A major concern for Rochester & Strood UKIP voters who walked to the polls to back the Conservative Party candidate, who pledged that "we should chart our own path, and have an in-or-out referendum on the European Union"

Less then one week after this pledge. We do not expect nor do we have any indication on an in-or-out referendum and there is not one planned. The new government will indeed accept Euro-Federalism and further engage in the structures of the European Union. 

According to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat agreement:

We agree that the British Government will be a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century: global competitiveness, global warming and global poverty. This is the key paragraph. The new government has not signed up to an in-out referendum and indeed will work within the European Union structures.

We agree that we will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future Treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would be subject to a referendum on that Treaty - a 'referendum lock'. We will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that the use of any passerelle would require primary legislation. 
Meaningless. Cameron had a similar 'cast-iron' pledge on the Lisbon Treaty but then reneged. In addition, the Lisbon Treaty was rejected by France and Belgium. The Constitutional amendment is not seemingly included, but will need to look at legislation as this will be key. 

We will examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that ultimate authority remains with Parliament. 
Meaningless, this is already the case. Sovereignty remains with the nation state in Europe. Sop statement to right wing

We agree that we will strongly defend the UK's national interests in the forthcoming EU budget negotiations and that the EU budget should only focus on those areas where the EU can add value. 
Meaningless, as would require majority voting to get powers back. Previous Labour administration had same value statement and didnt work and 'add value' statement is open.

We agree that we will press for the European Parliament only to have one seat, in Brussels.
Sensible, was previous Labour Policy.

We agree that we will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country's security, protecting Britain's civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system. Britain will not participate in the establishment of any European Public Prosecutor.
So will they scrap Social Charter? Human Rights Act? It would appear not.

On all the issues of substance; an in-out referendum, scrapping of Human Rights Act and repatriation of powers from the EU have been watered down. The statements are platitudes.

UKIP voters in Rochester & Strood will feel let down by this agreement. They voted for Britain out of Europe and now they have a fudged deal which keeps the status quo in all but name.

Where did it all go wrong?

The campaign backbiting and recriminations have been published in full public view this morning as Tim Montgomerie published a searing account of the Conservative campaign.

His 7,000 word account of the election campaign is based on interviews with 'senior members' of the Conservative Party and despite the near silent tones from acquiescent Tory MPs, will be pored over by Conservative activists, who regard ConservativeHome as the most authoritative source of information on the party and its grassroots.

Tim Montgomerie offered a scathing criticism of the campaign

"The party was twice as well-funded as Labour and was able to afford the most professional marginal seats operation ever seen in UK politics. And yet, the Tories fell short. The result was not a disaster but it was much less than it should have been. David Cameron should not have had to make deals with the Liberal Democrats and spend the next few months worrying if his government will survive."

Within the critique a survey of Conservative members showed that 62% thought the campaign was poor. Just 20% thought the campaign was good or excellent.

"The team around Cameron failed to decide upon a big theme for the election, choosing instead to run a presidential campaign based around the personality of David Cameron. The idea of a presidential campaign led them to sleep-walk into the most fatal decision, the agreement to the three election debates."

The account also heavily attacks the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne who failed to develop a consistent message on the economy after he decided to down play the 'age of austerity' message from last Autumn. Steve Hilton was also savaged in the critique. Steve was the author of the 'Big Society' which bombed during the election campaign.

The Tory grassroots start the next five years in government in an unhappy state.

For now, splits remain contained, but for how long can the membership base stomach working with the flaky and untrustworthy Liberal Democrats?