Friday, 31 December 2010

A Year in Review

A little late but never the less, I did promise one!

January 2011 saw Daisy Benson selected to fight Reading West for the Liberal Democrats. For some unfathomable reason I chose to take voluntary redundancy after 22 years with ICL/Fujitsu Services so that I could work full time on her campaign as election agent. Our starting fighting fund? £4,000! It was hardly going to be a fair fight with one party backed by multi-millionaires and hunt supporters from Aldershot and the other with stockpiles of union funds and facilities.

The big lesson for me was finding the public responding to a positive campaign. It was helped by both the Tories and Greens agreeing to a clean campaign but we soon discovered why Nasty Naz wouldn't sign up for it. Actually that's a little unfair. Naz himself isn't that 'nasty' and a quite pleasant person but as he refused to apologise for Pete Ruhemann's catalogue of lies and smears in Labour leaflets ultimately the nasty moniker was a fair one.

Whilst this was going on, my normal council work saw me responsible for putting together the Lib Dem budget. It was clear that when I required access to officer time and more detailed budget figures that I was being blocked by Labour. This made it impossible to set a Lib Dem budget which required major changes to the way some of the council services were delivered. With that avenue blocked by them, all that could be done was to take the Labour budget and whittle away at it. However, I did have a few tricks up my sleeve and came up with an alternative budget that was signed off by the Section 151 officer as being 'not at risk' which would have seen lower council tax for 2010/2011 and no cuts whatsoever to front line services. Labour's "lowest possible budget without cuts to front line services" was a demonstrable load of cobblers.

However, because of Labour's shenanigans I was given no opportunity to propose it. My experience since then, now that I have full access to the accounts, is that a 0% budget was perfectly achievable last year with no cuts.

The election itself was a stagering vindication of the Lib Dem approach. In Reading West our share of the vote went up by 9%. I'm immensely proud of what we achieved with such limited resources and learned many valuable lessons for next time. Across Reading we polled 26% of the vote which proportionately should have given us 12 councillors. Each year since 2006 we have made year on year gains in terms of the number of councillors, the only party to do so.

Post election it was clear that stability was needed in Reading. Two years running where the budget had been set against the odds because Labour refused to negotiate resulting in another year of the same would be a disaster. We had been told the previous October that £20m savings would have to be found over 3 years and it was clear that regardless of the outcome of the national election that Reading needed a stable platform because setting a budget was going to get harder. Setting a legal budget is the responsibility of all councillors. As well as that I'd also lost all confidence in Labour's financial competency to create a budget on their own.

Whilst nationally Labour rejected any idea of co-operation, viewing Lib Dems as lobby fodder rather than political partners, what became quickly clear is that locally they wanted to do exactly the same. They just weren't interested in forming a joint administration. They wanted all the cabinet posts and offered us nothing in return.

Contrast Labour's position with that of the Conservatives who were prepared to give Lib Dems the lead councillor positions of Housing, Health & Community Care and the Environment and Sustainability. In terms of our party policies, these are where many of our campaigns were and we had the most to contribute to the agenda. In the end, it was a unanimous group decision to form a coalition something I myself would have laughed at only a month earlier during the heat of the campaign.

Later in the year the higher education debate rumbled on with several Lib Dems getting their nickers in a twist over it. I hope it's been a lesson for them - don't sign an NUS Labour pledge! Being outsmarted by Aaron Porter does not look good. In fact I have more respect for Lib Dems who were prepared to say; look, it's still our policy to scrap tuition fees as a matter of principle, but given the hand we have been dealt this is the best deal for poor students. It is.

In 1983 I was offered a job repairing computer terminals. A week later a place came up for me at Portsmouth Poly and I remember clearly what formed my decision making. I came from a poor, single-parent family having grown up on a council estate and what scared me at the time was failing a year and leaving Poly with a debt I couldn't pay off. That's what would have stopped me starting a degree. I would not have gone to Poly under Labour's student loan system, I simply could not afford to take the risk. I would have gone under the new proposed system. And before Labour supporters delude themselves further, in August 2009 Peter Mandleson was floating the idea of £7,000 fees and that was before Alistair Darling's £44bn savings announcement. Sensible people know it would have been no better under Labour and without a reform to their loans system it would have been far far worse for the poor.

The surprise of the year for me is how well the coalition is working. We are still two distinct parties and both locally and nationally each party has members upset with one thing or another in the agreements but there are two main things I bear in mind:

(1) There is no Santa Claus
(2) You can't always have what you want

Since May I have not seen a single constructive comtribution to the debate from Labour, other than opposing everything - including their own manifesto commitments!

Looking forward, I wouldn't rule out a future coalition with Labour, but they will have to do a hell of a lot of growing up if they want to be relevant in a world of pluralist politics.

New Labour - P!$$ing Your Money Up the Wall

As always suspected Labour p!$$ed away £292m of our money on a scheme they knew was unworkable.

Here are two interpretations of the fiasco:

Damian Green, the home office minister, said: "The Identity Card Scheme was intrusive, bullying, ineffective and expensive.”

And

Andy Burnham, who oversaw the biometric cards while a Home Office minister, said: “The Tory-Lib Dem government are trying to make the cards a totem of what our government stood for– but I think they were a good idea and many people are still be in favour of them."

Where Labour completely fail in their reaching out to Lib Dems (blooming perverts!) is that whilst they continue to defend their authoritarian centralism agenda and fail to apologise for their vast waste of public money, they can bog right off.

And of course it was a totem of what Labour stand for and an apposite one at that. Wasting public money on things that have negligible benefit is all that New Labour was all about. The fact that Andy Burnham is still so unapologetic exposes New Labour as the Stalinist bunch of control freaks we know them to be.

Revealed the full shambles of the id card trial in Greater Manchester

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Now here's a thing...

...if a councillor works as a freelance consultant he or she doesn't have to declare his or her client list to the council.

To be honest I've been pretty disappointed by the local awkward squad. They seem to prefer picking at scabs like Shinfield Road rather than attempting to pour salt on a big festering sore that has been oozing pus across Reading for the last 23 years.

A Rotten Borough - Part LIX

Doing the end of year clear up you always come across some of the old leaflets and flyers delivered by the various parties. Amongst them I found one from the Reading Labour Party delivered in April 2008 in two versions, Urdu and English, but strangely enough only to Muslim voters. In it they value the support of the Muslin community and that Labour and they have acheived "much together", including:

  • Labour provided premises for the Pakistani Community Centre
  • Labour enlarging Park Hall for the Pakistan community
  • "Your Labour MP and councillors hold special advice sessions at the PCC."
  • Labour "helped with planning permission for every mosque in Reading"
  • Labour got sites for the Abu Bakr and Jamme Masjid mosques.
  • Labour acquired the land for the Green Road mosque.
  • Labour paid the salary for a year for a Muslim Development Worker in west Reading.
  • Labour paid for elderly luncheon clubs and youth clubs for the Muslim Community
  • Labour funded courses at the WEA Asian Women's Learning Centre
Martin Salter is also organising a visit to Kashmir and Pakistan taking former councillor and PCC commitee member Christine Borgars [who according to the PCC website "remains active in Reading Labour Party including managing their campaign database."]

Of course, it wasn't Labour who paid for these things, it was the council. As this was an election leaflet for Katesgrove, the recipients didn't have a Labour MP who could hold advice surgeries in East Reading at the PCC. Alongside the clear inference of bribing the Muslim electorate with council cash, there is what appears to be a clear case of Labour admitting to predetermining planning decisions.

It would seem that the only reason Reading Labour exists is to take money from the general population and hand it to people they think will vote for them. I'm indebted to the members of the Muslim community who saw through their motives, gave me (and translated) these leaflets and voted them out of Katesgrove. :)

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Reading Labour - A House Divided

With the Shinfield Road traffic scheme continuing to be a poison legacy to the town from Labour, it is probably worth reminding people exactly who the individuals were who were responsible for it.

Reading Borough Council Cabinet - 15th February 2010.

147. SHINFIELD ROAD CIVIL ENFORCEMENT AREA WAITING RESTRICTION – PETITION AND OBJECTION
“Objections to RBC’s proposals for Shinfield Road. We the undersigned, agree with increased safety and a better environment for the area. But we object to specific parts of RBC’s plan for the following reasons:

1. Removing the roundabouts will increase traffic and congestion levels.
2. The study ignores crucial factors and lacks scientific rigor.
3. No provisions for a pollution monitoring system have been made public.
4. The plan is neither generally balanced of cost effective.
5. The plan is specifically unfair to the area’s residents and workers.
6. RBC’s proposals may be illegal.”

The reaction of those in charge to this petition:

Cabinet resolved –
(1) That the petitions be noted;
(2) That the Borough of Reading (Shinfield Road) (Civil Enforcement Area) (Waiting Restrictions) Order 2009 be introduced at the appropriate time as advertised;
(3) That the Head of Transport be authorised to make minor changes to the Order if appropriate;
(4) That no public inquiry be held into the proposals;
(5) That the objector and lead petitioners be informed accordingly.

Now who was responsible for giving the go ahead to the scheme and despite objections agreeing to implement the scheme? Let's look at the members of the cabinet present at the meeting: Councillors Lovelock (Chair), Edwards, Ennis, Gittings, Hartley, Hoskin, Page, Orton and Tickner.

Is this the same Councillor Orton who also said: “The Shinfield Road scheme is clogging up cars and buses alike. As local councillors representing South Reading we are experiencing the problems ourselves and are having them reported to us daily. We can’t go on like this. The lead councillor for transport has promised a review in six months. This is not good enough.”

Councillor Page has despite the chaos strongly defended the cabinet decision - a cabinet decision that Councillor Orton was equally responsible for making. I think the residents of Whitley arre owed an abject apology from one of their councillors and Rachel Eden and Jim Hanley should make a public statement distancing themselves from their ward colleague's behaviour if they want to be taken seriously with their complaints.

Labour's way locally and nationally is to completely screw up things, crap all over residents and voters, then attack those who try to clean up their mess. Like Labour, it doesn't wash.

Councillor Orton should either publically apologise to his residents for his actions or shut up.

Monday, 20 December 2010

A Cautionary Christmas Tale

Mr. Reading New-Labour was once the boss of a small company in Berkshire but he wasn't very good and was sacked by the shareholders over two years ago. He pretended to his family that he was going to work each day but the truth was that his 'salary' was being paid by a loan from Ocean Finance.

In an attempt to get out of his financial calamity before anyone noticed, he bet all the family's Christmas money on a dead cert given to him the day before by a man he met walking a dog on a bit of string. Not unsurprisingly the nag called "Boom & Bust" came last in the 2:30 at Newbury.

Faced with owning up to what he'd done, he instead stuck up two fingers to his family and left them desperately trying to work out how to pay the rent and forced to eat cornflakes for tea. He stole what was left in the house-keeping jar and pissed off down the pub.

During the evening Mr. New-Labour bought strangers pints in an attempt to get them to like him and put it all on his bar tab. He would also pick fights with imaginary rabbits and asked anyone who showed concern if they would lend him £10 to buy them a drink. The regulars kept their distance but he didn't have to drink alone. His shop steward mate, propped up the bar with him, sipping his mild, buying his buddy pork scratchings paid for with the money the union man had fleeced from the pub's poorly paid cleaning staff with empty promises of campaigning for equal pay.

The landlord finally slung Mr New-Labour out after he asked him to settle his bar tab and discovered that he didn't have anything on him except for an IOU from Liam Byrne.

Mr. Reading New-Labour was found on Christmas morning lying face down in the gutter covered in his own vomit.



Update:

In case anyone is reading this after the hysterical rantings of someone who doesn't mind spreading lies about Lib Dems but gets his knickers in a twist when Labour's lies and untruths are exposed... exactly where did I say "dead in his own vomit". I didn't. That would somewhat dent the morality element of the tale. Waking up the next morning remorseful for what he has done would be nice. Won't happen though.

But when it comes to nasty, Reading Labour are hoping that a local resident is attacked or assaulted in Reading so that they can personally blame me for it. Tony Page said so in public at a Reading Cabinet meeting.

Lovely people aren't they!

How Labour Works

Reading Labour have been quite gung-ho about their "decapitation" campaign in Redlands. That might have had some momentum if their 2010 candidate had continued with her candidacy, but for some unfathomable reason she has handed over the reigns to complete unknown Jan Gavin.

Of course, Kelly Edwards decision to stand in Whitley rather than Redlands has absolutely nothing to do with her working for Green Issues, who are currently enagaged in "community consultation" over the redevelopment of the former Courage brewery site in Whitley ward. No doubt she has been allocated work outside the Borough of Reading and has nothing to do with that particular brief and I wouldn't want to suggest the two are linked.

It is more likely that she feels she has a better chance of winning in the Labour rotten ward of Whitley than staying and fighting for the ward she felt would be better served by her only 9 months ago.

I also hear that the dead hand of Trish Thomas is also still at work in Reading (she who demanded a recount of the 2008 Katesgrove result to keep David Sutton's defeat out of the ITV lunchtime news). Mrs. Hanley has been complaining to Mrs. Ruhemann about those nasty Lib Dems. You would hope that she would get a life after retiring from the council, but it's not that simple it would appear.

Talking of dead hands, just why would John Howarth be in regular correspondance with Rajinder Sohpal (former Labour councillor and RCRE bigwig) given that both appear on the face of it to have given up working for Reading Labour?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Oh, what a tangled web

I guess the Corporate, Community and Corporate Affairs Committee performance from Labour was as predictable as Tony Page complaining about paying a measly 20p to use Reading's swanky new toilets (annual net cost to the council tax payer £230,000). It seems that even with the huge budget savings that the whole country knows have to be made because of the mess Labour left us in, they are quite incapable of controlling their bladders and seeming unable to stop spending a penny in public, especially if that penny isn't actually theirs, it is the public's. Forget the bank that likes to say 'yes', they are the party that cannot say 'no'.

Covering up their bottomless public money pit with a white handkerchief and erecting a "nothing to see here" sign might have been sufficient to scare Scooby Doo and Shaggy away whilst they hope to return but it took breathtaking arrogance to think no-one would start digging up Labour's corpses.

They are reduced to throwing tantrums in press releases and on the Post's letters pages hoping their scary ghost stories about what the nasty coalition are planning to cut in Reading will have any effect. In truth all their moaning about the coalition cuts are worthless fish and chips wrapping. Why you ask? Because you can't cut something that doesn't exist!

Admittedly it is difficult for the average voter to work out the intricate complexities of Labour's fiscal methodology, so I've developed a quick and I hope helpful guide to budgeting the Labour way. I've found Labour's budget process can be more easily understood by the layman or woman if we substitute quantum physics as relatively simple analogy to explain their methods.

If you've been awake listening to D:Ream's Labour 1997 election theme 'Better Get Only Can Things'  backwards, you may have been lucky enough to have heard Professor Brian Cox explaining how Schroedinger's cat can famous exist in two places at the same time, that is in the box and simultaneously in kitty heaven, That holds true until the moment that you open the box, when Schroedinger's moggie in an act of self-centred attention seeking decides right then and there whether he is alive or dead.
[Experimenter's Note: I have discovered that if you are forced to substitute a tin of tuna for the recommended cyanide capsule, the cat always seems to choose being alive. This may be the same experimental result that led Stephen Hawking to announce that the was no need for a God to cause the big bang. The cat did it.]

Now, if you are still following, if we compare Labour's fiscal policy using the Unionised field theory we discover that in the even stranger world of Labour quantum physics, their budget items don't exist anywhere at all and you don't even need to open the box to know there's nothing in it. Liam Byrne left a note to tell you. Brian Cox fans may have heard him refer to this on BBC2 by its other name Lovelocks 3rd Law of Complete Inertia.

This may all be too complex to grasp for some Labour party members, so specially for them the Janet and John special relative theory explains that for every possible combination of political policy the Labour particles will hold the exact opposite charge and become an anti-Abbey-Matter particle. Should they ever accidentally come into contact with a real budget setting process they will implode releasing energy in the form of a massive stream of "budget variance" muons and at the same time magic cash out of thin air using Einstein's famous formula E=Magic Cash2?

I have posted about Labour addiction to creating hidden subsidies before but yesterday I found what can only be described as a brand new fundamental particle. After overuse of practical cats, let use something veggie to describe the new exciting discover... how about a quark? And then a sub-type, in this case a charmed budget. Yep, there definitely something odd about this discovery.

It would appear from considering the evidence that Reading Labour's free spending of the taxi licence money to pay a private security company for taxi marshalls may, how shall we put it, not actually have been allowed under the legislation that covers fees and charges. You see, I was checking how other councils operate their taxi schemes, with the idea of picking up best practice when I found a comment in a report to the Darlington taxi licensing committee. Page 5 of their 2010 taxi fees and charges report says this:

18. It would be difficult to interpret the legislative provision for use of the fees to include the
use of taxi marshalls who are associated with the dispersal of patrons rather than directly
associated with the provision of a taxi rank and to do so would leave the Council open to
challenge by the trade. Members are aware that the Council’s responsibility is to provide a
safe means of travel for the travelling public. Initiatives to protect the trade are however,
encouraged such as the installation of CCTV and protective shields in vehicles. Ultimately,
however, although the Council provides a licence for the trade the actual business of private
hire or hackney carriage work is the responsibility of the trade member.

Or if you prefer non-officer speak, it is not a smart idea to use money collected as taxi licence fees to pay for taxi marshalls because in Darlington they clearly believe that the law does not allow it.

Meanwhile over in the People's Republic of La-La-Land, Reading Labour thought it perfectly permissible to help themselves to the taxi licence fees receipts and spend it on something that doesn't exist... a bit like Britain's gold reserves, eh?. Now a sensible person seeing first the police refuse to cough then the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership withdraw leaving no money to pay for it may have if they were doing their job properly would probably have cut their losses at that point and ended the contract. But you see that doesn't take into account Labour's gag reflex. "No money? No worries! We'll use someone else's!" The only fly in the ointment would appear to be that they didn't have the legitimate right to use it.

However, is it worth kicking up such a fuss about a measly £16,000. This year (2010/2011) Labour had budgeted for taxi licencing to make a loss of £81,000 when the law provides for councils to recover ALL their reasonable costs of running the licensing and enforcement teams from the fees charged.

I think someone should to tell them it's in their own self interest to 'fess up to where they have buried the rest of their bodies before I dig them up. It's only a matter of time before I find more.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Labour's Office of Budget Irresponsibility.

Last night's cabinet featured a savaged by a dead sheep attack on me from the former lead Councillor for the Environment, Paul Gittings. He might have had a point if he hadn't left me with a complete shambles to sort out.

Because of the way the council works, changes to fees and charges had to come before last night's Cabinet otherwise they couldn't be implemented on January 1st when VAT increases. I was actually asked to move the increases forward by businesses who use council services who didn't want to put up their fees once for the VAT increase and then have to do it all again for the Council's annual inflation increase.

Rather predictably, this led to a case of faux horreur from Paul Gittings who had left me with the local equivalent of the "I've spent it all" note from Liam Byrne. As we saw with Labour's burying away unbudgeted their donation to the Reading Taxi Association of £20,000 for their taxi marshals, Labour hid a myriad of completely unfunded subsidies and concessions that had no budget line item and untangling Labour's robbing Peter to pay Paul method of budgeting is essential if we are to rescue the Council's finances.

Going through the basket case that Cllr. Gitting's left me with inevitably meant that individual items taken in isolation from the full budget package that will be announced in February doesn't tell the whole story.

For example, a Lib Dem budget concession from two years ago, which I had to remind Cllr. Gittings that his group fought tooth and nail against, was for free bulky waste collections for those who couldn't afford it. Grudgingly they agreed to it to get their budget through, but do you know how much he budgeted to pay for it? Bugger all! Once again it came out of Labour's magic pixie pot of cash and one of the reasons why their budgets always overran and your council tax constantly went up. When I allocate concessions it will be budgeted and financed, not by sticking my fingers in my ears singing la-la-la hoping know one will ask awkward questions.

The more I dig through the way Labour ran this town the more bankrupt they are exposed as being. They wouldn't understand fiscal responsibility if it sat up and bit them on the bum and Cllr. Gittings has proved himself not fit enough to run a whelk stall let alone a service with a £13.6m budget.

I can guarantee you one thing - Labour will not set an alternative budget this year. They can't. They have objected to every one of our attempts to save money and restore accountability to the council tax payer... apart that is from the closure of the civic offices at weekends, which rather tellingly Jo Lovelock told us she agreed with because the unions had asked her to do it.

No, their real problem is that if Labour attempt to set a budget it would expose the black hole at the very heart of their financal planning. Their strategy for the next election is to promise a helper monkey for every household and hope that no-one asks them where the money is coming from.

One thing is certain. The days of Labour handing out pensioners' council tax without accountability are over and not before time. Reading simply cannot afford a Labour council any more and nor can the residents.

The trouble with cats...

... is that they are always bringing you "presents".


Thanks Matilda!

Monday, 29 November 2010

NUS - Couldn't Put It Better Myself

When you consider the NUS as a national voice, the fact that they were not able to stop top up fees being introduced in 97; the fact that they weren't able to stop top-up fees going up in 2004; the fact that they didn't even get a seat at the Browne review 2009 showed that they aren't necessarily a national voice.

Aaron Bali, Southampton University Student. South Today 29th November

Correct. They are Labour stooges who think a graduate tax is a "progressive"answer.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Fetid Dingos Kidneys

How can you tell when the South East Regional Manager of UNISON is making things up?

Easy... he posts another blog entry.

It's not just him dancing to the tune of his political masters and fabricating news, the whole Labour Party membership is at it hoping for a state of collective amnesia. They've resorted to making up garbage about the upcoming local elections and a pact that only exists as Labour wishful thinking. They clearly do not understand politics in the modern age. I can assure you that every ward will have a Lib Dem candidate campaigning on Lib Dem policies not the Coalition's.

Also exposed is their latest attempt to smear the Lib Dems in the form of a handwritten letter to the Reading Post purporting to be sent in by me for the letters page. Luckily it was easily seen through, like their party, but unfortunately I think a taste of things to come. I'll be an interested by-stander in the Labour game of "how low can we go?" I'm expecting to be surprised about the depths to which they'll stoop. They're crawling on their bellies but they can get lower and will.

Their only tactic seems to be throwing their own faeces at opponents hoping some of it will stick. Well, I've got news for them. I'm cleaning up their crap faster than they can fling it and that includes the mess they made of the council finances.

In some ways it is sad to see that all that's left of the once proud socialist party is a hysterical banshee wailing at anyone stupid enough to believe their lies. Since they are no longer representative of Labour, they should perhaps change their name to the Guilty Party.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Students Are Revolting

The days of student protest ain't what they used to be.

I'm no stranger to direct action. In 1984 I took an active part in the occupation of Portsmouth Polytechnic (I was also in Trafalgar Square during the Poll Tax Riots, but that's another story!) The action was over the introduction of non-refundable deposit for breakages, charging for coursework notes and an above inflation increase in accommodation charges. You may laugh at it now, but it was a big deal then and we occupied key Polytechnic buildings as part of our campaign. Not to close them but to keep them open!

We had heard that the vice-president had plans to shut the place down completely if we occupied their administration offices so we occupied all the key buildings and lecture halls which whilst they remained occupied could not be locked.

When they threatened (in an attempt to alienate the unions and stop students completing coursework) to shut down the ICL mainframe, I reminded them that I'd done my industrial training at ICL and could actually do a checkpoint restart on a P series 2960 which at the time was a black art involving a ferret and eye of newt. A truce between the Poly with the unions meant that I could spend the rest of the occupation running the telephone exchange which in the days before mobile phones allowed us to keep one step ahead of the authorities. Eventually the Poly obtained a High Court Summons which brought it to an end.

After a suitable gap to save face and a charge of £50,000 to the Students Union for the breakage of two ashtrays the conditions were rolled back and a victory of sorts claimed by both sides. What characterised it though was our Student Union president was a Liberal not a crazed Socialist Worker nutter (our joke was they were neither socialist or workers!) and we were disciplined and did everything to keep public sympathy on our side.

The tragedy of the tuition fees protests is that it will only end one way - with tears and recriminations. There is no achievable objective, no get out clause for the protesters and no face saving position on offer from the protagonists. You need all for a successful campaign.

I have to admit that on my list of political priorities, student tuition fees are not up in my top ten. Don't get me wrong, I am against the whole idea of charging students to do their first degree and it would make my top twenty, but really, it's not what gets me up in the morning and pops into my head when I go through the to-do list of wrongs to be righted that day.

The problem with many Lib Dem supporters is that they've allied themselves to the rhetoric of the playground, talking of 'treachery' or 'back-stabbing'. They have left themselves no-where to turn because if they now take back that sort of language they themselves are traitors to their own cause. Oh, the irony!

It is of course nothing of the sort. Lib Dems in the coalition are no more guilty of treachery than is a parent who has promised a petulant teenager an X-box Kinetic for Christmas, then finds themselves having to explain to their child that they've just been made redundant and they won't be able to buy it after all. When to tell the children that there is no Santa Claus it one of the difficult things about parenthood. Telling your own supporters there's is no money because Labour spent it all is another. Everyone has to grow up and face the real world at some point. What we are seeing play out are the teenage tantrums and the inevitable running up the stairs screaming "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" whilst the family are trying to work out how to afford the food bill.

I have no sympathy for any of the MPs or Parliamentary candidates whining now who were either too naive or stupid enough to sign up to a pledge that took no account of whether Lib Dems would be in a position to deliver on that promise. The more intelligent recognised post election what was going to happen and concentrated on mitigating the disaster of implementing Labour's Browne report unaltered. We only have 57 MPs and the changes as the result of Lib Dem pressure has at least resulted in the proposals being labelled "progressive" by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. It is still Lib Dem policy to scrap them but the weeping and wailing by some activists shows that even members of my own party do not understand the difference between coalition and majority government. You have to do things you don't like to get the things you do. If you don't like it, campaign for a majority Lib Dem government instead of bleating about betrayal or leave the party.

The fundamental problem is that University is no longer a place where one goes to advance one's education. It was turned by Labour into a sausage factory for the young. One of the most evil works of genius perpetuated by the last Labour govenment was the sleight of hand that not only removed hundreds of thousands of young people from the unemployment figures but also got them to pay for the privilege themselves. Under Labour students were forced to rack up debts of £20,000 for the right to sign on for a £16,000 a year job as a temp when they finished their degree.

This is not helped by a generation of politicos who in the words of Yeah Yeah Noh have gone to "University straight from nursery" and who have lost touch with what's important to ordinary people. It might play out well in The Guardian's "Comment is Free" but in the real world most people don't give a rat's-arse about students. I know with the self-importance of youth many of them won't like to hear that, but it's true. Deal with it. Try knocking on a door in Coley Park and whine on about how unfair tuition fees are if you don't believe it.

There is no right to a free education, anymore than there is a right to a free NHS. We all pay for the NHS in one way or another. In some areas, such as prescriptions, eye tests or dentistry most people already do pay.

If it really does increase earnings then the state should put its money where its mouth is as it will reap the benefits from increased tax receipts. The problem arises when the tax collected from those increased earnings does not keep pace with the cost of providing that education. That happens when students leave university and take up jobs that can be done by less educated students. This rush to get people off the job figures has created job inflation where a degree is an entry level qualification for office filing jobs. And no-one wants to talk about the elephant in the room, just how many Politics with History students and Media Studies graduates does the country need?

Yet, the Labour position on tuition fees is a joke. They introduced them. They doubled them. They were going to put them up to £5,000 anyway and it was their Browne (sic) report that recommended removing the cap not the coalition. Labour students are behaving in a manner not inconsistent with prostitution, as in:

"Would you have sex with me for £1m?" "Yes"
"Would you have sex with me for £10?" "No. What sort of woman do you think I am?"
"We know what sort of woman you are. We're just haggling on the price."

That's Labour's position on tuition fees - merely haggling over the price. I'm a Lib Dem, I don't believe in tuition fees and would scrap them tomorrow if I was incharge. The way to acheive that is to ensure that we have a Lib Dem government. The simple truth is that Labour backs tuition fees 100% and it was Labour who forced students into this debt mountain in the first place. Labour have no solutions.

Baudelaire said this about the situation:

The greatest trick nuLabour ever pulled was to convince the young they never existed.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Demand a Refund!

One of the big problems in Reading is the lack of parking which is often compounded by inconsiderate parking. A great deal of my time has recently been taken up with problems over missed bin collections. In some part this has been caused by people parking on pavements whilst in other parts of Katesgrove grass verges have been turned to mud as cars off-road to avoid blocking the road itself. In some cases though it just has to be put down to inconsiderate drivers.

A clampdown on inappropriate pavement parking is welcomed by many. Missed bin collections cost the council tax payer because we have to send the crew on a repeat visit; parked cars force children's buggies into the road; they block access for the blind and disabled and cause access problems for emergency vehicles. Many people have said about this initiative "about time too".

Something needs to be done as at the moment the council is unable to act becuase only the police have any powers. The "solution" is to give agents acting on behalf of the council the ability to act. And this means issuing fines when necessary.

However, unlike the previous Labour administration, it is recognised that a blanket ban across town is not the answer. There are some streets where custom and practicality means that it is not necessarily dangerous to do so and in fact if it were to be imposed, it would actually make things worse. It's why the coalition asked ward councillors as community advocates to identify streets in their wards where pavement or grass verge parking needed to be regularised, or excepted from the orders.

Labour councillors have decided that they are going to refuse to take part at all in the process of consulting over parking on verges and payments and are letting their residents down in an act of political petulance.

I think it's more than that. I believe that they are in breach of the council constitution which states:

2.3 Roles and functions of all Councillors
(a) Key roles
All Councillors will:
  • (ii) act as community advocates and leaders by:
    • promoting and representing the Borough and the local communities and bringing their views into the decision-making processes of the Council and partner agencies;
    • being the advocate of and for their ward and local people and communities living within it, including responding to petitions;
    • providing information to, and promoting local democracy, participation and engagement by, sections of the local community
  • (iv) balance different interests identified within the ward and represent the ward as a whole;
  • (v) be involved in decision-making as provided by the Constitution, including:
    • executive decisions by Lead Councillors through Cabinet

At the very minimum, residents with a Labour councillor should be demanding that they pay back the £8,224 that they are collecting in allowances whilst refusing to do the role for which they are being paid the money and failing to fulfil their job description.

It should also be noted that this is not a principled stand. Whilst they are whining like stuck pigs over the £75,000 "income" that they trumpet as being a cash-cow generator, the Labour administration budgeted and spent £600,000 by fining the poor if they were late paying their council tax. In one case Labour's policy of squeezing the poor until the pips squeaked made a family with four children homeless which then had to be picked up by the housing department at huge cost to the council tax payer.

Again, I won't be lectured by a bunch of Labour charlatans who have never had the interests of the residents of the Borough at heart. Simply their own warped and narrow political self-interest.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Green Week Question Tme

I'm looking forward to Thursday when I will be doing a Question Time style debate at the University. Especially looking forward to meeting Henry Kelly. I promise, there will be no Game for a Laugh or Going for Gold jokes.


Cancelled

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Labour acting in UNISON.

Let's start this post off with a statement of fact. I am a member of UNITE. Before I was made redundant, I was a union rep. I fully support the right of unions to organise and protest and represent their members. I helped organise a strike picket in defence of pay, employment and pension rights at Fujitsu. Cllr. Debbie Watson was our union organiser.

But what we are seeing in Reading is a complete corruption of union ideals. Union members have been fed a lie that their best interests are served by supporting Labour.

I have an internal Reading Labour Party email detailing how they were going to spend UNISON members money on the Labour Party's election postage. They are as close locally as you can get to a single organisation as you can get.

Yet, if you are a UNISON member, especially a low paid UNISON member, ask yourself why hypocrites like Tony Jones are paid with your subscriptions to promote and act as apologists for that Labour Party when Reading Labour has locally prevented the introduction of equal pay for men and women across the council for over 5 years whilst at the same time the Reading Labour party used your equal pay money in their council budgets to pay for their pet projects.

If you work for the council, ask yourself this, are you best served by a Reading Labour Party that views equal pay for women as something that can be put off because it was the only way to balance the books.

Reading Labour should hang their head in shame that it is the Lib Dems and, to Labour's complete and utter shame, the Conservatives who will be bringing equal pay to this town. Not them... the so called party of the working class.

They are quite frankly a disgrace to the name 'Labour' and should be actionable under the Trades Description Act. and have let really hard working union members down. And your union supports them with your money. And pays Tony Jones.

Some people foolishly thought that Tony Jones was making a principled stand against a Reading Labour Party that had lost its way and no longer represented ordinary working people. I learned pretty quickly that it was simply a matter of his ego and the result of internal faction fighting. He hated the local Labour Party leadership and they hated him.

I am also loving Chris Maskell's sudden conversion to Labour loyalist. He had actually written to council officers asking them to change his details on the web site and council documentation before chickening out at the last minute leaving Tony Jones out on a limb.

As a paid UNISON official Tony Jones epitomises the major weakness of British unions. Charles de Talleyrand-PĂ©rigord said that he was more afraid of sheep led by lions than lions led by sheep and you couldn't find a bigger sheep leading the lions than UNISON’s Regional Head of Local Government for the South East of England. He doesn't scare anyone with his new found bile. Now he barks once more to his Master's voice, he may give the appearance of being a wolf, but a sheep in wolf's clothing he remains. A complete fraud and a real class traitor like the rest of Reading Labour and yet another example of a union official getting fat off the proceeds of members' subscriptions without having earnt it, you know, by doing something simple like getting equal pay for women with a Labour council in control for 23 years. #labourfail

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Hold the Front Page

I know this is fresh from a blog post about sticking to the argument rather than making it personal, but in this case I'll make an exception. Tony Page really plumbed the depths in last night's cabinet meeting telling the public that if a woman should be attacked or assaulted in Reading then he would hold me personally responsible. What an odious little man.

The more I think about it, the more I see quite what a disgusting thing it was to say and Labour's sewer politics in action. I hope he'll reflect on what he said and will apologise like Harriet Harman, but (as his made up election stories proved) even if he did say sorry he'd have his fingers crossed behind his back whilst he was moving his mouth. With talk of "final solutions" and racist terminology, the so called "progressives" are sinking to the bottom of the cesspool. I expect nothing in the way of apology from him, or at least not a sincere one. He seems totally incapable of simple decency.

My crime? Getting rid of Labour's £16,000 subsidy to the Reading Taxi Association to employ two taxi marshalls to keep the private private hire trade at bay.

And let's lay one canard shall we. This is not a cut. It wasn't a budget item. It is not in the "Detailed Budget Book". It was something that Steve Waite had told councillors had "No net cost to the council." I'd have cut it even if there was money overflowing from council coffers. The council is not in the business of subsidising private businesses from the council tax. Yet even the private businesses don't want them.

Here are some of the overwhelming responses the council got when asking whether we should keep the taxi marshalls:

Cab Association
When they were introduced we thought they will help form the queues of passengers.
Hire another enforcement officer as that would be money well spent.

Thames Valley Police
If there is a late night levy imposed then part of it could be allocated to taxi marshals,

BID District
This is non-essential.


I believe that this should be funded from the taxi companies.

Pub Watch
I do not believe that the service adds value and improve the public perception of the town centre.

Private Hire Association
Many drivers would prefer the withdrawal of the so called taxi marshalls and rather support the similar work already being done by the local police and Council enforcement officers.

The only people who spoke up to keep taxi marshalls were the Reading Taxi Association, but should we be surprised when Labour has two black cab drivers as councillors. Maybe Mr, Page will also extend his fatwah to his council colleagues if anyone gets attacked. After all, it is the RTA who decided not to contribute anything to it despite a clear agreement that they would. The question is why did the Labour administration decide to pick up the tab without even putting it in their budget. Were they trying to hide it? Did they think that no-one would notice them dipping freely into their magic pixie pot of money... what you and I would call council tax?

You would think that two private security guards were all that stood between a sophisticated evening out and complete anarchy in the ranks. Yet, Reading Borough Council already has a dedicated taxi enforcement team that checks the licences of drivers and cabs, performs spot checks on vehicles and ensures the safety of the public.

The problem with Councillor Page is that he doesn't think £16,000 is a lot of money to lavish on his pet schemes. I do. Especially when those who really should be paying for it refuse to.

It's like discovering your neighbour is stealing your electricity then complaining about being cut off when you find out about it.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bishing the Bashop.

Standards aren't what they used to be.

Not for the first or (probably) the last time I've been reported to the local Standards Board. It's a tool that has been used by Labour to harass opposition councillors for quite some time because once a complaint has been made the rules are that the complaint is confidential. So why can mention it this time?

The difference is that the two complainants have made it very public knowledge. Breast obsessed shrinking violet Richard 'Basher' McKenzie, who holds the record for the worst Labour election candidate ever, is crying into his mummy's apron because of a running joke I was having on Twitter with some followers. The trouble with bullies like Basher is that he can dish it but he can't take it.

Another person reported me for tweeting during a full council meeting. Well, since the council adopted a policy of allowing webcasting during council meetings, letting people know what's going on during them is no longer the preserve of Labour's stalinist state. Okay we haven't got the cameras in there yet, but the principle has been established. It is council policy to let people know what is going on live in meetings. However, it's fair enough to not like tweeting so I wouldn't have minded if the person lodging the complaint about me hadn't himself also posted on Twitter during the meeting. One rule for him, another for someone he doesn't like for disagreeing with him. Can't have anything other than the sanitised Labour/Green approved version of events to get out there can we? So hey why not report me. After all, there's nothing to lose. By complaining he's not wasting his own money, just the council's.

But this two faced attitude is prevalent with Labour. I got a telling off from a local journalist for sniggering at the back during CCEA whilst listening to yet another pile of utter tosh from Tony Page. I probably deserved it, but the same journalist was sitting next to Cllr. Jones during a planning committee meeting when he called the Chair a 'silly cow'. No admonishment or a squeak written about him. Not a word about him reading TV Quick during a full council meeting or his frequent swearing at other councillors. He spent the last full council meeting waving his mobile around and reading emails, yet two weeks later reported me to the Chair for tweeting during a licensing committee meeting and got a slap down. I'm not on the licensing committee I can tweet during it if I like. You're not the boss of me now. Get used to it.

As we saw with Harriet Harman's 'ginger rodent' jibe, Labour have lost it nationally and locally. They are intellectually bereft. They have no answers to simple questions like "Tell us one thing that you would cut to save a single penny of your £44bn?" or "Name one tax you would put up like you've said you would Mr. Johnson?"

One of the fundamental rules of debate is "It is not the man, but the measure, that is the subject of debate." They have not the measure, so they play the man.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Fare's Fair

A-ha, so he was Tony Page's lickspittle all along!

I was asked by Kayes & Park Labour party to introduce differential fares lower for borough & higher out of borough, but Page opposed it.

They are desperate.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Bus-man's holiday

May 2008
I want the respective support of the Tory & Lib Dem groups to continue as Chair of Reading Buses for 2008/9.

I have been elected to the Board until 2010, though like any other can be removed by the share-holder at any time.

I would propose the council part of new board is:

Chair - Jones
Vice Chair - Tory nominee
Green's vacancy filled by Lib Dem nominee
Page removed (he opposed removing old managing director, didn't support Boxing Day working, and had contributed nothing in past 3 years)

There are a number of issues on which I am sure that we can all work on common ground - I'll send you both my ideas soon - but would appreciate your early consideration of this request.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Questions & Answers

In his own words...
Why has the usually media hungry Cllr Tony "Mr Oxford Road / Mr Reading Buses" Jones been notable by his absence in recent high profile events in his area?
Not to be seen when the Home Secretary visited the Oxford Road - though Page, Maskell, Lovelock, Salter et al were all on parade.
Not be seen at the launch of the first of the new enthanol fleet at Reading Buses - instead Sutton mugging the limelight.
'cos he hates their guts and couldn't bear to be seen in the same picture with them!
Two and a half years is a long time in politics.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Tony Jones' (Not so) Fantasy Councillor League 2008

I remember Tony Jones, the man who is about as independent as Britain's nuclear deterrent.

Here's his take on the potential 2008 Labour local election selection.

Abbey Page - There for the taking - Who could run him close?
Battle Crisp - Mr Invisible in the ward - refer to Civic Offices
Caversham Waite - stand down (rather than face defeat to Tories)
Church Goodall - stand down (see Waite)
Katesgrove Sutton - running, but scared (Lib Dems to win)
Kentwood Lloyd - stand down (see Waite)
Minster Wilton - stand down (see Waite)
Norcot Lovelock - next Leader (god help us)
Park Hartley - (see Crisp and Sutton)
Redlands Kayes - failed cllr to fail again; Choudri stand down, rather than be deselected
Southcote Edwards - annoyingly ordinary
Whitley Orton - (see Crisp)

He was still a member of the Labour Party when he wrote this. I'm sure they have welcomed him back with open arms, they are that desperate.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Labour's Chocolate Teapot

The full council meeting had a large part of it taken up with petitions and motions about the catchment area for Maiden Erlegh school. It is interesting that for such a "non-political" cause that a strategy of confrontation and legal threats seemed to be the prefered course of action with any idea that negotiation had any place in the resolution process dismissed. Also it was presumably a complete co-incidence that a large number of known Labour supporters were in attendance.

One thing that I learned about politics is to understand why you are doing it. Throwing the toys out of the pram and running headlong to confrontation almost always fails. The trouble is, it's the only way that Labour knows and parents following their advice should think again of following it if they really want the right outcome.

You have to just look at how Labour behaved in power to see that they are doomed to fail. Why was there a long gap between the bus shelters being removed and being replaced? It was because Labour made unnecessary derogatory remarks about the previous company. There are numerous examples of their confrontation approach failing the people of Reading.

Even by their standards, it was a weasel attempt to re-write history. Even Peter Jones in his attempt to prove that Labour didn't know anything about the review read out an email about a meeting on the 26th of March that no-one from the then Labour administration could be bothered to attend. Sounds eerily similar to a licensing matter where three Labour councillors apparently all suffered the same junk mail filter problem in April and missed a licensing application in Norcot, then tried to blame everyone else for them dropping the ball. They will never accept responsibility for their own failings. It is not what they do.

There are more Lib Dem policies being put into action through dialogue and agreement than ever were implemented during Labour's aggressively tribal administration and a lesson that to get the right outcome for Reading residents, unpicking years of Labour confrontation with Wokingham and West Berkshire is the way to go, not perpetuate it.

The proof is in results, not how much foam you generate frothing at the mouth. Labour's methods are doomed to fail and parents should be cautious about listening to Labour. They only have their own interests at heart and it is not the children of Park and Church wards.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Mick Spreader @ Lib Dem Conference

Today was the deadline for my football fanzine, and despite giving myself an impossible schedule and the resultant stress, I rediscovered how much fun I have writing gags. I have been toying with the idea of bringing back MuckspReading in a slightly different form for a while but to avoid trouble aimed at national politics or maybe a Lib Dem version. Obviously the spReading bit won't work, but the increasingly unfunny and irrelevant Liberator and the nauseating Glee leaves a gap in the market.

If you've not heard of it, it was a satirical and parody website loosely based on Private Eye except like my football fanzine Up the Arse! it contained no op-eds - if it wasn't a gag it didn't make the cut. You can take a peek of the local Standards Board referred muckspReading if you haven't seen it before. I have to admit that I do miss writing it.

I have been working on an Alternative Campaigns Manual and anti-Glee songbook but didn't have time to finish them before conference. As a sneak preview, this was my reworded St. Trinian's Chant. Needs a bit more work, but you get the idea.

The Lib Dem Chant

We are worthy, we are proud
Our campaigns are very loud
Our beliefs don't follow the crowd
We are the Lib Dems

We don't fake the way we feel
We campaign in rain with zeal
Canvassing needs balls of steel
We are the Lib Dems

You slight us, then watch your back
Be sure we will attack
More dangerous than religious maniacs
We are the Lib Dems

Our fearsome battle cry
Is enough to terrify
Those that get in our way

We have the best
Who screw the rest
And do as we damn well please
Until the end
We are Lib Dems
Defenders of Liberty

So fight off the toffs
Help the NEETS, and police on the beat
Tax all the banks, swap Trident for more tanks
Expose Labour's theft, By Brown and his mates
To help out the poor, We increase allowance rates
And if Labour complain
we'll do it all again
Defenders of Liberty

Our fearsome battle cry
Is enough to terrify
Those that get in our way

We have the best
Who screw the rest
And do as we damn well please
Until the end
We are Lib Dems
Defenders of Liberty

Victorious
Still rebelious
Still vote as we damn well please
Until the end
We are Lib Dems
Defenders of Liberty

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Life and Soul of the Party Dies...

Okay, that title is misleading, It's just another example of me trying to get as many Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine songs into my stuff as I can!

However, I'm at Lib Dem Federal Conference 2010 and there are important matters to be sorted out. Not the crap that the press would have you believe about left/right, progressive/radical or any other such arbitrary construct put up by a media bereft of any anchor points for their turgid prose or indeed any ability to think beyond their proprietors prejudices.

Lib Dems have been comfortable with the idea of coalition for decades, because we are after all a party of coalition and democracy. If you really need to be led by the nose, the clue is in the title of our conference. It is a "Federal" conference. Independent local parties agree a platform of government voted for by members. It is our weakness... but it is also our strength.

A good example is that I am not a "social democrat". I am not progressive in the way that the Guardian tries to portray Lib Dems members and neither do we recognise a split between social democrats and "orange book" liberalism. I was reminded of this when a survey aimed at Lib Dems asked the question about whether the state should intervene as though it was a black and whte answer. For me, the correct answer is "sometimes". Some of my colleagues are Guardian reading progressives and may have a stronger opinion on the answer but do you know what? We are all comfortable with that because our common bond is not the trite politics played out in the press who have no ability to comprehend that life isn't black and white as they try to bash their understanding of politics into a pantomime script.

It's why you'll find the media outside their comfort zone this conference, desperate to get an angle and eager to find "splits". If they had any brains they'd know that they were barking up the wrong tree. They are ignoring the really question that is being fought out this conference. Is national politics important or should we be concentrating on local government?

There are many people associated with the national organisation, the MPs, Cowley Street and the campaigns department who believe that the pursuit of parliamentary power is the be all and end all. There are others who believe that grass roots activism and the localism agenda is best fought through local governmet.

The question Lib Dems have to ask themsleves locally and nationally is: "Do you want to be the awkward squad or do you want to make a difference?" If you want to be a prty of opposition, join the Greens or Labour. If you want to actually do something, have the courage of your convictions. I have no time for people who do not want responsibility and cling to student debating society politics or some everything or nothing notion of politics, It doesn't happen in real life, so to demand it in government shows an immature grasp of politics. I will say it here to avoid anyconfusion. There are many things that the coalition is doing that make me wince. but there are many more that make me think: "We did that."

The bottom line has to be get your hands dirty or ship out.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Saving Labour's Souls

Labour's rather bizarre obsession with “saving” NHS direct is a very timely reminder of their completely arse over tit approach to public services.

Let's not lose sight of one basic fact here. NHS Direct is not a front line service. It is a helpdesk. Helpdesks exist to do one thing, to take cost out of an organisation. At the most basic level, they are there are a buffer between the customer and the service delivery function and that is true of all organisations from British Gas to QVC and especially the NHS.

Think of it this way. The basic need for a person with an illness is to contact their own doctor. This is simply not practical unless access is controlled in some way. It is completely unrealistic for a GP to be contactable at all hours of the day and night direct by a patient and the cost of providing 24 hour on demand GP availability just in case of a call is prohibitive, The more you can intercept and deal with requests for access by utilising resources using decreasing levels of cost, the more efficient the service. It's called demand management. NHS Direct was a model that attempted to reduce costs by deploying fully qualified nurses as call centre staff to serve as medical dictionaries or automated reminders to call their doctor's surgery to book an appointment. This is not a a sensible use of anyone’s money... except in the crazy world of Labour-Leadership-Election-onomics.

The fact that Labour place it up there with heart operations and cancer treatment as worthy of gnashing and grinding of teeth reveals yet another great vacuous hole in their reasoning and exposes them as a party bereft of any sort of raison d'ĂȘtre. They only have one policy now and that is to be against everything that anyone else is for and this extends to things that they previously supported.

I wish them well in their pit of despair. Vacillating between sheer hatred of Lib Dems then sucking up as saviours of the Labour way shows a deeply flawed understanding of Liberal Democracy. We do not accept Labour as having any sort of moral compass that we should follow and the Iraq war destroyed even that belief within their own party. The people who really should be considering their positions are Labour Party members who see nothing wrong with treating their core support like scum, rewarded the rich with tax breaks, shafted the nation to keep their chums the bankers sweet and are as morally bankrupt as their party is financially bankrupt. After 13 years of government a party that left the poor worse off than when they came to power can really does consist of what they themsleves once would call class traitors, all backed by trade union leaders with six figure salaries.

As a Lib Dem, believing in a strong NHS and defending its services free at the point of use does not mean continuing with Labour's predeliction to p!ss public money up the wall.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Only Looney Left in Town

And when the sun is shining down
On this little mining town
People come from miles around
To see the funny snarling clowns
But not you
You were the one I liked best
You were the grooviest dressed
The only looney left in town
Carter USM

It is enormously entertaining to see the Labour leadership candidates vying to be prolier-than-thou.. After painting themselves as the future of old Labour, a quick cold shower is required to scrub away those hard to shift Brown stains. Squeaky clean and invigorated, the new Labour leader will step, Bobby Ewing like, out of the shower into the arms of an adoring public who will be throwing rose petals at his feet as losing the election is revealed to be all a bad dream.

That plan might just have worked if they hadn't started squabbling: "I was completely against the war in Iraq." "I was more against the war more than you were." "My brother and I had our fingers crossed behind our backs so our support didn't count proper." Yes, everyone does wake up but it would appear that everyone is actually in in David Cameron's dream.

Labour has a huge problem hanging over it. All parties run at a deficit to some extent, but Labour's failure, like their reliance on profits from the banks to prop up the state, was to not plan for the bad times. And what genius of a union strategist took their cue from the Arthur Scargill book General Secretarying for Dummies and chose not to pick a fight with Labour when in Government, but suddenly woke up when it was too late, they were out of power and unable to deliver a bag of groceries. Union members have got precious little in return for their political levy.

Whilst Edmilliballs vie for the caretaker position, I'm no fan of hers but Diane Abbott should be their next leader reflecting the views of the rank and file more that the Parliamentary Party. But they won't because she's a girl.

Labour will have another leadership contest before the next election, that much is pretty much guaranteed, so the winner this time doesn't really matter. It really doesn't.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The People's Republic of Reading Festival

Last year I wrote about Reading Festival. I admit that it's always been my favourite festival and that was before I moved to Reading.

I was on standby to do some humping (it's a technical term so stop giggling at the back) for the 1986 festival, but in the end they had enough stage crew so I missed the cut. My first Festival was in 1987 which started with the Friday night goth fest of which a few bootleg tapes may exist. Okay, one set of bootleg tapes exist. Okay, I admit it. I taped: The Mission, Zodiac Mindwarp, Fields of the Nephilim and The Bolshoi. That's when I learned that Festival crowd recordings aren't a good idea.

Not only was it my first Reading Festival and bootlegging the bands but also smuggling in cans of beer for my mates in my stage pass encrusted flight case. So it's not without a certain irony that 23 years later I find myself responsible for a large number of areas in the council that make up the Festival. Licensing, food safety, health & safety, environmental health, litter and trading standards.

In 1990 I was offered a job working for See Factor, who were a major world wide tour company, working on lighting in New York and I have many friends still in the industry. I decided to carry on with IT. Yet, one way or another it seems I was going to end up here!

Now I wonder if I can have a word with the Libertines and ask one of their members why they stole my guest pass for the 2007 festival from Creation Records' office? Any no, it wasn't Pete Doherty!

Friday, 16 July 2010

He's back!

Now children... don't have nightmares!

Monday, 28 June 2010

VAT Man

If their rather hysterical reaction to the emergency budget is anything to go by, Labour have gone straight to a position of opposition with no responsibilty from a position of power with no responsibility.

As they shed their crocodile tears it should be remembered that Labour know all about hitting the poor.
  • Removed the 10% tax band, then compensated the middle classes
  • Lowered capital gains tax as a tax break for the rich
  • Froze personal allowances
  • Stole council rent calling it 'negative subsidy'
  • Renaged on manifesto commitment to restore the link between pensions and earnings
  • Destroyed the occupational pensions schemes millions relied on
You can see that penalising the poor is a very nuLabour thing to do.

A few Labour comentators do seem to genuinely understand the real issues at hand but by luck they are being drowned out by the tribal response. Labour promised to cut the deficit on half. They now refuse to tell anyone how they'd have done it. That is almost certainly because they'd have done exactly the same, with the only difference being when.

Unless Labour are willing to tell everyone where their axe would fall they simply have no credibility.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

In the Loophole

I have to say that I've been quite astonished to see the BBC joining in the attacks on Danny Alexander that have been initiated by two right wing non-doms.

Let's be quite clear here. Danny Alexander has done nothing wrong, so any mileage given to the story is clearly in the territory of smears. To see the BBC jump so enthusiastically on the Telegraph bandwagon leaves a bad taste in the mouth and is yet another example of what seems to be a growing trend on the BBC's part to make the news rather than just report it.

For the last decade I received tax relief at 40% on my personal pension contributions. I personally think it disgraceful that a 40% tax payer gets a bigger rebate than a person struggling on minimum wage. It is a loophole that needs to be stopped and Lib Dem policy to close it. So as a Lib Dem did I claim my rebate? Of course I did. Am I a hypocrite? No.

I may disagree with the rules and want to change them, but those are the rules. Using the same logic to apply to other tax rules should see me refusing to pay the extra tax which became liable when the 10% lower tax rate was abolished. I think council tax is morally bankrupt tax with no link to the ability to pay it and yet despite that I claim a 25% discount because those are the rules.

The simple truth is that they are called loopholes because they are legal otherwise it would be called evasion and it is not hypocritical to seek to change them whilst also claiming. If the media want to accuse people of evasion that's one thing, but a personal attack for doing something perfectly legal is quite another. How many journalists' tax affairs would stand up to these vindictive attacks?

I have no idea what the BBC are doing here other than trying to suck up to those who accuse them of being too left wing. It makes absolutely no journalistic sense for them to add any weight to this right wing vendetta. I can choose not to buy the Barclay brothers' squalid little rag. I have no such choice when it comes to boycotting the BBC.

Shame on them.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

I Think I Swallowed a Bug

Labour politicians have expressed shock and outrage over David Laws resignation from the Cabinet after revelations in a newspaper.

"He's an absolute disgrace," said one former Labour Minister. "He should have hung on in there until the last minute. It's the kind of thing that brings Labour politicians into disrepute."

Friday, 28 May 2010

Let's Set Fire to Tears

Following the #bbcqt hash tag on Twitter is one of the great entertainments of the week. Yesterday's programme didn't let me down as Alistair Campbell without any sense of irony repeated Malcom Tucker's scriptwriter's joke about David Laws being a Bond villain from last week's Have I Got News for You without any attribution. Life really has started to imitate art... or maybe The Thick of It has political reality more nailed on than we ever dared to hope?

One of the audience members on BBC Question Time put up a rather odd argument for Lab-Lib coalition and that was that the country had voted for a left of centre alliance. It is undoubtedly a position that many Labour supporters genuinely feel is the case but it is quite wrong. For it to be true, you have to believe that the current Labour party is left of centre in the first place. It is demonstrably not and the only evidence that they give to justify calling themselves that is the introduction of the minimum wage which could equally have come from a right wing think tank paper demanding Government should stop subsidising businesses with welfare.

Indeed as the Political Compass web site shows there is no left of centre position in mainstream British politics and previous Labour and Tory fights over white van man can be seen in terms of a straight forward authoritorian right of centre tussle.

Within that framework, Orange book liberalism did not see the Lib Dems move significantly towards the right because the social democratic core has had a damping effect on runaway liberalism. I am instinctively a liberal, but am indebted to the social democrats in the party for dragging me back to reality! It's why the idea of coalition is not a problem for Lib Dems, we have faced the idea of accomodation of other positions within a broad set of principles for far longer than any of the other main parties. It's what happens when each year our leaders have to democratically take the party with them instead of relying on behind the scenes stitch-ups.

On the other hand for both Tories and Labour their members have dealt with internal conflicts of opinion like Thatcherism or nuLabour with those not subscribing to the change closing their eyes and ears and believing loyalty to the tribe or brand as more important. It's why Dennis Skinner can see no contradiction in him staying in a party which left his core beliefs over a decade ago and sees unions pouring millions of pounds into a party that is at best neutral and often hostile to their own members' interests. Many Conservatives face the same scenario where politically they are more allied with UKIP than their own leadership, but instead hang on in there hoping the tide will turn for them.

The downside is that we have to accept that we won't get our way on everything within a coalition framework, but it is one reason why a democratic and strong party has the most to gain from new politics. If you can define your party by what you are for rather than what you are against, you have a far better chance of bossing the agenda. Which then begs the question: what does the Labour Party stand for? I genuinely no longer know the answer to that.

iPrat

I  do love the irony of the Appleistas seeing Microsoft as the evil empire whilst the reality of Apple's exploitation and proprietary lock in is ignored. It's the technological equivalent of paying over the odds for designer branded goods manufactured in sweatshops.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Beano Annual

I'm intrigued which way Labour are going to play tonight's Annual Council. A cheery 'hello' to Labour members over the last week has been met by largely mono-syllabic responses. I don't think they have taken it well.

I am looking forward to a particularly hysterical speech from Mrs. Ruhemann. Or maybe Tony Page will oblige with one of his fact-free contributions.

It would be terrible if they walked out and spoiled Gul Khan's big day. That would be churlish. But in the spirit of inter-party co-operation I would suggest that Gul could save the council tax payers' money on the cost of the Mayor's reception by buying a big bag of lemons from Marks and Spencer for the Labour group to suck on.

If anyone thinks that the new council will be more of the same... not with the new adminstration it won't. I'll leave it as a surprise until this evening ;0)

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Democracy - Labour style

Jo Lovelock speaks. Tremble all who hear her voice:

“The people of Reading did not vote for this Con/Dem coalition, do not deserve this Con/Dem coalition and I am sure will take an early opportunity to say so through the ballot box.”

What Jo conveniently forgets is that it was in 2008 through the ballot box that the people of Reading kicked her party out. What they have had since then is an administration they didn't vote for, they didn't deserve and in 2010 continued to say so through the ballot box.

It is about time that this council was run for the benefit of the residents, by parties that can count majority support rather than for the benefit of the ever dwindling Reading and District Labour Party?

Friday, 21 May 2010

(500) Days of Summer

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't.

Gregory's Girl meets Eternal Sunshine
Anyone know where I can get a recording of Zooey singing 'Sugar Town'?
Favourite quotes:
"There's plenty other fish in the sea." "Well they're wrong."
"Why is it that pretty girls can treat everyone like crap and get away with it?" "Centuries of reinforcement."
"Just because some bizzaro girl likes the same things that you do, doesn't make her your soul mate."
"Loneliness is... er, underrated."
"The Lady Dothn't"
"I'm stalking. Er, I'm starving"
"Dear, I don't know how to tell you this. But there is a Chinese family in our bathroom."
Day 35
"Your girl is losing it."
"A shitload of suffering is what I am saying!
"Roses are red, violets are blue **** you you whore"
"She took a giant shit on my face... literally." "Literally?" "Not literally"
Expectations : Reality
"I think you were just remembering the good stuff"
"I quit. there's enough bullshit in the world without my help."
"I guess I should say congratulations?" "Only if you mean it." "In that case..."
"Why did you dance with me" "Because I wanted to"
"You didn't want to be anyone's girlfriend and now you are somebody's wife"
"Summer... I really do hope that you are happy."
"I haven't seen you." "You must not have been looking."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Autumn"

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Labour Tantrums Start.

Reading some of the rubbish being put around by Reading Labour councillors in the last few days is immensley amusing. It's been like watching a child when their mum has taken away their favourite teddy to wash off the vomit.

I don't define myself as progressive because it is a completely meaningless term used by vacuous people post-election to mean "Not Conservative". Labour members have to increasingly define themselves by what they are not because they no longer know what they stand for. I have no need to because I am quite clear what a Lib Dem believes in and it is been a continuous and honourable line from the reforms of the 19th Century to Nick Clegg's calls for a society based on fairness. If a label needs to be pinned on my party, I may allow the use of radical but that is a term you absolutely could not use to describe Labour in any shape or form.

The root of their problem is that Labour refuse to accept that they LOST the local elections in 2008.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Deal or No Deal

The Labour Party are putting predictable spin on the news that the Lib Dems and Conservatives have come to an agreement to run Reading Borough Council. Their justification for holding on to control in Reading is that they gained a councillor from the Tories in Minster. Wow, Labour win back seat in Labour stronghold shocker! What we have in fact been seeing since 2004 is the long slow death of Reading Labour not being reflected in the number of wards they hold.

The basic facts are that Labour lost Katesgrove, which now joins Redlands as 100% Lib Dem. They lost Park. Battle was not a real gain as the "independent" councillor they won it from fought it as a Labour candidate last time. On their share of the vote, Labour has only justified having 14 or 15 councillors since 2006 and in the last local elections more than one in four people voted Lib Dem. Labour lost any legitimacy to run the town many years ago.

Perhaps what Labour are really scared off is the return of democracy to Reading. And if they are, they are right to be worried.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Nice to See You, to See You...

No prizes I guess for suggesting that it's going to be a really wierd few years. The sight of Nick Clegg sittting on the Government benches ain't ever getting old!

What we can't tell yet is whether the 223 new MPs and a spirit of Glasnost will fundamentally change the nature of the Commons. Maybe when we look back the real casualty will be an end to the sixth form debating society nature of British politics that has characterised Parliamentary business for decades.

The idea that the nation voted for a hung Parliament is patently asbsurd. However, it may have been that the nation actually delivered a far more powerful message to MPs? Grow up!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Con-Dem Nation

Chris Addison hit it on the head on Have I Got News for You, the media doesn't have a clue as to how to report the coalition deal with the Tories as they continue trying to shove it into their adversarial mode of reporting.

You could see their problem show in their reporting of our Special Conference this weekend. Excitable interviews with a Labour MP outside the venue and with the revelation that former leader Charles Kennedy abstained in the MPs' vote, the press were gearing up for a scrap between the party and the leadership. How little they know about Lib Dems, ironically because they have paid so little attention to us up until now.

Labour from the moment on they realised that they'd lost the election have been getting ready to go back to their constituencies and prepare for opposition. And let's face it, there would be just as much work to do undoing Labour policies as keeping the Tories on the straight and narrow.

What appeared to have convinced the members that the negotiating team had done the best for the party and the nation was the sheer number of Lib Dem manifesto commitments that are going to be implemented.  No longer will people be able to say that Lib Dems can say what we want because we'll never get our ideas implemented. You can see a list of them here: Carl Minns Blog.



In the UK "progressive" has been used by mainly Labour party members as a convenient banner to pin their flags on after the abandonment of socialism by Tony Blair. Yet, when you query Labour Party members what they mean by progressive, they have absolutely no idea what it is! Proposing legislation just to give the Queen's something to say in her speech is not sufficient justification for calling oneself progressive as though it means anything.

So let's define it for them shall we. Progressive rock was the 70s musical musings of Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis. Prog Politics is the political equivalent and encapsulates Labour's ideology perfectly. For those who grew up guided by the punk ethic, "prog" meant bloated overblown pomposity with a tendency for the act to end up disappearing up their own backsides whilst simultaneously over doing the theatrics. Yep, with that definition Labour really can justify calling themselves a progressive party!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

We are Liberal Democrats

Welcome to the real world. If you go to the country saying that you can form a credible Government you cannot shirk it when the chance comes. Nick Clegg would be betraying the voter if a real chance to implement Liberal Democrat policies was spurned to carry on as some kind of political awkward squad.


Labour, of course, are going to squeal like a stuck-pig. One of the more dishonest claims from them is of a majority "progressive" vote. If fails on the first test. Labour are anything but a progressive party. Labour has been a repressive and authoritarian Government and it is to their shame that local Labour politicians have tried to distance themselves from national policy whist simultaneously standing on the same platform. That is dishonest.

We saw the ridiculous situation where one of the Labour candidates was against Trident, campaigned against tuition fees and opposed the war in Iraq. She backed the 10:10 initiative whilst her colleagues in Parliament voted against it and saw not the slightest hypocrisy in her position. That's chasing power without principle.

And lets be clear. Lib Dems are not an anti-Tory party. We don't define ourselves by what we hate. Just because it is the only tactic Labour has left to scare the voter as they desert their natural supporters it doesn't mean that others are. Lib Dems are not Tory and neither are we Labour-lite, we are Liberal Democrats. The clue is in the name.

We never claimed to be a part of a progressive movement, that was Gordon Brown's shabby attempt to keep his job after being so comprehensively rejected. We were quite clear when campaigning. We are different. A Lib Dem vote was not and never was a vote to keep Gordon Brown in office.

What Labour politicians do not understand is that the liberal tradition exists in its own right. There are both Labour supporters and Tories who share some of these traditions and have chosen to stay in their own parties and argue from within, but the bottom line is that we have our own traditions and values which the majority of Labour members just don't understand.

Lib Dems oppose class-based politics. We believe in limiting state power when it has no role to play. We believe in devolving power to local levels. These are distinct matters of principle which is obviously why Labour are confused. They left their principles behind over a decade ago..

This is why, we oppose ID cards, storing DNA of innocent people and removing the right to trial by jury. It is why we believe in reducing income tax for the poor instead of doling out tax credits and our commitment to improving education outcomes for the poor and the restoration of a meritocracy. We don't have these aims because of a focus group report. It is because that's what we are.

Labour just doesn't get it. And I suspect they never will.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Lost and Found

Just following orders...

Subject: Baggage reclaim

Roger, others, please distribute this message widely:

Comrades,

We have now cleared 128 Oxford Road and will be returning the keys to Mr Gupta tomorrow [Monday 10th] as promised. Harry and others with keys, please return them to me when you can.

There are still two pasting tables, four wooden dining chairs and two red folding chairs at 128, which I can release by arrangement, but please make it quick.

Other stuff Lesley and I have brought home to ** ** ****** **** includes a laptop, a brown Lee Cooper jacket Mens XL, a grey hoodie with green and black stripes, some shaving equipment, some 2,000
plastic bags and hundreds of cloth bags.

If you own any of the above or other stuff not mentioned, please get in touch: email, **** *** **** or ***** ******, or just knock on our door.

Best wishes,

Robert

I love the way the class traitors still call themselves "comrades".

Business as usual?

Now this is an odd one. The Reading and District Labour Party are holding a General Committee meeting in the council chamber tonight... start time 7pm if you wish to get along there. Only problem is that it does not appear to have been booked.

I hope they will be paying for using council facilities for party political purposes.