Sunday, 31 October 2010

Lib Dem by-election results continue encouraging into October

My psephologically-inclined Birkdale Ward colleague Simon Shaw has continued his by-election research, which he has now updated to the end of October.

Previous reports to the end of August  and September  showed a picture that was a lot better than some national opinion pollsters would have you believe.

Simon has updated his research to last Thursday, and it shows that there have been 146 principal council by-elections held in the 6 months to the end of October.  Lib Dems made net gains of 2 seats in that period.

October saw 34 principal council by-elections.  "Principal councils" cover everything above parish council level, i.e. the results include by-elections in county councils, London boroughs, district councils and metropolitan borough councils, in England, Scotland and Wales.

In October, Lib Dems were net 1 seat down, with 5 seats successfully defended, 1 gain from Conservatives, but with 1 loss to Conservatives and 1 loss to Labour.

In detail, the movements between the parties in October are as below:

Labour continue to do well, normally winning a few seats off the Conservatives each month.  This month, their gain of Barton and Sandhills Ward in Oxford City Council was their first such gain from the Lib Dems in over 3 months.  That ward is within the Oxford East parliamentary constituency, one of only 4 constituencies in the South East region held by Labour.

Over the 6 months May – October 2010 Lib Dems are net 2 seats up: 21 successful defences and 10 gains more than compensating for 8 losses.  Labour are net 16 seats up; Conservatives net 13 seats down and Others are net 5 seats down.

For the 146 by-elections in the 6 months post-General Election to the end of October, the detail of the movements between the parties are as below:

*Please note that the original version of this story omitted a by-election in Oxford City Council on 21 October, where Labour gained a seat off Lib Dems.
Apologies!  The story and tables have now been amended.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice Congratulations to Simon whose post made it to No1 in the Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen

Shirley Williams describes David Grace as a 'kindly Liberal Democrat'

Shirley Williams told the Radio 3 interviewer this lunch time that a 'kindly Liberal Democrat' had given her a button which quoted her view that we were not in bed with the Tories and that there were two beds not one. The kindly Liberal Democrat was our old friend the Disgruntled Radical, David Grace. David is establishing quite a reputation for such gestures, first he gives David Laws a 'knife sharpener' so as to make precise cuts and that is well reported in the media  and now he has Shirley telling the world (well the radio 3 audience) about the badges he produced for Conference. What will he think of next?
The programme was Radio 3's Private Passions. It is a thoroughly delightful way to pass an hour-in my case usually in the kitchen preparing Sunday lunch. Since Kirsty Young took on the Roy Plumley role in Desert Island Discs I find the Radio 3 programme a lot more satisfying. This week's guest was Shirley Williams (you have seven days left to listen again here). The bit where she talks about David's badge come at the end.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Big, Big news says Pugh

The Southport Visiter carries sthe story of the Thornton Relief Rd today.

John Pugh said: “Make no mistake, this is big, big news.

“It should make a huge difference plugging Southport into the motorway network and bringing business and tourism to the town.

“The scheme scores impressively in terms of its effect on economic growth which is why its get the go ahead in these tough times.

“The government hasn't made the mistake of cutting back on this important capital scheme.”

Previous schemes for the Thornton bypass had been flatly rejected under previous administrations but was resurrected in 2006 by Labour due to the continuing growth of Sefton Free Port.

But it fell by the wayside towards the end of Gordon Brown’s administration, as public funds ran dry.

Following a spending review by the coalition, the project is one of very few to be green-lighted.

Photo of Tony Robertson and Minister at Switch Island

Birkdale- level 4 Thriving

Mike Booth over at Kew blog has the full story but the headline news is that in the NW in Bloom awards Birkdale managed to get 3 level 4 (Thriving) certificates for: Birkdale Village, Birkdale Railway Station and Bedford Park. That is a great result and I'm sure the whole community is delighted by the efforts put in by so many people including the Friends of Bedford park, Birkdale Civic Society and the Village Traders.

The blog did send its own special correspondent to the awards ceremony and when he gets round to filing his posting we will bring you more news (hint, hint)

Another blogger gets to visit the US

First Jonathan Calder goes off courtesy of Oxfam to New York blog from the UN and report on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals and now news reaches me that Peter Rainford is also in the USA courtesy of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to report on Recovery and Recovery Advocacy. I've added Peter's blog to the list on the right so you can follow his progress.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Minister comes to announce scheme

After 13 years waiting for the last government to get on with this scheme at last the lights turned from amber to green and we will get the link road from switch island to south Sefton.  Lib Dem council leader Tony Robertson is seen at switch Island (where the M57, M58 and A59 meet) pointing to the route that the new road will take.

the wages of sin.....................

My few days away saw me in Derbyshire. I was quite taken with these wall painting in the Parish Church of Nether Haddon. They are believed to be part of a scene from a morality play. History-that is my guidebook-doesn't explain the plot, but I suspect that  that the congregations were being warned about the terrible consequences of their sins!

I also visited the Parish Church of nearby Bakewell which had a fine collection of misericords.

Tory councillors resign after another Tory concillor is deselected

It is my sad duty to chronicle yet another round in Sefton Tories' squabbles. The Crosby Herald has the story . Anne Ibbs has spent most of her time banished to the 'naughty step' by their leadership. Now she has been deselected and replaced with failed PPC Debbi Jones. Local Tory parish councillors have threatened to resign. Best of all a member of the discredited Tory Leadership group Barry Griffiths has told the dissenters to go........We love you Barry even though we predict your own party will soon turn on you.

Will Labour remove this article from their website ?

The coalition announced yesterday that the Thornton relief road will go ahead.

The week before the Labour MP for Sefton Central claimed on his website:

'Although the Labour government had given the go-ahead to the project at the start of this year the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government announced the axeing of the Thornton Relief Road project as part of its first round of cuts.

Bill this week branded the cut to the relief road project short-sighted and said the move would damage the local economy'

Labour didn't in fact give the approval. All that ever happened was that Labour engineered a number of media announced over the last thirteen years about the road. This one was on 'gateway approval'. I didn't lead to one meter being built. In the dying days of the Labour government they did dispatch a senior civil servant to the region to warn that this and other schemes were under threats because of the cuts that Labour were proposing. It is also known that because of all the spending that Labour were protecting/ ring fencing transport was down to take a bigger hit than it has under the coalition.

We will be keeping a watch on Mr Esterman's website to report the contortions he now goes through to justify his utterances that have proved not to be correct.

My view is that Esterson's failed attempt to play politics with this issue are an embarrassment. Let us hope he has learned his lesson.

And before the pedants write in I know there is not a 'e' in axing, but Mr Esterson's difficulty with spelling is the least of my concerns and anyway who am I to criticize ?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Major infrastructure scheme for Sefton

Posturing, Prevarication and procrastination ended

The new Thornton relief road from Switch Island is to be built. Tony Roberton has more of the story. Thirteen years of posturing and spin passed by whilst Labour was in government. There was lots of 'media' activity celebrating some 'decision' or other but the bottom  line is that the road was not built. I'm sure somewhere there is a gullible Labour councillor who honestly believes that each and every hoop that we were made to job through was entirely appropriate and necessary. Others will reflect that any process that takes thirteen years and fails to get the road built is a process that is not fit for purpose.

The road is of real significant and will make a significant impact on the economic life of our area. It is just the type of project that should be invested in when the economy is in its present perilous state. Not only will it improve communications and provide employment it will dramatically improve the quality of life for many of our citizens. The scheme has been talked about since 1932. John Pugh is being given a lot of the credit. He is a former leader of Sefton Council and fully appreciates the impact this scheme will have.

Compare and contrast; thirteen years of media stories and no road, with 6 month and a decision. I know which I prefer

Friday, 22 October 2010

Simon's Golden dozen

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

 My colleague Simon Shaw is away at present so I thought I'd slip this item in before he gets back. Last month Simon did a posting on the success of Lib Dems in council by elections and the opinion polls.  That posting made it to Lib Dem Voice's Golden Dozen for the week. Last week he updated his analysis and that too featured in their Golden Dozen at No.2. Congratulations to Simon.

The week before the blog was also listed at No.3 with a posting on Shirley William's 80th birthday. Now if you were looking for a sequence you might predict that next week we will reach No.1. That is highly improbable as it is half term and I shall be rather distracted!

Last night's full council meeting

If ever you needed evidence to support the view that Sefton Labour party do not accept the needs for cuts it came last night. Not only did we have one or two Labour Councillors chanting slogans reminiscent of Militant in the 70's-no cut here etc,we have an extremely boring debate in which Labour seemed to blame every one but themselves for the fact the the Thornton relief road has not been built.

It is worth just pausing to remind ourselves that the Labour party has been in power for 13 years and took public expenditure to a new high and yet didn't manage to build the road. What we did get from Labour was an almost annual announcement about how Labour had given quasi approval. That is they had invent a hurdle that the scheme had to clear and then celebrated this mirage of a victory. The road was not build but every year there was a press release saying how wise and wonderful the Labour government was and how the road was being progressed-but not built.

Then at the end, when even Gordon Brown knew there had to be cuts (although not Sefton Labour party), a senior Civil Servant was dispatched to say that after clearing every hurdle that had been put in it's way the there was a very real danger that this and other transport schemes may not go ahead. And so it happened that there was a quasi decision to cancel a quasi approval to think about building the road, Now after thirteen years of celebrating every meeting when Labour said they might think about building the road and actually failing to do so, it is the coalitions fault that there is no road.

Oh dear oh dear..................

In the face of this evidence there appears to be no acceptance from Sefton Labour Party that cuts of any sort are required. They forget about Alister Darling's £90bn package and the VAT rise that he and Mandelson have confirmed was in Labour's plans. They just want to chant, no cuts, no cuts no cuts. I sincerely hope that the Labour leadership comes up with a more constructive approach.

Nevertheless last night did give the chance to recall and incident from the days of Labour. Gordon Brown went to open the new Lehman Bros offices and told them 'what you have done for the City of London I want to do for the British ecomomy' and he did. More of the same can be found here

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Fryer on North Africa

Jonathan Fryer appears on our blog roll and judging by the statistical information supplied by Statcounter a goodly number of readers do visit his blog. I included Jonathan, not just because he is a 'good thing',but because of his coverage of events and issues beyond Britain. Johnathan works as a journalist and broadcaster and driving between appointments this morning I caught his package on Radio 4's  From our own Correspondent . You can listen to it here and learn more about the situation in Algiers.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

shell shocked local Tory

John Siddle in the Formby Times has an account of the deselection of well respected Tory Councillor Anne Ibbs Yet again Cllr Parry is quoted defending the axing of a Tory Councillor. The list is getting embarrassingly large: Wendy Jones, Eric Storey, David Pearson-good grief they are down to only 14 members. Then you have the suspension of Tom Glover and the defection of Les Byrom. And to what end? Year after year their numbers decline as weary electorate turns its back on a squabbling party. When will they ever learn.

photo shows Anne Ibbs with Lib Dem Cabinet member Mike Booth

Scary witch's new gaffe

We have covered Christine O'Donnel before. She is the 'scary witch' who would rather like to try be a politician. Like quite a few others I can think of she seems to think that she can spring ready made into the job with out any need to prepare herself and avoiding all the inconvenient hard work. She want to tell us what she feel not what she thinks.
A truly spectacular load of nonsense was spouted by her illustrating the depth of her ignorance at a recent school meeting. The Guardian has the full story    but here is a flavour:

At a debate today for the Delaware Senate seat once occupied by Vice President Joe Biden, O'Donnell appeared to be nonplussed by the wording of the first amendment, repeatedly returning to the subject and sounding incredulous after her Democratic opponent Chris Coons attempted to explain it to her.
When Coons told her the text of the constitution prohibited government from establishing any religion, O'Donnell replied in apparent bewilderment: "You're telling me that's in the first amendment?"
Minutes earlier, the audience at Widener Law School in Delaware had laughed in derision when O'Donnell asked: "Where in the constitution is the separation of church and state?"

Not only is the first amendment perhaps the most famous part of the constitution but the "establishment clause", as it is known, is the subject of legal precedent stretching back into the 19th century. No less an authority than Thomas Jefferson declared the clause's aim to build "a wall of separation between church and state".

Sefton Post of the week

With so many Sefton Lib Dem blogs up and running I decided we should review their posting and every week highlight one of them. Last week Tony Robertson produced a most amazing quote and this week I thought Mike Booth brought us some excellent Kew news. After must trouble and strife it looks like we shall be getting some extra allotment plots at Town Lane, Well done to all involved.

Mike at Town Lane with Derek one of the plot holders.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Was this the first movement on to the naughty step?

Dissident Tory Councillors often joke to us about being on the 'naughty step' Their leaderships displeasure seems to be directed at those who are prepared to co-operate constructively with us. David Pearson gone into no end of hot water for being seen to have cordial relations with us. It is an irony that his party now has joined a coalition with us and you wonder if he'll get an apology?

Cllr Ibbs recently deselected to allow failed Tory PPC fight a 'safe' council seat in Formby (she stood down from her own in May-was she so certain she was going to win the Gen Elec? ) . Cllr Ibbs is another who will work sensibly with members of other parties. She allowed this photo to be take at a Sefton Youth event. I do worry that it may have got her into trouble.

And if that photo didn't cause problems my hunch is that this one certainly didi

Now we learn that Les Byrom, (former Tory Leader) who left them party because of all the nastiness is to stand in Victoria Ward. I now who my money is on 

Steven Gerrard opens Birkdale school sports pitch

A busy day at Farnborough Rd Schools today. This morning the Mayor opened the new Canteen and Children's Centre and this afternoon Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard opened the new all weather sports pitch. As you can guess the afternoon generated far more excitement especially amongst the staff.

After the opening ceremony Gerrard met hundreds of the children packed into the new building to answer questions. He revealed he wanted to be a manager and intended to take all his training qualifications when he stopped playing in five or six years time. He identified Wayne Rooney as the best player from another team and told how he was spotted by a Liverpool scout when he was seven. There was a raffle for two autographed 'mini footballs' both of which wee won by children who didn't support Liverpool!
I almost thought of running a caption competition for the first photo of Infant Head Teacher Wendy Cheetham  talking to Gerrard. The second photo shows Junior Head and Gerrard at the assembly.

Further photos and report and the Farnborough Rd website.

Mayor for 'Liverpool City Region 'barking' idea..................

When the Labour Leader of Liverpool City Council, called for the “Liverpool City Region” – which includes Sefton – to have an elected mayor I knew we had to prepare for a campaign to defeat this daft notion.

A glance at the map clearly shows why this is not in Southport's best interests. 90% of our land boundary is NOT with Merseyside. Ever since the last (disastrous) local government reorganisation back in the early 70's we have been cut off from most of our natural hinterland. The communications through the narrow corridor to the south -both road and rail-have been maintained and upgraded, but to the north and east they are simply not fit for purpose. The towns are villages that surround us are in a different county and even though people in Ormskirk, Tarleton, Banks, Burcough and the like use Southport for commercial and public services there has been significant underinvestment in the infrastructure. We are like a person unable to use an arm and a leg. Because of this bureaucratic boundary our economic development  has been lopsided. Our famous shops, restaurant, seaside facilities are not easily accessed by the large population on our doorstep. It is not that those folk don't want visit us, it is just made very difficult for them because of the paucity of the road and rail system. The last thing we need is to entrench this disadvantage by having a City Region run from Liverpool .

The power bid by Liverpool City Council leader Cllr Joe Anderson comes after plans were for elected mayors were announced at the Conservative Party conference held in Birmingham in early October

At the Conservative conference, local government minister Bob Neill said that existing council leaders in the 12 largest cities outside London will automatically become city mayors with referendums held at a later date to establish whether or not the public wants to keep them.

However Liverpool’s Labour leader Anderson was reported last week as calling for any “elected mayor” to run the entire “city-region” – not just Liverpool – and for voters to be asked first.

Everyone talks about the need for politicians to be sensitive to the wishes of their electorate. Somehow this doesn't seem to apply to the wishes of people in Southport who have time and time overwhelmingly expressed the view that the town is ill served by the present local government set up. The boundary commission has been deluged with (literally) tens of thousands of representations and they are ignored. Our greatest economic need is to see those road and rail links north to Preston ( a city as close to parts of the town as Liverpool is) and east  Burscough and beyond upgraded. We wish Liverpool no harm but our interests are not served by handing over to them control of a wide range of services and expenditure. 

Farnborough Rd Canteen and Children's Centre opening

At the height of wartime austerity Farnborough Rd School had a temporary canteen built . It was a single brick building-no cavity or any form of insulation and had a 'tin roof'. In the time I have been a governor there -which is getting on for 20years- we have been striving  to get it replaced. It was too small, in the wrong place(i.e. a detached building a good distance from the main building) and so far from ideal it is hard to explain. At last we had progress and this morning the Mayor Maureen Fearn opened the new building. It will make a massive difference both to the school and the local community. Birkdale is short of  public halls to hire. For the Junior school it also gives the first opportunity in a long while to assemble the whole school in the same room.
After the opening of the canteen we moved across to the new First Foots Children's Centre which is attached to the Infants school.
Photos by Simon Shaw of Junior School Head Adrian Antell and the Mayor and secondly of the Infant Herad Wendy Cheetham with the Mayor and her consort.

Trident: a result?

We may not have managed to axe Trident in the Defence review, but the five year delay certainly puts the onus back onto Labour. There record is pretty shabby in regard to Trident having already voted to go ahead with the programme, but now they have a second chance.

Ming Campbell comments on his website 

If these press reports are true then it is clear that Liberal Democrat views have prevailed.
“Extending the life of the existing Trident fleet will not only save money in the short term; it will allow the opportunity to keep nuclear policy under review, to explore the possibilities of co-operation with the French, and even to consider other alternatives to like for like replacement of Trident.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Lib Dems wish to axe the whole programme. The mood of conference this year was very clear. Few of us can see a legitimate role for Britain to have this cold war weapon and all of us want seriously to participate in the nuclear reduction round that Obama has initiated.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Russets split

Thanks to all those who have asked about the allotment. The autumn digging has begun and three rows of garlic have been planted. As you can see some the apple crop has suffered a little 'splitting' which I guess is due to inconsistency of watering. Nevertheless these Russet apples are delicious and most of them have been harvested without any damage.

The sun on their bellies as they head for the coast

Last week I posted about the pink geese that have arrived in Southport-all 17 500 of them. The local RSPB website for the Marshside reserve will give you more details. Every morning they fly over Birkdale and as the video makes clear-none shall sleep

Ownership, debt an reform

Leveraged buyouts like Liverpool's (and ManU)  are wrong according to Everton Manager David Moyes. Well on the eve of a Derby match it's a good line and one which most Liverpudlians would agree with. To hear fans speak about the curse of the debt, about the £24m in interest they had to pay every year you'd have thought they'd all be taught economics by George Osborne. In fact I'm surprised that right wing politicians haven't been comparing the nations's debt to those held by football clubs. Of course a plc is a very different kind of beast to a national economy-not that you'd be aware of that judging by some of the embarrassing comments trotted out by some Ministers.

This anger about debt is all well and good but should we really be looking at the vehicle's used to own football clubs and start to reform them? The discussion was moved on a bit in this direction on Friday morning by Rogan Taylor who heads up the unit at Liverpool University on the football industry. He was speaking on the Today programme (available for a few more days on iplayer) about alternatives to the plc with particular reference to the German model of Supporters' trust which own as much as 50% of the biggest and most successful clubs.

Now any Liberal of my generation or older grew up with debates about reforming the firm and giving statutory right to employees 'on the German model' There is a very long Liberal tradition which asserts the rights of those who work in an enterprise to have a say in its control. The German co-determination model is one but so is Common ownership, co-ownership, co-ops and job ownership. J.S. Mill has examples of workers' ownership in his Political Economy and Richard Wainwright used regularly to talk about labour hiring capital. We have discussed these matters before on the blog just over a year ago when Demos brought out a pamphlet exploring alternatives to the present model of the firm which is well worth a read.

In the football world the other interest-besides capital- is the supporters. Since football clubs have been turned in to plc and bought and sold as rich men's play things the supporters have been increasingly marginalised . They have seen their clubs lumbered with large debts with a very real fear that the clubs could be forced into administration or worse. In the German model those supporters have rights and can act in the long term interest of the club rather than in the short term interest of some disinterested owner who maybe here today and gone tomorrow. Football trusts have been formed all over the UK but without changes in the legislation it is hard to see how they can raise enough cash to buy out their debt ridden clubs from the present owners.

The need to reform the plc structure is as urgent in other industries. So much of British Industry and commerce has been sold off to foreign interests without the long term interests of the workforce and community being taken into account. You only have to look at the Cadbury's sale to realise that we have a problem. Will Hutton has be asked to chair a Commission into ownership that will report next year. This is an important matter and we need to push it up the agenda. There are some excellent examples of commercially successful firm who choose to operate on this model but they are too smaller part of our economy.

The Derby match kicks off at 1.30pm and I'm sure many Liverpool fans will be relieved that all that debt has gone, but they will also be anxious about the new owners and if the US economy gets into difficulty again then Moyes words may once again be heard taunting the Kop. Mind you with persistent rumour that Moyes will take over at Man U-another club with vast leveraged debts- when Ferguson goes he might find his own words are turn to taunt him.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Haydn books three surgeries

My colleague Liberal Democrat councillor Haydn Preece will be holding a surgery in Ainsdale Library, Liverpool Road, this Friday October 22nd between 5:30pm and 7pm. Ainsdale ward residents are invited to discuss with Haydn any issues that have arisen in Ainsdale, personal support or matters on the national agenda focusing on the Coalition at this crucial stage. 
The next three Ainsdale surgeries will be at Ainsdale Library: Next Friday October 22nd. Friday November 12th. Friday December 10th. All will be 5:30pm -7pm. 
Haydn can also be contacted on 07768000818 or email 

I should add that the next Birkdale surgery is on the first Saturday in November at the Birkdale Library starting at 2pm

Friday, 15 October 2010

The price of education

Here at the Birkdale blog we are always pleased to watch the success of our members, in that context let us draw your attention to a posting on Lib Dem Voice by Sarah Harding of this parish (but living as a student in Manchester)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Fees and the future

I have refrained from much discussion on student loans. It does seem to me to be a complex matter where misguided policies of the past have clouded the issues today. I was pleased to read Kiron Read's take on these issues and grateful to Liberal England for pointing me to it:

 'The genuinely talented or higher education inclined should be able to go and not be put off by fees. Hopefully ideas of how to achieve that will come out from the debate - I don't have an easy answer and would love if other people did. Cutting student numbers would be a start - there is no right that the tax payer should pay for everyone to have a degree. There is no right that the tax payer should fund a HE job creation sector for the sake of it, just as those of us who have reformed local government have pointed out that local government is not the same as a job protection scheme. Universities are a public good however, Labour and Tories who are obsessed with big business who benefited from the education they provide (for free) should remember that. Vice Chancellors should be reigned in treating Universities as a business and students reminded that they do not get a degree simply because they pay fees. As Jonathan Calder says "making universities behave more like universities and less like international corporations will be a far harder task." However all of us in Universities have to accept we are paid via public money and student contributions and that means we have to do our bit to help in this crisis.'

17,500 immigrants come to Southport. Welcome!

When you live in a place you tend not to notice the things which when visitors arrive they marvel at-in Southport the autumn invasion of pink footed geese fall into that category.

They begin to arrive in early September. Every morning around 8.00am they fly over my house, a great raucous mass of them.

Vera Marsden, who lives close by, has written a posting on the local RSPB blog :

From about 8am. for the next 2 hours, the Pink-Feet must have flown over Birkdale in anything from batches of 1,000's to the solitary 1 playing 'catch up' at 10'ish. Wonderful, with the sun on their bellies.

Vera reckons that there were 17,500 pink footed geese on the Ribble estuary. Apparently there is going to be an 'Icelandic Goose Census' in Lancashire next Monday so we will get 'official figures

You can find out more on the website of the Marshside Reserve. I must admit to being a little 'chuffed' by the success of this reserve. 30 years ago I was party to forming a campaign group called 'Friends of Crossens Marsh'. There was a real danger that planning permission was going to be granted for houses on  the salt marshes at Crossens and Marshside. I landed up chairing the group and speaking at the enquiry that led the marshes being included in the Green Belt.

One day soon, if I get my act together, I will have the video camera ready when they fly over. The sound they make is as spectacular as the sight of them

Liberal Coalition and cuts and consequences

 Yesterday morning I caught most of the Radio 4's programme 'The Long View' . In 1919 the Government was led by Lloyd George and those of his supporters who had been given 'the coupon'  in the post WW1 election. Most of the cabinet were Tories as were the overwhelming majority of backbenchers. The Asquithian (Official) Liberals were in opposition.
As the BBC explains:

'In the early 1920s, in the face of mounting economic and political pressure, Prime Minister David Lloyd George committed the government to massive public spending cuts. Then as now it was a coalition government faced with the challenge of driving through savings. Lloyd George appointed the Geddes Committee to decide where the axe should fall.'

Now you can take your choice about the impact of the Geddes Axe. For some like- Professor Skedelsky a neo Keynsian ennobled by the SDP who now sits as a Crossbencher- argued that the cuts were likely to slow growth and make things worse. On his webite he writes:

'Next week the parliamentary battle over cuts will start up again. The chancellor, George Osborne, will say the government’s programme of fiscal retrenchment is necessary to “restore confidence”. Alan Johnson, his shadow, will say it threatens the “fragile recovery”. The government plans to cut public spending by 10 per cent over four years as part of its deficit reduction plan. This will extract 5 per cent out of a shrunken economy. It is the most audacious axe-cutting exercise in almost a century, double the size of the cuts in the 1930s, equalled only by the 1921 Geddes Axe, which cut government spending by 11 per cent in two years. Labour says it is too much, too fast'

On the programme Tim Razzel bravely argued that everyone must be holding their breath about this strategy as no one can know if it will work. He went on to identify the role of the Bank of England and quantative easing. In the 1920's there was a real push to get back to the Gold Standard and that had very negative consequences for the economy. 

The question must be ; 'is the debt so bad that this drastic action is needed?' Skedelsky again:

Here are some interesting figures. In 1919 the National Debt stood at 135% of GDP -as a result of heavy wartime borrowing. By 1920, after a year’s inflationary boom it was down to 130%. By 1922 it was up to 171%? Why? Because there had been a huge deflation and rise in unemployment in 1921. In the deflationary decade of the 1920s, the debt hardly reduced at all. Nothing could more clearly illustrate the fact that the debt falls when the economy rises and rises when the economy falls.

We don't know what lessons Lloyd George drew from these experiences. What we do know  that by 1928 he had been wholly convinced that a government's role in a recession was to borrow to finance investment and so provide employment and spending power to those whose lives were ruined by the depression. He argued that as the economy grew the debt would fall. This was the basis of the economic stimulus that the Liberals promised in the 1929 Manifesto; We can Conquer Unemployment.

It is interesting that one of the reason that we are told the cutting had to begin so quickly was for fear of the markets. Neo Keysians are, by and large, not convinced:

Of course there were the ‘markets’. But it didn’t seem to me the markets were putting pressure on our government to ‘balance the books’. After all they have been lending to Treasury long-term at 3% This is historically very low. It does not suggest any great fear of default or inflation. The markets can certainly make their displeasure felt, as Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain have discovered. But it did not seem to me that a British government, of whatever stripe, faced this particular problem.

I thought I'd include the photos of my little statue of Lloyd George. I noticed it in a sale of garden ornaments 25 years ago. He is only 7 or 8 inches high but the rabbit appearing from behind his tail coat has amused children ever since. Let us hope we don't have to resort to mysterious magic to get the economy back on the road.


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Local Labour leader lays into Ed Milliband.................

Local labour big-wigs haves wasted on time in getting their knives into Ed Milliband

Cllr Paul Cotterill, the Labour Group leader on West Lancashire Borough Council, offers the following analysis of the new Labour leader:

I think Ed M’s come over as a bit of triangulating turd, if I’m honest, and if such a thing exists.

His campaign has been driven by the ‘values’ that I think he thinks people want to see in his campaign and potential leadership. This is best reflected in the more stupid rightwing view is that he is ‘tacking left’.

He’s not tacked left in any meaningful way. He’s let it be known that he might be tacking left, because that’s where he thinks there’s a pool of vote from people who don’t want David or Ed Balls, and don’t take Diane Abbott or Andy Burnham seriously.

Ed Miliband, you don’t fool me. You’re a nice enough bloke, but you’re a charlatan.

Popular Tory axed?

I await final confirmation of this but I hear a very strong rumour that the Tory whip Anne Ibbs has been deselected in Formby by the Tories in favour of failed Tory Parliamentary Candidate Debbi Jones.

It would be a spectacular own goal by any standards. Anne is well liked and although she has been frequently sent to the 'naughty step' by the leadership she has won widespread respect. Debbi Jones by contrast did very badly at the General Election. I genuinely thought that a Tory Victory in Sefton Central was a nailed down certainty. It was theirs to loose, and they did. Another axed Tory Councillor Wendy Jones openly declared that they got rid of her because she dared to say that Debbi wasn't up to the job.. As my informant wrote:

Debi Jones has been selected instead of Cllr Anne Ibbs in Ravenmeols.

"Blundellsands Debi" and "Blundellsands David (McIvor)"......isn't it a

bit insulting to local Formby residents that 2/3rds of the councillors

in that Ward are Blundellsands Tories.

They can't make it or hack it in Manor Ward so they are exported to

other Wards.

Pugh revolts on student fees

John Pugh has spoken to the Liverpool Daily Post about Student fees

Dr Pugh said: "I signed that pledge for very good reasons, having thought long and hard about it, and I do not propose to change my mind now.

"I do accept there is a wider problem of university funding which needs addressing.

"We do need a further serious review but it should not be based on ever-increasing hikes in tuition fees. I intend to stick to that."

Quote of the week

With so many of my Sefton colleagues getting active as bloggers I thought I'd pick out a 'quote of the week' from their postings. The winner this week is Tony Robertson reporting the local Tories assertion that it is undemocratic that they have no councillors in the Sefton East Parishes area:

‘we did not put up many candidates and those we did put up lost so that is not democratic’!
 Read the full story here

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Lib Dem by-election results continue better than polls

Once again we bring you good news. 

My Birkdale Ward colleague Simon Shaw has updated the psephological research he carried out a month ago.  That showed that, in the 57 principal council by-elections held between the General Election and the end of August, Lib Dems had made net gains of 3 seats in that period.

Simon has continued his analysis to the end of September and the picture continues to be very encouraging.  Counting the 26 city-wide elections in both Norwich and Exeter at the beginning of September, there were no fewer than 55 by-elections in September.  For the month, Lib Dems were net unchanged, with 7 seats successfully defended, and 3 gains balanced by 3 losses.  Interestingly, none of those losses were to Labour.

In detail, the movements between the parties in September are as below:

Over the 5 months May – September 2010 Lib Dems remain net 3 seats up: 16 successful defences and 9 gains more than compensating for 6 losses.  Labour are net 11 seats up; Conservatives net 10 seats down and Others are net 4 seats down.

For the 112 by-elections in the 5 months post-General Election to the end of September, the detail of the movements between the parties are as below:

Phil Woolas is Shadow minister in the Home Office!

Blimey, I can feel the clich├ęs crowding in, what on earth possessed Ed Milliband to give Woolas a top job in the Home Offices.  Like putting Herod in charge of child care? Political betting has the full story.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Welcome to Tony Robertson as a blogger

Welcome to blogging Tony Robertson. The Leader of Sefton Council has taken the first step in establishing an online presence for our colleagues in Maghull. Somewhat predictably his first posting was on railways. I shall add him to my blog- roll. It used to be a lonely occupation blogging as a Sefton Councillor but now I have been joined by not only Tony but by colleagues in Meols ward, Kew Ward, Cambridge Ward and Southport Liberal Youth.

If the wind changes, you have to tack about to get to [your destination]. Huhne

A most revealing interview in the Daily Telegraph this morning with Chris Huhne. I am one of those who is willing to accept that the problem of national debt has got so far out of hand that the issue had to be convincingly addressed. It does not follow that reducing the role of the state-especially where it is intervening  to protect the poor and the vulnerable-is of itself always a 'good thing' And so it is that we have been covering the Liberal Party's history looking at the the ideas of redistribution of wealth via Land taxation, through to the People's budget, the Yellow Book and We Can Conquer Unemployment. Those ideas were taken forward into the later half of C20th with policies to co-ownership of firms,common ownership co-ops etc. The remedies advocated are not wholly relevant to day, we live in very changed economic circumstances but the underlying principles hold firm as the introduction to the Yellow Book declares:
We believe with a passionate faith that the end of all political and economic action is not the perfecting or the perpetuation of this or that piece of  mechanism or organisation, but that individual men and women may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly'

Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne have suggested that an £83 billion cuts package will be set in stone, while Mr Clegg has called the agenda “the only choice”. Mr Huhne suggests that there may have to be a Plan B. Although he calls the emergency budget “absolutely right”, he warns that circumstances may alter.
Asked if the cuts might be scaled back if economic indicators worsen, he indicates that he is not “lashed to the mast with a particular set of numbers”.
“I’ve never known one Treasury Red Book to be exactly like the last one.
“There is always a change. It is a bit like setting sail. If the wind changes, you have to tack about to get to [your destination]. Global growth could be either higher or lower. We just don’t know, and it’s not sensible, outside the Budget period, for governments to make speculations about what is going to happen.
“The right time to look at that Budget judgment is when we come up to the Budget in the spring. The key thing then is to look at things in the round and remember the overall objective is to stabilise and begin to reduce the public debt to GDP ratio.”
While Mr Huhne does not consider meltdown “likely”, he is the first Cabinet member to admit that the Chancellor may have to rethink his cuts agenda.

Friday, 8 October 2010

We may be needing this sometime soon.......

Large scale public sector job cuts, the banks not lending to small businesses (at least in part because they are being required to rebuild and  increase that capital holdings), Obama  struggling to get his stimulus package through all could combine to  usher in a time of mass unemployment. Most respected opinion seems to think that we will escape such a mess but if we don't then it would be time to dust off the Liberal Manifesto on 1929.

This copy was found in the garage of a prominent Birkdale Liberal  H.G. Williamson who lived in Grosvenor Rd.

In the top left hand side he was recorded the Election result in Southport that year :
White C:  21,161
Ramage C: 17,220
Williams A: 5,380

majority 3,941

Cecil Ramage has often appeared in these pages most recently when I received a copy of his obituary.

I shall return to look in some detail at this manifesto-arguably the best and most radical produced by the Liberal Party. In 1977 the party reproduce the original Yellow Book -Britain's Industrial Future- and I have a copy. It ran to over 500 pages. The fly leaf records the story that Lady Asquith saw a well thumbed copy of the book on Roosevelt's desk and that it formed the basis for his New Deal programme in American. In passing the manifesto to me  Michael Braham told the same story. It was undoubtedly the first full scale Keynsian Manifesto produced by a major political party. It is fair to record that the New Party founded by Oswald Mosley when he left the Labour Party in 1931 did also argue a similar economic case.(That is a lesson to beware of Parties that call themselves New)

Witch political doll

Following on from a posting last week where we discussed how a moribund right-wing organisation could be taken over by a 'helluva scary witch' comes news that an enterprising doll manufacturer has brought to market a Christine O'Donnell witch Doll-for it is she who is the scary witch

She is not the only politician to have a doll marketed promoting their likeness. The same fate befell the excellent Lib Dem MP for Somerton and Frome,David Heath. I'm not sure whether it was the deciding feature in his hard fought victory against the Tory Annunziata Rees-Mogg. By the way I am a liitle impressed with Ms Rees Mogg, not only did she resist pressure from Central office to call herself Ann Mogg she also made an extraordinarily gracious speech in defeat praising David Heath and saying in that he was a good MP and Somerton and Frome was safe in his hands.Now compare and contrast that with our own count where the Tory didn't even speak after the result-not even to thank the staff let alone to congratulate the winner.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Daily Mail on Trident

'And then there is Trident, about which ministers are allowed some latitude under the Coalition agreement. We must hope that the Lib Dems put up a resistance to paying for this unusable and expensive piece of hardware, designated a weapon but, in fact, little more than a diplomatic masculinity symbol.'
My thanks to Lord Bonkers for drawing my attention to this extraordinary article  -the rest is well worth reading

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Voting reform

Southport Liberal Lauren Keith has an optimistic  posting on Lib Dem Voice today. 

More photos from the Dolce Vita fundraising dinner in Ainsdale

Haydn Preece has kindly sent me some more photos from the meal at Dolce Vita last week. I rather liked this one of some Southport favourites. I've put more on the website 

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Importance of measuring properly.

It is one of the strange things about politics in these parts that some folk seeking to present themselves as politicians started filling their online publications with recipes and reports of their meals. Now I have nothing against such people trying to display that they are rounded human beings with some 'hinterland'. Activists can behave sometimes as if the world does not exist outside of their small  political sphere . With the demise of some of those blogs I have been asked to fill the vacuum by including a few recipes of my own. Regular readers with know that I have included  tips before especially when writing posts about my allotment. I can assure readers the foody element will be as well as and not instead of the politics!

It is autumn, the season of Harvest Festivals and a time to take in your pumpkins and squashes before the frost threatens. My daughter once got first prize and Best in Show at the Ainsdale Show for a Pumpkin she grew. The variety she grew was called Sumo and like many giant pumpkins there was a trade off between size and flavour. After much experiment I have identified a couple of pumpkins/squashes that I think are excellent culinary varieties: Crown Prince and  Uchiki Kuri. It is rare to see specific varieties of pumpkins mentioned in recipes, so you can imagine my delight when The Independent this Sunday devoted a whole section to pumpkins and recommended using Crown Prince .
The PUMPKIN - CROWN PRINCE or WHANGAPARAOA CROWN come from New Zealand  and as you see is a hefty specimen weighing in at about 4kg-5kg. Underneath the steel grey/blue skin is a dense orange flesh. It makes brilliant soup and excellent curries-but more of that later.

The recipes in the Independent said use an onion squash or a Crown Prince. Now the Uchiki Kuri is a Japanese 'tear drop'  variety or onion squash and weighs in at about 1kg. So I have this vision  of an person enthused by the article dashing out to Waitrose-where they do occasionally stock Crown Prince- and coming come to prepare the dish and landing up with 4x the pumpkin flesh required.

Ah well my readers are not so rule bound so let me direct you to a recipe which will take a whole Crown Prince, in fact you use the hollowed out and baked pumpkin to serve this curry. The recipe was collect by Sophie Grigson at a West Indian Church in London where it was the centre piece of their harvest supper. For meat eaters amongst you  can add diced shoulder of lamb to the onion/spice mixture to seal it before adding the tomatoes, then cook until tender and then proceed as the recipe.

Beware wacky right wing witches..............

The political process begins to break down in a democracy when a major political institution becomes moribund and is captured by folk who want to use it to promote their own bizarre and/or often dangerous views. The Militant tendency had little trouble taking over small constituency Labour Parties and didn't much care if they alienated those who opposed them. These folk are often energetic and carry with them an absolute conviction about the correctness of  their own ideas. By capturing the 'shell' of an institution  that has long held the loyalty of a section of the electorate they can soon find themselves translated into positions of power.

The American Republican party is now threatened by such a group. For years now the religious right has held great sway in that party. Very few politicians could flourish that would not bow to their misnamed moral 'agenda' and so it has come to pass that a latter day Mayor Lindsay would not even pause for a micro second to consider joining the Republican Party.  When John McCain took the party nomination he was compelled to get a running mate from the Christian Right and chose Sarah Palin. Her instant appeal to the wilder reaches of American politics is now being played out with the emergence of the Tea Party and their candidates who have won key primary contests.

The particular wacky right wing witch I want to look at is Christine O'Donnell. In his article; This is a helluva scary witch which was carried in the Independent whilst we at Conference this year Matthew Norman writes:

Things become a little more alarming as we reach her strictures on honesty. She may once have been a white witch (a white anything will do, you suspect, for the Tea Party), but she cannot tell a white lie. Indeed she makes George Washington look like the love child of Mr Tony Blair and Walter Mitty, and for this discovery we must thank another comedian – this time, hurrah, one of our own. As a fellow guest on Politically Incorrect, during a 1996 debate about whether it can ever be permissible to tell a falsehood, Eddie Izzard asked Christine what she'd have done if a Nazi had come to her Dutch home to enquire if she was hiding any Jews.

Take a look at the clip:

Now there are lots more clips which illustrate her scariness, from her tangle with witchcraft, animal sacrifices, her campaign against masturbation (I kid you not) her view that Aids is divine retribution, etc,etc

As a right wing Republican you know you are in trouble when Karl Rove starts denouncing you.Let us be clear Karl Rove is no one nation Tory he is a no holes barred right winger who if he operated in the UK would be way outside the mainstream.He has been called 'George W Bush's brains. He is that sort of rightwinger, the type Colin Powell famously described as 'f***ing crazzies' It therefore follows that he is trying to kill of the chances of one of his own party's nominations it is time to sit up a take notice

We will see in the coming weeks whether it is a lesson too late for the learning. As membership of political parties fall in Vritain (not Southport Lib Dems ) the danger is also here. Martin Bell was so aghast at the antics of a small religious group in Eric Pickles constituency -not dissimilar in views to the wacky ideas endorsed by Ms Palin- that he provoked action after this article