Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Me thinks they do complain too much

The Times today: "The Conservatives complained to the programme makers three times during Monday night's television debate between the candidates for Chancellor, accusing them of skewing coverage in favour of Vince Cable. At one point during the Channel 4 'Ask the Chancellors' programme senior Tories phoned the hotline to the production staff CLAIMING THAT THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT TREASURY SPOKESMAN WAS RECEIVING TOO MUCH APPLAUSE." Here is the link to the On-Line edition:

Thanks to Simon Shaw for the info

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Birkdale Nightingale

We are approaching the time of year when the Birkdale Nightingale will be heard by the slacks and across the dunes . Jean Sprackland's award winning book of poems Tilt contains:

(Bufo calamito – the Natterjack toad)

On Spring nights you can hear them
two miles away, calling their mates
to the breeding place, a wet slack in the dunes.
Lovers hiding nearby are surprised
by desperate music. One man searched all night
for a crashed spaceship.

For amphibians, they are terrible swimmers:
where it's tricky to get ashore, they drown.
By day they sleep in crevices under the boardwalk,
run like lizards from cover to cover
without the sense to leap when a gull snaps.
Yes, he can make himself fearsome,
inflating his lungs to double his size.
But cars on the coast road are not deterred.

She will lay a necklace of pearls in the reeds.
Next morning, a dog will run into the water and scatter them.
Or she'll spawn in a footprint filled with salt rain
that will dry to a crust in two days.

Still, when he calls her and climbs her
they are well designed. The nuptial pads on his thighs
velcro him to her back. She steadies beneath him.

The puddle brims with moonlight.
Everything leads to this.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Guardian take on Sefton Central

I see the Guardian's review of the NW parliamentary battle it does not even mention Southport as a potential gain for the Tories and says of our neighbours:

They (The Tories) have some long-shot aspirations in areas like Sefton Central (their former stronghold of Crosby) .

'Long-shot' is a long way short of 'in the bag as some close to the Tory PPC have foolishly asserted

Anthony Walker

Before Council last night Gee -the Mother of Anthony Walker- came to speak about the Foundation her family has established in memory of their son. You will recall that Anthony died as a result of a racist attack in Huyton on Merseyside. For many people the sight of his Mother telling everyone that she forgave his killers was one of the most powerful acts of courage and faith they have witnessed. Please take time to visit the Foundations website and find out more

one for the diary

Chancellors' Debate Night. This coming Monday will see the first of the televised election debates. Vince Cable will face Alistair Darling and George Osborne at 8pm on Channel 4.

Tory Blackspot goes viral

It is several months since a Tory first talked to me about 'getting the blackspot' since when several more Tory councillors have been visited by the Tory equivalent of 'blind Pugh'. The most recent is former Tory Leader Eric Storey-of whom more shortly.

In a recent posting when reviewing the body-count in Tory Civil war I got to speculating who might be next. It must be acknowledged that I have an uncanny power of prediction in this matter. Back in November 2007 I predicted those under threat.

It strikes me that the two next in line are Sir Ron Watson and Peter Papworth. They are both elderly -Eric Storey openly claims that he got the blackspot because of his age- both are conspicuously brighter and better informed than those handing out the spots and both being capable of coherent thought no doubt express their views rather than meekly follow instructions.

It was a bit surreal last night when Sir Ron rose to speak in a debate on public transport and began by sticking a blackspot on his forehead! He proceeded to give a plug for the Birkdale blog (many thanks Ron-all endorsements welcome). I was a little uncertain whether Ron was trying a little medical experiment to test whether by wearing a blackspot for a short time me might build up some resistance, a sort of inoculation. But on reflection I decided he was just giving a demonstration of his capacity to withstand the curse of the blackspot and handing out a warning about his power.

Next up was Papworth, he too began by donning a blackspot on his forehead before beginning to try and persuade us that the Tories had been in the forefront of the campaign for free pensioners travel on Merseyside. Fortunately there were some us around who are survivors of that battle and fully recall the Tories preference for handing out tokens to Sefton's pensioners rather than full passes. And so it came to pass that Papworth forgot he was wearing a blackspot and rounded on his critics. It was hard to conceal a smile when you witness a grown man accuse people of being childish when he has a sticky piece of black paper attached to his forehead!

Deputy Head of Girls school in court

I don't particularly want to comment on this story, other to wonder whether school leadership teams ever read those websites where pupils comment on their teachers?

News travels fast in Bootle.

I got an email a few weeks ago from the Leader of the Council saying that the press was sniffing around a story that a senior council officer of the council had been suspended and was being investigated over the disappearance of £3m . Tony told me that he had checked the story out with the Chief Exec and there was no truth in the matter.

I must admit I had put the matter to the back of my mind-until last night. During the Mayor's announcements he mentioned the press enquiries that the Leader had received and offered an explanation.
For some while now there have been heritage tours of Southport and Bootle Town Halls. I know that these are very popular and from time to time The Mayor and Mayoress lead the tours. One of the tales they tell in Bootle is about the Town Clerk in 1892 who went missing with £22k-in today's money that is £3m.

Litherland reject Byrom

News reaches me that this week the Labour Party in Litherland met to select a candidate to replace the respected Darren Hardy. The former Sefton Tory Leader and Dukes ward Councillor Les Byrom was on the short list. I understand that the comrades selected a Mr Kelly in preference to Les.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

No show Debi fails to put in an appearance again

If you want a host for show a show Debi Jones will be there, if you want someone to sing a sing, the first verse of Silent Night at a Carol Service she's your girl-all smiles, not politics and lots of photos, and as the say on Merseyside ''she'd even turn up for the opening of an envelope if she thought there would be a picture'' So why is the lady so shy of being questioned?

The FT has done an article this morning on the Sefton Central constituency.(you may need to -register to read it)
The article says how the Tory PPC "refused to answer questions from the Financial Times on the impact of public sector cuts on her constituency and declined to be interviewed for this article."
This follows her rumoured unavailability to take part in a debate with the Liverpool Echo (she was in London) and alleged insistence that she will only speak to sixth formers in Maghull on her own and if she is given the questions in advance.

Debi who is a councillor for Manor Ward-where the Lib Dems made a spectacular gain recently-has already announced that she is standing down from the council to go to Westminster. A little previous I think as Sefton Central is not in the bag for the Tories. Debi has never been a high profile councillor and I must check out her attendance record, after all as the HR folk say-the best guide to future performance is past performance-and we certainly don't want a part time MP. The Sefton Tories are tearing themselves apart and the forced de-selection of Eric Storey from his council seat even after his ward had unanimously backed him is certainly having repercussion. I hear strong hints that Eric will stand as an Independent in May.

Now I understand that the Tory game plan is just not to make any mistakes. Of the two Tory PPC's in Sefton I've met I would not say that Debi is the gaffe prone one when it comes to policy. Now here was me thinking the Tory party might have change-all this talk of open-ness and transparency. Well it clearly doesn't extend to Sefton Central. What has she got to hide?

memo to political betting: Sefton Central is worth a dabble on Richard Clein

Woodstock Dr

I can fully see why the residents of Woodstock Drive get angry about the parking in their street. Often there are cars parked both sides of this narrow cul-de sac. As our photo shows they park up right to the junction and even obstruct the dropped curb -there for wheel chair users.

We've had the engineers out on several occasions to explore ways of ameliorating the situation. At present we have a recommendation that has been approved by the road safety people. We have asked for further options to be drawn up and the residents consulted.
Some of you may think that this is a routine bit of casework so why am I writing it up for the blog. Well I am guessing that despite the fact that we have been fully engaged on this matter-especially my colleague Cllr Shaw-it will not belong before our Tory opponent will suddenly discover this matter and offer to 'keep an eye on it'.
We are getting used to this technique-after we had the Hillside pine woods litter picked and got it put into the schedule all of a sudden she appeared and said 'she would keep an eye on it'. Well actions speak louder than 'keeping an eye on it'

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

stop front in Sefton Tory Civil War

Ageism and control freakery

We reported last week on the roll call of Sefton Tory Councillors who had received the black spot from the Porter-Parry leadership: Wendy Jones, David Pearson, Ron Roberts, Les Byrom, Tom Glover and now Eric Storey. It would appear that the most dangerous thing to be in Sefton is a former leader of the Tory group. Every single one of them has been targeted by Ms Parry.

Let us be clear Eric was unanimously selected by Formby Tories to fight the seat. It seems that they have been over-ruled. So much for local control of the Tory party-you are not even allowed to choose your own council candidate. First Southport Tories were taken over by the national party and an outside chair imposed now Formby Party has been over-ruled.

Eric's crime-he is too old! Responding to Mrs Parry's statement dismissing him he said: “She has given voice to ageism.”
He went on:

“I wouldn’t want to go back to the party now because the party high command is too controlling of candidates – even in local wards.

“Candidates are now expected to sign a lengthy contract which binds them to the party machine.

“That’s not the type of person I want to deal with, it’s becoming very control freakish.”

This is dangerous ground for the Tories, in Mrs Porter they have a parliamentary candidate well passed retirement age. On our side we have always been clear her age is simply not an issue, the question is how well equipped is she to do the job. In Eric Storey the Tories have one of the brightest councillors in the chamber. He is well informed and thoughtful. He has a wide experience and takes his duties seriously. I can think of several younger Tories who wouldn't score as well as Eric on those tests. In elections in Formby he regularly tops the poll. But as the quotes above show Eric is not comfortable in the control freek style of the Tory leadership and I do not doubt that he has said as much. That I suspect is his crime.
Who is next? Well Peter Papworth must be vulnerable, they would love to remove Sir Ron Watson and I understand that there are already moves afoot to destabilise Jeremy Myers who has been selected to fight Dukes Ward next time. One day, surely one day they will get off their knees and fight back? Oh did I mention there are only 16 Tory Councillors left.-there used to be almost 40!

Full story in the Liverpool Daily Post thanks to Jack Colbert for the tip off

Will Tory splits hurt their vote

It is always worth having a look at Conservative Home. Their editor has a piece today when he correctly asserts that all the Westminster gossip items will have little impact on the election result. He identifies 4 things that he things will move the polls. You've gust it, he identifies party unity as one :
The unity of the parties. Voters always hate divided parties. Thanks to our Cornish friends for noticing the story.

Budget day standing of would be chancellors.......

This is about the time in a general election campaign when I begin to have some sympathy with the French and their policy of banning publication of polls. Marl Park unpicks the spin on this one, nevertheless as we always say it is the trends that matter not 'one-off' polls and in this regard step forward Vince Cable. Once again our Vince is streets ahead of his rivals. The challenge now is to link people's recognition of Vince as the best Chancellor with the need to vote Lib Dem in order that he can rescue the UK's finances. Answers on a post card please

love bomb that exploded in the face

Clearly our Tory PPC is not the only persons confused about the Conservative Party's stance on gay rights. One would have thought that Cameron, this close to an election, would have ensured his party had worked out a response- especially as this is one of the policy areas that the Tories have clearly decided that the were at odds with their target voters. There is of course an alternative explanation over on LibDemVoice who first drew my attention to the channel 4 clip

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Sharing a vision for Southport video

Thanks to Kew Ward

I attended the Kew Ward quiz on Friday night at the premises of the Gladstone Liberal Club. It was a great night with an excellent turn out. There was very keen competition especially between a team including quiz champion Brian Rimmer and John Pugh and Fred Weavers. I must admit our team 'Lime Tree' (named after Rachel's wine bottle) were languishing in last place for most of the contest. The last round to be marked was the one on children's TV 1950-1990. I shall not name the egg heads but we jumped from being favourites for the wooden spoon to outright winners.

Pat Sumner

Pat Sumner has appeared on these pages before and was one of the first to be recognised in our 'unsung heroine' award. Having achieved such acclaim you may wonder what further honour Pat could recieve? Nevertheless we are delighted to report that the NW Regional Party has bestowed on her their President's award. Congratulation Pat.
I understand that a Mrs Blackburn from Maghull was similarly honoured at the conference in Rochdale last weekend. I know our Sefton East Parishes colleagues think highly of her so congratulation Mrs Blackburn

I hope that both ladies will accept my apologies for being unable to attend. Living in a Lib Dem held parliamentary seat and having a council seat to defend this May I decided the priority was to be out canvassing and delivering this weekend.

Roy Connell

The Sefton Lib Dem Group held their regular pre Council get together at Maghull Town Hall. It was appropriate that we should meet on the home patch of Roy Connell as this was his last such meeting. Roy has decided to step down at the election this year after having served his community on both the Borough and Town Council. I know our Maghull colleagues have found a good replacement and I will do a post about him after May but for now let us concentrate on Roy.

Roy-and his dog Rosie- have appeared in this blog several times before. He joined us when he moved into the area having been active in the former SDP. He was one of the pro merger people who has stayed the course and made a really significant contribution to the Lib Dems party.
That last sentence speaks volumes about Roy. Coming out of the fractious battles between that preceded the birth of the new party it would have been understandable if Roy had decided upon moving to step aside from politics, but Roy is not that sort. He had got stuck in and I and everyone in our party is delighted that he did.

I do not doubt that Roy will continue to be involved. He has moved again, this time to Ainsdale, where he is determined to get stuck in once more. He has joined a growing group of activists there who are working hard to ensure that Ainsdale has Lib Dem representation again . Roy is very enthusiastic about the challenge and is convinced that in Haydn Preece we have found the person who can regain Ainsdale. Roy is not one to sit back and I am sure that having set himself the task he will be in the front line working hard and giving the campaign the benefit of his experience. So, I am not going to wish Roy and his family a happy retirement to be spent walking Rosie on the Ainsdale dunes we still have need of him.....

Monday, 22 March 2010

His principles are jannock! *

It didn't take long to get the answer to my question: If Ramage's 1929 campaign song was the last to see action in a parliamentary battle in Southport which was the first?
The answer is : 'Ahr Jarge' for Southport sung to the tune of God save the Prince of Wales. It dates from the 1899 by election when George Pilkington fought and defeated C.B. Balfour who was cousin to Arthur Balfour the Tory leader of the House of Commons. Pilkington won easily-by Southport standards.
The Southport Guardian reports that after the declaration the victorious candidate went back to the Liberal Club and after speaking to the members his carriage took him past the Conservative Club (then on Neville St) and on to the Promenade on the way to his home Belle Vue on Lord Street West. On the top of Scarisbrick Avenue a band struck up 'Ahr Jarge for Southport' as he passed many supporters sang to him.

I was trying to imagine what would have in Tony Blair's brave new world if New Labour had managed to implement all their crazy 'tough' sounding law and order agenda. If we accept estimates that the Southport declaration-assuming that there are no recounts for Labours deposit-will be about 4.30am-I guess we would all get arrested, have our DNA taken and stored and no doubt marched to a cash machine in order to pay a spot fine!

There are some fine lines in the song which would fit in well to a modern day Focus :

He's always to be seen
He don't come just at 'lections
To grab our votes and run
Up to yon House in London
And say with us he's done.

Oh, jannock* that appears in the first verse means pleasant, honest, outspoken and generous. Those old Southport Liberals were a literate lot.

And finally a couple of corrections. I thought I was younger than Ramage when I fought Southport in 1983 and it turns out that I was by 4 years. Even younger was our old friend Baron de Forest who fought the first 1910 during which he celebrated his 31st birthday, which mean it was he whose record I took as I was 30 yrs and 5months old when I fought. 1983 also saw us topple Ramage's record for share of the vote.
I should add that the original research was done by Michael Braham.


I usually go for a walk at lunchtime if I've been stuck in the office . Luckily I'm based on Hope Street in Liverpool. This is the street that links the two Cathedrals, so even a a dreich day like today I can go for a walk inside.
Today I went to the Catholic Cathedral and was rewarded by hearing the girls choir rehearse. the circular layout of the building is ideal for my purpose. In the side chapels there are ofter exhibitions and today I stumbled upon a really impressive one about the Sreepur village in Bangladesh and the part that people her in the NW have been playing in its economic improvement. The story was around a Liverpool women Ruby Porter who is a leading light in the Merseyside Embroiderers group. Some years back she saw a television documentary about the building of an orphanage in this Bangladesh village. She became involved in the embroidery and textile work they do and was fascinated by many of the traditional colouring, weaving and embroidery skills there. The vocational training in the village now uses those skills to give people the means to earn a living. There were examples of their work and -even to one who knows nothing about embroidery-it looked amazing. I see that Ruby Porter also came along to the Southport Quilters earlier this year.

It is sad that we don't get to hear more about the stories of the many people whose activities make a real difference to peoples lives. Who said altruism is dead.

What does History say?

I know many folk have been impressed by the blogging over at Mark Reckons. Mark came to most peoples notice when he did a detailed statistical analysis of the correlation between MPs who held a safe seat and the extent to which they abused the expenses system. This work was picked up by Radio 4 and by Polly Toynbe in the Guardian. Since then Mark has maintain a constant stream of excellent posts. If you've time have a look at his guest piece today on Lib Dem Voice

And while we are looking at stories on Lib Dem Voice I was pleased to see was that Craig Murray has re-joined the Lib Dems. Craig was a YL back in the early 70s before starting on his career which ended as Ambassador to Uzbekistan . His book Murder in Samarkand was recently turned into an excellent Radio 4 play with Craig being played by David Tennant. His principled stand against torture and his confrontation with Jack Straw has done much to exposed New Labour.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

C.B Ramage Liberal Song book

Here is a photo of Cecil Beresford Ramage who fought Southport in 1929. He was married to Cathleen Nesbitt who was the recipient of Rupert Brooke's love sonnets. Thanks to Richard Hands for tracking down Miss Nesbitt. You can read the detail of Ramages time in Southport and the great impact he had in Michael Braham's history of Southport Liberals which is available online at our website-you can also get a better look at the song book there

Liberal England: Man of the Day: Cecil Beresford Ramage MC

Liberal England: Man of the Day: Cecil Beresford Ramage MC

Jonathan Calder corrects my memory over on Liberal England. He points out that Cecil Ramage the Liberal candidate for Southport in 1929 played the Crown counsel whose powerful prosecution did much to secure Louis Mazzini's conviction in Kind Hearts on Coronets not the defence barrister.

Whilst we a on such trivia Ramage was the youngest Liberal candidate for Southport-until I came along in 1983 and pinched his record being a few months younger. I await correction from Michael Braham but I fancy I also took his record for the largest share of the vote by a loosing candidate. The one consolation was that I did poll more votes than Mrs Thatcher that election! It is a crazy electoral system.

This all began with a posting about elections campaign songs. I asserted that the last time a campaign song saw active service in Southport was during the Ramage election. Checking back through the files I see that the Liberals actually published a song sheet. It is on page 34 of the 'official record' if you follow the link.

When I was on Cheshire County Council our Chief Whip was a very fine gentleman Bill Leathwood. He came from a strong Liberal/Methodist family. He an I got to discussing music during one of the long council meetings we used to hold. He and I had a slight disagreement about a piece of music the council had commissioned from John Taverner. Bill had wanted something that the people of Cheshire could join and sing-like the hymns and oratorios he was so fond of. Anyway the next time we had a meeting he produced a copy of a Liberal Song book published by LPD in 1910 which had belonged to his father. I still have a photocopy of it somewhere. Surprisingly the Land song does not appear. One or two favourites still feature in the Liberator Song book. I also remember that the hymn tunes to which many of the words were set were reprinted 'by kind permission of the Proprietors of the Congregational Church Hymnal '

The question that is now distracting me is what was the first Southport Liberal campaign song?

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Morning Coffee with the Hamiltons

Don't forget the Birkdale Coffee Morning at 101 Dunbar Road, Hillside next Saturday 27th March, 10.30 to 12 noon. This is our next social get together in Birkdale and is always a great success. It will be interesting to see how May's orchard is getting on!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Tourist attraction under threat

I had a very enjoyable holiday in a rented cottage at the Hill of Tarvit in Fife many years ago. I was very pleased to read that the Lib Dems there Ming Campbell and Iain Smith have been actively involved in the campaign to keep that and another National Trust for Scotland property-Kellie Castle -open. We visited Kellie during our stay and they were just embarking on restoring the walled kitchen garden on organic lines that Lawrence Hills would have approved of. I recall that whilst we were there we also went to a performance of the Pirates of Penzance put on by the local G&S Society in a local school at Anstruther. I trust they are still going strong.

Shelter report on Sefton

A new report from Shelter makes challenging reading. My thanks to Roy Connell for bringing it to my attention. The headlines from the report assert that Sefton is 278 out of 323 councils for supplying affordable housing.
You would have to earn £40,761 to afford to buy an average-priced house in your Sefton. (this average is significantly reduced by taking the Borough as a whole. If you were living in Southport then the cost would be much higher).
Independent experts say our area needs to build 2,398 homes per year. Our council planned for 180 new affordable homes to be provided in your area last year.

I think that this puts in context the battle we had in Southport last year when an affordable housing scheme was opposed by Anthony White the Conservative Candidate for Kew Ward who led a populist Nimby campaign with the support of the Tory parliamentary candidate. Shame. The site was one which had been designated for housing for more than a generation. Well congratulations to Maureen Fearn, Fred Weavers and Mike Booth who stood out against that campaign and argued the case for more affordable housing. More,much more still needs to be done.

The LGA has put out a statement about the Shelter campaign:

Responding to Shelter’s affordable homes league table, Cllr Gary Porter (Conservative), chairman of the Local Government Association Environment Board, said:

“It is depressing that an organisation which presents itself as a serious advocate for better housing policy is using flawed research to lay the blame for the shortage of affordable housing at councils’ doors.

“Councils up and down the country want to build and refurbish homes that families need. A serious plan for increasing the number of affordable homes needs to address the barriers which stand in the way of councils building the homes they know people need.

“The fact is that until the housing downturn almost half of affordable housing was being built because councils make sure they negotiate with private developers when they apply for permission to build homes for sale. Councils have not been able to do anything about the impact of the global recession.

“Town halls have also been campaigning for years to change the way council housing is funded to allow them to build hundreds of thousands of much needed homes and have outlined proposals this week that could help councils deliver up to 500,000 affordable homes.

“It is good news that the Government has said it wants to address this. We are waiting on Ministers to unveil the next stage of their proposals as they have promised to do before the end of the Parliamentary session.

“It is also good news that for the first time in 20 years the Government is funding council building on a serious scale, and councils are building 4,000 new homes this year. The rapid takeup of this scheme shows there is an appetite among councils to deliver homes. They could do more if the Government allowed them to raise money to build homes in the same way as housing associations and private companies.”

More here

something for the weekend

a little missive from the BBC telling me that the leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg will come face-to-face with undecided voters in a battle of the ballot. In a special debate on the BBC Politics Show, Jon Sopel will see if Mr Clegg can persuade the public to cast their votes for the Liberal Democrat party. Will they be won over or continue to waver?
Nick Clegg is on the BBC Politics Show at noon, Sunday 21st March, BBC One and later in the evening on the BBC iPlayer.

West Country Campaign songs from yesteryear............

Like many other people I got an email this week with a campaign song. Southport has had many campaign songs and most of them are recorded in Michael Braham's History of Southport Liberals. The practice has died out and the last one that seems to have had widespread use was for C.B. Ramage in the 1929 election. He has an unusual man being a barrister and an actor. His most remembered role was as the barrister in Kind Hearts and Coronets where he defended Louis in front of his peers in the House of Lords.

Anyway when I got the email about the campaign song it triggered another memory. Last week I had dug out Michael Foot's book 'Debts of Honour' and had read the essay on his father, the great west country Liberal Isaac Foot. Foot senior fought Nancy Astor at the coupon election of 1919 in Plymouth and his son recalled the campaign song:

Who's that knocking at the door?
Who's that knocking at the door?
If it's Astor and his wife, we'll stab them with a knife
And they won't be Tories any more.

They just don't write them like that any more................

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Tories attack decision they voted for............

My colleagues over at Meols Ward have a very interesting review of the U turns of our local Tories on wheelie bins. I have minor quibble with David Tattersall who wrote the posting; namely that the Tories started the local elections after the wheeling decision by supporting it in their leaflets and change tack mid election!
Birkdale Tories are slightly obsessed with this matter and ranted on about it in the last leaflet-and if they want help getting it delivered they should get in touch- but I get the impression that they are getting annoyed with the electors who are failing to rising up in even in their tens to support them.

Hague worst election since 1832 so why are we surprised............................

I'm not one of those who think that the electorate always get it right-as Dr Owen asserted last week. I can think of quite a few governments that Britain could have done without! But when they rejected William Hague I think that broadly the electors had summed him up quite well. Therefore I am not surprised by his subsequent behavior. I guess like many Tories he starts with the premise that if you can avoid paying tax then that is perfectly ok. He sees no issue with the growing inequality in our society. We are not all in this together if some can 'opt out'

LibDem Voice has a good round up of the Today programme interview with Hague this morning.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

If the weekend conference gives 3% poll boost...........

I know it is wrong to extrapolate from a single poll, but the boost in Lib Dem share in the most recent Political Betting sponsored poll by Angus Reid does make you wonder what the impact of a 6 week campaign with Leaders debates will have? The figures are; Con 39%, Lab 26% and Lib Dem 21%. Last week the figures were 39%, 26% & 18%.

Congratulations to Southport's MP

Lib Dem Voice has the details of a new website assessing how authoritarian your MP is. I am delighted to report that Southport M.P.John Pugh tops the poll as the least authoritarian. I think we can -judging by previous behaviour-be sure that any alternative would not do as well.

Car parking at Birkdale station

Much interest has been created by the shenanigans at Mersytravel where the Tories are propping up a discredited Labour administration. They are now looking at charging for the car parking facilities at Birkdale. One can't help thinking that if they had wasted less money on the tram-even long after the government had signalled that they were not backing it-they have the resources to expand the park and ride facilities not restrict them.

Below is the correspondence between my colleague John Dodd and the Chief Exec:

sent: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 9:45 AM

Dear Cllr Dodd

Thank you for your email about the above matter.

The headline in the press on this issue is unfortunate, and indeed, quite inaccurate. As you will appreciate, the story has been taken from the Executive’s report to the Authority’s Policy and Resources Committee on 4th March, at which members endorsed the draft, revised Park and Ride Strategy and gave authority for consultation to commence (report no. PTE/13/10).

The draft Park and Ride strategy sets out a framework of possible options for consideration by project officers in the development of park and ride facilities in Merseyside. This is to ensure that park and ride facilities achieve their intended purposes – for example, reduce the overall distance driven by car, encourage the use of public transport, tackle local congestion problems, tackle indiscriminate parking, reduce demand upon city centre parking facilities etc.

One of the draft policies concerns the issue of demand management, and the suggestion that the case for car parking charges, as a tool to manage demand for park and ride is investigated. This is a possible way in which to discourage some of the very short car trips to park and ride facilities that have been observed, and ensure that park and ride spaces are available for people who live further away from rail stations, or who would otherwise drive the full distance to their destination.

However, the draft policy is very clear that introducing car parking charges is an option only, and furthermore, one that would be considered on a site-by-site basis. Indeed, the possibility of charging for rail-based park and ride has existed since 2006, as it formed part of the second LTP’s Rail Strategy, meaning that it is not a new concept. The draft park and ride strategy thus build on this 2006 policy statement by stating that the merits of car parking charges will be examined as part of a mix of policy options, and ensure that park and ride supports the government’s transport policies as set out in “DaSTS” (“Delivering a Sustainable Transport System”).

In the short term, there is no intention of introducing car parking charges at the stations mentioned in the press articles. As you highlight, looking at car parking charges is one aspect of a much wider review of park and ride, and one that we are seeking the views of members upon, as we develop the strategy and the third Local Transport Plan.

Again, it is unfortunate that this misleading story has sought to identify specific stations at which charges would be introduced – this is not the case and is most certainly not the intention of the draft, revised park and ride strategy.

I trust that these comments help to clarify the scope of the proposals agreed by the Policy and Resources Committee earlier this month and please don’t hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.

Yours sincerely,


Neil Scales

Chief Executive and Director General

Dickenson Court

Having suffered the fate (again) of having someone else claiming to have done case work I'd sorted long ago I thought I would add a couple of stories.

Firstly the good people of Dickenson Court have had problems with the cleansing department. Dickenson Ct is a sheltered housing complex owned by Pierhead Housing and is situated off Bedford Rd on the old laundry site. There are 39+ flats in the scheme and the cleansing department left them with only two Euro bins-which for a fortnightly collection is not acceptable. After a little too-ing and fro-ing we managed to get the overflowing site cleaned and an agreement that 2 extra Euro bins are required.

In common with many other people those from Dickenson Ct find it very difficult to cross Liverpool Rd by the little Tescos-this is where they would catch a bus into Southport. A traffic counter has been installed there to see if the site qualifies for a crossing. I will report later.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Airbrushing on an industrial scale

Another Tory airbrushing story, but it is not on the scale of Southport and Sefton Central accidental airbrushing of Tory candidates. It took them weeks to notice!

Central office knows best-they can't trust the locals

Southport Tories are in special measures with their elected chair ousted by the party centrally. Now news reaches us of another Lancashire Tory association suffering unwarranted interference. You think Central Office would learn. You can't go around pretending to preach localism and then run your own organisation in a quasi Stalinist fashion.................................

The relief of not being love bombed

It significant -although rare-that Steve Richards decided to write about Lib Dems this morning in the Independent. I've always thought he is one of the journalists who would benefit from a little 'reality orientation'. His analysis is deeply mired in an acceptance of two party politics and the reality of the electors voting habits has not led him to appreciate a more pluralist politics. Nevertheless bludgeoned by wall to wall coverage of the possibility of a hung parliament he has turned his attention to the Lib Dems -well partially turned his attention.

If he fails to understand the Lib Dems at least he seems to have a handle on Cameron's Tories writing:

His (Cameron) polling advisers told him at the beginning of his leadership he must take on the Lib Dems as a major priority, which is partly why he discovered an enthusiasm for "green" issues that had not been a prominent feature in his career up until that point. Within months Cameron and George Osborne were suggesting to at least one Lib Dem MP that they should defect, as if the Conservatives had been "modernised" by a few speeches and a photo call with huskies on ice.

As we all know this policy has run out of steam. It is a blessed relief not to be being 'love bombed' by Eric Pickles. It was always ridiculous to have Tories parading their new found Green credentials. And it is reassuring to see how quickly they have dropped them. Look at the new Tory priorities -no mention of 'green issues'.

I am a tad more sympathetic to one or two Tories (David Davis) who genuinely had a belief in civil liberties-even if it was a narrow interpretation the issues. But the vision of some of our Tories with a new found belief in Liberalism was hard to swallow. We had a debate a while back about identity cards and our Tories split. The present parliamentary candidate voted against our motion. today she behaves as if that was someone else. On gay rights she put out a nasty scurrilous leaflet attacking Lib Dems for wanting to abolish section 28 and saying that Lib Dems were not to be trusted with our children's education!. No apology and now she goes about as if that was done by someone else. We have the nasty leaflet-published by her husband and campaign manager. He does seem to have repeated the folly of committing foolish and ill judged comments in writing. If you have not read it please take time to read his poison pen letter to a senior Tory.

The more I reflect on this the more I think we should use the possibility that new technologies give us to hold them to account. It would be much more compelling to see a video of them tripping up again and again. I think the public ought to see these things!

Monday, 15 March 2010

fate of Sefton Tory councillors: First the naughty step and then the blackspot

The Porter Parry Tory leaderenes on Sefton Council are at it again. What was it that Lord Acton said about power.

Like some dragon in a tale from the dark ages the Tory Leadership is being placated by sacrifices. Cllr Roberts has the 'blackspot' and is standing down and it is being whispered that a former Tory Leader-Eric Storey-is also in line for a visit.

Cllr Roberts is not a man I cannot recall ever having ever heard speak on the council-not even to ask to have the window open. He has done sterling work for the Tories propping up the Labour Chair of the Merseytravel-in fact he has been far more supportive than many Labour folk who utter dark threats under their breath. I well recall how without enquiring in to the details of Les Byrom's leaving of the Tory party many rightwing bloggers slagged him off about the level of his expenses. They really ought to take a look at Cllr Roberts from the Merseyside Transport body. It would make their eyes water. Do doubt the Labour chair thinks the money is well spent if it kept him supporting the Lab-Con pact. Now this is not the reason Ron has been given the blackspot ......

The History of the Conservative Sefton backspot
First Wendy Jones (Conservative Blundellsands) got the blackspot. She fought a valiant battle but lost. Then David Pearson (Conservative Dukes)moved from the naughty step to receiving the black spot without even passing go-talk about being condemned without a fair trail. The poor man didn't even know what he was accused of. Pearson battle against the Blackspot and managed (after a period of suspension) to defeat it. Then came poor Les Byrom who went from Leader to excluded almost overnight. Sir Ron dons his invisibility cloak whenever he is threatened and so far -apart from a severe slagging off from the Porter 'attack mice'-has survived.
Jackie Glover (Chair Southport Conservative Assoc) got the blackspot for 'speaking truth unto power'. Cllr Tom Glover(Cambridge Ward conservative -former Leader) had his delivered by post with instructions never to be in the same room as the Tory candidate.

Sci fi, Dogs and the Red Guard at Birmingham

Folk are clearly in good heart here in Birmingham. I cannot claim that this is my favourite venue, I still hanker after the seaside-maybe it is just nostalgia on my part. Talking of which The Liberal History Group held a meeting last night on the Red Guard Young Liberals. Sadly I couldn't get along but I'm told that it was well attended. Anthony Hill was our special correspondent and marked Bernard Greaves's contribution very highly.

The star turn was billed to be George Kiloh who was chair of NLYL. Tony Greaves who chaired the meeting confirmed my memory that back then 1966-70 Kiloh had real charisma and was a natural leader. Clearly he still looks back on those days as some of his most significant and despite his professional success he has not conspicuously build on those natural gift. Apparently he has kept all his papers from the time and is going to hand them over to a University. It is hard to grasp that what we did in our youth is now the stuff of serious academic study.

Some people don't change and whilst I was chatting to Tony Chris Huhne walked passed. Tony hailed him and like most Lib Dems if Tony hails you they stop. Tony had kept a notice that was displayed in his hotel, it read: If you want a trouser press-go to a dry cleaners.

For once in my life I've booked early for conference. I'm well passed the stage when I'm prepared to 'rough it'. I'm booked into a Weatherspoon Travel Lodge which is surprisingly good. Most of the rooms are taken by people attending Cruffs Dog Show and the Birmingham Science Fiction Convention. Surely they too would be better of at the seaside. Sci fi is not really my thing altho once along time I go I was doing a programme on Hospital Radio and they asked me for my favourite book. My mind went blank and the only tittle I could think of was the book I was reading which was Ursula le Guinn's 'The Dispossessed' , so for a while people used to come up and earnestly engage me in conversation about Sci Fi.

Back to the Conference. It is lunchtime. The final act of the morning was Vince Cable's speech. He does manage to combined serious economic commentary with humour. He got a genuinely warm standing ovation. I can't remember a Liberal Economic spokesman getting such a reception since Pardoe and in truth that was often for the manner in which he delivered his speech rather than the content. Vince is far more attuned to the television age. But I think the real secret of his success is that he treats is audience with respect. He addresses them as people who think seriously about these matters and want to engage at that level and not in the tribal 'ya boo' way.

I'm back at the Travel Lodge and have been talking to a 'Dog Lady' (well that is how she introduced herself). She has been explaining that there are some endangered breeds in the dog world. When I first attended a Liberal Assembly in the aftermath of the 1970 General Election the party was on the political equivalent of the 'endangered list'. Indeed people used to treat us as if we were only of anthropological interest. How days have changed. The party is clearly no longer on the register. In fact the only thing that seems to be really endangered is the political system which seems unable to adapt to reflect the changed voting habits of the UK.

Brown back to Baldwin

I caught a bit of Womens Hour this morning when Gordon Brown was being interviewed and asserted that he would go on even if he didn't get a majority on May 6th. I guess the Tories will get very annoyed at that but it is exactly what Baldwin did in 1923 (I think it was 1923) when having not secured an overall majority he went to the House of Commons to be defeated on a vote of confidence. He did so to force Asquith's Liberals to vote to put in the first Labour Government-which he and his supporters thought would cause Liberals to be wiped out.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Southport and West Lancs Health Services

Beware the spin which is no doubt meant to divert the eyes and confuse but two recent documents from NHS Sefton issued today are very significant. Both can be accessed from our Website in the download section
Comments will follow.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The cleaning of Hillside Pine Woods

To begin at the end, the Pine Woods are to be litter picked every six weeks and has been added to the schedule undertaken at weekends starting at 6am when traffic is much lighter, so the work will be done in future at weekends either Saturday or Sunday.

I have been asked by a number of residents about the cleaning of Hillside Pine Woods. I don't usually write up casework on the blog but I'm happy to put on record the chain of events.
One Saturday at the end of January I was emailed by a local resident asking if the Pinewoods could be cleared of litter. I have to say that both banks of Hillside Bridge were a mess and getting them cleared is a regular struggle.
I wrote straight away to the Cleansing Department. After chasing I finally got response on the 12th February which essentially said 'not us Gov' I will not bore you with the list of difficulties that were conjured up-suffice to say that I feared it was being tossed into the bureaucratic long grass. The house have been there since Lloyd George led the Liberal Party so it is not a new problem
On the same day I emailed the Chief Exec pointing out that the residents should not suffer because the officers of the council couldn't get there act together. I copied the correspondence to the residents and told them I had asked the Chief Exec to bang some heads together.
On the 19th February I got an email from the Chief exec letting me know that she had not forgotten about my request and saying that she hoped there would be some progress soon. I copied this to the residents.
I was getting extremely frustrated and over that weekend the three Birkdale Lib Dem Councillors got together to catch up. I raised this issue and my colleague Richard Hands suggested that the Community Payback Team run by the probation service might do a one off clean up.
Richard was as good as his word and got on to the probation service who agreed to include the work in their schedule of March. I wrote to the residents on 25 Feb with the good news that we had a short term fix.
Regrettably the Community Payback team did not keep to their schedule and the Pinewoods were not cleaned on the agreed date. I was contacted by the residents.
I emailed the Chief Exec again telling her that this was becoming a gross embarrassment and surly the work could be done now and the internal issues sorted out later-that was on the 8th March
Rejoice! On the 9th of March the work was done and it was agreed that the work would be routinely carried out every six week. Phew!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Another self inflicted Tory wound

We thought it would be interesting to 'deconstruct' the recent Tory leaflet. We will start with part of the rant on page 2. ' Are you happy with Southport's anti social issues?' Well who we wondered is responsible 'anti social issues' in Southport?

Question submitted by Councillor Shaw to the Cabinet Member – Communities (Councillor Porter)

“1. Will the Cabinet Member confirm that she is aware that her responsibilities include: “To co-ordinate the Council's response to community safety issues including crime/fear of crime, anti-social behaviour, drugs and alcohol?” (Clause B7 in Part 3 of Constitution – “Responsibility for Functions”); and

2. Is the Cabinet Member satisfied with the Council’s performance in this area?”

Response from the Cabinet Member - Communities

“1. Yes; and

2. I am never complacent. We can and will strive to do better at all times”

Now don't get me wrong I think that the government has long ago forgotten the second bit of Blair's clever soundbite 'tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime'. But to castigate Lib Dems and accuse of us running 'an incredibly lazy regime' when the Councillor responsible for such matter is none other than the Tory PPC Cllr Porter does display a certain cack handedness .

Another fine mess Regan has landed them in. Do take a look at the extracts from the book slagging off senior Southport Tories. It clearly reflects badly on whoever let the author become such a key player in the Tories at the expense of manifestly better qualified and experienced members. I know that is the issue which concerns many Tories in the town