Monday, September 24, 2007

Target Practice

waiting for Hazel

It's a big day for local government this morning.

Hazel Blears is due to address the Labour conference with her ambitions within her government portfolio of Communities & Local Governance.

New Local Area Agreements are being re-re-launched again. It's the third time that we have had a launch, so I am counting on Gordon keeping Hazel in place long enough to deliver.

The Best Value Performance Indicator measurements are being dumped and replaced with 200 broad targets supplied by Whitehall for all local authorities to measure, with up to 35 of these targets selected to stretch our ambitions.

Along with these 35 will be 17 statutory targets for Childrens Services (incl Education, NEET, etc). Then add the mandatory targets that were imposed on us in the 2007 LAA refresh, plus any local indicators which are specific to our own localities. I think the list could be closer to 70.

It's my job at the Borough Council to ensure all partners in the police, health authority, voluntary and community sector negotiate these top 35 targets in Swindon. I also have to ensure these targets all line up to what the Swindon community want, which is another exercise I have been party to. Indeed, if you are a Swindon resident, or just interested in Swindon - why not take the survey yourself at the Local Strategic Partnership website.

So today is an important day... over to you to shine some light on the subject, Hazel.

Friday, September 21, 2007

So when will PM call the GE?

BBC Newsnight are holding a contest on when the PM will call the next general election.

Reprinted below, for your entertainment is my entry:

My guess would be May 2009.

But we should not have to guess, is not about time we had set parliaments of five year terms. Local government conforms to a set date each year, or every four years.

I have no problem with voting on a weekend, although my heart goes out to political activists / foot soldiers that have to march through every housing estate begging people to vote early!

Those who do not vote should be fined £250 with the fine bypassing the treasury, and going into a good causes pot co-managed by the Camelot.

After all, whether the Lotto Election delivers merciless Ming, hug a hoodie Dave, or Brown the frown…to number 10, “if you are not in it, they can’t win it.”

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Labour's leaflet of lies on crime

Labour activists have leafleted the housing estate where I live today. I’ve uploaded the offending paper of simplistic statements, as humour should be shared not kept to oneself. Any credit that Labour had locally, which was already very limited, is now reduced to a big fat ZERO.

Of course Labour's list of failures on reducing crime is clear for all to see.

* Violent crime is rising, anti-social behaviour is still a serious problem, and our prisons are overflowing. Labour have talked tough but have failed to deliver despite 10 years in power.

* Overcrowded prisons are putting the public at risk. Some serious offenders are being kept out of jail because there are not enough spaces. Meanwhile, we have one of the highest rates of repeat crime in Europe.

* Violent crime has doubled in the last eight years.

* First time violent offenders are more likely to get a caution than be taken to court.

* The Labour government proposed giving out fines for assault, theft and even mugging - meaning the perpetrators wouldn't get a criminal record.

* Firearms offences have more than doubled, yet Labour have failed to introduce the handgun register promised after the Dunblane tragedy.

* Labour opposed tougher jail sentences for knife crime.

* On average, there is a violent incident in prison in England and Wales every 13 minutes.

You can read more on Labour’s crimes against our society, but more importantly see what Lib Dems would do about it at

forget Labour lies, LIB DEMS would:
1) Put more police on patrol Don't waste billions on ID cards Read more »

2) Initiate compulsory work and training in prison to cut reoffending Read more »

3) Introduce better compensation for victims paid for by prison work Read more »

4) Take back our town centres Let communities close pubs and clubs that cause trouble Read more »

5) Make sentences mean what they say Life should mean life Read more »

Once you have sifted through the myth and untruths about making communities weak and less safe, there is some verbal diarrhoea on Lib Dems penalising the poorest because we would abolish the non-means tested £250 Child Trust Fund. Surely it is better to invest more money in Education now, than a gimic of giving each parent (rich or poor) a bit of cash to invest for that childs 18th birthday party?

The biggest lie of all is a fascinating graph showing Labour political support neck and neck with the Lib Dems. I suppose we should be flattered, as the borough council is Con:42, Lab:12, LibDem:3. In the ward where I live the results were Con:551 votes, Lab:526 votes and LibDem:879 votes. Even the general election in 2005 gave Con:37.2%, Lab:40.3% and LibDem:16.8%. So where is Labour neck and neck with the Lib Dems in Swindon?

The Labour paper of confusion that came through my letterbox is promoted by Labour’s London based general secretary, Peter Watt… so it has nothing to do with the local party really… but it had to be the local party who delivered it – have they no shame?

This leaflet by Labour is criminal... but then Labour have always lied to get the electorates support... they just can't help themselves. When Labour have lied all through this parliament, a few more lies on a political leaflet won't make much difference.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ming you're useless, you've got to go.

Although the journalist in this article hates everything the Lib Dems stands for, his comments hurt.

Danny Finkelstein (of The Times) was probably one of those children who never got involved in playground fights, but he would be one of those kids forming the front line of circle round two fighting boys screaming with delight: “fight, fight, FIGHT!”

He glories in the acceptance of others by repeating stories he has heard before… original thought is a stranger to him.

But that is a problem for those of us who do want to see the Lib Dems do well. The bells that toll the tone of warning have been sounding their clang for a long time now. The truth that dare not speak his name is evidently being paraded in front of us every time Ming manages to get a TV or radio interview.

Friday, May 04, 2007

What an (electronic) voting disaster

I waxed lyrical a couple of months ago about e-voting.

Swindon elections were to be conducted using touch-screen systems in polling stations, or voters could opt to score their ballot paper (sic) by logging onto a computer at home.

Well it all went disastrously wrong. The systems crashed, the machines would not work, it all went rather embarrassingly wrong.

And to add pain to the complete mess up... Swindon Borough Council was awarded beacon status for it's electoral services this year. Should we give the award back?

Still, at least it was not quite as bad as Scotland where two types of voting - first past the post for local elections and single transferable votes for the Parliament meant close to 100,000 ballot papers were spoilt... potentially many of these because the voter was confused when confronted with two ballot papers and either marked local elections paper with 1,2,3 when it should have been an X. Or marked the Scottish Parliament ballot paper with an X when it should have been 1,2,3.

What a mess. And what a shambles for democracy.

I asked the question back in February... is it the end of pencil and paper voting? The clear answer is NO!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tories don't like Cameron, do they?

Robin Harris hates his former employee. Back in March 2006 Mr Harris, of Conservative Research Dept wrote in Prospect Magazine that Cameron was spoiling the party.

Today in the FT he suggests Cameron is an out and out opportunist as re-printed here:

David Cameron's former boss last night accused the Tory leader of being an "out and out opportunist".
Robin Harris, director of the Conservative Research Department when Mr Cameron started work there in 1988, classed his former employee as one of a group who worked for their party "as a way of advancing their careers. They weren't necessarily highly motivated."
The Old Etonian Conservative leader used his impeccable connections to advance his career, Mr Harris suggested. Reflecting on Mr Cameron's rapid rise to the top of the party, Mr Harris described him as "an out and out opportunist . . I don't believe that David Cameron believes anything."

Oh dear… if that is the case, and Harris employed Cameron – should we all fear that truth passes the Tory Leaders lips as regularly as Gordon Brown dips into his pocket and helps out the poor?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Is the Libby Bird about to fly away?

There is a fun story on Suz Blog which I regularly visit. Suz Blog: Is the Libby Bird about to fly away

I have submitted a comment, which just in case it does not make it to her site, is re-printed again here.

I regularly shop with a Liby-bird canvas bag acquired at a Conference in
Blackpool a couple of years ago... and in the past two years, three people have
come up to me and said "I recognise that logo on your bag - are you a Liberal

I confess the truth of course.

Anyway, it's appropriate to keep the bird, as after the 2009 general election when we enter a coalition with the Conservatives, our birdy can perch in a branch of the tory green tree.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Voting on the internet - wheeeeeeeee!

Swindon hits the headlines again as it trials e-voting for elections this May 2007.

So this year Swindon residents will be able to vote for a whole week on-line, from April 26th right through to 9pm on May 3rd. In another pioneering step, alongside the ability to vote by phone people will also be able to vote in any poling booth throughout the whole borough. So a resident in North Swindon will be able to pop out of their town-centre based workplace on May 3rd and vote from a polling station in the town-centre using a touch screen monitor.

Is the day of pencil and paper voting in a booth about to die?

It takes me back to the time when I was a political assistant for the Lib Dems in this town from year 2000 through to 2005.

  • in 2000 pilot all-postal election in four wards;

  • in 2002 - e-voting pilot as part of the May local elections. This involved remote voting by Internet and telephone together with traditional voting by post and at polling stations. The pilot was widely considered to be successful. Over 15% of votes were cast electronically and the overall turnout increased by 3.5%; and

  • in 2003 the council carried out a more extensive e-voting pilot involving four electronic channels (internet, telephone, interactive digital television and kiosk voting) together with traditional postal voting and voting at polling stations. Although the turnout did not increase further, the uptake of the e-voting channels did increase and 24.5% of votes were cast electronically.

  • In 2004 two by-elections used a paper-less vote with touch-screen voting in the polling stations. This was overseen by the Electoral Commission who published findings in a report

The 2002 pilot which Swindon Lib Dems supported was roundly criticised by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors at the time – but we ignored their ranting. They were anxious about fraudulent voting by persons not listed on the ballot paper. This of course was widely realised with the horrific abuses of the all-postal elections in a variety of places in the UK, but there was no evidence of this happening in Swindon... maybe because multiple electronic voting abuse is difficult to trace? A pre-registered pin number and a request for your date of birth were all requested at the point of e-voting.

Lord Rennard, Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats said in February 2006: “The independent Electoral Commission has said that individual voter registration is necessary to prevent fraudulent abuse with postal voting... the Government should act to ensure that such a scheme is in place as soon as possible.” There is a very good audio report from Chris on the BBC from June 2006.

I think it’s a great boost for making voting easier and should allow more people to have a say on who runs the council. As Swindon votes in thirds, these elections will once again be a referendum on the ruling Tories… their majority is higher than the 20 seats being contested – so they cannot loose.

The down side is the eve-of-poll election leaflet will have to be delivered seven days early, and the so called “last minute election messages” will be difficult to spin.

And probably the bottom line is a key way to get more people out voting is for people to actually have something to vote for… over to you councillors, activists and party leaders.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

So what were you doing at 5pm?

BBC radio 4's PM news show is running a photo journal of listeners activities at 5pm.

I am always at work at 5 O'clock, but by ten past five I have walked home from the office and have started cooking dinner.

So today, I decided to take a photo of myself preparing food in the kitchen. It was beef casserole today, which is only on the menu as my partners catering suppliers at the hotel sent a brisket joint of beef in error and did not want it back.

I was a bit miffed as I had ran out of oxo cubes, so instead chucked in a glug of Worcester Sauce - maybe not surprisingly it tasted so much better...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

UKIP will win seats at the next General Election

Delightful story of pending election success for UKIP in the Daily Telegraph today. The author is that darling of the rightous Right - Humpty Dumpty Heffer.

Simon Heffer huffs and puffs, as is his want. And no doubt he will use his column inches in the Daily Telepgraph newspaper to espouse repeated nonsense of the electability of UKIP over the next couple of years.

Mr Heffer never ceases to provide much thought provoking entertainment at the breakfast table, but his explosions of observed truth and critique are long forgotten by lunchtime.

UKIP will remain an attractive home for the ranting cause.
UKIP’s possibility of success to a United Kingdom parliament will never be realised with the voting system we have in this country. Their success at the last Euro elections was all down to proportional voting to an institution that most readers of the Daily Telegraph ignore.

For truth be told, as every conservative leaning individual knows, to defeat Labour at the next election will only be secured by tactically voting Lib Dem on Conservative in 2009.

Friday, January 05, 2007

EasyJet grounded... cos it's raining

I've heard it all now. EasyJet have grounded their aircraft because rain on the runway at Bristol Airport is causing the craft to skid as it brakes.

Do you remember the old joke about train services delayed when leaves fell on the line?
Well now budget airlines won't fly out of provincial airlines if there is rain on the runway now-a-days. Not sure about the unacceptable face of capitalism... I blame the unacceptable face of British weather.
This quote was published on Nick Robinson's BBC blog

What is most frustrating is my sister-in-law was delivered by me to Bristol Airport at 6:30am this morning for an 8am flight to Faro... I kissed her goodbye as she was booked in, and made her way through Passport Control.

Four hours later I read on the BBC that all flights had been cancelled out of Bristol. But try as I may, there was no way to get hold of Bristol Airport: I called twice and each time the phone was answered by a machine, and I had to endure cheesy music for ten minutes... followed by my call being disconnected.

The same happened with SleezyJet - except with their communications system I had to pay 50p a minute for the pleasure of listening to a recorded message inform me of their successes in prompt arrival and departure times.

Of course there are some who think people who travel too often and too cheaply should be punished through taxation. I think I am angry enough, without the thought that my flights and those of my friends would fund another Labour token gesture to save the environment!