The Thick of It


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Michael Howard

Something of the night was at the European Cup final last night and was interviewed by Nicky Campbell on Five Live this morning about the poor organisation of the crowd control. He said he didn't think the game should be held there. William Gaillard, UEFA's rent-a-quote who I normally think of as a vacuous man of words and no action came back with a tremendous riposte:

"It is very easy to say it is not a suitable stadium, coming from the man that invented the poll tax."

Well said.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

South West Trains

I've been meaning to write something about this for some time. The publishing of the Local Transport Bill and the proposal to allow local authorities to introduce pay-as-you-drive charging reminded me of the 20% increase in off peak fares for those travelling from outside of the Travelcard zones area. SWT are trying to price people out of travelling in busy periods, though this now stretches until midday.

While studying economics at university our tutor explained how pricing can be used to control market behaviour and cited British Rail as an example. SWT are now doing this because people travelled at the end of the peak period to avoid high prices and overcrowding. This smacks to me of operators promising the Treasury big payments to secure franchises, money that has to be recouped. In the past it was directly from tax payers, now indirectly from sales taxes and service users.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Brent: Dudden Hill by-election

Just thought I would mention that a good friend of mine is running the campaign in Brent for Thursday's Dudden Hill by-election. A Lib Dem councillor with a majority of only 32 was disqualified for being a council employee and elected at the same time. Funny how nobody told her? Anyway, Camden and Islington Lib Dem blogger Suz Lamido reckons the Lib Dems might lose. Fingers crossed...

Islington South

Islington South CLP has a place in my heart - it being where I stood in the local elections last year, but also a constituency that is warm, welcoming and hard working. This goes right down from MP Emily Thornberry herself (the boss), to the staff and activists.

So it is with pleasure that I can point your gleeful eyes to her new website, it is well worth a look. I like the fact that it includes examples of her campaigning on issues in each ward. It has been very well thought out and shows a real local campaigner with evidence of activity across the constituency - not just a "working hard for you" slogan done in that handwriting font in the top corner of a leaflet. Go on, have a look.

I live in Islington North, home of Jeremy Corbyn, who we all know to be a great constituency MP. I'm a governor at Highbury Fields School where the Head Bernard McWilliams has achieved fantastic results in recent years (despite Islington's poor reputation for education). We discussed a planning issue for which the Head had written to Jeremy and he said that "as always" he had received a prompt and detailed response. Good to see both Islington MPs working hard for us.

Islington Lib Dems at it again

The Islington Fire Sale continues to generate interest, with today's Guardian diary featuring a snippet on yesterday's post about the Islington Lib Dems protesting against their own post office closure at 238 Essex Road. I got there first, but I suppose I don't have to go to print...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sustainable Ming, part 2

I recently derided Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell for his pledged support for the Sustainable Communities Bill - seeking to preserve high streets - while also supporting his party's administration of Islington. Islington Lib Dems as we know is in the process of selling off more than two hundred properties across the borough.

It has been widely stated that the sale of these properties will drive rents up for local shopkeepers and threatens to turn Amwell Street and Essex Road into big brand chain store clones. So it was with interest that I heard about Ming visiting Essex Road post office today to campaign against it's closure by the government. Funny that, when this property is actually one of those to be sold under council leader James Kempton's Islington Fire Sale. The sale brochure states that the buyer of the post office site could increase the rent by 85%, from about £15000 a year, to around £28000.

Is Ming finally losing it? Has he gone senile? Campaigning against the closure of a post office that your party itself wants to close? Or perhaps he has decided to carry on where Charles Kennedy and Boris Yeltsin left off and he has hit the bottle...

This is yet another example of Islington Lib Dems claiming that they are listening - having "learnt" the error of their ways having received less votes than Labour in last years local elections - and instead continuing to ignore the wishes of the community. It is so absurd it would be funny if it wasn't true.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Deputy Leader Hustings

Last night's Fabian - Progress Deputy Leadership hustings certainly helped me decide between the six candidates. When the carousel started I didn't see much between the candidates, though I thought that a Brown premiership should be balanced by a female deputy. My favoured female candidate was Harriet Harman, though I felt her performance was woeful.

When Harman spoke I switched off, she didn't show any passion, rambled and didn't grab my attention.

Blears = passion.
Hain = polished though not engaging.
Johnson = relaxed.
Benn = kept talking about international development. Not enough Party talk for me.
Cruddas = looked out of his depth.

You could tell it was a Fabian audience, I felt there was too much talk about education, though there was an interesting discussion about the 11+. Peter Hain said selection is not a socialist issue, Alan Johnson thought it electoral suicide to scrap the existing grammar schools and I agree. I'd like to see an end to selection, however Labour's electoral position makes that impossible at the moment.

Michael Crick thought Hazel Blears the winner of the night. I agree. She showed passion, desire and enthusiasm, exactly what the Labour Party needs to reinvigorate itself and campaign to win. At university I used to go to Salford Labour Party to phone canvass every week and she was infectious one on one as she was last ngiht in front of an audience.

Peter Hain came across as slick and polished, every bit the professional politician. However I didn't get the feeling from him that he was "one of us" - a party member in cabinet. I feel he wants the job for status, not for what Blears would do, to motivate the Party.

Alan Johnson, up to now, my choice, came across as relaxed and natural. I think he would make a very strong Deputy Leader. He had all the best quips and reminded those present that Labour needs to win elections to do anything, which is why some compromises have to be made.

I'm now undecided between Blears and Johnson, though I'm tipping in favour of Johnson. I do so because I think he comes across better in public. Blears can often come across as "media trained" and like a bit of a Blairite robot. That is harsh I know and she really isn't like that, but on TV it sometimes looks like it.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Dirty Leeds

I can't help but think that Leeds United have cheated their way out of debt by going into administration then having the adminsitrator KPMG agree to sell the club to a new company comprised of the same people who were in charge before. Nevertheless, it is still great to see them fall.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Have they no dignity?

Islington Lib Dems are up to it again - voting themselves through a 5.5% pay rise while offering their staff a below inflation 2%. Already the highest paid councillors in the country this is another slap in the face for Islington's council tax payers.

Council leader James Kempton called the Labour Group's decision not to take up the increae in allowances and to donate it to charity a "cheap shot." I can't believe he has the cheek to say this when he is feathering his own nest quite comfortably while letting down those who work for him and pay his wages. Even Islington Lib Dem blogger Suzanne Lamido agrees with Labour's stance. What exactly has Kempton done to deserve such a hefty hike just a year on from the local elections which saw his ruling party cling on to power by the Mayor's casting vote, despite polling fewer votes than Labour. At least Ming is still their national leader, so they'll keep missing open goals on that front whilst creating them for their opponents in Islington.